Viiictory the Thirteenth

November 23rd, 2015


At last, I’ve completed my 15th National Novel Writing Month challenge successfully! Victory, for the thirteenth time!

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The graph says “HEX CODE”, but as I’ve said before, I discovered in July’s Nano that the manuscript I was working on was actually a trilogy – I already knew that Cinnamon appeared in a trilogy of books called HEX CODE, BOT NET and ROOT USER, but I was puzzled as to why the HEX CODE manuscript seemed both so cramped and so overstuffed. The reason? I was already writing the trilogy, with a discernible “hex code” appearing first, followed by a “bot net” then a “root user”. So I split the manuscript up … and just kept writing, until, earlier this month, I rolled over the end of HEX CODE.

Nanowrimo 2015-11-23b.png

Perhaps that’s why I was doing so well this year, or perhaps it’s because I’ve written almost seven hundred thousand words in National Novel Writing months at this point. But regardless, I had some real bursts of creativity in there. But even then, I have to tell you: it was always hard. The hardest words on this one were the last 8 … when I thought I was done. But you have to keep going! And the scene that popped out after that is beautiful.

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Regardless, National Novel Writing Month is a joy to participate in, and I’m glad to have done it. The people and the connections I’ve made, the friendships I’ve built, the fantastic events like the Night of Writing Dangerously, the great writing programs that Nano supports, and the worldwide outbursts of creativity have made it all so worthwhile I plan to do it again and again.


So, for now, I leave you with one last excerpt, from BOT NET … containing something I learned about my world of werekindred tonight, when I had to write … and let my creativity take over. As always, excerpts from Nano are first draft material, so, consider yourself advised … but I love what I discovered about Cinnamon’s warehouse tonight.

I looks down at them. All their eyes are glowin. The moon’s gotten into them. It will be up soon. I gots to go take them runnin’ now, or they’ll go crazy. I stands before them, rearin’ up a little, puffin’ my tiger cheeks, lookin’ down at them, and they gets the hint, and steps back from the wall, towards me, towards me, the tiger.

“Alrright,” I snarls. “None of ya get killed, or, as Mom would say, you’re grrrounded. ”

They all laughs, and I grins and stamps a paw.

“You feel the moon?” I says.

“We feel the moon!” they all shouts back. Whoa. Better response then I expected.

“I said, do you feel the moon!” I roars.

“We feel the moon!” the hunt screams.

“Then show me your beasts!” I snarls.

The lawyer strips off his jacket, his shirt, snarling, his head poppin’ out wolf so fast even Tully would have been proud of it. Hanser is a lynx before I’ve gotten a chance to look over at her, and the rest are poppin’ and changing. One buck is havin’ trouble, horns comin’ out of his head, fur crawlin’ over his body, but still no quad form, and I nods to Hanser, who pads over and licks at him playfully as he falls to the ground, crosseyed, eyes half pulled back like a buck’s.

But Willard, man, Willard’s havin’ real trouble. He’s bulked up, six and a half feet tall now, a black fur rug rippling out of his back, and oh-my-bod, what delicious muscles. But the shag carpet, it’s as far as he goes. He grunts, strains, then shakes his head.

He ain’t even taken his shorts off. He knows this is as far as he can go. Personally, I’m glad to have a half-human in the pack—easier to get feedback. He’s obviously got control, or they wouldn’t have given him to me, but is also obviously new to the Life. He needs help.

I prowls up to him.

“This your limit?” I asks, starin’ him in the eye. He nods, embarrassed, and looks away, but I raises a paw and catches him under the chin with the curved side of one of my claws, lookin’ at his head. “Listen to me: there’s no shame in our affliction. Repeat it.”

“Therrre’s no shame in ourrr aff—affl—affliction,” he says.

“Only prrride in our powerrr,” I says. “All of ya. Repeat it.”

“There’s no shame in our affliction,” the lawyer says, like, real articulate, even though he’s on all fours now, and his head’s all wolf. When’s this lack of concentration supposed to kick in? He shakes that wolf head back and forth, then howls, “Only prrride in our powerrrr!”

“Therrre’s no shame in ourrr affliction,” I roars, “only prrride in our powerrr!”

