27 December 2012

Star Squid Map


Star Squid Map by *NeuronPlectrum on deviantART

23 December 2012

Logophobia

Neil DeGrasse Tyson once said that cutting the PBS subsidy from the federal budget was an act akin to deleting text files on a 500GB hard drive.
I just dug out an old 128MB flash drive I bought about ten years ago, and even with a few photos on it, barely 30MB has been used. The myriad of text files on it are probably not even a full megabyte.
I've been using DeviantART's Sta.sh Writer for the novella I'm working on, and it had been great up until just today, when I learned how utterly impractical it is. I remember writing something on an old Blackberry, a really terrible freeverse poem about nature vs. nurture, and having to open a new memo because more than a few hundred words threw its program into a tizzy. Before that, when I was writing  something on my old Mac in Simpletext, I had to split the story up into different files because the program couldn't handle a text file bigger than 12KB. I'm sure that's fine for an essay for middle school or even high school, but it seems monstrously unfair to anyone who wants to write anything longer. Yes, I can use another program, but why this aversion to large text files? Are people that afraid of novels?
Anyway, in completing a chapter just today, Sta.sh began showing me a bizarre and downright terrifying error message:

Someone else has edited this draft. 

Sta.sh is supposed to work like Google Drive in that the only people who can see your work are people with the URL for that particular file. There is always the possibility that someone could guess the URL possibly by typing random characters, the chances are astronomical to the point that a state lottery looks like a coin flip. As such, seeing this message stare back at me was horrifying; it meant someone was hacking my account. Worse yet, the view figures for the page reflected someone besides myself having seen the page once that day. I quickly went to my DeviantART profile and logged out of all other sessions, then logging out of the current one, just to be safe. Luckily, no other sessions that I didn't recognize showed up. I know that sometimes I get logged out of DeviantART and that my viewing figures will reflect this, so Sta.sh was no different. That said, I wasn't logged out, and nothing indicating a lapse revealed itself.
I put the error message in a search and found out, quite luckily, that this was not uncommon, with instances going back to the earliest months of the year. Apparently, if word of mouth is to be believed, Sta.sh Writer is not very fond of files reaching an excess of 64KB in size. This was a relief to hear, and it even matched my own data. When I'd finish writing something in Sta.sh, I'd copy and paste the text into another word program (namely Evernote and LibreOffice) for safekeeping. This is the only time I can see how big a file is, and sure enough it's been reaching the 64 mark. All this really means is that I have to move operations directly into one of the other word program, which isn't all that big of a problem, but there is a worry. It's one of those quirky little idiosyncratic behaviors that we're all prone to in some way, shape, or form.
When you work with a typewriter, even a more modern one with an LCD screen showing your first few sentences before committing them to paper (a buffer, of sorts), you have to think ahead, because you can't really go back. There's white-out and even some correct keys on certain models, but these feel like cheating, and often make weird noises or smell terribly, and just generally make your printed work look ragged and unrefined. You find yourself really mulling over every sentence before you put anything down. It's much the same for ink and paper; that's why essay questions on exams are often so taxing. Word processors fix a number of these problems, but have a few of their own added to the mix, if a little more intangible and hard to relate to in describing. You get used to how a word program works, the way it's laid out, the way the auto-save works, how the spell check picks up on certain quirks in your writing, and having to shift from one to the other can be very jarring, even affecting the way you write. Moving from a typewriter to a word processor means you can afford a few mistakes, but that can breed bad habits as well as hurting the quality of your sentences now that you're no longer turning each over in your head before putting fingers to keys.
I don't have much experience with LibreOffice, and I didn't get much use out of OpenOffice's writer, so a lot of its finer and innermost workings elude me. The biggest one is auto-save, something I've gotten far too spoiled by in recent years. I can remember writing a story on my old Mac IIsi, many years ago when I was still getting the hang of typing. I got into a real groove with what I was writing, staring down at the keys while frantically tapping away at them like Schroeder at his piano, only to look up and see that nothing I'd written made it to the screen. The program had frozen, and I was too busy looking down to see it. I was completely devastated, almost to tears. I knew right away that even if I could resume working right away (which I couldn't because I had to force quit the program and wait for it to boot up again), I'd never write exactly what I'd written before. Maybe that would have been for the best, giving me a chance to think about what I'd written a little more, but it was still a huge setback. Even now, I get nervous over similar problems with more modern programs, even ones with good auto-save, and find myself prone to small panic attacks when I get an error message telling me the sync operation has failed (even if it'll work perfectly well the next time it tries).
Maybe I just worry too much, but this is one of those things about working with text that haunts me when I write, more so than file formats and typesetting or anything like that. It's just so disconcerting that for all our technology, typewriters still hold so much superiority on account of their physicality and tangibility.

10 December 2012

Twitpic Is An Apt Name

My phone has been having fits lately, mostly over the number of apps that I have installed to the memory card as opposed to the internal memory. Here's the problem, the internal memory of my phone doubles as the RAM. Most smartphones, going all the way back to the SDA I had, which was an old-school Windows Mobile phone, had a task manager where you could turn off anything that was running if it didn't already have an exit button programmed into it.
Anyway, the problem lately has been that the phone will claim it can't find the memory card, meaning even my photos can't be seen. As you might imagine, this really irked me in the worst way. Eventually, it would just sort of "fix itself" if I gave it time, at worst just restarting the phone. To be fair, I am a bit rough with my phone, but in my defense, its entire design scheme is built around never turning it off. The HTC Rhyme has a number of quirky little features and accessories that really endeared me to it when I started up my new cell service. One of these items of interest is a charging dock that turns the phone into a kind of desk clock. In fact, it's my primary alarm clock that I wake up to for workdays. The issue with this is that I have to set aside time in the day to allow the phone to die, to run completely out of juice and essentially "let it rest" for a while.
The trouble lately is that it doesn't seem to be enough, and it continues to give me grief over not being able to see the memory card as well as not being able to run certain applications if they're installed to the memory card. I would be browsing sites or checking messages when suddenly I'd get an error message that some app I'm not even really using has "encountered an error" presenting me with the choices of "report" or "force close." It got to the point where I stopped getting eBay notifications because it couldn't really run the app anymore.
As a result, I tried to do a little bit of housekeeping today, going through all my apps, clearing caches and moving them onto the memory card or erasing them altogether if I could, while leaving some apps on the internal memory (apart from the ones that are "locked" and can't be deleted for various reasons), namely Evernote, as it's sort of been my best (non-human) friend on my current writing project. One casualty of this venture has been Twitpic, which is only in a non-working state because it doesn't seem to recognize my account information. I mean, I know I'm entering the right password, but it's not recognizing it. Granted, I'm probably putting in the wrong password regardless of my confidence to the contrary, but I've really just given up on it. Twitpic used to be a place where I posted sketches and work-in-progress photos of art projects I would later post to DeviantART. It was kind of a "behind-the-scenes/coming attractions" sort of exercise, showing a glimpse into my admittedly unremarkable process. I haven't used it much of late as I've been writing, but even when I have made a few drawings or notes, I don't really miss posting the images.
Who knows, maybe I'll join the rest of civilization and just start using Instagram?

Doubtful, but I do have a short essay in mind about Instagram, and the often ludicrous level of popularity surrounding it. In a way, it's kind of like how I felt about Twitter: in theory, it's genius, a kind of "bad by design" camera in line with Lomography or other classic experimental photo techniques. In reality, it's earned a rather unfavorable nickname, something like "Hipster's Polaroid." There's a tweet I found once that's a reply to Nikon regarding their Android camera that came out some months back. If I can find it, I'll write the essay then.

In the meantime, short summation of events:
Phone is wonky.
Writing project is going very well, for better or for worse.
Twitpic has packed up.
Evernote is my best friend.
I'm considering getting an eBook reader, but I'm debating about a color scheme, and the only place I can post a poll about it is on DeviantART, which would mean bumping down a poll that's relevant to my current project.
Current random object of fascination: Book straps.

25 November 2012

SEX SELLS (but would anyone buy?)

