Wednesday, September 29, 2010

On Personal Space

So, one major aspect of my personality happens to be that I have a huge personal space bubble. As in, an enormous one. I don’t like being touched, and I hate it when people stand too close. It bugs the crap out of me, pretty much every time. I don’t mean like excessive touching or people who hover. I mean any actual contact or anyone who stays closer than two feet for too long.

I know, intellectually, that I shouldn’t be bothered by this kind of thing, but that doesn’t stop it from happening anyway. Any time someone puts a hand on my shoulder or my arm or something like that, I have to consciously restrain myself from jerking away. Heaven help anyone who grabs my knee or something. People who hover are constant distractions too, especially when they are looking over my shoulder or something. I feel like I have to constantly watch them, like I’m expecting them to try something if I don’t pay close enough attention. Maybe it is related to my sense of claustrophobia, but I could be wrong

There are very few exceptions to this little quirk of mine, such as my family, and fortunately, my wife. In case any of you were wondering why I had to actually learn how to flirt with her while I was dating, this issue would be the reason why. Friendly hugs also seem to be exempt, though I have no idea why.

Oh well, at least I never expected to be normal, so I guess one quirk like this isn’t bad. At least, it could definitely be worse. See ya round!

Monday, September 27, 2010

On Trail Markers

When I still lived in Connecticut, the Scout troop I was a member of used to have a tradition of hiking the Appalachian Trail every summer. We’d pack up a bunch of belongings and supplies, throw them in backpacks and march our way along the trail for fifty miles or so. It was something that I actually really enjoyed, since the hike was challenging enough to be interesting, and we got to see some pretty cool sights.

One thing we quickly learned to respect was the system of trail markers. Every so far along the trail, the path was marked with arrows or dots to show the way we were supposed to travel. Seeing one meant that we were still on track and not wandering through the forest on our own. Walking for a while without seeing one meant we started feeling a bit worried pretty quickly. They also acted almost like goal posts, giving us a way to measure our progress as we hiked.

The markers were more than merely reassuring, however, as we discovered quite a few times during our hikes. Once we missed a trail marker indicating a turn and wound up hiking halfway down a mountain to stop in a confused huddle at the edge of some farmer’s field. We ended up having to travel half a mile or so uphill, looking for the marker that we had so blithely walked by on our way down. Another time a portion of our group missed a marker and ended up at a random camp site while the rest of us passed them by. Since we had thought they were out front, the rest of us assumed that they were still marching along ahead and kept going, hoping to catch up to them. When they finally returned to the trail, they wound up having to chase the rest of us for a mile or so, and only really managed to reach us because one hiker decided to stop on their own. Missed markers were bad news, and pretty much all of us quickly learned to keep a sharp eye out for the little white splashes of paint—and learned to despise the clumps of lichen that imitated them on the tree bark.

I guess my thoughts have been wandering to this point in my life because lately I’ve been feeling like I’ve been walking along the trail without seeing a marker for a while. The standards and guides that I used to use to measure my progress and keep myself on track have seemed to vanish, and I no longer seem to see the goals that once led me forward. The haunting fear of having left the trail and the dread of having to hike back to find it are creeping around with me, too. If such a course correction is unpleasant on a hiking trip, I can only imagine how bad it will get when I’m doing it with life choices.

Then again, sometimes markers pop out at times when you least expected or hoped for them. Perhaps that is what I need, right? :) In any case, I think I’ll post again on Wednesday and Friday this week. I promise to try to be a bit less melancholy and mopey. See ya round!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

On Fake Governments

So I’ve been working on the background for the next revision of Wolfhound, and my struggle to come up with a government that makes sense has given me reason to have a new appreciation for the U.S. Constitution.

I know that at least part of my problem is my own fault, since I am trying to blend two different sources from two different time periods, values and traditions as I work. The occasional clash between the two main inspirations for Wolfhound’s background manages to give me quite a big headache.

Another part of the problem is the scale of the government required. Our world can barely conceive of a government able to provide structure for the entirety of one planet; the concept of a government that could watch over multiple ones is a little mind-boggling. The models I’ve been relying on have come from much simpler situations, and simplicity would keep that government from growing too nebulous and obscure for my readers. That simplicity is hard to come by, though, without creating a structure that obviously would not work, which would break the readers’ suspension of disbelief.

Speaking of which, dividing responsibilities and creating a system of checks and balances is freaking hard. I have to create a blend of executive, judicial and legislative powers that doesn’t sound too horribly out of whack, while being fairly unique and adaptable to the situation in the Wolfhound universe. Trying to find that balance, even for a simple, fictional background, has given me a healthy respect for what the founders of our nation accomplished. I’m fairly sure that what I create would have so many holes and loopholes that it would never sustain itself, whereas they managed to form a system of government that has lasted for two centuries and counting. How cool is that?

