Tuesday, December 26, 2006

random stuff

Er. I guess it's too late for "merry Christmas" so happy New Year, nk, and all.

I'm visiting brother 1 this year (last year it was brother 2). Only nephews for brother 1 so I didn't have to spend an hour helping neices open up nearly indestructible packaging for various plastic figures sporting big soulful eyes and big, fluffy hair.

The nephews are more into sports equipment and plastic firearms. One of them got this really cool double-barrelled shotgun that you actually load with two toy cartridges like the real thing, and then extract the shells and load the next two. I showed the nephew how to do it the cool one-handed way. Also played around a bit with a basketball. Man, am I out of shape. I was hacking and blowing after just a couple of minutes.

I just checked my email and sadly enough, my office seems to be muddling along without me. That can't be good for job security.

Friday, December 22, 2006

defiance

One of my dissertation reviewers wanted me to remove a humorous aside from my dissertation because he didn't think academic writing ought to be enjoyable to read. Or so I said to my advisor when I told him about it. I said that I would to refuse to remove the paragraphs just because some humorless ogre didn't like to laugh; I had my principles, after all.

My advisor never did tell me whether he thought the paragraphs should be removed or not, all he said to me was that I was losing sight of the goal, which was to graduate --not to publish a dissertation that I personally liked. He was right. I wasn't standing on principle, I was just being stubborn.

It is human nature to confuse stubbornness with principles when we want to be obstinate, and to confuse principle with stubbornness when we don't. There are various things we can do to help avoid this mistake. Ask yourself, "Who am I doing this for and what does it accomplish?" Or maybe ask yourself, "What principle, exactly, am I standing up for here, and is it really a noble one?"

But there is a simpler test that is extremely effective. If you have chosen to take a stand on something, examine your feelings. Do you feel righteously defiant? If so, you are probably just being stubborn. After all, righteous defiance feels good and we do wrong because it feels good, we don't to right because it feels good --Hollywood ethics to the contrary. We aren't stubborn for no reason; we are stubborn because it gives us a feeling of smug satisfaction. If you have that feeling, maybe you should reconsider.

The opposite is also true. When you have taken a stand and you are wondering if you were too inflexible, too stubborn, then ask yourself, did the stand cost you more than you wanted to pay? Do you wish that you could just get along rather than being defiant? Then there is a good chance that you are standing on principle. Don't give up now.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

shrink-wrap licenses

Xrlq is complaining about shrink-wrap licenses (among many other things). I have three problems with shrink-wrap licenses that make me think that they are not reasonable and make me hope that they are not legally enforceable. The first one is just an analogy (as I described in Xrlq's) comments: suppose a lawnmower manufacturer put a tag on the pull chord that says, "By pulling this chord you agree to only buy gas from us." Would that be enforceable? I would hope not. After all, by the time I'm getting ready to pull the chord it isn't their lawnmower any more; it's mine because I bought it. How can they put conditions on my use of my own property? Software should be the same. Sure, they can tell me that I'm not allowed to push the Install button until I agree to their terms, but I already bought the software and it's running on my own computer. How can they restrict the way I use it?

My second objection has to do with speech acts. A speech act is just the act you undertake when you say something. Speech acts include things like inform, ask a question, promise, etc. They have to do with what you say and what you intended when you said it. For example, suppose that I say to someone, "I'm going to the drug store." The speech act I am performing is an act of informing only if I meet conditions like the following (I don't remember the standard analysis so I'm inventing):
1. I said something that was a statement of fact, P to person H.
2. I intended for P to be true.
3. I intended by my statement of P that H understand that P is true.
4. I intended by my statement of P that H understand that I intended to communicate to H that P is true.
This is probably more complicated than you expected, but if you leave out any of the conditions, then I can come up with an example that makes this a case of something else besides informing.

Now, how does this apply to shrink-wrap licenses? The manufacturer of the software wants you, by pushing the Install button, to undertake a speech act --the act of agreeing to terms. But in order to do that, you have to have the proper intentions. The act of agreeing to terms involves conditions like the following:
1. I make an affirmation P to H referring to a set of terms T.
2. I intend for H to understand that P refers to T.
3. I intend for H to understand by P that I intend to abide by T.
Notice that I don't include
4'. I intend to abide by T.
You can agree to terms while having no intention to abide by them. The core point in an act of agreeing to terms is what you intend for your hearer to understand. If you intend for your hearer to believe that you have agreed to the terms, then you have agreed to them.

When I push the button to install my software, am I fulfilling any speech act? I don't see how this is possible, given that there is no H. Conditions 2 and 3 cannot possibly be fulfilled because I don't intend by pushing that button to communicate anything to anyone; I only intend to install my software. There is no one who can come before a judge and say, "Dave communicated to me that he agreed to abide by these terms." And in fact, I did not, even in my own thoughts, agree to any terms. How can that be a contract?

My final objection sounds legalistic, but I really intend it philosophically; that is, it is about abstract principles of human interaction rather than about legislated laws. This objection has to do with agency. Basically, the computer manufacturer is attempting to co-opt my computer to act as their agent in making a contract with me. There are two problems with this. First, it isn't clear to me that a device can act as an agent. Second (and more importantly), I did not give them permission to use my computer in this way. If my computer is actually acting as their agent, then they have appropriated for themselves the use of my property for their own purposes without my permission. That sounds a lot like theft. And in any case, I'm certainly entitled to put conditions on this service, so before they can go to court, using the testimony of my computer as their agent, I should be able to set terms on their use of my property and one of those terms would be that they can't use it as an agent against me in court.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

townhall's web design blows

The Townhall.com website design is getting more and more obnoxious every day. It has glaring colors, a bewildering layout, and a labyrinthine site structure. Who do they have designing that site, a tenth-grader?

Those things can be put down to abominable taste but their popup ads that defeat popup-blockers show more than just bad taste, they show a contempt for the customer. Popup blockers are a way for everyone to be happy. Advertisers want their ads to be prominent for most readers, but those who are more likely to be pissed off by a popup engaged by it can avoid the ads. Everyone wins, right? But NOOOOOOOOO. Townhall.com is perfectly happy trying to force their readers to see things that the reader has specifically tried to avoid seeing. You would think that sincere capitalists would be a little more concerned about what their customers want.

I used to read Townhall every day but now I seldom visit more than twice a month or so, just because I can't stand the site. I'm on the edge of removing Townhall from my Recommended Reading list (the one in the margin) which would mean that I don't visit at all. I love Townhall's content, but that site is by far the most annoying I visit. Other sites that have gone that way, I just stopped visiting, and Townhall is trying very hard to get into that category.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Mist Magic news

I'm going to be continuing Mist Magic real soon now, honest.

In the meantime I'd like to point out how annoying it is that some drivers can't seem to pass a large truck or bus on a multi-lane freeway. They catch up to a large vehicle in the next lane, and then something about the large bulky thing next to them makes them unconsciously slow down to the same speed as the large bulky thing.

We need car-to-car communications so I can pick up the phone and say, "Look at your speedometer once in a while, moron, you just slowed down to 57 in a 65 zone."

Monday, December 04, 2006

storyblogging

Nuts. I forgot to enter the Storyblogging Carnival again. But you can read the entries of the less forgetful here.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

another comment thread

Patterico has a beautiful post about enjoying the moment; it's well-worth reading. Also worth reading (for its contrast with the comment thread I pointed out in the previous post) is this comment:
That’s a nice story.

Maybe someday you will look back at the tenor of your blogging posts, what with you calling people douchebags and the like, and realize what a prick your were back then. Maybe you’ll stop being such a prick in the present if you start taking your own advice
The person who left this quote is so reflexively hostile to Patterico that he can't let the bitterness go even on a subject that has no relationship to the initial cause of his hostility. I first reacted with anger to this act of callous rudeness, but then I realized that I should let it go because I don't want to live in a world like his, so full of spite that even the sweet is made bitter. Now I just feel regret that anyone has to live in such a bitter world.

Hate everyone who offends you and the world is a hateful place. Love even your enemy and the world is a lovely place.

protestant vs. catholic

I had an interesting exchange in the comments of this post over at the TheGodFearinForum. I think everyone tends to get carried away when they debate about things they care deeply about, but it's nice when you can point that out and get a pleasant response.

I told time Tim about someone who was offended by the way he writes and his respone was very graceful, as was that of the other person involved in the discussion.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

why I hate to fly

When I told family members why I wasn't flying to Arizona for Thanksgiving, I couldn't make them understand. I told them that airport security is just too infuriating and they thought that I meant the long lines or the inconvenience. But that's not what it is. What infuriates me is something deeper; it's not the inconvenience itself but the fact that I and millions of other Americans are made to suffer these inconveniences and humiliations for stupid political reasons.

Every passenger on every flight has to suffer because the Bush administration is not willing to take the heat from the politically correct and perpetually outraged for doing security the right way. I have to suffer indignity because my fellow citizens prefer to offend me than take the risk of offending Muslims. They prefer to offend because they know that I won't kill them for it, but the Muslims might. I am a victim of my neighbor's cowardice, and that is what infuriates me so much.

I'm glad to see that I'm not alone. La Shawn Barber understands.

Friday, December 01, 2006

best villains

Good grief. How could Hawkins have failed to list Zorg from the Fifth Element? Or Professor Chaos from South Park?

storyblogging

Donald Crankshaw is hosting Storyblogging Carnival LIX. Be sure to get your admissions in by Saturday night.