Here's a little context to set the tone:
Making money off anything to do with the internet is a little like asking for change from the driver's seat of a Ferrari; no one thinks you deserve it, and resent you for asking, never mind that it's a small amount, you only ask once with no issue made of it, and you offer rides to anyone who contributes. It's mind-boggling how many people can be turned away from something if they suspect that it's making money for someone. A YouTuber I follow by the name of KipKay recently had a product placement in one of his videos, some weird energy drink/snack that he was sent as a gift (possibly paid for, I don't know). Despite only being a few seconds out of the total video length, the dis/like bar was almost totally red and a number of comments below cried things like "Sell out!" or "Shill!" or often far worse.
More recently, a businessman by the name of Greg Pabich started a Kickstarter fund to release a fixed version of a notoriously-buggy NES game called Cheetahmen II. The main point of criticism was that the project required upfront payments, citing similar services that produce NES cartridges on consignment (that is, no money upfront, with production being on-demand instead of using pre-orders). This would seem a fair point of discussion, except that the people who were bringing this up were calling Pabich's Kickstarter a scam because of it.
How is using a different business model than someone else a scam? Is Target scamming people because they use different distributors and marketing techniques than Wal-Mart? Obviously that's not to say there are no such things as scams or false advertisements, but merely profiting from something does not a scam-artist make.

I'm starting to feel like I may be preemptively biting the hand that may or may not feed me by defending a business model I haven't even fully-implemented yet. I've started writing an erotica story, one that's shaping up to be fairly lengthy, not quite novella territory, but sizable nonetheless. It's comprised of four chapters and a short introduction/disclaimer. The intro and first chapter are essentially finished, but I don't want to post it anywhere until I have the remainder completed. Part of this is because that's just how I've always written, somehow it just feels like bad luck or counting chickens before they hatch. I'd rather not start shooting a trailer before I have a script.
The main reason, though, is that I'm planning on selling the story, with the first chapter being available for free and the entire story for a price.
I'm either going to have it available on DeviantART using their "points for download" system, though I'm not entirely sure they'll allow the story to be posted there, given their upload guidelines, or through Google Play Books (Android and Chrome platforms). The price, whichever system I go with, will be about 1.00USD (though I'm looking at a few other services to see how their profit-sharing compares). It is turning out to be fairly lengthy, but it's hardly in novella territory yet, but it's shaping up to be at least as long as Ladyhorse which I wrote a few years ago. Following its release, I considered re-inserting a paragraph I'd deleted at the last minute and offering that version up for sale as a sort of "Premium Edition." Obviously, that's going a little overboard for just a paragraph, which is why I also considered commissioning some illustrations for it. In the end, I didn't bother with it. For this, I've considered making some myself, though I'll admit they won't be anything special (in fact, they'll probably be sketches of locations or items in the story, as I've kept character descriptions to a minimum). I don't know if that's worth a dollar, illustrated or not, but compared to some of what I've seen on Google Play for around that price, it's probably more robust. Plus, I'm still working under the notion I set forth in the comic that, in the way of 90% of erotic literature, I could do better. So, this is me putting my money where my mouth is, and possibly shooting myself in the foot for blabbing about this potentially earlier than I really should have.

Here goes nothing.

... better get back to it.

31 October 2012

To My Hallowed Health


OR:
I GOT A ROCK.

Since about the 2nd of October, I've been having some abdominal pain, generally on my right side. This came packaged with a prolonged sense of pins and needles in my right foot that would occasionally run up and down my leg. Both were persistent, never painful to the point of debilitating, but worrying nonetheless. I chalked it up to a combination of stress and simply sleeping wrong. Short version of the stress and sleep situation: Roommate and I shared a bed for some time, mattress is shot, roommate drives me nuts (see Powers of Observation, and I decide its time to get some personal space. So, like I said, I think it's stress. Then, after the numbness went away, the pain stayed, and I decided to do a little research to see if it was a sign of something more severe.

To give this worry context, I had surgery on my right leg two years ago. Without getting into the gory details (especially following the surgery), I had flu-like symptoms that never amounted to much beyond an occasional cough and the mildest of aches and pains. Next thing I know, I have a lump which I think is a bit of knotted muscle that I chalk up to physical exertion at work. Lump doesn't go away despite applying heat, ice, and massage therapy. I tell my Dad about it (he's a physical therapist), and the moment I mention the location, he virtually says, "Get your ass to the emergency room right now!" as he thinks it's some kind of hernia. I go, and after some back and forth and having about two or three different doctors look at it, followed by exploratory surgery by a specialist, it's concluded that a cluster of lymph nodes in my leg fought off an infection (influenza) and won a costly victory, effectively creating a lot of "collateral damage" with nowhere for it to go, hence building up in that lovely lump. In the end, I have a scar on my leg that's bigger than the one from when I had my appendix out in 1992. Speaking of my appendix...

Turns out "Right Side Abdominal Pain" can refer to a veritable cornucopia of "Oh, Shit!" conditions, including hernia, ulcers, and various organ failures or infections including the kidneys, liver, pancreas, and gallbladder. When I called my doctor (this is after two weeks of telling myself, "it's just stress." as it was never all that severe), the receptionist asked, "Are you sure you want to wait for an appointment?"
Luckily, nothing in my condition changed between then and the day of the examination. Between my doctor and her shadow, they were stumped, especially considering I had my appendix out. It was funny how they kept referring back to it, almost like they were angry, "IF ONLY YOU HAD AN APPENDIX, WE COULD JUST SAY THAT'S WHAT'S WRONG!" I know, how dare I got to an all-you-can-eat restaurant at DisneyWorld 20 years ago and ruin your chances of an easy diagnosis. I'm a total bastard.

Anyway, after bloodwork and whatnot came back negative on all fronts, I was referred to Radiology for an ultrasound just last Friday. 12 hours of fasting and a hundred dollar copay later, I was told it would take until Monday for them to have a report. Monday arrived and I patiently waited for the call. When none arrived, I called to ask what the holdup was. It turns out, "ready by Monday" means it's mailed out to my doctor on Monday, and then she'll call me and dictate the results. I know, how dare I take initiative and find out what's wrong with my own bloody body. Total, total bastard.

This brings us to today, a day when the HR lady at my work came up to me and told me that I'd stored up too much vacation time and should take some between now and the next four pay periods to avoid losing any of what I've got. Well, I got the call from my doctor later that afternoon, and learned the results of the ultrasound.

Gallstone.

A 12mm lump of solidified bile and cholesterol was discovered in a most precarious position in my gallbladder, which itself looked strangely fine. The stone, meanwhile, could only cause me intermittent pain in its current resting spot just above the bile duct. If it moves, however, it can be extremely painful. Needless to say, I was given a number to the scheduling department at the hospital to get in touch with a surgeon for a consultation. In the meantime, I'm to avoid fatty foods (which I was actually being really good about avoiding anyway) and obviously go to the ER if the aforementioned ductwork gets stoned. At that point, the question will be whether or not the surgeon thinks we can get away with just removing the stone or if the whole situation is problematic enough to yank the whole gallbladder out as well. Hopefully, the whole thing can be done laprascopically (small incisions, narrow tubes, everything except nanoships piloted by Dennis Quaid) and I'll be off work for a few days.

So there's my Halloween. I didn't go as anything, I bought my own candy, and I trumped Charlie Brown by not only getting a rock, but the sort of rock that can't just be taken out of a treat bag and tossed at the tricky treater's window. Beat that, blockhead!

Good grief....

