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I have been doing a lot of thinking lately.

Real thinking, beyond things like “what am I going to cook for dinner”.

I have more and more found myself thinking about what if.

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It all started innocently enough. I was working on ideas for my NaNoWriMo project, when the thought just occurred to me.

What if, one day, in one fell swoop, every oil well on the planet simply dried up.

No warning, no decades of preparation, just dry.

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In my story I was going to have science develop a bacteria that eats oil. You know, something to pour into the water the next time an oil rig blows up. Something that sounds like a good idea, right up until it turns out to be a bad idea.

In the case of my story, the bacteria had spread and multiplied beyond what it was designed to do and essentially ate the world’s oil supply.

The reasons that my mind was taking a walk down Apocalypse Lane are really not important though, at least not now.

More important by far is what I saw when I took that walk.

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I started with that first what if, and started thinking about what the effects would be. I opened up my mind’s eye and I could see things clicking together like the pieces of a puzzle. Actually it would be more accurate to call it a house of cards.

That was the day I realized just how much we depend on the energy we derive from fossil fuels.

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The first and most obvious thing that would happen is that within a week or two my cars would all become nothing but lawn ornaments, slowly rusting away as there would no longer be a way to get fuel for them. I would bet just about anything that within a week all remaining petroleum supplies would be federalized to keep the military and emergency services functioning as a more long term solution was found.

I suppose if I were driving a diesel I could try to use Bio-diesel, vegetable oils, or other alternative fuels, but likely those would be federalized pretty quickly as well to keep vital systems online.

Then I asked myself, what happens when the trucks and trains stop running?

What happens when no more supplies are reaching cities?

Thats where I think whatever bio-diesel we are able to produce would go. It would go to bringing food and other vital supplies to where it needed to be. There simply would not be enough left over for recreational use.

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As I continued with the world building for my tale I started thinking about what other ways the loss of oil would affect things. After all, I am a maintenance guy. I fix things both for a living and for fun.  Some people just see separate things, I see systems, interactions, everything is part of a puzzle, even you and I.

One of the primary things I do is look at interactions, cause and effect. I see the effects, and use that to tell me the cause. It’s what I have done my whole life, and I consider myself pretty damn good at it. 

This time I am looking at a cause and trying to predict the effects.

Let me tell you, it ain’t pretty.

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If the oil goes away what goes with it?

Gasoline.

Diesel fuel.

Natural gas.

Heating and lubricating oils.

Many plastics, and a lot of artificial rubber.

Add synthetic fibers like Nylon and Rayon into the mix.

Asphalt (though it won’t be needed near as much, since most cars will be obsolete)

It’s used in the pharmaceutical industry for some drugs, and in the crafting of damn near everything.

Whether it’s an actual part of the product or not, oil is used to make just about everything we touch. It’s so prevalent that attempting to live in such a way that you used none would be very difficult.

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Nearly impossible.

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What happens to the house of cards when someone comes along and pokes the base real hard with a big stick?

It all comes crashing down.

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Look at it from a local level, instead of globally. Focus on the small scale, you and your immediate family and friends.

How would you heat your house this winter?

Where would your food come from?

How would you get to work?

Would you even still have a job?

What would your community look like a year later? 

How about after five years?  

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The more I think about it the more I realise, 150 years ago the only oil we burned was to light lamps against the darkness. People survived, indeed they thrived, without oil.

People would go back to it, they would adapt and survive. As a race, we would go on.

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The world though, it would be a very very different place.

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What would you do if suddenly all the technology you use everyday without thinking about it suddenly just went away?

Yes, the world would be a different place. How would you fit into it?

Would you be able to adapt, or would you be one of the many that perished in the attempt?

Are you so addicted to technology that you would literally die of withdrawals if it you couldn’t get your fix?

Just something to think about.

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Happy Earth Day.

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Well, I stole the general Idea anyhow. Originally Pikestaff started doing this and it was dedicated to games. Video games in particular.For my purposes though I am changin it up.

You see, I only recently got into video games. For the most part I never really did.

Yes I had an Atari 2600 back when they were $200 new.

Yes I had a Commodore 64 and played around with the old Apple 2.

I did those things, but they were never really a focus. Now, as I am slowly losing interest in the only game to ever keep it for any real length of time. Writing about it for 30 day simply is not appealing to me.

On the other hand, I kinda fell off the writing wagon there for a while since I closed my Warcraft blog down.

In an effort to get back on track with putting words to page regularly I am going to attempt my own version of Pike’s 30 day post series. Mine however will revolve around books.

My plan for the month of April ended up looking like this.

