Archive for July 7, 2018

© 2018 G.N. Jacobs

Carmen Alcantros had most of the bleeders under her strong fingers pushing back against against the water balloon straining to pop in her hands. Sweat ran freely down over her dark eyebrows gifted from a certain painter in the maternal bloodline. Even here with a heart in hand and exposed by use of a chest spreader, the nearest nurse not handing over tools found a rag. But, the feel at her fingertips said the smallest leak in the family would find a way around her grip.

“We’re losing him!” Carmen said her volume increasing to match the din in the room. “Hurry up on the pump bypass…please! I think I know where the extra bleed is, but I don’t have enough fingers! Size three clamp!”

The rag nurse nodded under her cap and stepped over to another table where the patient had been black tagged. The tray kit hadn’t been touched but still the nurse took no chances pouring the vile smelling local spirits that just barely qualified as ethanol over the tools. Carmen still couldn’t believe people drank that green liquor that shared elements with absinthe, flambé brandy and neutral grain spirits. She dunked the tools and torched them with a flint chip ducking out of the way of the blast before taking off the soot with a second dunking. Probably only Mad Cow prions would survive.

Soon enough twelve clamps held the beating heart together long enough for Carmen to pull out her hands to guide the tubes for the bypass. Suddenly the pulse raced at three times optimal for this delicate procedure giving the feel on her hands of a snare drum beating out Ready before a firing squad did its worst. The rag nurse came over again mumbling words that seemed to make her hands glow blue.

The heart stopped at the nurse’s touch and the bypass tubes found their way to the arteries and veins going around the damaged heart. At a nod, the dwarf manning the hand crank put his back into pumping blood around the heart. Carmen had seen enough masked medical practitioners and their eyes to know what could come next.

“Tellaria, don’t,” Carmen instructed. “You’ve been going for hours on this shift. Save your spells for defibrillation, serious microbes and the like. The hand crank is close enough. We train this way.”

Tellaria nodded agreement before putting a hand to her temple. She widened her stance leaning against the table with the now dead black tagged orc. Her surgical cap loosened revealing the tip of her elfin ear and a strand of previously silvery hair now sweat streaked to the wet inky black of squid ink.

“Doctor, I need food,” Tellaria asserted. “I will continue when…”

The nurse on the tool tray yanked off her gloves and found an emergency mutton, lettuce and tomato sandwich in her hip bag. Tellaria nodded gratefully chewing her food. Carmen briefly noted the interaction between Tellaria, the tall she-elf that really should be jumping on the hero human king in this story, and Dellerna, a wellbit she said she was. The nurses shared a watery eyed look that portended much in the way of sapphic passion. And then they went back to work by way of the water bucket and the same filthy green spirit. New gloves went on and it was time to sew up the heart.

“Doctor, I wonder when your magic will catch up to you,” Tellaria said. “The note from your mother said you were a witch.”

Carmen shrugged sewing up the last suture and clearing her hands and metal tools from the chest cavity. Tellaria feeling the bump from the sandwich made her hands glow and – ZZZZZZZZT! – started jolting the still heart back into sinus rhythm. It was on the fifth jolt from the she-elf that Carmen lived the answer to her question, when a jolt of blue flame arose from the nearby candle bay up into the mirrors on the ceiling and flowed into Carmen.

“Ahhhhhhh!” Carmen blurted spinning in circles.

When it was over the paper surgical cap had caught fire. Tellaria mumbled more words that conjured the magic equivalent of a water balloon splashing her new friend’s hair and scrubs. Fire and scorched hair averted, Carmen stood as tall as her five-five spine would allow with a glint to her blue eyes that presaged lots of megalomaniac words some likely written by Shelley.

Tellaria touched Carmen on the cheek and reeled her in for a hug. The she-elf could feel how her body grounded and shunted the nascent power away from the newborn witch. Carmen sat on the floor breathing it up well past 50 breaths per minute in short sharp gasps. And then it was over, leaving Carmen with a strange bluish heads up display over her field of vision with sliders indicating internal power, connection to the local field and a blank section for spells learned.

