Thursday, December 5, 2013

A temporary Resolution


It was brought to my attention that the post I wrote a couple days ago was a near carbon copy of one written in June.  It is perhaps an embarrassment that I nearly doubled the size of the project while not properly addressing the bug, but it leads to a conclusion and a solution.  Create the voids.

So last night I stayed up past my bedtime, my cat trying to eat my toes through the bedding and a notebook in my hands.  In doing that I concluded I do want a least one other perspective.  I also am revising the technologies that exist in that universe, this will force me to reconsider how some things fail, and will remove some redundant scenes.  Again parallel perspectives will make this work far better.  Some of these ideas I have considered before but they more clearly set now.

My Nanowrimo project was a failure in that I did not reach 50,000 words or tell a concrete story, but it did produce 10,000 words and do some world building.  Thankfully for my intellectual laziness, the story is set in the same overall universe as the main project, there may be a gap of several generations but the basic backdrop is consistent.  This left me with historical and technological elements that I had not build.  Including evidence for advanced alien technology older than 500 million years, weathered beyond comprehension. This is not panspermia, or ancient Aliens did it.

So as I used the cat to keep my feet warm I created a new set of outlines both for the expanded opening and second half of the tale.  Admittedly the many of these are little more than a single line, merely a chapter title, but they hint at how the story will playout.  A little inspiration does make me feel better.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Stuck In a loop.


So November passed, I started Nanowrimo, made it 10 days and 10 thousand worlds before other things took my attention off the project. This project suffered from a lack of a plan, the story was borrowed from a short I never made an progress on.  The details needed to build it up to Nano's 50,000 words did not add much.   This however did get me thinking about the other novel I had been working on.  In there I added a few more words and realized why the project had been so hard to pick back up. 

I have gotten my self good and stuck. The core of the story is the failure of a deep space mission, inspired by both Scott's and Shackleton's expeditions to the south pole. Things going wrong and scraps being salvaged is par for the course.   As I circled what has been since the story's first version a pivotal moment I realized I was doing it again and again.  A similar scene had been played out several times during the various chapters that preceded what I was trying to write, it was tiring.  

Now being a disaster story, where most people will live, and living will  involve improvising some scenes of the mechanics of the universe and the ship are needed. There is value in knowing first what they had and how little of it they keep, but too much time has been spent on those mechanics. The interludes are too small, and fail to build the characters into people I either want saved, or will be missed if I kill them off.  It is a first draft of something far larger than I have ever worked on before so flaws are expected, massive flaws should be considered normal.  Some of the flaws are simple I started too close to the middle, I did not know who was who before I started throwing near death experiences at them.  I am unsure as to the view point, I have drifted in and out of the first person, and currently have only one character's view point.  There is a real reason why the interludes between disasters are lacking, they are the hard part. 

In writing about a stranded starship crew I am facing my experiences in the North.  Perhaps I have not spent mucht time there, the bulk of two and a half years, mostly in one space.  A world that was ripe with adventure when I first got there but became tiring toil quickly.  When I left the last time long after having lost the heart to work so far from home for so long I was angry and despondent.  It was a world I did not fit it, beautiful but I never made an inside of myself, I seldom do.   It was out there I nearly blew a gasket trying to change a tire on a pickup on the side of an ice road.  It was a different patch of ice that swallowed a company truck and took one of its passengers with it.  A man I had worked with loosely for a year and a half or so.  So I find myself taking on the easy parts, the stark white on white of the depths of winter, but avoiding the hard things. 

The old advice of write what you know has value.  I hated the advice when I was 21, in a way similar to how I still hate the advice of "It,s not what you know it.s who you know".  Now I have had time to live, even if I have not built a top notch network, and it has given me material to add to writing.  Unfortunately getting into those head spaces is the hard part.  Also, just keeping focused on a task can be frightfully hard, and it gets harder as my life stays empty of external pressures longer. 

So the novel got stuck somewhere between the beginner and the middle. I added a introduction and parts of opening chapters that will build the characters and world, but to really make it work I fear it needs a massive restructuring. That weight, knowing that even if I push forward to new parts much of what is behind me will have to change.   Now the truth is non of this is new, non of this should keep me from writing, ultimately I have also been lazy.  Both these things need remedied.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Part one the approximate now.

Greetings, and a warning this is going to be a rambling stream of conscience.
Logging on to Blogger I looked at the posts from the last few months. The titles and what I remember of the content based on those titles tells me most of my writing has been about looking back.  Perhaps a few flirted with a couple ideas on how to go forward but little thought has been put into that, and similarly little progress made.  The short answer is I don't know what to do next, the better answer is I have never been able to imagine what I wanted to do that is still true.

  When my work is heavily self directed and or the number of tasks is small a failure to commit to one early in the day compromises my effectiveness at both.  These days I will wake up and ask should I write today or apply for jobs.  The answer will be yes. Unfortunately I don't ask which task gets priority, once the indecision takes root ways are found to avoid doing either, and damn my laid back personality from not beating me up over those failings.

In applying to jobs I submit to postings that come within throwing distance of what I had done in my last post.  Now the thing with me and throwing is I am often off by 30 degrees in 5 different directions.  So the returns are low.  Here comes the part where I blame external forces.  In what approximates my profession, I exist in a small niche a user of an obscure software suit for a recession pron industry, a suit I like little in an industry I am indifferent to. When my search steps away from the industry I started out in the jobs become more interesting but less accessible.  Yet I apply, with varying amounts of care and attention bordering on The Onion's take on job applications. Online job applications are like a monkey flinging feces, without the passion, aim, satisfaction, or results, when a monkey does it a least something is covered in shit. I have had a few nibbles a couple real interviews and a few calls from recruiters who neither understood my work nor the industry I have worked in.

Now I have tried to make this post about going forward, but right now I am thinking more about trying to get back to where I was, if not in job description but a steady job would be great.  So before I explore some other options or decide to delay them for another post I will address the next thing people tell you to do, network.  I hate that term, it always brings to mind people dressed better than me with confident smiles, I can not pull of a confident smile for a sustained period.   Now I understand that in order to connect the services I can offer with the needs they can fill connections have to be made but the way the process is sold makes me feel unclean.  It is at this point in the dialog someone will chime in with the patronizing advice of "It's not what you know, it's who you know".  That may be true, but I will hate you for saying it.  It has always had the effect of devaluing the knowledge I spent time and energy gaining.

