Okay, that’s enough serious stuff for a while. I need a Weimaraner picture to lift my spirits, and Josie is always ready to oblige. Our freakishly wintry weather has put a damper on her weekend plans:
This month’s banner celebrates National Train Day, which is May 11 this year.
Events across the U.S. will remind us how trains have been an integral part of our nation’s story, almost from the beginning, and how they’re still vital to our mobility and prosperity today. Take a glance at the interactive infographics on the National Train Day webpage if you don’t believe me.
If you live anywhere near a rail line, part of the celebration may be happening near you. May 11 is a Saturday, so if you’re caught up on your yard work and not buried under a foot of snow, go check it out. You can search for a nearby event here.
Of course, in the Frederation, every day is National Train Day. Just another benefit of running on subjective time.
The Taxman Cometh: Nothing ruins a perfectly good April 15th like the U.S. deadline for income tax filing, but I’m happy to say I managed to file our returns safely in advance of the cutoff and had sufficient withholdings to satisfy our obligation for the past year. Another bullet dodged—on to the next challenge. For some random reason, I almost always put off this onerous, oppressive, tedious, humiliating, bloated, incomprehensible process until the last minute. Go figure.
Spindizzy: Also known as the Dillon-Wagoner Graviton Polarity Generator. Man, I wish I had one of these. Random, and awesome.
“We are Sex Bob-Omb, and we’re here to make lots of money and sell out and stuff!” – Until this weekend, I thought Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, in which the hero must face each of his true love’s seven Evil Exes in single combat to win her heart, was an amusing, random little fantasy based on a bestselling graphic novel series, awash in witty pop culture metaphor, but nothing at all like reality.
No longer. Bryan Lee O’Malley spoke truth, my friends. There are Evil Exes in this world, and they must be defeated in single combat if you wish to move on with your life.
Moving right along…
Razzmatazz: “A flashy action or display intended to bewilder, confuse, or deceive.” An indispensable element of any Broadway musical…and all that jazz. Broadway deserves a entry in the Hall of Randomness all its own.
Rumors of My Authorial Demise Have Been Greatly Exaggerated: I have not one, but two new writing projects in the works. Unfortunately, I am not at liberty to divulge the details of either. Yet. In the meantime, keep an eye on Lisa M. Collins‘ blog for an interview about my novels, The Muse and The Seer.
Higgledy-Piggledy: Not one of the fine products you can purchase at your local Piggly Wiggly, but rather an expression meaning “utter disorder and confusion.” Random-random.
Random 21st Century Problems: Last week, our dog Sooner became the third member of our family to blow out an ACL. If you need to ask, count yourself fortunate. Anyhow, he’s a tough old geezer—he rubbed some dirt on it and is loading up on Ibuprofen. We’re trying to get him to lay off the perimeter security for awhile, but he’ll have none of it:
“I tell ya, pups these days are too dern soft. It’s all Dog Whisperin’ and Nylabones. Now, my generation, we never had it easy. We had to play through the pain. Hey! Kid! Yeah, I’m barkin’ at you! Get off my lawn!”
March never did get past the “lion” phase, at least in Kansas City, but I’ve got high hopes for better weather in April and the promise of some beautiful spring flowers.
I’m starting the month in Korea on a work trip, and folks here are also anticipating the colors of springtime as the hillsides green up and trees begin to bud. The annual cherry tree bloom is a big event, and railway trips through Jinhae, west of Changwon on the southern coast of Korea and famous for its lush cherry blossoms, are popular. Jinhae’s annual festival celebrates both cherry blossoms and heroic Admiral Yi Sun Sin, who repelled an invading Japanese fleet in 1592 with his innovative “turtle ships,” arguably the world’s first ironclad naval vessels.
This month’s banner gives you a taste of the scenery around Jinhae when the cherry trees are in bloom. Subjective time seems to stand still when you’re surrounded by beauty on this scale.
