Welcome to my new digs

August 25th, 2012

… same as the old digs. But on a new server!

I’m not usually one to complain, but my last web host had too many outages lately for me to hang on to it. So now here I am on APIS Networks, based on research and positive commentary.

Pretty exciting for you guys, huh.

Yeah. Preeeeetty exciting.

Thoughts on a murder

July 15th, 2012

There was a shooting today at our local Best Buy.

It’s not even a particularly crime-ridden part of town. Apparently a guy ran up to someone else as they were entering the store and shot him several times in the back. The police estimate he fired a dozen shots, eight of which hit his intended target. Other stray bullets entered the store, striking one of the customers who was just leaving. Both victims later died at the hospital. Last I heard, the shooter was still at large.

What’s freaky is that my wife and I were actually in the area, and could possibly have been at that store around the time when the shooting occurred. We had been to lunch and dropped by the nearby pet supply superstore on an errand. As we were leaving, she asked me specifically if I wanted to go to Best Buy. Normally I do enjoy poking around electronics stores, but I couldn’t think of anything I wanted, so I declined. Looking back on it, I figure that decision would have been made maybe 10 minutes before the shooting occurred. If I’d said yes, we would definitely have been there.

Tonight we were talking about it. She was still pretty freaked out, with good reason. I listened to her thoughts on the matter but didn’t really have much to add. This nettled her a little. “Don’t you have anything to say about it?” she asked. I’ve been mulling about it since then.

I suppose there’s an infinitesimal (but non-zero) chance that I could have been within arm’s reach of the shooter and had the presence of mind to deflect his arm, maybe changing the course of the bullet that killed the bystander. There’s a much larger (but realistically still very small) chance that I would have taken one of the stray bullets myself. Or possibly my wife would have. If that had happened, you wouldn’t be reading this now because I would be howling incoherently in infinite pain for the rest of my foreshortened life.

But in the end, chances are that even if we had been there, our presence wouldn’t have mattered in the slightest. Today, no matter what I had decided, one ordinary man would have gotten out of bed, showered and shaved, put on clean underwear, fed the cat, had a nice lunch, went to the local big box electronics store with a 10-year-old family member, took a bullet to the chest and died, through absolutely no fault of his own. Another man was simply walking into a store and got shot eight times in the back by a coward. This wasn’t any sort of stone cold bad-ass contract killer at work here. This was a stupid person pushing his own life over a cliff.

My wife thinks I’m too accepting of this fact, that I’m just going “oh well these things happen” when I should get my blood up about it. But I don’t see any reason to get mad about something that I have absolutely no hope of changing. The events that led up to these murders happened somewhere else, sometime in the past, completely outside of my personal sphere of influence and the sphere of any of you reading this, most likely. This didn’t happen in a vacuum, it wasn’t random violence, it was the culmination of a much larger sequence of events where we only notice the climax.

Am I dismayed? Of course. Is it tragic? Absolutely. But just “getting mad” doesn’t work. I’ve tried it. All that happens is that I carry it around with me longer than anybody really should, letting it corrode my interactions with others. After a while I become paranoid and closed off and fearful. It’s an awful way to live. Never again.

At the most, I can try to change things within my own reach so I personally don’t cause things like this to happen. It’s like a rabbit chipping away at a mountain, but any progress is still progress. That’s the best I can do short of climbing up on the roof and shouting angry things at the sky until I get arrested. Sometimes I want to, believe me. That would be pretty satisfying. It won’t fix the problem, though, sadly.

There’ll still be more crime and injustice and terrible things happening to people who don’t deserve it. It will take tremendous work and effort, maybe more than all of humanity is capable of, to minimize that. But at least I’m not making things worse, and I’m actively trying to leverage my tiny crumb of human influence to push things back the right direction. This may put me at a disadvantage, passing up shady opportunities and dishonest deals, maybe even making me a rube and a sucker; that’s fine. It’s not about me, or you, or my wife, or the shooter, or his victims, or the people they left behind.

It’s about all of us. We’re all in this together.

Or not

May 23rd, 2012

Never mind. I found a copy in my Dropbox folder. All hail Dropbox, saver of crappy novels.

Check out “Squirrelburbia” in that link over there, or this link right here for that matter.

Or not, according to your inclination. I’m not the bossa you.

