Archive for November, 2009
I’m just shy of 48,000 words for National Novel Writing Month, and should be wrapping things up around about 6:30pm today.
Wednesday I’ll probably chat a bit about my experience writing so far, but will probably be absent on Friday.
Monday, however, I’ll be branching content in a new direction for a bit, so look for that.
Where have I been, you ask? I have been to Boston for a wedding (not my own) (also, not my wife’s) and have been swamped with falling woefully behind in my NaNoWriMo writing schedule. About 7,000 words behind, to be sort of precise.
The weekend was great. We wandered through Boston, walking or taking public transit, bought ourselves tasty treats and enjoyed a cold in the air more refreshing than oppressive. There seems to be an odd reticence among Bostonians to wear sunglasses that I found unnerving. I’d throw on my shades and walk the streets and catch side-long glances, as if I’d donned the preferred facewear mobsters everywhere. I must be hiding something behind polarized lenses. Considering that the city this time of year is filled with with men and women wearing gigantic coats you could hide entire mercenaries inside of I wasn’t sure what earned me special attention.
Wearing a huge coat is immensely satisfying. It’s a layer of fashion you don’t get out on the west coast and while I’m not sure that I would trade the ability to wear one comfortably for weather that would cause me to need to, it is depressing that splurging on a really bitchin’ winter coat is an excess I don’t particularly need to indulge in. Wearing a heavy, calf-length, double-breasted winter coat over a suit is one of the surest ways I can think of to look like a total badass. Throw in the sunglasses and then…
I find that I enjoy weddings much more now that I am married myself. I can imagine the feelings shared by those involved and what it means for them and their families and trying to look for the little moments when they are most nervous or touched or surprised really make the whole event richer. This wedding in particular was wonderful, despite the best efforts of the pastor.
He didn’t miss anyone’s name or trip and topple the wedding party like so many dominos, but he did belabor a point. Before he began his officiating, he asked that photographs be, preferably, foregone entirely with the exception of the professional photographer at the event. This, in and of itself, is fine. “No flash photography” has become one of those rote commands that we obey in a Pavlovian manner. I don’t imagine anyone would have thought twice about that admonishment and most would have taken it to heart (or trained reflex, as it were). But, verily, he was not done yet. He then explained that taking the photos meant that you were distracting yourself from participating in the special event that you had been invited to be a part of. Again: who can argue with this? It is sentimental as well as accurate. Savor the event along with the bride and groom. And then this.
“Besides, let’s face it. Your photographs wouldn’t be any good anyway.”
Record scratch. Spit-take. Scooby and Shaggy saying “zoinks”.
The ceremony ground to a halt before it had begun for me. There’s a delicate line between firm reminder and surprising chastisement, and clearly Father LastName had figured out where it was. I don’t know about you all, but I know I like to start my joyous occasion by reminding all in attendance that they are in some way sub-par.
It may be that I pay too much attention to amusing phrasings, though. Maybe no one else held onto that phrase as if it were covered in adhesive, but I couldn’t stop focusing on it. This habit paid off the next day at the airport as the gate attendant in Boston’s Logan International Airport proclaimed at least three times over a loudspeaker to one-hundred-odd people (perhaps also one-hundred odd people) that: “We will have a full flight today and so we may not be able to accommodate all rolling carryon luggage. If you would like to check those bags we will be doing that today free of charge to help extradite the boarding process.”
And now for some photo outtakes, click to enlarge, if you please.
Google Wave is an interesting animal. Similar to the much ballyhooed Google Chrome OS, Wave has been the “it” thing for a while among select geek circles. To date, Google knows almost no wrong and so announcements of new products from the company are all treated as the coming of The Next Big Thing™. Compound this impression with the fact that just about any product beta (the name for a software product’s final test phase—the very earliest test product is known as an “alpha”) is an invite-only affair, being able to get in and use something as highly publicized as Wave was sort of like being on the VIP guest list to the hottest club in town. It doesn’t matter how it looks on the inside, being invited is all that matters.
