Why the Damascened Sword Fell Out of Favor

This article here reports that the damascus sword has carbon nanotubes, but they don't know why this super-damascus process fell out of favor.

Really? Let me explain.

The west learned another method of making steel, and this method was less labor intensive and more reliable, and so steel swords became cheaper.

Were these steel swords so cool that they were as great as damascus steel? I'll leave that to the afficianados to decide. What I do know is that western steel swords developed enough of the advantages of the damascus steel swords that the differences in performance were no longer significant. As often occurs in technology, good enough beat out excellent. 

Water

With the return of summer, I am reminded of that fabulous childhood toy, WATER. As kids in the summer, we just couldn't get enough of that stuff.

Water all starts with bath time. If there is any better childhood enjoyment than the bath, or the supercharged enjoyment that is the bubble-bath, I want to know, because anything great enough to beat out bathtime has to be a huge gap in my childhood experience. Bubble meant eating bubbles, putting bubbles on the walls, making bubbles, and watching all the bubbles go flat. No kid ever exited the bath before the bubble went flat if they could possibly help it.

Hoses were entirely filled with water. One of my earliest memories is of my sister chasing me with a hose, traumatizing me for life. I curse you, my sister, and I still vow my revenge. Hoses also meant washing cars, which meant more soap and bubbles, which meant more getting squirted. Washing the car was never a civilized affair in my family. The suds ran deep in the streets, and sometimes the cars got washed.

Sprinklers attach to hoses, giving yet another layer of summer fun. You didn't need parents around to play in the sprinkler. Set it and forget it until the kids came in. You also watered the lawn while you were at it. There were two main types of sprinklers, those that spun around, and those that watered back-and-forth. I'm sure that there are technical names for those. The practical effect was that those sprinklers that spun around were like getting attacked with a hose, while those that went back and forth were far more gentle and begged you to leap through them.

Then there were yard toys, things that attached to the hose on purpose, the most famous of which is the Slip'n'Slide. I remember sliding down them. Strangely, I don't remember that happening too often. As all cheap toys in the 70's, I am sure that we destroyed them post haste. There were also toys that flailed water about in crazy ways, but as sprinklers were already owned, doubled as lawn watering devices, and were honestly more fun to play with, the crazy sprinklers lost their luster pretty quick.

Water guns are to summer as summer is to water guns. They're the same thing! This has been scientifically tested. We didn't have super-soakers in our day. We had clear plastic guns with cheap triggers and lousy seals that delivered thin lines of liquid assault. I'm surprised that any one of them lasted more than a few days. That clear plastic was brittle.

Thunderstorms meant water rushing down the street. Near the bottom of the hill, as we were, the water picked up the heat from the host streets and rushed down the gutters warm as bathwater. If you got out there right after a thunderstorm, you had a world of warm fun, usually in your clothes.

Summer rains also meant playing in the rain. There's nothing like getting wet and not caring about it. This never happened enough to be a reliable thing, so the moments always had to be seized. Too early in the season, and rains were just cold. Too late, and rains tended to be thunderstorms, and your mother wasn't letting you out in a thunderstorm. Those warm summer rains, where you actually got to enjoy them, happened only a few times a year.

The peak of summer water fun was always a pool. Summer started when pools opened and closed when pools closed. The two were intimately linked.

When I was tiny, we had a pool in the back yard, but for some reason we didn't keep it. (Money surely had something to do with it. My parents had five kids and one income.) My neighbors went for the new fashion of in-ground pools. So the two houses up the hill got pools, along with friends at the top of the hill, and an older family across the street, and one directly behind the house. (This make whiffle ball all that more challenging. Balls into pools were an instant out.) Another family behind us had a large, very nice, above ground pool. Under the deck, there were stones. In the hot summer days, I we would get into the shade and play among those stones.

The neighbors had to clean up their pools at the beginning of every years. After removing the covers, there was a base of green sludge in the basin and lots of mold, and that had to get cleaned. After cleaning, the hose got turned on and the pool filled over many days, each day bringing us to a larger brim of excitement. Traps were emptied and chlorine sticks put in. The water got tested with PH kits. (The use of these kits always counted as entertainment.) Gunk got removed with the skimmer. Eventually, that pool was ready.

