Wednesday, December 23, 2009

SETI Dreams

Last night I dreamed I was beginning a novel. Which is not far from the truth; I'm slated to begin outlining one on Dec 26th (and I'm supposed to be finishing the 2nd draft of another one right this moment . . .)

But in my dream, I was apparently writing a novel featuring SETI (the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence). I was sitting in a coffee shop, my tablet computer in front of me (hmm, must have been a glimpse into the future where I own a tablet computer). I was reworking the first line. It went something like,

"Drake first listened for alien signals in 1960. Little did he know that SETI was far older."

Hmm, I wonder where that story is going? Someday, maybe we'll see.

Friday, November 27, 2009

LED

This year my holiday lights claim to last 10 X as long at 1/10th the power.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Rarely has a vegetarian enjoyed so grand a repast on "T-day" as we enjoyed this night. Thanks Teri and Matt!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Crap, my Domain Hosting Service is offline

All my handy URLS, like cityoftorment.com, brucecordell.com, and so on, are currently dead in the water. What's up, MyDomain.com???

Sea Change

Market research shows Apple enjoyed 48% of the US PC industry's retail revenue last month. If this keeps up, Mac user's (like me) will soon find themselves swimming in the same virus/worm/exploit-to-own sea as their Windows fellows have so long endured.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Goodbye Digg

I'm removing Digg from my feed reader; it serves as home to too many climate deniers more concerned about being right than the possibility that overpopulation is gradually pushing our ecosystem to brink (in more ways than warming).

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Tidy

I love the serenity that comes with a clean office and house. But a tumble of boxes and misplaced furniture means new carpet tomorrow.

Friday, November 20, 2009

War is Peace

Same as it ever was? Bald-faced lying has become (or, remains) an accepted tactic of corporate interests, and those who take their coin.

As Lawrence M. Krauss said:

When I saw the statement repeated online that theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking of the University of Cambridge would be dead by now if he lived in the U.K. and had to depend on the National Health Service (he, of course, is alive and working in the U.K., where he always has), I reflected on something I had written a dozen years ago, in one of my first published commentaries:

“The increasingly blatant nature of the nonsense uttered with impunity in public discourse is chilling. Our democratic society is imperiled as much by this as any other single threat, regardless of whether the origins of the nonsense are religious fanaticism, simple ignorance or personal gain.”


More Here: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=war-is-peace

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Wish comes true?

I wonder what will become of this post?

Yesterday I wished I could post once to my blog and have it crossposted to both Twitter and Facebook in formats that made sense for each site. Thanks to comments made by a variety of kind people, I've signed up for various social sites to see which one works best. This particular post, to the extent it is crossposted from my blog at all, will hopefully be brought to you by Twitterfeed.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Wish List

I want a program/gadget/interface that updates my blog and twitter simultaneously; when the message grows too long, I'd like that program to build a bit.ly link to the blog and print as many characters of my blog post as possible to twitter, then append the bit.ly link. Of course, I already have my Facebook set up to import my blog's as notes . . . though something similar for Facebook status updates would probably also be good.

And while we're at it, I'd like this same program, as an addendum, to update my Wizbook status, too!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Tome Show Podcast Appearance


The folks at the Tome Show (a Dungeons & Dragons news, reviews, and interview program) where kind enough to review Plague of Spells and City of Torment, then interview me in the bargain.

It turns out reviews and interviews on the Tome Show are in-depth and far-reaching.

In fact, having just listened to the episode in which I appear, I'd liken it to one of those DVD Criterion extra discs, which delves into the material to provide a deeper level of understanding of both the story and the intent, motivations, and inspirations behind the story.

Which means, if you haven't read Plague of Spells or City of Torment yet, I recommend you just let me tell you Will Wong's "short short version" of the review: They're both good books; you should buy them.

On the other hand, if you've read the two novels or you don't mind learning a couple plot points ahead of reading them for yourself, head over to the Tome Show site or iTunes and download the episode. Few interviews have previously pressed me so closely!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

How You Personally can affect Climate Change

Three simple steps -- easier than changing your light bulbs

What can you do today to help push forward climate change legislation which will, in its small way, slow down ocean acidification and the eventual collapse of the civilization you so snugly live in?

Follow these three simple steps, as outlined by Adam Stein here.

Adam says:
Personal conservation is great, but it’s not nearly as great as political activism. Climate change is a global commons problem, and only coordination on a national and international scale will deliver the long-term emissions reductions necessary to avert the worst effects of global warming.