21 October 2012

Never Gets Easier

Today was rather depressing, and it left me at my wit's end, and while there may be a happy ending for my mental state, it means someone else may not have one. A few weeks ago, we came to have a third cat, one that we rescued from a couple taking her to the shelter to be put down. We named her Angel and tried to introduce her slowly to the idea of living with two other cats. We kept her corralled in one of the bathrooms with her own food dish and litterbox. We'd let her out during the day, where one of us could watch her, keep her from fighting too badly with the cats or keep her from marking her territory, and then set her back in at night. Eventually, it worked out to where she was no longer being pent up at night and seemed to be getting along with the other cats.
This didn't last, and she fell back on old habits. We tried everything to help her get back in the habit of using a litterbox and also not overeating. She was painfully skinny when we got her (we even thought she was a kitten until a vet told us she was at least the same age as the other two cats) and while we gave her food, she was so unused to having that much food, she could barely keep it down. The biggest problem this created was that we couldn't get her spayed (which would have stopped her marking her territory, hopefully, and keep the other two cats, both neutered, from bothering her) which meant we couldn't really take her to my roommate's mom's place to be an outdoor cat.
Today was the worst of it. She'd squat down to pee on the rug or a piece of paper on the floor or her little cat cubicle, I'd pick her up to take her to one of the two litterboxes, and practically hold her in until she'd do her business. The fact that I didn't have to do this before is what makes it the most painful. I won't get into the politics of how the three cats have or haven't gotten along, and which of us they have or haven't taken to as a result, but when all is said and done, I just can't take care of three cats.
I went to my roommate, expecting a fight as this was meant to be her cat, and told her, "I can't do this anymore." She turned out to be very understanding, but insisted we try and see if her mom could take her early, keep her penned up in a spare room like we had until she could be let outdoors. There was also the possibility that they'd find someone to take her in. However, I was fed up with waiting, and with my patience gone, I didn't want to wait on promises of "maybe." So, I'm writing this after our talk, and the deal is that she'll talk to her brother and mother, and if they don't have a decision for me by the time I get home from work tomorrow (Monday), Angel will go to a shelter.
This pains me because I've had to do this before with another cat for similar reasons. It also just makes me feel guilty because it's as if I've given up, and there's others out there who wouldn't. I have to assure myself that I did everything I could and that, failing all else, I'm better than the people who had her before. I may not believe in fate, necessarily, but I'm a firm believer in the notion that God helps those who help themselves. Angel has spent countless hours in my lap since we got her (she even let me put her around my shoulders like a scarf, that's how trusting she is), and I've had her looked over by a vet to be given various immunizations and boosters. Now, though, it's as if there's been no change, and I've done all I can for her. I still feel guilty, but my roommate helped me, and I feel confident that I have done all I can for little Angel, but now it's time to move on.
October, and fall in general for that matter, always seem to be the most hectic of Hells for me, and this is just one more thing that's happened. Another reason I'm sending her on her way so early in this week is because toward the end of the week, I'm having ultrasound to find out the source of my abdominal pain, now that my doctor has ruled out absolutely everything the location of my pain indicates. Hopefully, it's nothing, at worst a little blockage, but it's still one more damn thing to deal with.

09 October 2012

Confusion Is Not Stupidity

Something I always wonder is if I spend too much time thinking about words, how people use them, and, most importantly, whether or not they actually know what they're saying. In fact, I often wonder who's actually got what wrong when it comes to words, if I'm the one misreading something, or if I'm right all along and witnessed a genuine murder of English.
I have to tell myself when I'm on the internet that many of the people who commit these acts of textual homicide are either too young to know any better, or are not native speakers like myself. Sadly, unless they up and tell you so, there's no way to know, and you'll always be guessing. Regardless of the reason, however, people need to understand that since at least 99% of the people who read your words don't know you personally, have never heard your voice, or even seen your face, you have to put that much more effort into your words and how you put them together to make up for the lost paralanguage. You can be a reasonably intelligent and rational person, but if you're still mixing up "you're" and "your," no one is going to think that of you and, like it or not, your credibility will take a hit. No, it isn't right to make judgments like that, even if you're one to make them as well, but given that lack of nonverbal information, we can't exactly NOT make them.
I belong to a dating site, and it has this great big emphasis on user-generated content, especially survey questions used to help find matches. They're mostly standard fare, hypothetical situations gauging how one would react to certain social situations and the like. Other questions, meanwhile, are general knowledge questions used to help flesh out one's personal beliefs, and others are just brain teasers, or rather, someone's interpretation of a brain teaser. The question in, er, question, reads like this:

"If you turn a right-handed glove inside out, it fits ___?" with the answers: on my right hand, on my left hand, and what kind of question is that?

I was very suspicious of this question, because I felt like I'd heard it before, and it was one of those lateral thinking riddles that's meant to challenge preconceived notions, with whatever seems like the right answer not being the right answer after all. As such, some of you have probably already have an answer in mind. If so, hold onto it, especially if it's your first impression, the first thing that popped into your head without thinking too hard about it. Don't worry, no one's going to make you feel stupid for guessing wrong, unless you're the person who tried to settle the original version of this question once and for all.
Like I said, I couldn't help but feel like I was missing something about this question. I kept trying to see it as one of those "ton of feathers/ton of lead" or "zero as a number/one as a prime" type of puzzles. So, I tried putting the question itself (or its keywords) in a search to see if this had some other origin. Sure enough, it does, but it reads more than a little bit differently than the one on the dating site.

If you turn a right-handed glove inside out, will it be a right-handed glove or will it now be a left-handed one? 

If you're not seeing the difference between how these questions are worded, remember that the key words in the earlier version are "IT FITS" while now the emphasis revolves around the phrase "WILL IT BE."

What the "WILL IT BE" question is asking is whether or not misusing an item fundamentally changes what that item is to begin with. The "IT FITS" version is merely asking if the misuse can be even be done in the first place. If it still sounds like we're comparing ketchup and catsup, let's use another example:

If you hold a newspaper over your head, it will (if only momentarily) keep your head dry in the rain. Does that make it an umbrella? No, it's still a newspaper, but it's doing the work of an umbrella. If a robot in a factory is doing a job otherwise done by a human, is that robot a human? Again, no, it's just doing the work of one. It shares qualities with, can stand in for, and can even improve on, something else but it ultimately retains its original identity. With that all in mind, let's go back to those answers you were asked to retain from earlier, your knee-jerk, first-response to the "IT FITS" version of the question (as it appeared on the dating site).

If you said, "left hand," you are correct. If you said, "right hand," you're also correct, just a little ahead of the game, if not being more practical about the situation. That glove will fit on either hand, but it's going to be a better fit on the one it's made for, and it obviously won't fit both hands at once.

In the end, even if the version on the dating site is somewhat simpler than the other one, it works equally well as a kind of personality test than a lateral thinking exercise, with people answering the question divided into, say, pragmatists and pedants or outside/inside-the-box thinkers, however you want to read it. Something may have been lost in translation, but it gained insight in the process, walking away a little wiser, perhaps.

Then, there's this buffoon:


This answer was not given on the dating site, but on the other site containing the "earlier" version of the question. For starters, it's not actually a yes or no question, not the way it's worded; it's an either/or question, on both sites. Second, going back to what I was saying about credibility and, to paraphrase, "sounding as smart as you are" this site was an "Answers" site like Yahoo!Answers or eHow. In fact, it was the original Answers site. As such, it's meant to be a tad more formal than your average forum or chatroom or message board, because that's what the site expressly exists for. Between the lack of punctuation and capitalization, not to mention the all-too-pointless addendum of "lol," nothing indicates that the person writing this wants to be taken seriously or seen as any sort of expert on the subject. He may think he's solved the Sphinx's riddle, but all he's done is made a bigger riddle of himself and how exactly he believes he comes across when writing like this. Does he think that pointing out his own "out loud laughter" will highlight some absurdity of the question and potentially invalidate it as a logic puzzle? Even if he'd forgone the abbreviation and opened with, "I laugh at this question because..." it's no less irrelevant to addressing the aim of the question. 

When all is said (poorly) and done (haphazardly), the part of this so-called answer that got under my skin the worst is how this idiot tries to expand on his own point by offering what he believes to be a counterpoint, only to completely fail at doing so every step of the way, right up to letting us know, whether we want to or not, that he find this question loudly laughable. 