It is so much easier to look back.  I know what I did, what parts were enjoyed what parts were endured, it is easy to imagine something the same but different. I have orbited the same but different since I started working.  It is the easy thing to do conceptually.  The work I did for two years at Independence was the dull end of an interesting field and leaving open the prospect that I could land better work employing similar tools must be considered.  It is only the start of my GIS profession and getting started is the hard part.  When the commodity prices were high and I was still taking Geology jobs, offers were more frequent, a healthy reminder that I have be employable in the past.

I have romanticized the notion of landing in a totally unexpected field or weird new job that fits me perfectly but honestly I have no idea how that could happen.  What value is it to most people that I can break open a rock efficiently, or that I can actually use my 30X handlens, and if you give me a few weeks and leave me alone I can cobble together a simple program.   If I squint just right I feel clever and can believe that I can be of good value to people.  Yet I see a job market full of short term contracts demanding specialized skills, and feel useless again.

Damn it I was trying to think ahead. Currently I have rambled on about the now.  The question of how to land an interesting job, possibly within GIS or the geosciences remains poorly considered. Mostly I have reminded myself that mostly I have learned what I don't want to do.  I am not done with this pondering. I will revisit the subject soon and perhaps move beyond complaining.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

F this Shit.

As usual things do not work out as planned, if there was a plan.   My life is suffering from the Sunk Costs Fallacy. Time and energy were spent to reach a goal, only to find less there than I had hoped.  I have said that before, but I still cling to the notion that I should try to keep the value of that effort.  I question that logic more now.

In question what sunk costs are worth holding onto I often find myself trying to ponder what to instead.  The hope had always been that correctly applied down time would lead to an enlightenment, guiding me to what I want.  It turns out I suck at finding myself. Down time does not lead to finding a clear resolution. The question of what do I want to do when I grow up remains unanswered.  What I  have are qualifications for jobs in an industry that I am indifferent to and they fail to engage me.

Looking for work makes me bitter, I have done it too often and have fear I will have to do it again too many times.  This seaming low return on investment is discouraging.  So I delayed in all the ways I could.  Starting with 48,000 words of a first draft.  Because obsessing about the lives of explores hundreds of years into the future is infinitely more interesting than trying to write a cover letter again.  At least at the start of the period I was feeling overdue for some vacation and there was no real shame. Things went sideways after June.  So late spring and early summer saw me deep in a creative project. High summer eroded that spirit with heat and too many social engagements.

July was by all accounts a good month, many of the summer things were done and enjoyed.  Heat was deadly to my creative process, sprinting through May and June tired me, but the heat finished me off.  I describe high summer as oppressively sunny. Long hot days where I am expected to love the heat, I don't.  I can chill at the beach or in the shade but elsewhere the heat becomes something to be endured. This took a toll on my writing process.  A great deal of my thinking for the project happened in mind afternoon walks, a time of day made unavailable thanks to sun and heat.  It was not the only reason.  I did let the story line get tangled up, and found I was wanting to restructure it.

August was the cat's fault.  She ran away at 6am on July 30th. An SPCA volunteer would later extract her from the loading bay of a charity on the 5th of September. As a nearly crazy cat person this disappearance had a serious effect on every aspect of my life. Including working through most of the stages of grief.  I was a mess.  As I said she was found, not entirely in one piece but all the important bits were working.  Between her vanishing and return, along with minor complications that arose during that time my focus was on cat things.  Now mid way into October I am getting some focus which is leading me to being bitter.

Like everyone else I hate looking for work, I also feel I am worse than average at it. Gods know I was scrambling for scraps while university classmates had multiple offers on the table.  The hope was that things would get easier.  Hope is a fucking lie.  While I can still pretend that I have hope, here are some of the things I would like out of a job; Neither all drudge work or overwhelming responsibility within an organization large enough to have  different roles I could advance or transfer to.  That is fantacy.

Adding to frustrations, so many jobs are contract positions, temporary in nature.  Especially it seems with the jobs that I am on paper qualified for. Through the power of limited foresight I have created an condition where I am not very happy doing the work I am trained for, seldom likely to land a stable position.  This leaves me doubting too much.  On bad days, and this post was only written in bad days, I doubt my own judgement enough to not want to conceive of a new plan for fear of ending up even less happy.

I am increasingly wondering how much I want to remain in Vancouver.  Perhaps all I want is an apartment with less street noise and a bigger kitchen.  Or do I want the slower quality of life that a lesser city can offer.  Damned if I know.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Lady Found

So as of 3pm, September 5 The Lady Baroness von Softpaws of Gallifrey is found.
She is not yet home.  She was found near Quest food exchange, several blocks north of Hastings.  This was far outside the area I had searched. Kitties Hiding spot.

A staffer at from the SPCA found her in a corner of Quest's loading bay, crawled over filth and dirt to get to her.  The Lady's condition is not great.  Most of her tail was lost, according to the rescuer likely an encounter with a racoon, the remainder will have to be amputated, it is necrotic.  Her hip at first inspection is dislocated possibly broken, at time of consultation the X-rays had not  been taken and a final assessment could not be made.  Of the three outcomes for her hip, two are likely to result in the same operation.

It turns out a difficulty with cat hip dislocations is soft tissue and other material getting into the socket, making a persistent relocation difficult and unreliable. The simple option appears to be remove the ball part of the ball and socket joint, cats are light enough and have the muscles to function well like that.  It is suspected that the hip was injured either from squeezing past the bug mesh, or a possible collision with a car.

I did see her, she was doped up on pain meds, I don't think she recognized me, her pupils were so wide I doubt she was seeing anything.  They had her on an IV drip because of dehydration.  But it was her, without a doubt my Lady.

Several things will happen, One, I have put a down payment on the operation, she will be cared for at the SPCA animal hospital, if nothing else I want her to avoid moving and keep her with people she knows.  Poppy, as she was known was well loved by the Shelter care takers and she may yet remember them.  This operation will cost several moneys, and might cost slightly more if it takes longer.

The other thing that will happen is The Kitten Katana will have to return to her other home.  As much as I want her about I can not introduce a cat in recovery to a healthy cat.  In a couple weeks or a month I will consider bringing Katana back into the house, she still needs a calmer home than what can be provided.  But the first thing is to get the Lady back and as healthy as can be.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Failure of imagination.