Now is a particularly propitious time to act. Climate change legislation has already passed in the House, and the Senate version is gaining momentum. World governments gather in Copenhagen in little more than a month to lay the groundwork for a new global accord on greenhouse gas emissions. While neither the U.S. climate bill nor the next round of international negotiations represents the end point of this effort, they are both make-or-break moments.

And let’s be clear about this: passage of a climate bill in the Senate is by no means assured. (Neither is a positive outcome in Copenhagen, for that matter.) Until fairly recently, the situation was looking grim, and only recently have the political tides started to turn. Failure of the bill will be a disaster for both the country and the planet.

Fortunately, increasing the political pressure for action is easier than changing your light bulbs, easier than bicycling to work, easier than eating locally — easier than just about anything else you can do. Here’s how:

1. Download this template letter.
2. Find the names and addresses of your senators here.
3. Fill out one copy of the letter for each Senator, print, sign, stuff, stamp, and mail.

[...] Some senators are definitely going to vote no on the bill, and others are definitely going to vote yes. The most important pressure points are the undecided senators. If your senator is on the following list* and you fail to send a letter, then, well, stop complaining about your neighbor’s Hummer.

* Alaska: Mark Begich, Lisa Murkowski
* Arizona: John McCain
* Arkansas: Blanche Lincoln, Mark Pryor
* Florida: George LeMieux
* Indiana: Evan Bayh
* Iowa: Chuck Grassley
* Louisiana: Mary Landrieu
* Maine: Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins
* Missouri: Claire McCaskill
* Montana: Max Baucus, Jon Tester
* Nebraska: Ben Nelson
* New Hampshire: Judd Gregg
* North Carolina: Kay Hagan
* North Dakota: Byron Dorgan, Kent Conrad
* Ohio: Sherrod Brown
* Pennsylvania: Arlen Specter
* South Carolina: Lindsey Graham
* South Dakota: Tim Johnson
* West Virgina: Robert Byrd, John D. Rockefeller

Of course, even if your senator isn’t on this list, you’re not off the hook. You can still write expressing your hope that the Senate passes a bill this year, or that the final bill includes such-and-such a provision. Most of all, just write!

* This is a broad list of undecideds. Some are probable yes votes, some probable no votes, some in the middle. To make this even more confusing, some of these people may vote yes on cloture but no on the final bill. In any case, all of these votes are important.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

City of Torment, Book 2


I have gotten so caught up in my presence in Twitter, Facebook, and even the new Wizards community that I've neglected my touchstone online presence, what should be "Bruce R. Cordell headquarters;" my blog.

Which means I've failed to announce (here on my blog) the release of the 2nd book in my ongoing trilogy, City of Torment.

City of Torment picks up immediately after Plague of Spells. Japheth was forced to make a desperate play, and Raidon Kane is none too happy. But of them all, Anusha has the most to lose; her mind and soul is dragged down to a City of Torment, and baring a miracle will serve as food for the eldest aboleth!

What do others think? Check out this review at Grasping for the Wind, for starters!

Friday, October 9, 2009

USA Honored by Nobel Peace Prize

President Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Amazing. Yet a lot people in the USA apparently have an issue with that. Also sort of amazing. I think my friend Marc Carlson best points out how some of us could stand to show a little grace:
Many [peace prizes have been awarded for solid achievements], but many have been more symbolic. Peace prizes are not like the other ones which are often given decades after the accomplishment just to verify the significance of the work. Peace prizes have often been assigned for much more obviously political intentions. Does Arafat really deserve his peace prize? And that makes some sense because how do you actually measure a persons contribution to Peace??? This has never been a rocket science. This has always been politics. The Nobel committee is trying to encourage political developments that they see as ones that contribute to peace.

So this is Europe's way of trying to say they appreciate our recent efforts. And all the griping people are doing is embarrassing. I can understand that some people just don't like Obama and are somehow deeply offended that he would be given a prize. Fine. But can you sit down and shut the hell up while your country is honored for one minute? Is it really so terrible that the USA is being shown some appreciation today? When I was a child, I was taught that if someone gave you a big compliment you should always say "thank you". Even if the compliment was premature. Today the Nobel committee has given our nation a huge compliment. We should show at least a little bit of grace.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

On (writing) Vacation!

Yes, I'm on vacation! I'm a little ways into week 2 of a 2 week vacation from designing D&D for Wizards of the coast.

