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Knight of the Lesser Boulevards

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The "Sidekicks!" anthology is out! [Mar. 31st, 2013|06:06 pm]
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Originally published at An Experimental Life. You can comment here or there.

"Sidekicks!" is out, and available through Amazon, B&N, and the Apple App store. (But if you purchase it directly from the publisher, the authors--myself included--get a bigger cut.)

From the Read Village review: "This collection is clever, weird, disturbing and smart in a Twilight Zone meets Saturday Night Live kind of way."

They gave an individual shout-out to my story, "Alex and the OCD Oracle," too!

"And then there is the story “Alex and the OCD Oracle” by D. Robert Hamm about a partnership that defies explanation. Involving diet soda, nudity, fantasy, mythology and an inflatable kiddie pool, this adventure is just plain odd. Readers will like it. Readers will hate it. Readers will reread it in broad daylight to make sure they did not conjure it in a dream."

Table of Contents (You may recognize some of these names):

“Introduction” by Alasdair Stuart

“Coffee and Collaborators” by Patrick Tomlinson

“Hunter and Bagger” by Alex Bledsoe

“Alex and the OCD Oracle” by D. Robert Hamm (Hey, that's me!)

“Quintuple-A” by Nayad Monroe

“Hero” by Kathy Watness

Fangirl” by Steve Lickman

“After the Party” by  Graham Storrs

Learning the Game” by Michael Haynes

“Doomed” by KW Taylor

“In The Shadow Of His Glory” by Bill Bodden

Second Banana Republic” by Donald J. Bingle

“The Balance Between Us” by Alexis A. Hunter

“The Decent Thing to Do” by Daniel R. Robichaud

The Minion’s Son” by Daniel O’Riordan

The Old West” by Matt Betts

“Worthy” by Mary Garber

“Relic of the Red Planet” by Neal Litherland

The Gold Mask’s Menagerie” by Chanté McCoy

“A Recipe for Success” by Alana Lorens

“At Your Service” by Kelly Swails

Click the "read more" for a brief excerpt from “Alex and the OCD Oracle,” my story in the collection.

(the first 600 words or so from my story)

The first thing you need to know about Jimmy Cane is that no matter what anybody says about him, he’s not crazy. And I don’t say that just because he’s my best friend. Sure, he once showed up to a black-tie affair wearing lederhosen and leading a ferret on a leash, but in his defense, I’m pretty sure lederhosen are considered formal wear in some parts of the world, he was wearing a black tie, and the invitation did say, “and guest.”

Okay, so maybe he’s a little bit crazy, but if you had Jimmy’s ‘gift,’ you would be, too.

See, Jimmy’s a precog, but not in the traditional sense. He doesn’t actually know what’s going to happen; he just gets these compulsions that usually seem to work out in the end. Like OCD, but with a purpose. That whole thing with the lederhosen and the ferret? Set off a Rube Goldberg-type chain of events that saved a guy’s life. In addition to the general agitation that comes when he tries to resist acting on his compulsions, knowing that something as small as, say, what color socks you’re wearing could be a matter of life and death for someone puts a lot of pressure on a guy.

So when I let myself in over at Jimmy’s place to find him on the floor in a bathrobe surrounded by thirty or so cases of diet soda and blowing up an inflatable kiddie pool, it wasn’t the strangest thing I’d ever caught him doing.

“Hi, Alex,” Jimmy said between breaths, “I know, I know. Don't have all the soda yet; I just couldn't wait to get the pool ready.”

Which made perfect sense, in a Jimmy kind of way. I grabbed a couple of Blue Moons from the fridge and kicked back on the couch until he finished with the pool and plopped down next to me, panting. We clinked our bottles together, and he drained about a third of his in one long drought. He sighed and wiped sweat from his forehead with the sleeve of his robe.

“Okay,” I said, “Whatcha got?”

We long ago gave up on serious predictions about the outcome of Jimmy’s compulsions, but we make a game of seeing who can come up with the most outrageous guesses. We play as a team against reality, and give ourselves points every time we out-weird what actually happens. Two-on-one odds may seem a little unfair, but reality’s been doing this a lot longer than we have, and it has the home field advantage. So far, reality is winning, and I don’t even want to talk about the point spread.

“Diet soda, kiddie pool… Gotta’ be a connection there,” Jimmy said. “I was thinking maybe a pile of aspartame-addicted carp showing up on my doorstep.”

“Nah, not weird enough. Make ‘em talking carp and I think we’ve got something. I got a better one, though; how about the Apocalypse is nigh, and diet soda will be the only currency of value in the aftermath?”

“Makes sense; only mutants would actually drink the stuff. But what about the pool?”

“Like you said—mutants.”

“What does a kiddie pool have to do with mutants?”

“Oh, so now I’m supposed to be an expert on genetic anomalies? Maybe it’s their religion.”

Jimmy nodded sagely and stroked the three-day growth of beard on his chin. “Hm…,” he said, “Plausible. Hope you’re wrong, though; I think I’m allergic to apocalypses.”


Get the anthology to read the rest, along with nineteen other stories by authors both established and unknown.

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Perfect girlfriend is perfect [Feb. 17th, 2013|08:31 pm]
Knight of the Lesser Boulevards
Maria, from about two weeks ago. This is at the home of our friends Cyndi and Lee in Northern PA, where we're staying for a few weeks.
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Story sale and upcoming changes and stuff [Feb. 17th, 2013|07:14 pm]
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Originally published at An Experimental Life. You can comment here or there.