I prowls back and forth in front of them, listenin’ to them repeat it, those that can. The rest yip and yap and bark … except for the buck, who’s sittin’ there, dazed. His eyes are stuck halfway between human and stag, and he looks winded and dazed.

“But never rushin’ the hardest job any human ever has to do: controllin’ their own beast,” I says, steppin’ up to him. “You ain’t ready. There’s no shame; there’s always next moon. But this one, you ain’t ready. You relax, let the elders care for ya.”

The buck nods, still crosseyed, lickin’ his lips.

“Yyyouw waaant meeee,” Hanser yips, then goes quiet.

I looks back to see Fischer, standin’ there, under his broadbrimmed hat. He’s got the doc with him, black bag under his arm, I mean, seriously, cliché! But he nods to us, and they goes and sits with the buck as the rest of my hunt firms up before me.

“Four in front of you, Willard,” I snarls. “Or anyone else wanna sit this moon out?”

The pack howls and yips and brays, crowdin’ forward.

“Nnnever!” Willard says, beatin’ his chest.

“Yall wanna run?” I snarls.

The pack makes a yippin’. Weak.

“Eye said, y’all wanna run?” I roars.

And my whole hunt howls at the top of their lungs.

“Then let’s rrrun,” I roars, and Hanser at my side, bolts off into the forest.

Enjoy. And onward!

-the Centaur

Closing in on Victory

November 22nd, 2015

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Almost at the end of Nanowrimo. Closing in. About a day’s more work to go. Perhaps I’ll get to enjoy my vacation.

Oh, an excerpt:

FROM: “Cinnamon Frost” <>

TO: “Norcross Office” <>


SUBJECT: Your security totally sucks

Okay. Hi! Straight to it: your security sucks.

Oh, wait, most of you don’t know me. Well, some of you may know me from “when the APD almost got its ass sued off” or “that time I saved the DWA’s ass in the tunnels,” but for the rest, uh, Hi! I’m Cinnamon. I like to gnaw on things and do math.

SO ANYWAY, y’all have been botherin’ me a lot, so I hacked ya.

Hacking a government agency won’t have any negative repercussions, now will it? But very fun to write…

Nanowrimo 2015-11-22b.png

That’s why the last two days have been so productive! More tomorrow.

-the Centaur.

What If I’m Wrong?

November 22nd, 2015


Recently I went on the record about a seemingly self-destructive speech by Donald Trump. By going on the record, you can test your predictions. For the benefit of those who don’t care a whit, I predicted (more or less) that Donald Trump was deliberately self-destructing (or laying the groundwork for it) and Scott Adams predicted Donald Trump was going after Carson. A little time has gone by; let’s look at those polls.
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By my scorecard, that’s Scott Adams 1, Anthony Francis, 0. Of course, time will tell, and things have happened recently to change the game (for example, 5 major terrorist attacks in 5 countries around the world, in which even I will admit Trump sounds better suited than Carson, sorry). But the hypothesis that he was deliberately self-destructing was at least premature, and the hypothesis that he’s trying to nail Carson seems good. Certainly, in the last few weeks, Trump’s popularity has risen to that of, say, Bernie Sanders, so he must be doing something right.

As Scott might remind you, it’s not good to bet against popular internet cartoonists. They might be right. On the other hand, I think the words “I was wrong” are three of the most beautiful words in the English language. They’re a sign of learning.

-the Centaur


November 15th, 2015


Soon I will update the Library of Dresan WordPress code. This is in preparation for a site overhaul, but before I get there, I’m trying to radically improve how I do my backups, which involves seriously upgrading the WordPress code.

In preparation for that, I’m backing the site up several different ways, making sure I have the files AND the database securely downloaded and safe. However, something always can go wrong, so keep your fingers crossed.

And if the site mysteriously disappears for a few days, well, you heard why, here, first.

-the Centaur

Beirut and Paris

November 15th, 2015


My heart, prayers and condolences go out to all those who lost their lives in the deadly attacks in Beirut and Paris yesterday, and to the families, friends and loved ones who are suffering in the aftermath of this outrage, which over the past few days killed almost 200 people in France and Lebanon. This has got to stop … but for now, you are all in my prayers.

