Nov 052014

Oh right, hello there.

Some snippets, in no particular order.

I’m 30 now. I don’t generally pay much attention to age, getting older, and so on. So it is with the beginning of my fourth decade. 25 was the last age to herald any practical impact (namely, the reduction in costs renting vehicles, which I so often do–oh wait). From here forward, there are no specific age-based milestones about which I am much concerned. As someone that expects to medical science to soon usher in multi-centennial lifespans, I still consider myself awfully young. Other than things that can come out of the blue and cut life short — most of which remain true at any age — I’ve still got a long way to go.

Writing is happening. Since my last update, I hadn’t made a lot of progress in terms of word count because I’d been devoting all of my writerly efforts toward figuring out plot issues. I continually ran up against the wall of knowing what I wanted to happen in the book, but not feeling rock-solid on the scene-to-scene progression. When November rolled around, bringing with it NaNoWriMo, I decided that I knew far more about my story than I had when I set out to write Ashes and should stop being a giant baby about the whole matter. I started a day late, but have already produced 7400 new words thus far despite great deal of textual reorganization of what I already had consuming about half of my writing time. Alour-Tan II is happening. By the end of the month, the first draft will be done. There, I said it.

For the sake of NaNo, I’m only counting words written since the month began. The total word count is north of 20,000 (plus another 15,000 that I chopped out along the way), which represents roughly 20% of the projected length.

I started playing STO again. One reason you haven’t seen much in the way of 3D art updates lately is that the time I would have been devoting to modeling has gone back to Star Trek Online. I’ve been sinking far too much time into playing in an effort to finish off a number of milestones I left hanging when I stopped (achieving Tier 4 in all the Duty Officer commendations, achieving Tier 5 in all of the reputations — and this across all 5 of my characters). I’m finally starting to get some of these completed (one character has fully finished all Duty Officer commendations and only one character has reputation stuff left to do), which will in turn “free up” time for other pursuits once more. Yes, yes, that time is always technically “free” because it’s mine to do with as I please.

The Stormtrooper project has made great strides and encountered great setb–learning experiences. I had hoped to at least finish the helmet in time for Halloween, but that didn’t come to pass. It almost did, but I ran into a mechanical issue with the CNC carving machine, which left me somewhat dispirited. Specifically, I had prepared four final carving templates that, when finished, would complete the positive mold and set the first of them running — a seven hour carve. The board feeding rate appears to have been registering incorrectly, which lead to cross-sectional slices that were too short by nearly a centimeter along one axis. Seven hours wasted, after a ton of enthusiastic and positive feeling going into it. I finally worked up the gumption to deal with the problem by disassembling the machine, cleaning it, correcting some minor mechanical issues, greasing everything, and reassembling it. I still need to ensure that its sensors are all correctly calibrated before I try again, but signs are positive and the time pressure is off. Next Halloween’s a whole year away.

Here’s where things stand presently:

Hockey is back. I haven’t specifically posted about this here, but Cody and I have become pretty big hockey fans over the last year and a half or so. It started with the Boston Bruins‘ 2013 playoff run and has continued and increased to this day. We’ve been to several live Bruins games, we watch (almost) every game1, we went to Providence to see the “Baby” Bruins several times last year and are season ticket holders this year, Cody now owns a Tuukka Rask jersey, etc. Ain’t no pink hats here, even if we are relative noobs! We also joined our friends’ fantasy hockey league this year. After triumphantly crushing my first game, I have been summarily crushed twice in a row in return, which is fitting. On the plus side, my “draft players I know and like, most of which are Bruins” strategy continues to feel rewarding, even when I lose.

I’m timid about posting. This, more than anything else, is actually why this place has been so silent lately. I have plenty of things I’d like to talk about, to share, to pontificate on, to wonder over. My desire to post those things is opposed by what amounts to fear of backlash. Not only do I worry about engendering enmity for posting something in general, but since I’ve made the profile of this blog somewhat larger (it cross-posts to my Goodreads author profile and my Facebook author page, both of which are listed inside Ashes itself) I’ve more or less directly attached any potential reading audience for my books and for following me as an author to the things I post here.

