Monthly Archives: January 2010

Going offline for the weekend. See you on Monday.

This is a brief update to let folks know that I’ll be going offline for the remainder of this week (It’s been a stressful one, a rest is needed.). I’ll be back online on Monday, but until then there shall be a deathly silence from this blog for a few days. If I was cleverer than I am, I would have written some stuff before now and scheduled it for publication, but you know what? I never thought of it until just now and it’s too late for that. So enjoy the prolonged silence from me over the weekend and in the meantime, go to an amazing place I found. I’m sure there’s at least a weekend’s worth of amusement to be had therein…

Nic Cage as Everyone

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Handwavium

So, in order to distract myself from the fact that my wife is in the hospital right now, I’ve been thinking really hard about whether or not I’ve got it in me to write a science fiction story. An old fashioned space opera kind of a thing. The thing is, once you get beyond basic Newton, Browning and Kelvin, as taught in high school, my brain struggles to comprehend anything not presented in a very basic and easy to swallow “Lie to Children”, such as those people like Michio Kaku or anyone who gives a lecture at TED put out there. Not the actual truth, but a close enough lie that laypeople can pretend they understand it. With that in mind, I’ve been asking myself the question “How much is it possible to hand wave in a sci-fi, space opera style of story?” I even invented a molecule of strange matter against future plot convenient technologies , named in the title of this post.

Taking into account the Fermi Paradox it is more than reasonable to ignore the possibility of alien races, and even alien biological systems in general by taking the idea of terra-forming to its full conclusion; the problem comes when trying to hand wave the technology. While it is a plausible solution to ignore the problem altogether it won’t make for a very satisfactory story to even a mildly experienced
reader of science fiction. The problem isn’t that the character doesn’t know how things work, it’s that I don’t know how they work.

Sometimes I think to myself that in a story set in the contemporary world, I don’t have to explain how a microwave oven works to allow the protagonist to have an instant pizza. Then I realize that this is because I know what a microwave oven is and how it works- sort of. (electro-wave thingies jiggle the food molecules and they get angry about it, hence the heat. Sometimes groups of Zen Buddhist molecules group together and reject their brethren’s anger, leaving cold spots. See, easy.) I can also assume that any potential readers of my potential work have a rough grasp of what a microwave oven is and does, hence the brilliant and incisive technical data above isn’t necessary to the story.

I can probably trick a relatively lazy reader, such as myself, with a phrase along the lines of “The I.S.S. Cauto Star was powered by a mark VII sub-light Orion drive*, fitted with series nine inertial dampeners and equipped with fully functional Grav simulators throughout the inner hull.” The problems come from more technically minded readers, who would take in the above passage and immediately wonder how all that fancy-schmantzy gear actually works (theoretically) and promptly fire off e-mails asking me how it works, the only possible answer to which would be “Buggered if I know, have you tried reading Asimov instead? That bloke knows his techno shit!” and a reader is lost to me forever, just because they guessed, correctly, that I am an idiot.

Does this mean that techno dummies of a faintly scientific bent like I am should keep off the sci-fi grass, so to speak? I certainly hope not, since the fringes of a space faring society are a truly exciting place to set a work a work of fiction after all. Does the average science fiction reader worry overly much about the technical aspects of any given story that they might read, so long as the fictional technology is employed consistently throughout the story and follows the implied rules of the fictional universe? I know that I don’t, but then I don’t know that I constitute a reasonable model of an average sci-fi reader. Unless your survey is very small, with very hazy questions. (Survey all of the people in my front room called Daniel, then ask them if they think too hard about the tech stuff mentioned in any sci-fi they might read.)

* By the way Wikipedia carries a pretty good article about the theory behind the Orion Drive, or Nuclear Pulse Propulsion.  Look it up. As for inertial dampeners and Gravity simulators? Buggered if I know, have you tried reading Asimov instead? That bloke knows his techno shit!

A Day at the Hospital, or Why the N.H.S. is Still Awesome

First of all, let me say this. Hospitals suck. This isn’t the fault of the frontline medical staff, who are as friendly and helpful as it’s possible to be when you’re working as hard as they are; nor is it the fault of the support staff, who let’s face it, the public rarely see, let alone deal with. Nor is the fault of the administrative staff, who simply do their job as best they can while the tabloids go out of their way to insinuate that the grand institution of the N.H.S is somehow crumbling into ruin and the admins and managers are to blame for all of it. No it is, in fact, the fault of the body of you or a loved one, for doing something weird, and most likely painful, which means you have to visit a strange place filled with people you don’t know while you or someone you care about is in agony. This tends to colour your perception somewhat.

