Thursday, November 22, 2012

On Thanksgiving

So it's Thanksgiving again! It's the time of pumpkin and holiday pie, the time of turkey, yams and even cranberry sauce. Yes, cranberry sauce, even though no sane person likes the stuff. I suppose it has to have something to do when it's not busy getting in everybody's juices (thank you Brian Reegan).

I have to admit I've always liked Thanksgiving, and it's always kind of bothered me when it gets overshadowed by Christmas. Christmas is nice and all--don't get me wrong, I like that holiday just fine. But does Christmas shopping and jingles and frantic holiday rush need to start in October? I think of Thanksgiving as a great time to just pause and reflect a little, rather than running flat out from summer to Christmas. Our society could use a little of that, but these days it seems like Thanksgiving has become more about shopping than giving thanks. It's gotten to the point where the infamous Black Friday shopping craze is not only killing and trampling people, it's starting one day early in some stores...during the holiday that's supposed to be about gratitude. When did that start making sense?

So in a personal effort to hold back the crazy, and appreciate the holiday as it was meant to be, I'll list a few things I'm especially grateful for this year.

First off, my family. Emily has been a wonderful wife, and better than I deserve, for more than five years now. She's been with me through hard times and everything, and I couldn't be happier that she's stuck around. Even better, we have a daughter now, who, although she has a tendency to make things interesting, is a bright spot in my life. I'm grateful for both of them, and for the parents, siblings, and other relatives who have always been there for me and supported me, despite my many varied flaws.

I'm grateful for the friends and co-workers who've not only put up with me, but gone out of their way to look out for me. I'm thankful for the readers who have bought my books and made it possible for me to succeed at something that I love doing. I'm grateful to be able to live in a country where my voice is heard, where my rights are secure, and where I have the freedom to believe and to do as I choose, and I am humbly grateful for all those who have sacrificed and suffered to make that freedom a reality.

Most of all, I'm just grateful to be alive. There are so many opportnities in this world, at this time, and I am glad to have the chance to experience it, to be a part of the craziness that is life. The chance to continue forward and keep learning, keep growing, is incredible to me, and I am glad that I have it.

So there's my little Thanksgiving post. Hope you and yours are having a wonderful day! See you around.

Monday, November 19, 2012

On Background: Hector Kingsley Landships

So you tend to learn very interesting things about history when you are researching a steampunk book.

One of the things I was researching recently was the introduction of tanks during World War One. The reason for that is the tank gets invented a lot earlier in Hector's world than it does in ours. The Distillation kind of speeds up or alters a lot of scientific advancement, so the Germans (unified much earlier than in reality, and allied with the British during a fight with France) roll out their version of the tank during the 1860s or so.

Except they don't call it a tank. They call it a landship.

You see, the reason that type of mechanized war machine gets called a tank in the first place is due to some interesting stories behind its development. The British who were working on the device didn't want the enemy to know what they were making. After all, tanks had the potential to finally break the terrible stalemate of trench warfare; they didn't want to tip their hand too early. So they mislabeled the product of the Landship Committee as a 'water carrier', supposedly destined for Russia or the Middle East.

At which point they noticed that the acronym for water carrier is WC--otherwise known as the British abbreviation for toilet (water closet).

Probably knowing that soldiers would come up with enough off-color names for the things on their own, the British then decided to change the name to 'water tank'. Eventually the name was shortened to tank, giving the weapon of modern warfare its distinctive nomenclature. Not every language uses it of course, but English typically refers to the vehicles by that name consistently.

Unfortunately for me, in Hector's world that particular series of events would not have happened. Tanks would have come to the British through their German allies, so they wouldn't have had to resort to disguising the invention themselves. As a result, they probably would have stuck with the original term for the device--a landship. Interesting what changes a little tweak in history could create, isn't it?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Five Life Lessons From FTL

1. Failure will happen. No matter what you do, no matter how carefully you prepare, something you're counting on will go horribly wrong. If it doesn't you're just as likely to screw it up yourself. Their boarding drone might hit your weapons room, they might randomly hack your shields, or you might forget to stop firing when your best crew members are boarding the enemy ship. There is no reason to dwell on it or mope about it. Stuff will just go wrong. That's life; you just pick up the pieces and move on.

2. Make sure you know your priorities. Sometimes life can get distracting. Problems can pop up and crowd out what is truly important. For example, that your ship is on fire. Or that you turned off your oxygen supply to power your laser cannon. Or that there is a mutant alien insect gnawing its way through your pilot. Make sure that you don't get so caught up with what is happening now that you forget about what is truly important.

3. Persistence is everything. This one relates back to the first lesson. Stuff happens, and things hit the fan on a regular basis. The point is to keep going and not just throw your hands up and surrender. It doesn't matter that your boarding party just blew up; don't hit the reset switch automatically. If you give up every time you hit a rough patch, you're never going to find something worthwhile at the end. And the little things--like the explosion that marks the dead enemy flagship--will make every bit of stubborn persistence worth the work.

4. Everyone can do something useful. There's something for everyone to do. The Rockman you just brought on board may not move very fast, but he'd probably do well against boarders. Your robotic Engi ally might not be able to storm the enemy ship, but all that damage you've been taking could probably use his touch. Don't count anyone out.

5. The Challenge makes it worthwhile. Sure, Normal mode might be hard. Okay, a little worse than hard. Maybe we should be referencing XCOM or Ninja Gaiden here. It sucks to have your ship get blown away time and time again. Maybe you're getting tired of running out of fuel and then having to rely on treacherous Slugs to creep along until the rebels get you. Or it is extra hard to get some of the various achievements that the game gives you awards for doing. If it was easy, you'd forget about it immediately. The challenge you struggle through. makes your victory all the sweeter.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

On Birthdays

Well, I'm old now.

Or at least, I'm older. I've now officially turned twenty-eight. That puts me so much closer to thirty than I ever wanted to think about.

At this point it's probably time to give up any illusions about being a young adult. Closer to middle age at this point, which is...disturbing. Somehow it seems like I should have a much more stable lifestyle at this point, that things would have settled onto a more predictable track. Obviously, that has not been the case. :) At least not yet.

That said, I have been fortunate to have so much go right in my life. I've managed to publish four books, have a wonderful wife and a beautiful little daughter, and we aren't quite living at the desperate edge of poverty anymore. Big achievements in my book! I suppose that a lot of people aren't doing as well, and it is always better to look on the bright side... or so I always get told. :)

So in this case, I should say that I am quite glad to have made it this far. Hopefully I can look forward to another productive year! See you around!