Monday Music: Help a Choir Out

Some might be surprised to find out, but I sang in concert choir in high school. It was full of personalities, so to speak, and always had some drama going on. Most of us (self included) had voices of indifferent quality at best. And we were hormonal teenagers who were often too distracted to follow instructions properly, much less throw heart and soul into making wonderful music. But our director was an amazing fellow who took less-than-ideal ingredients and mixed them into magic. It was great fun. And there’s something wonderful about turning words into a rich, flowing sound that fills every cranny of an auditorium.

We could have used better outfits, though. Our men looked like cheap Vegas best men and the ladies looked like they’d just stepped out of a production of Macbeth, still holding the ladle for stirring cauldrons and cackling. New outfits weren’t in our stars, though – not a small town high school concert choir competing for microscopic funds against the football team.

So when one of our own turns out to be a member of a choir that’s looking to get new uniforms, of course I want to help! You can, too. They’re doing a sort of Latvian version of a Kickstarter, but in this case, you don’t have to donate dollars, just vote. You’ll need a cell phone, because this site texts you a code to use, and it’s in Latvian, so you’ll need RQ to guide you through, but it’s not terribly difficult.

First, a song for motivational purposes.

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O, Computer Geeks, May I Request Your Wisdom?

I’m emerging from my sickbed – well, sickchair – for a moment to request a favor from the computer geeks in the audience. Does anyone know of a simple and preferably free way to set up your television as a dual monitor? I’ve got me HDMI cable, and I’m happily playing content through the PC, but I’d like to have video playing on the teevee whilst still being able to work on the machine. Right now, what I see on the PC screen is what I see on the teevee. This makes working whilst streaming movies difficult.

I’m sure this is simple, but I’m rather muddled at the moment and don’t trust myself not to fuck it up without expert guidance. Thanks in advance!

In other news, I’ve taken this unexpected absence to discover the joys of nasal spray and contemplate the invention of a cuisine based on texture and sensation rather than taste. It’s been very exciting. Wish you were here! You would be greatly amused.

I think I just managed to sort-of smell an English muffin, and I might have detected one out of the forty or so spices in the chili soup, so I’m off for what promises to be a somewhat lively lunch. I’ll be back soon with actual, y’know, content. Just you wait ’til you see what I’ve got for the Sunday Song. You’ll never be the same again…

Info Request for GRE, Quitting Update, and Kitteh Rescue

A few items on the agenda, here.

Firstly, I’ve got a G+ friend named Craig DaGeek who is investigating the possibility of getting into grad school for geology. He could use some insight from those in the know: what’s the new GRE like? Do you know of any good study resources for it? Any info you can give him would be much appreciated. Let’s get another geology major into grad school and out in the field!

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Okay, Geos – We Have a Chance to Hook a 4 Year-Old On Geology

Scicurious is looking for gift ideas:

So, anyone recommend a geology starter with pretty rocks for a...4 year old? She's got this budding interest in rocks. I like to encourage.
sci curious

Anyone know of anything good? I’m a total loss when it comes to this sort of thing.

Are There Any Mineralogists in the Audience?

If so, have you ever howled at silly mineralogical mistakes in a piece of fiction? Wanna prevent me from making you scream?

I’m in the midst of worldbuilding, you see, and I’ve just come across the uncomfortable fact that I know bugger-all about minerals. I know some basics: that when a geologist is talking about a mineral, it’s not the same type of mineral your nutritionist will be yammering about. I know rocks are made of minerals, and that some minerals are commercially useful. I can, if pressed, name a few. Well, probably several. And that’s about it.

It’s pathetic is what it is.

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Right. I Want to Try Something.

There’s a Welsh phrase I love very much: “Like killing snakes.” Means “very busy.” I’m like killing snakes right now. The start of the Winter Writing Season is always like throwing a grenade into the middle of my life, and this time, I decided to go nuclear, what with starting the Geokittehs blog with Evelyn, joining Freethought Blogs, offering to do some of the social media work for Burien Little Theatre, and participating in the Skepticism 101 panel at GeekGirlCon. And I’m not going to tell you the major cell phone carrier I work tech support for, but I’ll put it like this: we’re getting the iPhone 4s, which means they’ve closed the vacation calendar, opened up overtime slots, and are basically expecting us to be like killing snakes at a snake farm in which some mad strange person has been giving the snakes fertility drugs.

As I said, busy.

And that won’t leave as much time as I like for in-depth research for meaty geology posts. Not that we won’t have meaty geology posts. We will, at least a few. I’ll also be highlighting my beloved geobloggers as the weeks go by, because they deserve to be known and you’ll be happy to know them. But I’ll also need topics I can do as a hit-and-run. Which brings me to a somewhat pathetic cry for help.

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While We Wait for the Carnival to Come to Town…

Due to a breakdown, one of our sideshows is coming in late, so Ye Olde Accretionary Wedge #34 Addendum won’t be up until later today or tomorrow.  It will be worth the wait.  And if you missed the first go-round but have something you’d like to submit, please do feel free!

Due to a breakdown in my mad time management skillz, I haven’t got anything to fill the gap.  And I’ve got five hours of hard writing ahead, which means I can’t whip up anything brilliant.  So I’m going to ask your input instead.

Y’see, I’m fast running low on quotes for Cantina Quote o’ the Week.  And I figured, rather than scouring the intertoobz for more quotes, I’d invite you, my darlings, to submit your own favorites.  Anything you like.  I can’t promise I’ll use them, but I’d love to see them all.  I likes a good quote, me.

And now, ’tis time for a quote from my best friend: “I’m off – and I’m leaving, too.”

See ye at the sideshow.

