Monday, November 29, 2010

BYBS: Thanksgiving

Image from PopCap's Plants vs. Zombies

Let's get one thing straight: I have a lot to be thankful for.

This means that, by singling out one thing, I am in no way diminishing my appreciation of the other things.
Well, actually, I am.
This is not the point you're looking for.
I can go about my post.
Move along!

At any rate, I want to single out a cheesy computer game and a half-way decent book as two of the things to call out for this particular posting.  I'd talk about all the stuff in the past year that I'm grateful for, but I'm saving that for New Years.

The game is Plants vs. Zombies which is entertaining because its silly nature and catchy music hearken back to the good ole days of yore when video games were video games,  men were men, women were women, and sheep were very nervous indeed.

The book, Surface Details by Iain M. Banks, is something of a mixed blessing because it addresses a realm that I had thought of writing about; specifically virtual worlds.  But Mr. Banks got there first.  And did it with a lot more skill than I can muster.  But it's a good read all the same and I highly recommend it, though you really have to like Iain's (do you mind if I call you Iain?) style to enjoy it.

Now excuse me, I just unlocked the cabbage throwing part of PVZ...

Monday, November 22, 2010

BYBS: Discourse

picture by

I'm a member of a book club and we just got finished discussing a book I had recommended.  Normally, I am (ahem) somewhat less than thorough with respect to reading the book beforehand.  This time, since I was the one who was supposed to lead the discussion, I felt more of an imperative to be prepared.  I'm not a big fan of using stress to bring out the best in oneself, but I did learn more because of it.

Another benefit that I got from the experience were the insights that others brought to the discussion.  It was interesting to see what other people thought about some of the concepts in the book: how they differed from what I thought, insights that I would not have gotten on my own.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

BYBS: Presentations

A more interesting talk than the one I gave.  Photo by andyp uk

This weekend I got a call from a friend because he heard about a presentation I am going to give in a few months.  The nice thing about this was that I had not mustered the motivation to keep in touch and this whole presentation business got it done for me.  So something good came of doing the presentation. 

Sunday, October 31, 2010

BYBS: A Decent Red

Image from the Chateau Julian site

While I might not be able to pick out a really good wine from a flock of mediocre ones, I can (hopefully) tell utter swill from something decent.  I found this red for the unassuming price of $12 which seems pretty reasonable to me.

As an aside, I am very aware of all the trouble that alcohol can cause.  This post is not so much in praise of alcohol as it is "Hey! I found a relatively good price!"

The label reads Chateau Julian Bordeaux Red Wine, product of France. The bottle I had was 2008, the one shown here seems to be 2007.

Monday, October 25, 2010

BYBS: A Beautiful Fall Day

Photo by Dru! at Flickr
There are days where it feels like the weather is trying to say "it's great to be alive!"  I had one of these this past week and while the scenery was not as nice as this, it was inspiring.  I find it somewhat odd and yet encouraging that a sour grape like myself can find inspiration from the world.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

BYBS: Google Chrome Developer Tools

Developer tools displaying the JavaScript for Yahoo!

Since I have a complete lack of ideas for this week (note that I'm not talkin about good ideas, those waved bye-bye to me a long time ago) I decided to blog about something that I use every day.  In particular, the JavaScript debugger that Google created with their chrome browser.

I know, I know, you are now shouting at your monitor "But Firebug kicks Chrome's butt!"  To that I say everyone is entitled to their opinion, and besides, I need something to blog about next week!

This is a tool that I use every day.  It is the culmination of years of evolution in the whole area of JavaScript development.  And believe me, these things have come a long way since the early days of the web where debugging was putting pop-ups in your page.

I realize this wont make a whole lot of sense to someone who has the fortune to not be involved with software development; but trust me, this is a good thing.  Now that decent tools have been available for a number of years, it is the way of things that a new medium will come along for which there are no good tools.  Like I said, I need something to blog about next week...

Monday, October 11, 2010

BYBS: Zombies

I know when it's my turn to be torn apart by zombies I will want people to
photograph the event.

Photo by Laughing Squid
As with many people who happen upon a scene of flesh eating zombies who are about to turn someone into a Big Mac, my first thought was "Hey!  Maybe I can make this into a blog posting!"  OK, so maybe that might not be most people's first thought, but up there in the top 10 would be "Maybe I can make this into the topic for a short story!"  This posting is about both so I get double blog-scrabble points, even though it's not a Sunday so it's not quite a BYBS posting.

