Wednesday, December 7, 2011

some fun reading

I figure a good way to get back into the habit of blogging regularly would be to share some of the more interesting things I've seen on the interwebs lately.


Sexism In Nerd Culture

When is it sexist? chart -- A handy reference for determining whether the game you are playing is sexist.

False Equivalence -- Why muscled men are not sexualized.

Male Avengers posed in the manner that female comic book characters typically are.


Video Games

I recently fired up Oblivion because I found myself pining for Skyrim and never really got the full Oblivion experience. Found some good stuff related to optimizing and re-texturing that have made me forget how old the game is. Also? Totally having a blast.

Since I'm now a budding programmer, I'm interested in this treasure trove of indie game development resources. Totally getting looked at... sometime.



It's the time of year for rabid fundamentalists to get all uppity about the War on Christmas and do ridiculous things, like sing a non-religious song in defense of beliefs that no one is threatening.

Also, a fascinating piece about modesty.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Good Storytelling Requires Effort

Resurrecting a blog at the beginning of NaNoWriMo was probably not the best decision I've ever made.

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that this might be my last year doing NaNo. I'm at the point in the month where I'm frustrated and insisting that "This is it!" and after this month I'll be done forever, and I want to capture some of my thoughts so I can evaluate them and see whether they're legitimate, or if I'm just whining.

I spent a good six weeks creating characters and coming up with a rough plot. I did a moderate amount of world-building. November 1 was tough; it took a few days to hit my stride, and I did so by treating each segment of the novel as its own short story, which I could theoretically stitch together later. Though I was getting further and further behind the target wordcount, I was happy with what I was writing.

Then I hit The Middle.

At least one other person I know has experienced this phenomenon. The beginning? Easy. The end? It's all in the notes! Now, let's put them together...

Uhhh.... what?

It's the same kind of indecision you face when you're trying to pick out a quart of ice cream. There are so many flavors! They are all ice cream! Ahhh!

It didn't help that I went to a multi-region writing marathon and wrote 4,000 rambling words for the sole purpose of getting caught up (you know, the thing I said I wouldn't do!). The random ideas are all getting stuck in the door, and what I need now is a good six weeks to sit down and plan out the next section of the novel. Unfortunately, that's not how NaNo works. If I want to "win" NaNo, I need to bang out thousands of additional words, even if I know that every single one of those additional words exists to be destroyed in the rewrite.

That act, the desperate flailing to build a tower of letter blocks only to knock them down when I do my Godzilla impression, that is what stays with me when the month is over. I don't remember that I was genuinely excited about the project I was starting, I only remember that all writing is futile and a waste of time.

So, I'm reining it in. Taking it slow. Falling ridiculously far behind once more. One of my throwaway characters proved to be really interesting, so I want to take the time to explore what's going on from his perspective while my heroes are out gallivanting. Even if it doesn't make the final cut, it's better than the panic-babble because it builds my world and enables me to keep track of what's going on off-camera.

And I'm doing my best to have fun with it. For this particular story, I don't aspire to publication. It's purely for fun. I'm seeing how well I can handle science fiction in the hope that it will help me when I try to fix one of the fantasy novels I wrote and abandoned... or write a better one. Or maybe it won't help and I'll end up with a pretty okay story that gets buried on my hard drive. Whatever. But I want to do it on my terms, so if that means I won't hit 50,000 words this year, I don't care.

The purpose of NaNoWriMo is to get people to quit wishing they had more time and to start writing. They have succeeded in getting me moving again, but I don't think the format is ideal for me. If I continue to participate, I'll proudly be one of those people who signs up, gets to 20,000 words, and then disappears, dragging the region's average down.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Spoiler Alert! (this does not contain spoilers)

I am not into tumblr and I have not Googled this. My only source is Razorblade Sammich. The short version is this: Someone at Microsoft accidentally pressed the "Send The Mass Effect 3 Beta To Everyone" button and now the internet is full of Mass Effect 3 spoilers because some people are dicks and like to post spoilers in places where people don't want them. Hence, I avoid the tumblr and the Google.

I recently became a "Software Engineer" at my job. The big thing that new developers are aiming for is the "Deploy" button. It allows us to publish our own changes to the production server, rather than having to undergo code reviews every time we do something.

We don't have Deploy because if we did, we would break shit. We could do things like render our entire system inoperable or expose sensitive financial information simply by forgetting a single line of code. There are failsafes. For some things, even people with Deploy have to undergo code reviews, just to be safe. Shit is locked down.

I find it amazing that Microsoft didn't have the necessary hurdles in place to prevent someone from accidentally sending the super-secret build to the "All Beta Testers Group". I'm a terrible programmer, and I'm pretty sure I could hack something together for them.


Monday, October 31, 2011

November 1, Round 4

This will be my fourth year participating in National Novel Writing Month. I "won" in 2008 and 2009 -- I reached 50,000 words -- but bombed out pretty early in 2010. The first time was awesome because it gave me a huge self-esteem boost. I wrote 50,000 freaking words in one month, despite having a full-time job, a wife, Thanksgiving with the relatives, and whatever other excuses I was using to not engage in creative activity back in 2008. I felt like I could do anything.

A few months later, I went to edit that novel and realized that if I wanted it to work, the whole world would have to be rebuilt from scratch. I opted to leave it alone and started playing around with other ideas. I won NaNo again in 2009 with a different story, which felt a lot less ridiculous than the first one, but there was so much excess garbage in it that I never bothered to try and clean it up.

See, one of the downsides to NaNo is that, in the name of reaching word goals, it is very easy to engage in shoddy writing. I don't mean things like focused freewriting in order to feel out where the characters want to go. I'm talking about crap like naming your character "That One Guy Who Has The Dark Hair And Who Might Be Gay, Please Figure This Out For Draft Two" or writing unrelated nonsense that will be excised on December 1. After NaNo 2009, writing just became difficult for me because I had polluted my style so much that I hated everything I wrote. I didn't do much writing in 2010.

When November 2010 rolled around, I hadn't done any planning. I figured, what the hey, I was good at BSing my way through a story. After typing "Screw this, THE END" for the fifth time, I decided it wasn't worth it to try and finish.

This year, I'm taking a different approach. Rather than just thinking about a story ahead of time, I've done actual work. Characters, setting, back story, all kinds of stuff is done in advance. I have a rough plot outlined, though I won't be upset if I deviate from it. I have also sworn not to deliberately write anything that I'm going to cut. That means my characters all have names and if I get stuck on a particular plot point, whatever un-sticking trick I use will leave me with words that will benefit me in the rewrite (i.e. I may switch to a different character's viewpoint to figure out what is going on behind the scenes while I sort out what my viewpoint character is going to do next). I'm not going to do things that are going to create even more work for me when it comes time to revise.

We'll see how this goes. This might be the last year I do it. It was good for me in 2008, but every year since then it has been a speed bump on an otherwise productive road. Speed bump? Maybe a pot hole. One time I hit a pot hole and got a flat tire. However, if I don't let it be a pot hole, I bet it could provide quite a boost. As I said, we'll see.