You can find the original image at The Korea Guide, along with lots of information about spring festivals across the Korean Peninsula.
angel wings, anthologies, Avenir Eclectia, birdwatching, Brian Rathbone, Call of the Herald, comets, Digital Dragon, Google, Ingress, MMORPGs, Niantic Labs, osprey, PANSTARRS, Stephanie Morrill, The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt
“In a sea of stars, comets soar like the souls of tall ships with glittering tails in their wakes…” 2013 is shaping up to be the Year of the Comet, and we get our first shot at a naked-eye flyby with Comet PANSTARRS (named for the telescope in Hawaii that found it) which can be seen low in the western sky after sunset in most of North America starting tonight, though you’ll probably need a pair of binoculars to pick it out at first. It’ll be loitering in our neighborhood for about a month, returning in about 110,000 years. Okay, let’s just say “never” and call it even. For more info, check out the EarthSky blog. In August, the potentially-spectacular Comet ISON will debut, and it might even be visible in the daytime sky for a short time. We won’t be passing through either comet’s tail, so if you’re worried about Comet Zombies, rest easy.
UPDATE: Naturally, weather in the Greater KC Metro Area has been 100% obscured, with periods of rain and freezing rain, since I posted this. Perhaps the clouds will dissipate before the comet exits our solar system, but I’m not optimistic.
Oh, the quotation in bold above is from Brian Rathbone’s Call of the Herald, now available for free Kindle and Nook download via Amazon and BarnesandNoble.com. I’ll provide a review once I download and read my copy, but the cover rocks enough awesome to merit a download all by itself. Check out more of Brian’s stuff at http://www.brianrathbone.com
UPDATE: The second book in this trilogy is also free at the moment, so do as I say and did…grab a copy. In another freebie note, fans of contemporary teen fiction can score a free e-copy of fellow Kansan Stephanie Morill’s Me, Just Different, the first book in her Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series. Details here.
Birds of Prey Know They’re Cool: I saw an osprey today on the way to work as I crossed the Kansas River on Route K10—the bird kind, not the tilt-rotor aircraft. I’ve only made a positive ID on one of these little beauties once before, so this was kind of special. The bright-white underside, narrow tail, and distinctive M-shaped soaring posture were clearly visible as it followed the river across the bridge and away to the east. I do a lot of my birdwatching on-the-fly, so to speak, and it’s been a pretty good winter with two Bald Eagle sightings, plus plenty of well-fed Cooper’s Hawks and smaller falcons.
Shouldn’t You Be Writing? As I mentioned a couple of posts ago, I’ve got a new installment in the epic tale of John Milton up at Avenir Eclectia, with another soon to follow. Digital Dragon Magazine has also just released its long-awaited anthology, A Year of the Dragon. “Angel Wings”, my short tale of mothers, daughters, and body modification, lurks within.
Fight the Future: I stumbled across something called Ingress the other day, a new Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game from Google’s Niantic Labs that’s currently in limited beta release following a viral marketing campaign that began the middle of last year. Being a frequent user of Google, Google Plus, iGoogle, Google Chrome, Google Android, et al, I was slightly miffed that what might well be the Next Big Thing had somehow flown under my radar despite said viral marketing campaign. The beta opened last November, and though you can freely download the game app from Google Play, you can’t access the game without one of the invitation codes that Google is doling out like Wonka Golden Tickets via the game’s web pages and associated media. If you thought it was hard to get into Google Plus before, you ain’t seen nothin’ like this.
Anyhow, Ingress is something like a cross between geocaching, capture the flag, the X-Files, and Project Ultra, using landmarks all over the world as its map. Niantic Labs has foolishly opened a transdimensional gateway and drawn the attention of whatever lives on the other side to our existence. These beings claim to offer cosmic enlightenment to mankind, but their motives are unclear. Some observers believe they’re trying to infiltrate and possess humanity ala the scenario in Stephenie Meyers’ The Host, only more sneakily. They’re opening interdimensional portals and seeding the planet with invisible Exotic Matter in preparation for the invasion. Meanwhile, a Resistance movement is forming to gain control of the portals and keep the aliens at bay. At least, that’s the story. The whole thing plays out over the smartphone app, where players choose their faction and coordinate attacks and counterattacks, with supporting multimedia backstory and clues provided on the various project websites. It’s a geek paradise with innumerable videos, audio files, leaked chatlogs, and oodles of obscure cryptology.
