Tuesday, August 26, 2008


Do you see that "Search Blog" function on the upper left corner of this website? The one on the Blogger toolbar? Well, I was using it a few minutes ago to try and track down a couple of old posts that I had written. The search results page gave me one of the articles I was looking for, sure enough, but it didn't give me anything older than that.

Because I wanted to investigate the issue further, I tracked down the older piece and checked to see if it would show up under a more refined search. It did, and I concluded that the problem was with the system's capabilities. Apparently Blogger returns only the first twenty results when you do a search in this way.

Now, I'm not complaining about this. A twenty-item limit makes perfect sense, of course, because you don't want your system to be overloaded with too many results. You don't want to enter the word "the", for example, only to be deluged with almost every single post you've ever written. That would defeat the purpose of your original search, and it would make the server cry.

The catch, however, is that I've got over five hundred posts on this blog. I can refine my searches right now, sure enough... but will this still be workable after a couple of years? If I continue writing at this rate, I'll have about a thousand posts in the bank after three more years or so. Considering my verbosity and my penchant for revisiting certain topics, this might mean trouble for me before the decade is out.

The first thing that came to mind, then, was the possibility of establishing a shortlist of articles. I mean, I currently maintain a set of running posts on the right-hand sidebar: These represent certain common themes or series of posts that I wanted to highlight for visitors. If I can do this for subsets of articles, why can't I do this for prominent posts?

By "prominent posts", of course, I refer to the most readable items that I've penned here. These range from arguments on literary issues to various analyses and denunciations. Think of it as a little anthology of sorts -- with over five hundred posts in the archives, I'd like to have a handy guide to the pieces I'd like to reference. Moreover, if a visitor is interested in browsing these, then the feature gets a little added value.

There is a downside to this idea, though, and that's the fact that I'll need to do quite a bit of browsing. The "Archives" section on the sidebar is already intimidatingly long, and I have no desire to click on each and every monthly link there. My plan, therefore, is to start off with the ones that immediately come to mind, and then keep adding links as I remember them.

You're welcome to give me a hand, of course. Those articles that I think are memorable and those articles that you think are memorable may very well be completely different. If you feel that something I've previously written should probably go on this shortlist, then do let me know. Otherwise, well, I'll be putting it together myself, in any case.

In the end, if this exercise does make this blog a little readable for everyone who passes by, then that'll be the gravy on top of my mashed potatoes. At the very least, I won't have to refine my searches as often...

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Office Games

My office has been on a bit of a nostalgic kick lately. Over the last few days, we've been discussing the possibility of setting up a regular board-gaming session; I figure that we're probably just itching for something fun to do in between the endless series of meetings and forecast reports. The fact that we all seem to have memories of old games that we used to play only encourages us, although I confess that most of us don't seem to have an idea on what's popular nowadays.

Last week I offered to bring copies of the only two workable board games that I have lying around. One of them is the ubiquitous Word Factory, that higher-level form of Boggle that disallows three-letter words on a five-by-five board. The other is a much simpler game called Guillotine, which I've demoed to a lot of kids in my short tenure as a huckster salesperson.

The trouble with the two games is that I don't think they're built for long-term play. Guillotine, for example, strikes me as a little too simple -- it doesn't involve much strategy beyond playing for the highest possible number of points each turn. Word Factory, on the other hand, might end up giving me an unfair advantage over the others -- because I come from a background that involves both writing and puzzle-solving.

So now the question on my end was, what sort of game would be best for an occasional office group? I obviously want something strategy-based, for one... but I also want something with long long-term value, because the game will probably be sitting in the office for a while. Moreover, the fun factor has to be a given.

Strolling through the local game store earlier this evening, I made a mental note of the possibilities. I sort them into two basic categories below, for your convenience:


Monopoly. This was the first game that came to mind, I'll admit. It's an extremely familiar name for everybody, and it plays very differently when all of your opponents are business-savvy twenty- or thirty-year-olds. The problem is that I find it quite random compared to the slate of contemporary board games. Apart from the fact that player advantage is determined by the die rolls, there's also the fact that games can take an extremely long time to finish -- which is not a good quality when most of us have to scramble for meetings in an hour or so.

