I Never Said…

…I’d do 30 essays in 30 days, with one per day. Just 30 essays.

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November Essay 1: Meta Essay


National Novel Writing Month, a.k.a NanoWrimo starts today. It’s an exercise in writing a lot, and not editing. Put those fingers to the keyboards and type, type, type.

I’ve written about NanoWrimo before.  It’s not for everyone, but it has utility by getting people to put their butts in the chair and write—writing being the most important task for any writer. I’ve never attempted it because I know I’m doomed to failure with respect to the daily word count. I know this about myself and am perfectly happy.

How NanoWrimo is useful to me, and possibly to you, is to highlight the need to sit down and write something. Anything. The repeated task, no matter how lengthy it is, will build the habit of putting words onto the page, blog or whatever.

To that end, I’m going to attempt thirty essays in thirty days throughout the month of November. Some of them may be similar to things you see on Talking Traffic. Others may be word-vomit that has no basis in reality or deep thought. Who knows! Well, I do. The second category will be dependent on how much research is required on a topic. I have a draft list of topics and some of them honestly are not suitable to a daily hour long effort, requiring time and research and editing, but I don’t care! That’s the whole point of NanoWrimo.

Write, write, WRITE, until you’re done writing. Usually this writing isn’t supposed to be insta-published because it’s likely to have flaws, however I will be, so you can expect less word count and more editing. To make the 50k words that NanoWrimo exemplifies you have to write 1,667 words per day. As of this word right here, I’m at 295. Not going to get even close to the NanoWrimo count, but that’s ok because who wants to read a daily 1,667 word essay? Especially if it’s word-vomit like this is turning out to be.

Topics you can expect to read about (but your mileage may vary): running, traffic engineering, autonomous cars, the evilness of cats, Griffin (the child, not the mythical creature), space, parenting, how Elsa is the worst but potentially the world’s savior, Puerto Rico, etc.

Watch this space. Stuff will appear. I’ll take advantage of this to put up pictures again. It’s been a while.

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Hugo Nomination: Impossible. Or IS it?

The Hugo debates keep going1. And going. And going.2

One of the points being made is that the landscape of the scifi/fantasy field has changed over the last twenty years. In the 90′s and earlier, it was possible to keep up with most of the authors; today that is not possible. There are too many to read3.

Which brings me to the point of this posting. Where are the recommended reading lists? 

Yes, yes. I’m fully aware of the reading lists pertaining to the various awards. I’m speaking of recommendations for books that have been published in 2015 to date. People are still reading, yes? Some of those books were published in 2015, yes? Why don’t people make some recommendations for “Best First Half 2015″ novels or short stories, or whatever. Frankly, I’m lost when it comes to the shorter fiction and I don’t make any Hugo nominations in those areas at all. And, for example, last year I read over 25 novels published in 2014, but only threw two of them into the Hugo arena. Partially because I’m picky but mostly because they didn’t make the grade.

I’d much rather spend my time reading books that someone else has said, “This is a good book.”4 With that sort of information (Amazon and Goodreads reviews are helpful, but not that helpful) you can leverage your hard-earned money toward quality fiction, and stay the hell away from fiction that just plain isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on.

Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t put up my own list.  Here it is so far:5

  • Touch – Claire North. Not as good as The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, but still worth your time.
  • Firefight – Brandon Sanderson. Again, not as good as Steelheart that it’s the sequel to, but still good. YA.
  • The Devil’s Only Friend – Dan Wells. Book 4 of the John Cleaver series, all of which is worth it. This the first book of the second trilogy. I read the entire series in about 5 days. This will be getting a Hugo nomination from me.

And that’s it so far. I just started reading Uprooted by Naomi Novik, which is good so far, but I’m only about 8 chapters in.

What do you recommend?

  1. If you really want to know, go to File770.com. []
  2. One of the nice things surrounding this unending back-stabbery is I’ve added to the list of people who have self-identified as “not worth reading.”

    I will be delighted to read a conflicting point of view, but when you asshatly and repeatedly make statements that are not just wrong but hell wrong (or you’re a self-serving asshole) then I can just ignore everything you have to say. You’re Ted Cruz, in other words. []

  3. Side note on this same problem with today’s blossoming TV programming. []
  4. Danger lies here. For example lots of people thought that some books-that-shall-remain-nameless were AWeSOMETOtaLLy!1!! last year and I thought they’d do better as bird-cage liners. You have to know the person making the recommendation… []
  5. Sorry, I’ve been reading a lot of older, non-2015 fiction this year, so it’s a short list. []
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Love Locks Lost


Paris is removing the famed (or infamous) Love Locks from the Pont des Arts across the Seine1. People are not happy about it. Word is that Paris will also start the same sort of work on the Pont de l’Archevêché, where the pictures in this post were taken2 .

I feel for some of the stories I’ve heard people tell about the significance of their personal locks, but I feel stronger for the infrastructure of the bridges. Just look at this picture, and keep in mind that this was taken three years ago. The locks have spawned since then.


