As weapons go, I did not have many growing up. I wasn't allowed toy guns or squirt guns because my mom was certain I was going to go around squirting my neighbors or pretending to shoot my neighbors. All that meant was I borrowed my neighbors squirt guns and squirted my neighbors that way. It's okay, my neighbors were squirting me back.

A weapon I was allowed to have (because some strange association to Huckleberry Finn, I guess) was a slingshot and let me tell you, I have always excelled with slingshots. Probably because I always had an affinity at math, and slingshots are all about physics. The problem is that a slingshot isn't really something that strikes fear in the hearts of villains, so giving it to your hero as a weapon isn't that cool. Unless he has explosive ammunition or something and then it becomes more about the ammunition than it does the slingshot.


I am going to show this to you, but I'm calling dibs right now. None of you are allowed to use this. It's just too cool for me to keep secret. Check out the slingshot this guy created to fight zombies. I never thought about the importance of counter-balance. The things you could do with a stone at a high enough velocity. Holy crap.

And what's even more awesome? This isn't an isolated video. That guy has a whole channel of slingshot videos. Woo hoo!

Secret Passages

There are few things I like better in adventure storytelling than secret passages. In fact, the two middle grade novels I have in mind (one written, one started a few times but never finished) both are heavily reliant on secret passages. I think that's a dream of a lot of kids, to live in a house that has secret passages.

Did you ever see the movie Candlestick with Jodie Foster when she was a spunky kid? I can't tell you how many times I watched that movie as a kid. I want to watch it now and see if it holds up the test of time.

Walking around Old Sturbridge Village with my wife, she saw a hill in a field, most likely just piled dirt that eventually had grass grow over it. She sees it and says, "That needs a hobbit hole." Well, on one side of it is a dead and dry tree stump. And I say that there is a hobbit hole. It's beneath the tree stump and the whole thing opens up.

This causes the magnesium flash in my brain where ideas start flying up like fireworks. I LOVE secret passages. What if hobbits lived in a less friendly place than the shire? If they had hidden the doors to their hobbit holes, would Saruman been able to scour the shire as he did? They could have hidden and who would have worked the fields for him?

So this is what I want. I want underground houses like hobbit holes, but I want natural landmarks like tree stumps that no one would think twice of when they saw them, but open up to reveal the actual entrance to their home. When they're closed, it just looks like hills.

I need to figure out how to make this happen.

Food in the Future!

I'm from the Midwest. A historian might argue I'm from the South. Either way, I'm from the land of cows and pigs and chicken. Fish came in two varieties, cat or sticks. I cannot stand catfish. It is the most bland, boring, flimsy fish known to man and it looks pretty disgusting beforehand (my fish should not have whiskers). After a Tyson fish stick debacle when I was seven that had me trying not to vomit on the stairs and my mother screaming at me for "faking it," I'm not a fan of those either.

So I moved to New England where the fishes1 are. You cannot go to a restaurant without seeing calamari and crab cakes as appetizers. Fish and chips and baked/fried haddock will almost certainly be in the entrées. Lobster of some kind, either by the pound or in a roll (and they put it in pasta too, blarg). Scrod2, mussels, salmon, scallops, swordfish, and so on and so forth.

I come from the land of cows and sausages, but here everything is from the Atlantic Ocean. It has taken some adjusting and a little bit of courage on my part. I overcame the scars of my childhood and tried fish again. The lesson? It depends on the restaurant and how they prepare their fish. (And the sauce they put with it. I'm not a fan of dill and they can really go overboard with the dill.) My preference is blackened swordfish.

Well today my wife made tilapia tacos. Onion, sour cream, lime juice, a spicy concoction of spices, sliced avocados, and grilled tilapia on a wheat tortilla. This is the first time I've tried tilapia, and I discovered something. Tilapia doesn't taste like anything. It has such a mild flavor that really, it's just there for texture. You taste the spices and the condiments, but you don't the fish. As someone who doesn't much care for fish, one might think this to be a great find. But in truth, I discovered that if I must suffer through fish, I want to suffer. How can I wear eating fish like a badge of courage if the fish doesn't taste like fish?

"This is like tofu!" I complained because I hate tofu, but tofu eaters always tell me how it can taste like anything. (It can taste like anything because it tastes like nothing. Someone just made a much cube and convinced people it was good.) "It's firmer and has a different texture than tofu," was my wife's answer. That was all.

And that's when it struck me. In science fiction stories when man is populating deep space and traveling lightyears in ships like Serenity, they eat protein. We'll ignore star trek that has molecule resequencers/computer replicators. Matrix, Firefly, and so on and so forth all eat protein bars that are infused with minerals, vitamins, and everything else.

This is all well and good, except they CALL them protein cubes/squares/bars. And with that, I call shenanigans. No one would eat protein cubes. They eat brand names. If Kellogs or Kraft hasn't smacked a name on the box that carries those protein cubes, then those people didn't come from Earth.

And so, I introduce to you gentle reader, the future. Tilapia® brand protein cubes! Have Tilapia® for dinner tonight and get all the necessary vitamins and minerals for your space voyage.3

1 Grammatical curiosity: The plural of fish is fish when all the fish are the same. When you have different species of fish, the plural is fishes.

2 Scrod is almost always cod, but I can't order something that sounds like it's a euphemism for shit.

3 Obviously that's not really a registered trademark, but I'm definitely going to use it in a story some day.

The Destruction of the Cloud

I have been a long-time Twitter follower of GalleyCat (an arm of Media Bistro that focuses on publishing) until they posted this article on Monday. Now, as GalleyCat expands its number of contributors, I have found the quality has become more circumspect. This is always a risk with expansion. But said article pushed me over the edge. The stupidity of such a premise offends me to such a degree that I cannot stomach to see their name appear in my Twitter feed any more, so I unfollowed.

If you don't feel like subjecting yourself to the article (and I don't blame you if you do), betting that new technological concepts can be easily exploited by a fear-inducing headline, GalleyCat published an article about Apple's announcement about cloud storage. (Not necessarily a shocker given their pre-announcements and that Amazon and Google are doing the same thing.) GallyCat's statement: Keep your novel on hardcopy because an EMP could destroy the cloud.

Now for you non-science fiction readers, an EMP is an electromagnetic pulse. Did you see the first Clooney Oceans Eleven movie? Don Cheedle sets off a device in a van that blacks out Las Vegas? That's an EMP. They have them in the Matrix too. They're concept.

In reality you create an EMP as part of the effect of a nuclear detonation. I'll write that again: nuclear detonation. In addition to the actual blast and a wave of radiation, there's also a pulse that fries electronic gizmos, power grids, and the like. Blackouts, hard drives wiped, etc. A study shows that an EMP could destroy the cloud!

No shit. An EMP could destroy most anything electronic. That's like saying a nuclear bomb might destroy your house. Telling people to keep a copy of their manuscript on hardcopy because of the risk of EMP is Chicken Littling new technology and not worth my bandwidth. There are two really important facts to keep in mind about this whole premise:

1) Major companies like Apple and Google do not have only one tier of servers and multiple tiers are not kept in the same location. If the servers should fail (a much more likely event than an EMP), back-up servers at a different location take over. So even if someone detonates a nuclear bomb in the atmosphere and EMPs the cloud servers, other cloud servers spin up and you continue doing what you do.

2) A FUCKING NUCLEAR BOMB WAS JUST DETONATED IN THE ATMOSPHERE! I don't know about you, but I have more important things to worry about than my manuscript. Like armageddon.