What fun, relaxing activities am I happily engaging? Why, finishing off a novel, the third one in an FR trilogy dealing with aboleths and other Far Realm nasties. Oh yes, I know how to par TAY on my time off.

Seriously though, I have been digging living the life of a "writer" over this last week. Sure, some days are harder than others. Some days I mess around online, updating twitter/facebook, and writing community blog posts when I should be writing. But, everything's coming along great. I'm hitting the daily word count I've set for myself. And even this far in, I'm finding synchronicities and plot easter-eggs I left for myself by purest of accidents which turn out to be exactly the plot twist I wanted all along.

So... back to it!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Home Sick, But Working

I've been home sick the last few days with a throat that has, apparently while I sleep, decided that wrestling sandpaper-coated alligators would be fun.

However, I have all my current work files, so never fear--Neither throat nor pain not virus nor lack of sleep stays this designer from the swift completion of his appointed pages.

On the other hand, out of fear of infecting my fellow students (and, let's face it, low energy on my part), I haven't been able to do any jujutsu or kickboxing since last weekend, and that's making me anxious.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A Terrible Beauty

In order to provide just that much more visibility for A Terrible Beauty, an old bar under new management, I'm going to lift this post in its entirety from designer and author extraordinare, Jeff Grubb (I apologize for the impertinence, Jeff).
I don't write much about my writers' group, the Alliterates, except, of course, to brag about our recent triumphs. It is not that we are a secret society or anything, bent on world domination, but that we do enforce a polite zone of silence on our discussions. Let me lift the lid, however, on one thing about the group.

We are bar-killers. At least, the west coast team is. While the midwesterners have had a very good run at their local bar, we have gone through taverns at relatively quick rate. In one case, we have closed the same bar between four and six times (sometimes it would reopen with new owners but the same name).

The bar in question is located in downtown Renton,201 Williams Ave S. (here's the map for it under a previous name) and should by all intents and purposes be a hands-down success. The location is on the edge of where the town proper meets residential, there is ample parking, and it is situated on the haunches of the new urban townhouses that have been a part of "Rising Renton". The building is a former bank with a drive-in window and high ceilings and the original vault.

The structure had become the Cedar River Brewpub by the time our merry band first arrived, the old lobby dominated by silver tanks. With its demise, it was vacant, then replaced with The Giant's Causeway, its first Irish incarnation, which replaced the tanks with a beautiful bar supposed hauled over from the old country, keeping local and Dublin time. After that it was an Irish-lite pub called Finnegans (perhaps a couple incarnations of this) with a lot more flatscreens showing sports.

And now, in a quick turnaround where one of the former bartenders has bought the joint, it is now A Terrible Beauty.

The name itself comes from a favorite book belonging to the new owner Ireland: A Terrible Beauty, coupled with a chance remark from a friend. And it originally comes from a poem by Yeats, commemorating the 1916 Easter Dublin Uprising:

Now and in time to be,
Wherever green is worn,
Are changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

(Add one more piece of fate as the color green belongs now to another uprising, half a world away from Ireland).

The bar itself is greatly improved in its latest incarnation. It has 75% fewer flatscreens, the old bar is still there, and they have resurrected some of the furnishings from its previous incarnations. Its back patio (outside the drive-in-window) has a pair of gas fireplaces (ours blew out - still a couple bugs in the system).

And the food is wonderful, most of the menu cooked from scratch, and ranges from traditional to experimental. Thick cubes of Camembert cheese deep-fried as an appetizer were delicious. I asked the waitress for a recommendation and ended up with "Death by Mac and Cheese", a five cheese and garlic dish that hit the spot perfectly on a cool Monday night.

Now here's the deal - we, the Alliterates, are not enough to keep this incarnation of our local public going on our own. We meet once a month, and face it, we're writers - that means at least one of us is between gigs at any time and therefore on salads and small beer. So it is up to the rest of the motley crew in the Renton area (including those at nearby, say, Wizards of the Coast) who are looking for an after-hours place to check it out.

"The Terrible" is not so terrible. In fact it's a beauty.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

June 2009

Can you believe it's already June? I can't. I'm stunned. I remember calculating as a 16 year old what my age would be in the year (gasp) 2000! Now it's nearly a decade later than that.

But so it goes, whirling ever onward, eh? I feel like a tumbleweed caught by the wind of time. I wonder how far I'll be blown?

Actually, it's not so much that I'm being blown forward. It's more like everything around me is a tumbleweed, hurtling into the future, while I stand rooted like a prairie fencepost.

