magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
On the topic of not-rocks, when I was growing up, I had a cassette tape that had a bunch of folk tales on it. One of them (if I remember correctly, which I very well may not) had to do with a king who was sick, and sent his three sons out looking for a magical cure. Two of the sons get bored of the quest and quit; the third actually found the cure and was bringing it back when his brothers found him, killed him, buried him, and took the cure home to claim the reward. But reeds grew where the good son had been buried, and someone cut the reeds and made a pan flute, and when the pan flute was played, it sang about the brother's death in his voice.

I mostly remember it because the song was creepy and got stuck in my head a lot.  I have never been able to successfully Google the story or its audio.  I really wish I could find it again, though, because nostalgia.
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
Because definitely what I need is more webapp ideas that I don't have time to develop.



Anyway, following on from a Twitter conversation, I'm wondering how it would work to make a writing program which could track the genders of a number of characters and then arbitrarily shuffle them. What I'm picturing is, simplified, something like this:

• At the top of the document are a number of fields which ask for a character name (or a list of character references, such as name and nickname and other variations) and pairs the name with a gender (and its associated set of pronouns).

• Each character you add is arbitrarily assigned a color (or icon or other distinguishing visual marker).

• As you type, a parser will keep track of which name (or referent) has been typed last for each of the original genders. When you type a pronoun, it will look at the last character reference matching that pronoun's set, and highlight the pronoun (or assign it the correct icon) to associate it with the specific character. It'll also have some kind of (mouseover?) menu to allow users to correct its assumption about which character it refers to.

• When you finish writing, each pronoun will be associated with a character. So you can hit a shuffle button, and then the characters' genders will be shuffled, and each pronoun can be brought back into compliance with the character's gender.

Needless to say, this would fail in a lot of situations. Take, for example:

• Dialogue. "He's not coming today," he said. (I mean, I guess I could set up a sub-parser which kept track of the last character reference inside a set of quotes?)

• Ambiguiety. We'll just call this the Randall Munroe exploit. I guess people would just have to make close, personal friends with the drop-down menus?

• Gay porn. I am reliably informed by people who have tried to write gay porn that pronouns are a nightmare anyway. And humans are better at parsing language than computers are.

• Unexpected cases. Language is complicated, yo!

I feel like there should be a way to handle this, and that it probably involves algorithms. I'm a bit worried that trying to write a general-purpose pronoun shuffler would actually require re-inventing Google Translate. Any computational linguists out there who want to point out things I'm missing?
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
AAAAAAH FUCK, I WAS ALREADY NEVER GOING TO START SMOKING, BUT I AM NEVER GOING TO START SMOKING



Way to prey on my powerful and mostly baseless* dread horror of radiation, Veritasium.

*Not to say that radiation isn't norrifying, but I'm unlikely to be in a situation in my life where it's actually a present danger to me.

Though now I want to write a story (very) loosely inspired by the firefighters at Chernobyl. ;_;
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
I'm not going to get to this right now, and probably won't get to this today, so this is just a note so I remember:

It would be pretty neat to have a calender generator on my fun pages. I.E., it takes a random list (like the Bingo generator), but instead of telling it the dimensions of a bingo card, you tell it a month and year, and it'll generate a calendar of prompts for you.

Advanced options would include turning off certain days (so, setting Sundays to have no prompts, for example), or turning certain days to certain prompts (so, setting Fridays to "wild card" days, or something). Probably not granular "I want the 15th to be this topic, and the 18th to be this topic, and take off the 12th", because at that point you're... not doing random generation any more.

It'd also be really nice to tie the random sets generator into it, like I did with the bingo generator: you can load response sets into it, and get cards like this one. So, you could set up something to generate random sets of a person, in a place, with a problem, and assign each of those to a day. Etc.

:|a
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
I need to keel over and go to sleep soon, so I'll answer a couple of short questions.


[personal profile] thebaconfat: What is the weirdest file currently on your computer (that you didn't create yourself)?