Yesterday I was in Wansbeck General Hospital pretty much all day, while my wife was being poked, prodded, scanned, looked at, mulled over and generally investigated by nurses, doctors, more nurses, other doctors, scanning machine technicians, still other doctors and various other people whose job it is to figure out why your body is broken and how best to fix it. My wife was in agony with a chest pain and having had heart difficulties in the past, as well as a leaking heart valve in the present, this was considered something rather worrisome.

During the prolonged time we were in Accident and Emergency and then the Medical Admissions Unit I had the opportunity to watch at close hand how the staff of the N.H.S. go about their everyday business of saving lives, fixing broken bodies and generally being far more awesome than a lazy word-botherer like myself could ever hope to be. Let me say this to you (whoever you are), the press (as if they would ever notice this very quiet part of the Tubez), the Tory Party who insist the N.H.S. is a white elephant and thoroughly outdated and broken (like they would care, anyhow) and indeed anyone else who happens to drop by. The N.H.S. and the people who work for it are AMAZING.

I watched as – quietly and without fuss – people were  sorted according to severity of injury and condition, brought in and treated, made as comfortable as possible under very trying circumstances, moved from one department to another with speed and efficiency, examined by competent and thorough doctors who leave no stone unturned or base uncovered in their determination to get to the bottom of anything mysterious, while being skilled and speedy in their treatment of the obvious injuries and illnesses. I saw nurses and healthcare assistants who were skilled, efficient, courteous and good-humoured despite being absolutely swamped by people needing treatment and care. I saw multiple cleaners and support staff making sure the hospital was as clean and as free of infection sources as such a large public building can be. My wife, who was the reason we were there at all, was given excellent care and always treat with the kindness and understanding a person who’s frightened and in great pain should be afforded. Meanwhile I, as worried relative , despite being little more than a bystander and quite probably a nuisance, was always treated with good-natured compassion and never made to feel like the pain in the backside I no doubt was.

Tracey is still in hospital. The reason for this is that the doctor’s aren’t 100% convinced she’s well enough to come home. Think about that for a second. They’re pretty sure she’s not going to explode into a human fireball if she comes home, yet despite heavy pressure from parliamentary guidelines, budgetary constraints and the general impression of ineptitude, inadequacy and bad management that the N.H.S. is becoming synonymous with in certain quarters, their first and only concern is that my wife doesn’t leave their care until they are absolutely certain that coming home is the best course of action.

All of the above is why the National Health Service remains one of modern Britain’s crowning achievements, why the much maligned (at local level, anyway) Wansbeck General Hospital rocks and why I’m able to spend the time it takes to write this, rather than chewing my nails down to stumps with worry about the woman I love. Because I sit here at home, still worried, but comforted by the fact that my wife is receiving the best possible care.

Dear N.H.S. and staff of Wansbeck General Hospital, you guys are AWESOME!

Thank you.

Further link pimping

For today’s first post, an addition to the list of blogs I shall be frequenting on a regular basis. There’ll also be a permanent link in the sidebar, if for some mad reason you don’t bookmark the page as soon as you get there.

http://maelstromatic.wordpress.com/main-page/ A blog by two very talented,  very creative people. Jonathan and Wendy Sinclair. A young couple with (hopefully) very bright futures ahead of them. Linking to them is my pleasure. Find there poetry, cartoon and anime artworks and ocasional short stories. I would say “enjoy”, but I think the exhortation is unnecessary.

Pimpage of linkage

Yes, neither of those words are real words, but you know what? Neither is “gullible”, go ahead and Google it, English language bullies.

Anyway, there are new links in the side bar. They will lead you to the following sites…

http://mostlikelyoffensive.wordpress.com/ Written by a (so far, I’m still going through the archive) anonymous woman. Find there poetry and general musings on life.

http://anopenlettertoeverythingiknow.wordpress.com/ I’ve only read one entry so far, but it made me laugh like a drain. This is always a good thing.

http://meggardiner.wordpress.com/ The blog of U.K. based American writer of thrillers, Meg Gardiner. As the URL would imply.