Also, despite the name, I'm pretty sure Donald doesn't intend for this to be a pornoblogging carnival. It probably refers to punches as in like "getting your licks in" in or candy as in "how many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie roll?" or something.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

funny muslims

Well, the big story of last week was those Muslim clerics (imams) who terrified the passengers on a plane and were taken off by the police for questioning. They are all playing the "I was just innocently minding my own business when..." game and claiming religious harassment. Some pundits have opined that this was a deliberate provocation. How could anyone think such a thing? How could clerics of the religion of peace possibly be suspected of such a nasty, unpeaceful activity? Well, maybe because of things like this activity in a mosque reported by Laura Mansfield
Khaled and his friends were pretty unhappy about it, and while in New York, they came up with a plan to "teach a lesson" to the passengers and crew. You can imagine the story Khaled told. He described how he and his friends whispered to each other on the flight, made simultaneous visits to the restroom, and generally tried to "spook" the other passengers. He laughed when he described how several women were in tears, and one man sitting near him was praying.

The others in the room thought the story was quite amusing, judging from the laughter. The imam stood up and told the group that this was a kind of peaceful civil disobedience that should be encouraged, and commended Khaled and his friends for their efforts.
I spent quite a bit of time googling around for this article but just wasn't able to find it until I hit on it indirectly through a blog post at The Dread Pundit Bluto, a blog notable for having a name almost as cool as Doc Rampage.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Mist Magic part 20

The story begins here. The previous week begins here.
In fact, Androgiar was not telling the entire truth; he was Presaron's nephew, the son of Presaron's sister, but as the Aghianar counted descent though the mother rather than the father, the Greeks would only understand the nature of their relationship if he said he was Presaron's son.

Before they met the Greeks, the Aghianar did not even realize that there is a direct connection between sex and childbirth, and some of the more traditional Aghianar still denied it even in those days. The Greek story of Eurynome and the creation of the Earth descended from a satire told by Aghianar women about Yasasarame (called Ashtoreth Yam by the Philistines) who was caressed by the wind before she gave birth to the world. Then the wind boasted that it had created the world by caressing Yasasarame so Yasasarame kicked out its teeth and threw it to the earth.

But if the Aghianar mocked the Greeks for their patrilineal descent, so the Greeks mocked the Aghianar for their matrilineal descent. The Greek satires have survived in the form of the stories of the Amazons, the women of Lemnos, and the Danaides among others. Most of the stories about women killing their husbands are exaggerated.
continued

drug-raid strategy

In the midst of the no-knock-raid controversy, several people have claimed that there is no other way to get the evidence in a drug search warrant because the drugs will be flushed. But I doubt that; there must be other tactics that could do the job without terrorizing people.

Now look, I'm not a policeman or a lawyer; I'm just an engineer, but changing people's behavior is not that hard when you have as much power as the government does. It's just a matter of setting up incentives and penalties, making it harder for people to make the decision that you don't want them to make. In this case, you want to make it harder for a drug dealer to decide to flush the evidence.

Well for starters, pass a law that makes it a more serious crime to destroy evidence that has been the subject of a search warrant. Or failing that, at least the prosecutor could announce a policy of not plea bargaining on the destruction-of-evidence charges. But don't just increase the penalty; also increase the risk of paying the penalty. Police investigators should start using a plumber after a raid where they think evidence has been flushed to recover the evidence and to help prove that evidence was destroyed.

Make sure that drug dealers know about the new penalties and about the new tacitcs, so they have a more complicated decision about whether to flush the drugs: "maybe I'll get off, or maybe things will get a lot worse." You wouldn't have to use a plumber every time, just often enough to make the dealers afraid of the possibility.

In addition, the police should start doing warrantless search attempts. When the police are suspicious that there are drugs in a house but they don't have enough evidence for a warrant (or they do have enough evidence but don't want to bother), they go to the house just like they were serving a knock-and-announce warrant, clearly announce themselves as police so everyone in the house knows it, and then ask for permission to search the premises. Some criminals are dumb enough to allow the search and some of the others were smart enough to flush the drugs as soon as the police knocked on the door. So even if you don't send the dealer to jail, you may get the drugs off the street and cost the dealer money.

The warrantless search attempts should be very convincing so that the residents don't know whether it is real or not until the very last second. If the police want to burst in after everyone in the house knows that they are police, that is a lot less objectionable.

There should be about three or four warrantless raids for every real raid because this makes the question of whether to flush the drugs even more complicated for the dealer: the police knock on his door and he's thinking, "The last three times the police knocked on my door I flushed the drugs and they didn't even have a warrant. Now I'm in serious debt to my supplier and can't get away with flushing any more drugs because my supplier will do something a lot worse than sending me to jail. And if it is a warrant and I flush the evidence, it could cost me a lot of extra jail time."

If there are two drug dealers in the house then one of them can stand over the toilet while the other answers the door, but that doesn't work out because the police won't show the warrant until they have clearly announced themselves and been recognized. Then they might just barge in and catch the dealer in the bathroom destroying evidence and they would have a conspiracy to destroy evidence as well.

Friday, November 24, 2006

7-wonders silliness

Here is a site that is trying to get people to vote on the new 7 wonders of the world, but the list of candidates is patently ridiculous. The original 7 wonders were wonders for the scale of the achievement, given the technology of the time. As Michael Williams points out, they left out two of the greatest achievements in history: the American flag on the moon and the Panama Canal. They also left out the first manned space flight, the Manhattan project, and the German WWII fortification of Europe, just off the top of my head. Every one of those projects was a tremendous achievement, dwarfing many of the candidates on the list.

The list includes such relative trivialities as the Statue of Liberty, the Eiffel Tower and the Sidney Opera House. None of those required anywhere near the investment of national capital that a real Wonder requires.

enemy propoganda

Patterico has some strong evidence that the LA Times is publishing enemy propoganda.

Patterico is obsessively cautious, so he leaves open the possibility that the military is lying and that the Times was the only newspaper to report this incident accurately, but I think the possibilty can be discarded. We are long past the point where the Times or the Western media in general can plausibly claim to be seeking the unbiased truth in this war. It is beyond dispute that (1) the enemy has a policy of manipulating the media with false stories, (2) the enemy has infiltrated the media with stringers to place false stories, (3) the enemy threatens to kill witnesses and their families if they contradict the false stories, and (4) the US military makes an effort to only tell the truth. But in spite of this the media continues to report the words of its stringers and witnesses and give them equal or greater prominence to US military reports, and fails to explain to their readers why the stringers and witnesses cannot be trusted.

I can think of no possible explanation for this other than that the media is a willing conspirator with the enemy in placing these false stories. They keep their hands clean by not doing the investigation necessary to know that any given story is false, but by failing to let their readers know how unreliable the pro-enemy stories are, they are deliberately helping to give credence to those stories while knowing that that the stories are very probably false.

Large segments of the American media would rather have America lose a war than have a Republican president win it. And the rest of the Western media just want America to lose the war, period.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

reading glasses

Well, it's finally happened. I've owned reading glasses for a while now, but they were only for occasional use; I never carried them with me. Lately I've been having so much trouble that I am now carrying a pair in my shirt pocket while I'm in the office.

I'm a little depressed about this...

Mist Magic part 19

The story begins here. The previous week begins here.
Aegus did not become king of that city of pirates by being the sort of man who is slow to recognize an opportunity. The king of Athens jumped onto the dock and stopped the murders. Then he closely questioned Androgiar and the other ship's officers until he was convinced that Androgiar was telling the truth. In those days no one could become a king of Kadlandith without a couple of sea voyages behind him, and so Presaron had sent his oldest son with this ship to gain the experience he would need to be king.

Aegus had the surviving prisoners transferred to his dungeon for a few days while he consulted the gods through an oracle. On the fourth day, he freed them all and sent them back to King Presaron for a ransom. It was the kind of foolish bravado that would normally have gotten an entire Greek city destroyed by the wrath of the Valangzar, but this time the Greeks were lucky, for Presaron was as cowardly as his son. The king of Kadlandith immediately set about fulfilling the ransom demands.

If the ransom had only been wealth, then Presaron would only have been a coward, but king Aegus demanded more than wealth for Presaron's son; he demanded power. And for giving that power to Aegus, Presaron was not only a coward, but a fool and a traitor as well. That was the beginning of the end of the Aghianar.
continued

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Mist Magic part 18

The story begins here. The previous week begins here.
One day, Aegus, the king of Athens found a ship in his port that belonged to Presaron, king of Kadlandith. Being a Greek, and therefore a murderous pirate (I quote verbatim), King Aegus invited the captain and the valangzus of the ship to his palace where he poisoned them. With the valangzus safely out of the way, Aegus led a mob of soldiers down to the wharf to confront Androgiar, the principle officer of the ship, demanding that he surrender and promising that he and his crew would be safe. Androgiar, being the sort of coward who would rather give his life over to a man that has already proven himself a lying murderer than fight valiantly to a likely death, surrendered.

The Greek soldiers began tying Androgiar and the prisoners to the posts of the wharf as Aegus personally searched the ship. King Presaron of Kadlandith was the wealthiest of the Aghianar kings, and so Aegus expected treasures of immense value. At first he was disappointed because the ship seemed to contain only normal trade goods, but when Aegus heard the screams of the Aghianar captives, he went out to watch the executions and there discovered the real treasure.

Out on the wharf, a Greek soldier was walking down the line of bound captives and slitting their throats with a dagger. The dagger was not especially sharp and so each execution involved some amount of sawing and screaming. The rest of the Greek soldiers were enjoying the spectacle --laughing, taunting the doomed prisoners, and making wagers. In addition to the noise from the soldiers, many of the prisoners were screaming or weeping loudly or begging for mercy, but even in all that din, one shrieking voice stood out. Androgiar was screaming that he was the son of King Presaron.
continued

Monday, November 20, 2006

storyblogging

The new Storyblogging Carnival is up over at Reason and Rhyme.

