Sunday, October 30, 2011

Flat Tax Bugaloo

I may be missing something, but the Republican Pack seems to have all jumped on the Flat-Tax train now, and one of the things they are pushing, in a reccession, is a national flat sales tax... did I miss something about how sales taxes discourage, uh, sales? And therefore discourage production, jobs, growth?

I submit that the only thing the RP are doing is selling themselves to the money, not the voters. At this point in the election cycle, they are building up campaign war-chests, and not saying anything that they can't sidestep or back away from when they want voters to like them, as opposed to investors...

What Winston Churchill said about democracy, that it's the worst form of government, except for all the rest!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

5th Post of October

I haven't gotten anywhere with the 'rocket man thing', but I'm sure I'll come back to it... I never abandon anything forever!

Busy mocking myself-
Once upon a time there was a brave little DWW-2BI-240 (drawer warmer, wide, single built-in, 240 volts). He and his brother and sister were installed in a YUL and sent out into the big cold world to keep some buns, or some spuds, warm. They had many adventures in the big kitchen and made many friends while the chefs and the prep cooks, the wait staff and the bus-persons, went on about their work, oblivious...

I used to use a random creativity tool on My Journal, but I haven't in a while. You know, write for 15 minutes about a tree, without using color, or write a poem with repition, that sort of thing. I should put something together- 'Describe the surface of a truly alien world, with life not as we know it!'

The 22nd letter of the Greek alphabet is 'Chi', pronounced 'kai', and the 22nd letter of the modern alphabet is (sings it in his head- op, qrs, tuv, w is 23rd) V, for Vince. Victory, or Vick Victim, Valiant, Violence, Vapid as in the fool across from me with Tourettes, here at Newark Free Library, Volume, Voluptuous...

Sequel to 'People Watching'-

There was a bang and the ship lurched, tilted just slightly, maybe five or ten degrees. The group was all on their feet, all of them, including Melody, who looked around with a curious look on her face, but open, unafraid. Hannah and Tori took this in and shared a look. Hannah indicated the door to the lounge and took her sisters' hand, while Jules barked order, low and urgent.

"Heibai, Tori, check the corridor. Hannah, good, hang onto her tight. We're headed back to the cabin and Meng." Meng the water dragon, left locked safely in, away from any of a number of persons who would like to have done him harm. Jules regretted leaving him alone, now.

Friday, October 21, 2011

A Difficult Journey (yeah, unfinished...)

