Monday, February 27, 2006

new music

This is an interesting little chick. Her name is Brandi Carlile, and she's got this bluesy-folksy-adult grunge thing going on, kind of Bonnie Rait and Patty Griffin. Some critics have compared her to Jeff Buckley but I know very little about Buckley so I can't confirm or deny. But it's worth a listen. Check out "Fall Apart Again."

I like, "Someday Never Comes," which reminds me faintly of James Taylor's "Fire and Rain."
Dear love, I'll miss you much
I'll miss your smile and I'll miss your touch
but I've found a place
where I can erase my past

I have to go away
I've got no reason to stay here
You said someday you'll change
but even a fool'll tell you,
Someday never comes.

You built your rooms, you built your walls
you kept me outside of it all
I got tired of you
What's a girl to do?
Maybe someday if we stay this way
and you'll see my face in a different place
You'll remember when...
you're gonna thank me then.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

for the curious

From, A Short History of Technology: From the Earliest Times to A.D. 1900, by T.K. Derry and Trevor I. Williams, Dover Publications Inc., New York, 1993.
Although batteries were [...] an extremely convenient source of electricity for a great many purposes, the wide-spread use of electricity for heat, light, and power depended upon the development of mechanical methods of generation. The first mechanical generator was shown in Paris within a year of Faraday reading his classic paper to the Royal Society in 1831, by an instrument-maker, Hippolyte Pixii, in whose hand-turned generator the coils were fixed and the horseshoe magnet rotated. But before another year had passed, a machine was demonstrated at a Cambridge meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science in which the opposite principle, namely rotation of the coils relative to a fixed magnet, was utilized; this is now general practice. From 1834, at latest, rotating-coil generators were being made commercially in London.

The earliest generators produced alternating current[...]with a frequency depending upon the speed at which the machine was turned. This was looked upon as a most serious disadvantage--partly, at least, because all workers were accustomed tow orking with the direct current provided by batteries--but towards the end of the century it was realized that for large-scale use alternating current had decisive advantages over direct. For the time being, however, the problem of the conversion of alternating into direct current was solved by the invention of the mechanical commutator: a commutator designed by Ampere was fitted to an early generator made by Pixii.

There's a good deal more, such as the heating problems those early generators had, and the realization of self-exitation--that electromagnets could retain enough magnetism to start output from an electric generator, thus ending the need for an external battery or permanent magnets--being generally accepted by 1866. But none of that is really needed to underscore the point.

It should suffice to state that the ring-armature Gramme dynamo (generator) was introduced in 1870; it mostly ran on steam power, which goes to show that truth is stranger than fiction.

And for those desiring a more comprehensive timeline, here is a more succinct account of early electrical devises, appropriately enough, describing the Preconditions for Edison's Lamp.

Miss Sabine Fairweather kindly requests that the oh-so-educated gentlemen will refrain from impugning her research in the future, without the benefit of persuasive evidence. She dislikes wasting time in explaining herself.

Monday, February 20, 2006

revising

The past week has been strange for me. Lot of personal stuff going on. Had two of my closest friends reveal things to me--the kinds of secrets that close friends usually already sense but politely do not draw attention to. But now that things are out in the open, certain elements and events of the past take on a new tint--"Aha! That's why s/he did that...Is that what s/he meant when s/he said....?" and so on.

One revelation is not going to change my friendship with that person. The other relationship could change quite a bit, in a way that would be highly enjoyable but not necessarily convenient. Cryptic, much? Yes, well, this is not a confessional sort of blog.

Nevertheless I'm a little wrapped-up in backstory today, thinking about old conversations and interpersonal dynamics. The historical revisions going on in my head feel just like when I go back over an old story I haven't touched in a while and start changing things. The basic facts don't change, just the reader's perception. Have I ever mentioned that my perception of God is as a writer?

I'm thinking a lot about my own storyline. We watched "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" last night, which was better than I thought it would be. There's a great line in there, "A happy ending is a story that's not finished yet." Cynical, maybe, but accurate. A lot of the stuff I put on this blog isn't strictly historically accurate, either--I revise it to make it less personal and more anecdotal.

You never really know somebody. You really don't. All you can do is continue to love them, even when it hurts. It's the only chance any of us have got.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

no wonder I make people uncomfortable

Fine Line Revealed Between Creativity and Insanity.

'The researchers defined creativity as the ability to generate something new and useful from existing products or ideas.

"'Creativity at its base is associative,' Folley told LiveScience. 'It’s taking things that you might see and pass by everyday and using them in a novel way to solve a new problem.'

