Blossom the Possum

It’s kind of sad, really.  We have so little animal life in the neighborhood that we’re thrilled to see a possum.

No pictures yet.

The Bunny says we have plenty: bunnies in office buildings, stray cats everywhere, a hawk we see about every other month, an occasional coyote ducking into the brush near DFW, and once a year or so we might see a raccoon.

But that’s really nowhere near enough critters in my life, as I see it.  The Bunny’s a city girl, nowadays…

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If spiders had boobs…

eight of them in two tiny rows, would they give soy milk?

Little Glass Balloons

Balloons work by allowing hot air to find a zone where its surroundings match its buoyancy, modified by the weight of the craft surrounding it.

Glass surrounding a vacuum has great resistance to pressure.

Therefore, if you can create a vacuum surrounded by thin but strong (doped, obviously) glass, would you not have one hell of a lovely, non-explosive balloon?

Hard to get back down, I admit, but if you had a craft heavy enough to cruise along at a relatively low altitude, then you could come up with options…

Dreamworlds, RIP

Not only, as TCS Daily points out, is it time for “back to basics” on financial matters, but, so long as we’re puncturing all sorts of wishful thinking by suggesting that maybe saving is a good idea after all, let’s pop this little wet dream:

Which moron said that you could save 10% of your salary per year, and have enough to live on for the rest of your retired life?

I’d like to meet that guy and thank him… with a 2×4. That’s almost as bad as the dork who goes around on his radio show saying that you don’t have to save if you’ve invested in the same fund for years in a row, because your shares are diversified in time. As if anybody gives a crap what you paid for a share: when it comes time to dump it, you get what people are willing to pay, less brokers’ fees.

But, I digress. Let’s say 30 years of working. Hey, yeah, basic mathematics! You really think you can keep anything other than a “mournful pasta” lifestyle if you’re going to live an extra 15 past retirement (a reasonable bet nowadays), if you only have three years’ savings? Okay, that’s a bad number. What if you got a “career-quality job” at age 25 and were never unemployed?

How many fifty-somethings do you know with four and a half years’ savings in the bank? And what’s the average credit-card debt running at nowadays? 7-10k?
Of course, the Baby Boomers will simply assume that they’re entitled to suck off the rest of our salaries to cover for the fact that they never bothered to save. That’s how the Congress-critters managed to pass a NEW trillion-dollar-and-growing entitlement this administration. But that gets in trouble, too, because of demographic drops. It’s going to be:

  1. Social Security folds (or is effectively gutted) along with other entitlements
  2. The economy goes right into the toilet b/c the politicos buy votes by trying to spare their constituents the price of their decision-making
  3. Or the retirement age jumps dramatically.

Personally, I’m hoping for #3. Social Security was never, outside of Boomer pipe dreams, meant to fund twenty years of retirement. And I’m willing to put my generational mouth behind it, and have a ten year jump to 75, starting for workers under the age of 40. (Now, age-based discrimination is something else, but let’s hunt one species at a time)

Why am I picking on the Boomers? Because collectively, they’re the ones who have had decades to do what has to be done, and have instead generated the kinds of debt and lack-of-savings numbers you keep hearing about in the financial news. And in case you haven’t checked them lately, the numbers are grim.

If you don’t have several years’ worth of salaries either saved, or else invested in a way that can be made liquid in a crisis without losing double-digits’ worth of value… now would be the time to start doing some math and making some choices. It doesn’t have to be rocket science.

  1. I’m late finding a career. “God willin’ and the creek don’t rise,” I get thirty years to productively save.
  2. I’m planning on living to 100, because I at least one relative who’s done it and I figure medicine will make this reasonable.
  3. 30 years of working, to fund 35 years of retirement at current income.
  4. I must plan for the likelihood that politicians are going to force me to pay an ever-increasing percentage of my paycheck to fund previous generations’ retirement.

No dice.

At this rate, my spouse and I must, at minimum, max out a 401k, and be prepared to live on one salary, saving the other one. Sure, compound interest rocks. Unfortunately, so do monetary inflation and occasional financial cycles… unless you want to bet your livelihood that you don’t have to cash out while an Enron is going on. Of course, if everything stays pretty, and your mortgage is long out of the picture, then there’s a good chance that you’ll be just fine, because your rising medical expenses will gradually replace the disappearing mortgage expenses.