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Day 1 – Very first book.
Day 2 – Your favorite character.
Day 3 – A book that is underrated.
Day 4 – Your guilty pleasure book.
Day 5 – The character you feel you are most like (or wish you were).
Day 6 – Most annoying character.
Day 7 – Favorite couple (romantically linked or otherwise).
Day 8 – Best foreshadowing.
Day 9 – Saddest scene.
Day 10 – Best overall plot.
Day 11 – Best multi book series.
Day 12 – A book everyone should read.
Day 13 – A book you have read more than five times.
Day 14 – Favorite book that left you wanting a sequel (that was never written).
Day 15 – Most interesting sidekick.
Day 16 – Most intricately woven plot.
Day 17 – Favorite antagonist.
Day 18 – Favorite protagonist.
Day 19 – A world or setting you wish you lived in.
Day 20 – Favorite genre.
Day 21 – Overall best story.
Day 22 – A sequel which disappointed you.
Day 23 – Book or graphic novel with the best graphics or art style.
Day 24 – Favorite classical story.
Day 25 – A story you plan on reading.
Day 26 – A story you plan to avoid reading.
Day 27 – Most epic scene ever.
Day 28 – A book you thought you would love, but ended up hating.
Day 29 – A book you thought you wouldn’t like, but ended up loving.
Day 30 – Your favorite story of all time. 

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For those of you who don’t already know this, I am a huge fan of The Wheel of Time series by the late Robert Jordan. It is nearing completion now, as Brandon Sanderson has stepped up to finishe the series. (He also co-hosts a writers podcast called Writing Excuses, take a listen if you have some time.)

If you havn’t read the series this post will mean very little to you, so go read up and come back when you are done… likely about six months from now.

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Once upon a time, before I began my own journey as a writer, I picked up the first book in the series. I have always loved fantasy stories, and needed a good hefty book to get me through a trip I was about to take. A friend at work reccomended the series, so I picked up the first book.

It was amazing.

As I worked my way through the series one of my best friends did as well, generally staying at about the same point as myself. We spent many hours discussing what had come before in the tale, and where we saw it going. In fact, we likely spent more time on theory-crafting what might come to pass than we did on actually reading the books.

We caught a lot of the little things, nuances, forshadowed events. Like the players of another wheel, the Wheel of Fortune, we were good at solving puzzles with only half the pieces.

In fact, if the two of us get together and watch any type of mystery on television our wives would leave the room, because we tended to spoil things for them by figuring out who did it before the heroes did.

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Years later, and many re-reads later I now see the story differently.

It’s still epicly awesome, at a level I don’t even aspire to in my own writing. The difference is that now I see more than just the story itself, I see the craftsmanship that went into it. I can see underneath the surface to the framework that it was built on.

All my plotlines are but houses of cards by comparison.

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Alrighty then enough mooning over the story.

Im not here for that, I’m here to make some predictions about how the story will unfold.

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You see, I started a complete reread of the series today, and I saw something that simply clicked.

I know now that the good guys will win.

What make me so certain you ask?

Simple. There is a passage in the prelude to the first book that tells you.

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And it came to pass in those days, as it had come before and would come again, that the Dark lay heavy on the land and weighed down the hearts of men, and the green things failed, and hope died. And men cried out to the Creator, saying, O Light of the Heavens, Light of the World, let the promised one be born of the mountain, according to the prophecies, as he was in ages past and will be in ages to come. Let the prince of the morning sing to the land that green things will grow and valleys give forth lambs. Let the arm of the Lord of the Dawn shelter us from the Dark, and the great sword of justice defend us. Let the Dragon ride again on the winds of time. 

(from Charal Drinnan te Calamon, the Cycle of the Dragon, author unknown, the Fourth Age.”

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Thats part of the prolog, before the maps and such, in the beginnig of the first book in the series. This next bit is literally the next paragraph of text, though it is several pages of artwork later.

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“The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again. In one Age, called the Third Age by some, an Age yet to come, and Age long past, a wind rose in the Mountains of Mist. The wind was not the beginning, there are neither Beginnings nor endings to the turning of The Wheel of Time. But it was a beginning.”

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Those two paragraphs speak volumes once you have read the tale. We learn a lot as we go.

We know that one of the main characters of our tale is the Dragon Reborn. We become familliar with the prophecies that ere mentioned in the first paragraph. We see many of those events unfold. Actually I believe we have seen everything other than the Prince of the Morning singing to the land, though he is closely intertwined with it, even to the point of having a bubble of good weather and bountiful crops follow where he goes.

The most telling part of the passage is this. It was written in the Fourth Age.

It history, already happened, perhaps on it’s way to fading into legend by the time of the quote.

The Dragon Reborn, the Lord of the Morning, is referred to as the hero in that little snippet.

The winners write the history books.

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I could get a lot more into it, and likely will as my re-read continues, but for now I can read through knowing that the good guys will come out on top in the end.