"The researchers conducted two experiments to compare the creative thinking processes of schizotypes, schizophrenics and normal control subjects.

"In the first experiment, subjects were shown a variety of household objects and asked to come up with new functions for them.

"For example, all three groups would be asked to come up with possible uses for a needle and thread. While the normal and schizophrenic controls came up with pretty typical responses like sewing or stitching, one schizotype said that if a person was poor but wanted to get engaged, he could use the thread to make a ring and use the needle to write 'I Love You,' in the sand."

Or, you could use them to sew mystic symbols under someone's skin, to bind their soul to yours. If you wanted to. Hint, hint.

Even more alarming, Creative Types Have More Sex Partners. Or we would, if it weren't for this damn Christian upbringing. Sigh.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

karma

You didn't mean for it to happen. You've always sneered at people who spend all their time on the prowl, obsessing about that one true fit. Besides, you already have another in your life, who's always been faithful and comfortable. You're not even looking.

But sometimes it happens. A new love catches your eye and suddenly you realize what you were missing--what suddenly, heart-wrenchingly, you can no longer live without. A new love that cups your derriere lovingly, just the way you like it, and whispers how hot you are. The fit, the timing, everything is perfect, and you are more tempted than you've ever been before. You tell yourself that it's not right, that you're happy as you are, you can't afford this new commitment--what will you tell your spouse? But it's inevitable, really.

Sooner or later you're going to buy that new pair of jeans.

$24.99, baby. I don't even feel cheap.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

name that tune: special anti-V-day edition

You ever toss and turn, you're lying awake
and thinkin about the one you love?
(I wouldn't think so)
You ever close your eyes, you're makin believe
you're holdin the one you're dreaming of?
(Well if you say so.)
It hurts so bad when you finally know
just how low low low low low she'll go.

======

Would you catch me if I fell
out of what I fell in?
don't be surprised if I collapse
down at your feet again
I don't want to run away from this
I know that I just don't need this

cause I cannot stand still
I can't be this unsturdy
this cannot be happening

=======

And you know you're gonna lie to you
in your own way

I know, know too well
know the chill
know she breaks
my siren

never was one
for a prissy girl
coquette
calling for an ambulance
reach high doesn't mean she's holy
just means she's got a cellular handy
almost brave
almost pregnant
almost in love

vanilla

=====

You're like an empty cup,
But I can't fill you up.
What planet are you on?
Not the same one I am from.
...
I don't get what you're trying to say -
What is wrong and what's okay.
So beat yourself up one more time
and trample on this fearless heart of mine.

=====

There'll be days when I stray
I may appear to be
impossibly out of reach
I give in to sin
because I like to practice what I preach

I’m not trying to say
I’ll have it all my way
I’m always willing to learn
When you’ve got something to teach
yes, and I'll make it all worthwhile
I'll make your heart smile.

=====

You know everybody's watching me
And what they see
Is me watching you
In the middle, time is creeping by
And I wonder why
You're so removed

And if you'd carry me tonight
I would be strong enough to fight
And when you're weak and can't go on
I'd be the bed you lay upon
And blue is blue
And so am I
Cause I want to be with you tonight
You're not the only one in need

Come on baby
life is just a net into which you dive
and I'm getting closer to you now.

If I love you will you run away?
and if you stay,
will I disappear?

======

Enlighten me, reveal my fate
Just cut these strings that hold me safe
You know my head
you know my gaze
you'd know my heart
if you knew your place
I'll walk straight down far as I can go

I follow you
you follow me
I don't know why you lie so clean
I'll break right through the irony

cure this wait
I hate this wait
I hate this wait

Monday, February 13, 2006

pimpin for my homies

My good buddy, and probably the closest thing I've got to a writing mentor, Rob Chilson, sent around a piece of mail today.

To whom it may concern:

My story, "Farmers in the Sky," is scheduled to appear in the May issue
of ANALOG, which will probably hit the stands in March.

Cheers--

Rob

And what's even cooler, I can say I got to read and edit it before it went to Stan Schmidt. I'm fairly sure Rob even took some of my advice, although by this point it's hard to say what advice was taken and what he already knew needed doing before he showed it to us.

Anyway, this story has the Holly Seal of Recommendation. If you like classic Heinlein and Alan Dean Foster, that kind of thing, you'll enjoy this. One of the rare examples of genuine speculative future-fiction I've seen in a while.

more shocking news

Gentle readers,

If in your zeal you happen to view the Wikipedia article about Edison, Tesla and AC v. DC, please be sure to also read its accompanying "Discussion" page. Obviously this disagreement is much bigger than I plan to cover in my blog or in the story, and I avoided linking to Wikipedia in the last comments thread because I felt the article was unreliable. Most of what happens in my story takes place prior to Tesla and Edison--not to mention in England--so it wasn't particularly relevant.