Pictionary. I find that this makes for a very convenient office game, and it's virtually guaranteed to be entertaining. The fact that we have whiteboards and markers available to us makes this choice a lot more viable. However, I'm concerned about the advantage that part-time artists will have over the non-artistically-inclined. In addition, the game is practically devoid of strategy -- this is really a party game at its core.

Cluedo. In contrast, Cluedo is a childhood game that has an essential strategic component. It's a lot like Monopoly in that our strategic senses are more finely-honed as adults. I expect that Cluedo will fit perfectly into a one-hour timeslot, and it's great for those people who love deductive thinking (i.e. my office). However, I also find it to be a very sedate game -- the excitement value gets lowered a notch when people put a lot of their energy into their thoughts.

Texas Hold'em Poker. I can argue that this game blends excitement and logic fairly well, but management will almost certainly see this for its gambling element. Unfortunately, that's enough for me to eliminate this from my list of possibilities. (Mah-jongg suffers from the same issues.)

Chess. It's a classic, but it's a boring classic. On top of that, only two people can play at a time.

Magic: the Gathering. As much as I like the game, it introduces an element of card-buying into the mix... and I don't want to bring it that far. In addition, the game does have a certain stigma among my generation -- people either have fond memories of it, or they'll avoid it like the plague. I'd rather not go for something hit-or-miss when there are plenty of other options for us to choose from.


Settlers of Catan. This, I hear, is one of the board games to end all board games. It's supposed to have a very deep strategic element, and at the same time holds enough details to keep people's attention focused on the game board. I not only want to try this game out, but I'd also like to bring others into the session as well. The problem is that it's extremely difficult to find copies around here, and I'm not about to go to great lengths just to score one.

Kill Doctor Lucky. This game sits squarely at the top of my "must-find" list. It has one of the nastiest premises ever conceived in gaming memory -- you must successfully kill a doddering old man without having any of the other players witness the act -- and I've only had a total of two tantalizing glimpses of the game itself. It's a reverse-Cluedo of sorts that involves a lot of cheating and backstabbing, which means that it'll make for some really good sessions. Until I manage to find a copy, though, it'll have to remain on my dream list.

Acquire. Dean Alfar swears by this game, and I'm curious enough to give it a try. It's widely available enough for me to know where I can pick up a copy... but beyond that, I have no idea how well the game plays or what dynamics are involved. That means that I have no idea how my officemates are going to receive the game, so if there's any "wild card" on this list, it's this one.

Cranium (or any similar trivia game). I'm a huge fan of Trivial Pursuit, but Cranium seems to be the closest item on the shelves nowadays. The catch with games like these is that the resident know-it-all as a pronounced advantage over the rest of the players. I don't want to pick up a game that rewards intellectualism, mind you, when it might make more than a few people feel as though they don't know anything.

I'm still looking around, of course, and I'll probably make up a shortlist to present to my office as of next week. The more viable games above will most likely be on this list, but if anyone's willing to suggest anything, then I'm all ears.

Of course, there's always the easy way out, which involves installing Counterstrike on everybody's laptops and spending our evenings blowing each other away. But that would hardly count for nostalgia, wouldn't it? :)

Saturday, August 23, 2008

I Just Get These Headaches

After some four hours of number-crunching last Thursday, the side of my head felt as though a jackhammer was trying to bore into it. The psychological impact was so strong that I could feel the pain through my teeth; in the end, however, I slept on it and hoped that it would be gone in the morning.

My headaches aren't the benign ones. They're usually huge, high-impact heavyweights that compress my head into ten pounds of sawdust and try to wring out all the enclosed fluids at the same time. In fact, I get enough headaches nowadays (normally at the tune of at least one per month) that I can describe each and every one of them; my family has since learned not to ask me silly questions like "How does it feel?".