Tellaria gently lifted Carmen up from the floor and touched the quivering cheek.

“Show me, Carmen,” Tellaria said. “I’m curious.”

Carmen felt her new friend in both the physical and mental realms which manifested as a curious double image with lots of vibrato to her speaking voice. And then the heads up display and double images disappeared as Tellaria firmly held Carmen’s cheek.

Think of a word or phrase you’d never say, Tellaria said in Carmen’s mind.

Naked singularity, Carmen heard herself think.

Repeat it three times.

Naked singularity. Naked singularity. Naked singularity.

The heads up display cleared from Carmen’s field of vision. Tellaria reeled her friend in for a hug and gentle kiss to the forehead.

“Say your word once to activate your connection to the magic,” Tellaria said matter of fact. “Say it three times to clear it.”

“How does this work?”

Tellaria took Carmen outside into the warm night air. “Some magic happens just by saying the phrase you need in a sufficiently old and disused language and willing it so. The rest requires ritual, ingredients and whole books of sayings. For the first type, you’re only limited by your imagination and the interplay of you and your surrounding magic. The second type drains everything within reach, you, your mother and the cute little lap dog living in the corner house.”

“Teach me,” Carmen requested.

“That was your mother’s intent sending you to me,” Tellaria said extending her hand. “Now it’s a fair trade, your medicine for my magic. We begin tomorrow.”

Carmen leaned into the hug from the she-elf wizardess. “You’ve got magic why do…Owwww!”

Tellaria pinched her new pupil. “Silly girl! Magic as we understand it doesn’t directly heal people. You have showed me to redirect common spells into the body for medical purpose like replacing the lightning that stops a heart, but direct healing has always been the province of our Holy Men and Women. Not terribly fair, but there it is.”

“So we’d need a cleric?”

“Yes.”

“Cleric Shmeric!” Carmen blurted. “Who needs a cleric?”

Tellaria shook her head. The moment was interrupted when the dwarf that had manned the hand crank came running out.

“Ladies, my brother just turned against us!”

Tellaria and Carmen shared a look before running into the ward.

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2018-07-07 12.29.05

© 2018 G.N. Jacobs

“Do you realize what you have done?”

“Yes, I do, I’ve given you back the horrors of war. The Vendikans will assume you’ve broken your agreement and are preparing to wage real war with real weapons. They’ll want to do the same. Only the next attack will do a lot more than count up numbers on a computer. They’ll destroy your cities, devastate your planet. You, of course, will want to retaliate. If I were you, I’d start making bombs. You, Councilor, have a real war on your hands. You can either wage it with real weapons, or you might consider…an alternative. Put an end to it. Make peace.”

And this middle section of a big James T. Kirk speech from TOS: A Taste of Armageddonanswers for me a similar question posed by a Minbari to a human monk on another show – “what is the emotional core of your faith?” Seeing Captain Kirk defend in three blocks the indefensible concept of war, not as a good thing but as something so scary that we never want another. In another similar context, we can also page Captain Willard to chime in – “I wanted a mission and for my sins they gave me one. And when I was done, I would never want another.”

Basically, gets me every time and…yeah, fan for life.

People sometimes remember the speech as being longer. It is. I said it came in three blocks and I do have to minimize the direct quote plagiarism, at least some of the time. The first block covered how long the war between two neighboring plants fighting digitally lasted and built up the tension with Kirk saying – “You’ve made it neat and painless. So neat and painless, you have no reason to stop. And you’ve had it for five hundred years.”

Spock identifies the computer for destruction. Kirk takes aim leading to the second bloc quoted above.

In the third block, the Councilor getting the lecture finally gets in a word edgewise (it is the very prototype of a Kirk morality speech, after all). And the man uses it to assert killing is an instinctual drive. Kirk, who is threatening his own total destruction of the planet, launches into a slightly smaller block anchored by – “we’re not going to kill today.”

