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by Vagus
Rated: GC · Book · Fantasy · #2205338
Realms' Anchor, science (fiction too!), writing, and possibly a discourse on fine spirits.
This is a little test to see if I can set this up correctly.

I suspect anyone reading this will already know enough about me that I can save the introduction for later. This blog is an effort in discipline and easier than posting my random musings on multiple platforms. If I want to write about cats one day, boom it'll go here. Updates on various projects may also find their way here. I know, I know, most functional writers have their own website and brand, but I'm too internet-inept to make the leap. The concept of blogging is still new to me, meanwhile, everyone else has moved on to podcasts and tongue-tip electrodes that instantaneously convey the mood of the day.

A note on the blog rating:

I have no intention of dropping hardcore content in my posts, but I kinda need the option there. I mean, I also don't need a 12 gauge, plate carrier, hip holstered .45 ACP, fighting knife, knurled knuckle gloves, riot shield, and 55-gallon trash bags (4 of them) to answer the front door when the girl scouts are out selling. But the option is there. You know?

Anyway, have a decent day. If this is my last entry ever, then farewell!
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January 21, 2020 at 7:36am
January 21, 2020 at 7:36am
#973865
There is much misinformation in the world (begins every misinformative rant ever). It used to be that you could vet your sources directly. Look the slick salesman in the eye and say, “Is that cobra or python extract that will make my teeth shine white and youthful vigor, vigor vigorously?” And then those little beads of sweat on his forehead would indicate that it’s probably not even pure snake oil at all. However, nowadays, everything is printed and stamped with a trustworthy degree. If you do some searching, you’ll find that even snake oil is rebranded as the “original Chinese watersnake blend” with all the usual unquantifiable/qualifiable terms like “anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, etc.”

I could write a book on marketing science speak (maybe not a book, I could write up a small manuscript … maybe a manifesto) but the point of this post is not to clarify the empty promises of nutritional supplementation, but to go after the false claims of harm caused by traditional medicine.

Antibiotics are a wonderful and selective tool that allows your human immune system to win a battle it might otherwise not. For simplicity, they are used to treat bacterial infections and fall into two major categories: bacteriostatic and bactericidal. The latter is the one people envision in their heads if they think much at all beyond having to swallow the pill. A toxin that destroys bacteria and cures their disease. That does happen, which makes those antibiotics a prime target for homeopathic medicine. It is known that bacteria in the human body outnumber human cells 10 to 1. It makes for a sensational headline, but really these bacteria are predominantly found in the gut, which is technically outside the body. We can’t ignore their importance, however, as these bacteria are considered “commensal” or good/necessary for digestion.

And bactericidal antibiotics kill them.

The implication is that anti-biotics are associated with many gut maladies people suffer. It’s not always incorrect, but it is disingenuous. Sure, someone with an intractable c. diff infection may be subjected to potent, broad-spectrum antibiotics over a protracted period. Couple that with hospitalization (which increases pathogenic exposure) and they might emerge with an abnormal gut profile that prevents them from eating their formerly favorite foods. Nevertheless, those cases are more rare than typical and are ultimately trading risk of side effects for certain death. Less harm than good applies. For the rest of us, anti-biotics are short term and adequately dosed for maximum therapeutic benefit with minimal side effects.

Bacteriostatic antibiotics prevent bacterial multiplication. In a petri-dish (cell culture) these drugs will have similar effects on both pathogenic and commensal (good) bacteria. Oh, the humanity! But in the body, the outcomes are quite different. Limiting bacterial growth does not directly facilitate their demise. The gut will continue to function and retain the capacity to recover because the immune system does not deploy to the gut (or outside the body). Your immune cells will not invade your intestinal lumen and hunt down your good bacteria. At worst, they may deal with pathogenic bacteria invading the intestinal wall or be involved in an autoimmune reaction, which is an entirely different story.

The pathogenic bacteria invading your body, however, are prime targets. Bacteria win by outpacing the immune response. They grow faster than your lymphocytes can eat them. Limiting their growth destroys their entire strategy. The medical experts among you are aware of special cases and other sneaky tricks of pathogenesis, but I’m addressing the practical everyday person here. The majority to whom anti-biotic naysayers might aim their doomsday misinformation.