The smallest ones feel like acupuncture needles, to be honest. These usually come around after I assault my senses once too often -- maybe I spent too much time figuring out a complex probability equation, or analyzing a software configuration, or working a new first-person shooter. Whatever the case, I've found that they indicate that a bigger migraine's going to arrive soon if I don't drop what I'm doing at that very second, and I listen to their advice around half the time. At this point, the headache isn't big enough to be inconvenient -- but it has the potential to grow.

Most of my headaches involve a sensation of daggers. These feel as though a pair of knives somehow got inserted into the sides of my head, around the region of the temples. The resulting dull pain is usually enough to get me to stop working and spend the next few minutes applying pressure to the trouble spots. Sometimes I go for an ice pack -- I get a bit of brainfreeze, but it has the added effect of numbing everything long enough to let me sleep. On top of that, I try to doze off with a bit of weight pressing down on the sore area. Headaches like these usually last no more than a few hours.

Until this morning rolled around, the worst headache that I usually get involves a sledgehammer-like pounding somewhere in the region of my frontal lobes. Why the sensation doesn't take place in the same area as the daggers is a mystery. I just know that, if I ever feel as though the spot just behind my forehead has started throbbing, then a massive headache has gone underway. Occasions like these are enough for me to pack up, bury myself under a tower of pillows, and try to get the sounds to stop. Make no mistake -- these are the really bad ones. It's as though any new thought that comes to mind only exacerbates the problem... and by my nature, I get a lot of thoughts.

Last Thursday and this morning, however, was a completely new experience. This was most likely the strangest headache I had on record -- for one, all the pain was concentrated on a spot just above my right ear, near my temples. Another strange thing was that it seemed to be of the "pounding sensation" type, although it ended up a little weaker than the sledgehammers I was used to. It started off strong, but then it petered out after a bit of sleep.

What surprised me was the utter impact of it, really. I likened it to having a pulsating organism attached to the side of my head, as though it was applying pressure directly to my bloodstream and threatening to burst at any second. Needless to say, I got a few strange looks when I tried to describe this to my officemates.

I actually still have the headache right now. By this time, however, it's reduced itself to a dull pain inside my head, much like a car fender that's been turned inside-out. It'll most likely be gone by tomorrow, which'll be just in time for the weekend.

I'm not quite sure where the headaches come from. I feel that it would be absurd to say that they come around whenever I think too hard; it's as though we're implying that a bunch of conscious mental processes can have some sort of physical effect. On the other hand, I'm pretty sure that trying to think in the middle of a headache usually makes things a little more painful... so I'm sure that the effort of thought has something to do with it.

If it's all the same to anyone, though, I'd rather not stop thinking all the time. Having these things happen once a month is a poor tradeoff for the ability to consistently look at the universe from a personal point of view. That, and it does give me a possible excuse to slog off work and bury myself in bed for the rest of the day.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Clothes Make the Man

Shirt: You'll see me wearing a polo shirt most of the time, particularly because it's my personal standard for the workplace. Half my shirts are either plaid or checkered; these fashion nightmares are mostly leftovers from the mid-90s, or hand-me-downs from older relatives. As a result, I prefer solid-color shirts; three of the ones hanging in my closet happen to come from the same brand, mostly because there's a girl I like who works at the company. I always tuck in, because it happens to be an irritating little habit that I can't break.

Undershirt: My collection of sleeveless undershirts dates back to my high school days. After almost fifteen years, the rough fabrics have developed more than a few loose threads and moth-eaten holes... but I figure that no one will notice them as long as I keep my shirt on.

Pants: I picked up four pairs of slacks as part of the uniform from my previous workplace -- they're pleated, wrinkle-free, and mostly resistant to water damage. As you can expect, these are the pairs that I wear practically all the time. Apart from those, I own two pairs of faded blue jeans; there are rumors that I never wear them, but I like to think that I put them on about as often as any other person. I just don't wear them on weekdays (owing to workplace requirements), and I don't buy new ones (seeing that I can only wear them twice a week).

