Untitled Zombie Novel, Opening Scene

I wrote this opening scene for a novel about a Zombie takeover last year. I liked the first-person structure and fast pace of a Zombie takeover. But I eventually realized that any good story needs interesting characters to make it worth reading. Otherwise this story would become the book equivalent of an action horror movie.

Opening Scene

Zed woke to the sounds of shouting coming from outside his apartment. He couldn’t make out the words but the voices outside sounded angry, or scared. He was used to the occasional shouting match floating in through his windows but he had never heard it on a Saturday morning. Usually the drunks were home in bed and the pedestrian mall wasa lightly populated with dog walkers and the early morning coffee shop crowd. Then he heard a scream.

Zed jumped out of bed and ran through the kitchen, threw open the balcony door, and raced outside. Looking down from his third floor balcony he saw a cluster of people surrounding what appeared to be a homeless man. The man’s hair was in wild disarray and his tattered coat had a jagged rip halfway down his back. Underneath Zed could see bright red blood. One of the people surrounding him, a young man who was one of the regular Saturday morning jogging crowd, grabbed the wild man’s arm and spin him around. Zed cound see blood pouring down from his mouth and soaking his ragged beard. With his free hand the homeless man grabbed the jogger, pulled him close, and sunk his teeth into his neck. There were screams from three different voices this time.

For a moment Zed thought about racind down the stairs but thought better of it. The crowd was growing fast. Someone pulled the homeless man off the jogger and got a ragged bite on his forearm for the trouble. He shouted and pushed the wild man away, who stumbled and grabbed onto the leg of a woman with a shocked look on her face. The jogger was on the ground twitching for a moment, then lay still.

Zed found his phone and called 911.

On the street several men were shaking the jogger. The woman screamed and threw her coffee on the homeless man. He bit through her achilles heel and she crumpled to the ground. Two men let out a simultaneous “What the fuck?!” and began kicking the old homeless man savagely. He didn’t say a word but kept reaching out for their legs. Zed watched in horror as his arm bent backwards and let out an audible snap after a ferocions kick connected with his elbow. His fingers kept clawing toward the legs around him.

“911, what is the nature of your emergency?”

Zed realized he was pressing the phone hard against his ear. “There’s a homeless man on the street outside who’s having some sort of fit. He’s bitten at least two people. There’s a man with a neck wound who’s not moving. No, wait a second…”

The jogger was moving again. As he climbed to his knees each movement caused a rush of blood to pour out from the ragged wound on his neck. A middle-aged man in a track suit was bending down to help him up. In the back of his mind Zed wondered why the bleeding man wasn’t pressing his hand against the gash on his neck. He seemed to be oblivious to the injury.

“He’s getting up. I don’t know how. There’s blood all over the street. Another man is helping him to his feet.”

The jogger pulled himself to a standing position, grabbed the middle-aged man’s hand, and bit off his thumb. The middle-aged man recoiled and pulled his bleeding hand away. The jogger stood there unsteadily, slowly chewing on the thumb.

“Holy shit! Something seriously fucked up is going on here. The guy with the neck wound, he just, he…”

“Sir, I’ve got your address from the dispatch computer. There are no officers available to respond right now.” Her voice was cracking. “Something bad going on this morning. I’ve got six calls holding and my board is lit up like a christmas tree. Get somewhere safe and hang on. Help is on the way.”

The line went dead.

Zed laid the phone down on the edge of the balcony, forgotten. Down below was complete chaos. Many of the people from the original crowd had run off. More people were coming in. The homeless man was bent over a girl in a “Charlottesville Four Miler” t-shirt chewing on her thigh as she screamed and clawed the ground to pull herself away. The jogger had grabbed the barista from the coffee shop around the corner by the ponytail and was pulling him closer. The man in the track suit was lying on the ground convulsing, blood shooting from where his thumb used to be. The crowd below was an incomprehensible cacophony of shouts and screams.