My biggest pet peeve when it comes to bad writing, grammar or otherwise, is when people say "but" when they really mean "and." It's a type of incompetence that goes far beyond double negatives, comma splices, run-on sentences, and even the seemingly inescapable "possessives vs. contractions." I can genuinely forgive most of those issues, mainly because they can still make sense when spoken aloud. We don't speak apostrophes and commas, we speak words and phrases. "You're" and "Your" may mean very different things, but they don't sound different, and unless someone sees your speech notes, no one's going to be able to tell one way or the other. At best, the pauses between certain words and phrases could be a verbal form of periods. Punctuation is a guide for how to read words and phrases, not a series of rails and walls to restrict how we communicate. However, confusing a word that means "like" with a word that means "unlike" is never coherent, spoken or written. If you know the difference between "YES" and "NO" there is no reason to confuse "AND" with "BUT." 

yes it does BUT you can always do it 

Whether or not you can always do it (assuming he means turning the glove inside-out) was hardly the issue in the first place; if a glove can be turned inside out, why wouldn't you be able to turn it back? Furthermore and finally, how is this meant to contrast what came before? 

My favorite fast food place is Steak 'n' Shake, but I go there often. 
I love this movie, but it's my all-time favorite. 
I can drive, but I have a license. 
You're inside, but you're in here. 
This book is on the table, but it's not on the floor. 

Whatever wisdom or intelligence this person possibly meant to convey, none of it has come through. He's treated a multiple choice question like a true or false one, he's tried to present a display of common sense as a counterpoint that doesn't counter his first point, and he's compounded that respectively mismatched and irrelevant information by revealing that he laughed out loud. Here's a riddle, was he laughing at the question or his own answer? 

29 September 2012

25 September 2012

Sophomoric Semaphore

I just don't understand people, sometimes.
Normally, this doesn't bother me, but when it's someone I used to be able to read like a book, it makes me wonder what changed. When you're in a relationship with someone that you care deeply for, you get to a point where the slightest twitch at the corner of the mouth speaks volumes not in the slightest bit cacophonous or overbearing, but instead perfectly coherent. Maybe it's just familiarity and observation, but what does it say when that breaks down or, in my case, completely disappears? My only real guesses are it's either some kind of defense mechanism, or that you maybe weren't really reading them all that well in the first place and you've only just now worked it out. What's worse is that even when they're just speaking to you as they normally would, you wonder how you ever understood anything they said at all.
This particular person whose actions (and, most importantly, words) have led me to write this (after a few very stiff drinks... but that's another matter) has an almost schizophrenic approach to daily life, without actually having the condition. She doesn't communicate very well, and always has a ready excuse. To her credit, the last incident of note was because she had a cat in her lap that she'd just rescued from some negligent owners en route to the pound. Even still, her thoughts were elsewhere:
She: Busy? Have you ate?
Me: Yes, I just got back from eating. What's up?
She: Oh. 
These were text messages, and after sending that "Oh." the next line got its own text message barely thirty seconds later while I debated whether or not to answer or just wait for her to give me more information regarding whether or not I was busy:
She: Cause I'm hungry and mom's not stopping. 
Seven minutes later, again as I try to debate answering her. I mean, what am I supposed to do? Why is this suddenly my responsibility? Was it selfish of me to eat while she was out spending the day with her mom and sister (which I only learned of when I got home from work that day). Why am I supposed to pick up the slack for that? If that's not the case, then why am I being told this?
She: what do you get me from Hardee's? 
Then, while I'm typing the reply, working out that she convinced her mom to stop for food:
She: [my sister] and I are gonna stop there. 
Here's what gets me: she's in the same car with her mom and sister. If I wasn't trying to maintain what little patience I have left for her (things have not been going well for a few months, but I've tried to make the best of things), my reply would have been along the lines of, "No kidding." but with more colorful language. The issue is essentially one of either not getting enough information or getting so much that it's impossible to get a word in edgewise and move the situation forwards. I have to drag essentials out of her only to get multiple and fragmented messages about the logistics of satisfying impulses while carpooling. This brings us to today, as I'm driving home from work, having stopped briefly to gas up my car:
She: You have any cash? I need stuff from the store
Me: Like what?
She: Gallon of tea, [my sister's] coming over tomorrow, apricot scrub... something for dinner. 
So I get an appointment in the middle of a grocery list. Logically, I think this holds relevance, but the place it's wedged into immediately trumps that logic. Thus, I ask:
Me: So, should what I pick up for dinner be for tonight or for when [she] comes over tomorrow?
She: Tonight.
 
Then why bring it up, least of all in the middle of a list of things to get? Whether or not she comes over has no bearing on what I do when I get home from work. Maybe there's a little bit of time spent on catching up with what's been happening with the family or some useless piece of trivia that turns out to be wrong
Short story: I have a blue light bulb on our porch because I like the color and it stands out, she tells me it's to signify a gay residence, I do research and find at least six "meanings" to blue outdoor lights, NONE of which have anything to do with the gay community apart from transvestites in Amsterdam. 
I just don't get how someone's mind can work this way when writing out a message. In casual speech, sure, it's easy to insert some random piece of information, but when writing a list...? Like I said, there are always excuses when I get messages like this, most of them having to do with being in the middle of an online multiplayer game and talking to at least one other person via Skype. Others often just have to do with not giving a damn about being understood, which wouldn't even be so bad if she didn't spew bile and rage when asked for clarification. Yes, it can be annoying to repeat one's self, but getting mad at someone else for not being able to understand you when you're barely trying to be coherent is like being mad at yourself for having your hands over your eyes and thus not being able to see in front of you.

All I want is some damn forethought.
All I want is some effort to at least give something a once-over before hitting "send."
All I want is a single, complete thought presented in one singular message.
All I want is the understanding that I'm not able to read minds.
All I want is to not to be treated like an interruption by the very person making the request of me.
All I want is to not have to answer 8 ultimately inconsequential questions before someone gets to the point and asks what they really want to know.
All I want is to not have to end an otherwise-constant string of second-guesses with, "BECAUSE I'M A STUPID F----ING MORON!" in order to make someone drop the issue of how I can make so many "mistakes" in responding to their own words.

Apparently the moon and Belgium are more readily available as a bundle than any one of these simple wishes.

I give up. I give the Hell up. I'm through being a remedial English teacher to a native speaker who throws a temper tantrum at 3 in the morning because their "grammar check" plug-in won't work with their browser. That statement is equally metaphorical and literal.

Good night, and good luck.

10 September 2012

Junk Mail Filler

I don't know very much about biorhythms or ever took much stock in them to begin with, but somehow fall is always a rather hectic time for me. I remember one day, just after I'd graduated college, my dad said to me, "This is probably going to feel very weird for you, huh?" When I asked him what he meant, he observed, "This will be the first August since you were maybe five years old that you won't be getting ready for school." Maybe that has something to do with it, along with the changing of the seasons (Seasonal Affective Disorder), the onset of the holidays (including my birthday, my father & mother's birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's) and all their incumbent stress.
The point is that I realized how long it had been since I made an entry here and in my frustration I'm trying to find a rational explanation for it. Years ago, all the way back on the now-defunct Yahoo!360, the first weblog I ever had, I made something of a promise that if I was going to have an online journal and build up any sort of audience or circle of friends, I should try and aim for at least one entry a month, my thinking being that my journal was like any other regular periodical, namely a magazine as I never really focused on anything topical so as to address an issue with urgency.
Another reason is that a few weeks ago I hurt my back really bad. The short version of the story is that I slept wrong. The slightly less short version of the story is that I slept wrong and my computer chair wasn't helping. In fact, said computer chair is in a dumpster and couldn't have gone that way sooner. As such, I didn't have a way to sit at my computer for long periods of time, thus making even the shortest journal entries a bit tedious. I managed to work around some of the issues this presented by hooking up my keyboard to my Playstation and using its internal browser to handle most of my networking, especially on DeviantART. I also got a new phone with a decent data plan and a fairly robust browser. The trouble with both of those is that the Playstation's text entry mode has a character limit (much like the PSP), and the phone's touchscreen keyboard is a little hard to work with.
Luckily, I've managed to inherit an old computer chair from my roommate which is just bearable enough to let me bash out a few entries here and there, particularly on my DeviantART page. That's why I'm going to be relatively brief here and just present a series of videos I'd posted to YouTube over the past few months about some junk mail I'd received... repeatedly.

The first time:


The second time:


The third time:

25 July 2012

Sketchbook II


Think of this as a "Greatest Hits" video, showing the sketchbook I've made a number of my most recent gallery uploads to in its entirety (plus two bonus sketches... that are so damn terrible this video is probably the only place they're ever going to be seen).