There are lots of ways to quibble with that, many of which are much more optimistic. That’s okay. Please, feel free to chime in and slap this down. Because at least that’s quibbling and calculating… not dreaming.

We can survive driving used cars and hitting garage sales for the fun of the bargain-hunt.  But the daydreaming has got to go.

Explosive Kitties

dscn4335.jpg

This, ladies and gentlemen, is a force sufficient to cow a dog that weighs 26 times its own bodyweight, due to the magic of exploding hiss-puff.

Now, multiply this cat times seven, add kibbles, a Pyrenean Shepherd puppy, and protective porch railings, and you know why I really wish I had a camcorder.

Oh, man, and you thought *I* was a geek.

Hat Tip to The Speculist:

The geekiness comes…

I can feel it, stealing over me.

Tonight, when all is quiet, the Bunny and I have worked out, and she has put her Secret Guilty Pleasure (“Alias”) in the DVD player…

I will probably once again start making armor.  I have had yet another weird idea…

ChickLit, or “Oh God My Eyes!”

Pony gave me a copy of Rebecca to read.

It’s supposed to be a really good book.  I guess it is.  But… I’m fairly certain that there are four main characters at this point (roughly page 90).

The unnamed chick.

The “I’m way past all these silly bourgeois conventions because I refuse to grow a soul and heal” husband.

The unnamed chick’s inferiority complex.

The unnamed chick’s weird ideas.

So far, for certain #1 and #2 will surely change, because I’m not even a quarter of the way in yet… but it’s been at least sixty pages of Character Four Flogging Character Three, and Character Three making Character One miserable.

Ack.

Ferns

Some people are weeds.  Their flowers are peculiar, but always in some small, quirky way.  They have tough stems, spiny leaves, and are generally despised by all right-thinking folk.

But they’re awfully hard to get rid of, and they flourish in rough places, spreading like wildfire where your average personality has no desire to ever be caught.  But they are easily outshone and overshadowed by more peaceful sorts, which grow quickly, use lots of water, and have great big flowers and edible fruit.

Some people are hothouse orchids.  Their blooms are the stuff of legend.  Their leaves are works of art.  Even their stems are beautiful, a delight to the eye.  But they are the ultimate in fragility.  They could not survive without others to take care of them and their day-to-day concerns, and would, in any instance of crisis, be dead and gone by the time anybody managed to come back around to check on the damage.  They are the ultimate in dedication to something far out of the mainstream, like the artists, engineers, or high-level business execs who are so devoted to the fruition of their will that they cannot even think of wasting their time having children… their immortality will be measured in some other, hopelessly intangible effect on those who come after them.

I’m having some trouble figuring out how to categorize everything in the middle.  Put into the kingdom of the plants, I think I’m a fern:  I don’t need a whole lot of maintenance, but I like it in the shade.

And I get nibbled by Bunnies.

L’audace, or, Enormity

It’s working on 1 a.m., and I am a complete insomniac. I don’t normally bother people with “inner Happycrow” posts. Y’all don’t need to put up with that stuff. But if you’re up late tonight, well, this is one of those posts.

I finished the rough draft of this novel thingy as mentioned. Okay, no big deal, it’s an adventure story with some thinly-disguised (but hopefully still readable) polemic.

After talking to my brother (who’s spent the last few years hanging out with booksellers) and my sister-in-law, (who has been one, and is a very serious writer in her own right), I became convinced that self-publishing probably isn’t the way to go. After all, I wrote the thing, dammit — why shouldn’t I see how far the thing can actually go once it’s been edited?

That means getting an agent. There aren’t a lot of them, fewer who do escapist genre adventure stories, and you basically have to sell yourself to them. Because the alternative is that your work sits in a “slush pile,” where it may or may not be looked at for 9-12 months… while you’re not allowed to put it on anybody else’s slush pile. Not because publishers are schmucks… but because there’s so much writing and so little publication money out there. And, of course, since the point is to sell said story, and see how far it can go, that means trying to get either a good agent, or one of the best agents. Anything else is “seeking failure”: aim for the top, and you might just hit the middle, right? Aim for the middle, and…

That’s a lot of arrogance from a guy who wrote an adventure story just to see if he could.

But then, I’ve already been published… just not as a fiction writer. I’ve got a fencing article out there in print, been a technical editor for a tome on weaponry so monumentally ginormous that it literally weighs in at just under ten pounds, and written… well, written a couple of articles. Actually, I’m a very successful writer. Just in the wrong field, and for the wrong reasons.