I started to clean the bathroom, it was not particularly dirty nor entirely spotless.  This is a form of academic procrastination, doing something that you normally put off because the thing you should be doing is worse, kitchens get clean when papers need written.  Now that the bright days of summer are over, and the trip to Nakusp is a week in the past, it is time for me to get serious about hunting for work.  Admittedly I would have liked to write more of the book, but more on that later. 

It is likely that I have harped on this problem before, but, it remains as true now as it did 4, 6, or even 10 years ago.  I don't know what a job that can keep me engaged without burning out looks like.  Test have shown that my overall well being declines quickly if the job and or the conditions it is done in are crap.

However, I have narrowed things down some more.  Of the things I have done, the limited customization and app development appealed to me far more than tinkering at making maps.  The thought process and logic keeps me engaged.  It is most like writing, requiring imagination and reason, and therefore the thing that will keep me happy, if not a little obsessed.

This post started bitchy, I then left the house, had coffee, thought about past projects and remembered the handful of things I liked buried in the mess of things that tired me out.  It's the tougher sell but it is the better play. As said, this type of work is the smallest part of what I have done.  

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The troubles with the Lady.

I count 13 days.
You are too cute, come home
Two weeks ago Tuesday, my cat, The Lady Baroness von Softpaws of Gallifrey went for a wonder.  The nights had been too warm, and I knew I would not function properly in the morning if I could not cool my bedroom.  So I opened the window some more than usual.  More than a cat's head wide.  I had shored up the bug screen hoping it would resist her probing.  I underestimated her, which turns out the be the theme of this post. 

So at just after 6am on July 30th I heard a thump and a mildly startled cat.  I went back to sleep the event did not register.  An hour or 45 minutes later I got up.  It was apparent that the screen had been pushed aside.  A gap large enough for a semi-liquid cat to squeeze through was present.  A few paw sized dents were later found in the dry soil of the planter box below the window.  Because of how the screen was forced open, she did not have a direct way back in, it was easy for her to fall out but hard for her to climb back in. 

So I was devastated.  Or I would be once I concluded she was not hiding in the house somewhere.  Over the course of the following ten days I passed through the majority of the stages of grief, only some of which I recognized as I was in them.  Frustratingly I was regularly woken by my duvet, which I had kept folded double over my feet to keep them warm.  The weight of the heavy silk bedding passed for a cat in half a sleep state.  

My fur baby running off is depressing in its own right , but her time was awful.  She popped out for a stroll in the middle of a depressingly hot and sunny spell of weather.  Most people praise the long spells of sunny weather, brought to us by a too warm arctic ocean, I find time exhausting.  The bright sun hurts my eyes, I overheat if I am not on the shady side of the street walking in an old man's shuffle.  So the timing was bad.  On the second day of her absence I had early heat stroke symptoms from walking around at midday.  

I took the advice of the internet, friends, pet shops, and others to try to get her found.  Posters have been put out, facebook spammed, Craigslist listed, dog walkers accosted, and more.  At first I was shy about looking for her, I was ashamed of having lost her, felt I was a bad person for it.  Now after a couple weeks of looking, a few false reports and walking through more back alleys than I care to I can conclude, if she is in the mood to hide she will stay hidden.  As the human I have done my part to try to bring her home. 

Ai can has home!
Looking back I feel I should  not have been ashamed for creating the conditions for her escape but for confining her.  Not too much is known about the cat I adopted.  She had the name Poppy, not right at all, she was dropped off at the 100 Mile house Spca, originally from Horsefly, with kittens and was barely a year old at the time.  I knew from living with her that she is clever, playful, shy, cuddly, and wants to hunt.  Slowly she got used to my home, and with that discovered the windowsill in the bedroom, with its built in observation deck.  As spring rolled around and birds came out she spent hours at the patio doors watching and chattering, often standing up and pawing at the glass.

April came to a close and I got myself a layoff.  The surplus time let me use the balcony and with that I started letting the Lady have supervised outside time.  As a cautious beast she stayed close at first, standing guard on the concrete post at the corners, eating the oat grass I planted for her.  Slowly she wandered onto the yard in front.  

The Lady Baroness
von Softpaws of Gallifrey,
Defender of the Realm. 
Ultimately she graduated to breaking and entering, or at least entering. She has had a long interest in Pixie, the dog next door. They would watch each other through my bedroom window.  A drama lost to me because my draps always closed.  And so on more than one occasion I had seen her hop the railing to unit next door.  She got schooled when the dog chased her out.  All in all she was becoming increasingly adventurous.  My response, was to cut her outside time and hope that she got used to being an inside cat.   Her discontent sighs from on top of the dresser should have told me this was not working. 

Too much of the sad face
Seriously I did not listen.  In the mornings in the days preceding her wander she would be as likely to direct me to the patio door as to the food bowl.  Her mornings and evenings were spent aggressively pawing at the patio door.  In the evenings when I needed the air she would regularly climb the bug screen looking for a weakness.  All in all I have a cat that has a sense of adventure.  With all of this in mind, or rather as this came to mind it became clear that I could not blame myself.  Though I still want to apologies to the SPCA for losing their cat.  After I had only had her a year and a few days at that point.

I lied earlier.  I said I did all the things I could do to bring her in.  I ignored one option that was put forward, a bloodhound service.  Somehow, I just could not make that happen.  Perhaps its the idea of chasing her down with dogs, but I think its something different.  I would not want to scare her that way but I also have accepted the fact that she has her own agenda.  

So I am far from happy that my kitty has gone for a walk, and I am not certain if she is all right.  There are coyotes in the area and plenty of other dangers, and she could have adopted another human.  If the Lady wanted to adopt a new human all she would need is a few seconds of eye contact.  I know you are your own cat person but I want you to come home so I can tickle your fluffyness.

Adding these photos makes my eyes water.


Saturday, July 13, 2013

Momentum and ideas

This post is an arbitrary milestone. It is the 300th post since I got bored one winter in the Northwest Territory and decided I should tell people I am bored in the Northwest Territory.  I crossed a different milestone earlier today and had some difficulty getting there.

Todays arbitrary goal was hitting the Forty Thousand word mark in my Novel project.  In the fall of last year I rekindled the project and decided it would be a novella. At the time 40k felt right.  It helped that I had not visited the project in a long time, the world and people in it lacked development.  I was also working full time, a more modest goal fit my limited energy and creativity.