In any case, I’m sure I’ll muddle through eventually. Hopefully by the time I’m done, the Celostian Union will make some kind of sense. Any suggestions will, of course, be appreciated as I try to come up with something workable. See you around!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

On Passwords

So for the past few years, I’ve been using a similar set of passwords for a large majority of my accounts and access points. I’ve felt reasonably safe relying on them because they were drawn from either background I never explained in my own stories, or other such sources, but lately I’ve been wondering if I should make a switch to new ones, if only for the sake of preventing the overuse of the original passwords and their discovery. At the same time, I don’t want to get into the situation where I have to access an account or email or whatever and can’t because I gave it some obscure password that I cannot remember. Also, the concept of changing the passwords that I have almost come to instinctively rely on definitely does not appeal to my lazy side. What do you guys think, am I being lazy by not changing passwords, or is my urge to shift them born of unreasonable paranoia? Hope life continues to go well for you all, and I’ll see you later!

Monday, September 20, 2010

On Writing Groups

So the past few weeks I have been genuinely missing the writing group back in Quark. It seems like that nostalgia would be a good source of a post, so here we go.

I first attended the Quark writing group almost seven years ago, at the instigation of my good friend Aneeka. Well, she’s a friend now; at the time she was just a vaguely terrifying, anonymous internet person who managed to notice that I had signed on to the Quark internet forum out of curiosity. She managed to wheedle the fact that I wrote as a hobby out of me and invited me to a meeting, where she became far more concretely terrifying. :)

In that writing group I quickly found a solid group of friends and fellow writers, one of whom turned out to tolerate me enough to marry me. The continued support and feedback I got from that group, as well as the social interaction and friendship, allowed me to view my writing in a new light and get serious about forming my stories into something much more effective. My writing group friends quickly became an inspiration to not only continue writing, but expand my abilities. I even began to first consider my lifelong dream of actually publishing something seriously after I was involved in the Quark group.

Now, however, my old writing buddies have scattered to the four winds, and I seem to be hurting for lack of a similar group. That direct encouragement is something I miss, although I’ve preserved it in some form by having some of my old friends read things over for me from time to time. Still, it just isn’t the same as having a group discuss a bit of writing together, with that same amount of discussion and support that comes from a direct meeting. Finding one here in Houston might land me in the middle of a bunch of teenagers writing Twilight fan fics, which is something I would not look forward to, but gathering the old group is more or less impossible. I doubt that everyone could make their way to one location from Japan, Utah, the West Coast and Houston to one place to have a writing group, and the wide diversity of time zones kind of stops any attempt at internet groups. Grg. I may simply have to resign myself to the fact that the Quark group was a unique opportunity for me in terms of my writing development, but it would be awesome to have some of that same motivation and inspiration right now. Oh well. To good editors and better friends, wherever they might be. May all go well for you, and at least one of us get published so we can all get bragging rights. :) See ya!

Friday, September 17, 2010

On Buffers

Okay, so many of the more consistent bloggers and webcomic writers out there have managed to build up a buffer for their work. This week has been a marvelous demonstration as to why that is a wise decision. Whether it is just plain laziness, travel plans or a sudden dearth of ideas, keeping up with this blog can easily suddenly become very difficult. As such, I think that I will need to start creating my own buffer in order to get around those sudden dead spots in my productivity.

This weekend we are at my brother in law’s wedding, and the slight amount of downtime that I have available, I will try and build up at least a week’s worth of posts so that I won’t suddenly run short again. Wish me luck; I hope that my efforts are not only successful, but also of better quality than they have been. What do you guys think, good idea or bad idea? Anyway, I hope you are all doing well, and I will see you later!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

On September 11th

Well, I have to admit that I’ve found it hard to write about this subject. There’s been a lot in the news about the event that has more or less anchored the day in the American psyche. There’s the whole mosque stuff, which I’ve mentioned in a previous post, and then there’s the preacher guy who spent a few weeks planning on burning Korans today. Both are excellent examples of jackassery that bigoted religious extremists can get up to in order to make some kind of political point, though it has been interesting to watch each of the sides try to support the one and boo the other. (Sidenote: My take is, they have the right to build the mosque, and they have the right to burn the books. It still doesn’t make either of them any less disrespectful douchebags, though.)

As annoying as that is to have happening on the ninth anniversary of the tragedy, I stumbled across an article that was far, far worse, at least to my admittedly narrow perspective of the subject. The author suggested that the United States was paying the price for overreacting to the Trade Center attacks. The casualties suffered in those strikes were weighed against the financial burdens and loss of life the U.S. has sustained in its retaliation. He treated the events like it was some kind of math equation, as if thousands of American citizens dead on our soil could have been weighed and dismissed through some kind of cost/benefit analysis. I wonder if he would have wanted others to do the same had he or some of his family been victims of the crimes inflicted on this day nine years ago.