By Vincent Cleaver

The little girl woke up in a strange place. She was wearing her Sunday best and her hair was done up, and she could not remember how any of this had come to be... likewise, there were three dogs curled up to her, keeping her warm and safe. She thought about that, 'three dogs warm and safe,' and that was when she became aware that the strange place was bleak and cold.
A distant warm and golden light cast long shadows here, and the shadows were strange, empty deeps that seemed to stare back into her. The littlest of her three protectors, a Welsh Corgi like the Queen of England's, growled at the inquisitive darkness, and then barked orders. The tall sight hound, an Afghan Wolfhound with the long ears obeyed, jumping up to stand his ground between her and a particularly deep shadow, and that did not seem strange to her at all, somehow. The Corgi and the Basset Hound, together, got her up and moving towards the light.
The Afghan Wolfhound barked a warning. Cold dark things came boiling out of the shadows, and a sharp filament of that emptiness slashed at him, and he yelped. The Basset gave tongue, deep but with all the majesty of a lion, and charged. An epic battle was joined, flickering darkness versus tooth and claw. Bright red blood was spilled, and darkness dissipated like the fog, until at last the Basset Hound fell crumpled at her feet, and the sight hound stood, whining piteously, its right hind leg in tatters. The Basset reached up a weary head and licked the wound, which seemed to flow, smooth away. The Basset sighed and lay still, and then seemed to grow smaller.
The little girl found that she was looking down at an origami dog lying at her feet. There was something which she could almost remember about that... and then the memory was gone. The Corgi and the Afghan had each taken a hand, soft-mouthed, and tugged at her, to turn her away. But she pulled a hand free, reached down and picked up the scraps of the Basset, to carry away.
"As a good troop ought..." Again, it almost seemed that she caught at a memory, a man's voice telling her something important; something vital. She tried hard to remember, scrunching up her face in concentration-
"Well, aren't we adorable?" A voice said, from a tall dark man standing beside the path ahead of them. The dog’s whines and she hurried, but could not resist looking over. Somehow she knew that she should not have done that.
"Who are you?" She did know she shouldn't speak to strangers, either. But she was all alone out here, except for the two remaining dogs, which bristled. The afghan stepped between her and the man.
He was tall and dark, pale-skinned with black hair and the blackest eyes she had ever seen. He smiled and the perfect white teeth seemed sharp, somehow.
"I'm a friend of your father's... he sent me to help you-"
The afghan began to bark wildly and lunged at the man. But the Corgi barked another order and he stopped, growling and very tense, muscles all aquiver.
"That's a mean dog you got there, Missy."
The little girl shook her head, but she shushed the Afghan. "Bad dog!"
The Afghan turned back to her, hurt and ashamed to be a 'bad dog'. The Corgi yipped accusingly. And the Tall Dark Man smiled.
"There would seem to be some question as to who's in charge here."
'Missy' decided that she didn't like a smile very much at all.
"I am, sir. I know that much. My Dad-" she remembered her Dad then, all together and the Tall Dark Man frowned. "My Dad says that I'm responsible to any dogs I find, and they are responsible to me! We made them, and they are ours, and we are theirs..."
"Where is this paragon of," he seemed about to say something else, "Man, hmm?"
The little girl felt her certainty slipping away again. "I... I'm going on ahead, to see my grand pop. He said, he said..."
"He and Mom, and grand mom, all the rest, will be along. That I'm just going on ahead is all!"
 "Don't count on that, kid," the man said with and edginess. The Corgi crept up to stand with the Afghan. "Hell, most of 'em lose their way before they even get this far, and most of the rest give up in the sight of-" he could not say the word, seemed almost to strangle on the word unsaid. It left a bad taste in his mouth and he spit.
"This road is paved with despair."
The Little girl marched forward, and the dark man flinched. He recovered and sneered.
"Give it up; there's nothing special-"
The Afghan lunged at him, barking wildly, and something very strange happened- golden light shined from his jaws, and where it touched the man, he winced. Burns welled up and he back-handed the dog from an impossible distance. His reach was just suddenly that much greater. The Afghan rolled with the blow and bit the hand. The man roared like some maddened bull and seemed to melt into a jagged shape, all horns and spikes and razor-sharp edges.  The dogs seemed to change, too. Their hackles were up, but the fur glowed with a lustrous truth, as if they were not just two dogs, but the very idea of two dogs; as if they were God's Dogs.
"Stop!" The girl shouted, and for a wonder all three did. The thing which was not a mad blinked at her.
"You let the Darkness into you, didn't you?"
"Don't be such a chi-"
"Don't lie! You gave up! Blame nobody else but yourself!"
The thing cocked its' head sideways. "I take it back. You're a tough little cookie, aren't you? Hard-baked all the way through..."
 (I need to wrap this up, get her to that golden light on the horizon)
Back in the world of the living, a man lay face resting in his arms, asleep at the table. his good suit jacket was draped on the back of his chair and his long white sleeves were rolled up. His hands were rough and scarred, a workman's hands, and they held the last of the paper dogs which he'd been making. The other two were on the table, along with a memorial card for the little girl. The three origami dogs were a tall sight hound with long ears hanging down, a short, barrel-chested hound with a large muzzle and a prominent tail, and the one in his hands was another short dog with pointed ears, a Welsh Corgi.
The man slept peacefully, with a smile on his face. His wife came in and kissed him on the cheek without waking him. She sat down at the table, touched the face of the girl, and the paper dogs, each in turn, and she fell asleep by him, her hand over his and the Corgi.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