Where was I?  Oh yes, flesh eating zombies!  Well, the story idea is this: what if zombies were actually tastee critters?  Like most of my good ideas, this one isn't mine: it was already the topic of "Ultimate Survivor," a flash spoof of the Survivor "reality" TV show that Kev created on the long neglected site of

Note: that site is sick, sick, sick, as one might imagine if it shows up on this site, so if you visit it please remember that I warned you.

At any rate, if zombies did make good eatin' then they would actually be in a rather poor situation.  True, there are an awful lot of them, at least according to most movies, but they are usually rather slow, stupid and uncoordinated.  Therefore, it seems to me that in our, erm, "consumer" society they could end up on the defensive rather quickly.

So my story centers on a bunch of zombies who hole up in a mall, with hordes of normal people trying to eat them...

Sunday, October 03, 2010

BYBS: Dogs

We think they're cute and they're thinking "You're next!"

Image by

Filed under one of those things that I’m glad about but that make no sense are dogs. They are critters that seem to delight in the presence of people no matter what mood you are in. Being my lazy self, I don’t have a pet, but I have recently visited some people that do so I can take advantage of theirs. Now mind you, this friendly critter could be contemplating something else entirely…

(dog): “Hey, got any food?”
(human): “He’s glad to see me!”
(dog): “I’m not glad to see you, I’m just hungry!”
(human): “Oh look, he’s licking my hand, even though I don’t have anything to feed him.”
(dog): “I’m getting ready to bite your hand if you don’t come up with something soon…”
(human): “Here’s a little something…”
(dog): “Finally! OK, you’re off the hook for a little bit, but this is just a down payment.”
(human): “He’s wagging his tail.”
(dog): “The things that make humans happy...”

Sunday, September 26, 2010

BYBS: Muse

Ancient Well by
This is the place within each one of us where creative ideas come from.  What does one call it?  Creative spirit?  Creative impulse?  Your muse?

Akira, an old Japanese anime, had an interesting way of putting it:

A human being, you know, achieves a whole lot of things in a lifetime, right?  Like discovering things and making things like houses and motorbikes and bridges and towns, rockets.  Where does that tremendous knowledge and energy come from?

The thing is that there seems to be a never-ending supply of this stuff too.  For some people like Mozart or a Turing or Einstein these are world shaking ideas or great works of art.

Of course, there's the other side of the spectrum, occupied by people like me.

(Muse): World peace.
(Me): Whirled peas!
(Muse): I said WORLD PEACE!
(Me): Eye see whirled peas!
(Muse): Never mind...idiot.

OK, so not all of the stuff that comes from a muse is good, especially when it has to go through a somewhat less than perfect lens, but what's important is that everyone has a limitless supply of ideas.  Like this one I have about whirled peas...

Sunday, September 19, 2010

BYBS: The Great Outdoors

As you might expect from a total nerd, I don't spend a whole lot of time outdoors.  Nevertheless, I do occasionally venture into the great outdoors.  The past couple of weeks have been especially good for this so I thought I'd share an image or two from what I have managed to get out and see.

Somewhere, up in the mountains, near a pond
Somewhere else, up in the mountains, with some trees
Another place, up in the mountains, near a mountain

 Yes, I wax poetic when commenting on pictures...I really do.  But the views really were rather nice.

Sunday, September 12, 2010


Normally I don't promote sites but this week was different: I was desperate for a topic.

At any rate, is actually a pretty cool site, since it allows you to, well, meet up with other people who are interested in the same sort of stuff that you are.  That is, face to face, in the real world meetings instead of any of this virtual stuff.

Especially for people like me who are completely introverted and have the social skills of a hibernating grizzly, you can get together with other, introverted people who have no social skills at all.

Like to write?  There's a group.  Interested in investing?  There's another group.  Like to play Talisman with special house rules that govern eating pretzels and whether a person chooses craft or physical?  Well...I don't know for a fact that a group exists, but if there is, then they probably know about it.

I've tried a few groups and, as with anything else involving random groups of people, you get a mixed bag.  It is, however, nice to know that there are other folks out there who are also into the same stuff as you.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

BYBS: Geobacter

The Geobacter Project is about
  • Using electricity to create fuels via bacteria
  • Using fuels to create electricity via bacteria
This is a gross simplification of the details, but it is about how people used their cleverness for making the world a better place instead of blowing each other up or causing a financial collapse.