Also, DK's link to this FAQ page offers the following possible explanation of the "Faradaic current" question:
The two varieties, most frequently met with in a Physiotherapy practice are the Sinusoidal current and the Faradic current. Both these currents have a frequency of at least fifty cycles per second and will cause a tetanic contraction of voluntary muscle, so for this purpose, the two currents are interchangeable and therefore referred to as Faradic-type current.

Faradic current (faradism) is produced from an interrupted direct current (DC), derived either from batteries or rectified mains current. Sinusoidal current is obtained from the AC street current by suitable modification through a step-down transformer.

Interesting, yes, but since it's from a website advertising home electroshock therapy as a weight-loss method, I'm not inclined to take it at face value.

The lesson here is, a) consider the validity of your sources and b) re-verify anything you read on the Internet. Anybody can put up a website and a lot of people steal info from other sites, fail to check it, and propogate the same misinformation, ad infinitum. This has been going on since scholarship began (just this week I was reading up on the origins of Halloween/Samhain*) but the internet allows crap to regenerate at an unprecedented rate. It's easy to Google our preassumptions and find something to match.

Now, I'm off to the bookstore in search of a real reference book with real references in it. Vicki Jones would be so proud. In the meantime I've edited the story entry, removed the word "battery" and changed "left side" to "right side" where applicable.

*and no, Samhain was NOT the "Celtic god of the dead"--though that myth has been passed around since 1770 or so. Samhain is Gaelic for "November," literally "summer's end". So please don't revisit this debate when Sabine brings it up in the future.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

surgical antiseptics

Carbolic acid, the stuff first used by Lister as an antiseptic in surgery, is also known as Phenol. According to Wikipedia:
Phenol has antiseptic properties, and was used by Sir Joseph Lister in his pioneering technique of antiseptic surgery, though the skin irritation caused by continual exposure to phenol eventually led to the substitution of aseptic (germ-free) techniques in surgery. It is one of the main components of the commercial antiseptic TCP.

Phenol has anesthetic properties, and is the active ingredient in some oral anesthetics such as Chloraseptic® spray.

Yum. Anyway, it appears hospitals have never really stopped using it, but found other applications for it. Wikipedia again:
Used as a "scrub" for pre-operative hand cleansing. Used in the form of a powder as an antiseptic baby powder, where it is dusted onto the belly button as it heals. Also used in mouthwashes and throat lozenges, where it has a painkilling effect as well as an antiseptic one.

According to a fictitious but well-researched account I read, surgeons stopped soaking their hands in acid about the same time rubber gloves came along, around 1885. Instead they scrub well and may rise with a mild phenol solution. Today most surgical procedures prevent infection by operation in a sterile environment, with metal instruments that can be sterilized. Any after-infections are treated with antibiotics and antiseptics.

bits & pieces

Seen on a crumbling old van during my morning commute: "Caution--Church Bus." I guess that means the other drivers should be extra courteous toward that van, lest one precipitate the deaths of a dozen churchgoers, which would presumably warrant an extra-hot seat in Hell. But I found myself thinking of a prison van--Beware of the Evangelists. Don't get too close or they'll try to save you.

=====

The little chickie who won the Black Fairy dress on ebay hasn't yet paid me for it. She said she would put a money order in the mail, but a week has passed and the email I sent her yesterday has not been answered. On the other hand, another ebay denizen wrote me to ask if I would make another such dress for her sister. I told her I'd get back to her.

=====

I am awfully in the mood to sew. Sadly, I have too many potential projects to choose among, and too many half-finished projects which need to be done but are not fun. I finished putting together one of the corsets I'm making on spec; it fits beautifully on its intended owner. Need to do the quilting on that and cut out the other pattern for that client. But in the meanwhile I have to dismantle Tony's weapons case and my own, rearrange the pieces and put them back together. I am really starting to hate those weapons cases. I still have Matt's to do, and last weekend Mike hinted that he'd like to have one. Gah.

Last weekend I spent a whole afternoon on the couch, scanning through "Tombstone", and sketching all of Dana Delaney's dresses. Nice costuming work, there. Great hats. I want to do a little fawn-colored-velvet hat, with the heart-shaped brim and the tapering crown. I have some beige stripe satin that will pair nicely with the cream crepe I've had in storage for umpteen years. But more pressing than that are the things in my closet that need alterations, including a pair of perfectly new black slacks that I can't wear because they are too big. I hate doing alterations, but something has to be done because I have a whole wardrobe that's too big or outdated, and I can't afford to replace perfectly good clothes.