...I am not sure I can answer this! I don't keep track of that many files I haven't created, as I assume that most of them are things like application config files and stuff. If stuff I've downloaded doesn't count as stuff I've created, I... still am not sure. But I do have a version of "Down Under" sung by a bunch of potentially-drunk Russians.



[personal profile] squeemu: What is the weirdest file currently on your computer that you did create?


I once discovered a file named temp.rtf in one of my fiction draft folders which consisted of 2391 words of Lorem Ipsum, closed with the line "And as it turned out, THEY WERE ALL BEES!!"


This post has been brought to you as a service of the December Posting Meme.
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)

I mentioned this over at [community profile] allbingo, but I'm working on a bunch of challenges to get me thinking about short-form plot. Basically, I'm taking the following plot structures:

Four structures below the cut. )

...three of which I found discussed at Philip Brewer's blog, and one of which I put together after thinking about successful short stories on my own.

I'm trying to take these structures and write extremely short stories/synopses with them – using one sentence for each point in the list.

I'm also finding it surprisingly difficult.

But I figured that while I was striving and trying new things, I might as well put the results up for people to see (and quite possibly best :P ). Just to keep things organized in this post, the card I'm using is below, and I'll link my fills for the squares.

Card below the cut. )
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)


Ran across this in my Twitter reading today. Made me stop and raise an eyebrow. Because, really – "grim" and "bleak" are the descriptors they've chosen to entice me to see this film? (Well, there's also "incredible", but that gives me little insight into what sets this film apart, and thus does little to capture my interest.)

Now, possibly I just haven't read widely enough in the genre to realize that there's a strong undercurrent of happy, lush, uplifting post-apocalyptic fiction out there. Something like that. But to me, grim, bleak landscapes aren't exactly the aspects of a post-apocalyptic work you need to advertise – they're more or less to be expected from the genre. Advertising those, especially when you have a medium such as Twitter and have to seriously consider which few, precious words you're going to use, makes it sound to me like you just don't have anything more interesting to say than "This work competently executes the tropes it's expected to." It's the "square house, door in front" of the review world.

...which all basically means that, in a fit of pique, I have decided that I want beautifully optimistic post-apocalyptic fiction to exist. If someone else doesn't write it, I may have to.

(It's not even that I dislike grimdark post-apoc. I do enjoy it, when it's done well. But sometimes you just have to go for the subversions.)
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
Today, in an effort to avoid actually writing anything (because writing is scary), I programmed functionality into my demographics/random sets generator which let you import comma-delimited lists of values. This, combined with the option I worked up a while ago which let you import random sets from the demographics generator into the bingo generator, means that I can do wacky stuff like working up a bingo card with a bunch of randomly-generated sets of things like fandom, trope, and wordcount. See below:

I sound my fearsome procrastination across the land. )

Now, the demographics generator (unlike the bingo generator) is still in alpha, is desperately ugly, and lacks a ton of stuff that would make it easier to use – like, say, paging down to show you that your options have, in fact, been added when you click the button in the comma-delimited list options. That's because I'm a back-end developer by trade, and just getting jQuery to play nicely enough that it would import the comma-delimited list in the first place meant an hour of hand-to-hand coding. Nicer stuff will happen later, once my urge to procrastinate on writing exceeds my frustration with front-end technologies again.

But, you know, if this sort of challenge appeals to you, there's now a clunky interface on my site that allows you to set up bingo cards like this.

In other news, today I have learned that jQuery does not like passing data out of its AJAX scope, and that you have to tell it not to run its AJAX asynchronously if you actually want to provide its information to another part of your script. Even if that part of the script comes after the AJAX call. ...I feel like that one, I should have known.
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
I made a bingo generator!