I forgot to enter this one. Nuts. I blame it on the cold I had the end of last week...

Friday, November 17, 2006

if you only watch CNN

If you only watch CNN you have no idea what happened in the tasering of a UCLA student. You have no idea that he was asked to leave by a security guard and refused. You have no idea that when the police were called, he started screaming "Don't touch me! Don't touch me!" and refused to leave. You have no idea that the police warned him repeatedly that if he didn't get up he was going to be "tased". All you saw was a very brief clip of the actual tasering and the kid screaming and flopping. There is no context to show why it happened other than the newscaster reading: "university officials said blah blah blah" --the kind of official statement that no one trusts very much.

If CNN wanted their viewers to be fully informed, they would have shown another five seconds so their viewers could hear, "Stand up! Stand up! If you don't stand up, you're going to get tased again. Stand up! If you don't stand up you are going to get tased again." and they could see that the kid was volunteering for the tasering by not undertaking even the simplest action to avoid it.

a question about Battlestar Galactica

Why is anyone still watching Battlestar Galactica? Does someone actually enjoy watching disaster after disaster, interspersed with cruel points of false hope followed by some new horror, in an ever darkening and more disheartening world swirling inevitably by tortuous stages into a vortex of despair and hopelessness? What the hell is wrong with you people? Do you just have a visceral hatred for the characters of the show or do you suffer from a wider, deeper abiding hatred of mankind in general? Either way, you Galactica fans all need to get some professional help.

Now don't get me wrong; I don't always demand happy endings, but there has to be some point, some redeeming feature of a narrative. The message of Galactica, "Everything sucks and then everything gets worse and no matter what you do you can't make anything better and then you die horribly, betrayed by those you trusted most" is not a redeeming message. There is no light at the end of this tunnel folks. If you think the grotesque sadist who write those scripts are ever going to come out with any kind of happy ending, you are deluding yourself. Drop the remote and step away from the television. Nothing good will come of this wreckage of a TV series.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Mist Magic part 17

he story begins here. The previous week begins here.
The Hellas of those days worshiped Poseidon, the earth-shaker. We know Poseidon as the god of the sea, but that came later, after the destruction of the Valangzar. Poseidon was not a mythical creature, but a very real and very powerful prince of the red world, Rodona. "And so the Illyrians called him Rodon" the man told me, "knowing no other princes of that realm. Is it not rich irony that such a hideous creature should be named after the loveliest of all flowers, the rose?" Although Poseidon was a god in his own world, he did not know the magic of mists. He could only influence the Earth in certain subtle ways or at certain times.

The Valangzar allied with another prince of Rodona, Azdior, whom the Egyptians called Apis, the bull god, and whom the Greeks called Asterius or Minotaur, the bull of Minos which is Crete. In those days, Azdior knew the secret of the mist magic and his servants wielded great power upon the Earth. And when Poseidon saw how his worshipers feared the servants of Azdior, he grew jealous of the Valangzar. As the Valangzar learned, it is not wise to draw the enmity of a god.
continued

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Mist Magic part 16

The story begins here. The previous week begins here.
Then came the Greeks. Despite their high-minded self-written history, the Hellas were a bloody-minded, piratic people. For every philosopher there were a hundred slavers, for every playwright a thousand thieves. The Helladics entered the Greek peninsula perhaps a century before the discovery of the mist magic, and they immediately set about raping, pillaging and enslaving. For a long time, these early Greek barbarians tolerated peaceful trade with the Aghianar because they had no choice; no other ships could sail the dangerous Mediterranean to bring cedars from Lebanon, tin, colored glass and terebinth resin from Canaan, gold and ivory and ebony from Egypt, more exotic trade goods from legendary lands known only as names of mystery from the stories of the Aghianar traders.

But the barbarian kings of the Hellas would not be long satisfied with a world in which such great wealth lay beyond their thieving reach, available only in the expensive dribs and drabbles provided by the tradesmen of the Aghianar. Yes, they feared the Valangzar; indeed, no other people had to be reminded so often of the Valangzar power because no other people were so stupidly aggressive and obstinate. A Hellasian King would steal an Aghianar ship full of treasure, only to die horribly a few weeks later, the skin dripping off of his body like melting wax. This would put the fear of Valangzar into the tribe for a decade or so, but then that very king's son would end up doing the same thing. It was a campaign of relentless gnawing at the will and the power of the Valangzar, seeking for a weakness, a flaw in the mystical defenses. Eventually, inevitably, they found one.
continued

Monday, November 13, 2006

overheard on the history channel

The Mayas rose up and killed conquistadors by the thousands. But their weapons proved useless against a stronger enemy.
Well, yeah. If the weapons hadn't been so useless, they would have tickled thousands of conquistadors instead of making that bloody mess. The rest of the narration for the five minutes I watched wasn't much better.

This will be one to remember for the next time I start to think I'm not a good enough writer to get published. If that kind of crap can get read on national TV then I can get published.

Mist Magic part 15

The story begins here. The previous week begins here.
OK, I'll admit it: even laying beneath the fog on damp concrete, my chest aching and ribs possibly broken, I was fascinated. I mean ... ancient civilizations, lost knowledge, dark magic, the true stories behind mythology ... I love stories like that. If I hadn't feared for my life, I probably would have been paying better attention and I could relate this better. As it is, you will have to rely on my faulty recollections.

The mist magic included illusions, monster summoning, and invisible forces that could lift a man or animate a metal automaton. For many decades the cedar ships of the Aghianar presided over a trade empire that ran throughout the Mediterranean and Black Seas. They sailed the Atlantic coast of Europe as far as Britain and the Atlantic coast of Africa as far as the "great jungles" --I took him to mean the Congo. Throughout this region their ships sailed at will, with minimal armaments and neglecting the security of a naval force. The merchants and sailors of the Aghianar had no need for navies to protect them from the various kings and princes and other sorts of pirates; instead, all peoples were taught to fear the Valangzar.
continued

Sunday, November 12, 2006

CNN reinforces John Kerry's stereotype

I just caught a few seconds of this on CNN yesterday, so I can't describe it in detail, it was an interview of a soldier killed in Iraq. The father of the solder was an old scruffy-looking, uneducated-sounding guy who was missing all of his front teeth. And, I hate to speak so of the family, but they all looked and acted like Hollywood's stereotypical trailer-park residents.

Isn't it a remarkable coincidence that this is the very first interview I've ever seen of the family of a soldier killed in Iraq where the family still supports the war, and this family fits so neatly into the John-Kerry stereotype of America's great military? Poor families who are willing to sacrifice their children for America must to be rare (and God bless them) so I wonder how long the reporters for that story searched for such a family to help reinforce their stereotypes of American servicemen. "Oh, sure, a lot of the troops and their families support the war, but they are just poor, ignorant trailer trash".

Saturday, November 11, 2006

why they hate us

Don't you love it when the MSM reports opinion polls as evidence that the MSM view is correct when it is obvious that the opinion polls are a direct result of the MSM's intervention? For example, the MSM reports opinion polls that Iraq is a disaster to prove that Iraq is a disaster, but the only reason that people think Iraq is a disaster is because the MSM keeps saying so. Or the MSM reports that the world hates America because of George Bush, but one of the major reason that the world hates America is because the MSM keeps telling the world how hateful George Bush and America are.

I'm convinced that the reason the world had a better view of America when Clinton was president isn't because America behaved particularly differently, it's because during the Clinton administration, the American press itself and the American entertainment industry were bullish on America. When the world hears good things about America, they like America more. Duh. And when the entire voice of America that is heard oversees (the 3 networks, CNN, and the NY Times in addition to the entertainment industry) keeps telling everyone how awful and contemptible is the very wart on humanity called America, it's no wonder that opinion turns a bit sour. If the only person I know in your family keeps telling me what a terrible family you have, what am I expected to believe?

It isn't George Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, and the Republicans who have made the world hate America, it is the MSM and Hollywood. And it was deliberate.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Rummy resigns

Well, Donald Rumsfeld as resigned as Secretary of Defense. I'll leave the commentary to everyone else and just say I hope he runs for president. I'd vote for him.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Mist Magic part 14

The story begins here. The previous week begins here.
I was going to ask the man if he was a timer traveler or an immortal that went around cutting the heads off of other immortals, but I decided it was best not to interrupt him again. Maybe my life was genuinely in danger, maybe not, but I decided to play it safe and keep him talking as long as possible.

"Well," he continued, "The Valangzar searched for years, seeking clues to a more effective magic. The search took them on great quests that are today known only from some twisted fragments of Greek mythology. Eventually ... this is the part you will find hardest to believe ... the Valangzar found the magic that they sought. In a far distant land, they found a portal to another world, a world of gods and monsters. And they allied with the creatures of that other world and from that alliance they gained power.

"The magic of the red world, Rodona was called the magic of the mists because the most common summonings used portals of mist. The power was useless at predicting the weather, but it could be used for spying and killing. As a result, the Valangzar became the defenders of the Aghianar and over time they changed from sorcerers into soldiers, from diviners into assassins. The Greek word "Phalanx" is descended from "Valangzar".
continued

Monday, November 06, 2006

storyblogging

The Storyblogging Carnival is showing at the Dodgeblogium this week.

Mist Magic part 13

The story begins here. The previous week begins here.
"It sounds like you are quoting from the Bible," I interrupted.

The man's eyes focused down at me as though he were surprised to find me still there. "Not your Bible, no, but a more ancient document. It is an account written in a language long dead and forgotten. You have heard of the Minoans?"

I shook my head silently.

"You have heard of Crete?"

"Of course," I answered.

