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)
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)
Holy crap, I think I've got a short story done in draft. (Well, "short"; it's roughly 6600 words long. One of these days I'll figure out* how to write at commonly-acceptable lengths like 3000-4500 words.) I think I started this one sometime in mid-November. Not a bad start to the year, even if I probably won't have it out the door today!

* This is probably a lie.

Over the past few days of trying to tie everything together, I've been thinking about a couple of things.

Neepery on characters being afforded plausible choices. )

Neepery on plots that dig deep and plots that go far. )

And on we go. I've been writing for as long as I can remember, publishing for... yikes, 2005 was nine years ago already, wasn't it? –and editing professionally for over a year, and I've been to one of the most prestigious writing workshops in the speculative fiction field, and I still often feel like I have no idea how fiction works or how to write something that functions. Then again, I hear that this never really goes away, so I'd best get comfortable with continually working to figure things out and put neat labels on the tools in my toolbox.

[ETA] Welp, I read over it, and I'm still not entirely happy with the arc – but I'm not sure what I can do to fix it without writing a different story. So I sent it out! Because if nothing else, starting the year on a submission has some nice symbolic heft, and it is sometimes the case that other people like my fiction more than I do after a long writing/tweaking process. &o.o&

There are just about 50 minutes left in January 1. I'm doing pretty well!
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)

I have tofu marinating in a mix of balsamic vinegar, olive oil, honey, fresh rosemary, crushed garlic, black pepper, and powdered lapsang souchong. We are going to make it into fresh rolls tonight. (With green tea soba noodles because I have no rice noodles.) It is going to be delicious.

(Speaking of fresh rolls, I recently learned about how the skins for them are traditionally made, and the process is, as Joe Pastry puts it, "so ingeniously odd".)


My random thought upon waking this morning was that it would be really cool to make some kind of virtual coffeeshop. I think this was partially inspired by Coffitivity, and also by a bunch of articles on how the people you interact with most frequently palpably impact your performance, and thinking about how to form communities and foster community interaction when people in those communities might not be able to easily meet in person. But the idea that's rolling around in the back of my head is something like this:

  • On its most basic level, it'd be a chat site. Something along the lines of IRC, but it would take place in a kind of basic, bare-bones virtual "space", even if the only way the virtual space came about was through terminology. Frex: people could join "tables", which would be the individual chat rooms. They could also create their own tables and invite their friends. There'd be general tables for topics like politics, writing (or, more specifically, politics by region, writing by genre), and you could create public or private tables. Public tables could have short descriptions of the people "sitting" there: "I'm a writer working on the script for my first webcomic." "I'm a programmer working on a mobile app." "I'm here to meet new people; I'm a 34-year-old queer man in the Tampa area, into HAM radio and industrial music." People could join open tables based on who they might find interesting to chat with. Tables could set with upper limits on the amount of "seating" available, or let in as many people as they wanted.
  • People would be able to put things "on the table" for everyone at that table to have access to: documents, links, etc.
  • It'd be cool to integrate some kind of background audio like Coffitivity. It'd also be cool to integrate graphic design which supported the general coffeeshop theme; background images, maybe even something like LJ's gifts system where for some minimal amount of money you could buy people pictures of drinks. (I'd have to investigate how little money would be effective - not a lot to spend, but still enough that whatever processing fees wouldn't completely eliminate whatever micropayment the coffeeshop got. Like, it'd be cool to offer a $.05 virtual drink because most people would not balk at buying that, but after Paypal or a credit card processor or whatever took its cut, would there be a micropayment left?)
  • It'd also be cool to integrate optional voice or video chats.
  • You could have a little curated store where you could order tea and coffee and such – I'm thinking something like an affiliate relationship with an established tea seller, so you'd literally be ordering, like, the Adagio or David's Teas or whatever products, but (if you found the right company) they's give a percentage back to the teashop to cover hosting costs. And then regular users who ordered from the virtual counter could make the tea/coffee at home, and chat to each other about what they ordered.
  • There could be paid levels of membership which would give you things like archived chats, lockers where you could store files, dedicated tables, etc?
  • It'd be cool to make this a space which could facilitate virtual classes. Virtual lectures. Virtual open mic nights! Virtual readings! Virtual streaming of live music from "local" artists! Opt-in, of course; other people in the coffeeshop might get a notification or a sidebar listing public events and they could choose to listen to them, but the advantage of a virtual coffeeshop is that if you walk in on open mic night, you can choose not to make the audio exist for you.
  • It'd be kinda cool to have graphics for your status: a "hard at work and concentrating" icon, a "social; come interact with me" icon, a "taking a break from working" icon, a "deep in a conversation, please don't bother me" icon. Ideally, really easy to switch from a dropdown, and it'd show both in the table chat and on the description of the table. (So if two people at a public table both set their icons to "deep in conversation", people might think twice about joining them?) Ideally, also, there'd be multiple sets of icons that you could choose from. This one is an elderly black man! This one is a young Latina with a lot of piercings! This one is a robot! Here are generic smilies!

Now, a lot of this exceeds my current development skills, and I have no idea whether I'll find the idea as cool by the time I've acquired the relevant skills. But I wanted to get the high-level ideas down just in case it did remain an awesome idea, and also in case any other programmers showed up and were like "I also want to make something like this! Let's set up a GitHub and start hacking!" 'cause, hey, I may look back at this at some point and go "Ooooh." Or I may decide to dive into this as soon as my current teaching-myself-java fun times are done.

ONE NEVER KNOWS.

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. )

BART song

Jan. 7th, 2013 08:33 pm
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
1. I've made a routine out of my commutes in the morning and evening. I have the good fortune to be located along the BART line at stations where I can generally get a seat going both ways; even during the morning rush, when by Oakland the trains are packed full, standing-room-only, I'm generally tucked into a seat by a window where the morning light (when there is morning light, rather than drifting fog or steady rain) can pour in on me. These days, when I've managed my energy well enough that I'm not completely exhausted, too tired to think, I read. It's a 45-minute ride each way, which clears out a precious hour and a half for me to sit down and devour books. Which is an unparalleled luxury, given how little I was able to read before I came out here.

Little to do with reading. )

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