I finally got my invite into the Wave beta recently (first from my brother-in-law—Thanks, Todd—and a day later the official one direct from Google, coincidentally enough). The juxtaposition of paragraph one and this makes it seem as if I’m saying I’m the cool guy in the club, but really I’m coming in at the very tail end of the early adopter train here. Wave’s been in beta for a month or two already, so I’m not exactly bleeding edge. Besides, the point of the intro was more the hype over the app than how I awesome I am (which is not something science can currently quantify).
Google Wave is, in a nutshell, Google’s re-imagining of e-mail. Instead of keeping e-mail in the basic format we know and love—which is rooted in the days when computers couldn’t do anything but display text—Google is opting for a dynamic and powerful collaboration tool. The problem they’ve run in to with Wave might be that they’ve created a tool too niche to really draw in the masses, and without the masses the application has minimal usefulness.
What are the key features for Wave?
- The Wave Itself – The Wave is so-called presumably because of the way it flows and adapts to conversations and participants. Messages in Wave and displayed in the standard way.
But instead of being locked into this rigid structure, you can also at any point scroll back and add comments to earlier items. Things will then be indented thusly.
Inviting participants also isn’t a matter of CCing them on a message and then forcing them to hunt backwards through a message to see what’s happening. They are essentially just brought in to see the entire Wave show. They can scroll through the entire talk. The idea here is that you want them to see everything—and not just the talk starting from where you messaged them. To this end, our second feature.
- Playback – The Playback is a way to review the conversation in the proper order. Because Wave allows you to backtrack and add comments where you please, it could get tricky just reading things top to bottom. What if a comment at the top requires knowing of some details shared down at the end? Well, Playback is literally watching a text movie of what everyone in the Wave has been saying in the order they said it. It’s a neat feature to get newbies to a Wave up to speed, and probably my favorite aspect of Wave so far.
- Message Widgets – Gmail has already blazed a trail of add-ons and widgets. In fact, if Wave doesn’t support many of the features I’ve come to know and love from Gmail, it will likely be a deal-breaker for me (I mean, come on, Gmail actually has an add-on where, at certain times of day, you can require it to ask you a series of math questions before you send a message. It’s to prevent drunk, late night e-mails. You can’t beat that). What Wave offers, though, is more features embedded into the message itself. The intro messages you get when you sign into Wave for the first time have embedded YouTube videos, for example. I recently got a message from my brother-in-law showing an embedded Google Map of a place we were supposed to meet up, with an option below to register with a Yes/No/Maybe for our “event”. Who needs Evite anymore with slick built-in action like that?
- Live Typing – This is currently something that cannot be turned off, and very desperately needs to be something that users can toggle. Wave is really a hybrid of e-mail and instant message. If you are sending a Wave to a friend who is currently also using Wave, they will be able to see what you type to them in real time. This means that every single typo or slip will be something your Wave buddies will see. The idea from Google is that in conversations on-line, much of the time spent is just waiting to see your buddy’s message. But the ability to view their typing live will allow you to formulate and begin to respond while they’re still writing, making the conversation speed along better. But, along with the notion of giving new invitees to the Wave access to the entire message instead of just what has happened after they were invited in, Wave isn’t about privacy. The notion is that you want everyone involved to see everything at all times. So if you accidentally write “I go tit” or “I’ll look into the details of that user acocunt”, your friends will get to see that before you can correct it. A small thing? Yes—until you’re using Wave to communicate as a professional. And let’s not think about the nightmare scenario of not realizing you’re in the wrong window and copy/pasting your password into a Wave. You don’t have to have sent it to someone for them to be able to see it. Bad news.
The major killer for Wave right now is how limited it is. Right now you can only communicate with other Wave users. It stands alone. E-mails cannot be sent to other services or received from them. This seems like a major feature to be missing even if you consider this is a beta product. I’m a big fan of the Wave format, the playback and the features embedded directly into messages. I’m not a fan of the way Wave forces you to be into full disclosure at all times, mostly due to the embarrassment factors in play. However, if Google can integrate Wave smoothly into the rest of the world, it could be awesome.
Here’s a video explaining Wave with some nice, you know, video to it:
And an amusing screen for maintenance I got tonight:
It’s okay, dozen-or-so-readers-who-are-not-immediately-related-to-me, I haven’t forgotten about you. Just because National Novel Writing Month is here doesn’t mean that I love you any less. I just love you different for a bit. It will all be over in a month, though, and then we can let the good times roll once again.
