This Idea Eats Brains!

I wasn’t a big fan of the story of Beauty and the Beast until the day I stumbled across Robin McKinley when I was 12. Although the first book of hers I devoured was The Blue Sword, it didn’t take me long to discover Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast. Years later, as a married adult, I was delighted to discover that she’d revisited the story with the masterful Rose Daughter. It blew me away, not the least of which because she at least began to address one of my central dislikes with the whole store of Beauty and the Beast:

Now that the Beast had won Beauty’s love and regained his handsome human form, what kind of difficulties would Beauty have in adjusting to his new (to her) external appearance, especially in light of the fact that people would once again be willing to be in his company? Cynic that I am, I also wondered what, if anything, would keep him from regressing back into his former patterns of behavior.

Over the past couple of years, these questions — and my answers to them — have been gnawing at me. I don’t think the story is over when the evil curse/spell is lifted. In fact, based on my own experiences as a married man, I think that’s when the real story starts. Beauty and the Beast don’t really know each other under the stresses of ordinary life, and there are sure to be some bumps and major potholes along the way. I like a happy ending as much as the next person, but the odds are pretty steep. Let’s also not forget the person who cast the original spell on the Beast; clearly, they’re a major magician. These people don’t go away. They’re going to be coming back to check out the results of their handiwork; will they like what they see? (And who is this magician, and what’s their real beef with the Beast? The standard answers never satisfied me. That’s some hella major mojo to toss on someone, even if they are being a completely stuck-up prat.)

I finally realized who the perfect viewpoint person for this extended story would be — the magician. Just to keep things interesting, my unconscious mind tossed out some other interesting connections and observations, and pretty soon I had the makings of a solid story on my hands. A couple weekends ago, the last major plot piece fell in place, so now I’m going to have to spend at least some of my personal time writing it out. Unlike some of the other novels I have running around in my head, this one feels like it is ready to come out, so here I go. Since it starts the day after the spell is broken, it will recover the familiar territory in a new way. The only problem is the title. My current working title is The Next Day. I honestly prefer After, but that’s too close to a certain Drew Barrymore movie.

Burst of Creativity

Thanks to the joys of wireless networks, laptops, and the rare conjunction of having a free evening, enough energy to do something about it, and enough brainpower to remember what all I want to do, I’m sitting in bed next to Steph (who is reading) and getting some bits and scraps of stuff done.

[Steph: You’re not blogging again, are you?]

Just with blog entries alone, I’ve got a list:

  • Write up a review of Wil Wheaton’s book Just a Geek (short version: buy it, read it, love it).

  • Write an essay about whether political bloggers are contributing to or helping contravene the blue state/red state divide in America.

  • Write an essay about the song “New Favorite” by Allison Krauss and Union Station, centering around the lyrics as a metaphor for the individual relationship with God.

  • Write up an article about the symbolic/elemental system I’ve been mulling, based around my thoughts about Christianity being a relationship.

  • Write an essay about my stance on homosexuality and gay marriage.

And then there’s the stuff notblog-related:

  • Finish my adventure for Steve Jackson Games.

  • Finish building the new Solaris proxy server.

  • Build the new Zope server.

  • Move websites to Zope.

  • Get Dad’s website finished.

  • Redo with the new logo I designed.

  • Redo the church website.

  • Finish up the appendix of tools and post it to the Cookbook blog.

  • Outline a fiction proposal for the Ten Worlds.

  • Produce an outline for the book on relationships that Stephanie and I keep talking about.

  • Produce an outline for the novel that’s chewing on my head (more about that in the next blog entry).

  • Write down the various ideas that I’ve had for books, short stories, or novels, and get them into a central place so I don’t lose them.

[Devin: I told you, dear reader, that I want to be an author. See how many of my action items involve writing? Maybe now you’ll believe me.]

Bleh. Now I’m tired enough to go to bed. Not that I will, of course.

Currently listening to: “Ghost in This House,” Allison Krauss and Union Station

Jam session, perfection, and suckitude

I was asked by our priest if I could provide some quiet background guitar music for my church’s Maundy Thursday service. I agreed, and when time came to head down to the church tonight, I decided to walk. It’s only ten minutes away by foot and I can always use the exercise. My fingers are sore — with the practice time yesterday and today, plus the actual time playing for the service, I played more than I’ve probably played for the previous six months — but it was good.