13 July 2012

The Buzzing of Flies

It really hadn't been a great few days prior to the 10th of July, but on that day, an amazing thing happened that normally I wouldn't be proud of in the slightest. There's no real pride in getting negative attention, despite what Oscar Wilde might have said about saying anything. However, when said negative attention comes from people whose ire and scorn is the direct result of being caught in their own stupid, moronic lie, the feeling I get may not exactly be pride, but I don't feel the slightest bit of guilt, not in the slightest.

I don't want to repeat what I wrote in my DeviantART Journal, so here's a summation with an addendum chronicling the subsequent events:

* A user posts ZIP files full of celebrity photos they found in Google image search to their gallery, offering them up as stock images for people to use however they see fit despite them not being her own work in the first place.

* I call her out on it in a comment on one of her photos.

* She says that her father is a professional photographer who took many of the photos that she posted, and therefore has permission.

* Some quick searching shows that the photos belong to several photographers, many working for different websites, the most prominent one being StarTraks.

* I proceed to ask her a simple line of questions about her father's "body of work," such as if he has his own personal online gallery or portfolio?

* She says she doesn't understand the question.

* I rephrase the question: Why would a professional photographer need his daughter's DeviantART page to post his work instead of his own website?

* She repeats that he's taken "many" of the photos she's posted.

* I ask which ones are his.

* She doesn't answer and blocks me from leaving further comments on her page.

* She writes a pleading journal, blaming me for getting an old account of hers banned (a power that, sadly, I don't actually have, and I only left one comment on that page a full day before it was banned), and calling on her friends to get me banned by...

Before we get to the quote, it's probably best to give a little context, just so you can fully grasp the sheer ineptitude. It's entirely within her power to file a formal complaint against me with DeviantART's administration for harassment. Whether or not it would be acted upon is entirely up to their discretion, and most likely nothing would be done given that she's already blocked me from her page, but the point is that there exists a legitimate and specialized avenue available to her for reporting me. Despite that, however, she thinks the only way to get me banned is:

"Entrá alguna deviantion (sic) de esos usuarios y dale click a "Report Deviation (right)" que está abajo de las estadísticas de esa deviantion (back to sic). De esa manera los pueden bannear."

Which translates to:

"Enter any deviation of those users and click "Report Deviation" which is below the deviation's statistics. We can ban them in this way."

So, rather than using the Help menu in DeviantART's support page to file a complaint she is technically well within her rights to file, she's telling as many people as she can to go to the drawings, paintings, and photographs in my gallery and report them for violations of DeviantART's Terms of Service.

Report them for what, exactly? I don't know, and it turns out neither does she. In fact, one of her watchers asked her what to file the report under (permission issues, explicit content, malware, to name a few). This question has received no answer. As to why she's given no answer, I can only hazard the guess that she has absolutely no idea how the site works and doesn't want to expose her ignorance.

This is ignorant for three important reasons:

1) It assumes that DeviantART's moderators do not actually read violation reports against uploads or at least check the work of art in question to make sure the report is legitimate. After all, not every report is for something offensive or harmful; being in the wrong category is one of the options, that just gets something moved to another category suggested by the one who files the report.

2) It essentially takes me out of the equation and tries to turn focus onto something completely unrelated in the hope of achieving the same result. In other words, I said something that offended someone, so they're taking offense and expressing displeasure at a drawing I made long before any of this happened, and is therefore irrelevant to the situation. Even her straw man is a lie.

3) It assumes that this "false witness/faux straw man" tactic will work despite her putting this plan

in writing

in a journal

on a public website

viewable by anyone

including but not limited to, the moderators and system administrators who will have to make a decision as to the legitimacy of the claims before taking any action.

Of course, there is the distinct possibility that the moderators will, as history has sometimes shown, jump the gun and go along with this crackpot scheme, hence my writing a journal on my page keeping everyone appraised of the situation so there's no surprise if my gallery should disappear. It's been two days, and the result of all this has thus far been:


A little, tiny spike in my pageviews that lasted all of around 24 hours (for my main page, strangely enough; I haven't seen any similar spikes for the stuff in my gallery).

A pair of apologists offering feeble excuses for why they have a right to post other people's work (with fair civility, I'll grant them).

A death threat (this makes two for me, pardon my yawn).

And a comment from someone calling me a gringo (a word I heard once living in New Mexico for 17 years).

I've filed a report against the one who wrote the journal (the one who lied about her father's profession, then lied to get everyone else to lie for her) for ban evasion, not harassment, and if she's reading this by chance, here's a message for you:

Pase lo que pase, yo gano, y no eres un artista. Lidiar con eso. 

Good night, and good luck.

09 July 2012

It's not been a great couple of days...

I'm sitting here in the office with the keyboard in my lap because the edge of my desk hurts my wrists after a few minutes. I'm wearing my headphones and playing Nine Inch Nails Ghosts album on a playlist in an attempt to drown out the noise that I practically deal with 90% of the time I'm home.

I was going to write the next part of this entry as a handful of posts to my Twitter feed. I did it once before, but it was back when I had next to no real followers (just the usual follow-back types), and I was on vacation with only my phone, so it was actually very practical. Now, though, Twitter's a different animal for me, and in a good way, albeit it means sitting at a desk for writing longer entries.

These last few days have been very stressful for me for a number of reasons. In all, the months of April and June (with the surrounding months) haven't exactly been on my good side for a number of years. June of 2000 was when my parents divorced, and April is when I've lost most of my past jobs, even the ones I really liked. Seriously, when I was given the news by the cell carrier I worked for, and they asked if I had anything to say before they showed me the door, I honestly said I wanted to go back to my desk and return to work, that's what a simp I can be sometimes. As such, it's also around this time I end up moving, which has been at least every year or every other year since 2000.

I wasn't fired this year, fortunately, which makes this the longest job I've held since the retail gig I had in high school and the first half of college. However, while I won't be moving, I did have to renew my lease, which involved disclosing a lot of personal information to the landlord (and landlord's bosses) to make sure my roommate and I aren't wealthier than we claim to be so we can stay. In fact, my roommate got a call from them asking about an "inconsistency" we've clarified for them twice before. Here's the tweets I would have sent (with a few embellishments due to character limits):

* Renewing my lease was a huge pain because my roomie's finances are an enigma wrapped in a conundrum and the only reason it's like that...

* is because she leaves all her money matters to her sister who, to put it nicely, is a financial moron with sticky fingers (borrows, then swears to pay back, but only will when practically bullied) and borderline paranoia.

* Couple all this with the sheer annoyance that is my roommate's inability to speak at a normal volume during her daily 14hr Massively Multiplayer Online Game sessions...

* and I have virtually no sense of personal space in my own residence. If I really want it, I've got to turn off my phone and get in my car.

* though that's hardly a temporary respite because she's co-bloody-dependent and can't do hardly a damn thing for herself unless I scold her like a child.

* The worst part is I held off on renewing the lease because I was seriously considering my options for kicking her out.

A few weeks ago, we had a discussion about trust in the wake of an incident in which it was basically trampled because she has no self control, and any attempt to confront her about any of her more unhealthy behaviors and try to discuss them end with her insisting there's nothing she can do about it and that I essentially have no choice but to accept them. While we did manage to reach a reasonable compromise that would serve as a stepping stone to full reconciliation, it recently broke down again and I found myself playing a parental role to someone older and more life-experienced than me, which doesn't help my long-held sentiment that I'm not father material.

To cap it off, her sleep cycle has reached that point where her day is my night, so my sleep has been interrupted through the night by screaming and yelling that isn't at all muffled by two doors and at least as many walls. This also includes the span of time when I get home from work (where I wear earplugs because I'm an arm's reach away from a bay of industrial presses).

If you're wondering exactly how someone gets to this point in their life where they're in this kind of living situation, I'll sum up the pretext by saying it's a long and complicated story and that the important thing to walk away with from it is that simply uttering the phrase, "Shape up or ship out!" to those it applies to isn't as easily done as said in the worst possible way.