Another story sale! The first Alex story, "Alex and the OCD Oracle" comes out in the "Sidekicks!" anthology (edited by multi-talented author/editor Sarah Hans) next month. The Alex stories are funny urban/contemporary fantasy tales based around Alex Bayne, who refers to himself as the least supernatural person he knows, but to whom pretty much the entire local supernatural community bring their problems, despite his fecklessness. More about "Sidekicks!" coming soon, including the table of contents, the awesome cover art, and an excerpt from my story.

Also, I need to make some long overdue changes to this site. I've been doing most of my blogging at http://anexperimentallife.tumblr.com/ lately, but while I'll certainly keep that going, and most content from elsewhere will still be posted there as well, I'm looking at switching from Drupal to Wordpress simply because as much as I love Drupal, it's totally overkill for what I'm doing, and although I enjoy working with it, it does require a bit more fussing than Wordpress. (By the way, if you follow me on Tumblr, drop me a line over there in my Ask box and let me know, eh?)

See, it's not that I haven't been blogging--Just that I haven't been doing it here.

On a personal note, I have recently relocated to the East Coast, and acquired the most perfect girlfriend in the history of everything. You will be hearing more about this development, because I simply can't shut up about her. :-)

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So am I too scruffy to live yet? [Dec. 23rd, 2012|11:54 am]
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So I've been doing most of my blogging on Tumblr [Aug. 17th, 2012|03:44 pm]
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Originally published at An Experimental Life. You can comment here or there.

Even though I keep promising to make this my main blog, I've been failing at that. My Tumblr is at http://cogito-ergo-wtf.tumblr.com, and is full of writing, cockatiels, science and science jokes, inane musings (like, what if every time a baby says, "Dada," it's actually referring to the early twentieth century are and litereary movement? Babies are deep, man.), fandoms, and other stuff. Lots of stuff. See you there.

If you create a new Tumblr and follow me from it, drop me a line so I'll know it's not one of the many spam Tumblrs out there, and I'll follow you back.

linkkneel before me

This is why I'm a writer, not a physicist [Jul. 11th, 2012|04:51 pm]
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Originally published at An Experimental Life. You can comment here or there.

In the equation above, solve for "Fuck you."

Despite my childhood ambition of becoming a physicist, this is, indeed, how math looks to me. Rather than explain my mathematical ineptitude, I decided a while back that it would be simpler to make a graphic to which I could refer people. As geeky as I am, I did base it on a famous equation--Schrodinger's Equation, in fact--although I didn't know what most of the symbols meant. (And had I thought about it, I would have put a cat in there somewhere.) The way the nonsense gets thicker toward the end sort of symbolizes the way I start out thinking, "Yeah, I can do this," and then end up sobbing into my calculator...

Fortunately, I have friends who are much better at math than I am. One of them, my buddy Mike Roach, mentioned that I had psi to the power of an airplane, and I was like, "Really? I always just thought of that as the little candelabra thingy." He also suggested the caption, "In the equation above, solve for 'fuck you.'" Appropriate, since I always get the vague feeling that math is flipping me off and sniggering at my inability to do anything about it.

The lesson here? There isn't one, except perhaps that math is scary, and should only be operated by people of the highest moral character.

No, seriously--Math is important, and I've often felt dumb about my lack of facility with it. It's not that I can't understand it, but that as hard as I try, I cannot seem to make myself focus on it for extended periods. Maybe it's the ADD, or maybe it's something else. Words, on the other hand... I can hyper-focus on words. (Hyper-focus is one of the things that comes along with ADD, and although it can be an asset, it isn't always as cool as it sounds, especially considering that a person with ADD doesn't always get to choose what his or her brain likes to focus on. I'm lucky, in that despite my mathematical shortcomings, my brain likes focusing on language.) So while I may never be able to do the math required of the hard sciences, I can at least understand the concepts, and write stories inspired by science. Sure, the bulk of my work is urban fantasy, not science fiction, but even in my non-science-fiction, I do my best to make sure I get the science right, and sometimes even correct a widely-held misconception or two.

I'd rather be good at both math and writing, but all in all, this is not the worst trade-off ever. Reading science fiction was one of the things--along with devouring my parents' encyclopedias starting as soon as I could read--that sparked my love of science to begin with, so maybe--just maybe--if I'm very, very lucky, something I write might someday spark an interest in someone who will end up doing the kind of science I'll never be able to. (You know, those who can, do, and maybe those who can't can at least inspire a little bit.)

(My buddy Donovon over at Objects of Amusement was talking about making a T-shirt of this graphic for his screen printing business, Nuditee Covered, but I don't know if he ever got around to it. I asked if he needed me to make any changes, and he said the design had "constantly changing potential." It took me a several full minutes to realize he was making a reference to Schrodinger's equation. Doh!)

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Hooray, Higgs Boson! But can we stop calling it "The God Particle?" [Jul. 10th, 2012|04:09 pm]
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Originally published at An Experimental Life. You can comment here or there.

But can we stop calling it "The God Particle?" Even Higgs objects to the term.

I'm just as excited as the next guy about the recent confirmation of the Higgs Boson, and perhaps more than most. I even made a stupid little meme thingy to celebrate, complete with a bad pun. Because yeah, sorry, He-Man, but the Higgs Boson really is the original Mass-ter of the Universe. (See what I did there? And yes, the incorporation of the image is covered under fair use.)

