Regularly Expressing

science, sci fi, writing, spirituality

Spider Disco Ball

So I’ve known about the trick for finding spiders with a flashlight for a while now. You take a fairly powerful flashlight, hold it close to your eyes, and shine it on the ground. Spider eyes will wink back at you like little green gemstones. Since I’ve learned about it, I search for spiders on every camp out.

During my week at Camp Comer I saw a particularly fat wolf spider near the bathroom. I looked for its eye, and saw multiple glimmers. Confused, I looked closer and discovered its whole back looked a bit like a disco ball. I’m pretty sure it was covered with baby spiders. In the picture at left you can see the spider’s eye, and two of the babies (that’s all that showed up in the flash). Trust me. There were many more babies smiling for the camera.

One Key to Rule Them All

I frequently forget to unlock my door on the way out to walk the dog in the morning, and have to ring the doorbell, possibly waking people up, just to get back in. I wish the door would just know it’s me and open.

Modern car keys enable the opening of doors just by their presence. While that’s a pretty cool piece of tech, it makes me wonder why we don’t use it elsewhere. Why doesn’t Toyota, or one of the other manufacturers, offer to sell locks for your house that open at the touch of a person holding the car key?

To the Pain

It seems the Dread Pirate Roberts (a.k.a. Ross Ulbricht of Silk Road) has been sentenced to life in prison despite expressing remorse for breaking the hearts of his family and friends, and regrets losing his own freedom. From what I can see in the articles covering the sentencing (e.g. here), he didn’t express remorse for the many deaths he caused. Alas.

Master Plots

The “Save the Cat” books on screenwriting claim there are ten master plots. The idea of a master plot is that it helps you identify stories which are similar, so that you know what to watch or read in order to research the story you are working on.

I’m not claiming Blake Snyder’s list isn’t exhaustive, but I think there are other ways to “skin the cat” as it were, by adding new master plots to the list. These additions may overlap with existing items in some way, but they may resonate better for you. How do cook up your own master plot?

Each of these three master plots has three ingredients. I’ll give you a sampling from Blake’s books so you get the idea:

  1. Monster in the House
    1. A monster
    2. A house
    3. A sin – A good horror flick always has some evil deed that needs to be punished.

    May contain: The half-man, a character who has encountered the monster before and has come away physically or psychologically damaged.

  2. Golden Fleece
    1. A road
    2. A team
    3. A prize

    One naturally thinks of the Hobbit, the Lord of the Rings, etc.

  3. Out of the Bottle
    1. A wish
    2. A spell
    3. A lesson

    One naturally thinks of “Liar, Liar”, “Big”, or (of course) “Aladdin.”

I was thinking about the recent Avengers movies, as well as “Galaxy Quest” and what category to put these movies in. “Golden Fleece” is the obvious choice, but the odd thing about these movies is the villain seems to be the prize. It’s about a hunt. So I put it this way:

  1. Enemy Fleece
    1. A team
    2. A villain
    3. A hunt

    Something that’s typical in this type of story is the villain undergoes a transformation. At the start of the movie, the villain is big, scary, and powerful. By the end, he/she is revealed to be something small and unworthy of inspiring fear.

Anyway, that’s the recipe. Find three things common to a set of movies that define their flow, then give them a name. Have fun.

Story Idea: The Ghost Seers Asylum

This idea came to me the other morning. I picture it as having a semi-serious, whimsical character. Think Ghost Busters meets One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

When Wendy confides in her mother that the kid next door who died in a car accident still visits her, she expects understanding–not to be hauled away to an institution.

When she arrives at Magnolia House Asylum, Wendy tries to tell people she’s not crazy. But Magnolia house isn’t there to cure the insane, but to cure the problem of seeing ghosts. As her therapy continues, more and more people in Wendy’s disappear, both new acquaintances in the asylum and people she thought she knew in the outside world. Eventually, she must decide whether to accept the cure and live her life, or stay in the asylum and hang onto the many friends she’s lost.