From around the corner a shirtless jogger came running at a full sprint. Blood streamed from his ear and ran down his back. He collided with an old woman who lived in the apartment directly below Zed. She dropped her leash and her toy poodle, Percy, took off like a shot as the running man collapsed on top of her. The runner sunk his teeth into her cheek and jerked his head back to rip of a large chunk of flesh. Zed could see her dentures flashing through the wound.

Zed raced inside and locked his door.

Posted in Zombie

How Bitcoins Can Change The World

The day has finally come to stop mining bitcoins.

I bought my first Radeon 5830 about a year ago after a friend walked randomly into my office to spread the gospel about bitcoins. He said they were going to change the way the world uses money. I installed the bitcoin client, downloaded the blockchain, and received the bitcoin he sent my way. I was hooked.

Caseless Bitcoin Mining Rig

It took a while to really understand how the technology behind bitcoin works. I’ve tried to explain it to non-technical people without much success. But the technology isn’t the best part about bitcoin. It’s the potential for real transactions over the internet with no central banking or government authority holding the reigns that has kept me interested for the last year.

There’s a growing sense these days that banks has gained far too much power and control over the people and governments of the world. That’s what the Occupy Wall Street movement is all about. Interestingly enough, the friend that introduced me to bitcoin changed his focus to the Occupy Movement once it began to gain momentum. Protesting is a much more direct response to the growing power of the banks. Protesting raises awareness but it doesn’t actually change anything. It creates a growing understanding that something has got to change, but the change it demands is left to others to carry out. Protest is supposed to shine the light of truth on corruption and force governments to take action. But governments and banks are bound so tightly together that one will never betray the other. That is how banks became “too big to fail”.

If government won’t reign in the banks as the Occupy protesters demand, what options are left? Peaceful protest can turn into armed rebellion. We’ve seen that recently with the Arab Spring uprisings throughout the Middle East. I hope that will not be America’s future.

There is a peaceful alternative to rebellion. Instead of attacking the banks we can starve them. We need to break our addiction to borrowing and credit. As long as we’re hooked on credit cards we’ll forever be enriching the banks through endless interest and fees. As long as everyone has a 30 year mortgage but spends an average of 7 years in a home those mortgages will never be paid off. The banks would like us to believe that credit is good because it lets us buy the things we want even if we can’t afford them right now. But those banks don’t want us to pay our debts back. They want the interest payments to keep flowing forever. And if they do happen to overextend and loan out too much money, they can count on a taxpayer-funded government bailout.

How do we starve the banks? We stop using them. That’s where bitcoin comes in. Bitcoin lets us buy, sell, and transfer goods without a bank or government stepping in to approve the deal and take their cut. Bitcoin uses the technology of the internet to do what has been privileged only to banks and governments in the past. It lets us control our own money.

The last year has been a rocky ride. Banks are supposed to make us feel safe – they allow us to contest fraudulent charges and ask for justice. Bitcoin does not have those safeguards. Transactions are untraceable and irreversible. As a result, there have been numerous cases of fraud and theft in the bitcoin community. There are computer viruses that steal bitcoin wallets. The largest online bitcoin exchange was hacked and robbed. One of the largest online bitcoin wallet providers was hacked and cleaned out. Many people in the community lost faith and cashed out.

Many people kept mining and trading. Plenty of bitcoin-based businesses are still up and running. And at long last it appears the BTC/USD exchange rate has stabilized at around $5/bitcoin. It seems as is bitcoin may be with us for the long haul.

So – why did I stop mining bitcoins? It’s simple – the electricity I expend mining them costs more than the value of the bitcoins I’m able to produce. My operating margin is too low. And I’m not the only one. Now my mining rigs are turned off, and there’s a good chance that they’ll never mine again. Instead, I’m using my bitcoins to buy and sell the things that I want online and in my community. And I’ve got a few locked away in storage for the future. Just in case the rest of the world catches on someday.

Posted in Bitcoin

My Raspberry Pi is almost here!

I just got an email from Newark / Element 14 yesterday… my Raspberry Pi is almost here. Well, somewhat almost. It hasn’t actually been manufactured yet. But when it’s built, tested, and shipped to the US I’ll almost have it in my hot little hands!

Posted in Raspberry Pi