Flash forward to early May.  After a week of unemployment I restart the project, still intent on keeping the scale small. Yet I researched how big novels are, and also talked with my first reader.  This lead me to, two conclusions, 40k is a size that does not get published and though I had good ideas I failed at getting a friend to care about the characters in play.  By this time I had decided to make it a novel.  A sci fi adventure holding a mirror up to my time in the north, with science as correct as practical for the plot.

The novella could have been included all the major story arc elements that have always existed in this concept.  Lets not forget I have had this tale in my head for nearly 10 years. Yet had I committed to the small format I fear I would have ended up with writing that most closely resembled George Lucas's scripts for the Star Wars Prequels.  A series of checklists to make sure one thing happens after another so that the people all end up in the right places at the end.

It took at least 20,000 words for the characters to start taking on a life of their own.  In the setting of a starship the minor crew members were almost appliances.  Avatars of the ships systems with no substance to them.  A situation that has improved as their world changes around them.  Ultimately I will have to loop back to the beginning to correct that.

But I ramble.  Late May and June were months of explosive creativity.  I lived in that world, had a consistent climbing word count, maxing out at 1500 words a day for several days in a row.  1000 words is comfortable output now.  Yet early in July I started to flounder.  Socialization is a factor.  Summer is an active time for that.  Other factors played a role.

As much as I ranted against inspiration being needed for writing you still need some of it.  Perhaps it is not needed for ever writing session, but it is needed.  In a way the pump needs primed.  The body of ideas I burned through in May and June were the product of having been inspired in the past.  I reached the limit of the ideas forged at those times.

As that limit was approached my writing took on a holding pattern.  I wrote to stretch out the ideas I was still confident on and delayed advancing the story too much.  I chipped away at a few scenes, I scribbled on kid's doodle books from a dollar store to build the world, but wrote very little.

But sitting in the Prophouse cafe listening to a brass band I started to get shivers down my spine.  In a lot of ways this bout of inspiration was less about the what's happening to who, that hardly changes, though some new fine details emerged. What I started finding was the feelings I need to impart on both the characters and readers.

The need to build plausibility in to the people of my world, shapes the new scenes I need to write. There are rich emotions attached to my time in the north, I don't always want to visit them.  But for the poor souls in my world they must feel them so that you can too.  I must remember I love the north and hate the north.

The June sprint ended I was out of the old inspiration.  Yet the ideas tricked through my head.  I slowed but never fully stopped.  Somedays I itched to write, on too many days stuff happened that forced me to be aware of time, other people and the world. I still worked at building ideas.  It got much harder as the weather warmed up.  I spent a lot of time hashing out ideas as I walked.  As full summer hit us a mid afternoon stroll turned into a hellish ordeal rather than a pleasant diversion.

No one thing is responsible for a slump in creativity.  To the list I can add fear of finishing, as I worry if I will have a new idea after.  But ultimately I still choose to be creative. Creativity like my moods is weakly cyclical and low points are twin to high points.  So I will trudge along and embrace the memories of whiteness.

Thinking big thoughts.
Alexander van Houten

Thursday, June 20, 2013

A creative slump

I am uncertain if this post making excuses for low productivity in the last two weeks or trying to resolve the roadblocks.  Last week I rarely had a day over 700 words and weekend was a write off.  This week I opened with 2100, hit 1000 on Tuesday and effectively nothing yesterday and some doodles todays.

Without going into specifics, I encountered a problem that some scenes are in the wrong order, and or setting.  Foolishly I added a secondary story arc. The appearance it is ill-timed because for the characters involved there are so little options for them to act on any rebellion would lead to a nearly identical action.  There are problems with pacing.

In any version of the story I will tell, a rescue craft gets sent on a dangerous journey to get help from a not particularly nearby outpost.  In the original vision of the project, this small boat trek was going to be an at the core of the adventure.  However now I am faced with the the problem of it starting very far into the overall narrative.  This has the net effect of nearly resetting things.  Essentially becoming a part two in what was to be a self contained narrative.  This irritates me. I am close to writing those moments.

The knowledge that I am at a point where, I could potentially repeat myself just to jump ahead to a second narrative is slowing me down.  Some of the writing has been treading water as I try to digest where I want to go with who.  It remains an open question if I want to stick with the first person singular perspective I started with or move to a multi character viewpoints perspective.

I have to give myself some credit I have written 29,000 words. That alone reminds me that this project is possible and finite in scope.  Some of the words are in the wrong order but scenes I have created will likely find a place even if the setting and order will change.

In fact the more I think about a change of setting the more I realise how much more story there can be told there and how much more I can capitalize on my love and hate for the north.  It also has to be noted that thanks to the Tens of Thousands of words I have hammered into this project, the characters are more complete and have lives of their own.  The world has surprised me with creating unplanned details and unexpected character motivations.

The problem it would seem is not a lack of ideas but an understanding that the structure I have them built into is deeply imperfect.  It has also come to my attention that my brain is too small for this project.  Thankfully a local dollar store had tabloid sized newsprint doodle books for kids on for cheap. With these I can refine my timeline and doodle the future. Mind you remapping the narrative reinforced the structural and plot holes I have created for myself.

The conclusion I have remains the same, write the parts I know need written, write the parts that connect them. I may suck, but this is still a first draft of what is the largest writing exercise I have undertaken.  A slump is not a failure, but it can not be encouraged either.  I am still pushing myself, but somedays pushing forward only keeps you in place.

Writing slightly too slow but  still writing.

Alexander van Houten.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Big Kid's Table

This post was started during the American election last year it is still relevant and will remain so indefinitely.

Frequently a report on the news illustrates a lack of basic science knowledge in elected officials. Any given week in the American news cycle will feature some form or willful ignorance or base misunderstanding.  While I largely believe people should be free to believe things as they wish, I also believe those representing the public have an obligation not be misinformed.

This post started to take shape after the incident at Fukushima Daiichi complex and when zealots were campaigning against smart meters here in Vancouver.  In the coverage of these stories misunderstanding of science at some basic levels lead to interpretations of risk that were far above the reality of the situations.  The ignorance extends from reporting to technical misunderstandings like these can lead to decisions that are ultimately not in the public interest.  In the interest of pushing for science in government and public discourse I propose the Big Kid's Table Quiz.  Just as a child at a large gathering will need to mind their manners to sit with the grownups, so our officials must demonstrate an understanding of reality to represent us on that topic.