But can we stop calling it "The God Particle?" Particle physicists in general don't refer to it that way, and Higgs certainly never called it that. In fact, in an interview in The Guardian, he says:

"I find it embarrassing because, though I'm not a believer myself, I think it is the kind of misuse of terminology which I think might offend some people." Of Nobel-prize winning-physicist Leon Lederman, who coined the term, Higgs says, "He wanted to refer to it as that 'goddamn particle' and his editor wouldn't let him."

Higgs himself just calls the Higgs Boson, "the Boson that's named after me," and likes to remind people that physicists Robert Brout and Franois Englert, at the Free University in Brussels, hit on the same idea at about the same time--Higgs just got more of the initial attention--and opines that they, also, deserve to have their names attached to the particle.

Read the interview here.

linkkneel before me

Killing my darlings, part one thousand [May. 31st, 2012|12:40 am]
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Originally published at An Experimental Life. You can comment here or there.

Once again, I find myself in a position of killing darlings I created in a moment of passion. Every writer does it, and it does get easier, but there's always at least a little bit of an "ouch" involved. In case you're not familiar with the expression, to kill one's darlings means to take out things you've written that you personally love, but that for one reason or another don't pull their weight in the story. Like the 615 word bit of scene-setting below, which I'm including to give an example of a perfectly good darling that nonetheless had to die, and to gratify my desire to have someone other than my writing group see it. (You'd also never know to read this snippet that most of what I write is more "fun.")

There are lots of reasons why a darling might have to die. Maybe it screws up your pacing, or contains a jarring shift in style or perspective (either of which is fine if that's what you're going for). Maybe it doesn't really have much to do with the rest of the story, and is only there because you personally found it interesting to write. Maybe there are just too damn many words for the length of the thing you're trying to write, and the story needs other words more than it needs that scene, or that chunk of exposition, or that subplot. For whatever reason, sometimes you have to kill your darlings to make your story stronger.

Those scenes and snippets are not always wasted, though. When I catch myself over-writing, if I'm struggling, of course I'll stop, but if I'm overwriting because I'm on a roll and very into the process, I go with it, and trust myself to pick out the parts I need later. Even if I'm pretty sure I won't use any of those words in this story, if my subconscious wants me to type them that badly, I'm going to do it unless there's a compelling reason not to. (Like a deadline.) When the words keep pouring from your fingers and the imagery is flashing in your mind's eye and you're genuinely excited about what you're doing, something great is happening, and I urge you to let it happen.

Even in a worst case scenario, if you end up using none of those words in anything you ever submit for publication, even if you gain no further insight, or derive any other obvious benefit from writing those words, you will have, for however long it takes to write those words, ridden a zephyr, and that sense of exhileration when the words are flowing and your breath keeps catching in your throat is worth the time. It can be pretty refreshing and energizing, too, and give you that extra burst you need to write more words that you know you're going to use.

The 615-word or so "darling" below is pretty much unedited, with only a couple of minor changes from the way it came out of my fingers in one big bluuuuuuuuurp of the keyboard, so no, these are not the most carefully-chosen words. The entire thing was me being self-indulgent and writing the kind of description for a short story that might--just might--work in a novel of a certain type. (After editing it to make it better, of course--like I said, this was mostly one long squeeze of the metaphorical trigger, and the part of my brain that spooges words out just happened to be stuck on "automatic.") But however cheesy and overdoneit may be, I kind of like it. And I'm sad about killing it.

The 615-word darling I had to kill:

The mansion was a place of carefully regimented opulence that would have seemed decadent if not for the obvious stick up its ass. The place was more like a museum than anything else; it was as though someone had positioned each piece of furniture, every work of art, even the pleats in the drapes, to present some sort of mathematically perfect textbook milieu that could be appreciated clinically, without all that messy business of making human beings feel welcome. Like those staged rooms in famous dead people’s houses where the emptiness was something you could feel. Even the lighting was specifically contrived according to each room or passageway, to coax a serene glow from a vase that was probably older than most of Europe’s great cities, or to make a lead crystal chandelier sparkle with a stateliness that diamonds could only envy, or to paint a meticulously-positioned shadow of a specific hue and density to balance other elements in the room or soften just this one line. All that was missing were red velvet ropes strung between waist-high brass stands to reinforce that invisible wall that keeps museum visitors from touching anything, not because they can’t step over the ropes, but because such a thing would be unacceptable, in much the same way that people stay out of each others’ homes unless invited, not because of doors, but because of the idea of doors and what they represent, the separation they symbolize.

No children had ever run through these rooms without a nanny close behind admonishing them to have a little dignity, and there’d been no late-night passionate trysts on the daybed in the bright little sitting room Daniel had just passed. Although a maid or two had probably been bent over the desk in the study, or a pool boy given an “extra tip” in the pool shed, both of which activities would have been engaged in with a calculated and pre-determined safe level of passion, of course, and both of which would have been carefully ignored by the rest of the household, because at this stratum of society, transgressions of a certain type were permissible—expected, really—but to actually notice them would be unforgivable.