The last thing I want to do is turn off a reader because of some rambling, half-formed, incomplete polemic that happened to inflame some passionate desire to express whatever thought flit through my head in that moment. There are a great many topics on which I would love to share some thoughts. Having done so in a limited, ostensibly “safe” environment and having garnered the reaction I did, I’ve become even more gun-shy about expressing them. So, instead, this place stays pretty quiet. C’est la vie.

That said, I relayed this very frustration to a friend of mine yesterday:

I just have a crapton of pent-up feelings about…well, every aspect of [many topics, though this particular one related to art and sexism] that I tend to keep to myself because not doing so tends to end up (by my hypothetical reckoning) with me screaming at every other participant for how dumb and narrow-sighted they’re being. And I suspect said pent-up feelings are getting closer and closer to a spillover. Have not been very successful at calming them, despite efforts to do so.

So, who knows? Perhaps said frustration will break a dam in the near future and all sorts of things will show up here for people to read!

The Flash is a lot of fun. I’ve been watching Arrow since it premiered and was delighted to hear that it would be spinning off a Flash TV series. So far, it’s been a lot of fun!

Holy crap, Marvel is out to rule the universe. Between the announcement of the upcoming movie slate and the marked improvement in Agents of SHIELD since its intersection with Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Marvel has rather clearly marked its territory. While I am delighted to live in the era where comic book movies are emerging left and right, I have to confess to shades of the Marvel/DC rivalry coloring all of this for me. Given the preceding remark, I am by no means a loyalist to either “side” but it takes a great deal of mental gymnastics to compare any of the DC offerings with Marvel’s existing and future catalog. Perhaps Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (Really, guys? That’s the title you went with?) will surprise the hell out of everybody, but I’m not holding my breath.

That should just about bring everyone up to speed! That said, I generally post something on Twitter at least once a day, which you can find in the sidebar here on the blog and which also cross-posts to my personal Facebook profile (but not my authorial one…wonder if I should change that). Follow me there if you want your daily dose of, well, me.

  1. Sometimes, we’re just not home; as long as we are, the game is always on. []


 Posted by at 23:15  1 Response »
Oct 102013

Social media presents a bit of a problem for me, indirectly.

When I come across something thought-provoking, I want to share it with people. I suspect this is true of most of us. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and so on make this easy. The collective inertia behind these sites makes new connections easy to establish, which only further adds to that inertia. For most people, that’s great. That’s as far as it goes and that’s as far as it needs to go. Hell, some people revel in the compartmentalization this affords. Facebook is the “friend” you, LinkedIn is the “business” you, Tumblr is the “secret” you, or whatever permutation you please. And to all those people, I say good on you. Go to, enjoy, have at.

My problem is that I have too many platforms on which to echo the same thing. I share articles and provide commentary on Facebook half a dozen times a day. I tweet1 when something terse pops into my head that doesn’t “merit” a Facebook post. And Tumblr? I don’t do much more than reblog on Tumblr.2

But what about this blog?

The reason I’m so terrible about remembering to post updates here is that my first instinct is to post them to Facebook. I haven’t got a good handle on how many people read the blog; I know how many Facebook friends I have. If I want to reach people with whom I’ve established some kind of meaningful connection, the feedback cues built into Facebook entice me into choosing it. The blog suffers. I took some steps toward alleviating that by installing a Facebook plugin and building a Facebook app that allows me to cross-post articles from the blog to my Facebook feeds–both my public-facing author page and my personal account.3 I’ve considered doing the same thing for Tumblr. I’ve installed a Twitter widget on the blog so that people who come here can see what I’ve tweeted recently.

It’s not enough.

The other side of this is the discussion and debate portion. For whatever reason(s), I have a hard time not getting into arguments on Facebook. If someone says something and I disagree with it, I’m inclined to say as much and explain why. Facebook is a terrible forum for engaging in any kind of reasoned debate about anything, as are Twitter and Tumblr. Comment threads grow unwieldy within a few responses, everyone assumes disagreement equates to accusation and character defacement, and so on. Chances are, if you have a Facebook account, you’ve had an argument on Facebook. You know what I’m talking about.

These arguments eat up a lot of time. Internet arguments always have for me, when they arise. I used to visit a forum wherein fact-substantiated argument occurred at the drop of a hat, but no concern was made to encourage civility in these discussions. Civility has no bearing on the validity of a point, but it does make a discussion a lot more bearable. Even so, I spent hours on this forum throughout college. One day, I just stopped going. I haven’t been back since. I think my resource usage has improved as a result.

