Wireless packet exchange you say…

While I was reading Hawaiian Lei of Shrunken Heads I remembered something interesting.  Well, interesting if you’re a network geek.

Nowadays almost everyone has WiFi.  When I first set up a wireless network in my house back in the late 90s it was pretty cutting edge technology, now even refrigerators can use it to communicate with whatever the heck it is that fridges need to communicate with.  My house is probably filled with various signals.  I find the signals keep the crazy people out.

But I digress.

Back when I was still actively studying and teaching computer networking we went over some of the precursors to current network technologies.  Among other technologies we discussed packet switching technologies, CSMACA (anyone remember that one?), CSMACD, Ethernet, Token Ring, various network cable grades and a little know, seldom discussed network technology that went online in 1971 and provided the first public example of a wireless network.

That network’s name was ALOHAnet and it was created at the University of Hawaii.  Some of the basic technologies surrounding ALOHAnet live on in other wireless technologies like WiFi and various cell phone data standards.  So, there you go.  Wireless networking, the stuff I thought was cutting edge in the late 90s had already been creeping around in Hawaii for decades before I plugged my first WAP into an Ethernet network in my office and thought I was James Bond because I could surf the web from my couch.

themoreyouknow

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Book Review – Hawaiian Lei of Shrunken Heads by Katerina Sestakova Novotna

I’ve only been to Hawaii once, about six years ago.  It was a beautiful place and about as alien to a desert dweller such as myself as you’re likely to get.  We have volcanoes out here, but they all blew up millenia ago so we’re left with cones and big rocks.  Hawaii has active volcanoes.  They have beaches with black sand and little crabs that glare at you when you don’t share your picnic.

Hawaii also a lot of traditional Gods.  That part wasn’t quite as alien to me; the Southwest is lousy with various Gods.  The Hawaiian Gods are pretty damned cool, though, and the traditional representations of them are pretty awesome.

Bottom line: Hawaii is a pretty cool place.

lei

So out of Hawaii’s long and interesting history comes Katerina Sestakova Novotna’s Hawaiian Lei of Shrunken Heads, a collection of stories both short and novella length about the various Gods and monsters of Hawaii and their interaction with outsiders.  Now, I’m sure she’ll correct me if I’m wrong here, but Katerina brings an interesting to angle to the stories.  She was born in the Czech Republic (which is interesting because I also work with a guy whose family is Czech) and has an ability to look at Hawaii’s history both as someone who lives there and someone who’s an outsider.  Her respect for the history and religion of the islands is obvious throughout the stories and she manages to weave traditions into stories that aren’t bogged down with explanation or exposition and are accessible to people who (like me) aren’t overly familiar with Hawaii’s traditional pantheons.

Even just from the explanation of some of the traditional gods you get a huge amount of bang for your buck.  Like Kū, the Hawaiian God of War who becomes the the background of the final story and, for all his fearsome visage, seems to be a decent sort if you approach him with respect.

ku
Come get me, Superman.

The stories are mostly horror stories but they’re not gruesome and there’s some lightheartedness thrown into the mix making for an interesting and engaging read.  Even if you’re not traditionally a horror fan these are some stories worth reading.  In Katerina’s hands, the Gods become real and walk the island.  If you’ve ever been to some of the more remote parts of Hawaii, you can almost imaging them walking out of the jungle.  It’s a deeply philosophical, highly entertaining, eye-opening read.

Buy It Here

As of right now Katerina doesn’t have any other social media sites out there.  I’ll update this post if she creates any.

Review – The Revenge of the Pumpkins by Lacey Lane

revengeofthepumpkins

Halloween is my favorite holiday.  Maybe it’s just some dark part of me or the fact that Halloween hasn’t been sanitized like so many other holidays, but I really enjoy it.

This is probably why I enjoyed this very short story from Lacey Lane.  Given the cover art and the title, I’m sure you’ve probably figured out the gist of the story: pumpkins come to life and take a (large) bit of vengeance.  Clocking in at about 1600 words it’s an extremely short short story and that’s my only complaint with the story.  Make it longer, draw out the tension, do more with the characters and this could be a great horror story.  It’s got the gore, it’s got the magic, it just needs some time for the story to flow into place.

If you’re into stories that make you cringe, this is worth checking out.  It’s free on both Smashwords and Amazon and it’s a good chance to look at a clever idea from someone who I hope will keep writing.

Get it on Amazon

Get it on Smashwords

Follow Lacey on Facebook

Monsters of the Southwest: Coco

“Duérmete niño, duérmete ya… Que viene el Coco y te comerá.”

While I was figuring out what had happened to Wilford in the past and explain his relationship to Steven in Henchmen, I decided he had to have run into something terrifying.  A monster of some sort or other was necessary.  It only made sense that if Gods walked the planet and the U.S. Government had captured one and a Valkyrie was wandering around trying to spark off Ragnarök (you didn’t think Eve really cared about Congress, did you?), it only made sense that other monsters would be real and elements of the government would be aware of them.  The story of Wilford vs Coco is recounted in Arise and will be further explored in a short story called The Hunt that will be part of The Clock Man when I get it done.