The smells also varied from room to room. Brightly regimented and carefully understated flowers in one room, an almost smothering cedar in another, and here and there the citrus or berry scent of a century’s worth of fragrant oils rubbed into wood so ancient as to be almost petrified. The smells in certain areas were the only thing that made the house seem even slightly alive, but even so, in most places the air carried, beneath everything else, that subtle mustiness of other people’s memories, and the dust from their feet that penetrates all the way through the carpeting and into the surface of the floor beneath so that it claims a place for all time, no matter how many clergy of cleanliness try to exorcise it with their chemicals and vacuum cleaners. The best they can do is destroy the old carpet like a discarded snake skin, seal off everything beneath with a layer of polyurethane, with perhaps a layer of carpet rich enough that its true purpose was not to cover the floor, but to say to visitors that its owners were so wealthy that they could afford to walk on even the most precious and expensive of things. And even so sealed and covered, all the dust and memories and pollens that have seeped into the bones of the house can’t be smothered, but are there, waiting to assert their claim once again when the layers of their oppression wear thin.

So yeah--That's what I killed. Again, not because it's horrible; I kind of like it, and think it has potential. Sure, it needs a good edit, like any other first draft of anything, but given that, in a longer story, and a story of the right kind, it would serve quite well. For an 8,000 word story, though, with everything else that needs to be in there, six-hundred and fifteen words is about five hundred too many for my purposes.

And even though I'm dumping most of this for now, it isn't wasted. I'll use little bits of imagery from this bit in other places in the story, and maybe in other stories, as well. Plus, although I didn't intend consciously to put certain things in, when I re-read this bit, I realized that there was a lot of symbolism in there that speaks to the story itself and the world I set it in. As a result of having written these words, I have a clearer idea of the setting, and a greater insight into the possibilities of the story itself. If I didn't use a single one of these words in the story, I'd still have gotten that out of writing them. And again, for just a couple of minutes, I got to ride the zephyr.


And here are the roughly 130 words with which I am (tentatively) replacing the darling above:

The mansion was a place of carefully regimented opulence that would have seemed decadent if not for the obvious stick up its ass. This was where old, expensive things came to die on display. Only the scents as Daniel approached the occupied wing made it believable as a home. Cinnamon and coffee, and just a hint of flowers. The mustiness that dominated the rest of the house like an unwanted memory was still there, but just barely.

Those may not be the final words--in fact, they will almost certainly not be--but they'll do for now. And as I said, even if I end up using none of them, I learned something by writing them, and had fun doing it. I guess to sum up everything else I've said here, not only should you not be afraid to kill your darlings, you should enjoy creating them, even if you know while you're doing so that you're going to have to kill them later.


So... What was the hardest darling you ever had to kill? Or wished you had killed? Or haven't yet been able to?



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6 News segment on my search for Sachi the Neurotic (and missing) Cockatiel [May. 30th, 2012|10:32 pm]
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6 News - Lawrence :: Disabled vet determined to find lost bird
If you live anywhere near Lawrence, KS, please watch this. I need to find this little girl. Not only has she been a major part of me keeping what little sanity I have left and helped so much with my recovery, she's my friend. (She also represents the idea that I can do something right.)

I haven't watched the piece because a) it was hard enough to get through the first time, b) I already know what Sachi looks like, c) as long as I don't watch it, I can pretend I didn't look and sound like a total dork, d) it ain't about me, and e) I'm vain enough that I know that even though the idea is to find Sachi, I'll be mortified at every little thing, like if my shirt billows out wrong or something, I'll be like, "but my stomach's flat again, and now it looks like it isn't," or, "damn, I didn't realize I was getting that much gray hair," and stuff like that.
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I believe. [May. 30th, 2012|12:38 am]
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Originally published at An Experimental Life. You can comment here or there.

I need a new category for this kind of thing.

Yes, I know. We voted on this, but who knew He was serious? And let me say that I am happy to be Facebook God's atheist Facebook friend.

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From a dog-face soldier on Memorial Day [May. 28th, 2012|05:49 pm]
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Originally published at An Experimental Life. You can comment here or there.

It's Memorial Day, and I'm just a sentimental old soldier--I may have ETSed, but part of me will always be a soldier--saluting my comrades in arms who have fallen in battle. I'm not going to pretend they were all perfect--some of them were utter and total bastards in many ways--But all of them, unless they disgraced the uniform, deserve our respect, whether we agree with the wars they were sent to fight or not.

I'm about as liberal as they come, and I think that especially the wars we've been fighting lately stink, but today is not about celebrating war, or the military-industrial complex. It's about honoring real people who bled real blood, suffered real pain, and died all-too-real deaths, leaving behind devastated families and friends, in wars not of their choosing, because you sent them to do so.

"Me?" you might ask, "How did I send anyone to war?" Well, not directly, but by proxy. Still confused? Let me explain a little bit.

Soldiers don't get to choose the conflicts in which we fight and die. Even our Generals don't get to choose. In the United States, the military is civilian-controlled at the highest levels, and we have no choice but to trust in you, the civilian, to be well-informed, to elect leaders who will choose war only reluctantly, and who will make every effort to ensure that we are, as much as possible, on the moral high ground in any conflict we enter.

Sometimes that is not the case. Sometimes there is no moral high ground to be had, and sometimes we are in the wrong. Sometimes we are sent into conflicts that have little bearing on your freedoms, but even so, that we stand ready to fight and bleed and die at your bidding serves as a deterrent to any who might be tempted to transgress against you.

Consider this: Even when it is not directly being challenged, your right to act on your opinion is guaranteed with the blood of soldiers. But soldiers do not get to share in that luxury with you. Yes, we can vote, but while on active duty, we cannot protest or demonstrate about such matters--and for good reason. We sign away many of our rights for the duration of our service, and the right to certain types of speech is just one of them.