I’ve recently been assimilated by Reddit, too. I’ve gotten into a handful of arguments there as well, though thankfully they have always remained far more civil–and informative!–than the others I’ve gotten into in the past. Still, it sucks up time and I regularly have to make a conscious decision to close the site and get on with something more productive. Reddit is an awesome tool for staying informed, learning new things, and having discussions with people across the globe. But it will eat up your time.

This is all a long-winded way of arriving at this point: I’m going to try to disentangle myself from directly interacting with social media.

Rather than hopping onto Facebook when I come across the next fascinating link, I’m going to post about it here. This place is a far better forum for my commentary. If you’re interested in what I have to say and want to discuss it, this is the place for that to happen. Not Facebook. My server, not Zuckerberg’s. I’m going to make another deliberate effort to keep my Facebook interactions relatively brief. If I have something that I want to talk about with someone in an in-depth way, it’s probably worth writing about here in an in-depth way and then providing them with a link. If they don’t care to read it, that’s all the information I really need on how that discussion would’ve gone elsewhere. Facebook is going to be for staying in touch with people and organizing events, or in the case of my public page, keeping  a searchable presence for those interested in my authorial pursuits. That’s it. The blog will continue to cross-post to both of my Facebook feeds, but I won’t respond to any commentary there with more than a brief, “Hey, if you want to chat about this, head over to my blog and I’d be more than happy to!”4 I’ll be looking into a cross-posting plugin for Tumblr, too, for the same effect.

Twitter will be my go-to for terse, trivial updates. “Gosh, it’s nice today!” or “Man, that goalie must have been precognitive to block all of those shots!” will go there. Again, Twitter is a big, visible, public platform. I want people interested in my work to find me. If they want to get in-depth, come here.

Door’s open.

  1. There was a time when I swore I would never use this term, nor Twitter itself. Sigh. []
  2. Tumblr kind of scares me, to be honest. []
  3. Having two accounts has also made me worry about being too “noisy” for people who follow both; they’ll often see the same content posted twice. []
  4. I’ve also removed the “Like” buttons from the blog, for reasons unrelated to all of this. []
Aug 072012

In 1987, a bunch of sci-fi authors were polled for their views on who the world of 2012 would look. How does the “time capsule” of these projections match up? Not bad, with some unsurprising inaccuracies. Go have a look–the second link has all of the predictions in full, while the first link looks at pieces of a few and analyzes their accuracy.

It should come as no secret or surprise that I love Cracked’s lists that focus on correcting cultural misperceptions or raising awareness of things most people don’t know. 5 ways you odn’t realize movies are controlling your brain is of particular interest to me as a writer, because it deals with how fiction alters our perceptions in subtle ways. Here’s the bullet-point rundown, but you should read the article to get the full explanation.

  1. No, you can’t separate fact from fiction.
  2. Stories were invented to control you.
  3. The writer of a story always has an agenda.
  4. You were raised–and educated–by pop culture.
  5. Everything in your brain is a story.

Saw a link on Facebook to “the most terrifying video you’ll ever see”, which dealt with explaining why inaction on global warming is very bad thing to do in a way meant to be inarguable. Rather than examining the question “is global warming occurring?”, he instead looks at the consequences of action or inaction in the extreme cases of “global warming definitely isn’t occurring at all” and “global warming is occurring and will result in catastrophe.”

In two of the four cases, nothing happens and everyone is fine. In one of four (acting to combat global warming, it’s for nothing), we’re a worse off due to mass expenditure for no apparent gain.1 And in the final scenario, humanity suffers a complete and total global catastrophe. His conclusion is that the consequences of the catastrophe being more dire than the consequences of acting in error, it only makes sense to act, even if it’s in error.

While I applaud the guy for presenting the argument in a way most people don’t generally think about it, and agree with his ultimate conclusions, I have some misgivings about the method in general. It’s basically using the same ploy that Pascal’s Wager uses to justify religious belief.

That said, he is correct to point out that we don’t get to choose whether or not global warming is happening; it either is or is not. We do get to choose how to act.

Seven-foot long minifig-scale Serenity model is a Lego masterpiece.