That fence was not designed to hold this kind of weight. The bridge was not designed to hold it either. This is a stone arch bridge built in 1828; this sort of eccentric loading was not factored into the designer’s numbers.

This is an excellent example of how infrastructure can be invisible to most people when it’s working. So long as these bridges are up and maintained, it shouldn’t matter what you do with them, right? It’s a big ass bridge! Surely it can stand a few locks placed on it? Unfortunately that is not the case. Roads and bridges and tunnels and buildings and sewers and water pipes are designed and maintained at a certain capacity. Over load them and they will fail. No matter the desires of the people who placed the locks, and the personal stories behind them, these locks should come down for the health of the bridges.

Let’s end with a metaphor: if lovers were slowly but inexorably clogging up the water main to your house, would you support keeping the clog?

  1. Just north of Ile de la Cité , the island containing Notre Dame cathedral. []
  2. Pont de L’Archevêché connects the Ile de la Cité to the left bank of the Seine, right next to Notre Dame []
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First Haircut


We waited a while for his first haircut. Here’s the before image.


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Hugo Voting is Open; Use No Award Wisely

The 2015 Hugo Ballot is open for voting. If you’re a member of Sasquan, you get to vote. Put in your $40 for a supporting membership and register your opinion on what the best of the nominated works are. If you buy a supporting membership to Sasquan, you’re also eligible to nominate for next year! And, for a super-duper bonus, there is likely to be a lot of the eligible works distributed in electronic version to members for free in what is called Hugo Voter Packet. Last year I received the entirety of the Wheel of Time in ebook for my registration. That right there paid for the membership.

Now, on to other topics: If you’re not aware of the kerfuffle over the Hugos this year, I recommend a Google search. All I will state is that I’m using No Award liberally while voting.

As of today, I’ve ranked all nominees in all categories. Four of the categories which were entirely dominated by the Rapid Puppies and Sad Puppies slates I have voted No Award as the top slot. I make no bones that this is solely because of the negative influence that these slates have had on the whole process. It’s also because I have read nothing in these categories to date.

Usually, I have strong opinions on the Novel and Short Story categories; I’ll vote in the Long Form Dramatic Presentation and I’ll vote No Award in the Short Form Dramatic Presentation (because I think that category should be eliminated). I’ll look at the candidates in the other categories and vote if and only if I’ve had time to properly evaluate the candidates. Frequently I do not. In that case I leave the category blank indicating no preference.

Not this year.

I’ve blanket voted No Award on Short Story, Novellette, Novella and Related Work because of the shittiness surrounding the nominations process. I’ve stated in the past that I’m not in favor of the blanket No Award strategy for this year, but this whole thing has made me so tired and aggravated that I’m changing my mind. On the Puppy-dominated categories, I’m voting for No Award or I’m ranking the Non-Puppy nominees top by default, despite any unfamiliarity I might have. Restating the above, if and only if I have time to get into all the various nominations will I potentially re-rank the category.

I’m not really looking forward to the Hugo Packet this year because I genuinely do not expect any quality reading below the Novel. Probably when I’m in a better mood I’ll start reading the various submissions for Novellette, Novella, and Short Story but at the very first sign that I’m not engaged or that the story is crappy, I’m done. This is what the current controversy has done to me; I’m being extremely restrictive of my attention. If you can’t keep it for 5 minutes, you’re going below No Award. I figure I’ll be done with the Short Story reading in about 30 minutes.

By the way, if you aren’t familiar with No Award,  please check out this post by Kevin Standlee. If you want the general how-to of Instant Runoff Voting, which is what the Hugos use, go to their site.

The one thing I will leave you with is, if you rank something below No Award, your vote may potentially go to that nominee. This is how instant runoff works.  If you do not want a nominee to get your vote in any circumstance, do not rank them. Leave them off the ballot entirely.



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Hugo Nominations, Sad Puppies, and Vox Day

If you don’t know what’s going on with the Hugos, go here. Or here. Or here.

The organizers and supporters of the Sad Puppies slate are complaining that they’re being unfairly conflated with the Rapid Puppies slate created by Vox Day. I’m going to leave it as an exercise for the reader to investigate the Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies and see why this conflation is decidedly fair. For this discussion, I’m stipulating the fairness.

Why, therefore, should the Sad Puppies be punished by their association with VD? Isn’t free speech a right that should be respected? Shouldn’t we evaluate works promoted by VD based on their content and quality? No matter how much we revile VD’s opinions and statements, shouldn’t all the other authors be given the benefit of the doubt?

Yes. No. No.

Some detail.

  • Isn’t free speech a right that should be respected? Yes it is, however freedom of speech is not freedom from consequences. You can say whatever you like, but others do not have to approve. That disapproval may be so severe that whatever you are associated with will be tainted. This is just a fact of human nature and is a feature not a bug of a free society.
  • Shouldn’t we evaluate works promoted by VD based on their content and quality? No. Vox Day has demonstrated thoroughly through his many writings that he has an agenda that is so far outside the mainstream that his opinions are not worth considering.
  • No matter how much we revile VD’s opinions and statements, shouldn’t all the other authors be given the benefit of the doubt? No. See above.