...okay, this is nothing which does not already exist on the internet, but I was bored and I wanted to build it. I plan on adding functionality that will pre-load lists of things like tropes, kinks, genres, dramatic situations, etc; problem is, first I have to generate those lists, or find someone who's already generated them who'll let me use them. XD

At some point, I may also add support for 3x3, 7x7, even 9x9 grids, and other fancy stuff like that. Maybe even styling. In the mean time, if you find yourself desperately needing a Bingo card this Holiday season and unwilling to google a generator, here you go! Let me know if you see any bugs. ;)

[ETA] And then I made a nice comma-separated list of These classic dramatic situations, which I don't really see a lot of people using, but which could be used! Mostly as a proof of concept. But, you know, concept proved!
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
Yesterday, I had to walk to the Staples that's a few big blocks away, so that I could get things which would let me mail out important documents and holiday gifts. I wore my usual – a long-sleeve button-down shirt, with black jeans – and it was a bit cool, so I threw on a windbreaker.

Within a block I realized that I was overheating, so I took off the windbreaker.

Because this may be late December, but I am in California, and the terrible horrible frigid ice-hell of winter has not found me here.

...

Man, I kinda want to do one of those "year in review" things for 2013, because frankly, I feel like I deserve a medal for surviving this year with my sanity and shaded-cynical optimism intact. But I also feel like if I do that before the end of the year, 2013 will find some way to punish me for thinking it's over.

It's almost over. And I am going to drink hot tea out of my adorable 3-oz ceramic cups, and I am going to cherish the things and the people who got me through this year. And I am going to continue patiently laying groundwork to make tomorrow better than today.

And then I'm going to take a deep breath and work on my Yuletide story again, even though it scares me.
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)

As an exercise, to try to ease my brain up out of its months-long stress-induced no-writing slump, I sat down and copied out the first sentence (or two; the first lines of If The Mountain Comes really don't work if you only take the first sentence) of all the short stories I've had published in various markets, and then grouped them by whether I (personally) thought they were engaging or not.

 

Read more... )

In any case, it's something I don't think I'd really sat down to examine in any depth before, so now I can say I've done that.  And hopefully have a better sense of how this particular mechanic works in the stories I write in the future.

magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
So... I'm not in a great financial situation, right now. Unemployment that's dragging on longer than I'd like (though, really, any time at all is longer than I'd like), issues with the startup I left never generating revenue enough to pay me some of my wages, living in California, etc. I'm searching for a job, and I'm getting some pretty excellent interviews, but nothing's really taken, yet; I'm also doing freelance work, writing content, and looking into other ways of generating income on my own.

But. All of this takes energy, and motivation, and unemployment seems designed to sap both. So I've developed a framework to help move me through.

Gods made to order, psychological and aspirational trickery, and the point of this post. )

And, for my own reference, an actual list of charities:

We here in Vault City LOVE making lists. )
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
Finally got around to making carrot soup tonight, which was a process which started quite some time ago when I came home with ~2 pounds of carrots and a white onion, which progressed through soaking some chickpeas and then simmering them with a sprig of rosemary, and which culminated in me staring at this recipe for a while, then going "Fuck it" and making something up as I went along.

FUCK YOU I'M A CAT, basically. Except I'm only metaphorically a cat. Because cats don't cook. They have people to do that for them. )
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
So let's talk about Rust City.

Rust City began as a thought experiment as to whether or not I could write something Bizarro. (The verdict is: I couldn't. The closest I've ever come is probably The Relative Densities of Seawater and Blood, and it's not very bizarre, compared to anything, say, Carlton Mellick III has ever written. I think that in order to write Bizarro, you have to have the abilites (1)Not to take yourself so damn seriously, and (2)Let go of the need to explain or at least justify everything, and I score pretty badly on those rubrics.)

The story follows Ferro, a man with a condition that's given him the primary sex characteristics of an standard XX physiology but a standard set of XY secondary sex characteristics. He falls in with a pair of cousins named Wolf and Sela, who may or may not be genetically-engineered remnants of the war that screwed up the entire planet, either decades or centuries ago.

The full title of the project is Rust City (a love story), though I remain unsure of what the love story actually is. (Wolf and Sela have an extremely broken familial relationship they both want fixed but don't know how to fix, Wolf and Ferro sleep together, Ferro is fascinated and stalked by Sela, and for all this time Ferro is crushing on a woman named Kyoto who has burn scars covering most of her chest. There's a lot of thematic body stuff going on here, and it's all kind of a mess.)