Let’s get a late Halloween post going on. It’s a poor substitute for me doing any real work, but here we are.
I struggled finding a costume this year, as I do every year. Inspiration struck early in October, though.
I would go as Edward Cullen. But tongue-in-cheek Edward Cullen. See, the vampires in Twilight can’t go out into the sun. It’s not because they’ll be incinerated in the light of day. It’s because they sparkle. Yes. Like glitter. Essentially their greatest problem is that they are perhaps TOO fabulous for everyone else to handle. This aggression would not stand, man. Something had to be done.
So, I set out to transform myself into Edward Cullen, Sparkle King of Chicago (I didn’t add the subtitle, but I really should have).
First, the end result:
Let it be known that at the start, I was fully bedazzled, but that scrapbooking rhinestones don’t adhere well to the face. Please note how hard I’m already selling my vampiric angst:
Let’s not forget to give the hair its due. I work hard on my hair. It’s hard to get a sense of scale, but I probably pulled an extra 6 to 8 inches of height from my hair.
Let’s also not forget that clearly my wife loves me, because she wakes up each morning to hair that is, very unintentionally, styled about the same until I take a shower. Stand back. You may not be able to handle this sexy:
Speaking of Janelle: Cute Ladybug costume + Fun Alien Cupcakes!
This post title originally featured the typo “Marathong”. I had an amusing and uncomfortable vision of a lot of long-distance runners experiencing a lot of chafing.
More importantly, this awkward little non sequitur is a perfect example of a good thing to do when you’re trying to write, and write a lot. Writing smaller pieces (such as blog posts) benefit from careful thought and adjustment as they are being created, writing something much longer though requires you to essentially spam the page. You need to overwhelm yourself with words on a page. It doesn’t matter if it’s all perfect, because chances are if you agonize over a sentence for five minutes before completing it, it will just end up being something you want to change when you come back later on and give your work a first review.
Slow, measured, edited-as-it-goes writing is something for an accomplished (and compensated) author. When you’re still trying to get your chops, the finish line is your target, no matter how ugly and filled with vicious cheating and swearing the race may have been. You’re a busy person, and if you’re not being paid for the work (chances are that you’re not), it’s happening during your free time—and you can’t spend ALL of that time on your writing. Write too much and you miss out on the life that informs and improves that writing. You need to write like a maniac until you’re done to ensure that you have time for yourself and nothing jumps in the way and distracts you from your project.
So, like any race, you should prep before you sit down to write. In my recent NaNoWriMo fervor (16,130 words and counting, thank you very much), I have honed my method.
Before You Start
- Check all your e-mail accounts. Respond to anything that catches your eye. This way you can avoid thinking about it.
- Check all your social networking sites. Anything where you might want to talk to you friends or can refresh obsessively to see the next new bit of information.
- Cue up your music playlist. Make sure whatever it is is long enough that it covers the entire time you’ll be writing. You don’t want a search for new tracks to distract you from the task at hand.
- Grab a snack, or have a snack at hand. Same for some water. Typically I’d say avoid something that will make you twitchy like caffeine—but that doesn’t always apply. I can really only handle coffee when I’m IN a coffee shop. Being in one is Pavlovian for me. I only go there to write, so I’m immediately in writing focus mode, caffeine or no caffeine.
- Set your writing program so that it covers your entire computer screen as best it can. It should appear to be the only object worth focusing on in front of you.
While You’re Writing
- Be disconnected from the internet.
- Be away from a TV.
- Have your phone on silent.
- Don’t get up.
- Don’t rewrite sentences (unless they’re just nonsense).
- Don’t stop.
Just keep writing. If you get into an ugly spot, you’ll get out of it by powering through it. If you stop short, the problem doesn’t go away, it just gets more cemented. Thinking too hard about the writing is, oddly enough, not helpful. You’re far too close to the material at this point in time to know if it’s good or bad anyway, so what’s the point in agonizing about it?