So who wants to re-read with me?

Come on, its an excellent series, and the last book should be out later this year.

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Like a wave ebbing after crashing upon the shoreline a wave of quiet circled the earth last night.

As the clock struck midnight in each time zone across the world thousands of keyboards fell silent.

For better or for worse NaNoWriMo 2010 had come to a close.

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Some had reached their goals, some had not.

I would like to congratulate those that did.

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For those like myself that simply did not reach the 50K word count goal I would like to offer a story, possibly with a side order of wisdom trapped inside it.

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Once upon a time, in the land of Brad’s childhood (back when dinosaurs roamed the earth) my family and I would take road trips. We  took them not as a means to an end, but as the vacation itself.

I remember one time that we were driving through the great smokey mountains and happened across a rest stop. A beautiful fast-moving stream was flowing along the side of whatever state highway we were traveling, and this was at a bridge where it crossed under.

We pulled into a little two or three car parking area covered in gravel next to a little grassy area about the size of my yard. It was empty and quiet. Not much traffic on the old roads these days, everyone takes the interstate. They need to get where they are going, forgetting everything in between.

As I got out of the mustard yellow Grand Torino and looked around I also saw one of those grill-on-a-pole things that parks have, a fire ring that looked like a tire rim buried in the ground, a garbage can, and a pair of weathered grey picnic tables.

What at first looked like a fine place to pull out the cooler and have a spot of lunch ended up becoming much more. It turned out to be the highlight of the trip.

As we sat there munching on our bologna sandwiches one of us had a thought. “I wonder how the fishing would be here?” said one of us, I honestly can’t remember who. Instead of leaving it at that and hustling along to whatever theme park may have been the destination we kinda shrugged and said “I don’t know, lets find out.”

Dad and I rooted about in the back  of the car, finally coming out with a pair of battered old fishing poles and a small tackle box. Nothing we had packed for the trip, just something still in the trunk under the travel worn suitcases. Leftovers from some trip to the local pond.

Mom pulled out a lounge chair and Dad and I proceeded to answering the question.

The fishing was great.

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So great in fact that we spent the entire rest of the day there relaxing and having fun. That evening we built a small campfire from dry wood we gathered in the treeline. Then we used a couple of metal marshmallow sticks we had also found in the trunk to cook our fish over it.

That was one of the best dinners I have ever had on the road, fish cooked on a stick over a fire and eaten out of metal pie plates. It’s honestly one of the fondest memories I have of traveling.

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Later that evening when the fire had burned down we cleaned up our mess and got back in the car, driving off into the night.

I don’t remember what the destination was even supposed to be, or even if we had one.

I don’t remember what we were doing before, or after.

In fact, I don’t remember anything else about that trip.

But I remember that day, chilling by the side of the road, living in the moment with people I cared about.

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Like my dad always used to tell me, and showed me that day, It’s not about the destination.

It’s about the journey.

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I looked back on that as I sat at my keyboard last night, trying to hammer out words into a story I have come to despise.

I was looking at the word count as a destination, a finish line. Something that must be reached, come hell or high water. 

I was looking at writing as a means to an end, like those sad souls that never leave the interstate I had forgotten what really matters.

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The Journey.

What NaNo was teaching me about myself.

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I learned quite a bit actually, now that I sit back and look at it. Things that I am going to have to let percolate in what passes for my brain for a while before I am ready to talk about them.

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I just wanted to come on today to congratulate those that participated. Win, lose, or draw, we are all better for having taken the ride.

NaNo is not so much about what you are going to write as it is about learning about yourself as a writer.

It truly is not about the destination, but about the journey.

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Thanks to my friends (particularly the Saucy Wenches forums writing group) for taking this road trip with me. Without the company of friends I would never have gotten to where I am now.

Oh, and I am a man of my word.

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I am enjoying my new hairdo, it is so much easier to take care of in the morning, though it is a bit chilly.

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I am on a mailing list (ok, several).

Anyhow, I am on the mailing list of one of my favorite authors, Brandon Sanderson. He is announcing the first book in an epic fantasy series called The Way of Kings.

I read this quote in the newsletter.

“In case you don’t know about it, THE WAY OF KINGS is a new epic
fantasy novel set in a world where massive hurricane-like storms
blast the land every few days.”

I am an engineer by both training and profession. I fix things, build things, and occasionally take things apart just to see what makes them tick.

Good thing I never got into medicine right?

I read that quote and my brain exploded.

Not because I had any doubts about the why of that world’s weather patterns. It’s Brandon’s world, it does what he built it to do.

What really got my neurons firing was thinking just how getting hit with a hurricane say… every week or so… would gt to be commonplace. Like thunderstorms in the spring, they would become but a nuisance.