On the way home, I was walking by another church (there are at least five churches within close walking distance of our house; this is not a sign of Monroe’s special piety, oh no — it’s a sign that we need ’em) where a bunch of young folks (by that I mean younger than me, so youth group/early adult) were hanging out on the sidewalk. One of the young men saw me walking along with my guitar bag and basically invited me to sit and play guitar with him for a while. I was tempted, but declined the offer; we chatted for a few more seconds then wished each other well and went our separate ways. I really wanted to sit and play, and while I did want to get home, that wasn’t the reason I declined. Nor was I ashamed of my guitar (which was a birthday gift from my parents a couple of years back to replace the one that got stolen years ago), which while inexpensive has an incredibly rich sound for such a low-end guitar. No, I was ashamed of my playing. What I know about playing guitar is almost entirely self-taught.

When my parents got me my new guitar, I was really excited. Since we were at their house in Portland, I sat in a corner and played for as long as my fingers could stand (I hate playing nylon strings, so I play steel string guitars. Steel strings are much harder on the fingers until you build up the callous tissue on your fingertips. My fingers hate me right now). I was horrified to discover that I’d either forgotten a lot in the intervening nine years without a guitar, or (more likely) I was never as good as I thought I was. My parents said it was nice to hear me playing again, but I’m not sure I believed them then; I was so down in the dumps about how much I sucked that I had a hard time deciding if they were just being nice. (And to be honest, I still have that same trouble.)

It doesn’t help that I’ve been grooving to Allison Krauss + Union Station for the last couple of days. They are very talented musicians, so of course I immediately compare myself to them. I’ve had no formal lessons (apart from some sessions I managed to trade in return for teaching computer lessons back when I was a kid) and I have this wonderful music in my head that I can’t get out through my fingers. I’ve got a limited set of chords and fingerings I know and I can’t even do those consistently. There are chords that I’ve tried — and failed — to get down for as long as I’ve been playing. I think I just need to face the fact that I’m not a competent musician.

It occurs to me to wonder if learning how to touch-type early on has affected my manual dexterity; I’ve heard that typing and guitar playing require different muscles. If that’s the case, and I can only choose to be good at one, well, typing wins. I’ve had life-long dreams about being an author. Granted, I have dreams about writing and performing the occasional hit song, but even in my dreams, those are flukes; I’m first and foremost an author. Even so, it’s hard for me to find the will to do something if I don’t think I can be expert at it.

Edited: Steph says, and I completely agree, that I need to keep playing no matter what. Having my guitar available, even if I suck, gives me an outlet I don’t otherwise get.

The demise of SunSolve as we know it

Sun has long had an impressive amount of documentation and support material on their website, in the form of SunSolve. That appears to be changing in the near future. From the Sunsolve website:

Sun is streamlining online support, and access to information on SunSolve and in the Sun System Handbook will change.

SunSolve and the Handbook provide information to two different audiences:

(1) the general Sun Community
(2) Sun Service Plan or Contract customers

The type of information available to these two audiences will be changing starting on April 5, 2005.

At least this doesn’t appear to be affecting their online documentation.

This is, in my opinion, not the smartest move for Sun to be making. It really makes me wonder why they are bothering to open source Solaris, if they’re going to shut off a lot of the support content that is currently available to the Sun community and instead make it dependent on having purchased a support contract. The open source operating systems have most of this information publicly accessible; heck, even Microsoft makes it available.

Sun enthusiasts need to contact Sun and urge them to rethink this. I’m not sure who to talk to, but someone at Sun must know. I’ll try linking to Jonathan Schwartz’s blog and hope he sees the trackback. It doesn’t look like the software they’re using supports trackbacks, though.

I’m posting this entry to the Sun Rescue mailing list, run by Bill Bradford of and invite folks to blog about this. Feel free to trackback to this entry; it will be interesting to see how far this can go.

[Edit: I forgot to check Bill Bradford’s blog before I posted this, or I would have seen his post about this and linked to it originally. Sorry, Bill.

Cookbook progress and the rediscovery of free time

Oh, right, since I forget to mention it — we got the last chapter of the Exchange Cookbook off to our editor’s hands (and thus into production) early last week, so I’ve actually had some free time again in the evenings. I now need to get Once Upon a Time in Seattle finished and off to SJ Games; that’s way late. It’s been nice to not have to stay up past midnight, though, to get obscure Exchange scripting done.

No word from O’Reilly yet on which cover animal we get, and I haven’t seen it show up on their upcoming releases page either. Ah, well. We took our sweet time getting it to them, and a little birdie told me that it’ll be a June release date, so it’ll show up on the list when it shows up.