Allow yourself to write anything and everything and have the faith that you’ll be able to make it work. After all, even if you have the best outline in the world, there comes a point in time where you’re making it up as you go. You’re improvising, so take it all the way there. When a thought occurs to you (like how “marathong” could make a funny intro sentence), go with it and let yourself find the way. You’ll gain confidence and get closer to being done without slowing down.
And on that note… I’ve got another few hundred words to cram onto a page.
Dear San Diego Home Buyers,
Time’s are tough. I get it. Unemployment is high. The economy is on the rocks. The housing market, however, is pretty great for a buyer. I know it’s tough, but try not to be quite so eager. It’s kind of a turn-off.
Home prices are high in San Diego. They are staggeringly high compared to certain portions of the country. You could travel to, for example, Texas, and buy what would qualify as an estate in San Diego for about 1/3 the cost of the most basic home here.
The fact that home prices here have dipped along with the market around the rest of the country is not, however, an excuse for you to act a damn fool when you’re shopping for a home. Just because something is cheaper than it once was does not automatically mean that it is a good deal at its current price. The housing market being in the state it’s in does mean that you should be taking the time to research and bargain when homebuying.
What you should not do, for example, is bid for a home at a price that rounds out to be more than $330 per square foot when comparable sales in the area average out at about $275 per square foot. You don’t need to have taken much math at all to see that this delta means that you have just paid nearly $90,000 more for a 1,600 square foot home than market value would suggest. I know that we all want to see the housing market recover, but you don’t have to be the person to single-handedly kick it all off.
Do me a favor, consider that a home’s worth is not the same as its listing price. A home is a product not unlike any other object you’re going to buy. The fact that it costs as much as it does just means you should be that much more prepared for your purchase and informed as to its actual worth relative to others of its kind. Would you pay full list price for a car? (Hint: No.) You owe it to yourself to become educated just a bit about the market you’re shopping in.
So please, San Diego Home Buyers, let’s make an effort to help each other out. Let’s not inflate prices past where they are now. We can all find homes at cheap rates. We’re in San Diego, we need them this way.
Yikes. Is this my first missed deadline for an actual post? It’s been a bit busy.
First order of business! Battalion: Ghosts has been released! You can mosey on over to Kongregate to play the game. The third title in the Battalion series will probably be forthcoming in a few weeks, if not sooner. I’m pretty happy with Ghosts. Happier than I had thought I would be and the script is getting a lot of great feedback. Granted, a lot of it is from People on the Internet, which is sort of like saying that it’s getting great feedback from a lot of various rocks and mushrooms. I’m trying not to let it dampen my glory that most of the appreciative comments I’m reading seem to fixate on the fact that I used the word “poop” in a joke.
Work for National November Novel Writing Month continues, and will be the reason why I will likely be very spotty on posting for this month, so apologies in advance. So far, I’m well on track to produce about 1,666 words a day to hit my 50,000 word goal by midnight on November 30. It’s been liberating for me to realize that I can write that much text, when I’m on a roll, in about an hour. Faster than I had expected.
My largest concern and goal as I write this novel (more like a novella) up is to try and expand my ability to present scenes. I’ve found that my writing is very lacking in all but the most necessary descriptions. I tend to climb right into a character’s head and explain what they see and experience only in terms of actions and emotional responses. I handle dialog just fine. I handle outlining a character’s internal monologue well. I handle action sequences well. I do not, however, handle setting a scene very well. I can’t seem to find the right point and pacing for lengthy descriptive passages. My novel is going to involve a lot of fantasy elements, so I’m hoping that placing myself in a scenario where I need to acquaint the reader with what they are “seeing” will force my hand. The world will be filled with creatures, locations and persons that require a few lines of sensory introduction. I can’t simply say that “Jane drove up in a Honda Civic” and let your cultural knowledge fill in the blanks.
And I’m off! It’s time to finish my quality assurance testing on Battalion: Vengeance!