First Part of Burning Leaves

The view was spectacular, a false-color rendering of what the astrogator sees looking out on the bubble of realspace around our ship. It took up the entire outer wall of Archangel Micheals' forward lounge, the 'wet' one for passengers and off-duty crew. The shields kept other-space at bay, but it crowded in on us. Something pinged off to port, and then again. Something wanted in badly...
There are things out here, that aren't quite there. No, I tell a lie- we definitely aren't all here, in that other space where we travel between the stars, but the predators, they are. They find rather tasty the stray atoms of matter from our starships, which slip through the shields and decay into other-matter.
I imagine an entire dying ship is like a seven course meal to them.
I sat at the bar considering the remainder of my bottle of smoky old Everblue whiskey, listening to the crowd, keeping my thoughts to myself. But they had company.
"Big damn monsters!" The grizzled old engineer was saying. "They pace us from time to time in otherspace. Occasionally they go after a starship. Considering the ones which go missing every year, they must take a few, but there are of course no survivors."
The rookie hanging on every word shivered appreciatively. A jumped up tunnel-farm mechanic with stars in her eyes (but don't we all, or why else brave the void?), she was equal parts rough, idealistic, even optimistic. God bless her and keep her so, for at least a little while longer. I turned away and tried to ignore them.
"You play that thing?"
A whippet-lean young spaceborn man had ghosted right up into the stool next to me. In the weak faux gravity he moved with an effortless grace, and he indicated the guitar case at my feet with the tip of a ship's knits bootie, not quite touching. Ship's manners, 90% pretense and bending over backwards to avoid giving offense. Good thing- if he had scuffed up 'Betty' I'd have had to hurt him.
"I do, when I want to."
"Do you, ma'am? Want to?"
He had an easy smile with just a hint of mischief, but a tad young for me.
"Maybe I do, if you know what you want me to play..."
The smile left his face and he dropped his eyes to his brew. "I'm partial to 'Burning Leaves', or the 'Captain's Daughter'."
"'Leaves' is a sad song, homesick and bittersweet... I'll sing it by and by. The 'Captain's Daughter' is just what this crowd needs to liven things up- good choice." I reached down and picked up 'Betty', caught the barkeeps' eye. She nodded, slightly less bored and I took the little corner stage, a step up was all.
The 'Captain's Daughter' is a bit of a crowd-pleaser and a traveling bards' stock in trade. It's about all the unlikely and racy things a captain's daughter might get up to, and all the unlikely and unfortunate things that might happen to an errant crew-member, pun definitely intended. We must have gone through thirty verses before I took a little break and then asked for requests. I got 'Green Hills', which I hadn't done in years, 'The Death-Song of Defiant', 'Columbia's Rest', 'Bottled Lightning', 'The Big Rock Candy-Mountain', 'Walking in Memphis', 'The Man in Black', and ones that had been old when starships first left Earth- 'Amazing Grace' and 'The Wild Rover'...
An executive from the Golden Stars asked for 'Katyusha', which I knew in Old Russki and Nihongo, so I sang it twice, and 'Men of Harlech' in Welsh, which fell a little flat as I was the only one who spoke it, and then Teklish. I go out of my way to learn the old songs in their original words if I can, as well as bastard Teklish; I have a gift for picking languages up and it pays off time after time. I'm not rich, but I could move from one end of the spiral arm to the other without going through customs once, and there have been a few misspent years where I have... lost myself, gone walkabout.
I kept my word to the kid and played 'Burning Leaves' as things wound down.

"...But the leaves of the forest, back on my Homeworld,
Flash to ashes, flash to ashes, and bitterness I taste.
Gone are the old-times, here are the war-times,
Full of fear and rage, revenge and hate, want and waste.

Remember, remember, the burning promise,
That things will be a-borning, renewing again?

In the ruin of my forest, on my wasteland,
There are hard little nuts, all hidden away.
Hopelessly optimistic, those brown little things,
So patiently they are waiting, come whatever may…"

The barkeep had cut the kid off, so he was drinking a bulb of juice. She'd put my bottle away and got it out for me again, and said to the crowd "Last Call!" They kept her busy and I poured myself the second to last shot from the bottle of whiskey.
"The barkeep knows you, says you've been around..."
"Really? She's a talker, that one," I said glaring at her. She smirked and gave me an ironic two-finger salute. "Let's see, I first ran into her on 'Nautilus'; Lucy was a purser and kept bar in the rear lounge of 'Naughtie' for second class. The big liners proved out thirty years ago, but she had a nasty little disagreement with the Company and got bounced down and then all around on the tramps. 'Mike' is a step up, but he's pushing three hundred if he's a day-"
"'Archangel Michael' was in Shadow Fleet, used to be a heavy cruiser, during The Hiding. My grandmother was her last war-captain; my Dad and my uncles captained her for a while, until they sold out. The Captain-Owner... signed me on as a bit of a legacy."
"How's that working out?"
He sighed. "I can't really say for sure. I've got a whole set of friends and enemies on this boat that I never made, 'ties of heart and blood' my grandmother would have said. I... I haven't sorted them out yet."
"Good luck with that."
"What keeps you..."
I turned to face him and waited him out.
"Why did you choose this life?"
I shrugged. "I was a refugee at first, and I've been on starships since I was four. Picked up music cause I've got a little talent, both for playing the guitar and for playing a crowd. Starship crews'll let any old bum dead-head, if they're interesting and not too picky about where they sleep or..." I smiled. It has been an interesting life. "The chow. But choose the life? No. I fell into it, or it chose me, whichever."
The kid nodded. "I guess it chose me, too."
He blinked. "Yeah, I guess I am at that."