Let me explain. Back in 2002/03, I realized that there was a major flaw in the interpretive methods generally used in my field. I did some homework, and tore up about at least a month’s pay in equipment in order to perform the experimental archaeology that would answer my questions about archery and armor. The article that came out (and here’s part of the arrogant part) was expressly intended to expose that interpretive flaw, and thus “punch higher than its weight class,” forcing not only an acknowledgment of the thesis, but also the forcing the entire historiography to change its comparative methodology and spend more time down in the trenches “doing the math,” replacing a bird’s-eye view with the “worm’s-eye view” (a phrase stolen from the back cover blurb of a Glen Cook novel).
Yeah. Arrogant. Stamp it on my forehead. So, being hopelessly arrogant, I conceived two other articles over the course of the next couple of years. They were literally intended as an “article trilogy” designed to do unto the historiography at large what the first article does on an introductory scale.

One of the articles is considered a “bombshell” even before it’s published, and faced truly severe “pushback.” Fortunately, the editors were convinced that the thesis was worth fighting for, and fought the publisher’s external reviewer every step of the way as I turned in draft after draft and clarification after clarification until finally the article was approved.

Boy do I owe those guys a hell of a nice dinner.

The last one isn’t considered “bombshell” per se, but in theory it’s a captor mine. It got reviewed by two of the biggest names in the field: guys who sneeze, let alone forget, more than I’ll ever know. I’m truly fortunate that the first of the editors/critics “gives good comment,” because the final product is much better and significantly wider-ranging than the first draft, and should be generally accepted. But if that holds true, it contains ideas that simply wreck many of the assumptions taken for granted by the previous historiography.

These guys, too. At minimum some really kick-ass wine.

Yeah. Arrogance. This from a guy whose latin compares badly to that of geeky Harry-Potter-inspired eighth-graders.

And it worked.

My work has been publicly held up as an example of how research of its type should be performed. I’ve already completely altered the research career of a (vastly-better-trained) colleague in Hungary, whose most recent article states that article #1 ~”will force the complete reappraisal of the historiography of the High Middle Ages.” (Meaning, within this particular field, of course, not the whole enchilada. No human could approach that without some sort of sci-fi cyborg technology.)

None of this is exaggeration.  I oscillate somewhere between giddy and appalled (at the prospects for my sadly-engorged ego).

What’s this have to do with trying to land an agent? Well, besides demonstrating a thick skin, deep debts I owe to other peoples’ patience and helpfulness, and a tendency to long-term (even grandiose) thinking, not much.

But it has a metric crapload (3% more full of crap than an Imperial crapload) to do with why I’m up at 1:30 in the morning, unable to fall asleep. I can’t sleep because I lay there before bed tonight, did the mental math…

and am simply stunned at the depths of my own arrogance.

For the truly geeky.

I like transhumanists.

I particularly like their severe case of optimism, which may not be all that catching, but you know, do you really want to live 600 years with a bunch of mopey people?

Clearly, we’ll need to add anti-moping technology to this little list.

I bet it’s great against snipers, too.

The rayguns cometh

Weird Semester Alert

I’m not completely in the system everywhere I’m teaching this fall yet (hazard of being an adjunct), so I can’t check the roster at one of the schools where I’m teaching… but so far I don’t have a single full class.  Okay, granted, the last-minute crowd hasn’t hit yet, and at community college, that’s a popular crowd. 

But so far I haven’t seen a single class that’s more than half full.  17 students is currently my largest class.  Now, the 4pm class, that’s got nine, but I expect that.  4 p.m. is academic death.  Also, it looks like I’ll only be using whiteboard on one campus.  Everything else is back to the old-fashioned world of chalk.

I hate chalk.  But then again, hey, it’s steady work.

Crazy, man… where are all the students?

It’s official!

We Rook!

Tempting fate here…

but I should be officially done with the, and I quote my sister-in-law, “shitty first draft” of my novel by Friday morning. I have exactly two chapters to go, and I’m about fifth of the way into the first of the two. Probably a grand total of around 300 pages, so the editing ought to be… interesting.

UPDATE:  The first draft is done.  360-some pages.  I might actually not suck, too.  Don’t know yet, because all my readers so far are biased.  😉

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