All three are well worth a visit and make enjoyable additions to any RSS feed.

That faint sound you hear, is 10,000 geeks falling into pleasure induced seizures.

This vaguely NSFW video <<Click here to view>>, shows performance art troupe Devil’s Playground doing some Star Wars themed burlesque routines. With Adam Ant’s Stand and Deliver as a backing track. At 1:03 minutes into the video, your childhood will be irrevocably tainted and you will love it.

An important message for the people who make Evian commercials.

Dear whoever it is who makes this* commercial for Evian mineral water,

I speak to you on behalf of hordes of people across the U.K. and any other territories your current commercial airs in. With one voice, we all say to you… STOP IT!

It’s creepy, unnatural and has no place in a civilised society. Babies should be sitting in high chairs, giggling adorably and looking vaguely reminiscent of British Bulldogs (I mean that in a good way). What they certainly should not be doing, is rollerblading, dancing, doing Ethel Merman numbers in fountains or any of the other unnatural and freakish abominations you’ve churned out in order to make us associate your product with horrifying demon babies intent on stealing our souls and handing them over as tribute to their demon overlords. It only makes us want to drink Volvic mineral water, and I’m sure that’s not your preferred outcome.

When I see a baby on the street, my natural reaction should be one of “Isn’t he/she/it adorable?”, combined with an utter certitude that I absolutely do not want one of my own. NOT a Pavlovian response of terror and a feeling of complete certainty that said baby is just waiting for me to let my guard down so it can get on with reenacting Children of the Corn.

That is all.

* Ordinarily, I would embed a youtube video in order that all of my readers (both of them) know what I’m talking about. On this occasion I wish to avoid looking on that hideous advert each time I load my homepage.

Blog traffic confuses me.

In a fit of boredom (and yes, I’ll admit it, ego) I decided to check out my blog’s stats. I was wondering how many people were viewing my site and which posts were the most popular. I have to admit to being a little surprised by the results. The top five posts are as follows…

1:  https://waffleandwrite.wordpress.com/2009/08/26/greetings-fellow-writerly-types/

2: https://waffleandwrite.wordpress.com/2009/10/30/the-horror-will-be-unending/

3: https://waffleandwrite.wordpress.com/2009/11/07/sometimes-google-scares-me/

4: https://waffleandwrite.wordpress.com/2009/10/30/the-twelve-days-of-halloween-part-eleven/

5: https://waffleandwrite.wordpress.com/2009/09/21/a-procrastinators-internet-toolkit/

The only one of the few pieces of original fiction I’ve posted here so far came in at number six.  Why should these particular posts be so favoured compared to the others I’ve made? I haven’t the foggiest idea. I think number three on the list was quite fun to write, but I have no clue as to why the others are amongst the most popular. My favourite posts are all of my fiction posts (except Redcap, which sucks like a black hole), the post about stuff I’m too old to still be doing and the post about Father Dowling.

As far as I can tell, the internet likes cheery hellos, people singing really badly, pictures of werewolves, snark and websites that act as time sinks. Considering my sarcastic nature, love of procrastination and dreadful singing voice I’m well placed to become the next internet superstar. I can only post an introductory message once and I can’t draw worth a damn, so I’m not in the best position to capitalise on those things. Maybe I should hire a “ghost artist” and create a bunch of sock puppet “guest bloggers” to give a cheery greeting? Then I shall rule the internet! MWU-HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!1!!!!one!!*

*At least until the tenth dan masters of blog fu that are Cory Doctorow and John Scalzi smite me for my impudence. Until that point, my evil laugh remains valid and I shall stroke my goatee beard in a menacing manner to prove it.

Busy

Hi again, folks. I’ve been supremely busy of late, so my blogging and writing have fallen to an output of virtually zero. I’ve barely had time to check my RSS feeds, never mind keeping up with everyone who I’ve lost touch with over the past six weeks or so. Anyway, I’m back online now and once my traditional post-holidays fugue state clears up, I’ll be right back on schedule. I’ll be an email answering, comment posting, blog writing, fiction creating MACHINE people. Speak to you all again soon, just as soon as I’ve thought of something to say.