"Before the classic age of Greece, there was a thriving bronze-age civilization of seafarers on the island of Crete. Archeologists have excavated great palaces with indoor plumbing, advanced air circulation, artificial lighting, and other features well ahead of the neighboring civilizations of the times. Modern scholars have never been able to decipher the writing of this ancient civilization and so they simply call then Minoans --after the Cretan King Minos of Greek legend. But the people of this civilization called themselves theAghianar and their greatest city, they called Kadlandith."

"A city of which you are a sort of sorcerer/priest," I clarified.

"That is correct," the man said. "The city died, but some of the people survived."
continued

Sunday, November 05, 2006

the non-mystery of the pyramids

I've always been a bit skeptical about modern estimates of the resources that were used in building the pyramids. The people who built the pyramids spent generations moving multi-ton blocks of stone without pulleys or wheels. It stands to reason that they knew a hell of a lot more about moving multi-ton blocks of stone without pulleys or wheels than any modern archeologist.

Now a retired carpenter thinks he has found some of their secrets. The video and web site are distressingly obscure on the details, but he gives enough information that I believe him. The link comes from Dean Esmay, my own personal YouTube search engine:

Mist Magic part 12

The story beings here. The previous week begins here
"It was a time of wonder. You would call it scientific progress, but the ancients knew nothing of science, only of craftsmanship. Even the concept of a craft, an industry of dedicated specialists who shared techniques and training was new. There were great inventions in those days, not only in the physical crafts such as building, ship making, metal working, but also in the more abstract crafts such as writing, arithmetic, navigation. Some moderns think that today's technological advance is exciting, what with flying and computers and cell phones; but let me tell you, in those days the very idea of advancing technology was new and exciting --the idea that an entire craft could deliberately set out to advance the state of the art. That was the true invention of the Aghianara, progress itself.

"And in those days there were signs and portents and divinations and there was a craft of diviners. Among the Aghianar this craft was not priest nor wizard, but something in between --not servants of the gods but exploiters of the gods. They knew the secrets of beguiling and tempting the gods. And these sorcerer/priests were called the Valangzar. And there came a time when the other crafts began to question the necessity of the Valangzar. 'We are discovering the secrets of building sturdier hulls and we are learning the mystery of building larger and finer buildings,' they said, 'And what are the Valangzar doing? Are they finding better ways to influence the gods? Are they learning the mysteries of the weather so that our ships do not sink?'

"And the Principles of the Valangzar heard the rumblings of the mundane craftsmen and they became angry and afraid. 'Shall we lose our power?' they asked each other, 'Shall the other crafts prove greater than ours?' And so they held council and the council said that the Valangzar too must advance and improve their methods. The Valangzar must learn the mystery of progress. The Valangzar must discover gods that are easier to control."
continued

Friday, November 03, 2006

pen evaporation

I once theorized that the reason that you can never find a pen when you need one is that they evaporate. If this theory is true then it should be possible to saturate the air with pen vapor so that they no longer evaporate (or, more precisely, they condense at the same rate as they evaporate, so the total number of solid pens remains the same).

In an effort to test my theory, I once emptied the supply cabinet at work and distributed the pens around the office. When I was finished, there was no office or desk that didn't have twenty times as many pens as they could possibly use in a year. It seemed to work for a while, but within a month or so, it was getting hard to find a pen again.

My conclusion is that the vapor pressure of pens is so high that it just isn't practical to try to keep the air saturated.

Mist Magic part 11

The story begins here
The man stepped a bit closer but stayed out of reach of my kick. "Where to start?" he asked rhetorically, rubbing his chin, "Perhaps at the beginning ..." The man sat down on the edge of the concrete base of the tower and just started telling me this outrageous story, behaving as if the punches had never happened. And from the way he acted, I don't think my punch had effected him very much at all. His punch, it turned out, didn't actually break any ribs, but left a huge palm-shaped bruise. I have to admit that I paid little attention to the first part of his story because I was more concerned about the blinding pain in my chest, but I'll repeat it here as well as I can.

"My name is Azeroth," he told me, "and I am a Valangzus of Kadlandith." I transcribe the names as best I can, but they clearly were not English. The "th" at the end of the words was voiced like the "th" in "this" rather than unvoiced like the "th" in "path". You never find a voiced "th" at the end of a word in normal English. The vowels were fuller and more rounded than in normal English, and the "K" at the beginning of "Kadlandith" was a faint glottal stop.

"It was we of Kadlandith who discovered the red world so long ago. We called it Rodona because we thought it was beautiful."
continued

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Mist Magic part 10

The story begins here
Maybe I over reacted. But the guy actually had threatened to kill me, and he might be armed, and he actually had played some kind of trick, pretending to commit suicide. So I spun around, grabbing his arm and slamming it as hard as I could into the metal bar of the ladder. At the same time, I punched him in the stomach and then reached to grab his head in preparation for a knee to the groin. That's when he hit me in the chest with an open hand.

I want to be clear about this because it explains why I think the man's story is worth repeating: I'm a weight-lifter. Not exactly a pro, but I can bench press a healthy 295 pounds. I've also practiced several martial arts and I know how and where to punch someone in the gut; I hit the guy's solar plexus square with the top two knuckles of my fist, using my hips for power and keeping my wrist straight. It was a textbook gut buster from a very strong guy and it should have left the rail-thin man helpless on the ground. Instead, I found myself stumbling backward into the fog where I hit the ground in a gasping, flailing lump of surprise and pain. I was certain that my rib cage had been crushed.
continued

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Mist Magic part 9

The story begins here.
Was it lost in the fog? The swirling whiteness might have concealed even so large an object as a shattered and black-clad body. I crept forward, trying in vain to brush the fog away with theatrical waving motions of my arms, searching for the dead or dying man and at the same time wanting nothing to do with such a ghoulish sight. The fog laughed at my feeble efforts, my courage waned, and I stopped well before any real risk of stepping on the grisly remains. As I stood there peering with full concentration in one direction I had a sudden fancy that I was in a move and that a hand was about to grasp my shoulder from behind. I shuddered; my overactive imagination was nearly strong enough to make me look back over my shoulder but my pride was stronger and I resisted.

As I stood there thinking about ghosts and vampires and monsters, and wondering if I would be a star or an extra in this horror movie, suddenly from behind me, a hand came down on my shoulder.

"It's time for that talk," the man said.
continued

Monday, October 30, 2006

Mist Magic part 8

The story begins here
I descended the ladder into the starlit mists, suffering a bit of squeamishness over what I would find at the bottom because I didn't know how much a human body would splash after such a fall. Would I step in gore at the foot of the ladder? Nausea surged over me and I had to stop, pressing my forehead against the clammy rung until the threat subsided. I suffer the curse of a vivid imagination.

Thankfully the bottom of the ladder was lit by a floodlight, or the darkness would have been impenetrable in the deep fog. As I neared the bottom, I began looking below me but even with the floodlight, I could barely see past my own feet. Approaching the ground, I actually bent over to look more closely for what lay beneath but could see nothing except another rung. I stepped down and repeated the action. Then again. After the fourth time I gave up caution and lowered my foot without looking, probing blindly for the next rung. The rung seemed to be missing so without thinking I lowered my foot still further. Suddenly I touched an obstacle much more massive than a ladder rung; I had reached the bottom.

I rested there for a moment at the base of the ladder, once again pressing my face to the clammy metal to stave off nausea. Then I steeled myself and looked toward where the body lay. Nothing was there.
continued

Sunday, October 29, 2006

joke science

I used to tease my younger brothers by giving them ridiculous scientific explanations. For example:
Do you know why they use red and green for stoplights even though some people are red/green color blind? It's because people who are red/green color blind also have a problem with falling asleep when they drive, and making the lights the same color forces them to be more alert.
I thought of this today when I was browsing the google searches the led people to my site today. One of them was
farts evolutionary purpose
I'm guessing some younger brother is starting to catch onto his older brother's game and is double-checking on google.

Don't you wonder what the story was though?

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Mist Magic part 7

The story begins here
Now I was the one who laughed, "Well, you aren't going to scare me to death so you'd better try something else." Not until I said that did it occur to me that the man might be armed. That could be a problem.

"No hurry," the man answered, "you seem like a decent sort. The least I can do is to tell you first why you have to die."

"The very least," I agreed dryly.

"Well then, let's talk," the man said. With that, he began walking toward me. I braced for him to kick or try to shove me off, but he turned and stepped outside of the hand rail and then just stepped off the tower into space as though he hadn't seen the edge. I watched in shock as the odd stranger plummeted into the fog.

The only sounds were me saying "Oh, crap," and then a thump so faint with distance that I wasn't sure I heard it at all. I admit to hesitating for only a moment and then I sat down on the top step, looped my arm around the safety rail, and dialed 911 on my cell phone. I was going to be caught trespassing after all, but that would be better than getting caught not reporting immediately a death that happened right in front of me.
continued

don't worry

The guy from the water tower hasn't tracked me down yet. I just didn't have time to continue the story tonight.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Beccy Cole

From Dean comes this beautiful song by Australian pop start Beccy Cole who has been attacked for supporting the soldiers in Iraq. In listening to the song, it might help to know that "digger" is Australian slang for soldier.

Mist Magic part 6

The story begins here
"Not a wound in the earth," the man said behind me, "but a wound in space itself."

I snorted. "And you convicted me of a heavy-handed metaphor," I said, turning back to face him.

"But my metaphor is apt," the man said, now appearing as a mere shadow against the starlit sky. "What you witnessed is the light of a foreign sun, a red sun, shining through a sort of rift between universes. And it was shining on red dust that also came through the rift."

"Well, that was my other guess," I answered flatly. "Diffraction or an alternate universe."