I feel a little better now. I'm almost considering not publishing this, just letting it serve as catharsis and hopefully getting a decent night's sleep, ultimately waking up feeling completely fine. The only reason I'm going to go ahead and post this is because I've fallen into that trap before, and I've decided it's not healthy to just ignore and bury things that bother me (SEE PREVIOUS ENTRY).

The best part is that I talked myself out of a drink before coming in here to write this for a change. I consider that a moral victory.

Goodnight, and good luck.

03 June 2012

Oh, Not Funny When It's You

So, some time ago, Star Wars Kinect was released for the XBox360, and it was met with what could charitably be described as mixed feelings, with most of the negative feelings strangely centered on a rhythm and dance portion of the game wherein much-beloved characters dance in well-known locales to popular songs made into parodies by a slight tweaking of key lyrics. "Princess in a battle" instead of "genie in a bottle" is one example.
As to why this has many fans outraged, there's no official answer, but if one were to be culled from the general consensus of the gaming community, it's that Star Wars Kinect is an officially licensed Lucasfilm product. In other words, Star Wars fans can make fun of their beloved franchise to their heart's content, but heaven forbid the people behind it have a sense of humor as well.
I could get into the psycho-socio-cultural underpinnings of this phenomenon, but The Escapist's MovieBob already did, and in reading his analysis, I remembered something from my own childhood that perfectly exemplifies the situation.

It was really hard for me to make friends after I moved to New Mexico in 1991. There's a lot of reasons for this I won't go into, but probably the most important one was that my sense of humor didn't gel with everyone else's. I understand that friends take digs at each other, call each other names, and even play mean little tricks on each other. Really, I get it; it's part of the trust, it's something you can do because of the comfort zone. The thing is, where I saw it as being "part" of the whole "friendship" paradigm, some people saw it as "the whole" and that struck me as just downright conceited. I kid you not when I say that I actually lost a really good friend because I told him to stop calling me a certain name because it genuinely bothered me. For years afterward, I thought there was something wrong with me because I just couldn't take a joke, I couldn't separate "laughing with" from "laughing at." Years later, I got a second opinion. The good news is that there wasn't really anything wrong with me, that sometimes people were just jerks. The bad news is that the number of jerks turned out to be higher than I'd thought.
My 7th grade history class had some class clowns in it. Trouble was, it was a de facto role as they weren't very good at it, as most of their jokes relied on me to be their punchline, whether I wanted to be or not. How exactly they made fun of me or laughed at me or generally had fun at my expense varied and changed almost daily. For about two or three days, though, the fixation was on the fact that I was the only boy in the class who wore glasses. Right away, I thought, "they're really desperate for a laugh." Seriously, the last months 7th grade, a year between us and high school, and I felt like I was living out an uninspired episode of Full House.
Anyway, we were all doing some sort of art project that I don't remember any details of, except that we'd have to stop about five minutes before the bell so we could all go wash up in the bathrooms. So, here's the scenario: everyone walks a little faster than me so they can get there first. When I step in, everyone turns away from the sinks and starts flicking their hands at me so water beads on my glasses, carrying on until I literally can't see and have to take them off to wipe them clean, and the process repeats when I put them back on until I get out of the bathroom, my hair wet enough that I can slick it back.

This goes on for two days. I don't get angry. I don't lash out. I don't confront anybody about it. I don't say a word.  I just stand there and seethe quietly to myself, because it's the seventh bloody grade, we're in our early teens, and flicking water at my glasses to where I can't see is the funniest damn thing in the world to these guys. On the third day, I figure that maybe I'm taking this too seriously, that I'm not having fun with the whole thing. So, I decide to give this "laughing with you" idea a shot. Again, everyone walks a little faster than me to get to the bathroom first. Before I step in, though, I take my glasses off and put them in my pocket. I make sure not to squint, because that would just give them something to laugh about. I walk in, knowing what's going to happen next, and I'm smiling. It's not a toothy, ear-to-ear grin, it's more like a Mona Lisa, at the risk of sounding pretentious. The funny thing is, I'd never felt more confident in my life at that moment. The sad thing is, no one else found it funny, made apparent when they turned away from the sinks with hands at the ready.

Awkward silence.

I'd see some turn away from the sink and watch a smile disappear almost like someone flipped a switch. Instead of knowing nods, playful shrugs, or even indifference, I saw, despite the blur, frowns and eye rolls. I hadn't gotten in on the joke, I'd ruined it. I'd ruined it by not ignoring them or getting angry or annoyed or anything like that. I'd ruined it by wanting in on it and playing along. They weren't making fun of me to be friendly or chummy, they were making fun of me because they were that desperate for a laugh. How dare I, apparently.

Maybe I should have grabbed a fire extinguisher before going in instead.

01 June 2012

Frightened, but Brave


Just got back from Snow White and the Huntsman, and I'm not even going to make a comment about Mirror Mirror leaving bad taste in my mouth and this being the cleansing swig because it's an unfair comparison.

In short, loved it. Awesome. Highly recommended.

In the interest of full disclosure, let's address the elephant in the room: I have never seen the Twilight movies. Actually, that's a lie; I've seen five minutes of a scene with two groups of vampires comparing notes on feeding habits and it pretty much told me all I need to know about what I'd be in for if I stayed and watched the rest. I bring this up because my roommate has seen the Twilight films and as such her biggest hangup about seeing the film was Kristen Stewart, fearing a wooden performance.

I think she gets a bit of a bum rap. Granted, the only thing I've seen her in prior to this was Zathura, where she played the older sister of the two boys. Not much meat to the role, but I liked her in it.

Something most people will probably notice right away regarding performances, hers as well as others, is that dialogue is rather sparse, and given that Stewart has a fair amount of screen time in the first act, people might be led to believe that her part was toned back because of fear about her ability to deliver dialogue. This really isn't the case; overall, it's a very visual film with very long passages of silence. I think that's one of the film's greatest assets, not feeling like it has to hold the audience's hand or keep spouting little throwaway lines of expository dialogue. What little dialogue there actually is serves almost as padding. Seriously, this would make a dandy silent film.

At the risk of sounding like I'm gushing, and going back to what I was saying about Kristen's performance, I think she's one of the best female leads I've seen in a fantasy film. She's got a very rare quality that I first heard leveled at the late Elisabeth Sladen by former Doctor Who producer Barry Letts. He said of her:

"She could be frightened and brave at the same time. Most actresses can only do one or the other."

This is also how I felt about Naomi Watts in the Peter Jackson remake of King Kong, someone who has a confidence and inner strength, but is also a human being with a full emotional palette. On that note, I think my favorite scene in the film (stop reading if you don't want any spoilers) is one where she stares down a monstrous troll that's just made a rag doll of the Huntsman and sets its sights on her. Admittedly, it waxes incredibly silly, but it made me smile and, frankly, if I made a fantasy film, you bet I'd have a scene like this. It's Dorothy slapping the Cowardly Lion, but done better. It speaks to her character, saying, "Look, I'm cold, tired, and terrified, but damned if I'm going to run now!"

Sure, not a terribly deep review, more just first impressions, but it's a very good first impression. Again, highly recommend it.

06 May 2012

This Is What I'm On About...


I've been called a Grammar Nazi, but I'd rather think I'm more like a Grammar Sheriff or Constable. In other words, my bar is actually set very low as far as what a typical person's grammatical skill should be, more "move along" than "no soup for you!" In the interest of full disclosure, if you'd seen me in second grade and bore witness to the spectacle of me trying to keep "woman" vs "women" straight in my head, you might laugh your head off. In my defense, while I wasn't personally aware of it, this was around the time when "womyn" was becoming an acceptable spelling in certain circles, which would have probably cut the hassle I was having in half. Also in my defense, this was second grade. I was 7, maybe 8. Of course, I don't expect perfection at that age; the English language is full of little idiosyncrasies and inconsistencies that, for a young mind, are hard to comprehend.
The Escapist, meanwhile, requires its users to be a minimum of 10 years old. Yes, that's only 2 or 3 years from the age I was at when I was confusing plural pronouns for the fairer sex, but there's a world of difference between words that are spelled one way and pronounced another, and a mark of punctuation used to shorten the overall quantity of words.
The point is, in the end, I've taken a quality vs. quantity approach to how people write. When I read a novel, even one from a big name publisher and well-established author, I expect a typo or two. When I read a weblog entry that's more than a paragraph, again, I expect a few run-ons and "teh"s and the like.