Not For Wise Readers Only

I’ve got the outline for ye olde geology book posted for Wise Readers only.  If you’re regretting your decision not to be a Wise Reader about now, there’s still time!  Just send a request to dhunterauthor via Yahoo. 

Even if you don’t take that plunge, though, you’ve still got a chance to shape the book.  Isn’t that exciting?  And all you have to do is let me pick your brain.

I’ve got questions, you see.

Geology professionals and students: 

What are words used commonly in geology that trip laypeople up?  What terms do you find yourself having to explain (or at least sum up) every time you discuss this stuff with a layperson?  What are terms, phrases and words you believe the public at large should be aware of?  What words do you find laypeople misunderstanding because their common usage is completely different from the way they’re used in geology or science in general?  What stumped you when you first started studying geology?  Favorite geology words?  That sort of thing.

Interested laypeople:

What scientific or geologic words really throw you off?  Confuse, confound or otherwise baffle you?  Are there words you’ve heard that you don’t quite know the meaning of, but would like to?  If scientific language is a stumbling block for you, why?  Don’t be shy about admitting it – believe me, I’m among those interested laypeople who stop dead at certain words and says, “What the fuck is that supposed to mean?”

Half the fun is in finding out.  Hence, this book. 

Right, then.  Hit me.

Topics, People! I Need Topics!

I’m insane.  Right round the bend.  Gone straight for a madman.  Loco (well, in my case, loca).  I’m trying to write a month’s worth of blog posts within the next four days.

Topics.  I need topics.

So, if there’s anything you’ve been burning for me to write about, now’s the time to mention it.  I don’t care how crazy it sounds, or if you think it will only be interesting to a minority of circus performers, or if you think you’re the only one who could possibly care.  Pitch it.  You never know when you’re not the only one.

Got a question about atheism?  Ask it.  Want to know something about this life as a writer?  Inquire within.  Some aspect of Arizona or Pacific Northwest geology intrigues you?  Do tell!  Those are just a few suggestions to get your topic synapses firing.  

And if anyone’s been itching to post a guest post right here on ETEV, now would be a good time to raise your hand and squeal, “Ooo, me!  ME!”  Send it along to dhunterauthor at yahoo dot com and you might just see your name in lights.

Right, then.  Fire away.  I’m off to continue preparing for the last month o’ the winter writing season….

Fear and Loathing

I’m just going to throw this out there, because I’m stymied: what scares you?

Not in general, in books, I mean.  You see, I’m trying to ensure that my main antagonist, Sha’daal, isn’t just some cheesy, generic Big Bad whose soul purpose is to provide a force for the heroes to overcome.  I know Sha’daal’s not just that.  There are aspects to that character I can’t bring out until later in the series.  In their stead, I have to ensure that when Sha’daal appears, when he’s even just mentioned, people freak out.  Or at least break out in a cold sweat.

And this is difficult because we’re not talking a human character.  I could create a terrifying human and make him believable.  Probably.  But when it comes to something inhuman, something far beyond human, I’m stymied.  I’m just not afraid of most of the templates.  Satan?  Yawn.  Most everything that’s ever appeared in fiction or literature has done nasty things, but never struck terror into my heart.  And when I tried to analyze the things that terrify me, I came to a realization that I’m just not that scared.  Worried sometimes, yeah.  But not shitting myself with fear. 

Forces of nature don’t terrify me.  I’m sure I’d be shit-scared in the midst of, oh, say, a volcanic eruption or a megathrust earthquake or watching a tsunami bear down, but it’s not like I lie awake nights shivering in terror of them.  They happen, we’ll deal or we won’t.  I’d survive or I wouldn’t.  If I die, I won’t care, now, will I?  Dead people don’t care.  If I survive, then I’ve got a job o’ work to do putting the pieces back together.  And it’s impersonal.  It doesn’t mean me, specifically, any harm.  It’s just the kind of thing that happens on a geologically active planet.  So I can’t draw on the fear of forces of nature.  Haven’t got enough.

People don’t even scare me that much.  Not after what I’ve been through in life.  Dictators can be defied (should we ever get one in America, pencil me in for the revolution).  Violent people can be avoided or stopped, and if they can’t, I’m either dead (in which case, see “don’t care” above) or I’ve survived (see “job o’ work” above).  People concern me a bit more than nature, but only a bit more.  I try to mine myself for terror there and can’t find a motherlode.  And it’s no good for Sha’daal, anyway.  He has a mind, and a form, but he’s not human.  He’s not even mortal.

Then I tried going back through books and television and movies, and came up empty.  Everything everyone’s ever thrust at me saying, “This will scare you to death!” hasn’t.  I watched The Ring and never twitched.  Got bored, actually.  Horror novels make me yawn.  I’ve not yet encountered one with the power to keep me up past my bedtime.  Certainly haven’t given me nightmares.  Hell, I’ve watched “Blink” twice now, a Doctor Who episode that has one friend of a friend so terrified of stone angels that she screams every time she sees them, and that all of my friends hold up as the scary episode par excellence, and all I got was a brief but delicious case of the creeps.  Next time I see a stone weeping angel, I’ll probably thump it and say, “I’ve got your number, you barstard.”  But I won’t flee it.

All of this is a long way of saying that soul-deep, gut-wrenching, nightmare-inducing terror is a hard thing for me to achieve.  So I need you lot.  If there’s something in a book or show or movie that’s terrified you, I’d like to know about it.  Who are your favorite Big Bads?  Who or what genuinely worried you, do you loathe, do you simultaneously love and hate the author for creating?

Temple Grandin once said she feels like an anthropologist on Mars trying to figure people out.  I’m feeling the same way trying to figure out what will truly make Sha’daal a force to be feared.  So thanks for guiding me through, my darlings.  I’ve never needed you more than now.