This isn’t about Abortion

This post isn’t about abortion, but there’s a story about abortion in it. I read somewhere on the internet about a married, pro-choice woman who got pregnant. She and her husband decided they weren’t ready for a child, so she went to the abortion clinic. While sitting there, she surprised herself by realizing that she believed the life growing inside her was a baby and she couldn’t kill it. She left. Because she didn’t get the abortion, her husband divorced her. Now she’s remarried and is pro-life.

What I think is interesting about this story is that it illustrates a particular aspect of the psychology of decision making. Our subconscious mind has its own beliefs and ideas that, for the most part, it keeps to itself. Only when our conscious mind decides to do something it really doesn’t like does it step up and make itself known. I’ve had a few of these experiences of my own (which I don’t feel like sharing at the moment).

If you know me and my theories about story structure, you know that I believe the moments where characters make decisions are the key, and I think these moments when the subconscious over-rules the conscious and surprises the character are the most interesting. When Tris decides to join Dauntless in Divergent, I think it was one of those kinds of decisions and it is one of the most memorable moments in that book for me.

If anyone knows another example of this kind of decision, I’d be interested to hear about it.

Privacy is Dying

Privacy is becoming an increasingly problematic concern for everyone. With the advent of drones, inexpensive cameras, etc., surveillance is becoming easier for governments and corporations. Inevitably, the temptation for governments and industry to acquire intelligence on all of us may become (or already is) irresistible. Most of us fear the “surveillance state” and feel that it represents an unjustifiable encroachment on our liberty.

The question is, what can be done about it? My theory is that the struggle to maintain privacy will only cause governments and corporations to be secretive about what they’re doing. Data is power. If we want to equalize ourselves with the collectors of data, we should accept our lack of privacy, and work on legislating the means by which the data is accessed, used, sold, and protected. Our data should be stored in distributed trusted servers, possibly in encrypted form, to defend against it being withheld or tampered with. Data on politicians should be public, since most of their misdeeds seem to come from efforts to cover things up. Anyone wanting to run for office should be required to air their dirty laundry at the start, and should accept that as the price of running for office.

Eventually, I think, we are going to be watched every moment of our lives from cradle to grave. As frightening as this is, many benefits might accrue from making this step. Crime will be reduced. Not simply because it will make it easier to catch criminals, but because most people will behave better if they know they are being watched.

In addition, we will be able to prove we are innocent. While “innocent until proven guilty” is supposed to be a basic right, it only applies to criminal proceedings. Simply being accused of rape is often enough to end a person’s career, or take their money through lawsuits. Indeed, the fact that this is possible gives the unscrupulous a tool by which they can defeat any honest person. A deeper embrace of the principle of “innocent until proven guilty” could remedy this situation, but make it easier for rapists to escape justice. Only removing privacy solves both problems.

In addition, our health will be improved. Once medical data is more widely shared with researchers, the diagnosis, and treatment of numerous diseases should be improved.

Yes, we might be judged for mistakes we’ve made, but if we do our hypocrisy will be exposed. I think the end result will be that everyone is more tolerant of failures, and many of the things we suffer for trying to hide our failings will go away.

Is there really any serious downside to our coming loss of privacy?

From a Reader….


I read your “Memoirs of a Sith Lord” book at the airport waiting for my plane Sat. morning…—it was the perfect setting and I had a great read. I’m going to share it with a couple more people and I have no idea where it will end up. I liked the combination of emotional connection it wove through the saga and the dark-humor side of Darth we always suspected but never knew. The book left me wanting to read more about it—as any good book should do.

A reader

“Memoirs of a Sith Lord” is available on Wattpad. If you read it, and like it, please give it votes and/or comments.

I won an honorable mention in “Writers of the Future.” I will get a certificate by mail (and no, I don’t have to pay anything for that). Even though this isn’t publication, this counts as a writing credit suitable for query letters (so I’m told). Yay.

from Facebook

Today I presented our research into garbage collection (in the software sense), and the International Symposium on Memory Management in Scotland. It was well received, and several important researchers and students told me it was significant work. My co-authors are Hari Krishnan, Gokarna Sharma, and Costas Busch. In honor of the occasion, I’m changing my profile picture to the Garbage Man from Dilbert.

from Facebook