"But I'm quite serious," the man said. "Further, the rift is why I am here tonight; I bear the responsibility of ensuring that the post-solar glow remains a secret."

"So now that I've seen it, I suppose you have to kill me?"

"You are way ahead of me," the man said.
continued

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Mist Magic part 5

The story begins here.
"What do you think causes the red streak?" the man asked. I declined to answer.

"You think it has something to do with refraction, or with particles in the air filtering the sun's light?" he persisted.

"Of course," I answered finally.

"The sun is gone now," he observed, "yet look behind you." I kept looking right at him.

"I'll step back," the man offered with a chuckle, and he took three long steps back, offering me a buffer of safety. "Look behind you where the red streak was."

Soon curiosity got the better of me and I looked back toward where I had seen the crimson fan glowing in the last rays of the sun, expecting now to see nothing more remarkable than a grey bank of fog. Yet there it was, a crimson fan still glowing faintly in the dusk as though lit by an invisible sun.

Startled, I looked to the west, and there was nothing left in the sky but the faintest residue of a withering sunset. The sun itself was long gone and there was not enough light to illuminate anything. I looked back toward the glowing fan which was noticeably brighter than the sky, and far too large to be the result of man-made lights. Then as I watched, the fan began to fade suddenly as though the sun were setting again, long after it had already set. In a moment it was nothing but a subtly darker smear in the sea of dark grey fog.
continued

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

needing lines

My neighborhood 7-11 (where I do most of my grocery shopping) recently repaved their parking lot. They didn't repaint the lines for several weeks and I found it disturbing to park in an unrestricted space, with no lines to tell me where it's OK to park and where it's not OK to park.

It's funny, I never before thought of myself as the kind of person who needs lines.

Mist Magic part 4

The story begins here
The sun died behind the figure just as he reached the handrails of the ladder. In the twilight I was able to see a very tall, wraith-thin figure wearing a sort of monkish robe and a hood that hid his face in deep shadow. The figure reached up to its face with a bony hand and pulled back the hood to reveal the face of skeleton.

The man was so emaciated that it seemed he should be on his death bed, with skin that lay tight over bone and eyes sunken deep within the sockets. He was not old, or so I guessed, for his face bore an odd neutral quality that made it impossible to be certain of his age. The man's voice boomed, "Are you frightened, little blogger?"

"I'm concerned about your intentions," I said quietly, "but I'm pretty sure I can take out a someone as frail as you." I'm normally courteous to a fault, but have this rule that when someone is deliberately trying to scare me, they forfeit the right to courtesy.

The man responded to my defensive rudeness with a loud and apparently sincere laugh, "You might be surprised, at how sturdy I am." he told me.

I shrugged and remained silent because, truth to tell, I was angry and my throat closes up when I'm angry making it a struggle to speak. After a moment of waiting for a reply, the man continued, "I'll tell you what, blogger, how about if I give you a real story? A story so extraordinary that it would turn you overnight into the most famous blogger in the world, if only people believed you? I said nothing, not particularly curious about his story. It was obvious by now that the man was a blowhard of the sort I'd met too often before.

The light was fading quickly and I thought about starting down the ladder. Which is more dangerous? To share the roof with a crazy guy in the dark or to be climbing down a ladder into deep fog with a crazy guy above you?
continued

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

close races

Here is a list of candidate in close races. Read Right Wing News to see why I'm posting it. You might want to consider posting it at your site also.

Senate

Connecticut: Ned Lamont
Maryland: Ben Cardin
Michigan: Debbie Stanbenow
Missouri: Claire McCaskill
Montana: Jon Tester
New Jersey: Bob Menendez
Tennessee: Harold Ford
Virginia: James Webb

Democrat Held Seats

(CO-03): John Salazar
(GA-03): Jim Marshall
(GA-12): John Barrow
(IA-03): Leonard Boswell
(IL-08): Melissa Bean
(IL-17): Phil Hare
(IN-07): Julia Carson
(NC-13): Brad Miller
(PA-12): John Murtha
(WV-01): Alan Mollohan

Republican Held Seats

(AZ-08): Gabrielle Giffords
(CT-04): Diane Farrell
(CT-05): Chris Murphy
(CO-07): Ed Perlmutter
(IA-01): Bruce Braley
(IL-06): Tammy Duckworth
(IN-02): Joe Donnelly
(IN-08): Brad Ellsworth
(IN-09): Baron Hill
(FL-13): Christine Jennings
(FL-16): Tim Mahoney
(FL-22): Ron Klein
(KY-03): John Yarmuth
(NC-01): Heath Shuler
(MN-06): Patty Wetterling
(NM-01): Patricia Madrid
(NY-20): Kirsten Gillibrand
(NY-24): Michael Arcuri
(NY-26): Jack Davis
(OH-15): Mary Jo Kilroy
(OH-18): Zack Space
(PA-06): Lois Murphy
(PA-08): Patrick Murphy
(PA-07): Joe Sestak
(PA-10): Chris Carney
(VA-02): Phil Kellam
(WI-08): Steve Kagen

the plan

My plan is to present Mist Magic in small chunks every day, sort of like an online daily comic strip without the pictures. I'll post a few paragraphs every day unless I get tracked down by the forces of evil who don't want you to hear this story or unless I forget.

Mist Magic part 3

The story begins here
The stainless steel bars of the ladder were cold and slippery with condensation. In my younger days I would have thought nothing of it, but this day I climbed carefully, never lifting more than one hand or one foot at a time. The clouds hit an abrupt ceiling some ten feet below the top of the tower and I climbed from the murky underworld into the glorious clear air, gleaming with the horizontal rays of the setting sun. To the west, the sky shown with streaks of sangria and gold and I had to hurry to catch the last of the light. I clambered up the rest of the way and turned to sit at the top of the latter, grasping the hand rails for safety as I enjoyed the rolling ocean of mist beneath me. It glowed white at first, but then, quickly, the dying sun lent it a brilliant array of colors and then the spot of bright crimson appeared; starting out small and growing outward in the shape of a fan as though spraying from the mountain.

I was so mesmerized by the sight that I almost leapt from the tower when the voice behind me spoke: "What are you looking for?"

I spun around to behold a tall, lean shape standing dangerously close to the unguarded edge of the tower. I tried to see if he were wearing a uniform or the coverall of a workman who might have business here, but the man was between me and the sun, and I could make out almost nothing. "I'm just enjoying the scenery, I answered."

"You came to see the red streak." the man said.

"I didn't know the red streak would be here today," I corrected him, "but it is spectacular. I can imagine that it is a patch of Earth's own blood welling up, perhaps, from the great wound of the San Andreas fault just below us."

"What, you're a poet?" The man didn't seem impressed with my wordsmithing.

"No," I said, a bit defensively, "I'm a blogger and I was thinking about how I would describe this on my blog."

"The metaphor is heavy-handed and contrived."

"I suppose you could do better?"

I was actually hoping he could, but he didn't seem inclined to help, "Oh, no, I wouldn't presume to offer writing advice to a blogger."

OK, that was kind of cold, so I turned back to the beauty instead of letting myself get involved in a pointless exercise in chest thumping.

The shadow moved and I turned my head far enough to see the man coming toward me from the corner of my eye. I felt threatened so I quickly stood up and turned around to face him, my feet on the last step of the ladder, my hands grasping the rail firmly. As the figure slowly approached, its movement seemed timed to go with the setting of the sun.
continued

Monday, October 23, 2006

storyblogging

The new Storyblogging Carnival is up. It's being hosted by that squid guy. Who, by the way, has published his first novel.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Mist Magic part 2

The story begins here.
It was a cool and breezy Sunday, the day after a very warm and still Saturday and the mist was thick on Highway 1 where it mounts the final dregs of the Santa Cruz range to briefly meet Skyline Boulevard and then cross over to join with Highway 280. Such conditions are ideal for fog-watching; so I noted as I cruised over the pass late one autumn afternoon. I was feeling burnt-out from my third 80-hour week in a row as my company came up on a major release deadline and told myself that I needed a break. On impulse, I jerked the wheel over at the last instant to exit onto Skyline south, provoking an angry drawn-out honk from a car that I had cut off. I slowed to fifteen at the peak of the overpass where the fog was so thick that I could barely see the guard rails five feet away even with my lights shining directly on them. I relied on the taillights of the car ahead of me to get me through the worst of it and soon I was southbound on Skyline, driving through a ghostly world of swirling mist under the threatening branches of shadow trees, all color and detail washed out by the fog in the faltering afternoon light. I always loved this drive.

As I was about to pass the water tower, I hit the breaks on another impulse, drawing another furious blast from the same car that had honked at me before. I turned onto the access road for the tower and watched the angry car pass in my rear-view mirror. The driver was probably flipping me off invisibly in the fog, but the poor soul could now console himself that since I turned off I was out of his life forever, never to startle him again. Most likely.

I had never actually been on top before but I had stopped by a couple of times in daylight to case the joint in case I ever felt the need to climb the tower --always be prepared and all that. The tower was fenced, but I drove right up to a tree that I had scoped out before and parked. I checked my cell-phone battery in case I fell and broke a leg, then hopped up onto the hood of my car and into the crotch of the tree. From there it was an easy crawl along a branch that passed over the fence where I slid off onto the roof of a low shed. I dropped from the roof of the shed humming the theme music from Mission Impossible: "BUMbum. BUMbumBUMbum. Dadada. Dadada. Dadada."