The fun thing in pools was the water itself. As all kids, I was restricted to the shallow areas and I didn't like it. We had floating things that would carry us out. I believe that I wore a life vest when I was tiny. I recall being taken to the local private pool for swimming lessons. I only had one set, but that was enough to get me going. (If I recall correctly, I already knew a little swimming, so the lessons weren't entirely necessary, but I have to think that I learned something.) A few years after me, Water Wings hit the market, that horrible idea that would help kids swim, but actually didn't.

Then as today, things that floated in the water made for fun, usually rafts. There were always fights over who got to float on one, tests to see how many people could float on one, and general abuse heaped upon them. They never lasted long. (The only good rafts were those heavy duty ocean rafts for riding the surf.

One neighbor had a diving board. Although we dived off of it, we never achieved any proficiency with diving, although some boys did achieve proficiency in belly flopping. Their pool also had a light, so when you went swimming at night, the whole pool lit up. This was beyond cool.

Our next-door neighbor had a slide. You had to hook a hose to it in order to get water lubricating the slide, but once that happened, you were good. We usually did a good job of not landing on each other, as that bit was drilled into us by our parents, but collisions still happened. One kid broke an arm, but that only happened once. Considering our recklessness, there should have been death and dismemberment.

Underwater and holding your breath consisted of a whole different level of game. Most variations consisted of who could hold their breath the longest. In this contest, I was among the best, and sometimes the best by far. I don't know how that happened. It's a hidden skill that has provided me with no ego boost in my adult life. No sports valued holding your breath.

When we got older, we would take our trunks off in the water, then put them back on. That's as brave as we ever got towards skinny dipping. I'm sure that there are lots of folks out there who did, including my friends who didn't talk about it. You can feel safe. I don't know your secrets at all.

The preeminent underwater game was Marco Polo. In this watery version of Blind Man's Bluff, "It" closed his eyes and said "Marco," and everyone had to respond "Polo." From there, it was a matter of catching somebody. That one was always good for fun, extending well into your adult years. That's a game that nobody outgrew.

As for lakes and streams, we didn't have any nearby. When we did encounter them, they were a treat. Streams got splashed in, but lakes were more intimidating, and we either weren't allowed to swim or didn't dare. Mostly, lakes were for learning how to canoe.

As for the ocean, that's a whole topic on its own.

Of course, being wet brought its own issues. Being wet and sitting on the furniture was verboten. Being wet and entering somebody's sub-arctic air conditioned house could lead to hypothermia. The usual solution to a wet bottom was just to wrap your towel around yourself. Getting changes wasn't worth it as you often went back out to play in the water again. Sometimes you put your shirts back on, and sometimes you didn't. Strangely, I didn't feel exposed when wearing no shirt, but if I put on a tank-top, that was embarrassing because I was so skinny.

I do recall us siblings wanting to go to join the neighborhood pool. That always got nixed. I'm sure it was money. And yet, there was also this feeling among us that the kids who went to the private pool thought themselves "better," even though our houses had their own pools. I don't know why the kids who went to the public pool thought themselves better, but everyone knew that they did.

Long Weekend

I had a long weekend, most of it alternating between exhausting labor and setting up a new writing project.

The labor had to do with the blueberry beds. I had to get the entire bed broken apart and turned, down below nine inches. I would work as long as I could, until my back was just too tired. Yes, I could have worked longer, but really, I'm not going to throw my back out for this blueberry bed project.

My new writing project is a new Shakespeare adaptation. I'm a bit burned out on my current project, so I've decided to shift gears and novelize King Lear. This way, I get to write without having to think about the plot at all. If it sells like MacBeth the Usurper, then it should be another slow putterer, which is better than all my other non-selling titles combined. I cleaned up the Quarto version enough to make the text comprehensible, then started into drafting on Monday. I'm still not done with Act 1, Scene 1, but that's a mighty long scene which sets everything else up. It's more complicated than it looks.

Saturday saw our first day at the pool, now open for the season. I successfully begged off swimming, reading Gene Wolfe's Innocents Aboard instead. (Review to come when I'm finished.) I also started into McCaffrey's Get Off the Unicorn. Meanwhile, my daughter went to the snack bar twice, because you know, she could.

On Tuesday, I had my yearly colonoscopy for Crohn's disease. Everything looks grand. I still hate the process.

Cons and Pros

Cons, oh, cons, why do you befuddle me so.

To me, a Con is a big scary place full of a whole bunch of people who don't want to talk to me. Perhaps some of those do want to talk, but they want to talk at me, not to me, as long as  I make no attempt at speaking. And God help me if I bring up the fact that I write. From long experience, I know that when people hear that you wrote a book, they immidiately his psychic panic. They fear that you will immidiately lock them into a conversations where they'll be stuck, and they will do whatever it takes to either leave. If they wrote a book, their job becomes turning 100% of the conversation to their book, because once you talk about books, there can be only one.

