Friday, December 9, 2011

Twenty Percent

I've been going back and forth with my credit union talking about loan modification, refinancing, extensions and so forth. The whole process has been enlightening and made me think about the financial decisions I've made over the last ten years. Buying a home and using it to manage your debt is the biggest financial decision a person generally makes in their lifetime.

The best advice I think I could give someone else is simply this: plan to have at least 20% down when you decide to buy a home. In saving up that 20%, give yourself no longer than 5 years to that end. During that 5 years, live within your means and avoid unnecessary financial liability. This assumes a 30 year mortgage being the product you'll be shopping for eventually.

If you can't save 20% of the value of the home you're looking at over 5 years, you probably couldn't afford it anyway. If the value of the home might come down to where what you can save in five years equals 20% of the value, it might not be a good investment. You can prepare for tomorrow, but good luck predicting it.

If you can afford to save up the 20%, you'll probably be able to afford the home and pay it off over the 30 years of the mortgage. Yeah, that math would indicate that if you could save 20% in five years, you should be able to pay it off in 25 years all things remaining constant. Don't forget that you'll have to pay property taxes, fees associated with the loan, homeowners insurance, and maybe even flood insurance. Homes have lots of hidden costs, hence the 20% over 5 year metric I employed.

Depending on the size of the loan, your closing costs could be $3000 or more.

Banks used to require 20% down for a home loan until their own greed (and our government) encouraged them to lend to people for 5% or less. This is extremely dangerous in my opinion because it robs people of the perspective and personal incentives needed for such a purchase. It's my opinion that the cost of a person's lifestyle can't be factored in until they've actually tried to save up that 20%.

A lot can happen in 5 years while you're saving up that 20%. The value of the type of home you want could go up, but so should your earning power. That 20% figure should be reevaluated every time you get a raise, switch jobs, or incur long term financial liability like student loans or kids.

That's all I got, good luck.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Healing

I'm printing out a manuscript I deemed unworthy of edit or finish back in October 2009. I wasn't doing very well back then, and may have even described that project's demise in my blog at the time. I wasn't well when I wrote that book, nor when I passed judgement upon it. Because I'm doing better, part of me thinks the book might read differently to me now.

Maybe I can even heal the work with a dutiful editing of its content? I guess we'll find out.

I didn't edit any of my own work back then. My wife had time, and I felt better about asking for help. I think this hurt me as a writer, at least with regard to assessing my own work. I need to go back to what I wrote in 2009 and edit everything forward, with my own eyes and by my own hand.

Hopefully, I can garner some perspective and a skill I sorely lack.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Quiet

Noise is marketed, packaged and shipped like so many other things in this world. It's hard to go anywhere without finding it in high quantity and low quality. Movies and television shows are just orchestrated noise with some expensive visuals synchronized to play along behind it.

To that end, I'm making a new commitment to silence. I think it's an important virtue that so many people fail to exercise effectively and consistently. People think it takes courage to speak up, and sometimes it does. It takes wisdom to know when to shut up.

So, do not spread the word. Do not tell anyone about this new movement I'm starting, and certainly don't talk about it.

Just be quiet. Thank you.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Captains Of Finance

If any of the Captains of Finance are wondering why the OWS movement has gotten all sorts of traction and international attention... they need look no further than the Mayors and Governors playing into the OWS's hands. Bloomberg should have just thrown a press conference and had the NYPD beat the heck out of kid clutching an American flag. It would've been cheaper and had the same results. Like I needed more proof the world has lost its mind.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Well Done Albany PD, New York State Police

You guys are professionals.

"The bottom line is the police know policing, not the governor and not the mayor." - State Police Official

Occupy Wall Street Movement, and the Police

Photo via Flickr and probably from these folks. (Still trying to find out who took it.)

I don't troll the internet looking for video of police beating, shooting or otherwise harming protesters affiliated with the Occupy Wall Street Movement. You don't have to, it's starting to get common enough that it's everywhere. I'm beginning to think that US policy makers, mayors and police chiefs don't think this will spiral out of control; that something like the LA Riots can't happen again in the United States.

As more people drop below the poverty line and European countries continue to engage in the same financial brinksmanship we have, the situation gets even more dire. People are getting desperate, and they are tired of not being heard. I don't even agree with half of what the Occupy Wall Street movement espouses, but I 100% sympathize with them now that police departments are acting outside the confines of the law to suppress these people.

Full disclosure: My father's been a member of Law Enforcement virtually my whole life, so I'm not making these comments out of any bias for or against the Police. I've seen what the average police officer is capable of... the same thing any other human being. The problem is that they don't have room to make mistakes in a world where one in five people have a smart phone capable of shooting high definition video and sending it to the internet in two taps of the touch screen.

I doubt the police officers responsible will ever be held accountable. Right now, something like that would make the national news, and that's something no town or police department wants. The Police have already put the movement into the mainstream and are threatening to give it a sort of legitimacy that get's attention without solving any of the larger problems.