When the title is misspelled, however... that's just pathetic.

The title, the damned title, is only two words, yet made three by an extra vowel and punctuation mark that changes the very nature of the pronoun its attached to.

Many years ago, on YouTube, there was a video circulating around called, "Get Want You Want." it was about self-manifestation, and quite a few others copied the title for their own respective takes on the subject. The sad thing is, people must have just copied and pasted the title from the original video using a mouse and key commands, because I swear I saw more "want"s than "what"s to the point of utter infuriation. I genuinely started writing a message to one of the video makers trying my best not to berate them for not even double-checking their text before hitting "submit." Luckily, it was eventually changed.

Yes, there are people with learning disabilities that make simple confusions like that into debilitating obstacles, and there are people for whom English is not their first language, but I'd argue those instances to be much fewer and farther between than politically correct types would have you believe. More often than not, it's just someone not thinking, not taking that extra half-second to give what they've written a once-over before hitting the "send" key. Sure, I've made my mistakes here and there, but to bring the second grade reference full circle and use school as an analogy, I'd say I generally averaged out a B student. Most people out there on the internet, though, most likely wouldn't even get F's. Rather, they'd get "See Me," which, if you ever got one, you know is far worse than simply a failing mark. It's essentially saying, "Not only did you completely fail this very simple task, but you failed so miserably that you need to be told in person."

Look, to all you out there who make these kinds of "See Me" gaffs and wig out when people point them out to you, it's not about following rules, it's about presentation and making an impression. When you see someone writing this way, what are your first thoughts? Are they positive? No, you probably think they're a damn moron and you're just waiting for your dialogue with them to reach the point when you can bring up their inability to keep possessives and contractions straight, even though you've probably got the same problem most of the time. That's right, Pot, Kettle, you're both black.

21 April 2012

Qomics Quintology IV: What If? No. 83


We take a look at one of What If...?'s boldest and most experimental "alterniverses."

Something about my current editing process:
As I'm using Linux, my video editing options are somewhere between slim and nil. For a time, I used a program called OpenShot, which I was very impressed with to the point of calling it the Linux equivalent to iMovie or Windows Movie Maker. The trouble is that I went from using a small form-factor Linux computer that I built to a Dell Optiplex that some law firm my roommate's nephew worked for didn't want anymore. It ran Windows XP, but was locked with a password and had no recovery disk, which prompted me to just running Linux Mint on it. All seemed well and good, but somehow Openshot decided it didn't want to work anymore. The first time I used OpenShot, I got an error message telling me I needed some codecs so it could properly export the video. Luckily, all I had to do was enter the names of the codecs and the error message in a search and I got a solution right away. Later, when I got the Dell, I ran into a similar problem, but when I downloaded and installed the right components (and a few others) just like before, absolutely nothing happened. OpenShot just didn't want to work at all.
This meant I had to use YouTube's built-in video editor, which is serviceable but has two important problems. The first problem is that I basically have to upload all my raw footage, edit each clip individually (namely trimming), and then open a new project in YouTube's editor. This takes hours. One of the great advantages of recording to SD cards or an internal memory is that all I have to do is drag and drop the clips into the editor, which works almost instantly. With using YouTube's editor, it's akin to using tapes, where you have to sit and watch it download in real time. The second and most irritating problem is that, if I use multiple cameras, the video's overall resolution defaults to the lowest.
The Nokia Nuron, which could well be my favorite video camera ever, has the ability to shoot with colored filters, trim and merge clips, and even allow me to dub over the soundtrack. It's surprisingly robust for a feature that's essentially an afterthought on a phone. The catch is that not only is it not a high definition video, it's barely standard definition.
Without getting into a whole mathematical mess of aspect ratios and resolutions, the key point is that my Sony Cybershot shoots HD video, which means each frame is 720 pixels tall. A DVD, by comparison, is 480 pixels tall (that's standard definition). The Nuron's widescreen mode is 360 pixels tall. Since I'm recording the introductions to most of these videos on the Nuron, that means I'm asking YouTube's editor to merge a 720 image with a 360 image. In the end, the maximum resolution of the completed video project is only 360 pixels tall. No high definition, not even standard definition. It's still 120 lines more than a VHS tape, but it basically means I'm not getting the best image possible.
On the whole, though, while shooting in HD is appealing, I care far more about my videos being widescreen, so it's a small loss and really just irritates me because HD video eats memory card space.
In short, I really should just upgrade my system to something that can handle a more practical and versatile editing program such as Sony Vegas, but two things: 1) I can't afford that kind of upgrade (got a bit eaten alive on my taxes thanks to something from my past coming back to haunt me) and 2) In the end, I don't make videos all that often. It's only rarely that I get the bug to film something and it often goes as quickly as it arrives. About the only reason I put as much effort into it as I do is because apart from sales of my prints on DeviantART, my videos are one of the few things I produce that can generate money via ad revenue. Granted, it's not going to supplant my day job anytime soon, if ever at all, but it'd be nice for a few embellishments and frivolities, so anything that can help get me a return on my investment (even for a hobby) is worth pursuing.

20 April 2012

An Open Letter to the Marijuana Community

South Park put it best, that more than likely the worst thing that's going to happen to anyone smoking pot is absolutely nothing, that its worst effect is making you alright with being bored. On the whole, I don't care if people want to get high by way of the cannabis; it's no different than any other vice or addiction, be it liquor, tobacco, caffeine, sex, roller coasters, or videogames to name a few. What matters is whether you're in control of your habit, or it's in control of you. Either way, those on the pro-marijuana side of the issue, we need to have a talk.

Here's an encounter I had with a neighbor some years back as I was on my way to work.

Him: Hey.
Me: Howdy.
Him: Say, do you know where I can get some pot?
Me: No, I don't.
Him: You don't?
Me: Nope.
Him: Why not?!
Me: Because I don't do pot.
Him: But you have long hair!
Me: That doesn't mean anything.
Him: Whatever.

The funny part of that story is that he had a crew cut. The really funny part is that I was clean-shaven, wearing a dress shirt, and spoke without a hint of a slur. The sad part is he asked me again a few weeks later. The sadder part is that in the meantime, he would condescendingly yell, "Hippie!" at me from his balcony as I walked out to my car. The worst part is that I have to live in the same building as this guy, this guy who now harbors an irrational resentment toward me because he believes I lied to him and then added insult to injury by pointing out the fault in his ability to sort people out by appearance. As I've implied, I think the illegal status of marijuana is an arbitrary double standard, but situations like what I've described haven't exactly endeared me to stand by you guys in your campaign.

I know you don't keep any sort of census or roster and it's utterly unfair of me to hold you all accountable for the actions of a few bad eggs. That said, it's no use playing dumb, either. It's also not going to do you any good to see your campaign as a black-and-white issue. Look, I don't like being lumped in with those pro-active/social anti-drug people with their lame slogans and ineffective ad campaigns, and I know you probably don't like being lumped in with the people I'm describing, the ones who can't comprehend that people who choose not to get high aren't always looking down their noses at them. I have no problem taking that step to seeing that the stereotypical "stoner" is archaic, sensationalized, and largely inaccurate, that correlation is not causation. So, why are you holding onto it? Why am I being profiled by way of only-partially fitting an image you know doesn't fully or properly represent you?

Seriously, at the risk of sounding like I'm making fun of you, with all the colors you can smell and music you can see, if you're still seeing things in black-and-white, then maybe you should lay off the pot; clearly, it's not expanding your consciousness or broadening your mind as much as you want other people to believe. Just because I'm not a help to you doesn't mean I'm a hindrance by default.

I don't want "NO means NO!" to become the new "Just say NO!" and I doubt any of you do, either.

