Archive for December, 2011|Monthly archive page

Doomsday Is Coming

We are all going to die. Seriously. Nobody gets out of this life without dying.

According to various religious persons and the Ancient Maya (as opposed to the Modern Maya — yes, the Maya still exist, they just don’t have an empire anymore; kind of like the British), Doomsday is December 21, 2012! Except….

Okay, first there’s the problem of the missing 10 days in 1585 when Western Civilization transferred to the Gregorian calendar; how do those fit into the calculation? I’m a calendar geek, which is a side effect of having been a Y2K consultant. Yes, I was one of the brave project managers who averted the last great Doomsday, Y2K. But that’s another post.

Then there’s the fact that the Mayans aren’t worried about it. They consider their nicely accurate calendar perpetual. You get to the end? Okay, go back to the beginning and run through it again. And you have a big party, because you watched the calendar roll over to 0.0.0.0.0, which is always a good time.

But the Hopi agree — there’s a big blue star/planet/thingie coming to smack us hard! Except maybe there isn’t, if you actually talk to Hopi Indians/Native Americans/tribe members. Sirius is the blue star of the Hopi, and the blue star kachina dancing in the plaza and taking off his mask doesn’t sound like planet smacking to me. It actually sounds like a wonderful party. Again, pointing to a party instead of an apocalypse. Those first Americans know how to have a good time. Just sayin’.

Harold Camping thought Rapture was last May, no, October, no — I guess we stopped paying attention when he got it wrong twice four times (he started with sometime in 1994). Jesus said, straight up, “Look, nobody is going to be able to figure out when The End is coming, so don’t even try it.” Or words to that effect; he was speaking Aramaic, after all. And yet, all these people (including Isaac Newton, which is just bizarre) have tried to calculate when the end of time is going to be, disobeying the Son of God. A fallible human knows better than God, because…?

Then there’s the I Ching thing…which is so conspiracy-theory weird I don’t even get how it’s supposed to predict Doomsday. I think you have to put the long lines over the short lines and divide by 23, then look at it through the color blue (or was that Zaphod Beeblebrox in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy?). I know the theory was developed under the influence of psilocybin mushrooms, and the author changed his date from one edition to the next to match the Mayan calendar. Bad form, changing the date. Regarding the mushrooms, well, I’m neutral. πŸ™‚

I think what it all boils down to is this: Humans somehow need a doomsday threat. We’re just not happy without some horrible thing hanging over our heads sometime in the future, whether it’s a calendar rollover, a galactic lineup (what is the dark rift, anyway. other than a bunch of dust?), a blue star/rogue planet/comet leading a UFO, or a radio announcer calculating “the date.” Or any of the other Doomsday causes floating around out there — magnetic pole reversal, crustal slippage, the Milky Way’s supermassive black hole, giant coronal mass ejections, the Yellowstone supervolcano’s overdue eruption, the list goes on. We just need something to look forward to, in a bad way.

Don’t like any of the above? Well, the Flying Spaghetti Monster could withhold his noodly appendage from the world, and then where would we all be?

If you’re not a Spaghettarian, the next computer doomsday is January 19, 2038, when 32-bit Unix runs out of time.

And, for the win, Nostradamus didn’t say a darned thing about 2012.

Defining Traditional Christmas

Traditionally (and we’re going back to the Middle Ages here), Advent is the 40 days before Christmas. It’s a waiting period (Advent means “about to arrive”), not a decorate-the-house-till-it-can-induce-migraines period.

I know the stores started stocking for Christmas decorating in September (yes, I saw the first Christmas stuff right after Back-to-School was done), but that’s retail, not religion. They put the stuff out ahead of time so you can buy it ahead of time and already have it on hand when it’s time to decorate. Or at least that’s the theory.

Besides, what would they do with that empty Halloween candy aisle after October 31st if they couldn’t put out serious amounts of Christmas stuff? πŸ˜›

Advent ends with Christmas, and the Christmas season lasts for 12 days (remember the song!), until Epiphany, January 6th.

So, to celebrate a truly traditional Christmas, the tree goes up on Christmas Eve, along with all the other decorations, and it all goes back into storage on January 7th. Period. The UK Boxing Day holiday has never made a bit of sense to me for this very reason.

Another thing to consider when celebrating a truly Traditional Christmas is that any gift given on or before January 6th isn’t late. You can shop the “After-Christmas” sales without guilt.

Nobody has explained this schedule to my neighbors, who put up their external Christmas lights (that play music) over Thanksgiving weekend and promptly take them down the day after Christmas. These are nice people (and senior citizens), so I haven’t even considered explaining to them that they’re doing it wrong according to the Christian religious calendar.

Their schedule works for them and makes it pleasant to walk our dog in December, unless there are two competing carols going on at the same time (see migraine-inducing decorating, above).

I don’t have a tree up yet, because it’s not time. However, I probably won’t put up a full-size one. I have somewhat oversized house-cats and a large dog, which contraindicates a large Christmas tree, as well as glass ornaments and tinsel of any kind. Alas.

Of course, it’s all relative. Spooky Man is always one of the first to pipe up with the “Christmas is nothing but co-opted Saturnalia” line, because lambing happens in March-April rather than December, even in Israel. Whatever.