Golden Stars- Zolotoy Zvezdy

People Watching

Tori was turned around in her seat, watching the people eating in airship dining lounge. People-watching was one of the things she really enjoyed, once she learned to actually do so. Enjoy, that is. Making knives was her other great passion and came from the same need, to control an uncertain world. Now she was good at both, and enjoyed both, very, very much.
“You know, I can’t help but feel a little ignored and taken for granted, Victoria,” Heibai teased with mock-seriousness. The two Clinkenbeard sisters giggled and the older one, Hannah, leaned across to take and squeeze his hand. Heibai turned his almond-shaped eyes her way. Tori noted that, and maybe smiled a little, all while turning back to them and nibbling on her toast. Such luxury she’d never know in the habitats, or even remembered from before that second day of dragons. Real bread, sliced, toasted… buttered. Tori shivered deliciously, tasting the butter on her tongue. It sure as hell beat a hundred gram bar of kibble!
“You sure like your toast,” the little sister piped up. Melody, that was her name. The little bird, or mouse; Jules called her ma petit and spoke French with her. Tori smiled back at her, thinking of all of the little ones she’d watched over under Mother’s hand, provided for with questionable skills and deeds.
“I do. Do you, uh, eat like this all the time, back on Tienshan?” That was the Heavenly Mountain, in the Chinese, their home-world and birth-world. It was strange to think that they were aliens, born and bred, whereas she and Jules Le Croix were the only Earthlings present at the table and the only Americans, at that, although she considered herself a Vee-burg Gal, now, a grudgingly accepted citizen of the Republic of Venus, et al.
“More or less. Live meat animals, veggies, and complex carbs from native grains, though, and not vat protein or spirulina, the byproduct of some ship or habitats’ life-system.”
Tori smiled innocently. “We have rat whenever we can get it…”
The people at the next table turned and stared at her and Jules nodded pleasantly at them. They turned back to their conversation and attempted to ignore the outlanders as best they could.
“Sticking it to The Man? Please be a little more discrete, Ms. Vegas, for me?”
Tori’s smile faded just a little. “Yes sir, Jules-“
Jules laughed. “Don’t ‘Sir’ me; I work for a living!”
Confused, Tori shrugged. “Teacher and boss-man, what else should I…?”
“Not an officer, period! Okay, pop-quiz,” he said briskly changing the subject. “What can you tell me about the threats, in this room?”
“You, Heibai and I are the most dangerous-“
“Hey!” Hanah interrupted.
“Hannah is not carrying. Otherwise I’d say it was a tie for first or second place.” She leaned back and nodded slightly, unobtrusively indicating that other table of offended diners. “She’s his bodyguard, but from the signals I’m getting, she doesn’t much care for him. Discrete black-market small caliber pistol I’d say, and bare-hands. He’s useless; twenty kilos over and out of condition…”
“The sports team?”
“Linear soccer and probably a wild-card. But they will react as a unit and back each other up. The singleton with the reader is the one that interests me.”
“Really? Assassin?”
“Professor of 20th Century Literature. He was telling his waiter all about Chandler and Sayers; also mentioned Poe.”
“Very good work, Probie.”
Tori smiled. When Jules Le Croix was impressed, you done good, indeed.

Crisis of Faith Averted, Going off the Deep End...

I'm going to splash around in the deep end of the pool and see if I can write 2K words a day for my own private NaNoWriMo. The New October Novel, aiming for 60K words by the 31st, starts today, and I have no idea what I'll write about.

Why yes, I am crazy, did you really need to ask?

Lately I haven't been able to write, haven't been able to finish anything. But I went to John Passarella's Book Launch Signing Party 'Night Terror'!/event.php?eid=243389872373250

and he talked about the writing life, among other things. Writing to contract, he used an outline, but writing on spec, for love if you will, he kinda sorta wrote his way to the end. I can't make the outline thing work, but I love diving into the story and answering my own questions as I go. Not very disciplined, but there you go- it works/doesn't work for me, YMMV!

So, what it think I'll do is take a few of those old writing chestnuts and burn them in the imaginary fireplace- write what you know, write what interests you. Maybe a paper-folding fool who has created his first orignal paper-dog? Or a Sci-Fi fan who wants to live forever and terraform Mars...

I'll figure something out; I always manage.