Do antibiotics have side effects? Sure, you’ve been there. Do you want to take antibiotics every day? No. That’s why they’re a prescribed product. Do you want to take antibiotics when prescribed by a doctor? Yes. And given the current state of hesitation regarding antibiotic resistance and such, they are more apt to err on the side of caution than put you in a position to sterilize all your good gut bacteria.
If I say the word “trust” ten people with “stories” about how they trusted and lost will crawl out of the woodwork. To put things in perspective, though, before antibiotics, they buried victims of infection in piles.

And burned them.
December 30, 2019 at 4:45pm
December 30, 2019 at 4:45pm
#972269
Imagine a pack of feral wolves tearing apart a fallen bull elephant over the course of days. No, imagine them going to work on 10 bulls. Then let your neurons do their unique human thing and turn those elephant corpses into Christmas presents. Ah, there we are, my life over the past week.

It's not the kids' fault; Santa is to blame. I left a bottle of, you know, something thirst-quenching for his parched mouth and it caused him to leave all the presents at my house. I guess he was done for the night after that. Wolves.

I'm not OCD about cleaning, but there's a certain mood that settles in when the house is trashed and being trashed. Ironically, it doesn't instill a desire to step up the cleaning process, but quite the opposite. I want to destroy. Destroy everything. Grab a 30-foot roll-off and throw all my furniture, the floors, and even the house in the garbage. It's a fairly nuclear approach, but then I can train the kids to live off the land and eat real elephants like feral wolves instead of just going after another dollar pack of markers and writing on each others' faces.

So as the kids and the wrapping paper and the boxes and my hopes and dreams laid on the floor that used to look like a carpet, I thought about the big bad wolf ...

Wait.

No, actually I thought about the movie Predator when Blain pulls out that minigun and knocks down half the forest. Thick canopy with dense vegetation suddenly clear and free. The characters could finally breathe. Not Blain, he had a hole the size of a basketball in his chest. But everyone else. Just ... ahh, hello clearing!

I ran to the garage. The gas-powered leaf blower would undoubtedly produce high levels of toxic exhaust for my interior space, but the battery-powered one was up to the challenge. If we can avoid the extra layer of irony that these tools were once Christmas gifts themselves, we can get to the action. The Stihl has 3 levels of force. I'm sure you can imagine which one I went for.

I came back into the house like I was putting down rioters. The baby tried to crawl away, fearing this new terrible power more than the bathtub drain, but I got him. Then, I took the main room. The debris folded over like a giant omelet of excess. The daughter ran away, but the boy ran toward the torrent of air. He'll make a great medieval warrior someday When my 7 minutes of high powered lithium were up, the dust settled and I could hear the wife complaining about the process.

Apparently I lost all the little pieces to everything and condemned myself to an hour on my knees finding them.

5/5 would rinse and repeat.
December 16, 2019 at 6:31am
December 16, 2019 at 6:31am
#971540
As part of the Realms' Anchor series, which I swear to you is actually a fantasy story, I needed to devise a system of magic to balance an otherwise one-sided conflict. The application of this magic is still wide-open, but I've learned from other fantasy writers that a rule-set is important in creating a tangible and defeatable plot element.

So, what I did was create different types of magic. One is accessible to everyone. One is innate in specific individuals, and then there's a whole plot arc about the third. Each functions to change the world (and possible melt faces) differently, None are good or bad but adopt the properties of those who use them. "Spells" are more applications of knowledge than recipes. Two wizards might go about making the same fireball differently. One might take more time, maybe use more resources because he's (or shes) self-taught, while the other had the benefit of training with a whole host of finger waggling, fireball makers.

We also have different types of magic here on our Earth (in real life, we've left the fiction universe for now). I could go into the lengthy discussion on complexity and synergy and explain why certain things seem magical, but I'd rather skip ahead to the phenomenon of Birthday Magic.

You might call it something else, but society has decreed each person has a finite amount of pixie-dust (not angle dust) to be spent on one's birthday. You can't necessarily summon a bank vault full of cash, but you can use it to create time.

And that's what I did yesterday, my friends. Three kids, the rush toward Christmas, ongoing issues with laptop replacement and a huge stack of work sitting on my desk (next to my desk, I shall not be cluttered) got time-stopped. I stepped out of it all and played a video game.

