Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Two Zero One Three Out

DeeAnn, Jasper, Tye, and I hope you're all enjoying your winter holidays! Here's the news from Apartment de Snout, where the women are strong, the men are still writing, and all the cats are above average:

Curtis DeeAnn Jasper Tye

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

I'm Made Out of Meat

That title is, of course, an homage to Terry Bisson's classic short story "They're Made Out of Meat." If you haven't read it, click over to his site and do it now. It's less than a thousand words; shouldn't take more than ten minutes. I'll wait.

All done? Good. Let's begin.

I am made out of meat. The "I" writing these words now is a transient thing, a momentary spark of consciousness supported and sustained by a fleshy engine. There is no mind without brain, and the brain does not live without a heart and lungs to feed it oxygen and sense organs to provide stimuli for contemplation. We are all made out of meat, and we can never escape our corporeal prisons.

Sometimes I wonder if our sentience is some weird side effect of evolution, a freakish emergent phenomenon caused by the complexity of being such large, multicellular organisms. Because (per Stephen Hawking) it is not clear that intelligence has any long-term survival value, and being smart enough to wonder about cosmology doesn't mean we can do a damn thing about it.

I suppose that's where this entire train of thought starts, decades ago: with a small boy lying in his bed at night, staring into the darkness--literally--and also figuratively gazing into the abyss of his own inevitable death.

I don't remember precisely how old I was when I first grasped the enormous fact of capital-D Death. That it would take us all, sooner or later; that each of us would cease to exist forever after that--that even the universe itself will, someday, end. I think it took me a little while to really process that, to understand it completely, and when I did, it totally freaked me the fuck out.

To be clear: I wouldn't say I've ever feared death, precisely. More like I still haven't made my peace with the Reaper. And especially when I was younger, the knowledge that I would someday stop just felt like a terrible injustice, like a punishment I didn't deserve. I liked being alive, and why did that have to end someday? It all seemed so unfair.

Yeah, yeah, I know. Get a helmet, kid. And I don't know what I would tell my younger self, if I had the hypothetical opportunity now. Make the most of your time? Don't waste it on things that don't make you happy? I'm not sure younger-me would give much weight to those platitudes, especially in the middle of a nighttime panic attack. I suspect facing death with dignity is one thing we all have to learn the hard way.

Don't worry, this is not something I've kept bottled up for forty years; I have talked about this, with my parents when I was younger, with my wife more recently. They all made reasonable counter-arguments, including possible future prospects for prolonging human lifespans (giving me more time to come to terms with my own mortality, I suppose) and the fact that I simply won't even know when I'm dead, and will therefore be unable to feel anything at all about it, one way or another. What's the point of worrying about something you can't change?

And they're right, of course. It's more productive to worry about things I can affect, like how happy I am with the work I'm doing right now, maintaining my health for the next fifty-plus years of my life, et cetera. But I can't help worrying about more than that. I think about what I'm going to leave behind, and I wonder what people will remember of me, and for how long after I'm gone.

I suppose that's ego, wanting some recognition that extends beyond the grave and beyond my immediate family. But it's also wanting to make a difference in the world, in some miniscule, brief manner--to be a part of the world, to feel connected to the seven billion other lives on this tiny, shining planet.

Even if all we are is meat, at least we can all be meaty together.

Merry Christmas, everyone.


Thursday, December 19, 2013

Fresh Meat

As you may have heard, our Tuesday podcast is going on hiatus for the holidays, and returning next year on an irregular monthly schedule. And I also ended my Friday flash fiction project back in August, so... I guess it's time for a new weekly feature on this blog.

I'm calling it "The 'I' in MEAT," but don't worry, I'll never mention that again. (Except in the label/tag/whatever the kids are calling that meta-data now. Think of it as an internal code name.) The point is, I'm going to write about something I care about, and every post title will begin with "I." For example: "I Have a Blog Now HO HO HO" (not an actual title).

If that becomes too obnoxious at any point, I'm sure y'all will let me know, and I'll figure out something else. :)

At the moment, I'm targeting Wednesdays, which means that yes, the first two posts will appear on Christmas Day and New Year's Day. You're welcome.


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

SnoutCast #200: What's Next

In which we reveal our podcasting plans for 2014, and look back on some great interviews from our first four years.

[ Download mp3 - 25 MB ]

01:10 - "bicentennial"
01:34 - Listener Mail: it's pronounced LEHD-beet-ur
02:56 - you, too, should listen to Patrick Stewart's one-man-show of A Christmas Carol
03:53 - SnoutCast Future
10:23 - SnoutCast Present
16:33 - SnoutCast Past (see below for links)
22:37 - go watch some GC Summit videos, kid
25:36 - The End

What Else?
  • SnoutCast 47 "Before Midnight" - Don Luskin (~40min)
  • SnoutCast 64 "Homicide: Life on the Farm - 10 Years Later" - Sean Gugler (~1hr)
  • SnoutCast 168, 169, 170 "The Coin Heist Report with Glenn Willen" - Glenn Willen (~30min each)
  • SnoutCast 86, 87, 88 "Alternate Reality Games" - Matthew Schuler & Sean Stacey (~30min each)
  • SnoutCast 53 "GC Summit 2011 Panel: MY FIRST GAME" - Dan Egnor, Justin Graham, Jan Chong, Dann Webster, and Trisha Lantznester (~50min)
  • Keep watching the skies; also, Puzzle Hunt Calendar

Tell us we're wrong on the Internet! E-mail podcast@snout.org or post a comment at www.snout.org/podcast.