The Sweet Smell of Renewal

November 14th, 2015

One of the things that I’ve been surprised by during this Return to my Library is how much I missed my own ideas. I knew, intuitively, that I used this external collection to help maintain my internal memories, but it wasn’t until now, when a random album came up while I was preparing to go grab some food, that I realized it. The Matrix Revolution started playing, and I was not just reminded of the f@nu fiku series that the Matrix serves as a soundtrack to, but also an older project, DELIVERANCE, a novel set in the Library of Dresan universe. So many things have happened since then – a move to California, a theft in my car, a loss of my notebooks, a fortuitous sale of a new novel series, an ill-considered anthology, and a new project at work – that I had almost lost the mental context of all of that creative enterprise.

Tonight, doing a little random cleanup, in the place which I’d prepared for myself, but somehow forgotten, it all came flooding back.

Maybe all this effort to prepare a great space really is worth it.

Off to get my wordcount on. L8r.

-the Centaur

P.S. Yes, it might seem a bit strange to go out to dinner right when I’m celebrating my Library, but if you think that, you have no idea how much of a foodie I am. :-D

Nanowrimo Continues …

November 14th, 2015

Somewhat over 25,000 words. Closing in on the end of HEX CODE. That is all…

-the Centaur

Going on the Record about Donald Trump

November 14th, 2015


AS some of you may have noticed, real estate mogul Donald Trump is making his second (or third) run for the presidency (depending on how you count), and has been having quite a good show of it – topping many polls despite saying and doing a lot of things that would have doomed another candidate – such as disparaging American prisoners of war, associating immigrants with criminals, and, most recently, associating his opponents with pedophiles.

As a left-leaning moderate, I’m not fond of many of Donald Trump’s policies. But I am fond of Dilbert, and the excellent blog by Dilbert creator Scott Adams, in which Scott wrestles with many difficult and interesting ideas so you don’t have to (but you should). In the blog, Scott’s been chronicling Trump’s rise to power with what he calls the Master Wizard Hypothesis, which, in a nutshell, says that there are great techniques of persuasion, Trump is an acknowledged master, and most of the crazy things that Trump is doing are carefully engineered to get and keep your attention. Regardless of your politics, Scott says, you should pay attention to what Trump is doing, because you’re watching a master class in persuasion unfold on a national stage.

Scott, a trained hypnotist and student of persuasion himself, goes further to say that a Master Wizard’s persuasion often puts people into cognitive dissonance, where a person becomes uncomfortable when they are presented with information they don’t want to accept. Well, as a trained cognitive scientist, that characterization makes me a bit uncomfortable, because I see the conscious (or unconscious) persuasion embedded in that characterization, persuasion which is in the favor of someone trying to be a persuader: the framing is that someone presented with “information” is “feeling uncomfortable,” hence is being irrational. However, because one thing that can trigger discomfort is someone exhibiting a violation of what you perceive to be a standard, it’s also perfectly possible that you can feel uncomfortable confronted by new “information” that contradicts new beliefs not just because you are inconsistent … but because the presented “information” is wrong. So, in this argument, people could possibly just be upset with Trump not because he’s a Master Wizard … but because they sincerely disagree with him in their judgments about facts and policies.

As it happens, I’ve entertained for a while an alternate hypothesis about what’s been going on about Donald Trump, and it seems like it might be playing out. In fact, I’ve almost been scooped on it, so at first I wasn’t going to write anything. But Scott Adams has done something great with his hypotheses: he’s put his predictions about Trump on the table, so he can be proved wrong later. Feynman argued the same thing: you’ve got to stick your neck out far enough for it to get cut off in order to really see the truth. So, I wanted to go on the record about what I think’s going on with Donald Trump.