What else is so instructive about this speech, beyond presenting a ballsy for the time philosophy that defines a huge part about being a Trekkie? By the way, Trekkie and Trekker are interchangeable…straights still laugh at us and Orange-nistas still reject the philosophical foundations of the show.

For one thing, I’m absolutely certain that there are a few pauses in this speech as spoken by William Shatner that have led to his often spoofed vocal delivery by people playing Kirk in homage. I will transcribe a common version with excessively pregnant pauses – “You…killed…my…man…you…Klingon…bastard!” Or his son, David Marcus, another story for another day.

You’ll notice in the quoted block that I dropped in only one ellipses to indicate the one dramatic pause that actually resolved out of watching the speech block. As I watch the episodes again, I find the basis for the pause heavy delivery busted out by such luminaries as John Belushi – “Captain’s log, stardate June 1969, it has been our five-year mission to seek out new life and intelligence in the galaxy. With the exception of one television network, we have found it.” – almost nonexistent. Yes, Shatner paused a lot, but not to where you get the parody delivery. But, there are a lot more pauses in this speech than most of the others. And so a caricature is born.

The episode about Kirk running around blowing up citizen disintegration booths as part of a philosophical episode about the perils of becoming too comfortable with war has other fun things as well. No redshirts were harmed in the filming of this episode. Yes, Kirk beams up with the same number of crew, including redshirt security officers, as beamed down. How does that happen since Star Trek actually namedthe redshirt trope?

Additionally, the lady in the Little Red Star Trek Dress is allowed to be more competent than usual. Understanding the currents in which the show aired, most of us understand Star Trek as progressive for the time. I should probably put for its timein italics…there.

The lady in the Little Red Dress, a yeoman sent on the landing party to keep the records on the tricorder running on the general setting, almost never got to be more than simply there. Or a damsel in distress. And God forbid she should throw punches…except that one time in The Apple. And she never got hurt, except when in By Any Other Name, the writers faced with wiping out a black redshirt or the yeoman had Rojan crush the lady’s 12-side die of body solids.

This kind of baby steps feminism where the death of the male redshirt implies that the lady was also in danger (the villains simply missed someone with unexpected amounts of Script Immunity also called Plot Armor), I guess counts. No other show of the era would even bring Little Red Dress down to the planet. This trope landed this way because the network thought having women being too strong would kill male fans’ enjoyment of the show and moved Majel Barrett over to play Nurse Chapel.

This episode gave us an in between level of competence from the Asian lady playing the yeoman for this episode, along the lines of give her a disruptor and set her to guard a female prisoner. The actress hammed it up sticking the prop gun in the other character’s ribs as if she’d never get another chance.

But, we can mine this episode for the small reasons for enjoyment, but we always come full circle back to the speech. And the possible missing elements another writer (me) would’ve dropped in to continue driving the nail about being too comfortable with war.

“We fight the real thing, Anon. We eat it up with two spoons as bloody as we can get and…surprise, we haven’t fought in any conflict more extensive than a border skirmish for nearly 100 years.”

Probably too much of a good thing in the sense of William Friedkin resisting the longer The Exorcistcut for years – “those scenes only make the movie longer.”

The one nail I’d really drive is to have Kirk directly enter into the playground fight about whether the Vendikans actually blew up the Enterprise. As a computer simulation, the initial attack was scored as a hit despite the Federation’s incrementally greater technology in shields and engines. And I remembered that time I played Army with a borrowed gun and two different rules for how long and where the “dead” had to count off before resurrecting back into the game; I broke the gun and stormed home on foot.

Now to avoid deception for this part of the discussion, the Enterprise wasn’t at General Quarters and so the imaginary high yield nuke mighthave gotten through. However, the state of Secured From General Quarters (actually Secure from Red Alert) doesn’t always mean a complete relaxation of the watch, either the ship only drops to Yellow Alert or a unnamed lesser state of readiness expected upon arriving at new inhabited planets that includes a sensor watch. If Sulu has his eyes open the imaginary missile dies against the freshly raised shields; an assumption based Kirk knowing and trusting his team.

