Sunday, August 31, 2008

Riddle Me "DHis"

This weekend at PAX, Turbine--makers of The Lord of the Rings Online--had a bunch of banners up promoting their new Mines of Moria expansion. Each banner had a riddle on it, written in Tolkien-ish runes, and Turbine's ad in the program book provided the translation guide.

D teased me about not trying to solve the cryptograms without the alphabet, but the runes were a very loose "phonetic" translation. I use quotation marks there because their phonemes were not consistent--they put a caret (^) over some letters to indicate a long vowel sound, but the runes themselves didn't always spell words as they should have sounded. (I know, taste of our own medicine, laugh it up.) And they kept using the "dh" rune for "th" sounds, which was mildly annoying.

Anyway, the first five riddles were pretty easy, but the last one--which you had to go to the exhibitor's booth to see--was a bit of a bear. I didn't actually end up solving it, because I lost interest after learning that the "prize" was just an entry into a drawing for unspecified stuff. Lame.

Here's my translation of the final riddle:
My twin dark reds(?) no longer hide
The greens once set so deep inside
Below a pair of rows(?) is found
Of jagged silvers up & down
This indigos(?) a barren bin
A brown(?) was once contained therein

The original runes:

(Photo from

And here's the "Cirth alphabet." See what I mean? How is an ampersand a phoneme? Sigh.

Post a comment if you think you know the answer. It's a five-letter word, and it's not "mouth." (For reference, the other answers were "treasure chest," "ring," "spark," "tombstone," and "gem.")

Read more about CKL+D@PAX on Travels With Our Cats!


Thursday, August 28, 2008

Ken Levine's Fall Movie Preview

Like Gaul, it has been divided into three parts. Some of my favorite bits:
MY BEST FRIEND'S GIRL – Dane Cook so avoid as you would any toxic material.
DOUBT – John Patrick Shanley adapts and directs his riveting play about a Catholic School scandal. Beautifully written but possibly a tad goyish.
(NOTE: This is not the same Ken Levine who worked on BioShock and is giving tomorrow's keynote speech at PAX. It's a bit confusing, I know.)


Blog Proliferation

Yes, I am now on MySpace. When you're done weeping, please add me as your friend.

Confused about where to read my stuff? Not to fret. All my blogs are always available in a single Yahoo! Pipe, which you can add to Google Reader for a nice ironic effect. See below for a sample.


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Punchline of the Week

From a professional CPA's web page detailing Court Cases Regarding Hobbies and/or Businesses--specifically, what income tax deductions the IRS will allow:
WRITING WINNER WHILE LOSING: Taxpayer was not allowed to deduct some of his "research expenses" relating to his writing activities. He paid to have his book published, which it was. However he had a loss from his writing business. The Tax Court, and the Fourth Circuit, ruled against the IRS in determining that he did in fact have a profit motive. In spite of the recreational aspect of his writing, the court concluded "these factors were outweighed by the business-like manner of his recordkeeping, the diligence of his marketing, and the start-up nature of his losses." Unfortunately, his largest deductions were disallowed because they were "so personal in nature as to preclude their deductibility." He wrote about prostitution. (Vitale, T.C. Memo 1999-131)
And, because you know I love primary sources, here's the complete text of Tax Court Memorandum 1999-131 in PDF and HTML. It's also worth reading the court document to get the details of how this poor sap was scammed by Northwest Publishing.


Friday, August 22, 2008

Quote of the Temporal Period

From today's edition of The Writer's Almanac:

"Go to the edge of the cliff and jump off. Build your wings on the way down." -- Ray Bradbury

D and I had the privilege of seeing the man himself on stage at last year's LA Times Festival of Books. It was a pretty glossy speech, about how he'd pursued different things he loved all his life, but still inspiring. The philosophy espoused above is particularly applicable to our current road trip and the next two years, which we'll spend writing and making our own luck:

"Unlucky people are stuck in routines. When they see something new, they want no part of it. Lucky people always want something new. They're prepared to take risks and relaxed enough to see the opportunities in the first place." -- Richard Wiseman


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Happy Birthday H.P.

On this day in 1890, Howard Phillips Lovecraft was born. It's probably safe to say that his family had no idea he would go on to write such freaky-ass stories, though both of his parents ending up in sanitariums and dying before his thirtieth birthday surely contributed to the tenor of his most famous works.