Nine years ago, men went onboard four of our planes, intending to use them as missiles against civilian and military targets. They did so knowing that they would be killing civilians, that unarmed men, women and children would die, and yet to them those deaths were worth it, probably even desirable. The reason? They hate us. Osama bin Laden and his ilk despise America, despise its cultures, its traditions, its very existence and presence on the international stage. Al Qaeda lives by killing and stealing, by extending their power through fear and force, and America was one place that remained truly isolated from their reach. The simple fact that we were different and untouchable must have galled them, and so they attacked, and killed thousands. Are we now somehow ashamed to have struck back? Have we forgotten what happened to so many of us as the towers came down? What kind of patriots are we, to bear witness to the senseless, hateful slaughter of so many of us and say it is even possible to overreact?

Today, as I look back on the sacrifices and heroism of the passengers, firefighters, policemen and others on that terrible day, I have to wonder what they would have thought of those who they left behind. What would they think of the nation we’ve become, and would they think their lives still well spent? I can only hope that in some small way I might be doing my part to nudge that answer towards yes rather than the alternative. There is so much good still left in America, and I hope that we do not squander both that potential and the blood spilled to give it to us as we go forward.

May we remember today that the actions of evil men proved to us nine years ago that we should never underestimate the devastation that truly wicked men can cause. May we remember the loss of so many of our own, and resolve to always remain vigilant so that we never have to endure such things again. And as we go about our lives today, may we remember that even as a band of murderers tried to destroy the American spirit, men and women from all walks of life stood up to the challenge and showed what this country is all about. May we never forget these things, because the cost of forgetting is far too great.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

On Radio

One thing that has become clear to me as I have been driving back and forth between home and work is the fact that radio has now become extremely crappy. Unbearably bad, actually. If you spend any amount of time listening to a particular radio station, it will quickly become apparent that the DJs don’t have access to more than six or seven songs, which must be played over and over again each day. Occasionally they will sub in an older song or two, but mostly it will be that same half a dozen repeated continually over the course of the day. Whether or not the songs are actually entertaining does not seem to factor into which songs get played.

As if that repetition wasn’t bad enough, there are commercials. Said commercials are fine in concept; I mean, radio’s got to survive somehow, and I don’t mind the occasional ad here and there. The problem starts to come in when you have enough time to compare the length of the song time and the time the ads take up. In a good form of media, the amount of actual entertainment has more air time than the ads. This situation, unfortunately, is not how radio chooses to go about it. I’d say the amount of songs and the amount of commercials are about even, but I have a creeping suspicion that the ads are steadily getting longer while the songs get shorter. The final straw, of course, is the fact that the ads are almost as repetitive as the songs, which all combines to give me the feeling that I am stuck reliving the same drive again and again. Not a pleasant sensation.

Of course, the fact that one of the commercials is paid for by the state of Texas to encourage breastfeeding does not lessen my displeasure. Seriously, if I hear that “Healthy Baby, Healthy Mama jingle one more time, I may end up going crazy from the sheer combination of awkwardness, annoyance, and anger at their attempt at clumsy social engineering. I mean, if you’re going to try and program people, at least try to be subtle at it! Bah!

Monday, September 6, 2010

On Commuting

Okay, so the strain of commuting an hour each way to work is starting to become apparent to me now. In addition to being a drain on gas and time, it also seems to wear away at my resolve to get things done. For example, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but my blog posts are becoming a bit more irregular now. :)

Part of the problem is that the difference between having seven hours free in a day and only having five and a half to six hours is enormous. It seems like I blink and my morning is gone, with the dreaded drive already waiting for me. Half the time I have to rush to get out the door, as my necessary departure time has crept up on me while I was unaware. It is kind of discouraging to sit down to write or get applications done only to find that you have to run around like a madman trying to find your keys instead.

The other part of the frustration is the traffic. I have never felt such an intense dislike for other motorists as I have recently. The fact that people in Houston aren’t exactly the safe driving champions of the world doesn’t help matters either. Along those lines, people who drive while talking on cell phones? You can all die in a fire. That’s right, I’m talking to you. You know who you are. And we both know you deserve it.

Along with all of that is the haunting specter of an unavoidable accident or breakdown. For some reason, the prospect of the car failing as I am trying to drive to work seems to hover just behind me whenever I get behind the wheel. I don’t know if it’s the fact that the drive puts so much strain on the car, or the fact that I am so dependent on the vehicle now, but this new stress is something I really don’t want to deal with. The nightmare of falling asleep at the wheel as I’m driving home at midnight is another worry that makes my drive less than relaxing.

I was going to discuss radio as well, but I might need to save that much venom for another post. Maybe multiple ones. Grg.

In any case, I have that wonderful commute to look forward to again today. Wish me luck; I will probably need it just to make it through the experience. See ya!