Cons befuddle me doublely so because now I am walking this crazy line of a not-so-upwardly mobile novelist. That means that if I want to be on a panel talking about something, I need to have something that I can talk about. So, imagine me up on a stage with some other panelists doing my best to pretend that I'm an interesting person. What is there that I can talk about? How can I differentiate myself? Why would anyone even let me do that?

Could I talk about novel writing? All the writers do that. The back of the line starts across the street. "Hello, I've been a novelist for less time than anyone else, except for that person who sells 100x what I do, and I have the sales to prove it." That doesn't make for a great introduction. Such an intro sounds like, "Hello, I'm contestant number four. I am also a straight, white male who likes reading, fantasy, and walking on the beach. Did someone say Joseph Campbell?"

How about tech? I'm in the tech industry. I can surely talk about that. Yet, even that's useless. Unless one is a true giant in the industry, half the audience will match or exceed your expertise. And if you do start talking tech, that becomes an alpha-geek challenge. What you're really doing is whipping your dicks out and saying, "My time in the tech industry is bigger than yours is." Althought sometimes such talks turns into, "Yeah, I fucked with that corporation, too. Everyone's been in bed with that one."

For the life of me, there's no expertise that I have that is not readily surpassable with another guest.

As for fannish sub-cultures, I'm in an even-worse position. Should I talk about any fannish topic, due to my own sheer ignorance and their well justified calls of BS, I'd get clobbered by the audience. That route is beyond foolish.

I hope that I'm not sounding like a negativst here. I just truly and absolutely see myself as a bad fit for cons. 

Permafree

After forever and a day, and four attempts, and more waiting, and watchting the continents crumble away and stars die, Weeds Among Stone has gone permafree on Amazon, conveniently on the same day as The Wind Before the Storm went live.

Yay.

Now I get to see if permafree works for me.

Meanwhile, my wife had good words for A Crown of Silver Stars. The story doesn't faceplant anywhere, so now it's a matter of working out my character's emotional journey. Now that I have the structure, I can look at the humanity.

I put my first readers there, before I explore the emotional arc, because swapping story parts around after the emotional arc appears is far more difficult. I can pace out the emotions and the conflicts far easier if I know that nothing will move later. 

The Wind Before the Storm

The Wind Before the Storm is now live on Amazon Kindle. It's another good book.

Critically wounded, abandoned, and sold into servitude, Targa has lost everything. She struggles as a power rages inside of her, threatening herself and everyone around her. To become a master fencer again, not only must she rebuild her strength, she must rebuild her soul. If she succeeds in mastering her power, her prize is The Wind Before the Storm, the most dangerous sword in the world, but if she fails, its next victim will be her.

Car Speakers

I waited through the winter, until the weather got warmer, to get new speakers for my car. I almost waited until it was too warm. This was the first morning where the sun felt hot before 9am. Hot is better than cold. I've worked on my car in the cold. Cold sux.

I installed four JL Audio TR570-CXi speakers into my 2005 Ford Five Hundred. The doors came off easily enough, the wiring came off with a bit of wrangling, and then there were the speakers. They were put in using Torx #10's, so I had to dig one of those up. The two front doors needed a short handled philips for the top, front screw. I needed a socket driver to take out the screws in the door handles. I don't recall how many 1/32's that size was.

I purchased the suggested adapters as well. Beats wiring. They fit snug and well. My understanding is that they were generic enough Ford wiring.

The reviews said that they wound good. My opinion? My confirmation bias says that they sound definitely better. However, I won't really know for a bit. There's nothing like the commute to test a system.

FOLLOW UP

On my first commute to work, these fellows operated normally. I won't rave about them, as I'm not an audiophile. They do, however, succeed in being less bad than the stock speakers.

My setup is very simple. I have a Kenwood KDC-HD455U CD Receiver wired straight to the speakers. No subs, crossovers, or anything else that I don't understand. So when I speak of the stereo being less bad than stock, know that I am freakishly ignorant of "good." This thing is pumping out 22 watts of milk toast, white-boy mediocrity.

With me? Good.