The imaginary dialogue here – “Anon, you know, I almost wish the Vendikans had fired a real missile at my ship. The hit is predicated on your missiles penetrating my shields…and…the…preparedness…of…the…best…starship…crew…in…the…galaxy. You fire and get a hit when my people got caught with their pants down…fine, I need whiskey and flowers. You fire and my shields eat up the shots, maybe you’ll believe me when I sing ‘missed us, missed us, you dirty back-scratcher!’”

Still probably too much of a good thing, but it would be hilarious to see even outtakes of William Shatner saying those lines.

And there we have it, a lot of different reasons to groove on my favorite most formative Star Trek episode. Ahead Warp Factor One!

2018-06-14 13.25.57© 2018 G.N. Jacobs

Begone, demon Facebook! And some days that just described my whole day as a writer. Except when Amazon Prime has something cool on, then my day includes that too. Other days, hyperbole, Moron, like today where I’m using up my Fourth of July to write without reading my promised pages.

It’s a hot day and my comic book store hang might close early. I have beer growing warmer by the second…and mint cookies. I’m good for a few hours.

So anyway, social media. Leaving aside the political bits of Facebook that I ignore/skim over because until we open our mouths everybody theoretically is a good customer/reader, I still spend too much time here. And, yes, getting into a geek/writer snit is only slightly less of a rabbit hole than the equally available political snits waiting in the wings.

On any given evening, you might find me bloviating on a Babylon 5page. Or a science fiction page of which I’m in three or four. Occasionally, I might have something to say on thriller pages and a few others. I joined most of them to have a convenient place to plant links when I write one of these blog posts. Some, I either joined the wrong pages, or I just haven’t figured out the local tolerance for WordPress links.

Recently, I saw a post asking about some arcane knowledge in Babylon 5involving a race renowned for genetic manipulation of other races to create telepaths. My answer sparked a snit with another gent who claimed to have done some work with the creator of the show. He cited one episode produced earlier in the series than the one I cited which clearly made my case that the species in question wouldn’t have undergone further manipulation after the other big race on the show killed all the local telepaths.

This went maybe four go arounds where he essentially asserted the earlier episode supersedes the later knowledge of the episode I cited. By this time, it’s 3am and bedtime, I search through to Wikipedia and then click through to an archived database created in the wake of the show’s first airing where I find a purported quote concerning the episode he pointed me at from the creator of the show (I suspect Gene Roddenberry is glad to be dead before the advent of social media) that actually proves my point.

My parting shot of the exchange was to Cut and Paste this quote into the box and go to bed. I don’t know that I won despite appearances of having the last shot with an unchallenged factoid. Why? Stop feeding the beast and ignore the remainder of the exchange is a perfectly viable tactic. I’ve used it myself…frequently.

On other days, I comment on other writer pages. Functionally, it’s same comment…write your words, don’t worry about many things that get in the way, almost a polite F-O to some of these jokers. There’s another gentthat might just like feeding the fish lots of chum. Or he really is an anti-Free Expression douchebag pining for morals committees and censorship. A writer that doesn’t like Free Expression…yeah, not just bait, but chum.

Other times, some newbie will post a completely ridiculous half-hearted attempt at an author photo. Two of them, actually. And nearly everybody else in the group lands on this poor guy with both feet. At first, I just said my opinion of the uninspired selfie photography on offer.

But, peer pressure being still occasionally a thing even for kids who are only chronologically middle aged, I couldn’t resist taking the slightly better photo and dropping in a shark head, a katana and copious amounts of blood, all from the same FX app. My caption referenced a pretty cool beer commercial – “I don’t always write novels, but when I do I like to behead land sharks in my polo uniform (The Second Most Interesting Man in the World). At least one other person wallowing in Bad Karma Land called it “epic” and wished I had GIF technology.

Bad Karma on the half-shell, but it was kind of funny to gently play with a guy that needed to put in more thought into his headshot.