*shakes* God, it was like I was in college again, skipping class to set up my defenses and dare the computer to come get some (playing on easy). I clicked the mouse so many times, totally uninterrupted. After about 20 minutes of that (i used to be able to go for like 5 hours when I was younger) I fired up the Microsoft word and got some fiction in. That was nice too, something about the temporary abdication of responsibility made the edits flow.

Later, I watched Rambo 5. Now I want to dig some tunnels in my backyard and maybe buy a knife. The birthday magic is gone, but I'm pretty sure my family will understand this new and important need. You could call it a midlife crisis, but then that would mean I'm at the half-way point.
December 12, 2019 at 10:21am
December 12, 2019 at 10:21am
#971346
Your laptop burns out.

Not "blue screen of death." Not "corrupted hard disc" or "missing .dll file." Not even, "it keeps restarting." No, that pop, the fizzle, and the smell of burning plastic because everything is made out of plastic now. (hush now mac fans with aluminum cases, they still have plastic in them).

I will accept your sympathies and bask in them for a few lines here.

Man, this is why we keep guns locked up. My rational side understood that these things happen and that's what you get rolling the dice with a laptop you have used to the extreme for 4 years. But the ... i guess you might call it the emotional side, but let's not get all emo here, wanted blood. Immediate fantasies rushed in about both hands on a fixed-mount ma deuce (the Browning M2 .50 caliber anti-light vehicle and infantry machine gun that gives more than it takes *usually* and omfg) jack-hammering away at 10,000 engine blocks or *breathing heavily* firing up at the sun in hopes of triggering a nova. I know, I know, it's psychotic, but in the moment it sounded really therapeutic.

The frustration, thankfully, was contained to replacement time and cost in addition to the reloading of all my programs, plugins, and various personalized settings. Not a huge deal, but I would've appreciated this a little more about two weeks ago (black Friday, cyber Monday, something Sunday?). My data, the most invaluable component spread across those smoldering hard discs, is all backed up on the cloud. Well, mostly. I think i saved my tax returns to the hard disc. It's fine, I don't even like taxes anyway.

So, we have come to the point of this post. A cautionary tale with a happy ending and some fantasy violence to get the left ventricle tight. Back up your stuff. There are several options and i suspect many of you could school me on the specifics, but if you are not currently saving across multiple storage media, begin. Services that allow you to work off a folder on your hard disc are king, imo. The file structure (assuming internet access) is instantly updated each time you save and distributed to all your devices. So, I save a file on that [explitive] laptop and jump on the beautiful desktop that hasn't betrayed me yet, and I can keep going. Seamless.

You can probably get by with a secondary hard drive if you lack faith in cloud security, but you lose the offsite advantage of cloud services. If your house is nuked, or ten convicts break in and steal everything, your backups and your primaries might be lost in one fell swoop. Still, two is more than 1. Don't forget the faraday cage.
December 3, 2019 at 11:22am
December 3, 2019 at 11:22am
#970904
If you're here for a professional review, I suspect you will leave unsatisfied. I am neither prolific nor well-traveled in the wide world of whiskeys. My consumption is vast, I grant you, but the big difference between the average joe and a professional taster has to do with the distribution of taste buds and gustatory (let's not forget olfactory) innervation. Simply put, they have more gray matter devoted to chemical sensing. They can pluck out the hints of oak and vanilla and flecks of dry-aged (not wet-aged) currant - okay, I don't know if that's a thing - and a host of other things that the rest of us would just describe as "good."

This is a review for the common man. The steak, potatoes, and pass the salt man who sees his wine is red and remembers the bottle long after the taste has faded from his mouth. Same for women too, except maybe they're having Mexican cuisine (dunno, my experience suggests chicks crave enchiladas more often than the bovine). This review is for the people who've gone to a friend's house and had a glass of his "good scotch" knowing only that it was scotch, so it must be good.

Let's clarify good. All whisk(e)y is poison. Raw and unaged, it pours out of the pot still as muddled vodka. Take a swig and it hits the nerves responsible for triggering your gag reflex first and foremost. Sure there is a taste, but it is minor to revulsion. There is a college course you can take on suppressing this reaction. It is not taught anywhere but offered everywhere as a night course. Sometimes a breakfast course. Even so, young whiskey (so-called Moon Shine) is harsh.

