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Et Cetera « John W. Allie


What’s Going On Around Here?

Greetings to anyone who may be reading this! Things have been a bit quiet around here lately. This is not due to any inactivity on my part, rather the opposite. To summarize, here is what you can expect in this space in the coming months:

  • A book about classical music. A lot of my time lately has been consumed by this project. The book is an introduction to the field of classical music, along with lots of listening suggestions and weird anecdotes from the history of the field. This edition is written for adults, but a version for kids will follow.
  • More Non-Seen. It\’s been missing lately, I know, and I apologize. It will return soon.
  • Revised edition of Myst book. I\’ve been promising this forever but I do intend to see it through to completion. If you want it, please post a note of encouragement.
  • More reviews. As you may have noticed, I posted a review of the film White God today. I intend to post more, including the annual Media Summation.

Also of note: How to Write Fiction That Doesn\’t Suck has been retitled to Fixing Fiction. Check it out here. You can get it on Amazon for $2.99, or free if you have Kindle Unlimited. I may post more excerpts from it here if anyone is interested.

And, finally, if you sign up for the newsletter, you\’ll get any new content delivered straight to your inbox. How convenient! If enough people join, I might even be persuaded to start providing some exclusive stuff on there.

Animals Were Harmed

So this happened: Asger Juhl, AKA “the Danish radio host,” killed Allan the rabbit on air. He was looking for hypocrisy, and boy howdy, he found it. How dare he, legions have demanded. How dare he kill a poor defenseless little bunny? Many of these people then ate ham sandwiches.

So, hypothetical ham-sandwich eaters, the question remains: why is Allan’s death so meaningful to you? In 2010, 110 million pigs were slaughtered in the US alone. That works out to more than three pigs slaughtered per second.1 Allan only died once. If you are outraged about Allan and not about the pigs, you are a hypocrite millions of times over.

Now on to my fellow vegetarians, many of whom feel that they have the right to condemn Juhl’s actions. Maybe you do, but first, consider the following: 1. Allan’s death was swift and probably painless. 2. Since Juhl ate Allan after the slaughter, Allan’s body was not wasted. 3. Since Allan’s death has engendered a debate on this issue (one which we rarely see covered in the media at all), his life was not wasted either. Allan’s death occurred under far better circumstances, and meant much more, than that of nearly any other animal on earth.

We humans are inveterate animal killers. I am not innocent and neither are you. If you are a meat eater, you will consume the flesh of hundreds of animals over the course of your life. If you are a vegetarian, untold numbers of rodents and insects were exterminated to prevent them from stealing your food. Millions of people depend on drugs which are extracted from the bodies of animals. Vast numbers of animals die as roadkill: we’ve come to accept this as the cost of speedy transportation. Animals were harmed in the making of your favorite movie, even if only by the catering department.

Do not mourn for Allan. Instead, take a moment to remember that all of us are guilty. If that bothers you, do something about it. Allan lives!

Game Over: The Failings of Season Four

Game of Thrones is starting to grow soft. No, not soft on brutal violence and the wholesale incorporation of dark themes; all that stuff is still in there. Rather, the show’s writing has begun to take a very by-the-numbers approach to its story, delivering more or less exactly what viewers have come to expect without doing anything really surprising. It goes through the motions, and that’s all it does. No more really needs to be said, but there’s no limit to my ability to carry on about things that irritate me, so let’s take an in-depth look at why Season 4 failed to live up to the example of preceding seasons.

The Season Four experience captured in one thrilling image

Lack of Direction

All the season’s problems eventually fold into one larger problem: that there is no singular direction in this season, no one overarching plot that all the other storylines play into. The other seasons used the leadup, climax, and end of the war as a sort of “meta-story” unifies the more personal storylines into the context of a larger arc. This technique worked brilliantly to explore the concept of how individuals’ actions affect events on a global scale.

So, with the war more or less over, what’s left to do? Well, not a whole lot, as it turns out. The Lannisters have more or less total control of the country, leaving them with nothing else to conquer. Most of the Starks are dead. Neither Stannis nor Daenerys are in a position to begin their invasions, so their activities are largely quotidian. The Greyjoys don’t do much of anything. The Wildlings eventually attack Castle Black but we don’t see much of their preparations for it. The Tyrells are nonentities. The White Walkers are hardly in evidence. With no particular goals to aspire to, much of the action consists of little more than characters shuttling back and forth between different locations, sometimes with minor skirmishes thrown in. Never do we get the impression that we’re witnessing a defining moment in this world’s history; it’s by and large a story of mundanities, and even some of the more interesting predicaments the characters face prove to be more pedestrian than they have in the past.