As you might guess, I do perform other vital tasks than join the Moron Brigade. The rest of the time I…

…do actually write. I wake up and eat eggs, bacon and fruit getting intimate with my pot of decaf. I recently switched over because four cups of regular let me with my shirt over my head making fun of Lake Titicaca(extra points if you get my reference). Then I warm up my gear.

In that vein, I type on my Too Cool for My Shirt typewriter keyboard (people do think it’s cool, they said so). Or flop on my couch, finger tapping to the tunes of Beethoven and the rest of the dead guys in wigs. Or plug in the gear into the TV mirroring cable and push some pedals trying to do two things at once, exercise and write, even though these might be mutually exclusive.

Other days, the stir crazy factor builds up and I have to get out of the house. I wind up at a coffeehouse doing pretty much the same thing as at home. Swill coffee in bigger cups, chow down on croissants or muffins and hope that my caffeine buzz outlasts my word flow by no more than about a half hour. Too much buzz and I don’t sleep.

Somewhere along the line, I quit being done for the day except for dinner, exercise, an occasional short second stint of writing, reading (not as much as I’d like) and TV. Currently, that’s the old SF show Andromeda, one of the few shows that seems different the second time doing the Mega Binge (not delving into that bit of perceptual philosophy, I like avoiding exploding heads). And then I find more things on Facebook baiting me to bloviate.

My days are quite similar each and every day. Good thing, I like my job.

 

img_3480© 2018 G.N. Jacobs

Microsoft is at it again, doing everything they can to make mobile writing without signing up for the Office 365 service next to impossible. Sometimes I forget when I last bashed Microsoft over their need to convince me to rent the writing equivalent of a screwdriver (where I will rent something big that I’ll use once in ten years, like a tile saw). Bashed it once before the introduction of the new column format (it’s buried deep in the archive site) and commented again once the mobile apps released most of the usability restrictions, maybe two years ago. And now I must bash again…

This time I got a double whammy. The big one came when upgrading to my brand spankin’ shiny new iPad Pro just a few weeks ago. Yes, the app I had  on the old iPad carried over copying all my local files and then they spring a complete shutdown of doing any new work on me. Can’t edit any old works. Can’t start any new works.

I brush the metaphorical dust from my feet and start looking for alternatives for Word and the rest of Office while keeping my apps on my trusty iPhone 6S Plus. I haven’t upgraded my phone because what I have is good enough (especially with the camera) and even using Sprint’s two-year plan option to get the best purchase price the newer phones are ridiculously expensive. The buy more dongles like for a headphone jack design issues didn’t help either.

At this point in answering the how do I write mobile question, the phone versions of my apps are still letting me write the way my patterns say I should. I can still Cut and Paste a chapter into the larger manuscript file after tapping the Page Break button and removing my standard automatic first line indent formatting so the new chapter pastes clean, exactly as I wrote it. I’m not thinking that much about it.

While still only dealing with the iPad issues, I try out Apple’s Pages. I work up a format for blogs and a format for chapters that looks exactly like what I already use (don’t reinvent the wheel). And I get a-tappin’. Very quickly  I find out that many times you get exactly what you pay for with free stuff.

For me the issues with Pages were the little things like the system deciding to guess at centering chapter headers and post titles. And I’ve known for years since the introduction of the software that talking to people on Word needed a serious Cut and Paste and universal translator to work without too much hassle. On the plus side with Pages, you can work mobile if you like Apple’s gear (I do) and you tie in through your iCloud account. I also didn’t notice anything about the typing action to make me go nuts. It will work for somebody with slightly different requirements and less snotty fussiness (I might be legendary in that regard).

The experiment with Pages ends before the second Microsoft whammy. There had been several updates to the mobile app. I’m pretty sure they count on us treating updates as routine and automatic; I’m not sure when they did this, but I woke up one day unable to add a page break for the new chapter. You  guessed it, the message read something like – THAT IS AN ADVANCED FEATURE  REQUIRING AN OFFICE  365 ACCOUNT. And now I’m  angry.