Whisky is aged in oak barrels to smooth out and enhance the flavor profile. The result is generally proportionate to duration. Aging 10 years is inferior to 16 years, although its difficult to compare numbers between products. Some 10-year whiskys are better than 14’s of another brand. Another facet comes down to whether the liquor that ages in the barrel is what you get in your glass or if it is blended with some other casks to create a homogeneous flavor distinct to a particular brand. The single malt is generally an aged scotch whisky that is blended only among other like barrels. So, that whole 12 year batch of 100 barrels at Macallan gets blended to make their 12-year single malt. At Johnny Walker, they might take some 12 year Macallan, a little 14 year Oban, and others to create their Green or Blue Label blend.

The Hibiki Suntory is a blended whiskey from different products produced by a single distillery matured in Japanese oak. In contrast, blended Scotch is comprised of malts from different Scottish distilleries matured in American white oak. Otherwise, their production process are very similar. The Japanese whisky cannot be called Scotch only because it was not produced in Scotland. If you’re a purist, then you might be tempted to kick the Japanese knockoff out of bed. Especially at the $100 price point I bought this bottle. (gifted to me by a friend). If not, then let’s have a pour and see how good it gets.

One dram (what’s the Japanese word for a finger of whiskey?) neat sits still in the glass like a pool of thinned honey. A sip invites a powerful urge to chug the glass, neck the bottle, and finish off a case screaming the star-spangled… err I mean Japanese spang … (whatever their national anthem is) from the top of the highest tower or your neighbor’s roof. Fortunately, cooler minds prevail and the tongue is able to process an exquisitely smooth entrance and finish. It is warm on the tongue, but not the least bit harsh even without a drop of water or the sacrilegious ice cube to open up the “bouquet.” No smoke, no peat, just clean, sweet whisky.

Now, reading the box it tells me that taste bud response can be broken down into a mix of chocolate and oranges, which is quite desirable for a scotch whisky. Is it worth $100? Perhaps. I liken it to Glenfiddich’s lineup. Maybe their 15-year. Maybe 18. It stands up to any of them in terms of broad appeal. And that smoothness cannot be denied. However, I am a Laphroig man and appreciate a little complexity in my scotch. If I had to choose between Lagavulin and the Hibiki for my one item to the desert island where I will eventually descend into insanity, I’d take the smokier Lagavulin. If I had to crack a bottle at a fancy dinner party, the Hibiki. If I had to kill a man with an empty whisky bottle, definitely the Hibiki. It is a work of art!
November 25, 2019 at 6:44am
November 25, 2019 at 6:44am
#970439
Thanksgiving has become one of my favorite holidays next to the Fourth of July. (Can you guess the country where this blog is based?) When I was young it was Christmas all the way. Santa, presents, Coca Cola changing the labels on their red cans to feature Christmas scenes, presents, and that ultra-premium 2 weeks off from school. It was variable, anywhere from 9 to 15 days, not that I always kept a count. Halloween was a fine appetizer to the holiday season where you dressed up as your favorite star trek character (my costume from ages 5-12) and went trick or treating after school. Pumpkins were an added bonus. Back then, Thanksgiving was little more than a speed bump in the holiday landslide to Christmas (or any of the major holidays in December. As kids, you received presents, the timing was academic.)

Then I got older and discovered that Turkey did not have to reach sea level boiling temperatures to be edible for human consumption. Suddenly, that 22 pounds of meat sitting in the middle of the Thanksgiving Day table went from a pile of old tires to Kobe. In time, that deliciousness spread to other dishes. Add in a few cases of wine, and that ugly duckling became a swan. A delicious, de-feathered flesh swan with gravy.

Good company is an important element of Thanksgiving's success. Everyone contributing toward the singular goal of having a good time makes the obligation worth it. No one is wondering if he or she bought enough gifts or keeping long lists for thankyou notes. They're baking, basking, blending, and bohu (we'll talk about bohu later). A team effort that benefits the whole team.