The underlying purpose of Ingress, besides making Google a bucket of money via means yet unrevealed, seems to be marshaling a worldwide volunteer force to gather the slew of photos and GPS coordinates needed to fill gaps in Google Maps and Google’s Field Trip app. Well, it’s the best theory I’ve heard yet. Perhaps that’s the real conspiracy, but you didn’t hear it from me. I was never here.
And I’m still waiting for my Golden Ticket.
UPDATE: The day after I wrote this, my invitation arrived. Coincidence? I think not! Anyhow, more details once I’ve had a few weeks to get my feet wet. First impressions: 1. Love the backstory and media support. 2. Nifty interface. 3. Sci-fi combat geocaching without the briars and poison oak. 4. Standard MMORPG grinding and leveling. 5. Cooperative element could be stronger, but they’re fighting a subculture with little love for social interaction.
March comes in like a lion, and there are few lions more impressive than the heraldic symbol of Great Britain. This fierce feline, clutching a locomotive wheel in its blue-taloned paws, graced the logo of British Railways circa 1956, and was a few years thereafter replaced by a soulless corporate geometric whatsit.
For shame, Sir Topham Hatt, or whoever was in charge then.
At least, I think it’s a lion. This design was known colloquially as the “Ferret and Dartboard.” It replaced a previous image of a lion astride a large wheel, aka the “Cycling Lion.” Anybody who says the Brits don’t have a sense of humor isn’t paying attention.
Enjoy it while it lasts. This banner will remain frozen in subjective time only until the weather here in the Frederation mellows. I’ll be looking for something with a lamb then.
Images courtesy of Wikipedia Commons. The “Ferret and Dartboard” photo was taken in 2008 by Michael Ely. Original here.
In which I ramble randomly regarding random ravelings and their ramifications…
Whisperings from the Shadowy Cabal of Extraordinary Christian Scribblers (SCECS): Over the past week, a lot of what I like to call “churning” has characterized a number of the Christian writers’ blogs and forums I frequent. It seems Jerry Jenkins, of Left Behind fame, is offering a mentored path from manuscript to publication for the low, low price of 10,000 simoleons, leading a few pundits to wonder if he’s actually entering the textile business, specializing in hand-sheared wool. Ahem. Many are outraged, a few are shrugging it off as the natural flexing of Mr. Jenkins’ formidable powers of entrepreneurship (Hey, it’s a free market. Caveat Emptor, y’all) and a couple would prefer that everybody stop talking mean about Jerry so we can all get behind the forthcoming Left Behind motion picture remake. Mm-hmm. No one has yet offered suggestions for expeditiously amassing 10,000 simoleons in the current economy.
Linnea: Otherwise known as twinflower (Linnaea Borealis), also the central character in a series of excellent children’s books by Christina Bjork and Lena Anderson. In this context, completely random.
We are Logistics—We are Barney Fife: My efforts to schedule a session at the local target range with my Lovely Wife have been frustrated by the ongoing run on ammunition of all flavors, driven by the Administration’s apparent intent to restrict gun ownership
by criminals for criminals to criminals oh, I give up. Anyhoo, trying to find a box of .22LR cartridges right now is like trying to dig gold nuggets out of defunct Alaskan mining claims. Gee, I haven’t seen consumer panic on this scale since Tickle Me Elmo. Nor a slower manufacturing-sector response to the surge in demand.
