Thursday, October 28, 2010

Next spring's tentative schedule

So, I haven't yet signed up for classes, but as I've got one of the first registration spots out of the whole student body, I'm fairly confident I'll get the classes I want. Those classes are:

Math 3340 - Complex Variables with Applications - Not necessarily the most fun course, but the only undergraduate math class here I haven't taken, so I figured I'd give it a shot.

Physics 5640 - Computational Physics 2 - Again, not necessarily the most fun course, but I need one more physics class for the major, and I feel like being a masochist and taking another graduate level class after being thoroughly destroyed by the one I'm currently doing.

CS 4630 - Defense Against the Dark Arts - Sadly this is in the Computer Science department and not the Hogwarts department, but it should still be fun to learn how to prevent people from messing with my computer.

CS 4710 - Artificial Intelligence - Sounds fun.

Architecture 1020 - Lessons in Making - My fun creative class for the semester. An introductory class in design, something I'm interested in.

Photo editing

A random edited photo I did in Computational Photography today. You'll notice that it's slightly brighter and slightly less realistic than the edit of this photo I posted here.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

OBC, day 11

Today's prompt: “Write your NaNoWriMo protagonist doing something he or she would never do.” I don't yet have a NaNo protagonist chosen, as I may very well not do NaNo this year, but here's one guy I've been tossing around as a possibility having a meeting he swore he'd never have.

