Monday, December 31, 2018

Walking stick gift

My wife is not Canadian and in her country did not much celebrate Christmas. She is all for getting our son gifts of entertainment and educational and clothing types but doesn't want gifts herself. I do. And I didn't want to have zero gifts for her under the tree.

One thing I knew she would like is a gift I made. She and I have made things for each other in the past with hers being the more beautiful. She no longer makes Hanji boxes or lights but the ones she did make were remarkable. I apparently don't have photos of them quickly available. Here is a Google Search for Hanji papercraft.

Anyway, I made a walking stick for her. It started as a one foot long dowel and I carved a little, added a rope with a cool knot, measured to her size and then added a copper ferrule to keep the bottom from splitting. Click on any image to embiggen them. 

I think I found the idea of using a bit of copper piping for the ferrule on a scouting website. I am sorry that I cannot find it now to offer a link.

It is a little short for me but the hand grip is quite long so I could use it or my wife could descend a steep slope and still use it when it is planted below her feet.

The staff has a long hand grip area, a Korean flag and a rope affixed with a monkey fist knot. I carved the staff down quite a bit, leaving a knob to put the monkey fist around.

I will soon make a similar walking stick for my son, probably with a half-Korean, half-Canadian flag and whatever other personalizations he wants. Then one for me. Then I will, using the expertise acquired by making three sticks, make a better one for my wife.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

I've taken a big step! And 'interesting' stuff

Today, while walking with my wife, I told her I wanted to publish a book in 2019. I wanted the same thing in 2018 and also 2017, 2016 and maybe even 2015 but this is the first time I have told anyone.

The admission or goal came out as we studied some interesting driving near our home in Penetanguishene. I suppose there is a metaphor or parable about taking a different path I could offer here but it seems to obvious and less fitting than it appears.

There is a private road paralleling the main one. It is a private road servicing some condos. At the far end and in the middle, out of sight, are two entrances to the street. The private road at this end just carries on beyond the condos for no obvious reason. It sure looks like there should be a connection to the street, but there isn't. I guess the angled curb meant it was easy to make that connection to someone apparently in a hurry.

On with my story. Searching for an ironic euphemism, I called the driving 'interesting' while I was wondering it 'impaired' or 'stupid' were better. I took some pictures and my wife told me I always took pictures of interesting things.

At this point I told her I wanted to publish a book next year. She was appropriately appreciative and admiring.

Then I tried to explain my train of thought. In the writing I had done already, I wrote most slowly, most painfully, the parts of getting from A to B. But when writing the interesting parts, my fingers flew over the keyboard and I think I even made fewer mistakes even while writing faster. So I needed to find and make more interesting parts of my currently unfinished stories so I could write them faster.

Oh, she was and is still supportive. I realize the previous two paragraphs sound like the setup for a joke. "She was admiring, I explained myself, now she is divorcing". No, I just wanted to write about writing interesting stuff. And describe my excitement for next year.


Alright, exciting stuff. Last year, I read one and a half books of Butcher's Furies of Calderon series. Everything in this story is exciting. The action jumps from scene to scene without let up. So much stuff happens. And I didn't exactly become bored by the action but did want more detailed world building laid out in a more relaxed manner so I could admire it rather than grasp at hints in the furious action. I liked it but couldn't finish - I felt too tired by it.  I do want to return to it as it had a lot of what I like in my fiction. Maybe I just need to rest up before diving in.

In 2018 and also maybe in 2017, I started to read City Stained Red by Sam Sykes. The story is different in feel than Butcher's but shares the same reckless, headlong action. I thought I liked such things. I definitely admire Sykes' ability to smoothly insert back story into the action.  There were no flashbacks or "as you remember, ...." which are too obviously meant for the reader to catch up with. Instead, with believable banter and dialog, the back story is fit into the action. Again, I do admire this and Sykes' book is probably the best book I couldn't finish. Much better than many books I could and did finish.

I don't know. Those two books - or a series and a book - were somehow 'too' interesting for me. How can I describe the story I want to write: Interesting and exciting but also with 'educational' parts? Parts where I show off my world building? I guess I want something like Niven's Ringworld where the location itself is a character. Or Hillerman's police procedurals set in Navajo territories where again the landscape and culture figure so strongly in the stories.

Friday, December 28, 2018

From Twitter

His follow up tweet, probably reachable by clicking on the one above, offers more good advice.

More posts coming. Some time.

Friday, November 30, 2018


I won! I finished Nanowrimo!
Sure, I filled out the form, but the Nanowrimo website gave me the template.