Here's the opening paragraph of "The Call of Cthulhu:"
The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.

My friend Gavin first introduced me to Lovecraft in high school; he was also into Robert E. Howard's Conan stories in a big way. I couldn't quite get past Howard's overt racism and sexism to share that latter enthusiasm, but the former was positively mind-blowing--as the above-linked fan site says, Lovecraftian horror occupies "a small but unassailable niche" in literature. (By the way, it should be every writer's goal to have his or her name turned into an adjective.)

It would be fair to say that I didn't have much use for horror or "dark fantasy" before I read Lovecraft. But his monsters wouldn't have been quite so horrible if they hadn't been filtered through the genteel perceptions of his WASP narrators. You couldn't write a Cthulhu story set in, say, a mid-20th century inner city; you might use similar monsters, but it wouldn't be the same story. On the other hand, the world of Sherlock Holmes is a nearly perfect crossover, as Neil Gaiman demonstrated with "A Study in Emerald." It's all about juxtaposition.


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Grooving the Lily

Get your fill of GrooveLily songs at the band's new WordPress-based web site! If that page reminds of Jonathan Coulton's MP3 Store, well, it's a good thing. I think all musicians should post free listening samples online, and offer DRM-free downloads for purchase at a reasonable price.

In fact, that's a good strategy for any independent artist these days. Repeat after me: "The Internet is my friend. Obscurity is worse than piracy. Fans are not the enemy." All other things being equal, I am far more likely to buy your product if you treat me with respect.


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

One Time Loser

As expected:
Dear Friend,

I regret to inform you that your script was not selected as one of the 25 finalists in the NYTVF-Fox Comedy Script Contest. The decision tasked to our readers was a very difficult one, and unfortunately there were a number of quality scripts that were unable to advance to the next round of the contest. Narrowing the initial field of over 880 pilots down to 25 was a tremendous challenge, yet the New York Television Festival was thrilled with the response and was astounded by the quality of effort put forth by its community of talented scriptwriters.

Thank you again for the hard work and commitment exhibited in your pilot script. I encourage you to check back with the NYTVF Web site from time to time, as we hope to offer additional opportunities for aspiring television writers soon. In the meantime, we appreciate your support of the New York Television Festival and the independent television movement, and we hope to see you this September at the 2008 NYTVF.

Best Regards,

On the plus side, this means I can start sending the script to some more readers for feedback. Maybe even a few who actually know something about writing half-hour comedies.


Rebels Affianced

Congratulations to Jeff and Marina on their now-100%-official engagement! (I'm announcing it here because he still hasn't gotten his blog back online yet.) Here's what Jeff posted back in January:
I've finally found the perfect girl for me. Her name is Marina, and we've been together over a year now. She and I weren't ready to talk so publicly about our relationship until now, but now the time has come, so that's the first really great piece of news for the blog in 2008.

I met Marina in Liberia (and astute readers of my blog from back then will find some references to her). She was a coworker, and we were living in a small compound with 7 other MSFers, so we started off with a great deal of discretion. We have some funny stories about how each of our coworkers found out about our little "thing". The important part is that the boss, who liked to play the part of the mother to us all, didn't find out until the very end... that means we "won" the game. :)

When we both got back from Liberia, we really had to adjust. Was it just something that happened to us inside of the MSF bubble, or would our relationship work in real life too? It took all year, and some hard times, to find the answer to that question. But the answer now is clear: YES! We are together now in Switzerland, and planning how to stay together.
D and I are very excited to see them in the bay area next week, and to attend their wedding in Europe. It'll be my first trip to the continent, so I'm hoping we can make the time (and find the money) to do a little traveling around.


Sunday, August 10, 2008

Now I Have a LiveJournal Ho Ho Ho

I don't actually plan to post much over there, but I've updated my Yahoo! Pipe to include all three of my blogs now: this one, the LiveJournal, and Travels With Our Cats.

I plan to start another ongoing blog in October (stay tuned for details), plus the obligatory NaNoWriMo progress/backup blog in November. Crazy!


Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Denvention Has Begun

One of the many sights we saw today at the 66th WorldCon:

From Denvention 3

(I'm not convinced it was an actual stargate. The wormhole was definitely open for more than thirty-eight minutes, and I didn't see any singularities nearby.)

For more photos and details, click on over to Travels With Our Cats!