So, like I said, I don't want to write off the Cannabis Community as a wastrels and a cancer upon civilization, but you need to respect a few ground rules if you want to be treated like responsible adults that can usher in a change in policy, namely that, even if I did partake in recreational drugs, I'm under no obligation to keep you appraised of this fact and that your habits are ultimately your responsibility and yours alone. If you do have to ask, and the answer is no, take the hint.

Happy 420, and to crib a phrase from a wise man,

Just go forward in all your beliefs, and prove to me that I am not mistaken in mine.


P.S. Oh, one more "ground rule" before we part: Would you please stop using famous artists like The Beatles, The Doors, Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, and others as "case studies" for why marijuana should be legalized? Creativity isn't a substance you can breath in as smoke or bake into a brownie or inject into your veins or put under your tongue, and last time I looked, no one in any of those bands ever said otherwise. Besides, if that were the case, there'd be a lot more White Albums out there.

Peace and bacon grease.

17 April 2012

Qomics Quintology Part IIIb: Nadesico


I make a startling discovery about one of my favorite writers... and I'm driven to drink because of it.

Qomics Quintology III: Manga Formats


Probably a little more personal than previous installments, if only because I'm working with an existing collection instead of the one I'm building now.

15 April 2012

Qomics Quintology Part II: Swords of the Swashbucklers number 2


This has left me feeling just a little bit morose. My attempt to make quality video projects using only what I've got at my disposal (and a little less) hasn't really yielded the results I'd like. Still, I intend to finish what I started, and I can say that because I actually finished part 3 before I started part 2 (even shot an introduction for part 4).

31 March 2012

Alesis Videotrack (Build Quality & Accessories)


Follow up to my Camera Complaint video, wherein I explain
the rather poor audio quality. Interestingly, it's not because
the microphones were of poor quality, but rather because I
was standing on the wrong side of the camera.

11 March 2012

The Rune Scroll Project



I should be more excited about finally finishing this, given that it took me about a month (completing about a page per day, working somewhat leisurely at it), but in the end, it's just disappointing. I had originally planned to lay it all out on the floor and, using a table dolly, pan left to right in one single and relatively smooth move.

It didn't work out. 15 takes later, I ended up just putting the camera on a tripod, setting the book on a table, and just opening it by hand.

I might post another video I made of putting together the last page, but that's turning out to be a bit of a pain in terms of editing, so it'll be a while.

10 March 2012

By(gone)-Product of an Era

A few nights ago, my roommate was laughing in awe and befuddlement at the musical stylings of one Richard Cheese, a lounge singer whose choice of subject matter is, to put it mildly, eclectic. Music is ultimately a reflection of the culture that created it. As such, Country is typically about working on a farm or driving a truck while pretending not to care what others think, Punk is about railing against an establishment or fighting oppression by wearing mismatched articles of torn clothing, Rap is about growing up on the mean streets only to sell out and buy a mansion while the public school clings to its one microscope, and Lounge singing is about losing an entire year's income on keno and drowning subsequent sorrows in margaritas.

Obviously, there are exceptions, far too few (especially in Rap and Country, but that's for another discussion) overall, but exceptions all the same, and Richard Cheese is a Lounge singer who sings about... really what everyone else sings about and then some, just filtered through the style of a Rat Pack-era Vegas Lounge act. If it sounds like he's a novelty act, that's because he probably is, but here's a question:

What's wrong with that?

When Swing Kids came out, I remember being obsessed with "Sing, Sing, Sing (With a Swing)" by Louis Prima not just from the trailers for the film, but also the Chips Ahoy! commercials of the time. This was about 1993, and I was completely alone in my newfound obsession with this era of music. Although bands like Cherry Poppin' Daddies and Squirrel Nut Zippers were around, their popularity was niche at best. This was the grunge era of music, when bands like Stone Temple Pilots, Alice In Chains, and Nirvana were all the rage. None of it really interested me, which is why stuff like swing held so much appeal; it was practically the polar opposite of alternative, but didn't have that lofty pretentiousness of classical or the tired banality of older rock.

Later on, as tended to happen to me with trends and fads (don't get me started on POGs.), I grew out of swing just in time for everyone at my high school to declare it the next big thing. Along with Ska, swing didn't just become a type of music people liked, it became a lifestyle, with people adopting the dress sense of these bands like The Mighty Mighty Bosstones or The Brian Setzer Orchestra and some even starting ska-themed bands of their own. Just like grunge, I didn't really care.

At least, I didn't care until I heard "Zoot Suit Riot" and some little assortment of machinery started whirring and clicking away in my head. It wasn't trying to reconcile its anachronistic terminology with modern-day living, I'd worked that out years ago. Rather, it was the two-pronged question of, "How many people know what a Zoot Suit even is (let alone a riot centering around them), and is there any modern equivalent that isn't already represented in some other genre of music?"

In other words, why does this style and genre of music not only have to be a reflection of the era that created it, but ultimately be stuck in that era?

Think about this, if I wrote a song meant to be played on an old-school synthesizer like the Fairlight CMI, would my lyrics have to make references to leg-warmers and big hair? Would my album's artwork have to feature someone in a pair of shutter shades and a jean jacket?

Why would a swing piece about MySpace seem so weird or even hokey? Why would it be written off as a novelty track on par with "Telstar" or "Witch Doctor"?

If I sound crazy, here's one last little bite of food-for-thought: When you hear the term "Hammond Organ" what exactly do you think of first? Electric organs were meant as inexpensive alternatives to traditional pipe organs that smaller churches couldn't afford. So, if that was their intended use, and given how frozen-in-time swing and lounge acts seem to be, why have so many progressive rock bands implemented them so pervasively? Just look at Keith Emerson or Rick Wakeman or David Greenslade. Sure, most of them moved onto more advanced synthesizers, but the Hammond Organ still got a lot of mileage outside of churches, yet so many people probably still think of hymns and old radio plays.

06 March 2012

An Open Letter to WI Sen. Glenn Grothman (NSFW)

Dear Inexplicably-elected Senator,

Regarding this Senate Bill 507 of yours, I have a question:

Are you fucking stupid?

Sincerely,
Myself and anyone else living in the real world

04 March 2012

Is Master's Voice

I've had a few entries on the back burner for some time, at least three in the past week that have been relegated to "drafts" for various reasons, mostly refinement and fact-checking. I realize it's a bit lazy, even unprofessional from certain perspectives, to then post an entry practically made up on the spot. However, even with that spontaneity which leaves other and more refined projects in the wings, somehow I can't help but feel like I've lapped 90% of the world's population at least twice in a sack race where my sack is the only one made of chainmail instead of burlap. In other words, I still feel superior when I look around and see remarks like this:



In the interest of full disclosure, I was one of those lucky little boys who had teachers for parents. In fact, one of them is an English teacher, so I'm used to hearing terms like "Grammar Nazi" hurled in my direction. As such, I have to respect that not everyone had the kind of background I did where re-reading and double-checking what I'd written became an almost unconscious habit. I also have to respect that lingering on someone's lack of articulation is a bit of a straw man situation which might ultimately undermine any credibility I'd otherwise have in the discussion. That said, when someone is talking about being mis(understood/interpreted/quoted) or chastising others for how they speak or write when they themselves can't rise to the level they claim to champion, how they handle themselves at a keyboard should be fair game.
In this case, it's especially fair game considering the overall length of the phrase. I can forgive a typo in a novel or even a somewhat lengthy weblog entry, but this is just incompetent.

To his credit, he starts off well enough from a technical point of view, his only real misstep being that he doesn't back up his assessment of the video's "dumb and stupid" narration with specific points of observation, but then we get to the third sentence. Verbosity can't be spelled without "bore," it's true, but sometimes the pursuit of conciseness is equally overbearing and tedious. Moreover, in addition to the uncapitalized abbreviation for "by the way," he forgets part of his own hyperbolic metaphor; what is he speculating being put down the reviewer's throat? He's not even leaving it open to interpretation with an all-purpose placeholder like "something." It's not just bad grammar, it's bad writing full stop.

The final straw is the last sentence, where he remembers to capitalize the first word of the sentence, but forgets how to spell the first word itself, carrying over the same spelling error as the sentence containing a missing word. It's not just incompetence, it's committed incompetence.