So you are our voice. If you do not like the way we, your weapons, your servants, are being used, we count on you to demonstrate either for or against wars depending on an informed opinion, in order to influence those you've put in office. If you believe in a war, raise your voice. If you are against a war, likewise. Be loud. Be heard. Make yourself impossible to ignore.

And when a soldier--or an airman, or a Marine, or a sailor, or any other member of the armed forces--dies in the line of duty, remember that they died for you, performing the task that you, collectively, sent them to do. Many didn't even agree with the reasons they were being sent, didn't believe it was a just war, but they went because you, collectively told them to go put themselves in harms way, to fight and kill and bleed and die in your name.

And those dead deserve your respect.

I don't ask for solemnity, or even a moment of silence, for those who died in the line of duty, just rememberance. Just respect.

Me, I'll go about my business as usual today, writing and laughing and maybe having a couple of beers or a shot or two of something, because that's what most of them would be doing with me if they were here, and it's what most of them would want.

Although I also served in the 1st ID in the 121st Signal Batallion, the tour of duty that still brings tears to my eyes, and the one I will always remember most fondly as one of the greatest experiences of my life, was my tour of duty as part of the 3rd Infantry Division ("Rock of the Marne!" "Nous Resterons Là"--"We Shall Remain"), specifically in the 123rd Signal Batallion ("The Voice of the Rock!" "Prima Vox Audiat"--"The First Voice Heard").

And I'll leave off with an admittedly cheesy passage from our admittedly cheesy division anthem:

“I’m just a dog face soldier

With a rifle on my shoulder

And I eat raw meat for breakfast every day

So feed me ammunition

Keep me in the Third Division

Your dog face soldier’s A-Okay”

Hoo-ah! (And I forgive in advance you Marines who mispronounce it as "Ooh-Rah!")


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(no subject) [May. 24th, 2012|08:41 pm]
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[Current Location |United States, Kansas, Lawrence]
[state of being: |other]
[I hear |Watchmen soundtrack]

Towel Day!

Spread the news!, Friday, May 25th is Towel Day! Celebrate Douglas Adams and the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy!  http://towelday.org/

Observing Towel Day is simple; carry a towel with you. Extra geek points for also wearing your bathrobe over your normal clothes, ala Arthur Dent. We should all post Towel Day pics to celebrate.

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Having uncaged cockatiels as pets has made me a better person [May. 23rd, 2012|11:57 am]
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Originally published at An Experimental Life. You can comment here or there.

(Note: I can do this because I'm home most of the time. And I'm not saying that cages are bad. A cage that a 'tiel sees as a safe spot can be a great place for a them to sleep and, if it's big enough and contains enough of interest to them, spend time when they can't be supervised. Sachi loved her cage, and although the door was open most of the time, she voluntarily spent part of her time there even though she had the run of the house. In fact, she would demand to be taken back to it when she got tired or hungry or thirsty. I may start having the X-Birds birds sleep in a more confined area that can be covered, just so I'm not disturbing them so much when I'm up at all hours.)

To people who've had birds for a long time, all of this is probably old news, but for a guy who has owned large canines for most of his life and is used to the rough-and-tumble playfulness and affection of Big Furry Carnivores With Very Sharp Teeth, owning non-predators has been a series of revelations and moments of wonder.

I've always had a natural bond with dogs and other mammalian carnivores. But birds? Especially non-predator birds? I had no clue, so this has been a serious learning experience for me. It's been stressful at times, too, because I take pet ownership very seriously, and often worry about whether I'm giving that pet a fulfilling life. I absolutely do not understand people who interact with their pets only when they feel like it. I mean, you are that pet's world. They depend on you for everything--not just for food and water, but for companionship, affection, and all the other things that help an animal remain happy and healthy. Maybe I worry about it too much, but that's better than not worrying enough, I think.

While all pets require some degree of patience and gentleness, having un-caged cockatiels as pets reinforces that kind of behavior to a much greater degree than keeping predatory mammals, because as fragile and naturally skittish as cockatiels are (in comparison to big dogs, at least), there is no room at all for error. I'm told it's easy to lose their trust, and difficult to regain it. Considering that Logan and Jubilee (shown here shortly after I brought them home--Logan, the mostly gray one, was barely weaned, and Jubilee had been weaned for perhaps a week) were not hand-fed as infants, they've required even more patience and gentleness, but it still didn't take long for them to bond with me. (I think it probably helped that we had a couple of unseasonable chilly nights when I first got them, and that I was the warmest place to be.)

Yes, these two were pretty young when I got them, and had been handled for at least a few minutes a day since shortly around the time they were weaned, but even in cases like this, I've been told that conventional wisdom says that birds who weren't hand-fed--especially if brought home in pairs at the same time and from the same clutch--aren't normally this affectionate with people, or this interested in human companionship, so I lucked out getting a pair with temperaments like this.