“You see, Arthur, there isn't anything wrong with this,” Jonathan said. He held out his hand for the old man, old but not frail, and Arthur refused it. He placed one foot, gingerly, on the dock, his other still firmly on his boat's deck.
Arthur locked eyes with the businessman before him. He didn't trust him. He knew they wanted him to quit fishing, to leave the waters and let them move in, and he knew he wouldn't. It went against everything he believed to even just talk to them, but his father had always told him “Know thine enemy,” and he figured he should at least give it a shot. There wasn't an offer they could put on the table to make him come ashore for good; he just wanted to know how much he was worth to them.
“It just doesn't feel right,” Arthur muttered as he lifted his foot from the boat and set it unsteadily on the dock. It was the first time in years that he had been on anything resembling solid land.
“Give it a minute and it'll be fine.” Jonathan checked his watch. “The car's right this way.”
“No,” Arthur said.
“I was under the impression we were going to talk, and don't you want a place a bit more comfortable than this dock?”
“There,” Arthur said. He pointed to a restaurant, built as an offshoot of the pier. There was a walkway to the shore, but its bulk sat above the water.
“Are you sure I can't convince you to come back to our offices?”
“It's either there or I sail away right now.”
“Let me make a quick call,” Jonathan said. He pulled out his phone and began to dial.
Arthur stepped back onto his boat and began uncleating the mooring lines.
“Okay, we can meet there,” Jonathan agreed, lowering his phone without making a call. “It'll take my people a little while to get here, though.”
“I'm fine with that.” Arthur recleated the lines and sat down, his legs dangling over the edge of the boat's deck. He watched as Jonathan typed a message on his phone, wondering exactly what it said. Crazy kook refuses to go on dry land, so we'll need to meet here on the dock. Or maybe something simpler, such as, Meeting moved to dock. Arthur really wasn't sure what level of formality to expect from the annoyed correspondences of a business executive.
Twenty minutes later, a black sedan pulled noiselessly into the parking lot at the shore end of the restaurant's walkway. Arthur laughed as he stood up and stepped back to the dock. “Still going with the black luxury cars? I've always been a bit surprised that you execs don't drive Corvettes or something a little more fun.”
“We don't usually drive ourselves,” Jonathan said. “The stockholders consider it safer to have professionals do that.”
Arthur snorted out another laugh. “When was the last time you drove a car?”
“I don't have a license, actually. I grew up in the city and never needed one.”
Arthur began walking slowly towards the restaurant's backdoor, opening onto the dock. “So what do you do besides trying to convince me to give up my fishing license?”
“I'm the chief operating officer for the North American division of Petrochem. I run everything we do on this continent.”
“And yet you've still got the time to come down here to try to persuade me to quit?”
“I wish you wouldn't view giving up your fishing license as quitting. It'll be a change of occupation, for sure, but these days everyone changes jobs at some point in their life.”
“You kids these days are a new generation. Back in my day, when people started a job, they stuck with it.”
“It's not like you'll be deserting a promise you made.”
“Stop using future tense. I haven't agreed to anything yet. You still need to make an offer that I accept.”
Jonathan smiled a salesman's confidant facade. “I'm sure we won't have any trouble working out some sort of agreement.”
Arthur and Jonathan walked into the restaurant. It was busy, but in a corner, set apart from the rest of the diners, sat a table at which sat a man in a black pinstriped business suit matching Jonathan's.
Jonathan sat down next to his colleague, and Arthur took a seat across the round table.
“Jonathan said you had a driver bring you. Where is he?”
“Our drivers are out with our cars,” Jonathan's associate said.
“Don't want to invite them in here for a bite to eat? I'm sure they're hungry from driving around all day.”
“It's generally considered bad practice to bring unnecessary personnel to business negotiations. I'm Nathaniel, by the way.” Nathaniel extended his hand across the table to Arthur, who ignored it. After a moment he pulled it back. “Would you like something to eat, or shall we commence with negotiating a price?”
“I can eat on my boat,” Arthur said. “What price are you offering?”
“We're prepared to offer you two million dollars for you to give up your fishing license.”
Arthur looked across the table, no emotion showing on his old face. “You've got to be kidding me.”
“More than you were expecting?” Jonathan asked. “It's certainly more than we discussed over the radio.”
Arthur laughed. “Now, perhaps my understanding of exactly what you want to do is flawed, but you need me to surrender my fishing rights so that you can use the bay as an algae farm.”
“That's correct. Our use would render fishing impossible, and the states involved have said that as long as there's a valid fishing license out for anyone on the bay, we can't begin,” Nathaniel explained. “Hence our generous offer.”
“And what exactly do you need all this algae for?”
“It produces biodiesel as a by-product of photosynthesis.”
“How much?” Arthur asked. “Do you really need the whole bay for it?”
“It produces about 20 gallons per acre per day, so in order to produce a sizable quantity of oil we need a lot of space,” Nathaniel said.
Arthur looked up at the ceiling, numbers churning around in his head. “So you're offering me two million dollars while you stand to earn, what, close to a hundred million a day as a result?”
“Not a hundred million,” Jonathan said. “We won't have complete bay coverage. Most of the estuaries and inlets are functionally unusable.”
“Regardless, an offer of two million is laughable,” Arthur said. “Look, I realize I probably strike you two gentlemen as an old man who can be bought over by a bit of money. And yes – two million dollars is a fair amount of money, certainly enough for me to retire off of – but compared to what you stand to gain from all this, it's an insult.”
Arthur stood. “I'm sorry, Jonathan, Nathaniel, but you'll need to find another bay for your oil farm.”
“We can up the offer,” Nathaniel hastened to say. “That was just our initial offer.”
“You had your chance and you blew it.”
“How about ten million?” Jonathan offered.
“You had...”
“Twenty?” Nathaniel asked.
“Your chance...”
“Fifty?” Jonathan reluctantly tried.
Arthur stopped and turned around. Jonathan smiled.
“As I was saying,” Arthur continued. “You had your chance, and you blew it.” The old man turned back around and walked slowly out of the restaurant, as the two men sat in stunned silence at the nicked and dirty wooden table.

As soon as he was back aboard Arthur set a course in his autopilot for the center of the bay and lay down in the hammock strung between the railing along the edges of his cockpit.
“Fifty million dollars,” he said to himself, still amazed at the amount, as the seagulls circled overhead and the sun crept out from behind the clouds. “Not worth it by a long shot.”

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Write Club, October Boot Camp, 9 October

The Write Club at UVA has this thing called October Boot Camp where the officers send out daily writing challenges to get people prepared for NaNoWriMo. I probably won't do NaNoWriMo this year, but I'm going to try some of the writing prompts anyway. Here's yesterday's, which I did today as I didn't notice today's e-mail until just now.

Prompt: “Write a fable, containing either a traditional moral or a new one you think people should know.”

The clouds that night ensured perfect darkness as I limped along the path. I didn't need light to know my way. I'd walked the route enough times before.

I sniffed the ground as I went. That smell, that rancid stench, was there, and I knew that he had come this way. When, I wasn't sure. Maybe a half-hour before. Maybe two days. Maybe a week. More recently than that and I would've caught a rustle or a crunch of his passage through the wood; any longer back and the stench would be gone. Even foul smells fade with enough time. Even his, somehow.