Geobacter is about using naturally existing bacteria (for example, one was taken from the mud in a river outside of Washington DC) that have the ability to convert certain chemicals directly into electrical energy.  What's more, they do this with very good (50%+) efficiency.  What is even more interesting is that you can also use bacteria to convert electrical power directly into fuel or other useful chemicals. 

A common problem with renewable energy is that if you have a surplus at one point in time (say during the day) you cannot easily and efficiently store it.  There are schemes for doing this, such as batteries or using the energy to pump water uphill for later power generation, these sorts of approaches tend to be inconvenient or wasteful.  Batteries require a lot of space, for example, and pumped storage really requires the power generation site to be located near the reservoir.

If, and this is a big if, something like the Geobacter Project turns out to be feasible on a large scale, then it countries like the USA could become more energy independent.  Furthermore, the process consumes as much carbon dioxide as it produces, so it is fairly environmentally friendly.

While the promise of something like this is good, the fact that people are capable of directing their ingenuity towards making the world a better place is the real blessing.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

BYBS: The Drabblecast

Copyright (c) by Norm Sherman/

Yes, another podcast site.  From the site description:

To hear the latest and greatest in Strange Stories, by Strange Authors, for Strange Listeners (such as yourself), visit the Drabblecast at

The description is actually pretty accurate - the stories are just plain weird.  Not really all sci-fi like Escape Pod or Clarksworld, not really horror like Pseudopod, and not really all fantasy like Podcastle or Beneath Ceaseless Skies.  The stories tend towards science fiction, fantasy and horror (especially Lovecraftian horror), but beyond that are not really linked to any particular genre.

Like some other fiction podcast sites, Drabblecast tends to have one narrator, Norm Sherman, but he is quite good, and he also tends to inject sound effects and music into the stories.  A good example of this is "Go Beep," a story about a mind-controlling TV segment by Aliya Whiteley: the "Go Beep" song is sung by Norm, but has a weird, other-worldly quality.

Also notable is that the podcast has "chapters" --- kind of like tracks on a CD --- so you can skip to the story or whatever you are interested in.  Finally, each episode seems to get a unique image.  For example, here is the one for "Go Beep:"

Copyright (c) by Lizanna Herd
All-in-all an excellent podcast. Check it out.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

BYBS: Beneath Ceaseless Skies

©2008 - 2010 Firkin Press, unless otherwise noted, All rights reserved.
Image from the current issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies.

Quoting their "About..." link

Beneath Ceaseless Skies (ISSN 1946-1046) is a SFWA-qualifying, pro-rate online magazine dedicated to publishing the best in literary adventure fantasy. 

Beneath Ceaseless Skies is an online is a combination of podcast and print short story site.  They do mostly fantasy stories, akin to Podcastle, except that they are not exclusively a podcast magazine.  Some of my favorite stories from the site include:

Another candidate to put on your iPod.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

BYBS: This Week in Virology

I guess it says something about me that I listen to a podcast about viruses for fun.

You can find them on iTunes, by going to or by clicking on the image.
Some of the things that i find interesting about this podcast include:

  • Insight into the world of virology.
  • Interesting tibits of information about viruses.
  • The friendly banter between the hosts.
Maybe listening to this show is equivalent of watching the weather channel for other people.  Perhaps the subject matter is interesting in and of itself.  Or could it be that I'm just trying to be one of the survivors of the next zombie producing plague?

I really don't know why I listen to this podcast, but I do.  For those who worry that it wont be interesting except to biologists and their ilk, I am not exactly well educated in that area, but I still manage to understand some of what they talk about.

So if you find yourself with a long commute, train ride, etc. here's another use for your time.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

BYBS: Big Brain Book

Cover of the book, (c) Gary Lynch and Richard Granger 2008, published by PALGRAVE MCMILLAN 2009

This is a book about the evolution of the human brain.  The book has some pretty interesting ideas.  For example:
  • What if there were no particular evolutionary pressure towards intelligence?
  • What if the brain structures that are needed for intelligence were there all along?
  • What if there were another, more intelligent species along side Homo Sapiens Sapiens that died out?
If you are interested, there is a good podcast from one of the authors that can be at the brain science podcast:

I found the book to be difficult to grasp at times, so I created another blog that contains my take on what the authors were trying to say.  You can find it here:

Have a good weekend and happy reading.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Nigerian Scam Spam, Draft #3

Last draft for the NSS.  This one weighs in at around 200 words.