The most important test was the noise test. If there's lots of noise going around the car, can I turn up the music in order to increase the clarity? The answer to this is a resounding yes. The distortion caused by increasing the volume did rise to match the other noise. Just with that, we've got a winner. I turned these guys up to their maximum volume and they held together far better than stock. I did hear some distortion rolling through, but I am more likely to blame the budget amp than I am to blame the speakers.

I'm getting far better fequency response. I noted far more low vibrations rolling with the bass. I couldn't hear that low, but the speaker swere producing those low sounds. That's good. The stock speaker's never did anything like that.

Once you're rolling on the road with the windows up, they do okay. I don't say "amazing" or anything like that because there's road noise, and in my opinion, those qualities that make "amazing" get distorted by road noise. That just comes with the territory. If you want amazing, go build a sound insulated listening room.

In terms of showing off, these speakers don't rate. You aren't going to rattle the next car with them. That is not a ding against the speakers as they were just never meant to rattle the windows.

In summary, this installation delivered a measurable improvement in quality (far less distortion), and an improvement in dynamic range. 
Michael Ende published The Neverending Story in German in 1979. Three years later, after great success in Europe, the book was published in the English language. By the strictest definition of the word, this book is a masterpiece of prose, the stort of literary fantasy that breaks its way across genres, entering the public consciousness.

The book sold so well that a film, The Neverending Story, premiered in 1984, and a series of films and television series have followed. (I did not bother watching the film, figuring that the Hollywoodization of the tale would make it unpalatable. Judging from YouTube clips, I was right. The entire cast feels whitewashed. The film ends at the halfway point in the book. Each sequel only goes further down the tubes.)

My particular copy of The Neverending Story is a hardback from 1983. When I was a senior in high school, I received this as a Christmas present from my sister Valerie. I recall asking for the most recent Pern novel at the time, but she thought that the quality of that book was low, so she bought me the Neverending Story instead. Even at the time, I already knew that this was a story that I would never have bought on my own. If not for my sister, I would not have read it. This is a book where I went in expecting to hate the story, only to be won over by the tale. In my particular copy, the sections in the real world are printed in red ink, while those in Fantastica are printed in green. I don't know whether this choice continued in further printings. My copy sold for $15 at the time, which made it a pricy book.

Each chapter begins with a letter of the alphabet, from A-Z, and a two color plate that illustrates something about the chapter, by Rosewitha Quadfleig. As the book was originally written in German, I have no idea how they solved the getting the book from one alphabet to the next. I presume that chapters either had to get split or combined.

The story involves the tale of two boys, a luck dragon named Falkor, and the Childlike Empress. One boy is Bastian, an ordinary enough chubby kid in our world who gets teased by his peers. When he swipes a copy of The Neverending Story, he reads the adventures of Atreyu, a boy in fantastica who seeks to restore the Childlike Empress to health. Nothing is slowly overtaking Fantastica, and if the Empress is not restored, then all of Fantastica will cease to be. Little does Bastian know that his destiny will cross with that of Atreyu.

When you sit down at read the tale, you'll understand why Hollywood ended the story in the middle. The first half of the book is all a setup for the second half of the book. The first half of the book is the adventure, but the second half, the harder half, is the lessons learned by Bastian. Some parts of the second half made it into the second film, but not the lessons.

Despite my delight with the book, I did not read it again. This was only the second time that I read the work, and this time, I understood it far better. It may sound like a children's book, but this is no children's book, a trait shared by all the best children's books. 

Lawn Mowing

Yesterday, I was going to dig some more when my daughter, DesignGirl, told me that I really needed to mow the back yard. "It's crazy," she said, and she was right. We weren't quite up to roaming tigers, but the back yard was crazy. One mow later, and it's less crazy, but it's still doing its best at being a mess. The grass along the edges survived quite well and all my string trimmers are broken. I suppose that I can hack those down by hand.

I could also spend $50 to replace both broken trimmers.

What's wrong? The battery powered trimmer, anemic from the start, just isn't holding power. I have no desire to keep it working. So, I'll chuck it. As for the other one, I need to hunt down the trimmer head to fix it. I might just do that anyway. Replacing the head should be simple. I found the little levers that broke, too, so maybe I'll just spend the $5. First, though, I need to find my model number. 

Edits

The edits for The Wind Before The Storm have come back. I now have work to do. I should have most of them laid in inside a week. So at this point, I'm looking at two weeks to publication.

Meanwhile, I banging out some of the danging plot points in A Crown Of Silver Stars. I made some changes late in the novel, reconsidering the narrative threads. Damn, I wrote those threads tight.