In part 2 of this epic saga of my most regretted moments, I cover the start of The Awkward Years. This is the time when boys begin to dream of being older. They’re old enough and just mature enough to see what the big kids are like and what they’re up and to want to emulate it. This is to say they’re dangerous—little a-holes in the making. More often than not this emulation involves pretending to be cavalier and independent to a degree that is not felt internally in the least. You see kids in the throes of this stage all the time. Anytime you are out somewhere and you see pre-teen or early teenage kids running around, flailing arms, making noise and generally calling attention to themselves in a way that can really only be described as “unfortunate”, you are witnessing kids trying very hard to impress upon you that they, for the record, do not care in the slightest what you think of them. This is tricky because being able to effectively communicate this depends desperately on your paying attention to them.
Thusly, I am sufficiently introduced.
I was part of a pretty tight cadre of boys. We had all been at school for a good long time, some of us since first grade. We’d have sleepovers and were intensely into the gateway elements of “cult culture”. Not the rock band, not Scientology. Real Genius. Monty Python. Mel Brooks. Army of Darkness. We had our in-jokes and our one-liners that we’d throw around.
We also had a real sense of competition between us. If you’ve ever played a video game that only seems to have the high score list to measure success and thought to yourself “That’s it? That’s all the incentive to play is?” you have not hung around enough 13-year-old boys (note: seeking out 13-year-old boys to hang out with might lead to some awkward encounters). To ride atop a high score list, to be able to point to something very real and have it be known to all that you are the most awesome at killing people in Goldeneye with proximity mines is to be king. You’re all buddies and you’ll cheer your friend with all your heart when he’s riding on top of the world but the fire burns strong to knock his punk ass off the top of that heap so you can reap the glory you so richly deserve.
Most of the time when kids get into trouble it’s less because they had the idea to do something bad on their own and more that they wanted to prove that something that is an exceedingly poor idea could be accomplished, or they just wanted to prove that “Pffft. Yeah, I’ll do that.” The best way to not have to be the one stuck doing things is to be the one daring the others to do things.
The particular dare in question here took place at Magic Mountain up in Valencia before it added Gang Shankings to its list of featured attractions. We were leaving the park; I was probably only a few hundred yards from avoiding permanent embarrassment. Me and the other young Lotharios I was with had somehow gotten it into our heads that the truest test of our awesomeness on this day would be to approach some attractive young lady and ask her for a kiss. She would, of course, be overwhelmed at our boldness and readily apparent maturity, and consent.
This was a dare that had been tossed out and no one had picked it up. So, as we were leaving the park, it began to get shuffled about around the group like a hot potato. The longer it went before someone claimed it, the greater the subsequent glory would be. It clearly crossed an invisible threshold for me after a time, though, because I seized upon it. “Yeah, I’ll do it.” (Incidentally, this unknowable threshold to simply “man up” and do something unexpected is also the source of one of my proudest high school moments. How you doin’, Lauren Sherman?)
There was a girl walking with a friend and, in all likelihood, some other form of chaperon that I blissfully didn’t take any notice of in the slightest. I approached, excused myself as an means of introduction and began my spiel.
“Excuse me. Hi.”
At this point, both she and her friend look wary but interested. Potentially this will be something funny or interesting. They are not wrong from a perspective that is not my own.
“My friends over there have dared me to come over here and…”
If there was ever any moment that you may have thought that a young kid ever had the chance of really being smooth, just refer back to that clause. This seemed to be an acceptable thing to me. “Those guys over there told me to do this.” Really, anything else that popped out of my mouth after that is going to be a sort of insult. I don’t care if I wrote a sonnet on the spot. I didn’t do it because I wanted to do it. I did it because those guys over there told me I could not do it. Is there a better aphrodisiac than spite?
“… tell you that you are very pretty…”
It’s at this point that her face brightens up and she blushes a bit. Her friend even grins because she’s happy for her. It’s a compliment! They’ve missed the insulting introduction about the compliment being the result of a pressured dare! She’s pleased! I am GOLDEN.
“… and ask you for a kiss.”
Her faces crashes into a look of revulsion that burns itself indelibly into my mind (see Exhibit A: This Post). I shrug and turn around immediately—cavalier—and return to my friends. I am, quite clearly, the man. They are laughing and clapping me on the back and talking about how they can’t believe I did it. I am as much a celebrity as I am likely ever to be at that moment.
I am also totally horrified. The notion that I could do something that would cause someone to make that face remains absolutely haunting to me.