Cyclopean: One of H.P. Lovecraft’s favorite words. It pops up so often in his writing, it should be the basis of a drinking game. Read “Cyclopean,” take a drink. It means HUGE. Just—huge. It can also refer to a particular style of masonry, but when Lovecraft employs it, it almost always means huge. If he uses it one more time in this collection of his stories I’m reading now, I will surely go mad. Or random.
This Just in From the Department of Happy Endings: And decidedly not random. Michael Oher, offensive tackle for the Baltimore Ravens and subject of the book and movie, The Blind Side, is now sporting a Super Bowl ring. Oher was a homeless kid from a no-future, high-crime ghetto environment who blossomed under the care and love of his adoptive family. It’s an incredible, inspiring story. If you haven’t read the book or seen the movie, do either. Or both. You’ll be glad you did.
Cacao, Put Down the Shovel!: Author D.M. Dutcher’s blog is a good place to glean some fun facts about the past, present, and future of anime and manga, if you’re so inclined, and includes a series of six posts that decode the jargon of Japanese comics and animation while providing useful guidance for the discerning reader or viewer. Begin here. D.M. writes children’s and YA fiction, including his most recent novel, Triune: Three as One, the saga of three teenaged superheroes battling an alien menace.
Moyashimon: Speaking of anime and manga, this is one of the most random series of my acquaintance. Tadayasu Sawaki is a first year student at an agricultural university who has a unique talent: he can see and communicate with microbes. This skill is quite valuable, especially in the arcane and highly-competitive field of sake brewing, which we learn about in excruciatingly fun detail along the way. Yes, I know “excruciatingly fun” is a contradiction in terms—Moyashimon can feel at times like one of those biology class films you had to sit through in 7th grade (who knew there were so many varieties of yeast), but the process of creating sake and other fermented foods and drinks is pretty interesting. Besides, those talking microbes are so darn cute. The show is really more about the ups, downs, and bizarre inanity of college life, and there’s a bit of drama and romance mixed (brewed?) in with the wacky comedy. Some agricultural grossness, college misbehavior, cross-dressing experimentation, and alcohol overuse, though they seem to toe the line on underage drinking. Older teens & up. Available at Crunchyroll.com. The anime also spawned a live-action television show (available at Funimation.com) that aired in 2010 and might be even more random than the animated version, if that’s possible.
It’s February, love is in the air, and nothing says romance like meeting your beloved at a train station. Consider the two lovebirds entwined here at London’s historic St. Pancras Railway Station—perhaps he’s a weary business commuter whose sweetheart has brightened his day with a surprise rendezvous. Maybe they’re newlyweds pausing for a kiss or three before traveling to a quaint bed-and-breakfast in Surrey for their honeymoon. She could be departing for a year of art school in Paris after this last tearful embrace. They might even be long-lost childhood friends unexpectedly reunited as they crossed the station to find their trains. So many possibilities!
The one certainty is that all their trains will run on subjective time, and we can only hope it will extend this perfect moment a little while longer.
St. Pancras Station connects to the high-speed Eurostar rail system via the Channel Tunnel, so it’s a great place to begin a Continental adventure with someone you love. You can find the original image here, along with some information about romantic travels in Europe. The bronze sculpture is titled, sensibly, “The Meeting Place.”
She’s more like the Once-In-A-While Weimaraner now, but that’s not her fault. I’ve never had a dog more inclined to posing, or more adept at it, than this one. I understand why they’re William Wegman’s favored subject.
Josie also enjoys a bit of television now and then…
…though it can sometimes be depressing.
For some reason, WordPress is now providing me more flexibility sizing the window for my banner images, and that’s a good thing, because this is one big choo-choo.
There’s no train like a snow train, and the Snowball Express here hails from Sun Valley, Idaho. I’m told there’s a slide in back, so it’s both beautiful and functional.
Like all locomotives that schuss and slalom across the Frederation, this one runs on subjective time…at least until the spring thaw sets in.
You can find the original image, and a lot more, at the Traveling Bradleys’ chronicle of their 2008 vacation. Fun stuff.