February 4th, 2011

#2525: Snopocalyptic Images

s some shots from the bunker:

This was as far as I could open my door Wednesday morning:

It was enough for me to get out, though; so I didn't have to go out the back door and slog around the house.

On the south side of the house, the windows got packed with snow:

The outdoor cat, Scooter (Mom called him "Twosie") just after finishing a meal on Wednesday morning.

Poor guy.

A couple weeks after some telephone line work had been done in the front yard, I swiped one of the Nicor flags marking the location of the gas line and stuck it in the top of a pile of mulch that had been the stump of the elm tree in the front yard:

I call the pile "Mount Nicor"; that flag is about navel-high on me and that picture was taken before it stopped snowing. It's even deeper now; that there is a hip-deep snowdrift.

* * *

The parka has proven to be a very warm, comfortable coat--moreso than the one of the same vintage that I have been using. I may just end up retiring the thing, though that feels treasonous for some reason. As silly as it may be for a 43-year-old man to habitually wear a coat with a hood, the damn thing is warm even with the hood down. Also, the parka is designed better than the other coat; the zipper is only jacket-length, meaning I don't have to bend over to start the zipper. And it's got all sorts of big pockets.

* * *

Holy crap, it's 2 AM. I'd better go to bed.

#2526: GOP: it's not enough.

GOP proposes a whopping 0.8% cut to federal budget.

$32 billion. $32 billion out of about $4,000 billion. Yeah.

That's not deficit reduction; that's a rounding error.

You guys are blowing it. Of course.

* * *

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie shows us what real deficit reduction looks like. See, GOP, that's how a Republican with a spine does things.

* * *

Remember, "climate change" is code for "anthropogenic global warming". Because the warmistas realized that they can't sell "global warming" when the globe is cooling; but the proximate cause of the "climate change" is still "excess carbon dioxide" in the atmosphere.

Carbon dioxide is supposed to cause warming, and the notion goes that if Man deposits too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the atmosphere gets warmer than is natural or safe. Certainly no one has ever suggested that adding CO2 makes the atmosphere cooler; and so we are now faced with an army of lunatics who are trying to sell us the idiotic theory that because the atmosphere is warming, it's getting colder. Yeah.

* * *

Ah, the people are bitterly clinging to God and guns!

* * *

Obama really is "Carter 2.0". This article is headlined "Americans don't realize what they've done," and Egypt turning to a radical muslim government would mean bad things for Israel and US interests in the middle east.

...except that about half of the Americans do understand what has been done; it's just that this administration doesn't give a rat's ass what those Americans think, because they voted for the other guy in the last election.

* * *

Obama continues to stand in the way of the exploitation of domestic energy resources. Of course! It's one of the main planks of his administration!

* * *

U-3 falls to 9%, but the number is meaningless.

That's not me saying it; it's in the linked post. U3 is no longer an accurate measurement of unemployment in the United States, because the pool of discouraged workers (those who have dropped out of the workforce) is so large. According to the second chart in the post, some five million people are completely out of the workforce such that they don't even appear in the employment statistics, anywhere. U3, U4, U5, U6, none of these measures count them.

It means that the drop in U3 is not a real decline in unemployment; it's merely a decline in the number of people who are A) collecting unemployment benefits, and B) who are actually trying to find a job.

In other words, unemployment could quite possibly be as high as 25% (or even 30%) right now, and we'd never know it, because of how the government counts noses.

The 0.4% drop in unemployment looks really good for Obama and the Democrats; but it doesn't represent any kind of real improvement in the economy.

(This post is, by the way, coming from a guy who has relentlessly cheerled the decline in unemployment; this is the first time that he acknowledges that the number doesn't mean anything useful.)

* * *

Because Sailor V and I both know the same people, and there'd finally be someone playing WoW who'd get the joke, I made a new character last night.

A gnome rogue, made to look as silly as possible, named "Darkmaster".

And I find I have to explain it.

You see, 'way back in the day, there was this friend of mine; and he was a writer of sorts. He had started by writing SF, and he wasn't too bad--oh, he had some issues with his writing, but who doesn't at 15? I certainly did.

I think his worst problem was the inability to understand what makes for an interesting story. His characters were always the best, the most powerful, the most intelligent, inevitably the firstest with the mostest. The things they had were, too--ships, guns, swords, knives, what-have-you--and so the big problem with his stories was that the resolution of the conflict was always obvious. There was no suspense; there couldn't be, because it was obvious that Captain Hero would handily win the day.

(I suffered from this problem, too, though to a lesser degree. I still have troubles with it.)

He was always badgering me about being a "plagiarist" because I used ideas from wherever I happened to find them and modified them to suit myself. Example: I wrote a story set on an interplanetary spaceship which used an atomic engine like that in Heinlein's Rocket Ship Galileo, and which had a rotating section that I labeled a "carousel" a la Clarke. "You should call it the U.S.S. Plagiarism," he said dismissively, when I showed him the drawing.

Eventually he gave up on science fiction and turned his efforts to fantasy. He was going to write a series of stories about Darkmaster, who was a powerful mage--so powerful that he was, in fact, one step junior to God. (One plot point: Darkmaster boasted that he was more powerful than God, and was shown otherwise by the Diety in question.)

Darkmaster didn't start out that way, of course; he got his start--tell me if you've heard this one--as a farmer in a village, which is then razed by an evil and powerful overlord. All his family is killed, his friends tortured, his girlfriend and child killed (in what is still the absolutely worst fashion I have ever read; I refer to it as the "baby-ball incident", though "fetus ball" is probably more descriptive).