Question 1
Which is larger

A: The Earth
B: The Milky way
C: The Moon
D: The Sun

Question 2
When is it appropriate to cite the bible.

1: On subjects related to environmental science, including but not limited to climate change.
2: On matters of personal freedoms, women's rights
3: On matters concerning legal structures and cultural practices of a bronze age nomadic tribe.
4: Never.
3: Which of the following are examples of Ionizing radiation

  1.   Microwaves
  2.   Wifi waves
  3.   Cellphone Rays
  4.   Gamma Rays
  5.   None of the Above.

4  A greenhouse gas is:

  1. Any gas trapped in a greenhouse
  2. A naturally occurring constituent of the atmosphere capable of trapping heat.
  3.  A liberal conspiracy concocted by Al Gore to increase his wealth through the use   of insider trading on carbon credits. 
  4.   Not at all responsible for the temperature regime on the surface of the earth. 
5: Carbon Dioxide is a what:
    1: A natural product of animal and plant metabolism
    2: An industrial waste from the combustion of fossil fuels
    3: A greenhouse gas
    4: A poison at high concentrations
    5: All of the Above
    6: None of the above.

6: Nuclear fission is.
  1. Any fish caught from the deck of the USS Jimmy Carter
  2. The process, there heavy unstable atomic nuclei are broken into smaller particles  and energy is released.
  3. A reasonably safe and clean form of energy that does not produce massive  quantities of greenhouse gases.
  4. The process that occurs in stars where light atomic nuclei are joined together to release energy and for heavier elements.
  5. 2 and 3
  6. None of the above.

7: which of the following are harmful to humans circle all that apply

  1.  A radio wave
  2.  The light from a light bulb
  3.  The light from a tanning bed
  4.  An X-ray

8: The scientific Consensus on the nature of Climate change and global warming is

  1.  Based on carefully collected and analyzed statistics of both modern and past climates.
  2.  A conspiracy put forth by freedom hating liberals.
  3. Wrong because it suggests policy should be influenced by facts not just beliefs.
  4. A conspiracy created by tens of thousands of scientists and technicians to undermine the american way of life.
  5. Alarmist because the facts suggest immediate action to avoid costly effects such as sea level rise, or radical climate change.

9:  When explaining the interactions of complex global systems such as weather and climate, what model do you employ.  A myth from a bronze age tribe, or models based on data collected and analyzed by trained professionals, justify your answer.

10: Rank in order of energy density. 1 for least dense 5 for most dense.

Wind power   ___
Coal, Natural Gas, petroleum __
Nuclear fission ___
Solar power ___
Hydroelectric ___

Etcetera.  Naturally this quiz is incomplete and only addresses natural science topics where ignorance of them irritates me.  It is also the recommendation that should enough of the representatives fail the test that legislative body should receive a suitable primer from a qualified expert(s) in the field(s) in question.

Be a radical with Science.

Over thinking the movies, Man of Steel

Point one, Spoilers.
Point two, I did enjoy the movie and I think great many people will too.
Point three, I will have fun at its expense.
Now to the fun bit.

Generic Superman origin story opens on Krypton with the Gladiator explaining geology to the government.   The armwavium used to explain the impending doom                  is the act of mining Krypton's core for energy has hollowed out the planet. This raises a few questions.

Firstly what was the core being mined for.  And don't say Kryptonite.  I am taking a mostly uniformitarian stance. I am assuming that physics is the same over time and space and therefore what happens on earth can happen elsewhere, it is a science fiction universe so there are some rules being bent but they are bent the same way every where.

It was stated that the interior of the planet had been hollowed out to power their civilization. A civilization with enormous power needs. Flying cities on a high gravity planet demonstrate that clearly.

Option A Heat. Assumption, Krypton is a super-Earth with a similar composition.

Cooling the planets liquid outer core to extract heat would provide massive power but would accelerate the enlargement of the solid inner core. The cooling would shrink the core contracting the planet around it.  While that could cause earthquakes and volcanism it would not explode.  Mercury has experienced a similar phenomenon and will not be going anywhere for another 5 billion years.

The down side is you would have to use the heat to produce secondary energy storage media. On the upside while you're down there you would have access to stupendously large amounts of iron.  However this model disagrees with the notion of physically mining the world's core.

Option B, Thorium and Uranium Assumption, still assumes and iron rich core but not necessarily having an liquid phase outer core.  Because of Krypton's advanced age Thorium with its approximately 13 billion year half life would be the most abundant fissile material on the planet.

I have no idea if there are any processes that could produce minable deposits of fissile elements in a planetary core, secondly I doubt the volumes would approach planetary collapse scales. If they were extracting iron and other industrial materials while they were down there perhaps they could shrink the planet a few tenth of a percent. Not that Krypton would stoop so low as to use fission.

Option C, Cavorite  a form of unobtainium opaque to all radiation including gravity.  Advantage, would be ideal for building floating cities, would be valuable enough to drive planetary scale ventures.

Now none of these options explain the later explosion of Krypton.  I propose waste plutonium was stored in the core as backfill for their mining.  When the exotic alloy supports failed and the mantle and crust fell on the core the mass went supercritical and kaboom.  Bonus Kaboom if there was an excess of heavy water on the planet. Though I suspect this would mostly result in a remelted and highly radioactive core and mantle which might just be the thing to revive the economy.

Now that I have the geologic arm waving out of my system its time to pick on the more conventional annoyances.

At the time of Kryptons collapse and detonation the skies were well with seemingly self contained flying skyscrapers.  They appeared able to hover at any elevation and largely ignored aerodynamics in favour of style.  Since they clearly knew the failure was coming why could not a few city ships escape. A failure made even more senseless in the face of two technologies that would allow a hot restart of the civilization nearly anywhere.  Replicator level additive manufacturing and exo-womb technology. With those technologies in their control extinction should have been near impossible.