This was my weakest 'story' yet. At best, it is an overview of things an actual novel would need, maybe some background ideas. One huge problem with my story is the scale. It is the story people, and non-humans, living on 36 planets and looks at intelligent design and religion. Well, it was supposed to be that; in fact I got bogged down in individual stories. In a story about space travel and beings with Godlike power, the main action takes place around a mudslide.

Still, I see what I need and I have some backstories for several of the planets now. I am not ready to write this story, but I know better how to get ready.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Archive of public domain golden age comics opened

The Digital Comic Museum has opened a huge archive of comics.

Boingboing has a few details:
The Digital Comics Museum has over 15,000 Golden Age comic books (all in the public domain). It's a treasure trove of clip art and inspiration for designers and artists.

More from Open Culture:
The DCM asks users to register and log in before downloading comic files. Registration is free, and—for now—there’s no limit on the number of titles you can download. You can enter the archive here.
When you're there, make sure you visit the site's ever-growing collection of those notorious 'Pre-Code' Horror comics of the 50s. Also see the Archives and Collections area where artists of note have been given their own individual spotlight.
To see teh downloaded comics, I needed a 'cbz' reader. I used a Chrome app. Here are some others. Quora also listed options. Here is another.
So what did I find of interest?


And Fletcher Hanks can be found there as well. Hanks was featured here previously.

Here is the 'superwizard' Stardust!

A search for Canada revealed:

Homer Cobb seems to be an Archie clone invented by Canadians.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Nanowrimo: sharpening the ax

Yesterday, the words flowed and I got ahead of my word count. Eventually, I completed a specific scene and needed to start a new thread, a new situation.

I know that I could have found another 100 words but it would not have been easy. So instead, I sharpened my ax. By this, I mean, I wrote notes and planned the next scene and decided where it would take me. What did the characters need to say to move the story forward and such.

I like the ax sharpening metaphor. I first heard it in a lateral thinking question. Two men are chopping down trees and both work for 8 hours. One works the entire time, chopping away while the other stops after 50 minutes and sits for 10 minutes and chopped more trees down. Neither man were tired and both also took lunch and bathroom breaks. How did the man who worked 50 to the other's 60 chop down more trees?
The who who stopped every hour sharpened his ax and so each swing of his ax was more effective.

Here's hoping that yesterday's planning makes me faster today!

Friday, November 9, 2018

50,000 images from the Art Institute of Chicago

Here they are.

This was a longer post, including a link to the Kottke article that alerted me to it. Those details have vanished.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Nanowrimo, learning about 'pimping' from Google Spellcheck

"Limped" is a word, right? Past tense of "to limp", right?

Google Spellcheck highlighted it and suggested I meant 'pimped'. It that so common a word? Am I so old?

"Alphaadeul' is the name of a character in my story. I needed a fantasy name and folded Greek and Korean together. Then I found I couldn't really do that for the entire story. I can't have 30% of my characters have the same name. Not unless my story is about the nature of identity.

Anyway, I guess a lot of people are pimping.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Struggling with Nanowrimo

I am nearly on track but I wasn't prepared and I am having trouble finding material to write about.

My story is titled The Crowded Sky

Clearly the title needs work. Or at least the attribution does. 

My main problem is, I have a high concept but now I need the nitty gritty, the human stuff, to take place within the concept. And that picture and those planets were all the 'world building' I did beforehand. I am now making up countries to fill a few planets and moons and inventing names and so on. Its all a mess.

I am hugely indebted to the Nonsense Word Generator  for helping me with placenames.
And to discussions of Proto-Indo-European Language or PIE.

I will probably not be on pace by the end of today but I have completed a normal day's minimum and so and filling in for previous days- I am catching up.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Strange and cool trees of central Ontario

Just some weird trees I have seen while hiking.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

13 days of Hallowe'en: 1

The day of!

Man. What a busy time! The post went up empty - I wrote titles but left the posts blank hoping that would encourage me to return and fill them in.

I didn't.

Until now, Nov 2, where I will now share some Oct 31 photos from the senior's centre I work at.

I call these things 'baby ghouls' and consist of a baby's onesie stuffed with crumpled newspaper and small balloons, with a mangled coathanger for framing and to hook into the dropped ceiling. I made one and helped the residents of the seniors' home make the others.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

13 days of Hallowe'en: day 2

I don't know that this image really worked. I like the idea of connecting Hallowe'en with knives and blood remover but maybe the text is too small.