Straightening up I began walking across the flat ground to the ladder attached to the side of the tower, all the while rehearsing what I would say if I got caught, "What!? You mean I can't climb over a fence to ..." No, that wouldn't work. How about, "I thought that fence was just to keep out kids, not respectable acrophilic members of the community like me." I decided I'd just better not get caught.
continued

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Mist Magic part 1

From Monterey Bay to just south of San Francisco, nestling between the Pacific Ocean and the San Andreas fault, runs a modest little range called the Santa Cruz Mountains. These adventurous mountains thrust a ridge of coast redwood, Douglas fir and Pacific madron up the coast side of the San Francisco Peninsula, defying the pavement that suffocates the rest of the peninsula, to the very borders of Daly City where they finally fade away in defeat to the tamed and paved metropolis. The breath of the sea rushes moist and salty ocean air to the top of this humble ridge where it cools to form a dense fog. The very winds that birthed the fog then tear it apart to send waves of cloud over the peninsula toward the San Francisco Bay. Many days, especially in the summer, you can lie on your back in the bay side to watch these misty children of earth, wind and water scudding rapidly across the sky as though eager to meet their demise and dissipation in the warm, dry air of the East Bay and the Santa Clara Valley.

Skyline Boulevard accompanies the ridge to its terminus, winding along the ridge just beneath the modest peaks and descending into the hills of Daly City. If you back up a bit from Daly City to just before the mountains start to fall away but where they are beginning to be tamed by encroaching civilization, you will find a water tower sitting alone on a peak. On a few rare days the fog is low enough that from the top of this water tower, you can see the fog and escaping clouds as a cotton landscape beneath you, and the sun setting low over the Pacific Ocean can cast the most remarkable colors on this layer, on very rare occasions producing a crimson so rich that it seems the mountains are bleeding mist upon the earth.

Such was the scene on that day when I met a man on top of the tower and he told me the bizarre story that I am about to share with you. I do not for a moment expect you to believe this story; I don't really quite believe it myself. I repeat it because it is interesting ... and I suppose for reasons that will become clearer near the end.

continued

Friday, October 20, 2006

better late than never

Mark Raynor will be hosting the next Storyblogging Carnival over at The Skwib. He's giving us procrastinator until Sunday at noon. So we still have a chance.

As to my light blogging, I have a good excuse. I'd tell you about it, but I just don't have time. Maybe later.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Storyblogging Carnival LV

Welcome to Storyblogging Carnival 55. Well, it's fall and contrary to my prediction, the Carnival hasn't picked up that much except for a much-appreciated save from Postmodern Sass who posted the announcement to the Carnival of the Mundane list. But heck, I'm not too proud to steal from another carnival. So, without further doodoo, here is the Carnival you've been waiting for:

Stand By Me from Postmodern Sass of Postmodernes Sprachspielen
Word count: 1500
Rating: safe, but not of interest to children :-)
A story about a rollercoaster, a train trestle, and something called a sawzall.

A tour of New Orleans and the damage left by Hurricane Katrina from Tracy Coenen of FRAUDfiles Fraud Blog
Rating: G
A very short story of what I saw when I visited New Orleans recently. It was unbelievable!

Where's my organ donor? from Kevin Apgar of kapgar
Word count: 727
Rating: PG
The story of how our fair hero met the U.S.'s government's antihero du jour, before he became America's most loathed documentary filmmaker.

Tubing Blues from Madeleine Begun Kane at Mad Kane's Humor Blog
Word Count: 746
Rating: PG
Sometimes I think my husband is trying to get me killed. Read about our river tubing adventure, and you be the judge.

Grandfig: A Star Forlorn from Mark A. Rayner at The Skwib
Word count: 200
Rating: PG-13
More absurdist fiction from the Last Dadaist Standing.

A Guilding of Lillis -- scenes 7, 8, and 9 by Dave Gudeman of Doc Rampage
Word count: 2159
Rating: PG-13
Rolf and Zanter complete their first heroing contract with mediocre success.

storyblogging

If you came here looking for the Storyblogging Carnival, you came to the right place at the wrong time. Well, it's officially the right time, but I'm not done with it yet. I apologize to those of you waiting, but I've taken on some new responsibilities at work and it's really sucking up my time.

I expect to get it out tonight.

Monday, October 09, 2006

A Guilding of Lillis -- scenes 7, 8, and 9

Heroes for Hire
Episode 1 – A Guilding of Lillis


Scene 1
Scene 2
Scene 3
Scene 4
Scene 5
Scene 6

Scene 7

Turna and Jody are sitting at the edge of the pit that Zantar fell into. Buffy is huddled a few feet behind them. The magic light is now centered over the pit. There is a pile of rocks between Turna and Jody and they are taking turns, casually tossing rocks into the pit. Most of the tosses are followed by an unrecognizable sound. During the following, the camera doesn't shows what's in the pit until further notice.

JODY: (tosses a rock, sound follows) That elf doesn't know squat. This skull is an otter. (he has the skull in his non-throwing hand)

TURNA: (tosses a rock, sound follows) I know. It's obviously too narrow to be a badger.

Jody aims a little this time and when he tosses there is a different, and louder, sound.

TURNA: Good one! Right on the nose!

JODY: (grins) Thanks. So if it's so obvious that this is an otter, why won't the elf admit it?

TURNA: (shrugs, tosses her own, followed by the original sound) Who knows. Elves are squirrelly.

ROLF: (from the darkness) We are not! We just happen to be blessed with extremely high metabolisms and an abundance of creativity.

The heroes walk into the light. Zantar is sporting a few more cuts and is covered with soot. Rolf just has a few sooty streaks in attractive places. They stop at the edge of the pit opposite from Turna and Jody and look down into the pit. Jody tosses another stone and gets the extra sound again.

TURNA: Another nose shot! (she high-fives Jody)

ROLF: (speaking down to the pit) Did that hurt, Lut? It sure looked painful.

LUT: (from down in the pit) Elf! Elf! Make them stop throwing rocks at me!

Turna throws another rock and the sound now appears to be Lut squeaking.

ROLF: Why would I do that, Lut. It's not like you've done anything for me in the last couple of hours.

LUT: I told you about the mines. I was right, wasn't I? You killed everyone so now you let me go like you said!

ROLF: (to Zantar) Did I say that? Did I say I'd let him go?

ZANTAR: (shaking his head) That's not how I remember it.

LUT: Yes! Yes! You said...

Turna tosses a rock and Lut squeals.

JODY: Hey! That's a nose shot for you now! (they high-five again)

LUT: (in a muffled voice) You said if I tell you the truth you would let me go!

ROLF: Speak up, gob, I can hardly hear you.

LUT: (still muffled) Must protect nose. Nose very sore.

ROLF: Yes, I can see that. Well, Mr. Lut, what I actually promised you is that if you told me the truth I wouldn't kill you. Letting you go is another matter entirely.

LUT: (not muffled this time, and wailing) But I'll starve if you leave me in here!

Cut to Lut in the bottom of the pit, prostrate against one wall and looking up at Rolf, his nose is an inviting target. A rock slams the wall next to his nose and he flinches and tucks his nose again, then does a double-take and pulls his nose out to look back and gloat:

LUT: Hah, hah. Human cub missed. Lousy rock-chucker, hah!

Suddenly a rock hits him full in the face and he gives an extra-big squeal then curls up to protect his face.

JODY: Great shot, Turna! What a dumb gob.

ROLF: Of course, you might still know something that you could bargain with, Lut.

LUT: (muffled) What do I know?

A chest crashes down into the pit next to him. Lut jumps away. A rock barely misses him, and then he dashes to the chest to use it for cover.

ZANTAR: Remember that chest, Lut?

LUT: I remember. This is the chest Puke gave to Crut.

ZANTAR: (to Turna) Don't you and the kids have to go to the mine entrance?

TURNA: Nope, we're comfortable here.

ZANTAR: You're about to get a lot less comfortable.

TURNA: Come on, kids, let's get some fresh air.

They wait until the kids are out of earshot.

ROLF: (to Lut) And where might we find this Puke gentleman?

LUT: Have to let me go.

ROLF: If you give us the information we want.

LUT: No more rocks.

ROLF: Of course not, are we barbarians?

LUT: Puke's cave is up in mountains. I'll take you there. Then you let me go.

ROLF: Excellent plan, Lut.

LUT: No more rocks.

ROLF: Wouldn't think of it, Lut. Not unless you piss me off.


Scene 8

The heroes and the children are walking down the village street. Zantar is dragging the chest. They are noticed and a crowd starts to gather. Jody and Buffy are taken by their respective families. Rosha's mother comes charging through the crowd.

WOMAN1: Where's little Rosha? Where is she?

TURNA: I'm so sorry Mrs. Spiggot. By the time I got there, it was already too late.

WOMAN1: (screaming) No! No, they didn't eat dear little Rosha!

As Woman1 carries on in the background and Turna and the others try to comfort her.

ZANTAR: (quietly to Rolf) Yep. Raw, like I said.

ROLF: Drat. I should have asked the kids names so I'd be prepared for this.

ZANTAR: You saw what happened with the fire. There's no way they could have cooked anything in that chamber.

WOMAN1: (screaming and pointing at the two heroes) You! You killed Rosha. Just because of those awful Hero's Guild rules, you let her get eaten by goblins!

ROLF: Mrs. Spiggot, I assure you...

WOMAN1: No! If you had gone out that night, you could have saved her. You waited until the next morning!

MAN1: What kind of hero's guild lets little girls get eaten by goblins?

The crowd starts getting ugly. Zantar and Rolf start looking worried. Suddenly they are saved by an unexpected source.

TURNA: (shouting at the crowd) The Hero's Guild didn't let Rosha die! They sent me!

The crowd quiets long enough for her to speak.