Christmas lost favor as it became a 2-3 month buildup to gift-giving. Pure obligation driven by ravenous commercialism. Halloween is heading down the same track with 1-2 weeks of "events" that sap time and energy. The kids no longer have just 1 star trek uniform they wear once, they have 3-4 costumes that lie in tatters by the time it's done. And let's not talk about Valentine's day. Groundhogs day is still in contention, but Thanksgiving is where it's at.

So, what's Raclette? Glad I asked myself. It is a Swiss dinner of cheese, meats, and potatoes. In some aspects, you could call it gluten-free pizza if pizza were more like a fondue, all the components separated, grilled, and recombined in melty deliciousness, and all the guests were throwing little pickles at each other. Raclette cheese comes as a 12-13 pound wheel that you cut into little quarter-inch thick rectangles (2X4"). The slices are placed in little pans and heated on a special grill until bubbling and fluidic. Then, they are poured atop red potatoes, pickles, and grilled sausage or other preserved pork products of your choosing. Then you ... well, whatever the word for OM NOM might be. Raclette has a strong flavor and stands up well against and with the peppery and salty spices of sausage, ham, and pickles. The potatoes give the meal a little mass. If you're low carb (which I don't necessarily recommend as an expert on health and human physiology) then you can forget the potatoes. Oh, and maybe swap out the white wine for grain tequilla.

We don't eat Raclette on thanksgiving proper, but the day after. Most of our guests (family) are still in town and Friday night is usually pizza night and per the particular genetic encoding of our family bloodline, our hunger is insatiable. Hence, the day after Thanksgiving has become Raclette Friday. Enjoy your holiday and stay safe on the roads.

Edited to add: An earlier version posted itself before I could stab it with Grammarly. The content is the same minus a little more closer at the end.
November 22, 2019 at 11:18am
November 22, 2019 at 11:18am
#970210
My breadth of experience with publishing fictional works is limited to a stack of rejection letters. Publishers still accept unsolicited manuscripts, but it seems to be an uphill battle. Like new music dropping, you tend to check out the bands you know versus the creepy dudes with pictures of their basement in the background. Not that you won't check out the creepy dudes, but if you're handing out "likes" then it's just a selection pressure that the catchier brands will get the attention.

Solicited publications are where it's at. The publisher already knows the author and his (or her, of course) body of work, and can project a rate of return even if the story is subpar. They extend the invitation and the process moves forward. The difficulty there is getting your foot in the door. Usually, the easier path is connecting with a literary agent who has, perhaps, the ears of the publishers but also understands the publishers' needs. Its a layer of vetting between pure, unsolicited "read me!" and "hey, write for us."

There are likely other publication avenues that lie beyond the scope of this posting, but the point is most publishers protect themselves from a high volume of submissions by creating these barriers and layers of vetting. In fiction.

With non-fiction, specifically scientific publications, I do have a little experience. In that realm, almost all publishers accept unsolicited manuscripts. From anyone. The editors do vet them before the peer review process and final acceptance, but outright barriers are rare.

Until recently. It seems the academic journals are swamped and I'm seeing a number of journals switch over to "by invitation only." We're not talking big dogs like Nature or Science, here. They're used to receiving tens of thousands of submissions a year. But the smaller, yet still known journals. More labs than ever are cranking out [i hesitate to use anything but a neutral adjective here] papers and shotgunning them at the process. Big academia is real. No one has any money, but man can they write!

Interestingly enough, there is no layer of "agents" for academic publication of which I am presently aware. There are consultants, ghostwriters, schmoozers and such. But, the process is ... still trying to be fair and unbiased.

My question is, for how long? I predict the fiction world with its oversaturation and the high volume of words is simply a bellwether for the non-fiction/academic realm.
November 19, 2019 at 12:38pm
November 19, 2019 at 12:38pm
#970044
I made a map.

I took a mechanical pencil (0.7 mm #2) and drew a planet on a piece of paper. My kids came into my office 4 times asking if I'd like to borrow a crayon. The boy, concerned, brought a marker and started explaining why it was superior to the pencil. No one asked what I might be doing because the answer was plain - something stupid.

The map is functional in helping me orient different parts of the fantasy world presented in Realms Anchor. It is also done in pencil because I reserve the right to make changes. It is not intended, as of now, to be seen by the readers. I'm terrible at illustration and not confident it adds much to the story. I used my words to explain where various towns, holds, castles, and horse urine swamps are located. Who needs the map?