I quickly check out Open Office, something I’ve heard about for years. I have friends that like the software. But, working mobile is still a key part of what I do and these guys will let you download something for PC and Mac, but have no mobile copies for download. Okay, catch you when you do.

I’m also doing searches for the other mobile word processors I used to use before Microsoft briefly won the Internet with their mobile apps. Is Documents to Go still a thing? Couldn’t find them on the App Store. And there was another one that folded into Google Docs. I forget the name.

I’m also looking at what the new apps in the store promise. Some are really typing skins to work with other apps when you want to finger type on your phone or tablet, but waste your time when using a Bluetooth board. I check this and that and still learn that the unnamed app that folded into Google Docs had the right idea.

Google Docs, as it currently exists, has most of my answers. I emailed my four most common templates over to the app: chapter, blog post, radio script and a comic book form. I also sent over my active files that use these templates. Through a small handful of sessions, I’ve learned chapters…Good, blogs…Good and don’t push your luck with that comic book form. I haven’t tried the radio script, yet.

Google Docs seems to like text without very much formatting. My automatic first line indent based on a standard tab chapter template is meant to just type. I do the chapter and then Cut and Paste it into the larger manuscript. Rinse, Repeat. And things have mostly gone well since moving all of my active files and downloading the apps.

But, there are many quirks that might piss off someone as legendarily less patient as I. When typing we’ve been taught to write the word and hit the spacebar, but sometimes when I have a Word file open on it seems on a random basis that hitting the spacebar has a way of pullingthe previous words into their true spacing. Basically, writing becomes a little more of an adventure. But, one reason I still have the Word app on my phone is to use as the final proofread before cutting the text into WordPress, I can still fix any double spacing issues that show up in the transfer.

The single most annoying quirk of Google Docs used on my iPad has got to be the arbitrary decision that the 12-point Roman type I use to write is too large and will be resized as 10-point type. This happens like clockwork approximately every two paragraphs. I think I’ve had to resize my text back at least ten times in this very document. And sometimes the command doesn’t take requiring doing it again until it does.

And I hope that my discovery, today, that the automatic M-dash/N-dash switch that accurately guesses whether you should use the short N-dash or the larger M – dash doesn’t seem to work without switching off your Bluetooth board and entering the punctuation manually. Not making friends, here.

Using Google Docs the original way on your computer also has a few quirks to it as well. Editing a document from your main browser has an automatic Save as Google Doc feature to it. This is, of course, reversible the minute you open up a mobile device to tap Save as Word Doc.

I had to delete my comic book template from Google Docs simply because using the numbered bullet feature common to nearly every version of Word since forever just doesn’t carry over all that well. Numbered bullets are how I handle panels and it just doesn’t look the same in Google Docs as it does in Word.

But on the plus side, I’ve got my page breaks for the Cut and Paste back, especially on the iPad where I do much of my work. I have the ability to continue speaking with regular copies of Word that live on computers. And a decent amount of typing quirks.

One last app that should be spoken of here. Final Draft has always billed itself as being a decent word processor underneath being the center of the Format Nazi phenomenon that is part of screenwriters’ daily lives since the invention of the camera. All versions of Final Draft have a work around for those of us willing to tell Big Bad Microsoft “to take your Office 365 and shove it!” Open up a new screenplay, click General in the element tabs and start typing single-spaced text.

The one hitch, either the writer Cuts and Paste from Final Draft or buys the desktop version of the software to translate the files to the more common Word or a PDF formats. The mobile app that I bought for $10 is now $30 on the App Store (I’m so cool, you may touch me), but the desktop version trades at nearly $300 unless you keep up with the $80 upgrade every couple years route. You may  want something cheaper.

So there it is, as we close out this round of me perpetually taking Microsoft to the woodshed over its assault on customers trying to see what we’ll rent for tools that you really should buy. If Open Office figures out how to go mobile, I’m there if nothing more than to write another pos. Until then, I have Google Docs quirks and all. Happy writing to you!