VD is a living, breathing example of a failure of Godwin’s Law. He can be compared to Hitler in the sense that he has extreme and unyielding prejudices that cannot be tolerated. He tries to frame his prejudices in the context of “logic” and “science” but the fact is that he’s just plain wrong. His wrongness is so wrong that it’s difficult to find an appropriate superlative.

The Sad Puppies organizers have stated that they do not approve of his messages and opinions, even going so far as to declare them extreme, however they have not explicitly repudiated him. This needs to happen. Again, VD’s opinions and statements are so far outside the mainstream of acceptable that they defy description by this poor author. If the Sad Puppy organizers had a close associate who strongly and repeatedly advocated for the return of chattel slavery for the lesser races, would they still maintain his “right to say what he likes?” I doubt it. Yet this is precisely the same type of opinion that VD issues daily. The comparison is apt. If you don’t believe me, go to his site and read for a while. I do not recommend this if you like your blood pressure low.

The Sad Puppy organizers have no legs to stand on with their complaint of a broad brush. If they want to disassociate themselves from VD, they need to do so, publicly and clearly. Without a statement to that effect, we will not believe them.

With respect to the Sad Puppy slate of candidates, I feel sorry for some of them. A small set of them have obviously been caught up in a mess that they were not aware of and had no desire to be a part of. Speaking for my own self, I respect Marko Kloos’ withdrawal from the Best Novel category, particularly because his type of fiction never gets a Hugo nod without this sort of boost. I’m actually more inclined to read his work due to this action, while previous to his withdrawal I had earmarked him as a never-read-again author.

The other candidates on the Sad Puppy slate should realize that there are those of us who will read their works, for purposes of this Hugo process, but may never do so again, precisely because of this Hugo process. Many authors during this mess have stated they don’t care if you never read them at all/again, but it’s something that every author should be aware of.

Outside of the mess surrounding the slate nomination itself, to be associated with the Sad Puppies and Vox Day is to be on the wrong side of a social question that will stain an author by association. Forget this year’s Hugo; this will affect them for years to come.

This mess has brought a particular division in Fandom into sharp relief. These divisions exist and will continue to exist, but don’t be on the side of Vox Day. You might as well have a tattoo on yourself that says “white-supremacist, anti-woman, racist asshole.”

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Photos from Dunwoody/Sandy Springs

I was out taking some pictures for a project. Got these, too.

King and Moon


Dunwoody Grafitti

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Not Looking Forward to Game of Thrones Season Six

A Song of Ice and Fire

Last night we put our money where our mouth was and paid to join HBO Now/Go/Whatever in order to watch Game of Thrones season five. Thanks, HBO, for listening! But that’s not what this is about.

I am not at all looking forward to 2016 and the next season of Game of Thrones. Why? Because I’ve been with the books since the beginning and I feel this groundswell of viewers who say to us book readers, “You’ve been giving us inadvertent/advertent spoilers since season one! Now it’s our turn.”

It’s my understanding that this season (five) will have some spoilers/scenes from Winds of Winter, book six of the Song of Ice and Fire. I’m not too worried about that because if there are some, they’ll be early in the book, by the nature of the TV show. I am distinctly worried about Season 6 because it will be throwing down left and right on stuff that will only be in book 7. And I definitely won’t be watching Season 7 (or anything after season 6).

G.R.R. Martin has told HBO how his series will end, but there won’t be enough “canon” literature from Song of Ice and Fire for them to go off, therefore they’re going to be making shit up left and right. This is good for us readers in the sense that what we see won’t be spoilers, but bad because no matter how much they get “wrong”1 they’ll still know how the major story arcs end up and that’s just unacceptable to those of us2 who have been with the series since the beginning. I want the developments and wrap-ups to come at me in the method that G.R.R. Martin has crafted, not the way the TV series will present it.

This means that I’ll be actively avoiding Twitter and Facebook during the TV series times and informing relatives and close friends that it will be unacceptable to tell me how things happen, who dies, or who the last Night’s Watch standing is. Hopefully most people will respect that, but there’s always some asshole who thinks they’re being funny.

Don’t be that guy.

  1. Different, rather. []
  2. I’m generalizing, but I think most dedicated readers will agree with me. []
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Welcome to Nightvale!

Last weekend we attended the Atlanta live performance of Welcome to Nightvale. If you’ve never heard of it, it’s a deliciously weird podcast program set in the fictional town/city of Nightvale, which is set in the desert of America (somewhere). The best way I’ve found to describe Nightvale is it’s the place where all the conspiracy theories are true; even the contradictory ones. There’s a Secret Police, a World Government, “vague-yet-menacing government agency”, and many other things.

I recommend it. If you listen to the first episode and think, “Ummm…a bit weird for me,” try the second one before you punt.

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