A disaster, wrapped in a tragedy, covered with a crunchy candy coating

May 22nd, 2012

Welp, I may have lost the 2010 NaNo novel for good. The motherboard went kaput on my old computer and I only seem to have a backup of the novel from about November 7, 2010. That’s maybe a third of what I had written when I gave up. Suuuuuuck.

I mean, yes, it was unfinished and kinda janky, but it was salvageable, dammit. I hate losing things. Drives my wife nuts, since she thinks I’m a pack rat (and maybe I am). But I can see the good in everything. I can fix it! Some day! Eventually!

Meh. If I find it hiding somewhere, I’ll post it here as promised, but don’t hold your breath. I’m not.

Another NaNo, another novel

December 2nd, 2011

Just wrote another book. Yawn.

This one was a little easier than the last one, though that’s like saying pooping a bowling ball is easier than pooping a Volkswagen. (What is it with me and scat analogies for writing?)

(Heh heh, anal-ogies.)

ANY old way. This one involves hermits from all across history who learn how to talk to one another across time and space, and they socialize. As hermits do. But there’s another group of evil hermits, see, who decide to change history to benefit themselves. So since one of them happens to live in 1870’s Russia, they hatch a plan to kill Lenin while he’s still a rabble-rousing student named Vladimir Ulyanov. They succeed. Everyone born after 1870 spontaneously reincarnates. Hilarity ensues.

Sadly, the book isn’t done in the sense that the story is complete. I feel like it’s really just started at the 50,000 word mark, which is usually an indicator that it needs a good red-penning. But it also might mean this will be a worthwhile full-fledged book. Guess I won’t know until it’s done.

By the way, I do remember that I promised to post last year’s failure here. But somewhere in my hindbrain, I have a distant hope to finish that one too. And then I’d just be giving away the milk for free, wouldn’t I?

… yeah I’ll get that up here eventually.

Using a Mac: A Beginner Speaks

May 10th, 2011

Woo. I’m a Mac.

Since it’s (legally) impossible to write Mac or iPhone software on anything other than a Mac while Apple really knows how to stick it in your vein, I’ve bogarted an old MacBook at work and started setting it up as a developer machine. It only has OSX Leopard, not Snow Shrimp or Ocelot or LOLcat or whatever the next one is, but I understand the interface isn’t a whole lot different, just *waves hands* better somehow. I’ll upgrade when I have to, I guess.

I’ve been a Windows user for 17 years, so there’s a bit of a learning curve. For instance, on Windows machines, we tend to tuck most of our programs away in the Start menu, leaving only the most vital icons on the desktop while still having all of our programs neatly categorized in some throwout menus if we really need them. Also, when we have more than one program running, everything is right there on the taskbar and we can swap active programs with a single click.

Now on the Mac, there’s this “app bar” with merry little bouncing things across the bottom of the screen. Great. But, um, where are all my other programs? If I put everything I intend to use regularly on that bar, every inscrutable shifting pulsating icon on it will be two microns wide, and if I take some of the icons off, I’m afraid I’ll never find the program again. Also, you’re supposed to be able to tell which programs you currently have running by a little point of light appearing beneath its icon. You know, lost in the glossy reflections. I try not to leave programs hanging open for performance reasons, so this is kind of a pain. I hope there’s a setting to make open programs more obvious, because the points of light ain’t doing it for me.

The Finder is a little odd, though of course that’s just because it’s new to me. So far I’ve figured out that I can type in a program’s name, bring up a dorky looking list of all the programs I have installed and scroll through it, or create what appears to be a window into a much larger desktop chock full of icons. All three of these methods seem rather inelegant, clunky even. Hopefully I can grok what exactly makes this better than a flyout menu. Meanwhile, if you have several programs running, you can only see one taskbar at a time up in the Finder area. So that’s supposed to be “nice and uncluttered,” is it. Hmm.

Also this MacBook Pro has the worst damn trackpad in the history of trackpads, which I admit is coloring my view of the whole shebang. It’s the frustration of going back to the absolute beginning with a new OS combined with the mouse going WHEEEEEEEEEEEEE CATCH ME IF YOU CAN. Using Windows would certainly suck with this trackpad. Maybe that’s the problem with how Mac users think of Windows: They install it on Boot Camp, fumble around with either this sub-par tracking device or a one-button mouse, and pronounce it useless.