Monday, October 29, 2018

13 days of Hallowe'en: day 3: Stross's Laundry Files

I have emphasized how much I like fun and comedy in my horror, to the point of the genre not really being horror any more. As I have aged, my tastes have moved toward more 'scary' horror and Stross's story has shifted in a similar way.
A skilled computer programmer learns that electronic intelligences - computers - are attractive of other supernatural intelligences. At least some of the intelligences are similar to the Elder Gods of Lovecraft's writing. The spy agency involved first met above a laundry.  The first few books are an introduction to the problem and characters and are Cthulhu meets James Bond meets The Office. Later, the bureaucracy snafus fade and the horror digs in.

I post on the subject today because tomorrow, another book in the series is being released!

Stross's website
Wikipedia on The Laundry Files
A reading order or timeline
Book launches for the Labyrinth Index

The Labyrinth Index on Kindle, available August 30!

Sunday, October 28, 2018

13 days of Hallowe'en: day 4

My wife is skilled at the Korean art of Hanji, or papercraft. This jack-o-lantern is made of thick paper, heavier but similar to cardboard but with no corrugations, and thin orange paper. And hours of careful cutting.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

13 days of Hallowe'en: day 5, mind control!

I have a few good hallowe'en posts still up my sleeve. "Good" meaning some sort of spooky fun or humourous takes on horror themes. So I may double up in the future. To be sure of Hallowe'en content now, let me compare science and some science fiction regarding mind control.

Parasite that control the minds of their hosts:

Toxoplasma gondii is a parasite that normally infects cats and rats. Among other things, it seems to make rats less sensitive to the scent of cat urine, meaning that if they smell it, they don't immediately run away. This makes them easier targets for cats. The thing is, lots of people have cats. And this means that lots of people have also been infected by T gondii. From Wikipedia:
Looking at humans, studies using the Cattell’s 16 Personality Factor questionnaire found that infected men scored lower on Factor G (superego strength/rule consciousness) and higher on Factor L (vigilance) while the opposite pattern was observed for infected women.[75] This means that men were more likely to disregard rule and were more expedient, suspicious and jealous. On the other hand, women were more warm hearted, outgoing, conscientious and moralistic.[75] Mice infected with T. gondii have a worse motor performance than non-infected mice.[76][77] Thus, a computerized simple reaction test was given to both infected and non-infected adults. It was found that the infected adults performed much more poorly and lost their concentration more quickly than the control group. But, the effect of the infection only explains less than 10% of the variability in performance[75] (i.e., there could be other confounding factors). Correlation has also been observed between seroprevalence of T. gondii in humans and increased risk of traffic accidents. Infected subjects have a 2.65 times higher risk of getting into a traffic accident.[78] A similar study done in Turkey showed that there is a higher incidence of Toxoplasma gondii antibodies among drivers who have been involved in traffic accidents.[79] Furthermore, this parasite has been associated with many neurological disorders such as schizophrenia. In a meta-analysis of 23 studies that met inclusion criteria, the seroprevalence of antibodies to T. gondii in people with schizophrenia is significantly higher than in control populations (OR=2.73, P<0 .000001="" a="" href="">[80]
More recent studies found that suicide attempters has significantly higher IgG antibody levels to T. gondii than patients without a suicide attempt.[81] Infection was also shown to be associated with suicide in women over the age of 60. (P<0 .005="" a="" href="">[82]So crazy cat ladies? The behaviors may be caused by parasites.
There are a lot of tabloid-esce posts on the subject of parasites that affect human behavior. Here is a relatively measured post from Discovery Magazine that looks at a few parasites, including rabies.

Wikipedia has a good introduction to a wide range of parasites that affect the behavior of their normal hosts. One they describe is the horse hair worm that, after eating the insides of their insect prey, cause it to leap into water and drown. I have personally seen such parasites in South Korea and in Canada. Both photos below were taken in Korea:

I sure made the ten-year-old boys who carried this worm in their bare hands wash their hands repeatedly and thoroughly! 
Follow the link to see the end -not really punchline - of this comic. Click on the red dot below the comic for an extra panel.
This is probably my most horrific post based on Hallowe'en. Lighter fare coming!

Thursday, October 25, 2018

13 days of Hallowe'en, day 6, Halloween photo editting

I really like Photofunia.

fotor is okay, too. is good. A strange effect with my glasses, though.

13 days of Hallowe'en. Day 7, Jonathan Coulton

With only 13 days to manage, I have still managed to mess up my scheduled posts. There will be 13 posts, I, uh, hope. But we are going to have two today.