Also, there are molemen, which aren't actually molemen. They're more like some kind of cavefish-esque offshoot of Homo sapiens who live in the old (but expanded) sewer system beneath the city. (I'm not sure that's better.) They communicate with Ferro by exploiting a trick of his synaesthesia – yes, Ferro also has synaesthesia, as well as hypertactility and haptophilia – which also has a tinge of the supernatural to it.

It's resisting being written, for the most part, because I honestly have no idea where it's going or why half the stuff is happening. You know, conventional wisdom says that you should have your story worked out before you start writing it. At least you should know what the major players and motivations will be. Possibly have some understanding of the plot. That's just not how I roll; I tend to slap stuff that sounds pretty on a page and hope that eventually my brain will start supplying all the connective tissue, musculature, and skeletal structure. Sometimes in that order.

But I wrote a slim 655 words on it last night, and now I'm sharing an excerpt with you!

He felt himself sailing down, through the floor, drawn toward the molten center of the world, but before he could come anywhere near it he was caught in a noise like spidersilk. It wrapped around him, twining through his pores in a rhythm like words.

They were words. Maybe not in a classical sense, but something intelligible without being sound. Something like,

(intruder)

And then, by more voices, closer to his skin,

(brightseer, sunfucker)

(up him)

(yeah)

(up)


[Semi-boilerplate text: As always, I hope you'll check out and support the Clarion West Write-a-thon (and me in particular, if you feel so inclined). Your donation will help a workshop which has supported real live Bizarro authors! And many, many others.]
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
If you wanted to count the combined wordcounts of everything I've worked on since the start of the Write-a-thon, we'd be up to 624 now! If you wanted to count the actual words I've written since the start, we'd be at... something more like 87.

Neither of these are particularly inspiring numbers, but I'll take them, because they're greater than 0.

Today's 87 words went to The Angel at the Gate, a story inspired by a YouTube video of Silent Hill: Homecoming, the long-completed webcomic 1/0, and thinking about Biblical cherubs. Naturally, the story is about a group of friends who were tossed out of another world after fighting for and saving it as destined heroes, and who find themselves unable to leave the city they've been thrown into because there's a supernatural phenomenon which blocks their way out.

(They name the phenomenon Azrael. Who was not a cherub, if you were wondering.)

Long story short, my fiction rarely bears any resemblance to its inspiration, so I hope the preceding explanation made no sense to you.

...

...hey, who wants an excerpt!

I look up to see Zeph straddling the peak of the roof, nailing down siding, and the arc of the hammer in his hand takes my breath away. It doesn't take long for him to look down and see me, loitering in the middle of the road.

I sign, Remember the flight to the burning cathedral? Your sword scattered the sunlight and gave you wings.

Zeph grins and hefts the hammer, then sees something in my face and sets it down. And he signs back, with emphasis on every word:

Don't. Start. Crying. Here.


[Semi-boilerplate text: As always, I hope you'll check out and support the Clarion West Write-a-thon (and me in particular, if you feel so inclined). Your donation will help a workshop that allows its students to create quality work like mine! Except often better, and coherent.]
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
...meanwhile, my brain is giving me someone named Tether, an aromantic, touch-hungry, skin-averse, heterophysical, sex-repulsed asexual who undergoes violence-hunger cycles in accordance with lunar cycles, peaking at the new moon. She gets paired with some guy called Knife, who as far as I can tell is a fairly vanilla heterosexual guy somewhere on the aspie spectrum, with a nearly eidetic memory and somewhat decentralized cognition. Who may also be a high-functioning sociopath.