Since Kryptonian technology is not to blame you have to consider their culture.  With both a planned economy and planned reproduction it strikes me that a metaphor of Communism. The American vision of a communist state, grey and colourless.  Krypton is nearly all in greys, with a few speckles of gold on the big hats to show rank. In the Fortress of Solitude, the communist metaphor is delivered with a proverbial hammer in the form of the animated history of Krypton done in the style of soviet art deco. Lastly baby pod was modeled after this classic space probe body.
Place superbaby here.
Luna 9

Yet even if I accept the soviet Krypton metaphor and the empire collapsed because the center stopped managing the fringes I still have trouble with the wholesale extinction of the race.  Zod states that their culture had an empire lasting 100,000 years.  A time span longer than we have been making cave paintings, alters my view of Ka El and any other surviving Kryptonians.

From that moment on Ka El, stopped being the lost son of a dead civilization, and became the last son of a has been civilization.  For at least 100,000 years they terraformed worlds, expanded through the galaxy and failed to produce splinter cultures.  Am I to believe that not one colony broke off to pursue its own agenda, or that the terraforming was so technology dependant that one failed energy shipment dooms your world.  Am I? If yes than I am convinced that they earned their doom, and Krypton truly was a has been civilization.  They had a run and failed.  To further doom them, the only template for the kryptonian people was on one memory chip modeled after Lucy's head.  The moral of the movie, always have an off site backup.

The nitpicking list.
  • As my sister pointed out if Superman can function in a vacuum and kryptonia air weakens him don't breath
    • Alternately He has a Cloaca and breathing is not the only gas exchange option for him.
  • The alien USB key was found not to be on the periodic table and therefore non terrestrial.  Find a better chemist. 
  • Metropolis is nearly equatorial, its antipode was depicted as being in the south Indian ocean, but native net fisherman was not dressed for anything but the tropics. 
  • The Phantom drive plus Phantom drive = black hole final battle would have won Stephan Hawking his Nobel Prize, if any instruments where their to measure it.  The resulting singularity would have been small enough to evaporate in a small fraction of a second, proving him right.
  • On Ellesmere island, night is a season.  And 40 below is only the beginning of cold. 
  • The west coast fourth wall is thin, in good ways.  Canadian Shoulders exist and only a Canadian production team would do with a logging truck and trees what they did.   
  • It took 12 years but a movie came out for the american audience that depicts skyscrapers being demolished.
  • During a redundantly long battle, full of hulk smash moments, was waiting for it to end so I could have more plot.  
  • In the Kryptonian sky a moon is shown as already broken up with massive chunks conveniently hovering in space.  Hollywood it is time you learn about Roche limits. 
  • What organ got repurposed to produce x-rays
  • Did Smallville have a cancer outbreak in the late 1990s from Clark Kents uncontrolled X-ray vision.  
There are naturally endless was to pick on this movie but this was my things. 

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Inspiration VS The other stuff.


When last I posted here I contemplated a terrible career move. I put my fingers to work because I realized it was not a joke and the conditions are favourable. The goal to finish a first draft of a novel before the money and time window starts to close. This I am taking seriously. Today, I find contemplate why this time window is being better used. And the answer is largely I said screw inspiration its time to get to work.  

Don't get me wrong there was inspiration. The inspiration for the novel is ten years old. The outline grew out of some narratives of Antarctic exploration. I toyed with, and day dreamed about various aspects of the fictional universe over the years. The first chapter was started several times over the years. Forward progress was always limited. The same mistakes kept me trapped in the first chapter.  

The first mistake, to proofread and revise freshly written work.  This sucks the momentum out of the project.  When the block you are fixing is the first chapter of many, trying to make it perfect is a waste. The full scope of the people and places in the universe is unknown, so how could you know what the perfect opening is.
Similarly I would delay because not all the technical details I needed to satisfy my intellect were filled. 

The second major mistake was waiting for inspiration.  Inspiration is great, a project of the scope which I am attempting is born of inspiration. The shape of the world the arc of the stories are inspired, but so much of what comes from inspiration for me are the big general things.   To write a sci-fi novel Grand Big Ideas are key, but they need to be connected with the little human moments.  

Now I choose to sit down everyday and write.  The skeleton created by inspiration gets its flesh when put myself down to the job of connecting A to B. I am not always sitting down on fire with ideas. Often I have a sketch of what will happen next and to whom.  I write it knowing it will not likely survive the rewrite and I may not even like the phrasing or style I just used, but I need to finish the draft. 

So I plug a head. I choose to keep myself thinking about the people and the world.  I will go for walks to clear my head, and often plot out the next 700 to 1000 words. It is a conscious choice, I fight the urge to land in a lower energy state that of not thinking about the project.  I do not spend my time being inspired I am choosing to spend my energy on being creative.  That choice has taken me from thinking 500 words is a good day to doing 1100 words on a regular basis. 

The novel exists as a nearly 4 dimensional object in my head, with past incarnations, future revisions and the central backbone. The first draft gets written with the knowledge that it falls short of what I would wish people to read. The first draft gets written so that it can be built into a book that others will find engaging.  The first draft is written with an awareness of its flaws but to keep moving I do not dwell. 

There is one other thing I know about the first draft. Each new sentence expands the world, both forward into the story and back.  This enrichment only comes from plowing ahead. That progress lets me tolerate the errors and shortcomings.  Only by writing to the end can I loop back and make the beginning and middle fit perfectly.  

Typing fast and living Cheaply.
Alexander van Houten. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

More Punctuated than Equilibrium


Last night I found myself reading about luck and success.  In the light of Richard Wiseman's work it would seem my actions placed me in the unlucky camp.  Specifically I sought certainty and had a rigid notion of success.  Certainly the last 4 years were built around an intended outcome that when realized proved unsatisfying.  What is on my mind this morning is why now. It is fair to say my geologic career is more punctuated that equilibrium, why did I now choose to change focus.

This is not the first time I have had a layoff.  This is not the first time I have wanted to write.  This is not the first time I have had time off and some cash.  And this is not the best time, that would have been in January 2012 when I was favoured with a large one time cash surplus.  So what changed.  Why did I wake up this morning and know I was getting up to write.

The answer comes in two parts.

 Firstly I did not know the four year experiment would end in unhappiness.  When I went to BCIT, the experiment was still starting yes I had written off field work but I needed to test where I could fit in the industry.  The assumption being tested was if I found the right position in the industry I could be happy there. Even as recently as January 2012 the data was inconclusive. I did not yet know that work would get no better. This winter and spring proved conclusive, I was happier there, than doing fieldwork, but not happy.  Then I got laid off.