Anyone got a hang glider?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

What Can You Do for the Earth?


Actually, the question is, what can you do to improve the ability of the Earth to sustain you and me in the manner to which we've become accustomed?

Tomorrow, April 22nd, is Earth Day. Like New Year's Day, is a chance for you to join in with millions of others with a resolution.

I have one easy idea for you: Cut beef and chicken from your diet once a week. See? Easy. Why does this help the Earth? Because industrial scale farming is one of the biggest contributors to ecological decline around. Clearing land for cattle grazing alone is responsible for killing for more species per year than I want to think about.

Another easy idea: Give money to organizations that promote education about human sexuality and the distribution of birth control. Why? The root of the problem is there are more people on this planet than the planet has the renewable resources to support. And our population keeps growing. What say we try to bring that population growth curve down some? (Before some external natural force does it for us, as in inexorably will.)

On that cheeful note... Happy Earth Day ;-).

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Shall We Stop Dithering and Act on Climate?

Actual scientific consensus has it that human activity (which includes C02 release, methane release, positive feedback from increased humidity in the air due to warming over the poles, and so on) is the cause of the current climate shift, a shift which seems to be happening more quickly than any in the geologic record. Solar activity and natural variations have been ruled out by experiments. Truly, they have.

If someone decides that the bulk of the scientists who study climate are not reliable sources of evidence because the evidence is inconvenient, then evidence-based argument becomes useless with that person—they’ve gone to a place where reason can no longer touch them.

I try not to be that kind of person on a wide variety of topics, including this one. But since the scientific method is the best tool we have available to approach truth, it is the tool I apply.

And the truth that seems to be emerging is that Earthly species are dying off as quickly or more quickly than anything we’ve seen in the geologic record—we’re living in the midst of the fifth great extinction.

Unfortunately, trying to develop robust forms of alternative energy only begins to address the problems we face.

Be that as it may, I’m not willing to throw up my hands and say the problem is too big to be solved. I would prefer the human race reach cultural adult hood and move forward; and I don’t even have children.

But alternative energy is a good place to start, because C02 is the biggest contributor to climate change (according to the scientists that study climate, noted above). And there is something we can do: support alternative energy programs,and politicians who support alternative energy programs, even those that from a strictly narrow financial viewpoint will lose money. We need to widen our viewpoint beyond next quarter’s profits and recognize longer term trends. If we can’t use evidence and reason to see wider time horizons and act on our conclusions, the best climate models we have predict we’re going to crash headlong into a breakdown far worse than the current economic recession.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Time to Legalize Drugs

This Britannica article proposes that the US and other major developed countries should consider legalizing drugs.

It makes the point that whole countries are being destabilized by illegal drug trade, and we are thereby funding terrorist organizations through illegal drug trafficking.

Given this unfortunate reality, we should compare and contrast outcomes. What is the "Least Bad" policy we can adopt?

On first take, no, I don't want to see heroine on sale in the liqueur store. Too many chances for people who'd never otherwise indulge to try it out, even with underage laws and other restrictions.

But!

I'd MUCH rather see that than the illegal drug money continue to flow into the coffers of terrorists hoping to afford, oh, I don't know, a loose nuke.

So, compare and contrast--would you rather see Jim in the gutter with a needle, or more planes being flown into prominent buildings, something else we can't imagine, or something we can imagine in our worst dreams: a mushroom cloud over some nearby city.

Legalize drugs. It is the "least bad" policy when you think about it.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Great Places To Take A Date

If you're interested in places in and around Seattle I think are great places to take a date based on personal experience, check out my guest entry here at Geek's Dream Girl on the topic. Thanks e!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Is it lame to be smart?

Because I like superhero movies, I watched the movie Zoom, which turns out to be for kids a little younger than me. But I liked it... except for a couple strange bits that made me realize how prevalent the message: it's lame to be smart.

"It's lame to be smart," hmm, I think we've gone off the rails somewhere . . .

The worst scene in Zoom along these lines was when the lead Tim Allen walks into a room filled with adults in lab coats sitting at monitors doing, you know, science-y stuff. His first words? "Raise your hand if you do NOT live in your mother's basement." No one raised their hands.

Like it or not, funny or not, shows aimed at children that contain these sorts of tropes reinforce the idea that science, and by extension the scientific method/evidence-based thinking is something to be avoided instead of embraced.

The answer is simply to be on the lookout for these sorts of unintended messages in our media. If you have children, point out when you see these instances. The best remedy is a little inoculation and sunlight.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Don't forget to mail in your Ballot (for Huff!)