It’s cold outside, and it’s dark for way too many hours from mid-December through January. Let’s have a little color and light, and take a few days to show the people we love just how much we love them. Spooky Man is getting a new office chair and an Ipad (don’t tell him!), and lots of love.

Catching up

I found out today that I know the (proud) mom of a Higgs Boson hunter. My friend Stephanie Berget had mentioned her son works at CERN before, but this morning she mentioned he works on the Higgs Boson team at the LHC (Large Hadron Collider, for those of you who aren’t physics geeks — this was the supercollider that was going to create a black hole and destroy the planet when they first turned it on a few years ago).

He says, according to his mom, that they’ve all but nailed the elusive little god particle (so nicknamed because it’s responsible for mass, according to some theories), but it will take them quite a while to work through all the data they collected this year. Very exciting stuff. Physics geek Muppet flail!

And a couple of weeks ago, I found out I had touched someone who had touched Charlton Heston. Candis Terry, another writing friend who once-upon-a-time worked in LA, shook hands with him while working a Hollywood fundraiser. She’s touched me with that hand, too (grin). And she writes great, fun books about Deer Lick, Montana, and its quirky citizenry. You should buy them.

Only four degrees of separation between a CERN researcher and Charlton Heston, and one of them is me. Squee! Freaky weird, isn’t it? Okay, I’m done now.

In less silly news, I now have a new roof on my house after a week of banging, drilling, sawing, and the bizarre sound of people walking over my head. The cats have finally calmed down — apparently they don’t like people walking over their heads, either.

And finally, Spooky Man has requested that I quit the second job. I did a face-plant in the driveway on Sunday afternoon, because my right ankle folded under for no particular reason as I was going back to the car for a second load of groceries. He seemed to think it had to do with fatigue from working too much. So I’ll have to give notice, again.

But it will give me more time to write, so it’s not all bad.

Received a Rejection, But…

“Open Mike at Cafe Bebop” is not right for Carina Press. πŸ™‚

However, the rejection contained a note from the evaluating editor that told me exactly what needs to be changed/fixed to sell it to someone else. They gave me this for free when, really, the information is priceless.

I feel like I should send someone a thank-you gift, but I have no name and no address. Thank you, Ms./Mr. Editor. You are worth your weight in gold *and* printer ink (one of the most expensive liquids on the planet).

Update to Self-Editing Classes

A new Editpalooza has been scheduled to start January 2, 2012 (I just saw the notification). Details here: EditPalooza starts Jan 2.

I recommend this class as well as Angela James’ Before You Hit Send, which next starts January 18, 2012.

And now, back to your regularly scheduled day….

Twitter’s #EditReport

Disclaimer — this post is pretty much only for novel writers.

Carina Press Executive Editor Angela James does a monthly Twitter hashtag of snippets from the reports she gets back from her freelance editors, mostly reasons they recommend rejections. It’s fascinating reading, if only to see the basic mistakes in manuscripts that writers thought were good enough to submit. She did one today, and she posts them afterward at storify.com: http://storify.com/angelajames. Oh, and just to prove there’s hope, she always ends with tidbits from those manuscripts recommended for acquisition.

You can search for the hashtag #EditReport to see what they tell her — be aware that the wording is much more blunt than you might see in a critique; these aren’t meant for the tender eyes of apprentice novelists (I’m one of those fragile-ego’d writers, but I also have rhino-hide from years of being on the other side of the desk in journalism where no prisoners are taken, and in technical writing where engineers PREFER passive voice and cannot be strangled for it).

However, when sanitized for the protection of, well, everyone, they make a remarkably good checklist of things to look at before you send your brain child into the harsh world of other peoples’ eyes and opinions.

For example, does your heroine admire herself in the mirror at the end of chapter 1? Really, is there a woman alive who can look in a mirror and not notice all the bad parts first? Maybe that’s not the best way to get her appearance across to your readers.

Do your characters have conversations where they tell each other things they already know so you can communicate it to the reader? (Note that science fiction writers are particularly prone to this. I’m just sayin’….) This is known as the “As you know, Bob” conversation. Yes, it’s a technical term.

Consider how often you tell your friends and family things they already know, so they can tell you things you already know. Yes, I know one or two people who do like to lecture others about known topics, but I avoid them as much as humanly possible.

If you’re a writer and you just broke into a cold sweat, I recommend taking a class on self-editing. I took two in the last year, because I thought to myself, “What if you’re wrong, and all that editing you did for the college paper back when and for various and sundry technical writing clients in the (mumble) years since doesn’t apply, and your fiction structure sucks?” Luckily, I seem to have been doing it properly, so any and all suckage is mine alone, not because of a deficit in my editing skills.

One of them was the Editpalooza class through Savvy Authors featuring instruction from developmental editors at Entangled Publishing; this might never happen again, as organizer/lead teacher Liz Pelletier has far too many hats on her head between her publishing company and her website/writer community/writing school.

The other class was “Before You Hit Send”, which is going to be taught again in January by Carina Press Executive Editor Angela James (of the #EditReport). It’s a tiny bit spendy ($49 for four weeks, I believe), but it covers all those basic writing issues that get in the way of your story-telling talent. How much is it worth not to recognize something you did in one of those #EditReports? For me, it’s priceless; your mileage may vary. Grin.

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