For reference, here’s what I think people are saying about Donald Trump:

  • Malignant Narcissist Theory: Donald Trump is an insufferable blowhard who’s doing well because he’s an outrageous bully with an ego so enormous he’s resistant to normal modes of shame, and is airing all the dirty laundry of the Republican party that the politer and saner politicians with greater experience have tried to sweep under the rug. Many political analysts hold this theory, and assume Trump will eventually implode somewhere between the debates and the campaign trail because the majority of Republican voters, and certainly most Democratic voters, will never vote for him (and there’s data for that). The idea, you see, is that roughly twenty five percent of people is the most who’d ever vote Trump, so he’s maxed out.
  • Master Wizard Hypothesis: Donald Trump is a highly experienced, well-trained businessman, expert at the art of the deal and his own brand management, who’s mastered a semi-secret art of persuasion. His campaign is a sequence of carefully crafted stunts designed to implode his opponents, one by one, because Donald Trump has no shame, merely a cold, calculating, highly trained brain designed to put the whammy on people, slowly convincing them to turn his way so he can ultimately get his way. Scott Adams believes this, and has analyzed in depth how many seemingly weird things Trump does actually make a lot of sense.
  • Tell It Like It Is Hypothesis: Donald Trump is a smart, intelligent, conservative man who’s gotten fed up with the way things are going in this country, like many other conservatives, and is gaining popularity because (a) he’s saying what many conservatives are thinking (b) he’s telling it like it is, without a filter (c) he’s got a lot of experience running a successful business and (d) now he’s applying his decades of experience to politics, hopefully making America great again.   

These all seem like alternatives, but they’re actually closer than you think. They’re all based on the idea that Trump has no shame (which isn’t likely true), has a lot of experience at business (which is almost certainly true), and is saying things that the Republican base wants to hear. The spectrum seems to be whether you think some of his more colorful antics are because he’s an arrogant bully (politicos), a skilled persuader (Adams), or a genuine conservative (the Republican base).

Now my hypothesis.

  • Genius Brand Management. Donald Trump is a billionaire whose greatest asset is his brand, and he’s an American who cares about his country. Running for President, while it costs money, gives Trump an enormous amount of free publicity – he’s getting an enormous force multiplier from all this media attention, far more than he could by building more hotels or casinos, starting another reality TV show, or running ads. While doing this, he decided to – sincerely – raise all the issues he really cares about in the election, or at least the things he cares about which resonate with Republican voters. Trump simultaneously gets an enormous brand uplift and sets the tone of the presidential campaign to be about issues which matter to him. If he’s elected, great: he’s run a mammoth multinational corporation, and can handle the Presidency. If not, he’ll bow out … just as he’s bowed out of every other flirtation at candidacy since 1988.

So, under this theory, Donald Trump would likely implode sometime between the debates and the campaign trail (where a majority of votes, not just topping a poll, matters, and a mammoth grassroots organization is needed), but regardless of whether he implodes, he’s going to have a huge uplift in his brand, and will have set the course of the campaign.

Last week, Trump appears to have imploded with a long winded speech, different from his usual polished self, in which he ranted about his opponents, outlined his policy approaches about just about everything, and ultimately finished with “How stupid are the people of the country to believe this crap?” His opponents have gone wild, and Janell Ross wrote an article which crystalized what I’d already been thinking: Donald Trump might be self-sabotaging. You read it there first, folks, but just so I would have the opportunity to be proved wrong, here’s what the other people predict.

  • Malignant Narcissist Hypothesis: The arrogant blowhard’s finally imploding. Example: at HuffPo.
  • Master Wizard Hypothesis: Trump’s now moving against Carson. See Scott Adams’ analysis, in which he points out Trump’s engineered a linguistic kill shot comparing Ben Carson’s pathological temper to incurable pedophilia.
  • Tell It Like It Is Hypothesis: Trump is just speaking from his heart, and won’t be hurt by telling it like it is. See this New York Times article “Republican strategists in the state were skeptical that Mr. Trump’s latest over-the-top outburst would seriously erode his support.”

And now my take:

  • Genius Brand Management: Trump, having watched campaigns since the eighties, is fully aware that at one point half of Republican voters said they would never vote for him, and that falling behind Carson at this point could cost him the jockeying position he needs to get the nomination. So he makes an impassioned plea for attention, simultaneously trashing his rival as a last ditch hope, giving his brand one last spike – and reiterating what he thinks is important about the campaign.

As Scott might say, I remind you I don’t know who’s going to be President. I’d be a dumb man to bet against the author of Dilbert; I literally have his book on systems versus goals on my desk at work. (I haven’t gotten to it yet, but soon – I get the gist from his blog). And other politicos certainly are more practiced at this than me; I’ve only been following politics closely since, oh, when Bush was running. Bush Senior. The first time. Remember, against Reagan? I do.