The Best Of The Internet’s Reaction To The Mars Rover Landing has a bunch of fun meme images around Curiosity’s successful landing.

It seems inescapable, though, that scientific accomplishment will be met with asshattery. I saw an image meme going around on Facebook with the text “Congratulations on wasting $100 billion dollars landing a remote controlled buggy on Mars. Not sure how this is supposed to help us poor people here on Earth but great job.”

The amount of wrong in that statement borders on physical pain. First, NASA’s entire annual budget is ~$18 billion, which represents less than 0.5% of the annual federal budget. What’s more, Curiosity’s total project cost is estimated at ~$2.5 billion, which spans its entire construction history and launch. Not only is that less than 15% of NASA’s annual budget, it’s less than 3% of the quoted number in the meme!

Second, I posted a Cracked article few days back about the “god(damned) particle” and ridiculous things people believe about it. I highlighted a particular passage from point #6, and I’m going to re-post it for emphasis.

When people ask, “What’s the point in understanding everything?” they’ve just disqualified themselves from using questions and should disappear in a puff of paradox. But they don’t understand and just continue existing, which are also their only two strategies for life. These are the apes who sat in the back of the cave, scratching themselves while ooking about how bashing rocks together was a total waste of time. Except back then they had a better excuse for their sloping foreheads and scratching themselves in public.

So outraged was I by seeing this2, I immediately posted a distilled version of this section of the post, with an ultimatum that demanded anyone who agreed with the sentiment unfriend me. As I said there, I do not have time for people that small-minded.

  1. Though I would argue that any efforts we would make toward combating global warming, even if the worst doesn’t befall us, would be smart actions in general. []
  2. The person who prompted it to come up in my feed was actually just commenting on it, not sharing it or agreeing with it. []
Aug 222011

Cannot run out of time. There is infinite time. You are finite. Zathras is finite. This…is wrong tool.

I have many, many projects that capture my interest. Writing is foremost among them, but so too are home improvement projects, costuming, digital art, web development, programming, learning to play the guitar, and so on. I often lament that I simply don’t have enough time to do all of that and my job and spend time with my wife and spend time with friends.

But that’s really a load of crap, isn’t it?
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Embracing Social Media

 Posted by at 22:35  No Responses »
Feb 082011

After resisting since its inception, I broke down and got myself a Twitter account.

I’ve been listening to a great deal of Frog Pants Network podcasts while driving to and from work (specifically, the Morning Stream, the Instance, and Film Sack). The hosts are all very active on Twitter. When one encounters enthusiasm for a thing, that enthusiasm tends to spill over. That’s at least part of it. Scalzi and a number of other persons of interest to me are also active on Twitter, which is another factor. I think, though, that the tipping point came when those two components combined with the impact that social media as a whole seems to be having on the protests in Egypt. Its actual level of impact may be vastly overhyped, much as everything “novel” is vastly overhyped when it plays even a small role, but regardless of scope, it’s been involved.

For a long time, Facebook, Twitter, and the various other Web 2.0 social media titans have seemed to me little more than a gimmick. True, I rely on Facebook heavily for orchestrating activities with friends, but other than a tool to do that, it’s largely a sea of noise. It seemed to me that Twitter was all of the noise with none of the utility. But once one is confronted with the idea that these gimmicky-seeming things can actually have a real impact on real social causes in this interconnected world, one has little choice but to swallow one’s pride and accept it.

I also have to admit that I like how much integration I can achieve between Facebook, Twitter, and this blog. I can tweet (I still hate that verb used in this context) and have it show up on both Facebook and here in the blog’s side bar. I like that quite a lot.

We’ll see how long my enthusiasm for it lasts.

Virtuosity and RPGs

 Posted by at 15:20  No Responses »
Dec 022009

Wait, what?

A friend of mine is restructuring the 3.5 edition Dungeons and Dragons rules to be more to his liking. He’s calling it D&D 3.75. Though he and I disagree on some fundamental RPG theory stuff, I wish him the best in doing so and look forward to seeing what he comes up with.

On Facebook, he mentioned having recently finished setting up the requisite mechanics for the first level. This reminded me of an issue I have, in general, with the concept of level. I sent him the following bit, mostly as fodder for him to pick through as he desired. However, it also prompted me to think about the issue a bit more, too.

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