Please mail in your ballot today, and vote for Sherril Huff, the current King County Director of Elections. To learn more about Sherril go to http://www.electsherrilhuff.com.

To be honest, I've relied on Jeff Grubb to do the heavy lifting on researching who to vote for in this special election, and Mr. Grubb says Huff is the one. Trusting his instincts and following his reasoning, I agree.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Audible Reading Chapter 7 Plague of Spells

Wizards posted a podcast of me reading Chapter 7 of Plague of Spells HERE. Take a listen! (there is about a 10 second gap in the middle as of this posting, hopefully that'll be fixed up soon enough).

-http://media.gleemax.com/podcasts/DnD_Episode32b.mp3

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Social Media: Is it Good?

My gut reaction to the explosion of social media like Twitter and Facebook is that they waste time.

Is that true? Certainly it seems like people are displacing old activities in order to spend more time interacting online.

If the displaced activity is watching TV or playing a non-social video game, I guess the interaction FB and Twitter provide is far superior.

But is the base premise even correct? Are people doing less "worthwhile" stuff because of excess connectivity?

Who's to judge what's worthwhile? Humans are inherently social creatures and being social is something that brings most of us happiness simply because of our biology. Thus social interactions, even mediated online, are enjoyable. And we should seek out enjoyment when we can in this life, I believe. It could be in some cases people might forgo actual physical interaction in order to stay home and post to their social media site.

I find it works the opposite; social media sites improve my ability to interact with a wider group of people when I see them in the flesh, if for no other reason than I have already forged a connection with them that is current. I know what they've been up to lately, they know them same with me. We have common points of reference.

Of course, "worthwhile" could be defined as doing your job in a timely manner. Do people who routinely check Facebook do worse in their jobs or more frequently miss deadlines? We require an actual evidence gathering mission with a large sample size rather than anecdotes here. All I can say is that I enjoy checking my social sites a few times a day WITHOUT it becoming an obstacle toward getting my daily work completed.

This does require some mental discipline, I won't lie. But lots of temptations to not do work require mental discipline to a greater or lesser degree, and we've figured out how to manage them--shouldn't be too much harder to figure this one out.

Or so say I.

Tomb of Horrors


My colleague Rob Schwalb penned a great article with fantastic art that touches on the adventure Tomb of Horrors by Gary Gygax. As some of you may know, awhile back I wrote a follow-on, Return To the Tomb of Horrors. Rob's article incorporates lore from that adventure, updating a few creatures to 4th edition D&D and providing all new horrors to boot. That plus several other interesting bits!

Download the article here (DDi members).

Fantasy Book Critic on Plague of Spells


Many thanks to David Craddock and Robert Thompson at Fantasy Book Critic for their review of Plague of Spells HERE.

An excerpt:
The warrior monk's Spellplague-caused trauma temporarily renders him an amnesiac, and this loss of identity puts the reader on equal footing with the character. Though Raidon has appeared in other Forgotten Realms works, not much is known about him at first: he has a daughter, and he is a creature bounty hunter. As Raidon regains his memory and searches for his daughter—Did she survive the Spellplague? Raidon doesn't know, and neither do you—the reader is able to follow Raidon step for step. The result is an easily forged connection with the character, as well as the world itself.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Plague of Spells Desktops!


My friend Miranda Horner created these fantastic desktop images for Wizards to promote the novel Plague of Spells. As the author, I'm more than happy to promote them, too. I've actually had the one pictured here as my desktop on my computer since before the holidays... and as the desktop on my new phone, now that I think of it.

Here's your opportunity to see novel art in its original large size. A lot of details I missed on the cover become visible.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Blog Commenting Experiment

To maintain the sliver of geek cred I may have once been able to lay claim to, I am going to try to add Facebook Connect to my blog so people can comment on the many and varied stories I post here [/sarcasm] using their Facebook identities, instead of having to come up with some other commenting identity.

The theory is that a lot more people use Facebook than Open ID, or who are on Blogger. If you have a Facebook account, stop by in comments and say hi as part of the experiment if you have the time :-).

When you click on comments, one of your choices will be Facebook Connect; click on that and leave your comment. Actually, I'm probably going to try it out myself since I'm here already, but I'd love to see if it works for other folks too!

UPDATE: Well, the critical linch pin for this integration is a commenting technology called Disqus. Apparently they are doing maintenance at the moment, so I may not get the first comment after all.