Underwear: Marks & Spencer briefs. The less of that image you get in your mind, the better.

Socks: I have no idea where my brother buys our socks. We share a common sock drawer, you see, and everything we own is in either black or white. I do know that he manages to pick out some comfortable pairs, though, so I don't question his expertise. We do fight over the black ones, though, seeing that we will put on a pair regardless of where we go.

Shoes: I constantly wage a silent war over the acquisition of good shoes. I want my shoes to be as comfortable as any other person would; however, I demand durability in addition to such comfort -- a pair would have to last at least a couple of years in order to satisfy me. I'm very happy with the shoes that I own at the moment, though -- they're padded to ensure a high level of foot comfort, and they have thick soles built in so that I can wade through puddles without destroying the leather. I picked the pair up from a Gibi stall in the Landmark mall some months ago, and you can be certain that I'll be back after they wear out.

Belt: I bought a new belt early this year to replace an old one that was near the point of breaking. After I picked up the new one, however, I went on a bit of a diet that caused me to shave one or two inches off my waist. As a result, the only belt that I own now hangs in a lopsided manner; I'm too forgetful to have another hole stamped into it, and I'm too cheap to get another new one.

Wallet: I used to own a Marithé François Girbaud wallet made out of stiff leather, and after I few years I got to hating it -- the leather would crack, become brittle, and break away in sharp points. On my birthday this year, however, a friend of mine with impeccable taste decided to get me a soft-leather wallet of the same brand... and I've been loving it ever since.

Cellphone: I got my current cellphone almost two years ago, as a hand-me-down from an uncle who was upgrading models. It's a Sony Ericsson, if you must know, and while I like the advanced features, I'm a little leery on a few things. (Does this infernal contraption always save its messages regardless of importance, for example?) The simcard is a holdover from my previous phone, however, and it's lasted me for all of nine years.

Pencil: I'm on my fifth mechanical pencil since college. The previous pencils suffered more than a few indignities -- a couple of them lost their eraser caps, one had its handle break off, and the last one got trampled by a mob of rambunctious kids. I carry one around because I get struck by the urge to write or doodle at the strangest times; if I'm not wearing anything with a breast pocket, you'll usually see the pencil pinned to the buttons down the front of my shirt.

Where is Everybody?

Quite a few friends of mine are getting married this year. I attended a provincial wedding for two college friends last May, a previous relationship of mine is having her wedding next month, and another college friend has gotten a commitment from me for this December. On top of that, there was a wedding last weekend that I unfortunately missed; to this day, I have no idea how it slipped my mind.

I mean, did everybody suddenly decide to tie the knot this year? There must be something about the local planetary alignments right now...

What galls me, however, is the possibility that I've remained out of touch. I've had my nose buried in work for the past few months, much to the point that I haven't seen anything of my circle of friends. On top of that, I've had some looming writing deadlines for August and September, and, well... you get the idea. It's the same old excuses, really.

Maybe I just need to get out more often. I mean, I've concerned myself with the prospect of maintaining a life outside my work for years and years now. Despite that, however, I don't seem to have much to show for it. Even worse, I seem to have missed out on a few monumental events that have occurred -- say, that wedding last Sunday. (I do wish you all the best, Diane and Mark.)

I suspect that my non-sociable side is popping up again. This is actually rather ironic, as I've been attending a couple of events -- a few conventions, a couple of tournaments, an open gaming meet -- recently, all of which were in the company of relative strangers. On the other hand, these weren't personal gatherings, and were more like get-togethers for a bunch of like-minded enthusiasts. They don't exactly compare to an afternoon where you hang out and shoot the breeze with the people you know and love.

