Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Video Games will Make You Kill People! Really!

Another teenage gun rampage , another blaming of video games.

(Here's the one voice of reason I found from mainstream media.)

Now, I'm no Nate Silver, but a quick Google search led me to these unscientific results:

Retail copies of the last Counter-Strike edition sold: 4.2 million
Number of killings in which the perpetrator played Counter-Strike: 5

which does not seem to me like a statistically significant percentage.

I'm tired of hearing that this hobby (yes, it is a hobby, even if you do it a lot) causes people to go insane. Before they had video games to blame, it was rap music. Before that was heavy metal. Rock'n'roll was blamed for the hallucinogen craze of the 60s. People demonize things they don't do. People look for something to blame when it seems like the world's going to hell in a handbasket.

The sad fact of the matter is that some people are simply prone to going nuts. It's horrible, it's tragic, and it is unavoidable in a free society. Banning sane people from their hobby is not going to make one iota of difference.

Now excuse me, while I go rid the virtual world of some zombies.

Friday, February 6, 2009


According to dictionary.com, a hero is "a person who, in the opinion of others, has heroic qualities or has performed a heroic act and is regarded as a model or ideal".

For a pictorial and audio definition, all you need is this.

'Nuff said.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Java Hurts My Brain

WIP Update: After my epiphany yesterday and a lot of thinking about why I'm stuck at this particular moment, I've decided that what has me stuck is a lot of "I know WHAT happens, but not HOW it happens." On three different fronts. In other words, I've written myself into a corner yet again. So while my subconscious works on detangling that, I'm submersed in Java.

It's in my profile, but I haven't really gone into detail here on what I'm coding in Java. So here's the scoop.

Every time I find myself written into a corner on the WIP, I crave a tool. The tool I'm looking for will let me dump the random, unorganized stuff in my head onto the screen and then allow me to drag and drop it into a picture of perfect organization. Theoretically, at least.

The current tools out there, unfortunately, don't work for this purpose. I've tried yWriter, which is pretty good actually, but Mr. Haynes' mind appears to be more organized than mine. yWriter takes a lot more organization up front rather than allow you to dump-then-organize. Liquid Story Binder is cool-looking, but just doesn't feel right. I wish the windows were dockable, the color schemes you start with are weird, and the method for changing the color schemes is way too arcane. I wouldn't mind paying if it had hit me with a "YES! This is exactly what I was looking for!" but it didn't. Thank you, Black Obelisk, for letting me try it so that I could find that out. The only other viable option I can find is Scrivener, which unfortunately isn't viable for me, since I don't own a Mac. From the screenshots it actually looks fantastic, which makes me sad.

Therefore, says my geek mind, I must write a tool.

So what to write the tool in? I've always loved my Java text editor (JEdit, it's fabulous) and I use a Linux machine most often to write, so an Open-Source Java application seems like a perfect fit. That way, all those writers who use Linux and are bemoaning the lack of a tool will have one, and if it totally rocks everyone else can use it too.

The problem: I've been a procedural programmer for 22 years. O, how to reprogram your brain for the Object Oriented complexity that is Java. It hurts. It REALLY hurts.

Every time I think I have my brain wrapped around the intricacies of classes and objects and abstract classes and interfaces, something throws me a curveball. Every class having its own file leads to a veritable plethora of files ("Would you say I have a plethora of pinatas?"), making it very difficult for me to even tell what I'm working on. My quest for organization is running into a Java wall of not being organized enough.

Such is life.

Monday, February 2, 2009

It's Fiction!

I had an epiphany today.

After my most recent frenzy of writing, I've now been blocked -- again -- for a few weeks. I've tried every trick I know, and still nothing. So I went looking for tricks I didn't know. Yay for Google.

A quick Google search led me to a preview of a book called Unstuck by Jane Anne Staw, which appears to be a book based on the premise that writer's block stems from past trauma about writing. While I don't necessarily buy the premise, I'm always up for a bit of self-therapy, so I started thinking, and lo and behold there was in fact a traumatic writing event in my past. While I believe that my current bout of block stems from lack of planning rather than this incident, I think it may be the cause of some other problems I've been having, and ... well, I feel the need to share.

I was a rather precocious child; I skipped 1st-3rd grades. I was also apparently a pretty good young writer, and very empathetic even when I was little. This combination led to The Story. What I remember about this story is rather limited: I wrote it in one sitting, and it profoundly moved me; I remember being very sad for the protagonist. I also remember that it was 100% fiction. It was about an abused child (no memory of gender) with a brother named Joey. I also remember that it caused a family Crisis.

My teacher was impressed with my story; so impressed that she didn't believe it was fiction. My parents were called to an impromptu parent-teacher conference because the teacher was concerned that I or someone I knew was being abused. One conference and the crisis was over. I don't remember this part. For all I knew, Child Protective Services was questioning my parents.

This was twenty-odd years ago, and I never wrote fiction again. I didn't even think of The Story until today. I breezed through research papers and essays, read everything I could get my hands on, and plastered memorized song lyrics all over my high school notebooks. I loved blank books, even though they stayed blank. When blogs appeared I wanted one. I wanted to write. I just thought I had nothing to say.

Finally last year, I bought a book on writing with the Borders gift card I'd gotten for Christmas (Your First Novel, by Ann Rittenberg and Laura Whitcomb). I bought this particular book because the entire first chapter spoke to me. It said, "See, you do have something to say!"

I started my novel that same month.

Thank you, ladies. You helped me get writing again after way too long.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Breaking Silence

Eek! It's been over a month since I posted anything.

Today I joined Twitter, LinkedIn, and Second Life. I'm not sure if I'll get hooked on any of these, but they're all being used as tools in a conference I'm attending virtually for the day job, so I'm dipping my toes. We'll see how it goes.

In work-in-progress news, I got a couple of very nice warm fuzzies from folks who read my partial draft over the holidays. It's always nice to get that positive feedback. I've written two chapters in the last month, which isn't all that much, but it's much better than nothing. I also found an awful lot of things to put in the "for revision once I finish the first draft" pile. If I don't deviate from the current plan, I have five chapters left to write. Yippee for the home stretch!

I've also been reading up a storm ...
A few weeks ago, one of the blogs I follow (not enough time to look up the post, sorry) posted a question: what book have you tried (and failed) to read? I responded with George R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series. I had wanted to read them for some time, I tried twice over the holidays, and I just couldn't get past the second chapter. Well, I tried again. And didn't look up until I finished the 4th book, only to find out that the 5th is long overdue (sob!). Unfortunately, book four was predictably disappointing. I had been warned, and the author very kindly put an explanation into the end as to why this was, but we never saw my favorite characters. I'm waiting on the edge of my seat for the next installment.

My quest to learn Java in order to code a platform-independent novelwriting application has hit a huge milestone as well: I feel comfortable with the language at this point, so now it's just a matter of putting the thing together. It's an incredibly large undertaking, so it'll be a while before I have a beta or any screenshots available, but it's progressing.

I think that catches the blog up to everything I've been doing since the last post. Phew!