And no, these little guys are certainly not as clingy as Sachi (Which is a good thing; I always felt guilty when leaving Sachi alone, because she was the only 'tiel in the house, and very attached to me. In fact, that's much of the reason I wanted a pair--so that they'd have company even when I wasn't here), but I figure that for all my worries, I must be doing something right, because they're still pretty affectionate with me. They come to me of their own volition for treats, skritches (in Logan's case, anyway), to groom me, to just hang out on my shoulders, or to groom themselves, or nap, or chatter back and forth with me, or maybe watch a show. They love riding around the house on me, and once even followed me into the shower, where they waddled around on the floor bathing, climbed onto my feet to be picked up when they were done, then snuggled up with me afterward to dry off and warm up--Logan inside my hoodie, and Jubilee on my shoulder. (Logan later decided to explore down the inside of my sleeve, which I found unaccountably amusing.)

They even include me in some of their games--although I think my status in those games is probably that of "toy." They like to fly around in circles, perch on something, peep at me to come get them, hang out on me for a bit, then lather, rinse, and repeat. (They are not fully-flighted, but close. I've followed professional advice on letting them learn to maneuver in the air, and they never run into things unintentionally.) They've already learned what, "no," means, too, although being slightly mischievous, they'll sometimes simply desist until they think I'm not looking, then do whatever it was they know they're not supposed to do. (Especially Jubileee, who loves chewing on one certain lampshade for some reason.)

When something startles them, their first reaction is to seek a high perch, as instinct demands. But when I come to get them, they come to me eagerly and hide behind my head from the scary, scary outside world, and they relax much more quickly and completely when I do that than otherwise. They have an increasing tendency to contact-call to me when I go to another part of the house, and if I've been gone for too long, although they'll snub me for a while after I get back, they then turn into velcro birds, and even Jubilee the Grumpy, who rarely wants fingers near her face unless they're holding treats, begs for skritches on her face, neck, and crest area.

Not only do they teach patience and gentleness, but it's relaxing to be around them. It's hard to stay in a bad mood when they're flitting around the living room making cute noises, or getting all excited about the sounds and pictures of a movie or TV show, or playing on the exercise wheel, or in Jubilee's case, using the ceiling fan as a merry-go-round (I don't turn it on, but she's discovered various ways to make it spin on her own). And it's hard to keep a straight face when Logan gets so excited about peanuts that he does the baby-bird "feed me" noise and dances back and forth so frantically that he can't actually reach the peanut I'm holding for him until he settles down some.

No other pet can ever take Sachi's place, and I hope that by some miracle or other I get her back someday, but I'm learning a lot from these little guys, and knowing that they need me for more than just food and water is part of what gets me up each morning.

linkkneel before me

LOL I GOT UR NOZE [May. 22nd, 2012|10:19 pm]
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Originally published at An Experimental Life. You can comment here or there.

At least I'm pretty sure that's what Logan was thinking.

linkkneel before me

Geek girls are the hottest girls in the universe [May. 21st, 2012|03:35 pm]
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Originally published at An Experimental Life. You can comment here or there.

See that girl over there with a copy of A Brief History of Time, and season five of Supernatural in her shopping basket? I don't care if she's a bombshell or "merely average" looking, because aren't those also the first volumes of Fruits Basket and Fullmetal Alchemist in her basket? Or maybe it's cosplay materials. Or art supplies. Or the latest Suicide Squad from DC's New 52 reboot, or a copy of Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, or the latest Christopher Moore, or gaming dice, or a Linux magazine, or a book on computer programming, or Janet Burroway's Writing Fiction; a guide to the narrative craft, or The Complete Works of Shakespeare, or even Japanese for Weaboos.

The point is that whatever is in her shopping basket, it says "smart and geeky." See her now? The one looking at game consoles?

Yeah, her. She's the one I want...

And oh, my gods... Did she just say, "So Say We All?" Pardon me while I adjust something. Yes, I just got a total geek hard-on when she made a Battlestar Galactica reference. Don't judge me; it's a Pavlovian thing. And if she sings or plays an instrument (even badly), and has any interest at all in martial arts, I may just propose on the spot. As soon as I can speak again. It doesn't matter whether she's a centerfold, or what most of the world would call simply "average," because the more I fall for her mind, the more her face and body will become my ideal, until in my eyes she is the sexiest human being ever to grace the earth with her presence.

I've dated models, and women with Playboy centerfold bodies (some of whom were also geeks--my most recent ex, for example, had a body built for spandex and an obsession with Shin Megami Tensei games), but it was their geek qualities that drew me to them and kept me with them and excited me most, because geek girls get me hot like whoa. I may not be attracted to every single geek girl I met--yeah, I'm picky--but when or if I do settle down again, it'll be with a geek girl. Geek girls tend to be smarter than the average person, and if you can stimulate my mind, you'll have a lot better chance of stimulating me in other ways. And after we've both grown older and looks have faded, that geek girl will still be the hottest girl on Earth to me.

Not only are geek girls more interesting than other women to be around and talk to, they're better in bed--even the completely inexperienced ones--without even trying. The most incredible, mind-blowing, leave-you-comatose-afterward sex I've ever had has been with geek girls. And although yeah, I've dated geek girls who were built like centerfolds, most of them have been what society would consider average, and more often than not, a little too short and skinny for most guys to consider "hot." (I happen to find short, skinny girls every bit as attractive as girls with porn-star bodies, thank you very much. Funky-colored hair and a geeky tattoo are optional bonuses--for that matter, it's fun to help a girl color her hair blue, or take her to get her first ink.)

Given the choice between a non-geek centerfold model and an average-looking brainy, geeky girl, I'll take those sexy, sexy brains any day or night. Intelligence, geekiness, creativity, originality, and a lack of respect for what is considered "normal" are my ultimate aphrodisiacs.

linkkneel before me

My birds love Supernatural more than you do [May. 19th, 2012|03:16 pm]
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Originally published at An Experimental Life. You can comment here or there.