The phone's right next to me, I suppose. I need to set up more junkets, or at least find reasons to get a few people together. This current lifestyle isn't as healthy as it looks.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Antaria: Rogue Business (Part 2)

Imogen Stormbane was indeed good-looking, as far as old ladies went. She had been a well-known beauty in her youth, although she had spurned countless suitors and marriage proposals in favor of her scholarly work. She was far from the oldest member of the guild (especially where Atharus was concerned), but she was definitely one of its most approachable teachers.

And at the moment, she was lending her one and only student a handkerchief.

To say that Celestine was disconsolate would have been the understatement of the year. Cerise had never seen anyone cry the way she did -- it was like watching a dam burst.

Gharen sighed. "And then what happened?" he asked.

"He ran away," Celestine sniffed. The hankie was quite sodden already.

"Yes, yes," Gharen said. "You mentioned that. What I mean is, what did you do once you saw that he was running away?"

"She mentioned that too, Gharen," Imogen interrupted. "She didn't do anything. Just picture yourself in that situation and consider how you would react."

Gharen rubbed at his temples. "Yes, Lady Imogen," he said in a weary voice. "I'm not accusing her of anything. Aran's teeth, I'm not trying to accuse her of anything. But we need to find out as much as we can about what happened."

Celestine sobbed again, inundating the sorry piece of cloth with a fresh flood of tears. Imogen wrapped one comforting arm around her apprentice, who continued sobbing into the front of her robes. "She's scared, Gharen," she said. "You can't just fire questions at her like this."

Gharen shrugged. "I wasn't being nasty," he said.

"No one said that you were being nasty, dear. Celestine just needs some rest. It's been a long day for her, and for all of us."

"It's not even evening yet," Cerise groaned.

"That only gives us more time to talk," Imogen said, patiently. Then, taking her apprentice's head into her hands, she whispered into Celestine's ear. "Go back to your room, little one. Take some sleep -- you've been through a lot today -- and I'll wake you when it's time for dinner."

Celestine sniffed one more time, and nodded. She held up the unfortunate piece of white cloth.

"You can keep the handkerchief," Imogen said.

Celestine nodded, and slowly slipped out of the room. Gharen closed the door behind her.

"We didn't handle that very well," Cerise observed.

Gharen threw up his hands. "How are we supposed to handle these sorts of incidents? I mean... who steals from one of us? In broad daylight, even? It's just like asking for trouble!"

"If you're thinking of burning the entire peasant district to the ground," Imogen cautioned, "I'll have you know that that's definitely against guild precepts."

"It's tempting, though."

Cerise thought for a moment. "Do we know what's in the book that was stolen?" she asked.

"Of course," Imogen said. "It's an old treatise on weather control. Celestine and I were moving up to more advanced studies, and I felt that it would be prudent to look up some of the likely outcomes. You can't expect an apprentice to summon stormclouds without anticipating how that's going to affect the harvest season."

Cerise raised an eyebrow. "Zaphod's Meteorology, you mean?"

"Yes, dear. You seem to know your books."

"All too well. I think we're definitely going to have to get this one back, Lady Imogen."

Gharen gave her a curious stare. "I'm not sure if I follow you, Cerise. If it's just a book on weather patterns and whatnot, then wouldn't it be dispensable? I'm rather certain that we have another copy somewhere... we always have another copy somewhere."

"Not this one, dear," Imogen said. "Zaphod was adamant about protecting the results of his studies. The guild promised that no further copies of the book would ever be made, and Zaphod himself sealed it with an arcane lock. It took me a good three weeks just to get the key from Zerah the librarian."

"That doesn't change the fact that the thieves have a locked book in their hands. I fail to see how this is an urgent situation."

"I don't think you deserve to underestimate their resourcefulness, Gharen," Imogen warned. "Sooner or later, someone's going to find a way to get that book open."

"I still don't get it," Gharen said. "I'm sure that weather patterns may be important enough, but what relevance would they have to anyone but us? We could practically look for the book at our leisure."

"It's not the book," Cerise said.

Gharen raised an eyebrow. "So what's so urgent about getting it back?"