Secondly control.   Careful planning had gotten me to where I was, but the weighted random number generator that is the price of gold drove me backwards.  I could plan all the passionless career moves that I would need to remain in the geology/GIS field but as long as I am tied to the mining sector my job security is at least partly governed by stock markets random number generators.   I no longer want to be governed by that boom bust cycle.

It is the twin motivations, the failed experiment and my setbacks being too far beyond my control that are driving my new motivations. The four year experiment proved that I can engineer my own success. The exploration industry has shown I want to fail on my own terms too. I now want to control more of my successes and more of my failures and I can not do that while gold's value bounces around as people try to measure their insecurities.

So I get up to write.  If the words suck it is because I did not try to make them better.  There are a lot of ifs, and my optimism is at least partly tied to my bank balance.  But It was my motivation to get up.  Getting up is normal but to get up earlier rather than later so I can get to work on the project that is magical.

So remember live cheap and type fast.

Friday, May 17, 2013

From here.

Where Do I go from here.

When last I wrote here, I had explored where I had ended up and looked at some places I passed through on the way. A needed exploration of what was tried.  While I no longer want the same jobs I have held in past it is not all regret.  There were some good adventures and I am happy that I have settled in Vancouver.   The pressing question is where do I go from here.

 That question lacks a clear answer.  The first response in looking for jobs is to try to find something the same yet different.  There is a comfort in knowing there is familiar work around.  Yet reading those job postings is dull.  Being technically capable, does not make the job interesting.  I read them and know some time after the learning curve levels off I will bore and my indifference will surface.

To make matters worse the job postings that best fitted my skills and experience were both in the oil and gas sector.  I am only indifferent to getting gold out of the ground, I might be actively hostile in dealing with the burning stuff, and burning stuff extraction and transport industries.  And yet my historic failure of imagination  leaves me unable to see myself in the roles described in other job description.  The process has only just begun, I will seek out jobs because well between boredom and the need for cash flow something will have to be found.

As I write this line it has been three weeks almost to hour since I had the talk at work.  The lack of work is a mixed blessing.  At first a relief, there was a pent up need for a vacation I never could get myself to take, I was feeling spent overall.  But I was used to filling a chair for eight hours and providing useful services for up to 6 of them.  The first week sailed by before I started to wallow in intellectual doldrums.  As my brain scrambled for something to engage upon it tripped across a novella I started years ago and had last touched last October, it has been dominating my thoughts since.

Its terrible timing to take to writing pulp fiction.  Both from the standpoint of my own professional best interest and on the simple fact that it is never a good time to try to become a write, now is worse than usual.  Yet when I look back at inspirations, personal heros,  the names that cross my mind are not geologists, cartographers or prospectors, they are writers.   So I fail to answer the questions of what job I want and fail to imagine where my career is going, I can answer a different set of questions. Those answers doom me to a fate of poverty and drudgery.

Yet here is a field I have studied when left to my own devices, a hobby I have toyed with since forever.  I have read and absorbed countless books.  Talks and books on writing have made me think I could do that.  Many free hours up north were spent learning a few things about writing.  Perhaps I spent too much time learning a few things about the business without product of my own but that is past.      So thinking about what I always wanted to do I find a body of unfinished work.  

For ten years three major stories have been spinning around my head.  There are others but they lack form.   Three tails lodged in my brain for as long as I have been chipping at rocks and pining for chance to go home.   Currently I have picked up the one that is the easiest to write. Yet I know its a terrible tactical move.  No matter how fast I write how well I write, I will have an eviction notice before I have a rejection letter.  Yet foolishly I have let these ideas lodge themselves in my brain.

There has been an underlying assumption in the majority of the professional choices I have made since I got my undergrad degree. Safety.  I took the suring things when I could get them, I planned the last 4 years on making my life more secure.  And those choices became increasingly passionless.   Is it time to take a risk.

 Find a job what leaves me with enough energy to consider writing more frequently.  The mind numbing technical jobs have contributed to the sharp decline in blog posts.  While I am trying to get my bearings I will live cheaply and type quickly.

In the words of Spider Robinson.
Do The Next Thing.


Saturday, May 4, 2013

There and Back Again.

Greetings again.
This is the second post on digesting my lay off.  Here I will ramble about various factors that lead to my ending up here, and perhaps more importantly find a way of avoiding that fate again.  Not simply the fate of getting laid off but the dissatisfaction that came with jobs I have had in the past.

Getting laid off, and having it happen after I was at my best is not an isolated event.  Its not at all surprising considering the industry I landed in.  I took my second exploration job just after I finished my undergrad.  Gradschool was considered, but after the better part of 7 years chewing through my undergrad I was spent.  So I took a job with a gold company in the Northwest Territory.

The opportunity to develop my career was there, the drive was lacking.
Work was not bad at first, and I can see the tone of this blog change over time as the stagnation set it, but it was largely routine technical work.  Ultimately I am too much of a home body to endure collecting data for someone else's project while living on the far side of the middle of nowhere.  It cannot be ignored that I saw too many folks in the field who were sacrificing access to friends and family for the job, when those were the things I most wanted.

  The failure to connect with several branches of a field enforces the notion it is not for me.  Leaving me with the question what do I want do when I grow up.  So far I have a far better idea of what I do not want to do.  Those technical but repetitive jobs are a mental cul-de sac that leave me spent and angry, this is true whether it is clicking a mouse in MapInfo or taking notes of drill core. Those posts lead to periods of slow decline and burnouts.

 This leads me to believe that I want more control and intellectual engagement in my work.   Beyond that I have little vision as to what an exciting engaging job could be.  In a paragraph deleted from the first draft of this I rambled about the assumption that I would  become an academic.  It fit everyone's image of me and it is the only professional sphere where I can imagine what the work is like.   However, assuming defaults is not the goal of this post.  I want to cast aside a few things and reassess from there.  So here then is a list of the knows.

One, I have always had a deep and abiding interest in space exploration.  I think I read Red Mars 5 times.  The sense of place that book built made me think of mars as a place.  It has contributed to my love of deserts.  I used to spent too much of my spare time keeping track of as many deep space missions as I could.

Two, I have read too much science fiction. And sometimes think that with my melange of science knowledge and science fiction ideas I should become a paper back writer.