Since the action of Henchmen and ultimately Arise takes place in Central to Northern New Mexico I decided to go with a classic Hispanic creature rather than the Skinwalkers I heard about growing up next the Navajo reservation.  Eventually I’ll have to write something about the Skinwalkers; they’re just to fascinating to ignore, but for the time being I eschewed the idea of the Navajo beasties and went with a traditional Hispanic monster.

Who is Coco?  He (the name is masculine, there’s also a feminine Coca, but I’m not sure how you’d check their genders) is the boogeyman.  Coco is the go-to guy for frightening kids into going to sleep among other things.  Described as a type of ghost monster wearing a cloak, Coco is supposed to basically be fear personified.  In some versions of the story Coco eats misbehaving children in others he simply drags them to parts unknown for whatever nefarious purposes he has in mind.

Bottom line, he’s a bad guy.  In Arise I described him basically as a beast in house he’d turned into a abattoir eating a family and happily slaughtering an assault team.  If I were to stick Coco’s true legend the assault team would have walked into an empty room with absolutely no idea what had happened, but I really liked the idea of government agents (DHS, actually, although I don’t think the Department of Homeland Security has a monster squad) not only coming face to face with a monster but Wilford and Steven’s ultimate admission that, yeah, there are monsters out there and it’s well known “there’s fuck-all you can do about them.”

Sleep child, sleep now… Or else the Coco will come and eat you”

Since I grew up playing Dungeons and Dragons, some stats and info are in order…

Size: Since it’s a ghostly thing, size is indeterminate.  Assume large; seven foot tall and larger, but capable of shrinking

Speed: Fast.

Attack: Fear blast, invokes freezing terror in its victims

Special Abilities: Locked doors don’t stop it.  Coco may be capable of shifting through time and space to avoid physical barriers.

Armor: Special.  As a partially non-corporeal being normal weapons can’t touch it.

Environment: Urban.  Consumes children for food

Alignment: None.  Coco is neither good nor evil.

Goya's Que Viene El Coco (Here comes The Coco)
Goya’s Que Viene El Coco (Here comes The Coco)

Off the top of my head I can think of a few other classic Southwestern monsters I’ll be posting about in the future: La Llarona, El Chupacabra, Navajo Skinwalkers, and George W. Bush.

Coco on Hispanic Culture Online

Coco on Wikipedia

Compassion and the Martial Arts

I may not look it, but I’m a halfway decent martial artist.  Note: this doesn’t mean I’d be a good cage fighter or survive more than a round or so against a trained MMA fighter, but those aren’t things I’m really interested in doing anyway so it’s all good.  Over the past twenty five years or so I’ve studied Shodinji Do, Tae Kwon Do, Aikido, Kenjutsu, and Kenpo.  Looking back on it, it’s one of those “how the hell did I find time to do it all?” sorts of things.

Now, 2.5 decades later I can look back on my philosophy of fighting and ponder my reasons for starting and continuing to study.  I got bullied a lot in my youth and I think that may be part of why I started.  No matter how evolved you think you are a lot of what happened in your formative years will taint the rest of your life.  It’s very easy to say, “Just let it go,” but much, much harder to actually accomplish that goal.  Even though the Buddha may whisper to me to forgive and forget, it’s still on me to actually, you know, do it.

Here’s an interesting thing to notice for all you would-be martial artists out there and it’s a message that’s often bandied about but seldom implemented (at least in the arts I’ve studied); we like to say we’re doing this only for self defense but the things you can do to another person once you’ve been taught how to do them are pretty terrifying.  Of all my instructors over the years only one has really talked about that.  We were in Kenpo, looking at ways to break someone’s arm and really getting into it when the head of the school asked us if we thought we could actually do that; did any of us have the mental ability to actually hold someone’s arm and break it?

I’ve got a couple of friends who are former Marines and one of the things they’ve talked about was how it used to be difficult to get a soldier to point a gun at someone and pull the trigger.  Think that through for a moment.  These are soldiers, U.S. Marines (Semper Fi!), the baddest of the bad, and getting them to pull the trigger used to be one of the hardest things to teach.  Now, with a generation raised on first person shooters it’s apparently much easier to get a soldier to fire.

If that didn’t raise your eyebrow, go back and read it again.

Things like that are rarely discussed in the martial arts.  Granted, we’re not shooting anyone, but I did learn how cut someone from shoulder to hip with a katana and that’s a much more personal thing to do.  To this day, I wonder whether or not I could actually break someone’s knee in a fight if I had to.  It’s a quick and easy way to end a fight, probably forever for whoever’s knee just got broken, but it’s a pretty brutal thing to do.

But the bottom line is you’re taught to do just that, you practice doing just that, and when you’re in a stress situation and your brain turns to mush (as it is wont to do), you fall back on what you’ve practiced and pop goes the knee.

Unfortunately, there’s not much of a way around this.  Fighting is brutal, nasty stuff, and there’s always the fear that if you don’t do it to the other guy, he’s gonna gleefully do it to you.  And probably take your wallet, too.

