I was out skiing the other day, and ran across this:
There’s a dizzying array of possible stories here, all sorts of inspiring prompts.
Did one of the people involved with the romance memorialized on the tree come back after things went badly, hacking away at it with a Bowie knife (a birthday gift form their former lover), over and over until all evidence was gone? Did the third end of a romantic triangle find the original carving while on a walk through the forest and obliterate the initials of both their unrequited love and their hated rival? So many different stories.
As those of you with a calendar know, we’re closing in on the end of National Novel Writing Month (also known as November). I usually waiting until Nano is done to share my progress, but I thought it would be interesting to see what it looks like in comparison to part of the NaNoWriMo community:
That’s me on top, and one of the regions I’ve chosen as sort of close to me (the other being, um, “other”) below. Note how my progress is steady as a rock, gradually pulling ahead of the pace needed to make 50,000 words by the end of the month, while those in Syracuse at large start fast and shamefully fall off – you can be assured that other regions are similar on average. Obviously, other nano people could learn from me, as far as wordcount progress (someone else will have t0 give the seminar on how to produce a quality draft that doesn’t need to be completely rewritten – I can’t teach you everything, people).
I’ve always had a soft spot for pulp and penny dreadfuls and other disreputable forms of literature, so I’m delighted to have my story Fistful of Fire published in Crimson Streets, a big ol’ pulpy magazine (I mean, it’s online, so it is not literal in its pulp feel, but you know what they mean). And of course, it is awesome to have a story of mine actually illustrated, which is why the illustration in question is so big, up there.
It’s tough, coming up with ideas for stories and books and things. Hence, the popularity, in writing workshops and such, of writing prompts – little ideas to both spur and limit creativity. But who comes up with the prompts? Some random guy who would have written his own story based on the idea if it was any good? Pff.
Far better to harness the awesome powers of computers and artificial intelligence. Not only were all those great titles produced by leading-edge technology instead of a boring biological brain, but you don’t have to worry about why a neural network didn’t use the idea itself – frankly, it’s got better things to do.
Well, another Worldcon is in the books. It was a great con with great donuts, culminating in NK Jemisin’s acceptance speech for the Hugo for best novel. Well, it didn’t really culminate in that, for those hanging out for the closing ceremony and so on. But I had an early flight, so I went to bed and arose in the wee hours of the morning to get a cab. And it was then that I witnessed a melancholy scene. There were two groups of people engaged in drunken conversation outside the hotel, which is nothing unusual at Worldcon. But now, only one of the groups contained someone with bright pink hair and a spangly rainbow dress. The other group was three very well-dressed people sharing a wine bottle while one declaimed about “Winston FUCKING Churchill”.
It was sad, seeing San Jose being handed back to normal old wealthy people who like to yell about Churchill.
Then, on the plane home I overheard a snatch of conversation between two Worldcon-goers: “…so that’s how he found out about furries”, which cheered me up.
There’s been a lot of talk about airborne lidar recently, because it has once again been used to find archaeological ruins in a jungle, as opposed to the standard topographic mapping it gets used for day in and day out. It has even gotten into the pages of the comics, ever the spot for cutting-edge news and science, in the form of Mark Trail:
The professor here makes a common error, and we need to push back on it. Lidar is not an acronym, it is a portmanteau of “light” and “radar” (or RADAR, if you prefer, RADAR actually being an acronym for RAdio Detection And Ranging or RAdio Direction And Ranging). Of course, people writing papers in the academic and business world can’t bring themselves to talk about portmanteaux, so they engaged in some revisionist history to turn the word into an acronym so they could just stick that into parentheses after the first use and move on with their lives. Like radar, there was disagreement about exactly which words went into this putative acronym (“LIght Detection And Ranging” or “Laser Imaging Detection And Ranging”) but unlike radar they don’t both have that awkward way of using two letters from one word, so convention has it that the former acronym is expressed as “LiDAR” with a lower-case i to differentiate it.
So shame on you, Mark Trail, for perpetuating the myth that lidar is an acronym, and an extra “tsk” for, having made that error, not picking the version that would fit with your all-caps font.
We’ll save the thrilling discussion of why no one bothers using all caps for certain acronyms like radar and scuba for another day. Also, maybe we’ll get to why that kid Rusty looks like Ted Cruz now.
Comments Off on Shedding Some Light on This Situation (Get It?)
As frequent readers know, I have a connection with SUNY-Binghamton, and a distaste for mis-usedmetaphor. So it is more in sorrow than anger that I read the latest issue of the SUNY-Binghamton Watson School of Engineering alumni magazine. In it, there was an article about “white hat hackers” which, as the name implies, are hackers who use their talents for good. But it seems the authors of the article didn’t trust the connotations of “white hat” and “black hat” hackers to be obvious, and in trying to make it more clear, managed to muddy the waters. As you can see here, they added a sidebar defining white, gray, and black-hat hackers, and illustrated it with little pictures of hats in those colors. So far, so good, but for some reason they used black, gray, and white fedoras.
Now, as anyone could tell you, the whole “black hat for the bad guy / white hat for the good guy” thing is a metaphor based on westerns, so the hats used for illustration should have been cowboy hats. But the choice of a fedora makes it even worse, because a) bad guys are not known for wearing black fedoras (is anyone?), but they are known for wearing white fedoras. I mean, think about the last time you saw someone in a movie wearing a white fedora.
It was this guy, right?
Frank Nitti in The Untouchables is hardly the first person most people would go to for help, computer-based or otherwise. Or maybe you thought of Sydney Greenstreet, in some movie where he wasn’t just wearing a fez. Again, not one of the good guys, I bet.
Now, maybe the illustrator was making a callback to the fact that these days, about the only people who wear fedoras are computer science majors, but in that case, shame on them. We don’t need anyone encouraging that behavior, especially not at my alma mater.