More experience will change my mind, maybe. But at the moment it’s just a fairly lackluster OS befouled by hardware demons. Nothing particularly “different” about it, unless you just mean “slightly more difficult to know what’s installed and running at any given time.” Which is pretty different.

Fail like a whale

April 18th, 2011

NaNoWriMo went down in flames. I got to 35,000 words and realized I didn’t like what the main character was doing, but didn’t want to backtrack and start that chapter over. And so pchooooo follow the smoke plume all the way down and OH too bad. I’ll post its smoking corpus here in a bit.

NaNoWriMo 2010: Sometimes the book writes you

November 10th, 2010

I’ve been participating in the National Novel Writing Month for the past four years now, and actually won last year, but for some reason this year is like pulling a rusty nail out of a wet board.

I guess part of that is that I’ve given myself a unique challenge this year: Try to write something that doesn’t suck.

No actually that’s not true, I’m fine with writing a novel capable of sucking an orange through a garden hose. This year’s challenge is to write a story that (a) has no human characters and (b) is written as an oral history. That means each segment of the story is being told in conversational monolog format by a forest critter.

What in the name of Uncle Jesse was I thinking. At least this one doesn’t require any research (unlike the Totally Awesome History of America, failed NaNo concept for 2008) or any real desire to tell a coherent story (unlike my untitled failed NaNo attempt in 2007, about aliens doing alien stuff and who even cares).

I guess winning one year doesn’t really predict whether you’ll win the next. I’m about 4,000 words behind where I ought to be and only have 20 days to make that up, which works out to … uhh … eight million words a day. Maybe this calculator needs new batteries. Anyway, I’ll gamely continue, mostly because this story is shaping up into something interesting, but I suppose I shouldn’t be too disappointed if I limp over the line a few thousand words short.

And hey, if it really really sucks, I’ll just post it here for free. So now you all have something to look forward to. Yay.

Too damn connected

September 28th, 2010

My wife gets on me (not literally … well, okay, occasionally, but that’s not the point of this sentence) for spending too much time on the Interwebs. I spend eight hours a day working on a corporate website, then go home and unwind mostly by surfing for a few hours. I spend most of my lunch time perusing ultra-conservative blogs on my Android for the hilarity factor. Even when I’m doing non-computer things, I’ll have Pandora or some internet radio station playing my phone. All my hair has fallen out. My eyes have grown huge and pale. Sunlight burns us. That sort of thing.

She has a point, but it’s not really my fault; it’s YOURS. Yes, you, the readers. You’re all out there being entertaining and intriguing and informative and alluring for the cost of a couple of net connections. Huge swaths of human knowledge are right there at my fingertips. It’s a crime not to take advantage of that.

A serious offer

September 19th, 2010

I’ve decided to make a gigantic Hail Mary effort for success. It has a lot of chutzpah, so maybe people will mistake that for effort and give me money.

I’m going to sell the dedication to my entire future creative output for the price of a single 30-second Super Bowl ad. Yes! Rather than waste millions on a boring ad that may not have any impact at all on already established national brands, one company can simply give me the same amount of money and I will live on that for the rest of my natural life. This will free up my time and energy to actually USE these best years of my life to enrich the world with literature and art rather than toil in drudgery until I’m too old and feeble to make use of the ideas I have now.

So, for only 3.1 million bucks (the price of a single 2010 ad, according to reports), here’s what you get:

  • I will legally change my middle name (currently “Scott”) to the name of your company.
  • I will perform in any advertisements for you, in any format, free and clear for the rest of my life.
  • Everything I make, write, draw, publish, etc. for the rest of my life will be primarily dedicated to your company. Forever. If I live another 50 years, I’ll still be turning out stuff dedicated to your company. (Note that my creative output might not be about your company, but simply dedicated to it. It’s still a good deal.)
  • I will never, publicly or privately, verbally, pictorially, or in writing, criticize or insult your company, or try to draw criticism to it. Even if your company does something horrific. You’ll always have at least one fan.
  • It’s a public relations HOME RUN. Your company will appear to care about people, not shallow consumerism. And I’ll back you up every step of the way.

All of the above terms will last for my entire life, even if your company becomes defunct.

Do you think you’d get that sort of lifetime commitment out of a Super Bowl ad? Do you want to spend so much money on something that will be barely remembered for a month before people get sick of it, or do you want to make a REAL difference in the REAL world for (hopefully) many years to come?

Have your people contact my people. Let’s get this done.

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