=====

I went to taichi last night even though I wasn't in the mood. Like any hobby, the enthusiasm runs hot and cold. I keep going, usually, because it's still good exercise. Some of those techniques I've got fairly well in hand. Others just seem hopeless. I guess I've got a mental block when it comes to the upper-body stuff. I can't move those guys with just my shoulders and torso. They're too heavy. And it's kind of a dumb exercise, anyway, to have somebody come up and clamp their hands down on your shoulders and then attempt to drag them across the floor, when what you should do in such a situation is a) don't let them lay hands on you in the first place, or b) hike a shoe into their nuts and then bust their kneecaps. But I attempt it anyway, because it's the principle of the motion--relax the shoulder, round the arms, turn at the center. Blah, blah, blah.

It's dreadfully frustrating. I suppose I am trying too hard, trying to move them too much, when a little is all you need. I rather suspect that merely mimicking Sit's movements isn't going to help me in this case. But then I've always been the difficult one to teach. I spent, what, four years of vocal performance sounding breathy, because everybody kept telling me to breathe from the gut and I just couldn't get the knack of it. Then finally my voice coach showed me how to "back-breathe," and lo and behold, Holly can belt. I trust Sit, I know he's a good teacher, but even he will say a good teacher can only tell you what's wrong, not the right way to do it, because everyone has his (her) own "right way."

Anyway. I've only been doing this self-defense thing about a year. And I'm due to start strength-building meditation this summer. I expect the understanding will come, eventually, because it always does. To quote Sheryl Crow, "Making miracles is hard work; most people give up before they happen."

======

I have been writing a bit this week, as well, looking ahead at Trace. I was talking to another writer about this fear I have, that because of my unbringing I'm too restrained and self-censoring, and I won't be able to come up with anything scary or original or interesting for the climax of Trace's story. The other writer loaned me a few examples of what's considered "extreme" horror (read: gratuitous sex and gore, preferably at the same time), which are listed in Compost Matter at the sidebar.

After reading or re-reading those, I've concluded that I am not, in fact, repressed or lacking in imagination, I am merely lacking in capacity to feel shock. I've said for years that a person had to work hard to offend me, and while that may've been bravado at one time, it's become appallingly true. It's not that I lack morals or ethics, it's just that I'm a natural existentialist and can hardly bring myself to care what other people choose to do or believe in. Even when reporters are being abducted and beheaded, all I can feel is regret and distaste at the destructive behavior. So how am I going to be bothered by a new and creative angle on fictitious necrophilia, however anatomically unlikely?

The Poppy Z. Brite story was good, though. Well-written, brisk, and disturbing because of the way it makes the reader complicit in the narrator's predations. The necrophiliac narrator, Andrew, is like a young gay Hannibal Lecter--refined, self-aware, and charming in his own warped way. The innocent young victim doesn't get rescued at the end, but neither does Andrew emerge unscathed. Furthermore, Poppy manages to keep the tension escalating throughout, ironically enough because of the two love stories threaded through the gore. Useful stuff. (And I wonder whether she deliberately set out to write an allegory of gay men as inadvertant serial killers, given that all four major characters are promiscuous and infected with AIDS. Even if that wasn't her intent, she succeeded admirably.)

So of course immediately after reading that I sat down and wrote the scene where Trace and Sabine do the big spell, complete with torture and exchange of bodily fluids. It felt pretty solid, felt true, not merely derivative. I think it will work, although that's still a story and a half away and things may change between here and there. Don't think so, though. That showpiece has been in my mind since the conception.

Meantime, there's still Sabine and Mereck and "the great f*cking-over," as one reader put it, to get through. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

play me that lick again?

Wow. Scott told me last night he'd heard a bluegrass cover of "When I Come Around," by Green Day. I figured it was a fluke--some one-shot wonder country artist capitalizing on the work of a hit band. But no.

I never heard of Cornbread Red before, but apparently they make a habit of this sort of behavior. They've covered not only Green Day, but also Nickleback, Def Leppard, and others, including freakin' Linkin Park. Bizarre thing is, a lot of this stuff sounds as good or better than the originals (Leppard's 'Pour Some Sugar on Me' is a little more than I can take--but 'Photograph' sounds darn good). Apparently, modern-rock angst lends itself well to the high lonesome sound.

NOTE: I appears "When I Come Around" was actually performed by the group Honeywagon, but it's on the same compilation album.