“The Tell-Tale Heart” Production Notes

October 17, 2021

This morning, I did something I’ve never attempted before: a cinéma vérité performance of “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe, originally published in 1843. You’ll be able to watch it Halloween weekend online and hear it broadcast on WQSV 106.3 FM Staunton.

It began at my house, where Jay Haynes filmed my ad-libbed interaction with my landlady, Deena Warner. I wore full costume. As a continuous-shot, Office-style monologue, Jay stayed with me during the drive to WQSV, the “police station.” There, station manager Ben Leonard heard my murder confession, Poe’s story.

The WQSV radio broadcast and the film will be aired on Halloween weekend, details TBA. Thanks to Jay for his help, and thanks to Ben and WQSV for the venue!

And now, to get you ready, here is Vincent Price performing “The Tell-Tale Heart”:

The Year of Video Game Programming

September 5, 2021

This has been the year of video game programming. In a few weeks is the deadline for IFComp2021, to which I’m submitting a text-adventure adaptation of the short story “Second Wind.” You’ll have an opportunity to vote on it against all the other competitors.

Below is a screenshot of my current doodle: a random maze generator, through which you have to navigate while avoiding NPCs. My kids and I are still coming up with ways to make it better, but I’ll share it with you soon.

Staunton City Wants to Eliminate Curbside Recycling

April 7, 2021

Here within the city limits of Staunton, we regularly pay city fees for our water and sewer and for our trash and recycling. However, perhaps because they are nonsensically spending $200,000 on golf carts, the city now needs to tighten the budgetary belt a little. Their solution is to eliminate curbside recycling. (See the discussion beginning on page 117 of the April 1 budget work session minutes.)

The City Council is holding a public hearing on the budget tomorrow night at 7:30 p.m. I encourage everyone who cares about this subject to participate either by in-person or phone-in comments or by sending an email to the Clerk of Council like Deena and I have done below. (Click for instructions.)

Here is the email we sent:

Dear Clerk of Council:

We are writing in opposition to the proposed change to the city recycling program, as contemplated during the April 1 budget work session, to eliminate curbside recycling.

As we understand it, if Staunton citizens wish to recycle their household glass, paper, and metal wastes, they will no longer be able to place them in curbside bins for collection. Instead, they will have to transport their materials to a collection center at Gypsy Hill Park.

While the objective to reduce fees is laudable, the council overlooks the effect human behavior will play in all this. Most of us do not have the time, energy, and some cases, the transportation to cart our recycling to the park every week. We pay city fees for this service, so that is the service we expect to receive. If the city expects us to port our own recycling to the park, then most of us will simply choose not to do it. We will instead opt for the convenience of throwing it all into the regular trash, the environmental impacts be damned.

The council’s analysis suggests that their new model will permit the resumption of plastic recycling through Dave’s Recycling in Harrisonburg. Fine; if having a collection center at GHP will facilitate plastic recycling, then by all means establish a plastic-collection center there. But do not tie that to general recycling unless you wish participation in general recycling to be severely impacted.


Matthew & Deena Warner

Juhyo Update

March 7, 2021

It’s taken nearly five months, but I now have a bug-free (I think!), responsively designed game you can play against three computer opponents. They’re very stupid opponents because they randomly make their decisions, but at least they follow the rules. The next programming phase I’m beginning should be the fun one: how to make the computer smarter. This is the part that should scare all sci-fi writers, because obviously I am just one boolean function call away from creating an apocalyptical computer sentience.

No update yet on when Juhyo will be available for the general public. As always, stay tuned!


Thoughts about the Impeachment

February 11, 2021

Watching and reading the impeachment trial is doomscrolling of news we’re currently powerless over. The managers have a slam-dunk case and top-notch presentations, while the defense is comically feckless, but fascist sycophants like Lindsay Graham, Ted Cruz, and Josh Hawley will lie and acquit him anyway.

I hope that, thanks to the overwhelming evidence being presented, the foregone conclusion of this trial will prove very costly to the Republican party. Trump’s actions were a deep betrayal of his oath, and the resultant, continuing damage to our republic is an existential threat to the United States.

Below is the 13-minute video played in the Senate on the first day. If you have the stomach for it, I urge you to watch the whole thing.

It is so obvious that this is exactly what Trump wanted to happen. The screaming crowd, which crushed and killed police officers, is an appalling thing to behold. And to think that Staunton Mayor Andrea Oakes tried to justify this evil with the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., is just shameful.

