Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Up to 45,000 Words...

I hit 45,000 words today. Well over 1/2 way through it.

I've been envisioning this story for a while, since at least late 2000. The first chapter hasn't really changed much in over four years. Just after I wrote the first chapter, I realized what the structure of the novel would be, and have pretty much stuck to that structure.

Of course, some of the details have changed, but the character arcs are basically intact. And during most of the last four years, I really didn't have all that much of the novel actually written. I was up to about 17,000 words as of about six weeks ago, and have written over 28,000 words since then (probably closer to 30,000, but have periodically gone back and pruned). I also keep jumping around what I'm writing. Now that the beginning is solid, I'm mostly writing chapters in the middle and chapters near the end.

Now that I'm having some success at getting the writing done, a contract job is beckoning and I'll have a second interview for a permanent job that sounds pretty interesting. It never rains but it pours...

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Letter to Senator Specter on S. 786

I appeal to you to please not vote for Senator Santorum's S. 786 - National Weather Services Duties Act of 2005. As written, it could privitize the excellent online services already provided by National Weather Service. It sounds like an act written only to protect the business of AccuWeather in State College - it again puts the interest of a private business (and contributor to Senator Santorum's re-election campaign) above the interests of the taxpayer.

Where will this kind of behavior end? Can we rely on at least one of our senators in Pennsylvania to care at all about its citizens?


Laurie D. T. Mann
Mount Lebanon, PA

My Linguistic Profile...

45% Yankee

35% General American English

15% Upper Midwestern

5% Dixie

0% Midwestern

I'm not sure how 5% Dixie crept into my speech as I've never lived further south than southern Ohio... The rest of it makes sense.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Santorum Bought by AccuWeather, Lock, Stock and Barrel

Do you think you have a right to get free weather information from the government's weather service? Rick doesn't think so - he thinks his constituants who own AccuWeather in State College should control online access to weather information. He's filed legislation (S. 786) that would, essentially, force much government meteorological information off-line. The relevant part states:

(b) COMPETITION WITH PRIVATE SECTOR- The Secretary of Commerce shall not provide, or assist other entities in providing, a product or service (other than a product or service described in subsection (a)(1)) that is or could be provided by the private sector unless--

(1) the Secretary determines that the private sector is unwilling or unable to provide such product or service; or

(2) the United States Government is obligated to provide such product or service under international aviation agreements to provide meteorological services and exchange meteorological information.

In short, since AccuWeather is in the private sector, it means that the NOAA Web site ( and its data could be forced off the Web.

This is a typical Republican response - protect your corporate pals at all costs. Never mind that citizens, scientists and other people whose taxes have already paid for the collection of the data can't access it as easily. Just keep your buddies employed.

Thanks to The Daily Kos for picking up on this - no one in the Pittsburgh media seems to have yet.

Yet another reason that Rick must be voted out next year. If you need any more evidence, read DumpRick (yes, I know it's another Web site I own...).

Progress Continues on the Novel

I hit 37,000 words this afternoon, which I suspect is somewhere close to being half way through. If I continue at my current pace, I should be done in June.

I spent last weekend in California, in Palo Alto, which is becoming one of my favorite places in the country. One of the colleges I'd considered going to over thirty years ago was Stanford, just because it sounded so wonderful. Last week, I got to visit Stanford, and was very much impressed.

Jim and I went to Palo Alto to work on the scheduling of the Programme for this year's Worldcon, which will be in Glasgow. Scotland. Only in fandom! After a weekend of dealing with Post-It Notes on a large board, we went to Gilroy for dinner with Jim's employees and his boss. Then Jim stayed in California for a week of IBM meetings, and I came home on Monday.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Missing in Action: Environmental Protection Agencies...

I spent last week working on Pittsburgh 2005: Conference on Health and Environment. It was a fascinating conference. As I wound up helping with A/V during the conference itself, I got to hear a number of researchers and public policy folks give very interesting talks on medical and public health issues around the environment.

This conference attracted about 250 folks from all over the northeast, probably about 1/3rd reserachers, 1/3rd activists and 1/3rd others. There were even a few people from the Centers for Disease Control, which was good - at least one governmental agency was paying some attention.

However, one agency that seemed to be completely unrepresented was the Environmental Protection Agency. There did not seem to be anyone from either the federal or the state EPA at this environmental and health conference.

Why not?

In the case of the federal EPA, it shouldn't be a big surprise. When was the last time the federal EPA considered health more important than business? I was a little more disappointed by the state EPA's failure to show up, but given the state had just given permission for a coke plant to blast even more mercury into our environment, I shouldn't have been surprised about that, either. Heavy metal toxicity is probably going to be a bigger problem to our health than nuclear power ever was threatened to be.

Monday, April 11, 2005

If Ya Can't Beat 'Em...The Unitarian Jihad (Reform) Strikes Again!

I saw the Unitarian Jihad comments from Jon Carroll all over the place, both in political and SF-related blogs over the last few days.

So I decided to join the reform movement...

My Unitarian Jihad Name is: Sister Switchblade of Moderation. What's yours?

This is kind of ironic as Mary Kay Kare, who looks a little like me but is rather smaller than I am, got to be the "Flaming Sword of Moderation." So does that mean I'm more moderate than she, or less? ;->

Been working on the novel more. It keeps getting darker and more marginally sfnal. Oh well, and there I was going for a contemporary novel with a few satiric twists. I hit 29,000 words today, after a few days of working on a local conference and recovering from that.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Mary Doria Russell's A Thread of Grace

Russell wrote the splendid The Sparrow and Children of God in the late '90s, and went on to win the Campbell Award for best new writer. Then she spent the next seven or so years researching and writing A Thread of Grace, a book about the Holocaust set against the background of the Italian resistance, 1943-1945.

The book works pretty well on many levels, but it is a little hard to follow. However, as you finish it you understand why she had so many characters and so many locales and why this is so important to the story.

Russell's ability to write completely haunting scenes is very much in evidence in this book. One near the end caused me to burst out crying in a public location and will stay with me for a very long time (luckily, I was alone and managed to pull myself together before anyone happened by).

I highly recommend this book, though it's a shame that the one scene set in 2007 probably isn't enough to to make it nominatable for the Hugo next year. However, no doubt that this book is much closer to history than to speculative fiction.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Really Writing, Not Just Tinkering

So up until about three weeks ago, I had about 17,000 words of a novel on my PC, one I started thinking of about four years ago. From time to time, I'd change a word here or there, but really made little progress.

I've written nearly 6,000 words over the least three weeks, and still have some notes and miscellaneous scenes not yet online that I still plan to integrate. So I might have close to 30,000 words total. The story is taking an unexpected turn or two, but the basic outline is the same I came up with in early 2001.

Working on the novel has been slowed a little by my temporary job (which will be over in less than a week) and still doing some Briany History work. Still, I seem to be making progress.