Imogen answered a moment before Cerise could say anything. "I mentioned an arcane lock," she said.

"Er... one of those things?"

"Zaphod was a little... overprotective of his research. He didn't make that lock to protect the book; he was of a far more retributive mindset."

Gharen felt his stomach sink a bit. "That doesn't sound good," he said.

"I got a long lecture from Atharus before I could even attempt to open it," Cerise said. "Zaphod left only two specific keys by which the book could be properly unlocked and opened."


"Otherwise we get a storm on our hands," Imogen said.

"A storm?"

"Did you ever hear about the hurricane eight years ago? The one that hit the outskirts of Lorendheim and continued for six straight days?"

Gharen paled. "That was the book?"

"Well, it wasn't just a light drizzle."

Gharen blinked. "That definitely doesn't sound good."

Imogen sighed. "Yes, dear," she said. "I would much rather not have to trudge through seven feet of water at my age. It would ruin my robes."

"That's why we need to find it right now," Cerise concluded. "Any ideas?"


"This is a funny-looking lock," Pick observed.

"Yeah," Chance said. "But I wouldn't be asking you if I didn't think that you were up to the challenge."

The two thieves sat along the walls of a blind cul-de-sac, bantering over their latest acquisition. The one called Chance was a young man, muscular and slim, wearing a dirty white shirt concealed under layers of old leather. The one called Pick was reed-thin with a distinctive hooked nose; he wore a stained cloth apron over an old tunic and looked as though he had been in the thievery business for far too long.

"Where'd you get a hold of this one, Chance?"

Chance gave him a sardonic smile. "Wouldn't you like to know," he said.

"It's got 'mage' written all over it, Chance. If you yanked it off one of the spellcasters, then you know that I won't have truck with that."

"Why don't you live a bit, Pick. They're not going to be able to find us -- we're too good for those stuck-up nobles. Besides, it was fun... and the girl was just as cute as she was stupid."

Pick pulled a couple of mangled-looking wires from his pocket. "Are you sure it's not trapped or anything?" he asked in a suspicious tone.

"I carried it here. If it was supposed to blast me to pieces, then it hasn't done that yet."

Pick glared at him. "That makes me feel a whole lot better," he said.

"I aim to please," Chance said dryly.

Pick inserted both wires into the ancient lock, then carefully moved the two about. Sweat began to form on his brow. His fingers, wrinkled as they looked, remained steady.

Chance waited for a while before the older man spoke.

"Hard to concentrate," Pick said, pulling his wires out. "I keep feeling like something's going to fry me or turn my guts into warm mash."

"You've done worse locks," Chance mentioned.

"This one's old," Pick said, "and it doesn't use the usual gear mechanism that you see nowadays. In fact, I don't know where the leather ends and the rust begins. No, the picks aren't good for this kind of thing... I'll need my skeleton keys, and right now they're in my workshop."

"How long do you need?" Chance asked.

Pick rubbed his chin for a while, and inspected the book from a few more angles. "One day," he said. "Maybe two, if the keys don't work. You know, Chance, this lock isn't directly attached to the cover. You can take a sharp knife and just cut it away."

Chance took the grimoire from Pick's outstretched hands. "I don't know," he said, "but I think it's got some nostalgic value. Maybe someone'll pay more for it as long as it still has the lock."

"You could just sell it without having to open it," Pick pointed out. "That way, I save about a day's worth of labor for someone who won't even pay me a fair cut."

Chance laughed. "You don't know about mages and books," he said. "The way I see it, they're curious. They'd die to find out what's inside. If we can do that for them, it'll be like offering a service... and they'd pay more in that case."

"Speaking of which... just how are you going to fence it? You probably have a whole sect looking for it right now. They're not going to take very kindly to your walking around with their property."

"Trade secret," Chance said.

"We're in the same line of work, you know."

"Well... I've got my people, and you've got yours. You just get your tools ready."