TURNA: I'm not supposed to reveal that I'm a member of the guild, but I think I have to now. The guild sent me to protect Rosha the very second they knew about the goblins. I couldn't rescue her, but I could use my magic to keep the goblins from eating her. I just made them forget to be hungry. That's how I saved Buffy and Jody until the more advanced heroes showed up for the actual rescue.

ROLF: That's quite correct! The Guild discourages us from discussing our tactics, but in this case I shall make a one-time exception. We in fact sent Turna to look after the precious little tyke the minute we could. We had only one seek-and-travel spell that gave any chance at all of saving the girl. Zantar or I could not have used it because just one of us would have been overwhelmed.

TURNA: That's right! But I could have kept the child safe until help arrived. Alas. Even with that powerful Hero's Guild magic, I was too late. So don't turn your anger on us, who risked our lives trying to save Rosha. Turn your rage on one of the goblins that helped eat her. The goblin that we brought back in that chest (points dramatically at the chest).

There is stunned silence in the crowd for several seconds. Rolf and Zantar both have eyes as big as saucers. Then from inside the chest, a voice:

LUT: I only had like a half of a foot!

The crowd gives an outraged scream, then as a single creature tears the chest open drags poor Lut away to his doom.

Zantar, Rolf, and Turna are left standing alone.

ROLF: But... But...

ZANTAR: Why the HELL did you do that, witch?

TURNA: Don't you yell at me, dwarf. I just saved your miserable skin.

ROLF: But... But...

TURNA: The crowd was in a killing frenzy. They had to have something to take revenge on, and it was either you or the gob.

ROLF: But... But...

ZANTAR: But you guys were talking them out of it...

TURNA: You don't know this village like I do. Why they hardly go a week without lynching someone. No, a popular little girl gets eaten and someone's gotta get lynched. That's sort of like the town motto.

ROLF: But... But... Lut was the only one who knew how to find Puke.

TURNA: Oh, that's a shame. But it was you or him.

ZANTAR: (looking suspiciously at Rolf) I hope you're not going to start bawling again.

ROLF: What? Are you making an oblique reference to a certain distant historical incident that we agreed not to discuss again? Should we also discuss the matter of an unfinished wager?

ZANTAR: Krikey. I'm just saying, is all.

TURNA: So, let's sign me up for the Hero's Guild.

ROLF: I beg your pardon, young lady?

ZANTAR: No broads.

ROLF: Quite. And besides that, you are too youthful.

TURNA: I may look young, but I'm nineteen!

ZANTAR: A skinny little broad like you couldn't even do the secret handshake.

ROLF: Indubitably. It's a rigorous handshake.

TURNA: I see. Well, I'm going to feel bad having to explain to the town how I'm not really a member of the Hero's Guild and I lied about everything.

ZANTAR: There's a broad's version of the handshake, Rolf and I just couldn't teach it to you.

ROLF: Yes, of course only women do the women's version of the handshake.

TURNA: I can do the man's version. Show it to me.

ROLF: We can't show it to you! It's shown only to members who have already joined and passed the membership qualifications. No outsiders are allowed to view or participate in it.

ZANTAR: That's how come we call it a secret handshake. Because it's secret.

TURNA: (Stares at the two for a moment) Either I become a full member of this Hero's Guild of yours, or you get to try another story on the villagers for why you didn't go save that cute, innocent, and most of all very popular little girl.

ROLF: Yes! Yes! Don't fret about it! Guild rules allow any two masters in good standing to promote you to journeyman.

ZANTAR: Right. Rolf and I think protecting those kids and helping us get them out counts as a journeyman piece.

ROLF: Precisely. Therefore, you are now officially promoted to journeyman.

ZANTAR: Or journeybroad.

TURNA: (considering) Journeyman. Journeyman. OK, I guess being a journeyman hero is pretty good for a witch that never finished her apprenticeship.

MAN2: (in the distance): Where's my baby? Where's little Rosha?

MAN1: The goblins ate her.

MAN2: (shouting) Where's those two Lilliputians that wouldn't go to save her until they were paid? I'll kill them myself!

MAN1: They tried...

MAN3: Yeah! Let's string them up along with the goblin! (Crowd roars approval)

MAN1: But they tried...

WOMAN1: I don't care if they tried, they screwed up and little Rosha got eaten for it!

Rolf and Zantar look at each other.

MAN2: My baby! Where are they?

MAN3: Let's get 'em.

The crowd storms back into the street where Rolf, Zantar, and Turna were standing. Turna is now alone and the crowd comes to a confused halt. Turna just looks at them and shrugs.


Scene 9

Rolf and Zantar are walking down a road on a hot summer day.

ROLF: I shall submit an itemized list of charges for services rendered to the village council by way of post. Surely they would not ignore a properly authorized invoice.

ZANTAR: Next time, get half in advance.

ROLF: (annoyed) Yes, yes! The issue has been discussed! Let us lay it to rest! We are in agreement. In all future negotiations we shall require half of the basic service fee to be rendered in advance of services. This is now the official policy of the Hero’s Guild. Further discussions are void. They have no merit. They are even tinged with a faint trace of censure, they imply reproach. Let us have no recriminations.

ZANTAR: At least we got a couple gold out of it.

Rolf doesn’t answer. The two keep walking for a while and then come to a crossroads. There is a sign showing what lies in each of the four directions. Rolf reads the sign then announces:

ROLF: Well, to the left we have a road leading to the quaint little village of Bum’s Hollow. I hear good things about the place, peaceful, a nice inn and some very good local brews. Straight ahead lies the road to the town of Winkelfranks, said to be a bit on the rough side but having some interesting tourist attractions such as the world’s oldest bagel. To the right is the benighted little rat trap of a hamlet called Sunk. I have visited the place. It is populated by barbarians and Philistines and I have no wish to return there.

ZANTAR: I’ve been through Bum’s Hollow. Might be some people there who remember me.

ROLF: Well, then, Winkelfranks it is.

The two start down the center road.
Episode 2, A Meating of Mines

Monday, October 02, 2006

collected works

Someone asked me how they could find all of my stories. I would put up an index but that would mean I'd have to maintain it and I'm lazy. So here at least is a current collection of the stories I've written. I may have missed a couple.

Humor
Heroes for Hire, Episode 1: A Guilding of Lillis -- A screenplay for an animated film. The stars are Rolf the elf and Zantar the dwarf, a couple of brigands who wander about the countryside seeking adventure, loot, and a good strong link of horse sausage.

Heroes for Hire, Episode 2: A Meating of Mines -- Rolf and Zantar are back in an entirely new story based on a remake of Yojimbo. Certain liberties are taken with the plot and the milieu.

The Adventures of Doc (Crocodile Hunter) Rampage -- A tale of danger and courage in the linoleum jungle. Based on a true story.

My Day in Crunchy Underwear -- I don't think I can adequately describe this one. You will just have to read it. I don't recommend reading it.

Rampage in a Spa -- An emotionally true story of an emotionally scaring experience. Not really.
Adventure
Ink Magic -- A 20,000 word short story about demons, dark matter, and magic tattoos.

Noober the Nice -- An experiment in copying the voice and style of a Jack Vance novel. I thought it went pretty well.

Scale 7 Artifact -- An old-school space opera. S7A is unfinished, but I'm planning to get back to it now that Ink Magic is done.
Speculative Fiction with a Point
Transcendence -- A speculative investigation of artificial consciousness.

Electric Souls -- A speculative history virtual reality.

A Visit to an AG Lab -- A farce about the field of artificial intelligence.

storyblogging

I'll be hosting the next Storyblogging Carnival on Monday the ninth of October. If you have a story that you have posted on your blog and would like to share with more readers then send me an entry and I'll put it in the Carnival. It doesn't have to be a recent post because stories don't age like other blog entries tend to do. It doesn't have to be fiction, but if it is non-fiction it should be at least a story, not a report or an opinion piece.

The deadline is midnight on Saturday the seventh. Send your entry to docrampage@gmail.com and include
* title of story
* url of story
* name of author
* name of blog
* url of blog
* a word count
* a content rating (like G, PG, R, etc.)
* a short note to introduce the story
Hope to see you there.

Friday, September 29, 2006

my own challenge to Michelle Malkin

Michelle, I didn't think Dean's challenge to you was very fair, but after seeing this obvious photoshop of you in a bikini I have my own challenge to offer. I don't think we netizens should have to stand for these cheap photoshops; we deserve the real thing. So here's my own challenge, Michelle: post a real picture of yourself in a bikini. That will show Eric Muller and Wonkette and, uh, the rest of us what you're really made of.

Please?

Monday, September 25, 2006

storyblogging

The latest Storyblogging Carnival is up here.

UPDATE: and here.

UPDATE2: and here

UPDATE3: and here

UPDATE4: and here

UPDATE5: and here

UPDATE6: I wish I knew more about Roman numerals so I would know whether I can look forward to Storyblogging Carnival VILe.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

A Guilding of Lillis -- scene 6

Heroes for Hire
Episode 1 – A Guilding of Lillis


Scene 1
Scene 2
Scene 3
Scene 4
Scene 5


Scene 6
Rolf and Zantar are lying on their stomachs in a narrow passageway viewing a chamber in front of them. The chamber is very large and has a straw-covered floor. There are around twenty goblins in the room making so much noise that even Zantar's loud voice is fairly safe. There are three human children in the middle of the chamber. Three other openings enter the chamber from other directions. In the chamber are

NEW CAST
Turna: a young woman about fifteen
Buffy: a girl of about eight
Jody: a boy of about eight

ROLF: I count a hundred fifty worth of kid. A hundred seventy five if that one girl is thirteen.

ZANTAR: Good haul.

ROLF: They don't appear to be restrained except by the fact that they are blind in the darkness.

ZANTAR: (pointing to the side) Hey, that looks like a chest.