So, how do we get around this problem?  I’ll grant, there may be times when breaking someone’s knee is the only way out of the situation but those times are extremely few and far between.  Most people want to avoid a fight.  This is usually what I tell the kids when I teach the Kenpo kid’s class: it’s always easier to avoid the fight than win the fight.  It’s an appeal to laziness but it’s better than a trip to the hospital.

What about the times you can’t avoid the fight?

Well, there’s almost always a way around an obstacle that doesn’t require going through it.  As the saying goes:

mosquito

 

Okay, most o the time there’s a way to solve a problem without resorting to violence.  There will always be that person out there who absolutely will not stop.  It’s best to avoid those people but if it comes down to it, do what you need to do and get away quickly.  Beating that person to a pulp won’t solve the problem, it will just help you extricate yourself from the situation.

Most of the time, though…  Well, even if someone is spoiling for a fight it doesn’t mean you have to engage, at least not physically.  I like to regale students with a quick telling of Terry Dobson’s “A Soft Answer.”  The gist of the story is this: a man on a train winds up in a situation with a raging demon of a man.  Before the fight can begin, an old man engages by asking “What are you so angry about?”  Six simple words that completely defused the situation.  He jumped into the fight, but not in the violent way; he sought the way that would solve the root cause of the problem, rather than focusing on the surface problem.

That’s compassion right there.  It’s easy to say “I’m going to be compassionate to my fellow man” when your fellow man (or woman) isn’t actively screaming about beating you down.  When you can take the compassionate route when your life may be actively in danger… Well, that’s a whole other ballgame.

I haven’t been in a fight since Junior High and I often find myself wondering if I’d react as well that old man on the Tokyo train would.  Personally, I hope I never have to find out.

Review – The Lunch Hour by Carl Jones

You know what one of the more interesting things about the Internet is?  Meeting people from all over the world from the comfort of my living room and not even having to take my feet off the ottoman.  I’m still waiting for flying cars and personal jet packs, but at least I can meet people I’d likely never come across IRL (that’s l33tsp3@k for In Real Life).  I’ve met a couple of new friends from the U.K. and a couple of authors from the same place.

UK-Union-Flag
These colours don’t run.

 

Reading their works is fascinating because it gives me an external view of America.  Tom Benson’s A Taste of Honey was the first one I read and the most recent is Carl Jones’ The Lunch Hour.  Since I only speak American I’ve had to compile a few internal look up tables to translate.  For instance: Your car doesn’t have a hood, it has a bonnet.  It’s not soccer, it’s football.  You’re not eating a sandwich, you’re eating breadystacks.  And so on.

So, on to the review.

Everyone who gets together in the lunch room at work has realized they could solve all the world’s problems if only those fools would listen to us.  Get people, any people, together in a small area and let them talk and you’ve got a recipe for interesting conversation.  That’s the gist of the Lunch Hour.  It’s the conversations a group of normal people have during their lunch breaks at an after-hours job.  They cover everything from World War II to Football (the soccer kind), history, views of the United States, current events, and so on.

Bear in mind, these are mostly average people doing what we all do when we get together with our coworkers.

A drama teacher of mine used to love to say “we don’t write plays about people brushing their teeth.”  She was trying to get us to understand that we need to write about extraordinary things if we want to keep people interested.  She was actually one of my favorite Theatre (yes, it’s spelled right!) teachers in college but I’m going to have to respectfully counter her argument with The Lunch Hour.  Average people doing average things is fascinating if it’s handled by someone who knows how to handle it.

Carl Jones knows how to handle it.  He’s got a strong command of the language, can casually toss out witticisms like bread at a Roman Colosseum, and handles his characters well.  If you’re into action, this isn’t the book for you.  Nothing explodes.  There are no knife fights in the hallways, and not a single nun fires a machine gun.  Frankly, there are no nuns, either.  I’ll leave it up to you to decide if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.  If you want to read a book by someone who can handle language well, check out the Lunch Hour.

LunchHour

 

Buy The Lunch Hour on Amazon

Find Carl on Twitter

Carl’s Goodreads page.

More links to come once I find his blog and website.

What the heck is Tumblr and why did I just create an account there?

This was supposed to be the second part of the last entry but I decided against it for reasons that escape me now.  That’s why, if you check the URL on the Reddit blog entry, you’ll see the URL has the Tumblr question embedded in it even though the post now no longer mentions Tumblr.  Which must mean the URL of a WordPress blog references the post title.

Morbo's race will find this information useful.  Also, Earthlings do not yet know the meaning of pain and suffering.
Morbo’s race will find this information useful. Also, Earthlings do not yet know the meaning of pain and suffering.

But yeah, I’m on Tumblr and still kind of scratching my head as to why.  I like to think that everything has a reason, but sometimes that reason is simply because it seemed like a good idea at the time.  It seems like a perfect place to post random pictures, so maybe I’ll just do that sometimes.

If you’re on Tumblr and have some free time, drop by and visit me.  Over time, I’m sure I’ll figure out what I’m doing.

Eric Lahti on Tumblr