Trump Must Be Impeached, Convicted, Removed, and Shamed for the Good of Our Country

January 10, 2021

As long as GOP members and their families weren’t personally threatened, it was all right with them if Donald Trump betrayed everything the USA stands for. That’s one of my takeaways from Wednesday’s events at the U.S. Capitol.

Fine, then. Maybe now they’ll do the right thing, and the right thing will be on their desks tomorrow when the House introduces an Article of Impeachment. It will surely pass the House and go to the Senate, where Mitch McConnell will surely sit on it for the remainder of his party’s majority.

After that, the Democrat-led Senate will surely hold another impeachment trial. It will be done over President Biden’s objections. And there’s a good chance that, again, the Senate will not convict, because that requires a two-thirds vote, and the Democrats will only have a razor-thin, one-half majority.

So, again, the integrity of our nation will fall to the dubious care of Republican senators, those who make up the difference between one-half and two-thirds.

If I were one of the impeachment managers standing in the well of the Senate on closing-arguments day, I would present those particular senators with the reasons for why they must convict:

  1. The first reason is practical. A conviction (even during Biden’s term) would preclude Trump from ever holding public office again. Many, many Republicans, I’ve heard, have harbored secret wishes over the years that Trump would just go away, just return to his gaudy real estate and his morally diseased family, and leave governing to the grownups.  But because of the influence he wields over voters, most have been afraid to say so publicly.  Well, I would say to them, now’s your chance.  Wouldn’t you like to ensure he can never, ever return to power and thus leave the paths to power open for yourself?
  2. The second reason appeals to their higher selves (selves I’m not convinced they possess anymore). These Republican senators whom I’m addressing, I assume, entered politics not solely for personal gain. At some point in their formation, they felt a calling to a higher purpose, to serve the country and make the world a better place. That higher calling is at the heart of what it means to be an American. During our better days, it’s a moral authority that illuminates the world, that inspires and cajoles (and often bullies) other countries to do better. But under Trump, we’ve lost that authority. He’s betrayed and perverted everything we stand for. If sedition that incites an insurrection is not a “high crime and misdemeanor,” then what is? What will it take for you to uphold your oath? If you again make excuses for the man like you did during last year’s impeachment, saying that this doesn’t rise to the level of conviction, then the United States will further lose its credibility with the world and with its own citizens. Donald Trump has led this country into chaos and evil. You must convict.

That Time Boba Fett’s Legs Burnt Off

December 22, 2020

“The thing this mead hall is missing is walls,” I said.

Of course, it was a picnic shelter at Montgomery Hall Park, but otherwise the mead hall illusion held. My mother-in-law heated mulled cider in a crockpot, and my father-in-law heated us all with a fire in the shelter’s fireplace. My wife said a piece of forked firewood reminded her of wooden pants, so when her dad threw it into the fire, my thoughts led naturally to Boba Fett.

As you know, Boba has just effected a memorable resurrection in the Star Wars universe. Turns out he escaped the Sarlacc pit. He’s now on his way to a glorious future in a time long, long ago.

When Return of the Jedi came out in 1983, I had to have the Boba Fett action figure. What with that cool helmet and the rocket on his back, and the fact he could fly, who wouldn’t want him?

That winter, my job was to stack wood in the fireplace and stuff wadded-up newspaper below the andirons, and then, when it was time, to strike a foot-long match to light those newspapers. Except, on this particular night when I was 10, I accidentally rolled Boba Fett into a newspaper blanket and shoved him into the fireplace as well.

I realized my mistake when I spotted him aflame, his legs incinerating like Anakin Skywalker’s at Mustafar. We rescued him from the fire — but too late.

I mourned my deformed, favorite Star Wars figure. There was nothing Dad could do for him but use a pocket knife to amputate him below the waist.

Legless Boba Fett just wasn’t the same anymore. There was nothing more to do for him but grant him a dignified burial at kitchen trash.

Luckily, a family friend owned an extra Boba Fett and gave him to me. My favorite action figure was restored.

So as we celebrate this holiday season, whatever holiday you may celebrate — for us, it was a winter solstice in a wall-less mead hall beneath a planetary conjunction — I wish you a merry resurrection of your action figures and a hope for a restoration of all important things in the coming year.