"You'd better know what you're doing," Pick warned. "I'm just a simple thief. I'm not about to put my life on the line just because you had the bad sense to steal from a mage."

"No one's asking you to put your life on the line, Pick. Just as long as you shut up and play along, you'll have a good share of the reward coming."

The two thieves exchanged their last bit of banter, and then split up. Pick took the wider exit from the alley, into a cobblestoned road that bypassed the city marketplace. Chance, who was by far the more suspicious-looking of the two, wrapped the book in its original cloth coverings and struggled over a tall fence to land on a stack of barrels on the other side. The younger man walked for a few more feet, climbed over a rough stone wall, and finally emerged in one of the more disreputable parts of the city, where he lost himself among the squalor.

Behind him, hidden on one of the rooftops, a cloaked figure shifted slightly. It grunted, as though making sense of what it had heard and observed, and then seemed to make up its mind.

After a few minutes, it drew its slate-gray cloak tighter about itself, and then began climbing down off the roof.

The situation, it had to admit, was proving to be quite interesting.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Lost Work

Waaaaay back in February of last year -- just before I started working at my current job -- I put together a short story for release via Psicom Publishing. I remember it quite clearly because I was given a mere week to come up with a work of speculative fiction, and I just barely beat the deadline in this case. In fact, I actually noted the experience in an introduction to one of my blog posts around that time.

"Automata" ended up being a sci-fi effort from my end, clocking in at seven pages in Times New Roman 12, double-spaced, with a total of just over thirteen thousand words to its credit. I don't remember if I was to be paid for the work, but the target publication in question was a follow-up to the company's Pinoy Amazing Adventures, and at that time I was eager to find possible outlets for my writing.

It took the company three months to send me a contract, after which I noted some nasty irregularities and sent it back for change. I also received a manuscript proof around that time, where I noted that the typesetter had put most of my paragraph indentations out of whack. After an hour's worth of corrections, I sent that file back as well.

Then... nothing.

We're now approaching the middle of August 2008, and it seems that I haven't heard anything about the status of the story for over a year now. I'll confess that I scour the bookstores every now and then to see if the publication ever came out... but it looks like it hasn't. Sometimes I wonder if they're ever going to get back to me with a revised contract, and sometimes I wonder if they're just going to screw me over and use the story without getting so much as an okay from me.

But that's all moot, though, because I've seen neither hide nor hair of my one-week wonder. It's quite weird.

To be honest, I'm not looking forward to the story coming out. This is because I don't think that it's representative of my best work, although I think that it's fairly readable on its own merits. For that matter, I've also moved on... which pretty much lowers the significance of this one little work in my book. In short, it's old hat.

That said, though, I don't know what my jurisdiction is with regards to this one. Usually, whenever I submit a short story to a publisher, I do so with the understanding that said publisher is "leasing" it for use within a certain period of time. Psicom, however, was different -- for a company that's been around for a while now, I have yet to see them take the lead on any formal arrangements. In my case, I handed them the story without knowing how long they were going to hang on to it... or for that matter, whether or not they were going to hold onto the rights in the first place.

And now, over one year later, I'm wondering if it's legal for me to put the story up on this blog... or submit it to another publication... or even so much as put up excerpts of it to see what other people think. As you can see, I'm confused.

I'll probably end up writing a short e-mail to Psicom Publishing in order to find out the fate of my story. (Or, failing that, I can also contact our go-between to see if he's still involved.) Hopefully they've done something rash, such as tossing it into the shredder or feeding it to the German Shepherd next door or something like that; those scenarios seem a lot better than just filing the work away for fifteen straight months.

And in any event, it looks like Psicom's spec fic effort is dead on the vine. There are better outlets for these pieces right now -- Philippine Genre Stories is still accepting works, as is Story Philippines. A number of local magazines have begun to feature short stories by the new generation of speculative fiction writers, and Dean Alfar's yearly anthology still sits at the top of many lists. The fact that the Fully Booked competition looks more and more sustainable as it goes on is merely icing on the cake. The main thing is, there are a ton of avenues available to people now -- why wait for a publisher who hasn't put out their planned collection in more than a year?

