Saturday, December 31, 2016

Happy New Year

Yes, just one more confession of ignorance before we slip out of the old year and into whatever the new one holds for us. And I realized as I woke up this morning that I had had something a little bit wrong for almost my entire life. And it just happens to be appropriate to the annual transition we are about to make.

You know the song 'Deck the Halls'? Fa la la la la and all that? Well, I was hearing the part that goes 'Fast away the old year passes' in my head and then started wondering about the next line. I had always thought it went something like 'Hail the new ye lads and lasses.' Meaning, to me, goodbye old year, let's welcome all the new people who are coming into this world in the coming year. But then I wondered 'What exactly are new ye lads and lasses?' I think I must have thought it meant something like 'the new year lads and lasses,' even though I knew the word was 'ye.' It was only in pondering it that I realized that it must be, 'Hail the new, ye lads ands lasses.' As in hail the new year, everyone. Looked it up just now and sure enough, there is a comma after new.

Frankly, I'm a little sad  that the song isn't about welcoming the next year's infants. But I'll get over it. Or forget it. One or the other.

I decided I would post a YouTube video of this but if you look closely, you'll see that they get it slightly wrong too. But you'll have to watch to see how.


Friday, December 23, 2016

By way of a Christmas card

I've already posted about this on my more book and story related blogs, so not to be tiresome, but I made a little chapbook this year out of a Christmas story I wrote some time ago. Mostly I'm just putting it up here by way of a Christmas card, but you can buy it if you want. Or if you don't want to buy it but still want to read it,  just email me and I'll send you a file. I'm not in it for the money. No obligation, believe me. I just wanted to show off the cover, because I made it (accidentally) and I like it.

Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

"You will discover the truth in time."

I've had some unusually provocative fortunes in my fortune cookies lately, and this was the latest of them. Perhaps it doesn't seem so on the surface. But pity the poor English language learner with this one, eh? Talk about your multiple meanings. Although I think I normally would only have gravitated to two meanings, I now think there are at least four.

Here are the two more obvious ones:

"You will discover the truth in time." You will find out the truth before it's too late.

"You will discover the truth in time." You will find out the truth eventually.

But, perhaps, influenced by a recent viewing of the new movie Arrival, I also see a couple more slippery ones.

"You will discover the truth in time." The truth you are seeking is to be found in this strange thing (or non-thing) which we call time. Or, time itself holds the key.

"You will discover the truth in time." You will find out what is true about time itself. Or, you will discover what is true within our conception of time as opposed to what is untrue.

The concept of time seems to have been coming up for exploration a lot lately, and I don't think it's just me. In addition to the time aspect of Arrival, which I won't discuss further here for fear of spoilers, there is also a popular new television series called Timeless and a bestselling new book from James Gleick called Time Travel, which I'm quite eager to read.

And for me personally, it seems to be cropping up everywhere. Part of this makes me think that we may be more adept at time travel than we know. Here's an example from the beginning of Lene Kaaberol and Agnete Friis's book Invisible Murder (sorry, the beginning is as far as I've gotten so far.)

Tamas's mind was working at a fever pitch. It was as if he could suddenly see the future so clearly that everything that he would need to do fell neatly into place, almost as if he had already done it and was remembering it, rather than planning it. First we'll have to do this. And then this. And then if I ask...

And this is from a book I happened to read recently, David Morrell's Scavanger, which I picked up after seeing him as the guest of honor at the recent Bouchercon in New Orleans. This thriller turns out to have a lot to say about time capsules, and the peculiar human impulse to memorialize our particular historical moment for the future, and how hard that turns out to be. But in the midst of this, Morrell, who is a scholar as well as a thriller writer, throws in a quote from Kierkegaard, which resonated with me as describing the condition of many of us in the days and weeks after the recent presidential election, and perhaps was similar to a state that many felt after Brexit as well.

The most painful state of being is remembering the future, in particular one you can never have.

Here's hoping we all discover the truth in time in one of it's better meanings--sooner than later, but better late than never.


Sunday, December 4, 2016

Missing Maps

Oddly enough, I got another cool email about crowdsourcing you can do, this time from Doctors Without Borders. Although I'm sure they'd also be thrilled if you simply wanted to donate money to their worthy organization, they sent out an email a couple of days ago asking people to volunteer some time to a project called Missing Maps. I'm pasting it in here (when they mention MSF, they're referring to their French name, Médecins Sans Frontières) :

Help Put Aweil, South Sudan on the Map!

Aweil, the capital of South Sudan’s Northern Bahr el Ghazal State, is home to tens of thousands of people, many of whom live on the city’s largely unmapped outskirts. Putting these settlements on the map is the first step to collecting crucial health and demographic data that will help MSF provide essential medical care to this underserved population. That’s where you come in!


When MSF responds to disease outbreaks, natural disasters, and other health crises, hundreds of teams have to cover enormous areas (as happened when MSF responded to a measles outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo last year). Now, with MapSwipe, you can help give MSF coordinators a super-fast snapshot of where the population clusters are, helping them to send their teams to the locations where they are most needed to achieve maximum vaccination coverage.


MapSwipe, available free from the App Store and Google Play, enables users to view and swipe through satellite images of remote areas to identify features such as settlements, roads, and rivers. The information gathered helps to build maps for aid workers to use in largely unmapped but crisis-prone regions like Aweil.

Here's how you can help:
  1. Download the free MapSwipe smartphone app from the App Store or Google Play.
  2. Create an account.
  3. Start mapping! You’ll find the “Map South Sudan for MSF” mapping project in the app’s “Missions” section.

Click here for a tutorial on how to use MapSwipe—helping us map is easy and fun!
MapSwipe is part of the “Missing Maps" project, an open collaboration that aims to map vulnerable places in the developing world.
Unfortunately, I don't have a smartphone so that I can be the guinea pig on this. However, I think you can use a computer if you go to this Missing Maps page. Not sure if it will take you to this particular Sudan project, though.
Although this is endorsed by organizations like the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders, I do wonder a little if there could be misuse of such maps. In fact, a quick Google search brought just such questions on a website called  raised just such questions at a website called, though the article did not question Missing Maps or any of these groups ethics. Something to ponder a bit before jumping in. Meanwhile, back to looking for blood vessel stalls.