Forget for a moment that it is a fantasy world, where most of these issues could be solved with magic. Imagine what the world would look like if the earth we know was that way.

What would the buildings look like? In my mind they look like limpets, sloped and anchored tight to the ground.

Many people would in likely live underground or underwater. At very least that would be a preferred way of travel.

With storms coming through all the time how would they raise crops? Underwater kelp farms? Giant domed greenhouses?

How about animal life? What would squirrels look like if all the trees were different?

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I have read Brandon’s work in the past, and really enjoy his writing style.

I was not planning on starting another series, but now I have to.

If only to find out how the storms have reshaped that world.

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This morning I made a tragic mistake.

I decided to review all the notes I had written on this years NaNoWriMo project. Months ago I had sat down with sticky notes, index cards, a pack of highlighters, and a 70 page spiral notebook.

They started the process all shiny and new looking.

They ended it battered and worn.

Somewhere in there though, there was a story. A tale that needed to be told. It was full of interesting characters and mind bending plot twists. It had humor and horror and anger and tears, even a mechanical rabbit named Pike.

It was going to be wicked fun sitting down this November as the fall faded into winter and taking the journey of NaNo with that battered old notebook.

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What mistake did I make you ask?

I went back and read my notes.

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Things change with time, so do people. Even ideas evolve.

I have changed since last winter, when I sat down to draw up a plan for the coming year amidst the wreckage of what last years NaNo turned into. Things that were high in my mind then are simply not that important anymore.

It may just be me getting older, I am not really sure.

The story in my notes though, I no longer think that it is something I want to write.

The plot, the setting, all of it seems dead to me now.

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I think it’s time to walk away from that project, grab myself another shiny new notebook, and start over.

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At the same time it saddens me, I am looking forward to it.

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There was a time, not so very long ago that I was truly a diehard fan of Windows.

I have been using it since before it was an operating system in it’s own right, and was merely a graphical user interface for DOS.

If I remember correctly (and I am pretty sure I do) the first DOS/Windows machine I had the privilege of working with was a 286 running Windows 3.1 on top of DOS 5 or perhaps 6. I know that by the time we upgraded to a 486 in ’94 we were running Windows 3.11 over DOS 6.22.

Lets just say that I have spent a bit of time tinkering with my operating system, back when you still could. It was fun and yet kinda frustrating at the same time. Like playing with a logic puzzle until finally everything just “clicks”.

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How in the world does my having geeked out at an ancient operating system have anything to do with what I am doing now?

Simple.

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Today I took the first step into a larger world.

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Quite a while ago a friend of mine came to me with a problem. A laptop computer that was quite simply toasted. It had failed so badly that it would no longer even power up, much less do anything.

Thus began a long process of finally getting it to power up and find most of it’s parts. There were numerous issues, each dealt with in turn. The only problem still remaining was (and still is) a failed hard drive.

Well, it turns out that the data on that hard drive is all my friend actually cares about. It kinda figures, the one thing I cannot fix is the one thing she really needs. (The data is truly irreplaceable.)

She has already replaced the computer, and decided she does not want the carcass back. She just wants the hard drive to save towards the day that she can afford high end data recovery. (none of the things I can do worked, it won’t even spin up.)

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So I find myself in possession of the laptop I have dubbed Scarecrow. So named because without a hard disk it’s story starts with it walking down the yellow brick road sitting on my desk needing a brain. I figured as long as I have it I might as well try to fix it up. It would be nice to have a separate system to do my writing on.

Borrowing a power supply cord from my daughter, who just happens to also own an Acer,  I was able to get it to charge up. That was a good start.

Then came the realization that there were no recovery disks made.

I could not simply pop in a DVD and walk away for an hour while Windows firmly embeds itself into the very atoms the computer is made of. I can almost hear the Windows disks as they are inserted telling the poor computers “Resistance is futile, you will be assimilated.”

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Anyhow….

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I started making calls to the manufacturer, looking for a way to get a set of install disks. They would be more than willing to help me, for a price.

That conversation went something like this. “You want how much for a set of recovery disks? Are you mad? Are they made of powdered unicorn horn? Hand delivered by Santa Claus?” Apparently the customer service specialist did not find this amusing. At any rate, I did not send them in a pile of money for a set of disks.

I decided to do something else. Something I have not done in years.

I decided I wanted to get under the hood and see if I could make something work.

Something not tied to the big ticket companies, something I could still tinker with.

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Two weeks later I got something in the mail.

A disk labeled Kubuntu 9.1.

Today is the day I started using Linux.

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That computer is back from the dead now, only awaiting the purchase of a hard drive for a full install.

I feel like Dr. Frankenstein, only completely different.

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