I'd still like to get some closure on my story, though. I mean, it can't just stay in my hard drive forever...

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

This Mortal Coil

The father of one of my best friends died suddenly last Saturday, and I passed by late Monday afternoon for the wake. Despite the fact that everyone at the funeral parlor appeared calm and almost... normal, I could feel a heavy sense of sadness that blanketed the entire room. There's a human trait that encourages us to put our best faces forward in any situation, and this was a prime example.

As you may recall, my own father passed on almost eight years ago, so I've seen these circumstances before. I don't think I've ever really seen it from this point of view, though, and sometimes the sadness felt as though it was going to suffocate everyone in tears.

There was a small shrine set up by the family in one corner of their little room, and sitting on the table was an assortment of remembrances: A pair of shoes. A favorite book. An old bowling ball. A group of old photos. A uniform, pressed and cleaned. I spent a few minutes going over the various mass cards and everyday items, and wondered why we never came up with anything like that for my dad.

But then I realized that I didn't know the deceased about as well as I hoped, and this family did. Maybe the little shrine was a way for them to tell us who he was, and what memories they would carry for the rest of their lives.

And that made me wonder further, about myself. For a moment, I wondered how anyone would remember me when I passed on.

I trudged outside to think for a few minutes, and perhaps get some fresh air. Outside the room, just beyond the entrance doors, was a massive construct of paper and wood -- a mansion made of glue and Japanese paper, with a few similar wood-frame sculptures nearby. There was a luxury car made out of paper, there was a yacht made out of paper, and there was even a sleek-looking airplane made out of paper. After experiencing the heavy atmosphere inside the room, the latter amused me somewhat.

I had seen the tradition before. You see, when the funeral takes place, the paper constructs are taken from their display and burned. This is done so that, when the deceased's spirit moves on to the afterlife, the sculptures will have somehow become what they were meant to be. In this case, the constructs were there to guarantee a mansion to live in, a car to get around and go places, perhaps a ship and a jet for longer journeys. Little human-size cutouts in the sculptures ensured that more than a few servants would be waiting in the afterlife as well.

I spent a few more minutes inside the room before I left. This time, I busied myself folding pieces upon pieces of ghost money -- bundled scraps of paper stamped with gold or silver foil that had to be curled and folded in a certain way. These would be burned along with the paper constructs to ensure that the deceased would have some wealth to use in the otherworld.

I was a little surprised that I remembered how to fold the scraps of paper in the right fashion, although eight years had dulled most of my skills in that regard. The family had already collected about an entire sackful of ghost money by that Monday afternoon, and I was sure that more would be completed by the time the funeral came around.

Putting about twenty of the bills together left me with a certain urge, however. Somewhere in the middle of the proceedings, I pulled the remains of a lunch receipt from my wallet and began making a few folds. After a few minutes I unfurled a tiny origami peacock in my right hand, to the smiles of a few onlookers.

And I remembered my father again, considering that he was the one who taught me the hobby in the first place. He was a collector of curiosities himself, and I wondered again as to why we never put together a little shrine to eulogize him during his wake.

I left the origami peacock leaning against a stainless steel thermos in the back room, then hitched up my knapsack and stepped out the door. Chinese tradition dictates a lot of things -- among them was the fact that one never says goodbye to the hosts during a wake. There was a strange metaphorical logic there, and I didn't question the practice.

Three floors down, I found that it was raining heavily outside. I was fortunate enough to have brought my umbrella, however, and as I passed more than a few pedestrians on my way to the car, I thought a little about the light at the end of life, our passing on, and the ones who we inevitably leave behind. Then I thought about how we are right now, we lone survivors on this gray earth, who carry the memories of those who have gone.

And finally, as with any being with a human heart would do, I moved on, leaving my ghosts behind.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Disclaimer: August 2008

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