Wednesday, September 30, 2009


A bird that was hit by a trolley. It seems to have survived all right.

A flower outside my dorm.

A pipe section out in front of Dillard.

Shoes in a tree in front of Dillard.

Another of the aforementioned shoes.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Some Thomas Jefferson quotes

Christianity neither is, nor ever was, a part of the common law.

No freeman shall be debarred the use of arms [within his own lands]. [The preceding bracketed statement is Jefferson's own, not my addition.]

I had rather be shut up in a very modest cottage with my books, my family and a few old friends, dining on simple bacon, and letting the world roll on as it liked, than to occupy the most splendid post, which any human power can give.

I never submitted the whole system of my opinions to the creed of any party of men whatever in religion, in philosophy, in politics, or in anything else where I was capable of thinking for myself. Such an addiction is the last degradation of a free and moral agent.

Delay is preferable to error.

To the corruptions of Christianity I am indeed opposed; but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself.

I agree with you that there is a natural aristocracy among men. The grounds of this are virtue and talents.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Football game, 3 (people)

Football game, 2 (football)


As I mentioned in an earlier post, my ENWR 3610 teacher dislikes zombies, as well as vampires and werewolves (hereafter I'm mainly going to just say "zombie," but it applies the same to any magical creature, or even magic itself). I've never written a story with werewolves. I wrote one story with vampires (oddly enough, the one I submitted to get into ENWR, and I will never again doubt the importance of names after Denton found the title "Cigarettes, Thunder, and Beer" more interesting than "Four Minutes to Midnight" and so read the non-vampire story instead), but it was, as I said, a story with vampires, not a story about vampires. The same applies to my zombie stories. They're stories with zombies, not stories about zombies.

Perhaps I should explain that difference, as it is one that my professor, who has studied English for the past 30-odd years and has an MFA from Columbia, completely fails to grasp. A story about zombies (or vampires, or werewolves, or any other random thing) is, in my mind, a story where removing the zombies would destroy the story, whereas a story with zombies uses zombies to tell a story about something else. They might make the story more exciting or more interesting, but in the end it's a regular cow steak with zombie sprinkled on top and not a slab of zombie flesh dipped in A-1.
The flash fiction story I turned in last week was about a teenager reminiscing about his father while he gets out his family's heirloom katana, against a backdrop of moans coming from the next room. A mention is made of a spreading contagion. My interpretation of this is that the father has been zombified and the teen is going to go kill him. However, it would fit just as well with any painful, terminal disease that makes his father want to die, or for some sort of dishonour such that his father is going to commit seppuku (the time frame is never specified, it could be modern-day, it could be centuries ago).
In my previous zombie story, it's a coming-of-age tale where the son sacrifices himself so that his sister doesn't grow up without a father. He happens to sacrifice himself by distracting and fighting the zombies outside so the rest of his family can get to safety, but the story would work fine with many other disasters.
To use an example not of my own, World War Z. It's a narrative history of a zombie apocalypse. However, what it is about is human response to a disaster, especially the threat of extinction.

Stories about zombies are not inherently bad. The Zombie Survival Guide (it could be argued that is isn't really a story, but I view it as such) is about zombies, and it's hilarious. However, far too often zombies are used to make a boring idea seem fresh. That's not how it works. If you have a good idea, the prudent addition of zombies can make the story better. Look at World War Z, look at Dracula (vampires, yes, but see the disclaimer in the first sentence), look at The Graveyard Book, look at Harry Potter. They take good ideas, add magic and good writing, and the end result is excellent. If, however, you start with a cliched story and mediocre writing, adding magic, be it traditional fantasy or vampires, isn't going to make it good (for examples, see Twilight, Eragon, and about half of modern fantasy literature).

Perhaps Denton has had bad experiences with books such as Twilight and Eragon that seem to believe that cliched stories + mediocre writing + magic = awesome (note: the preceding equation is false). However, I doubt this. I believe she suffers from a different malady that commonly afflicts English professors, that of basing a story's value purely on whether it contains deep inner meanings and subtle wordplay instead of what I would rate a story on, which is, what do I get from reading it? Even if it contains mountains of meaning, if it isn't interesting, what's all that meaning worth? If it contains one, two good lessons, and is an excellent read that pulls you through like a rocket, that's what a good story is.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Football game, 1

I took 581 pictures at the football game, and although I'll only be uploading a small subset of those, that's still a lot of pictures. I'll try to post them in similar-themed groups. This one is "sky".

Yay for 12,800 ISO.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Classes, and a few random photos

So, the classes I'm taking this semester, in order of when I have them during the week:

CS 2330: Digital Logic Design: Easy. Boolean logic. Would be fun if it weren't the seventeenth time I've learned it.

CS 2150: Program and Data Representation: C++. C++. A bit more C++. And then perhaps a dash of C++ on the side for good measure.

CS 3102: Theory of Computation: Set theory and finite automata. Complex but slow-moving.

MATH 3100: Introduction to Mathematical Probability: Easy. Stuff I taught last summer.

ENWR 3610: Intermediate Fiction Writing: I have more to say about this than the others...
So, first assignment, flash fiction story. I write mine, the class reads it, and so on. Two (out of fourteen other students and the teacher) notice that it could be interpreted to be about zombies. Despite not realizing this on her own, my teacher starts repeating over and over that I should get rid of the zombies. The zombies that she didn't even see. Yeah. No.
And, after looking over the other flash fiction stories, out of fifteen (including my own), seven are about relationships that are either over, and the story is a reminiscence, or about a relationship the main character wants to happen, and one is about romantic relationships but in a different way. This is what happens when you have a class of 11 girls and only 4 guys. (My story was about a relationship, admittedly, but it was the father-son relationship between a kid and the zombified dad he's about to kill.)

And, for your viewing pleasure, a few random photos completely unrelated to the above post.

The lamps by the Amphitheatre, that is, me wasting time before ENWR.

Me at lunch. (Yes, I do plan on resuming and updating Daily Steves at some point.)

The remains of the aforementioned lunch.