Up to My Elbows

November 10, 2020

Just a quick update. I am up to my elbows in the programming of a new online game. This one is an adaptation of the card game Deena and my boys created, Juhyo. The printed card game, which is in very limited circulation right now with a select group of players, is a trick-taking game about snowmen in the guises of various monsters. A website will launch soon with more details.

One of the Juhyo website’s features will be the online demo. It’s entirely in JavaScript (and if I do it right, responsive to your mobile phone), so it won’t require any special software or app players to access, just a standard web browser. Making something of this scope is a slow, exacting process that will take me into 2021.

While you’re waiting, I hope you’ll give “Tombs & Mummies” a spin over at the IFComp2020 archives. If you rate fives games there before November 29, your votes will help determine the contest winners.


This Man Could Have Saved Your Loved One

September 12, 2020

By now, every person on the planet, if they haven’t experienced the virus firsthand, is a degree or two of separation from somebody’s who’s been sickened by COVID-19. The United States leads the world in confirmed cases and deaths.

Source: News Leader / Gannett

How could we have minimized this?

On January, 28, 2020, National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien told President Donald Trump that COVID-19 would be the greatest national security threat of his presidency. By February 7, the president understood the virus’s transmission method and severity, because at that time he told reporter Bob Woodward, “But the air, you just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed. … It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flus.”

He said just the opposite to the public. He did absolutely nothing to prepare for the coming pandemic except to play golf and accuse the media and Democrats of being alarmist.

The above information is not opinion. They are historical facts, so I will not “agree to disagree” with you.

Here are my opinions: what President Trump should have done, starting on January 28, was to invoke the Defense Production Act for the manufacture of PPE and ventilators. What he should have done was share what he knew with state governors. They might have locked down their communities right then and there, rather than mid March, when the horse had already left the barn.

If not for Trump’s dereliction of duty, the world might have suffered significantly fewer than 916,000 deaths by now.

If your loved one died of COVID-19, you should be enraged at President Donald Trump and every Republican who enabled him. They sacrificed that person on his altar.

Unmasking Mask Myths

July 3, 2020

In resisting the need to wear masks to combat the spread of COVID-19, a couple myths keep circulating faster than the virus.

Myth #1: “Masks make it too hard to breathe. They lower your O2 and increase your CO2.”

I could appeal to your common sense with mask charts of questionable origin, but this nurse with a pulse oximeter and end-tidal carbon dioxide monitor does it better. Even while wearing three masks at once, his blood oxygenation doesn’t decrease, and his retained carbon dioxide doesn’t increase.

Myth #2: “Masks are ineffective in stopping the spread of the virus.”

Nobody has pretended that a cloth face covering with the consistency of your underpants is as effective a shield as an N95 respirator. Instead, the purpose of masks is to stop aersolized virus particles at the source. I may not have symptoms and realize I’m infected, so I want to stop my breath from hitting you, just in case.

To illustrate this concept, I propose a simple experiment you can do at home:

  1. Hold your palm up to your face. Blow on it.
  2. Put on a mask and repeat step #1.

I predict that in step #1, you will feel a stream of air hitting your hand. That is the exhalation that is potentially laden with respiratory droplets. Those droplets are the virus vectors we don’t want to blow onto other people.

In step #2, I predict you won’t feel that stream of air. The droplets containing your virus do not reach your hand.

Myth #3: “I’ll just wait for a vaccine or for us to achieve natural herd immunity.”

We can’t wait for the deus ex machina of a vaccine, because although there are many promising candidates out there, nothing is guaranteed, and all the idiot anti-vaxers aren’t going to take the vaccine anyway. Even if a good vaccine is coming, we probably won’t get it until the next presidential term in 2021.

Nor can we wait for 80% of the population to become infected and to recover so we can achieve natural herd immunity. There are currently 328,200,000 people in just the United States. If our daily infections doubled to Dr. Fauci’s nightmare prediction of 100,000 cases per day, it would take over seven years to infect 80% of us.*

*((328,200,000 people x .80) ÷ 100,000 people) ÷ 365 days = 7.19 years

Sure, I haven’t subtracted the percentage of the world who may already be immune. This is just a rough calculation to show herd immunity will still take a long time. And while we’re waiting, up to 10% of those 262,560,000 infected people could die. That’s over 26 million people.

The Bottom Line

Governments that pass ordinances requiring masks are acting responsibly. People who wear those masks are acting responsibly as well.

Grow up, and wear your mask. If a vaccine ever becomes available, take it.