I know Coulton as a novelty song musician. Here is his Wikipedia page. He has at least one heartfelt song about how having a daughter has changed him and I like it. I mostly know him for the x-rated First of May and for his many horror-themed songs that fit this time of year.

Brett J Talley agrees and has JC included in his dyslexic version of my theme, 31 days of Hallowe'en. Ah, I might have independently chosen the same songs at BJT; he has three videos in his post as I do.

13 days of Hallowe'en: Day 8, Louisa May Alcott!

I am actually uncertain how horrific this story is, but I will soon read it. The book caught my eye as I normally think of Little Women, not Egyptian Pyramids when I hear of Alcott.
Curse of the Mummy on Amazon - $1.36 Canadian

Or from Gutenberg, free but without special formatting.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

13 days of Hallowe'en: Day 9, Handy Spooky music.

Haunted house sounds. Below is an image - don't try to get the sounds by clicking on it. Or do, I would find that hilarious!
Other Haunted house sounds.

Monday, October 22, 2018

13 days of Hallowe'en: Day 10, Central Ontario Events I am interested in

Meet the Ghosts of S.S. Keewatin.
The Keewatin is a 111 year old ship that was built in England and sailed across the Atlantic. Then, because it wouldn't fit through the locks, it was cut in half and brought through then rebuilt. It is a cool ship with features that would later be reused in the Titanic - not the vulnerability to icebergs but the elegance and luxury. The tour looks pretty cool.

The pumpkins in these photos look pretty cool, don't they.

Too bad they're fake! I was impressed with the craftsmanship that went into the carvings until I found the 'pumpkins' were some plastic material like expanding insulation. The event is still good, but not as great because of the materials.

Coldwater had its Witches Walk already and I missed it. But I have heard great things about it so look at going next year! It's Steampunk Festival was fantastic.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

13 days of Hallowe'en, Day 11. Tim Burton

I am of the right age that Burton's movies probably shaped my views of Hallowe'en, but of course I figure it is the other way around; His movies best fit my Hallowe'en expectations.
 Tim Burton (Wikipedia)*
Burton's own website. Requires updated Flash Player and may be the first good reason I have seen to update!
Image from IMDB.

Image result for tim burton

Image from Mt Rushmore Podcast's episode on Tim Burton, which I only just found for the image for my blog and will shortly listen to.

Naturally, this means that Johnny Depp was one of my favorite actors. I don't know much about his recent troubles but enough that I do not say he remains a favorite.
* In preparation for Nanowrimo, I recently donated to Wikipedia. During Nano, I often have five to fifteen different Wikipedia tabs open. The detail there is perfect for me; enough for a general familiarization but not so much I get bogged down.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

13 days of Hallowe'en: day 12, Trunk or Treat

In South Korea, few Koreans understand the Canadian -and probably American - concept of Hallowe'en. Typically, they learn that they can wear masks and get candy.
As a youth, I would visit several dozen homes, walking several kilometers, in the process. In Korea, you could visit a hundred homes or apartments without leaving a single building. That would bankrupt the families offering treats and overload the kids with sugar even from a Hallowe'en perspective. So it would be strange to knock on doors in Korea and expect people to know why you were there.

So one my fellow ex-pats in Korea created an event, Trunk or Treat, for the local foreigners. There were problems with ESL schools visiting and cleaning us out or expecting ESL assistance so we had to make the event on Facebook private.

But when it worked, it worked very well! Images from 2014's Busan Trunk or Treat event.

We all met early enough to park the cars in good light and not threaten the children we had brought with us. Then we decorated the cars. I always arrived too late for the games but before dark the kids had a few games and then when it was dark enough, the kids went car to car, having their costumes admired and asking for and receiving candy.

Here is a how-to, if you want to organize your own. Or ask me in the comments for details.

Friday, October 19, 2018

13 days of Hallowe'en: day 13

My big holiday is Hallowe'en. In part this is because Koreans don't really do Hallowe'en and so my friends and I needed to work hard to fit the meaning - scary but also fun - into classes.

This is the first of 13 scary but fun, or in this case funny but a parody of horror, Hallowe'en treats.

You don't tend to see hospital directors carrying shotguns that often.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Old News; Coldwater's Steampunk Festival

I'm just going to skip excuses and reasons for being to quiet on the blog and simply offer a post about Coldwater's Steampunk Festival that took place about six weeks ago.

Ya know what? I am still feeling sick from a cold I caught a few days ago. Maybe I'll extend this post. Maybe.

In the meantime, Nanowrimo is beginning to set up for this year's event. My entry won't be steampunk but I am sure many will be.