ROLF: If we were to organize a distraction, the brats could run toward us.

ZANTAR: You know, a locked chest like you would put valuable stuff in.

ROLF: The problem is that if Lut mislead us about the cave layout, the creatures could cut off our retreat.

ZANTAR: They probably stole it from somewhere with the valuables still inside.

ROLF: Still, I don't think Lut was smart enough to lie, so I anticipate that until we exit the mine shaft, the goblins could only attack us from one direction.

ZANTAR: Stuff's probably long gone, but it's worth having a look.

Long pause.

ROLF: Do you think you could grab it while I grabbed the kids?

ZANTAR: That's what I was thinking.

Another pause.

ROLF: We need more of a plan. Those goblins are faster than you or the brats, and once they get in the open they'll be a lot harder to fight.

ZANTAR: So we need to kill them all down here.

ROLF: That is a plausible alternative, but how?

ZANTAR: Feel the hair on the back of your head waving?

ROLF: No.

ZANTAR: I do. There's a definite breeze coming from our tunnel and exiting through the right and middle tunnels on the other side.

ROLF: (his eyes narrowing) That rascally Lut. He assured us quite explicitly that there were no other outside exits from this chamber. When we return, I shall have to discuss this with him.

ZANTAR: He could have been telling the truth. A ventilation shaft wouldn't be a usable exit unless you have the right equipment. And I don't think the gob was smart enough to lie.

ROLF: That was my impression of the gob also. What about the left tunnel?

ZANTAR: Can't tell if there is any air movement through that one from here. It's not strong enough to move anything if it is.

ROLF: That straw is damn dry.

ZANTAR: The air movement would do that over time. And the goblins don't make fires so they don't worry about fire danger.

Rolf and Zantar look at each other. Fade to black. After a moment, two fires leap out of the blackness. The camera has cut to a viewpoint of one of the children facing the tunnel where the heroes are, and switched to human vision so that we only sees what is happening by the light of the fires. Rolf sprints towards the children hacking at goblins with his sword, screaming at them to run. Zantar trundles off in a different direction.

ROLF: Run towards me! Run! Get up and run you lazy brats! Do you want to get eaten?

Turna gets up and pulls the other girl up.

TURNA: Come on guys! We're being rescued! Lets go!

All the kids as starting to run just as Rolf gets there.

ROLF: Run between the fires into the tunnels! Go, your mothers are back there!

Rolf lays about for a bit with his sword as the kids run, then he follows them. Jody is tripped by a goblin who stands over him, about to stab him. Rolf is too far away to do anything. Suddenly the goblin is bowled over a by chest, carried under Zantar's arm.

ZANTAR: That's fifty silver you're about to poke, gob!

Zantar has the chest under his left arm and his axe in his right hand, and a spear sticking out of his back. He manages to scoop up Jody bodily under his left arm, steps forward where the goblin fell and stomps. We hear a crunch. Zantar trundles back between the fires, casually mowing down a couple more goblins using just wrist motions of his axe. The fires have grown and are now quite large. Rolf comes just behind him, covering his back, but when they get back to the tunnel, Zantar has acquired another spear in the back and one in front. Rolf is unmarked. Zantar drops the boy and the chest equal unconcern for each, and turns to help Rolf defend against the goblins.

ZANTAR: (pulling a spear out of his chest with his left hand while slicing a goblin with his right) That chest was damn light.

Rolf (parrying a spear point and reposting to take a goblin in the eye with the point of his sword) Disappointing, that. Did you keep the kid from getting ruined?

Zantar: Yep, still worth fifty.

By this time the fires have about joined into a huge inferno and the goblins have retreated. The heroes also retreat up the tunnel where it's cooler. Rolf sits down to examine the chest while Zantar tries unsuccessfully to reach the spears sticking out of his back.

BUFFY: (peering into the darkness) Mom!

TURNA: Here, let me.

Zantar turns his back to her so that she can get the spears.

ZANTAR: Now don't worry about hurting me, you just...

Turna yanks them both out before he can finish his sentence.

ZANTAR: Yeah. Like that.

TURNA: (takes something out of her pocket and starts to hand it to Zantar) here, this will make you feel better.

BUFFY: (screaming now) MOM!

Zantar holds his hand out and Turna places a leaf in it. Then she closes Zantar's hand around the leaf with her fingers locked with his to crush it. A glow spreads from their hands to Zantar's body and Zantar shudders.

ZANTAR: Wow! You're a healer!

TURNA: Dryly. Or at least I can cast a simple healing spell. That didn't make you a hundred percent but it should help a lot.

BUFFY: MOM! (looking back at the heroes, her eyes tearing up) WHERE'S MY MOM?

ROLF: (still examining the chest) I don't see any traps on it.

TURNA: It's common practice to hide traps. They're more effective that way.

Rolf glares at Turna while Zantar steps forward and hefts his axe.

ZANTAR: Well, it's not like we have any use for the chest.

Zantar deftly shaves the lock of with his axe. Rolf pokes open the lid with his sword and kicks the chest over to spill out a bunch of small bleached skulls. Buffy shrieks and turns away. Jody steps closer to look.

ROLF: It's appears the chest's previous owner was connoisseur of fine fleshless heads.

ZANTAR: I'm seeing rats, squirrels, rabbits, and a house cat.

ROLF: (poking through the bones with his sword) And here's a rare badger. Quite a coup that was for our erstwhile collector.

JODY: That's not a badger, (picking up the skull in question and working the jaw) it's an otter. See the little sharp teeth and the long jaw? Ooh look, the jaw's been wired so you can move it up and down.

ROLF: I find your analysis defective. This is clearly a badger.

JODY: It's an otter. (holds the skull in front of the girl's face) Look, Buffy! It's going to eat your nose!

Buffy screams and pushes Jody away.

TURNA: Jody, stop that!

BUFFY: You guys are sick. Where's my mom, elf?

ROLF: Back home, I should think. Why ask me?

BUFFY: You said our moms were in this tunnel!

ROLF: Simply a figure of speech. You must not take things so literally all the time.

ZANTAR: It's like metaphor and hyperbole. You know, non-literal speech.

ROLF: Quite.

TURNA: In other words, the elf lied to us.

BUFFY: I want my mommy! (begins weeping loudly)

Rolf and Zantar look at each other for a moment then go back to poking through the skulls.

TURNA: (to Rolf) It is an otter, you know.

ROLF: (gives Turna a dirty look then turns to Zantar) Face it Zan, there's nothing of value in there.

TURNA: (to Buffy) Will you quit crying, you little baby! (to Rolf) Let me look.

ROLF: Please, young wench, Zantar and I are experienced looters. I assure you... why are you looking inside the chest? I assure you...

Turna pulls out a false bottom and then three gold coins.

ZANTAR: Where did those come from.

ROLF: I'll take those.

TURNA: The chest has a false bottom.

ZANTAR: A false bottom? What's that?

ROLF: I believe I shall take custody of the coins now.

TURNA: You know, there's a space between the real bottom of the chest and the bottom that you see from the inside. Buffy, we're going to take you back to your mom, but only if you SHUT UP!

ZANTAR: (Looking at Rolf) Clever bastards.

ROLF: Quite. Humans come up with some of the most outlandish schemes. Miss, you may hand the coins to me now. (Turna hands him two coins.) Ahhhh. You seem to have accidentally kept one in your possession.

TURNA: You two were about to walk off and leave the chest. I guess I'm owed a third. If you hadn't rescued me I'd be taking half.

Zantar is examining the inside of the chest.

ZANTAR: You know, Rolf, this compartment was designed for a lot more than three coins.

ROLF: (turns from glaring at Turna) Interesting bit of intelligence that.

TURNA: Hey, those flames are dying down, and you two are going to have to finish off the rest of the goblins and maybe search for ... stuff. I'm guessing it would be a big help if I took the two brats out where it's safe and you don't have to worry about them.

ROLF: You think you could find your way back?

TURNA: Please.

ROLF: Without light?

Turna grins, snaps her fingers, and a ball of light appears in her hand. She tosses it gently into the air and it stays floating a couple of feet above her head.

TURNA: I'm a woman of many talents.

ROLF: You're a snotty ungrateful little apprentice witch, in both senses of the term. But all right, get the brats our of our hair and you can keep the coin. Wait for us at the mine entrance.

TURNA: And if you do find more gold, I get another coin for my help.

ROLF: (glares, starts to say something, stops, then) If we find at least twenty more.

TURNA: Done and done.

Turna takes the younger children, grabs the two spears she pulled out of Zantar, and departs. The camera returns to the original lighting.

ZANTAR: (after the kids are gone) That seems dangerous, sending the cubs off alone like that.

ROLF: Do the math, Zan! Those kids are worth 50 silver apiece. These (holding out the coins Turna found) are heavy gold coins worth about 120 silver apiece. Which requires a higher priority?

ZANTAR: Good point. Kids are bulkier and harder to carry too.

ROLF: Quite. Much less dense a value proposition. And if that little witch gets her throat cut along with the brats, we'll probably run across them and get the coin back, so it's only a net loss of around 30 silver. Well worth the gamble.

ZANTAR: But the kids will be a lot better at getting us our advanced heroing reputations.

ROLF: (musing) Excellent observation. Perhaps we should expedite matters down here so that we can quickly go to the defense of the precious little tykes.

The two turn to face the cavern. The camera is behind them, outlining their silhouettes dramatically against the remaining embers of the fire.

ZANTAR: Let's go do some good.

The two start walking toward the cavern. After a dramatic few steps, Rolf replies:

ROLF: What do you mean?

ZANTAR: You know, let's go steal lots of gold.

ROLF: Oh! Right, partner.
Scene 7