That story was about Darkmaster's first life; and suspiciously like Moorcock's "eternal champion", Darkmaster moved through a series of stories to eventually reach the pinnacle of his existence, which was the aforementioned force of nature. He had shaved his head and had a pentacle tattooed on it, so you knew he was a badass. (In this guy's defense, though, this was the 1980s, when a guy with an earring was "dangerous" and "exciting".)

After the "fetus ball" incident, he turned his attentions to "improving" his writing style. He went from a pretty natural-sounding prose to this turgid morasse of indigo text. It didn't improve his readability; it did vastly increase the number of dangling participles he generated. He consciously inserted simile and metaphor into his descriptive passages, and about a quarter of the time it failed completely because the damn text was too dense or he generated a dangling participle which utterly ruined the effect. (Again, in his defense, I was reading rough drafts. I remember one such description that was just pure fail from the instant it was generated, though. And, by the way, you were only allowed to be amused by these if he pointed them out to you.)

But what can you do to make an interesting story when your character is invulnerable and immortal and so powerful he can only be beaten by God? Where do you get an antagonist who can even challenge such a character, unless you decide to have him go to war with God Himself? (And this guy wouldn't do that; he claimed to be utterly a-religious but still had a healthy respect for God. No, I don't understand it, either.)

In the closing years of our friendship, he began collaborating with a couple of mutual friends of ours on the generation of a series of comics. One guy would handle the business, he would handle the writing, and the third guy would handle the artwork. One of his caveats was that they not use any of my material, ever, to do a comic. (I was not really insulted, though, because unlike them I had a girlfriend and college and, well, a life.)

They got as far as doing character designs. The character design for Darkmaster had hair, and wore a cape, and--in general--looked like some kind of emo douchebag nerd who liked wearing black.

I once made fun of Darkmaster to his face: I told the guy that I'd explained the ideas behind their comic book to a friend of mine, and said, "So you're basically going to be able to go to a publisher later on and say, 'This is why you should publish Darkmaster Versus the Pillsbury Doughboy: there are all these people who read the comic books.'" I was right, and I had not spoken down about any of it--he couldn't get mad at me!--but the concept of Darkmaster Versus the Pillsbury Doughboy was an obvious dig. I'm not normally that clever.

Anyway, I owed him for a couple of snide things he'd said to me not long before that. He was a douchebag, and when I stopped being his friend it was probably for the better. I had defended his ass to several other friends of mine, who had met him and taken an instant dislike to him; he was not an easy guy to get along with much of the time and his insistence on getting revenge for every slight, no matter how minor--real or imagined--was a real drag, even though it was not aimed at me most of the time.

Having seen Escape from New York he decided that he'd have a character named "Snake". "Snake" was the result of a biological experiment: some mad scientist decided that humans are too weak and should have all kinds of natural weapons and armor and stuff...so he took this hapless dude and shot him up with something-or-other and turned him into Snake, the ultimate badass. (Of course he was the ultimate badass.)

The guy had been turned into a reptilian humanoid, with scales and claws, lightning-fast reflexes, incredible strength; his skin could repel most bullets (as long as they weren't armor-piercing) and he had an amazing level of resistance to extremes of temperature and pressure.

"Each foot," went the description for their comic book, "has but three toes." Not sure how removing two digits helps make you more of a badass, but whatev.

So the art guy would generate a design; this dude would then explain what was wrong with the drawing, and the art guy would try again. In Darkmaster's case it led to "the four-day chest expansion club!" where the first Darkmaster looked like a vegan and the last one looked like he'd overdosed on steroids. I only ever saw one drawing of Snake; it pretty much looked like any other sauroid you've ever seen.

All of this stuff was supposed to be different and innovative, and he constantly chided me for my lack of originality--and at the time I lacked whatever quality it is that enables me now to say, "Holy crap, talk about the pot and the fucking kettle!" Because his sword and sorcery novel was 100% cliche, right down to the tiniest detail; the story was built around a concept he'd lifted from his favorite writer (Moorcock), again right down to the tiniest detail. His kind-of-SF-y character's origin was a complete comic book cliche; the main story for that character was right from a comic book and even the name was lifted from elsewhere. There was nothing new or different about his stories, his characters, or anything; and his protagonists were so incredibly powerful that there could be no conflict or suspense or anything that would sustain the reader's interest for very long.

I never made a pretense that any of my ideas were particularly original. In the case of the "USS Plagiarism" I was merely using concepts which worked and which had been invented before other SF authors used them; and I was using convenient and near-universal labels. Physics is the same for everyone; why reinvent the wheel? Just about anyone who reads serious SF will know what I mean when I say the ship has a "carousel"; certainly they won't think about wooden horses and fanciful animals on a rotating platform.

The real heartbreaking thing is how much potential he had as a writer. The guy had imagination and talent; if he had been able to take criticism well instead of taking it as an insult, it might have made a big difference. The fact that he made all those changes to his style indicated that he knew something was wrong, but his inability to accept criticism kept him from getting the all-important outsider's view of his work.

If you gave him a piece of writing for a critique, it turned into proofreading. Much of the time he'd carp on stylistic points rather than actual grammatical or spelling errors. If you returned the favor, he'd either constantly throw your reponses to his earlier "critique" of your work in your face, or he'd get angry and dismiss your comments.

Anyway: all of this is why I made Darkmaster into a gnome rogue with a silly character design. I know Sailor V will get a kick out of it when he sees it: the super-powerful magic superman reduced to a 3-foot-tall bobblehead with a weird haircut and silly voice.