Fantasy authors tend to include maps. I think the map is a critical part of the world-building process and Tolkien did it. If He had included a dental imprint on the cover of his books, that would be a prerequisite for most fantasy authors too. And, we might've gotten to the zombie genre a few decades sooner. Back to the map, I have read compelling arguments to not include illustrations. They don't add to the story but can limit certain directions the story can take due to the map becoming canon once published. So, I think my decision is clear.

Or is it?

Realms' Anchor Contact happens here on earth. It's a fast-paced action novel. My concern with some readers is that they will need help with the transition to the second novel. If you jump into Semper Gumby without looking, you might be surprised when someone lights a fire against the chill of the night air and whispers of monsters in the shadows. It's like, "The 12 gauge is by the door. And why are we calling everyone sir and lord now?" A map might make the fantasy elements more tangible to the reader, instead of appearing like a weird dream sequence or side story.

What do you think?
November 16, 2019 at 9:58am
November 16, 2019 at 9:58am
#969812
Realms' Anchor is my military/fantasy series. It follows a team of US Marines as they battle magical forces across our world and beyond. It's huge in scope, think Tom Clancy grabbing Mordor by the horns. Contact was published in 2018. Don't get excited, when I say "published" I mean I paid for it, got down on my knees and begged a self-publisher to print me muh copies. Lulu actually did a fantastic job. The product is professional and would sit well on any store shelf. They also offer the standard marketing services and whatnot, but essentially sales are on the consumer.

Semper Gumby, being book II of Realms' Anchor, is in editing, 225,000 words as of this blogging. It's a big dog with a huge bark (you'll get the pun after you read it) and a bigger bite. A fine blending of fantasy and military action. Contact was skewed toward military action. The troops, the ships, the high tier command and control, national command authorities etc. It did the military proud. But now it's time for the other shoe to drop.

My update is a projected beta read version by the end of the year. That puts me about a month behind schedule from my projections about this time last year, which isn't bad considering I really only have myself to answer to. Expecting a publication date fo Q2 2020. The story is solid, just checking for snags and amplifying some elements. Character arcs can always be improved. Epic fantasy has a lot of moving parts and a huge cast, but the word count is worth it. The journey rocks.
November 14, 2019 at 6:36am
November 14, 2019 at 6:36am
#969610
I have minimal, you might say zero, understanding of the professional editing industry or process. I am not an editor, nor am I aware of the educational and experiential path to become a dude you'd pay to handle your words. I'd *like* to think it's a highly vetted process producing the finest grammaticuses with the keenest eyes and intimate knowledge of style and expectations of certain genres. But expectations don't always mesh with reality.

This post isn't about professional editors; it's about authors functioning as editors. See what I did there? I have no idea if that semi-colon is appropriate or even correct. And I'm not going to bother looking it up. Grammarly didn't highlight it, so boom, it stays. I feel like that's what you get when you have other people (usually fellow authors) read and edit your work. A grammar check and a beta read. Comment bubbles might ask a few sweeping questions. "Huh, where did this character come from?" I mean, reading comprehension is a two-way street. Maybe I didn't blow up a chapter with Mr. Rabbit's name occupying 25% of the word count. Or maybe he just wasn't interesting enough to take root in the ol' hippocampus.

Or.

Authors functioning as editors can be dicey. It's a quick turnaround with the only potential compensation being a byline or a few words in the acknowledgments section. Maybe that's writing.com calls it "reviews." The process here works, you essentially crowdsource the editing process in parallel and can eventually aggregate the feedback into a solid edit. Some people will go after that semi-colon, others will let me know that Mr. Rabbit changes genders on five different occasions (thanks, if you read paragraph 97 line 4 you'd see that he has a glandular issue and is actually a sexual chimera with one eye that's female 93% of the time).

Now. This is all amateur stuff on my end. I suspect that professional authors have access to and rapport with outstanding editors (professional and perhaps highly skilled fellow authors) who work each manuscript in sort of a partnership. Maybe a weird marriage. The process works because there's a financial incentive. I think that's key.

So, do you pay for it, or try to crowdsource?

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