Three, if you ask me to describe my dream job, I can't. I can image working in academia only because I have spent enough time around such things as to have some image of what a career there could look like.  If you ask me what I could see me doing in the public or private sector I have no clue.  There is a complete failure of imagination there.

4, The most creative period in my life was a brief period in Kelowna nearly ten years ago.  I had finished the semester, I was working part time and was waiting for my field job to start.  I had a computer that barely ran, no internet connection and time.  It was during this period I started to develop the stories I still have to finish writing.

5, As awful as my grammar and spelling are, I still find the act of writing one of the most satisfying things I can do.

6, Work this spring was made extra difficult by many friends and acquaintances posting their academic or professional milestones, while my work was staying the same.

This list is incomplete and inconclusive.  There is one conclusion I can draw, many of the choices that left me unhappy were safe bets.  The devil I knew, because jumping outside the box was too intimidating.  When you have been moving around the same box for 9 years and not finding either security or happiness its time to get a ladder.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Nine Years Spent.

I have come into some more time recently.
On the eve of my ninth year working in the mineral exploration sector I got laid off again.   This is similar to the fall of 2008, where market forces drove my employer to abandon the camp.   All in all I am rather sanguine about this.  At some level I was always waiting for it.  I knew I was the most expendable person in the office and the least engaged.

There were many draft posts about my relation to my now former job, and the industry I have worked for. These were either never written or were incomplete overly cautious fragments of the whole.  Any readable narrative is incomplete, however, it will become clear why this state of play is more a relief than a burden.

There are many factors that cause tension between me and the mining exploration industry, there are the obvious things such as working in the ass end of nowhere, repetitive jobs and long hours. Then there are the less obvious stressors, the right wing bias behind everything, common global warming denial, and more.
 Detracting from my motivation is the fact they are trying solve a problem I am indifferent to.  To make people rich through finding a possible or real gold mine does not drive me. I honestly don't care about getting more gold out of the ground  It emberases me to have stayed so long in professional world I fit so poorly into, this then is the story of my last best hope for the industry.

 The job, I got sent home from was the job I had described in my grant application, prior to applying to  BCIT four years ago.  Land a desk job in an industry where I had past experience and apply my recent training.  Everything about this plan was reasonable and logical but the execution was flawed and passionless. In the end I had landed exactly where I had planned to go and stayed there.  It was still an improvement at first.    

The job was a blessing after after bouncing between some no fun at all geology contacts I was happy for some security and work that kept me in the city. There was an undeniable satisfaction in having achieved a goal set two years prior through planning and work. Heck at the beginning I had an office.

As with any new venture the learning curve keeps things interesting.  The level of engagement was high at first, it faded over time.  There were only so many problems to solve in such a small office.  To make matters worse, I  had not quite enough freedom.  I was stuck working under the company IT contractor, a man who equates, tens of cups of coffee a day with being well rested and equates doing lots of things at once as being productive. While he gets lots done, much of was support for outside ventures.  Naturally he sucked at delegating.

This left me with either the option of trying to work around him and come up with my own fixes or wait for him to focus long enough on solutions related to in office problems. In the end, I would try to implement my own fixes and then change gears and work with his plan, neither got the attention needed.

During my post, I spent a lot of time with a software suite called MapInfo.  A collection of bugs and patches intended to display and interpret mappable data.  At first I was cursed with a compatibility bug, our old edition was incompatible with windows 7.  Later we updated and it ran smoother.  Even when it ran smoothly the style of the workflow and interface proved irritating for me.  Producing any thing was a series of short attention sucking jumps from one point of view to another.  Forever changing my focus and shortening my attention span.

This endless string of micro tasks fragmented my already flighty attention span.  It would often take the better part of an evening to slow my brain down enough to read a novel, to decompress enough to write was almost always out of the question.  It chewed at me, a slower drain on my resources than the stress of isolation in the bush but it built up.  I felt I was getting dumber over time, I never got my head out of that cycle long enough to consider my next move.  Office drone work took just enough that I could not reevaluate.  It made me feel a little depressed for a long time.

In a timey whimey way this brings me to last week.  Things had been slowing down for a while. I was spending more time on low priority longer term projects because there was little pressing work to do.  Heck I estimate that the small project took about 6 hours to produce and that was the only concrete thing coming out that week.  On Wednesday of the week I was downright depressed, even hung over I can't recall the morning passing so slowly.  By 10am I felt like 6 hours had passed.  Thursday saw me over caffeinated, with an attention span of a small bird for ever jumping from view to view.  All I really wanted these last few unproductive weeks was to be outside in the cool sunny weather.  Friday was greeted with the question of why am I getting up to go to the office, and the question of what the heck am I going to do Monday.  I could not tell you what I did Friday morning, it likely amounted to little.  I do know that after lunch I actually tried to cook up a going forward plan, collect all my loose ends and turn them into some project that could sustain my interest into the summer and have me ready for the field season prep.  I did not come up with much.  It was in the process of trying to cook this up when I got summoned.

Now I am free of that job.  I still don't know what I want to do when I grow up.  But I have added one more thing to the list of things I don't want to be.  I want out of the Mining Exploration Industry for good.  This MapInfo job was my last best hope, It failed.  I am still open to work related to environmental sciences, geology or geospatial systems but mining exploration is something I am going to stay away from.

It has been just shy of 9 years since I took my first student job on an exploration project.  The pattern has been the same since. At first the thrill of a new project in a new place. Field work can be great, but the thrill wears off quickly.  Soon I am left drained, doing a repetitive job somewhere far from everyone I know.   This describes very nearly every field job I have ever done, the only thing that changed was the burnout time shrank.  

The four year experiment that ended in the secondary boardroom last week was not an outright failure.  While I no longer want to work for that industry, I am in a better position not to.  I have yet to take stock of what I have learned and what it could be applied, but I am less pigeon holed than I used to be.  

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Baroness

I have a roommate of sorts.  Mind you she weighs less then 3 kg and is covered in fur but company she is.  The Baroness, had the name Poppy at the SPCA, that did not stick with me. Something more regal was required.  Something reflective of the cat human power dynamic. So she became The Baroness.
Well her full and proper name and title is Lady Baroness von Soft Paws of Gallifrey.

The Baroness introduced herself to me at the shelter looking me in the eyes with her huge amber ones and reaching out and touching my beard.  You do not say no to a cat with a pink nose a sad face and curious paw.  I have seldom said no to her since.