Music: instrumentals from "Code Monkey" and "Chiron Beta Prime" by Jonathan Coulton

[ Subscribe to SnoutCast / iTunes link ]

Curtis DeeAnn

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Ten Books That Have Touched Me

In no particular order. Also note that this is not an exhaustive list; these are just the ones which came to mind today. I've done my best to explain each selection. As always, your mileage may vary, and yes, those are mostly affiliate links below. Mostly.
  1. Ringworld by Larry Niven - One of my earliest introductions to "Big Idea" hard science fiction. I had read plenty of Asimov when I was younger, and flipped through Bradbury and Clarke in middle school, but I discovered Niven and quantum physics in high school, and things have never been the same since.
  2. Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov - Speaking of The Human Typewriter... I've always enjoyed detective stories, police dramas, and buddy comedies. And adding robots makes everything more awesome! I'm sure reading about Elijah Baley and Daneel Olivaw paved the way for me to later write all those Jake and Andy stories. (And no, I just couldn't get into Almost Human.)
  3. Hyperion by Dan Simmons - Actually, all four books of the "Hyperion cantos." I picked up the entire set in paperback at an sf/f convention dealer's room, and like so many of my books, they sat on the shelf for months or years before I got around to reading them. I wish I hadn't waited so long, because they really made me want to write my own fiction again, after a too-long hiatus.
  4. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin - If you haven't read this yet, go and get it right now. I mean it. Stop reading this stupid blog post and go to your public library or local bookstore and get this book. WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU WAITING FOR GO JOHN YOU GOT TO GO NOW. I'm not a huge fan of epic fantasy, but this novel--her first, if you can fucking believe that--knocked me on my ass. And if you don't value my opinion, it was nominated for a whole raft of awards, including the Hugo and the Nebula. What are you still doing here? Go!
  5. Whiteout written by Greg Rucka, illustrated by Steve Lieber - Forget the movie. That movie was shit, and had none of the heart or soul of the source material. The original graphic novel is the real deal. Black and white, ice and fire, joy and pain. Not for everyone, but if you enjoy thrillers, it's damn good.
  6. Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner - I don't actually read a lot of non-fiction, but this collection of case studies was educational and entertaining. Don't have time for a whole freaking book of this stuff? Fine. Watch the movie version on Netflix streaming, or just go read their New York Times article on accidentally teaching prostitution to monkeys. You're welcome.
  7. Triumphs of Experience by George E. Vaillant - I don't recall how I first learned about this book, but it was probably on Twitter. The conclusions presented are not hugely revelatory--alcoholism is bad, happy children become happy adults, etc.--but the fact that they're supported by decades of data from a longitudinal, prospective study do make them more authoritative, and the individual life stories are fascinating. As a man who has, at times, struggled with being happy, I'm very interested in how others have succeeded at it. (I had to return this one to the library before I finished it, and I'll probably buy have since bought an e-book version instead of adding another 500-page hardcover to our home bookshelves.)
  8. Daring Greatly by Brené Brown - Seriously, non-fiction is way over-represented here compared to my actual reading habits. But this was another reassuring, if not revelatory, analysis; the author takes her previous research into vulnerability and shame and rolls all of that into a call for "whole-hearted" engagement with life, any imperfections (perceived or actual) be damned. Some of it is a little preachy and fuzzy, and I'm ambivalent about the product-ization of "The Daring Way™," but the lessons here are still valuable.
  9. Feed by Mira Grant - Seanan McGuire does at least three things in this book that no novelist ever should, and she makes every single goddamn one of those crazy things work. Because she's just that good. I laughed, I cried, and I still haven't read the sequel because I've heard it doesn't measure up. I believe that.
  10. Sail by James Patterson - I have not actually read this book. I did not buy this book or check it out from the library. This book was a gift from my friend Bryan, who gave it to me a few years ago when I decided to seriously pursue a career in fiction writing. He gave it to me as encouragement, because if a book this bad can get published, then surely I, as a halfway decent writer, have some kind of shot at becoming a professional novelist. I've looked at a few pages. Yeah, it's pretty terrible. I won't claim I can do better, but I certainly won't do worse.
Your turn, friend: what books have made a difference in your life?


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

SnoutCast #199: Breakout Things

In which we recount our excellent "room escape" experience at Puzzle Break Seattle, and respond to some more listener mail.

[ Download mp3 - 28 MB ]

00:59 - "escapist"
01:20 - Team Goats Under Snout escaped the room in 40 minutes!
18:09 - Listener Mail re: should we continue this podcast?
28:39 - The End

What Else?

Tell us we're wrong on the Internet! E-mail podcast@snout.org or post a comment at www.snout.org/podcast.

Music: instrumentals from "Code Monkey" and "Skullcrusher Mountain" by Jonathan Coulton

[ Subscribe to SnoutCast / iTunes link ]

Curtis DeeAnn

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

SnoutCast #198: Listener Mail - Should We Stay or Should We Go?

Thanks to Jeff, Chris, Greg, and Steve for responding to last week's call for feedback! Now how about some ladies speak up? We know you're out there. ;)

[ Download mp3 - 30 MB ]

00:59 - "decisive"
31:15 - The End

What Else?

Tell us we're wrong on the Internet! E-mail podcast@snout.org or post a comment at www.snout.org/podcast.

Music: instrumentals from "Code Monkey" and "The Future Soon" by Jonathan Coulton

[ Subscribe to SnoutCast / iTunes link ]

Curtis DeeAnn Tye