'Kay... Normal 'keet background chatter and mostly quiet 'tiels. Then I start watching Supernatural, and the 'tiels (Logan and Jubilee, the X-birds) start flying around the living room like Ritalin kids who've been mainlining quintuple espressos, the 'keets flit around their cage ricocheting off of bars and toys like Dick Grayson on cocaine and high-fructose corn syrup, and ALL the birds are like...


Then when I turn it off, they quiet down some, but the 'keets line up on one side of the cage and gaze at me pleadingly until I put it back on again. Yes, these birds beg for movies and TV. (Their faves are Watchmen and Supernatural, and probably Fullmetal Alchemist, but I haven't played FMA since Sachi's been gone, because it's her favorite, and it reminds me of her too much. I'll post more about the Sachi search later.) The 'tiels give the occasional complaining squawk (they're not as advanced in their begging skills as Sachi and the 'keets), and Jubilee will sometimes flutter down to land on my head in protest until I give in, partly due to their begging, but mostly because I want to watch my damn show. I mean, sure, I could use headphones, but despite the frustration factor, it's awfully cute and entertaining when they get worked up.


(Left to right: Jubilee, me, and Logan. When I talk about having wing men... er... wing... entities, I'm being quite literal.)

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Projects and deadlines and demons, oh my! [Jan. 25th, 2012|01:12 pm]
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Originally published at An Experimental Life. You can comment here or there.

The deadline for The Crimson Pact anthology, volume 3 is coming up at the end of the month. I've been planning to do an indirect sequel to Karma, my Quiet World story from volume 2--but from Kai Traeger's point of view as he and Halloween Jack (aka Jaqueline Hallow) investigate how the demons got there to begin with.

Thing is, I'm not sure I can have it done in time. But I've got others on the burner, and one that I'm working on, Prima Vox Audiat ("First Voice Heard"), is a modern dark fantasy also set in my Quiet World setting, but ten years before the supernatural world gets outed, and it'd be just about perfect for the anthology. For one thing, it's a bit darker than the Kai story, and this anthology is all about "dark-darkity-dark." It's also an homage to my brothers and sisters in arms from my old unit, the 123rd Signal Battalion.

I also need to rewrite and polish up the Alex stories (humorous contemporary fantasy) for the compilation ebook . The first one, Alex and the OCD Oracle ("In Jimmy's defense, I'm pretty sure Lederhosen are formal-wear in some parts of the world, the invitation did say, 'and guest,' and there was no specifically stated 'no ferrets' clause...") is a long short, and the second, Alex and the Not-So-Great Un-Summoning ("Just because they were trying to summon a demon didn't necessarily mean they were bad kids...") is a novella. May put a third story in there--We'll see.

Aaaaaand, there are all the rest, like the sequel to my bird story in Daily Science Fiction. I didn't think there'd be a sequel, even though some people asked for one. I honestly thought I'd said all I could about those characters and that world, and there's no point to a sequel unless you have something more to say. Turned out I had more to say than I thought I did, and this new story won't leave me alone until I write it.

And this is all in addition to the novels I'm working on. Oy! Those are going on the back burner for a while.

So yeah. These are the things I need to get done, and soon. Let's see if I succeed.

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Supernatural Season 7, episode 3 [Oct. 8th, 2011|01:53 pm]
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[state of being: |geekyOMG]

Spoiler alertCollapse )But dude. Jewell Staite is in this episode, and even if I wasn't already into Supernatural, I'll watch anything with her in it.
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Woot! The anthology is out! [Sep. 12th, 2011|02:38 pm]
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[I hear |A cockatiel and two parakeets in the background]

Yup! It came out a few days ago. The Crimson Pact, volume 2
The authors range from newbies like myself and some members of my writing group on up to NY Times best-sellers, and I'm pretty sure we hit just about every subgenre of fantasy in there, from high to contemporary/urban, with even a little steampunk thrown in for good measure. And the ebook version is only five bucks--about the price of a latte.

The promo  blurb (and yes, I'm bolding the reference to myself):
The Pact is back and demons are as devious as ever in The Crimson Pact Volume 2.

Read 28 original stories (over 500 pages in print!), including many sequels to stories in volume one. Suzzanne Myers’s powerful flash fiction piece, “Withered Tree” continues with the exceptional short story, “Seven Dogs.” Chanté McCoy’s “Inside Monastic Walls” is followed by the literally gut-wrenching follow-up short story, “Body and Soul.” Urban fantasy mayhem is off the charts with rising star Patrick Tomlinson’s “Monsters in the Closet” and D. Robert Hamm’s “Karma.”
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They made trailers for our stories! [Aug. 24th, 2011|05:34 am]
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(EDIT: If the trailer doesn't load here, you can watch it here)
Again, it's volume 2 of the Crimson Pact series of anthologies, which is scheduled to come out around the end of August. (Volume one is already out. See  http://www.thecrimsonpact.com for details.) And here's the trailer they made for my story, Karma (and I posted a story excerpt in a previous post):
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So I'm in an anthology coming out later this month [Aug. 24th, 2011|05:18 am]
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It's volume 2 of the Crimson Pact series of anthologies, which is scheduled to come out around the end of August. (Volume one is already out. See  http://www.thecrimsonpact.com for details.)