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CREDO Fails at Science


Several times per week I receive emails from an activism organization called CREDO Action. Quite often these are about chemicals which CREDO has decided are a danger to the public, and recipients are asked to sign petitions to various branches of government requesting that the chemicals in question be banned. I used to sign these without much thought; it only took a moment and seemed like the least I could do. When I started to read them more carefully, however, I started to notice a recurring trend: CREDO doesn’t know what it’s talking about.

I will elaborate. Today’s email was about ractopamine, an additive which CREDO believes should be eliminated from the US food supply. They cite a number of startling facts about it: 160 countries have banned it outright, it’s used in 80% of pigs in the US, it causes harm to farm animals, and long-term exposure in humans has not been studied. It is described as both “dangerous” and “toxic,” and its effects on “consumers, livestock, and farm workers are serious.” Taken at face value, yes, ractopamine sounds like a pretty horrible substance, and not something that anyone should eat. But let’s look a little deeper at what’s going on here.

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Unity Test

I’ve been wanting to gain some familiarity with the Unity game engine, so I did a little test with some old assets from Into the Titan. This, as you may recall, is the darkroom and the hallway leading up to it. I baked some nice lightmaps, which makes it considerably prettier. Comparison images are below the jump.

Meteorite Research Center passageway in Unity

Darkroom in Unity

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Media Summation: 2013

Here is the third annual summation of all that I read/watched/played this year. Titles appear in the order that they were read/watched/played. Unreserved recommendations are in bold. Mini-reviews, where applicable, appear in italics. So, read on and perhaps you’ll find something you might like. Satisfaction is not guaranteed, however.

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Regarding Turkeys


Here in America we are, by and large, removed from the actual production of food. Meat comes from neat styrofoam trays, no longer remotely resembling the animal it once was, and that’s how we’ve come to like it. When the animals are represented at all (which is unusual), they are either made cutesy or abstract: a smiling cartoon pig, a silhouette of a bull’s head.

This is what makes Thanksgiving so interesting: it’s a time when American culture seems unusually aware of where the meat comes from. Turkeys have long outstripped Pilgrims as the primary icon of the holiday, and are generally depicted in one of two ways: realistic and dignified or cartoonish and manic. The realistic variety are drawn as large, healthy male specimens in enthusiastic display mode. They stare out with a sort of calm, detached dignity, willingly offering themselves up for our annual feast of gratitude. On the other end of the spectrum manic cartoon turkeys are goofy-looking creatures with bugging eyes, brown feathers, rainbow-colored tails, and tear-shaped red blobs dangling from their beaks like stray ketchup. The cartoon turkey’s primary goal in life is to not get eaten, and attempts endless cockamamie schemes to this end. This setup has been a staple of newspaper comic strips for years, which spend much of the month of November making jokes to the effect that turkeys, hilariously, are afraid of dying. This is how, in America, we show our appreciation for the animals we eat.

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A Found Poem

trying to remember,

once upon a time, I would
create a single polygon the shape of the perimeter of the fence line.
project this to terrain/ground
wall plus this nonplanar face
set the proflie in wall plus to have a 30 degree bend at the top about a foot down (two points) -gives a “3d” fence with barbed wire geometry at top
texture with nearest (to have forced poles at the corners – do texture accordingly) -wasnt a CDB db
then those polys were all reset to view 2x

(Source here.)

What I Read: 2012

Welcome all to the second annual end-of-year roundup of various media I consumed this year. This year I kept a list, so this is guaranteed to be comprehensive. Instead of alphabetical order, entries are listed in the order read (within each category). As in last year, recommendations are in bold. Mini-reviews provided below entries, as applicable. Starred entries I only read part of, usually books of short stories. Note: also includes movies!
The happy winners
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Where your comments go

So lately I’ve been asking myself: Why does no one comment on my blog anymore? Well, apparently it’s because I’m a moron who doesn’t realize that comments are moderated by default. I’ve approved the significant backlog of old comments (some of which are truly delightful, I must say) and will be checking them from now on so that they’ll actually, you know, appear. I apologize to all of you who spent the time writing comments only to have them vanish into the aether. I’ll do better now!

Edit: I’ve posted replies to many of your old comments. Thanks for your patience, everyone.

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