SO anyway, the best hypothesis will win, because you can’t fake reality any way whatsoever. I’m going on the record saying I think Trump is bowing out of the race. If I’m wrong, I’m wrong. But if Trump has started to bow out, I’ll think about my Genius Brand Management hypothesis, recall that I said to myself that a smart man wouldn’t just use all this free publicity to pump his brand, but to make a statement to the American people about what he cared about. And then I’ll think about this phrase from his speech:

“I’ve really enjoyed being with you,” Trump said. “It’s sad in many ways because we’re talking about so many negative topics, but in certain ways it’s beautiful. It’s beautiful.”

Sure sounds to me like someone who has issues he cares about, bowing out after he’s said his peace.

-the Centaur

Getting it together

November 13th, 2015

What you see there is my “working stack” at home … the piles of books for my most active projects. These include Dakota Frost (shelves to the left and right that you can’t quite see), Cinnamon Frost (middle shelf on the right, middle center shelf and others below), robotics at work (top shelf on the right), Thinking Ink Press (bottom visible shelf on the right and middle center shelf), Lovecraft studies (middle center shelf and top shelf on the left you can’t quite see), and general writing (above, below, all around).

I accumulate lots and lots of books – too many, some people think – but there’s a careful method to this madness, as most of these books are not recreational, but topical, filling out a library around things I’m trying to accomplish. This means that when I’m working on a problem on, say, a Cinnamon Frost novel, and get stumped, I can have the pleasant experience I had last night of glaring at a Wolfram MathWorld article, not finding all the info I needed, peering through the references … and finding that the references pointed to a book I had on the topic, right in the Cinnamon shelf (pictured above).

For a long time I was terrified of my own library. Well, not terrified, but I’d piled up and accumulated so much stuff that I couldn’t effectively use it. This has been accumulating since the days of my condo in Atlanta, which was approaching near gravitational collapse, but I’ve made two major pushes to clean up the library since I moved to California, which organized it usefully, as I’ve reported on previously, and since then two major pushes to clean up the files. I’ve still got a lot go go – you can see more piles below – but now I’ve got a better system for organizing paper, I am starting to develop a system to get things out of the library and back to used bookstores (slowly, grudgingly, occasionally) and … I actually find myself wanting to go in here again.

The piles are still scary, but now I’ve got a nice reading area set up, which I can lean back and be cozy in…

My current reading pile and art projects are intimidating, but now organized and useful and even attractive …

My cognitive science section has developed a cozy, hallowed feel, that makes me want to dig in more …

… and at last I once again have a workspace which makes me want to sit down and work, or write:

I can’t tell you how healthy that feels. I need to stay on top of that. But for now … time to get back to it.

-the Centaur

P.S. Yes, I do actually use all those computers and monitors, though the one on the far right is slowly getting replaced by the floating hoverboard of an iMac that is now struggling to supplant my MacBook Air as my primary computer (good luck, you’ll need it). For reference, there’s my ancient MacBook Pro on the left, which formerly served as my home server; the iMac that’s replacing it, hovering over the desk, a MacBook Air which is my primary computer, and the secondary keyboard and monitor for my old Linux workstation, which is about to be replaced because it’s not beefy enough for my experiments with ROS.

Why yes, I’m writing a young adult novel…

November 13th, 2015

… why do you ask?

Technically, a Cinnamon Frost novel is an urban fantasy novel with a young adult protagonist. I am doing some work to make it young adult friendly, up to a point, but at some point you have to acknowledge that as much as we all love her, we’ve got a formerly homeless and abused teenage weretiger with behavior problems as our protagonist, in a world which is a “real” world, not a young adult friendly world – and she’s supposed to be a math genius, and if I’m going to have a story with a math genius, dang it, I want the math to be real math, even if takes me a while to figure out how to coherently explain what the heck a “loxodrome” is.

It’s the spiral you get if you run stairs up the side of a dome, but your architect was lazy and made the stairs cut a fixed angle to the meridians in their drawing, rather than a fixed angle that’s useful for constant climbing. Sigh. That’s not clear either. Needs more work. Back to it …

-the Centaur

P.S. And yes, I’m still on track for Nano.