I froze. I wasn't alone. There was a noise in the black ahead, a faint beating of a frail heart.

“Peter?” a small voice from the darkness ahead asked. “Please be Peter.”

I growled. “Not right now, Tomas. I'm busy.”

“Peter! Excellent.”

I heard the hare's heartbeat slow, and then heard the crunch as he crept forward. I thought about lunging forward, feasting, eating Tomas, but I resisted that urge. I wasn't hungry. Not hungry enough to eat a friend, anyway.

“I'm in a bit of a hurry.” I kept walking.

The hare leapt aside so I wouldn't step on him, but as soon as I was besides him he hopped up onto my back. I stopped.


“Come on, Peter. Is it really that hard to carry me?”

“You've got a lot of nerve, hare.” I started limping forward again, my paws following the path without conscious direction. “You'd better hope I don't want a bite to eat.”

“You wouldn't eat a friend, would you?”

“Depends on how hungry I get.”

“I just need a ride for a little ways, and lord knows you're faster than I am by leaps and bounds.”

“Not when I've got a parasite clinging to my fur like a three-pound bur.” I quickened my pace, running along the trail. I shouldn't have stopped to chat. I didn't have the time, but Tomas was a friend. Well, a rodent that could get this close and not instantly get eaten. Perhaps not a friend but as close as he could ever get.

He hung on better than I expected, and he was still a thorn in my side as the clouds and morning broke together. I stopped in a clearing to lap up a few blades worth of dew. The grass cut my tongue but I didn't care. Wounds heal, and I've had far worse and I'm still here.

“If I hop down will you let me back up?” Tomas asked as I drank.

“No,” I told him. “Why do you want a ride, anyway? You don't need to get anywhere in a hurry.”

I'd had enough and I started back down the trail.

“I need to win a race.”

“And you don't consider this cheating?”

“I never heard any rules against it.”

I didn't respond. I was distracted. I lowered my nose to the ground again, inhaling the dirt's captured odors. The stench was here, and stronger. I was closing the gap.

I sped up, running faster along the daw-dampened path. There was maybe a mile left, at most two, separating me from my prey, but the route had turned uphill. My paw hurt at each step, the bones creaking and shifting around the two that had cracked. I couldn't stop. I was close. I could smell the hair, smell the hooves, smell the pride. If I weren't running I could've heard it up the trail, galloping along. I was almost there. My face twisted in pain and anger.

“What's wrong?” Tomas asked.

“Quiet, hare,” I hissed. “You'll be heard.”

“Heard by what?”


Tomas stayed silent as I ran on, bounding through the loose trees up the steepening slope. A glimpse of white flashed in the distance, and I snarled. Close.

Clouds once again rolled overhead, cutting the light, but it was still daytime and bright enough to see. A faint rain started falling, a drop here and there. The mud my paws kicked up slicked my fur.

Tomas's grip on my back loosened, and I felt him start to bounce around. I would've warned him not to make me break my stride, but a stray word here could've been enough to do that. I was focused, on my paw, on the trail, on the beast ahead, and I didn't have room to worry about Tomas.

The hill flattened and the forest broke before us, opening a clearing looking down to the field and the river below. I stopped just before the trees did.

He stood not a hundred yards away, his mane glowing in even just the light through the clouds. His hooves shone silver, untouched by the mud. His horn was no color, no single one, but all of them, an iridescent needle tickling the grass as he ate. I barely breathed, for fear of him hearing.

“Why did we stop?”

I snapped my head around and latched my teeth onto the hare hanging from my back. Not now. He wasn't going to ruin it all. A weak gasp escaped from Tomas's throat before I flung him to the ground, a crumpled mass of fur in the mud.

I looked back to the clearing. The unicorn was still standing there, but its gaze had shifted towards me. I stayed still, nothing but the blood in my veins moving as I watched the beast's eyes try to meet my own. He had heard Tomas, or perhaps my bite, or maybe just caught a glimpse of the body falling to the ground. Whatever had captured his attention was over now, and he turned back to the grass.

I crept forward, moving slow through the tall stalks. I had hunted ceaselessly for years, through every hell this forest had to offer, but now, I was here. This prey would be mine.