I have no idea where my brain is going with this, but I suspect they fight crime.
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
I had this post roughly sketched out in the back of my head, but then my week got all crazy, my basement flooded, and I got sidetracked by writing about space elevators and hydroponic roses, so here's the distilled essence of the Post That Never Was:

Anna Hazare is awesome. You should all take a look at "Escaping Poverty: The Ralegan Siddhi case," and then we should all get started on sensible watershed development here. And everywhere. Though possibly Iowa City needs a different sort of watershed development program than Ralegan Siddhi needed, given Iowa City's aggravating tendency to either flood the Arts Campus or flood my basement.
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
I'm staying home sick today. It's been one thing after another: waking up at 4 and being unable to get back to sleep, getting severe cramps, being unable to breathe due to congestion, getting a bloody nose... on like this. And because I can't go into the office, I'm missing a meeting, and because I'm missing a meeting, I spent a good two hours – before the workday would even start, mind you, as I sent in my sick note at around 6 – stressing about it.

And I think, you know, this is really sort of a screwed up system this society's built, isn't it, that I have all this guilt and stress over missing a day of work due to circumstances beyond my control? I'm eating healthy. I'm getting about an hour of exercise, if not more, just about every day. I'm sleeping enough. It's not as though I'm getting sick over some sort of negligence on my part, and the two previous days this week where I was too sick to go in, I worked from home and met all my goals and deadlines. Illness is a natural part of being alive, and should not be something to feel guilt over.

And yet.

And really, a lot of these fundamental assumptions of How Things Go are kind of screwed-up. I've been reading through The 4-Hour Workweek recently, and kinda going "Hm, I wish, I wish" at it, but the central message is something of a paradigm shift: the entire professional life is built around putting off the things that are valuable to you until you've lost the best (most healthy, most free, most able, for the most part) years of your life. And as an added twist, the thing that's to take up most of our waking hours, the thing by which society expects us to define ourselves ("What do you do?" "I'm a web application developer." I am is a powerful term) is the mechanism by which we make money. Making money doing something we find meaningful is considered an advanced skill – and something you're lucky to have.

...I've been reading a lot about earthships, too (in that same I wish, I wish) vein), and one of the things Earthship Man Michael Renolds says is that economies should exist to take care of people; people shouldn't live to take care of economies. (One of the tenets of the earthship philosophy is that people shouldn't be reliant on an economy for the basics of their survival.) It's a compelling idea.

I find that, more and more, I want to be engaged in something meaningful. I'm lucky to have my job, and I'm learning from it – not just about the technical skills, but also about things like project management, documentation and reference structure, interacting with people and communicating clearly, setting measurable goals and motivating myself through them – but there's only a very small service component (I'm helping to support the University, and education is one of my big starry-eyed idealistic values), and there's no spiritual component to it, at all. I feel like if I didn't have the dry, pragmatic concerns – cost of living, cost of paying debt, especially my mountain of student loan debt – I wouldn't be at this job at all.

I don't know what I would be doing. I have dreams, certainly – teaching (teaching something), writing, building Earthships, building communities – but they're all dreams at this stage. For some, I don't know what my criteria for success are. For others, I don't know the criteria to begin.

I want to do something more with my life than what I'm doing. I want to know how to start.

Arrgh.

Nov. 16th, 2010 07:44 am
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
Well, now Wells Fargo has changed its tune and said that the money they were just holding for a stupidly long time isn't going to hit my account at all, and furthermore that they're charging me $12 for being yanked around.

RAPTUROUS JOY.

Fucking Wells Fargo. There has to be a way to just do everything through ING Direct.

>:|

Nov. 15th, 2010 08:52 am
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
So on occasion, when you deposit a check at Wells Fargo on some reasonable day like a Wednesday, the deposited amount will show up in your account on Thursday or Friday, stay there over the weekend, and then abruptly disappear on Monday for no reason you can discern from their online interface, and when you call up their 24-hour information line, an automated voice will inform you that it's being "held for verification" and will be available eight days later.

...

Fail, Wells Fargo. Hard fail.

At least I vaguely suspected something like this might happen and didn't touch the money just in case, but really, when you find yourself building the expectation that your bank is going to jerk you around into your routine...

[ETA] To be fair, I wouldn't blame them for holding it for verification, as this is a check I redeposited because it bounced the first time. It's the letting it hit my account for half a week and THEN pulling the funds that pisses me off.

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