Subject: Please take a moment to save a soul

I am writing to you today on behalf of some people who made a few mistakes.  While one mistake certainly deserves consequences, nothing is worth an eternity of suffering, but that's what they are looking at.  But you can give some of them a second chance.

As you have no doubt guessed, this is Lucifer, God's fallen angel writing to you.  I recruited these people in my struggle with God only to realize that my rebellion is doomed to failure.  While I deserve any punishment that God decides on, I think that my followers should get another chance.

That's where you come in.

I can transfer ownership of these souls to mortals, who can then judge the soul and free those that are worthy.  I have to trust that you will be honorable in this regard, but I think that a second chance is better than what they have with me: no chance at all.

In order to transfer control over to you, please send an email with the words "I hereby deliver my soul unto thee" in the subject line.  The address is  Yeah, I know, some stupid DNS squatter got there before I did.

Please help these people,

Angel Most Fallen

Friday, June 18, 2010

Nigerian Scam Spam, draft #2

This is draft #2 of my Nigerian Scan Spam contest entry hosted by the Drabblecast.  In this draft I'm trying to get the word count down to below 300

Subject: take a moment and save a soul

Please remember that I'm asking you to help a few damned souls - I am not asking you to help me or in any way endorse me, my cause or what I stand for.

Sorry for that but I feel I should be up front with you: this is the Devil, the Prince of Darkness, Lucifer etc.  Whatever you think of me, you're probably right, but the people I've duped into following me don't all deserve eternal torment.

That's what I'm writing to you about: the legions of the damned - some of them can be saved.

I've been recruiting people to my cause since the dawn of man because I thought I had a chance against God.  I don't.  Now all my followers will pay for this mistake.  When I lose the Apocalypse, all of them, both good and bad, repentant and defiant alike, will be damned to eternal torment.  But if I'm going to lose no matter what, then I think they deserve another chance.
That's where you come in.

You see, I can transfer ownership of some of these souls to a mortal, who can then free them.  I can't force you to follow through when you take ownership, but that's part of the idea: you will judge the ones that should be freed and the ones that should stay damned.

In order to make this work, I just need you to send an email with "I hereby deliver my soul unto thee" in the subject line to  Yeah, I know, some damn Asian domain squatter got to before I did.

Please help these people.  You're their only hope.


Angel most fallen

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Nigerian Scam Spam Entry

This is the first draft of my humble entry into the Drabblecast's infamous annual Nigerian Scan Spam contest for 2010.  The idea is to create a typical "scam" email along the lines of the ones that proport to be from some general or other high official in a country torn by political strife.  The message is supposed to try and get money or whatnot from the victim by asking for a bank account number or credit card number.  I thought this would be an interesting twist on the concept...

Subject: please help someone else!

Please remember that I'm asking you to help a few damned souls - I am not asking you to help me or in any way endorse me, my cause or what I stand for.

Sorry for that but I feel I should be up front with you: this is the Devil, the Prince of Darkness, Lucifer etc.  Whatever you think of me, you're probably right, but the people I've duped into following me don't all deserve eternal torment.

That's what I'm writing to you about: the legions of the damned - some of them can be saved.

You see, all along I thought I stood a chance against God, but recently I have come to realize that I have no chance.  I never had a chance and I never will be able to overcome the almighty.  No matter how many damned souls I have in my legion.

Once I realized that, I discovered, much to my dismay, that I actually felt bad for some of the poor fools who have signed over their souls to me in my quest to unseat the Alpha and the Omega.  I went from merely feeling bad to trying to come up with a solution.  The thing is, if I go off to war and lose, all my followers are damned for all eternity - but why do that when I know that I'm going to lose?

That's where you come in.

You see, I can transfer ownership of some of these souls to a mortal, who can then free them.  I will have to trust you to free them by the way, but I figure they are better off with any chance than no chance.  At any rate, once you have possession of these souls, choose the ones that you deem worthy and free them.  Or free all of them.  The choice is yours.

In order to make this work, I just need you to send an email with "I hereby deliver my soul unto thee" in the subject line to  Yeah, I know, some damn Asian domain squatter got to before I did.

Please help these people.  You're their only hope.


Angel most fallen