Exerpt from my story, Karma:

We hit the interstate like an unguided missile. Needles of frozen rain and jagged blades of wind beat my face numb and turned what was left of my dress into a full-body ice-pack. Even with the heater on 'incinerate,' I couldn't stop shivering, but the outside air was all that kept me from gagging on the smell of my own puke and the rusty stench of blood, so the window stayed down. Between black pavement and blacker sky, the air was wet and gray. It sucked the vitality from my headlamps well before their natural time, but that was okay. I wasn't paying much attention to the little they revealed anyway.

 The man in the passenger's seat either didn't feel the cold or was too stoic to show discomfort. I was betting on the former. The dashboard glow turned his short white beard to green and deepened the age lines in his face. Gods, I'd loved that face growing up. It was my grandfather's face. But right then, I could barely look at it without screaming. Because this wasn't my grandfather; just a stranger wearing his body. And even though he was one of the good guys, that didn't mean it was easy to take.
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Scrivener for Linux 2.9 beta [Aug. 24th, 2011|04:05 am]
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Originally published at An Experimental Life. You can comment here or there.

Okay, I am by no mean a "real" developer, but I made a .deb file for the latest Scrivener for Linux beta (2.9) from the latest tarball. This should install on 32-bit Ubuntu 11.04 (and Ubuntu-based distributions) with a double-click. See below for instructions for installing on 64-bit systems. See the "attachment" link at the bottom of this post to download.

(Since OS X is *nix-based, some have asked why it wasn't ported over from the Mac long ago. Easy--It was originally written in Cocoa, meaning that it had to be re-written from the ground up for Linux and Windows, which couldn't happen until the creator hooked up with the right Windows/Linux developer.)

For 64-bit systems:
sudo dpkg -i --force-architecture scrivener_0.2.9_beta.deb

Important: if you want spellcheck to work on 64-bit systems, before installing Scrivener, download getlibs from here http://frozenfox.freehostia.com/cappy/ and install it.
Once getlibs is installed, run the following commands:
getlibs -p libaspell-dev
getlibs -p  libaspell15

Either way, it should also make a launcher in the office section of your main menu, but you may have to edit the launcher to include the icon.

linkkneel before me

Scrivener for Linux 2.4 beta [May. 19th, 2011|01:06 pm]
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Originally published at An Experimental Life. You can comment here or there.

EDIT: While the .deb I built installed and works just fine on my 64-bit Ubuntu 10.10, some others have had problems with it. If that includes you, download the package built by JG Starsoupsky at http://www.handsomeplanet.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/scrivener_0.2.4.... His deb should install via Ubuntu's software center for 32-bit systems, but to install it on a 64-bit you'll need to run the command:
sudo dpkg -i --foreign-architecture i386 scrivener_0.2.4_i386.deb

Download link at the bottom (or if you're reading this on LJ, go to my blog). This is the most recent Scrivener for Linux beta, which I've packaged into a .deb. Ubuntu (or similar) software center will now install it with a simple double-click, and it should work for both 32 and 64 bit systems. This beta will expire on June 30, 2011, by which time another will be available. See my post at http://robhamm.com/legacy/primary-categories/scrivener-linux-21-beta-dow... for details.

Of course, as usual, the .tgz, the Windows beta, or the long-running Mac version can be downloaded at http://www.literatureandlatte.com.

The spell-check doesn't work on this beta (at least on 64-bit systems), but that is probably a problem with my packaging.

Download the .deb at http://www.robhamm.com/temp/scrivener-beta_2.4_all.deb

linkkneel before me

Scrivener for Linux 2.1 beta (with download link) -Not just for Mac anymore! [Mar. 25th, 2011|12:49 pm]
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Originally published at An Experimental Life. You can comment here or there.

scrivenerscreens.jpgFirst off, what is Scrivener and Scrivener for Windows and Linux? Only, IMNSHO, the best writing software ever developed. Your mileage may vary, of course, but I've never found anything that's worked as well for me. Formerly Mac-only, it is now nearing the end of the beta cycle for both Linux native and Windows versions.

Here I'll cover some features and tell you how to install and run the Linux native version from the attached .deb package, as well as providing links for the tgz, the Mac version, and the Windows version (which works quite well in Wine, by the way). The Linux version is (for now) distributed via tgz files, but community members like Randy Wallace and I have been putting together .deb files for easier installation on Debian-based distros like Ubuntu. As of this writing, this is the only place to get the latest .deb, but please feel free to share by any and every means possible. And no, I don't get a dime for pimping Scrivener out or building debs--This is just about sharing something awesome.

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Belated update [Feb. 3rd, 2010|12:35 pm]
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It's been a ridiculously long time since I've so much as LOOKED at LJ, let alone updated. Hell, I haven't even updated robhamm.com in ages. So here goes... (and if anyone on my friends list is interested, I'm on Facebook as Rob Hamm.) Scroll all the way down for some relevant pictures and links.

Writing newsCollapse )

BCKCollapse )

Other artsCollapse )

HealthCollapse )
PetsCollapse )

GeekinessCollapse )

More to come, hopefully someday soon.

Related links:
My blog site: robhamm.com
My Facebook: www.facebook.com/profile.php
Ubuntu Linux--Free, awesome, user-friendly operating system: ubuntu.com

And finally, a picture of Sachi, our cockatiel, begging for scritches: A picture of our cockatiel Sachi begging for scritchesCollapse )
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