While people are looking at disgruntled college kids getting kicked around by the police, kids that might be their own, focus shifts from the real problem. I believe that many people that bought a house without putting 20% down, bought things they didn't need on credit, and took out student loans instead of looking for work outside their home town, are just as much to blame as the banking industry for what's happening in the US. That said, I believe that the Americans who engaged in these unwise financial decisions have suffered, and dearly, for those choices.

The Banking Industry hasn't paid the price for their participation, suffered crippling regulation, or been seriously investigated by any government entity responsible for protecting the public from those actions. On the contrary, they've been rewarded and given a pass by our government and allowed to continue on using the same tactics they used before. The US Government has passed new legislation, but none of it has any teeth or means of enforcement.

The banks can pretty much just ignore it.

I feel badly that the Police are left to bear the brunt of the people's anger over this. Protecting a populace from themselves and a criminal element is at least a noble pursuit most of the time. Getting paid overtime to protect the interests of soulless corporations and policy makers too blinded by the money flowing into their reelection campaign funds? Yeah, that would make me question what my oath and my badge stood for if I were a member of Law Enforcement.

As a citizen I don't know what I'd do if our own tiny Occupy movement came under attack in this way. It'd get pretty personal, and I don't think I'd sit by and watch the police take those kinds of actions in my town. I can only imagine how the people in Oakland must feel, and that's really the crux of the problem with the police taking violent action against the protesters.

The flip side is that the protesters need to make sure what they are doing is as legal as possible and that any laws they disobey be done in a civil manner. Using the cause as a front to traffic illegal substances, provoking the police needlessly, or causing local businesses to suffer will hurt the Occupy movement. So far, this has been a battle for public opinion, and if the Occupy folks continue to be merely civilly disobedient, they might have a chance.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Elephant Ears & Corn Dogs

Been hitting it pretty hard this week.

The rate at which I am able to edit text is frustratingly slow. It's maddening in equal measure to how rewarding it has been. I've been moving quickly to generate content but it's clear I'm not so patient when it comes to going back and doing revisions. I want to eventually give this polish to all my projects.

I want to embody the patience that makes a good craftsman. Right now!

Livestrom and I went feature complete a couple weeks back and we're quickly approaching the completion of our initial offering of content. My Thinkpad e420 is probably confused as heck. It's seen more action than my Macs have this week. Live told me his sister was surprised that we were coming to the end of it. Given how hard it has been to hold that project together, I'm not surprised she's surprised.

We started with a half dozen folks committed to the project and eventually ended up with just Leaf and Live rocking the remainder. I love working with other people that possess the same work ethic I do.

I've done one complete edit on one of my novels and I'm slowly working through my Storytelling Sciences book. It's bigger than my first novel, pushing nearly 100k words. By far, the editing of that project has been the biggest mountain I've had to climb in the two years I've been doing this.

To everyone that has insinuated that self-published authors deserve less respect than commercially published ones... you don't know anything about anything. Writers that take on the task of writing, editing and promoting their own works are titans that come to the craft in the way it was meant to be.

Meanwhile, I have several ideas for novels I'll write next year. I've already done a couple 40 page outlines for each and the concepts are beginning to spawn dreams and impressions while I sleep. This is one of a few ways I know I'm ready to tackle a new piece of writing, when my subconscious is getting in on the game. There are so many landscapes I've had the pleasure and horror of visiting while I slumbered that made for great scenes in my writing.

By the end of the year I hope to have one Novella, one Novel, one RPG Book and one WP7 App (TBS Game) ready for the marketplace. I figure at this point that I've only got about 40 working days remaining. I feel a little bit better about my prospects for reaching my goals now than I did three or even two weeks ago. This week has been awesomely productive put in the proper perspective.

I was complaining to my wife the other night about how it seems like I've done so little in two years. Then I stopped and made a quick mental list of what I'd done and how many new skills and tools I had to reach out to along the way. I spent most of August being my own worst enemy, with an internal monologue that basically kept me going through the most difficult part of chemical depression, my old friend apathy.

My Hunter LARP has been kicked to one side, neglected for the last month. I've been told that the people participating are patient folks that are ready to play when I'm ready to run a session. I hate not being able to do everything I'd like to do. I've written what will probably be the beginning of an epic Classic (1983) D&D game when I shut my Primordium Table down for maintenance.

I have to begin serious play testing for my SS RPG next year and I'm already nervous about whether I'll be able to gather together enough of the right folks. My anxiety makes me feel worthless, and like I should just quit everything and find a nice safe job doing something for someone else that slowly kills my brain. Why are there so many people selling elephant ears and corn dogs beside the low road?

All the best and most noble things in life are the things we do for their own sake.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Smoke and Vaporware

I've been an avid reader of John Gruber's "Daring Fireball" for over two years now. I even bought a couple Daring Fireball T-shirts, a black and a grey one. I've always enjoyed his objective take on things and the way he thoughtfully presents things. He gets a lot of flack because he's Apple-centric in the way he writes and a great source of PR for that company.

Full disclosure, I also use a number of Apple's products. Since 2009 I've owned four apple computers, an iPad, and an iPod Touch. I'm also firmly in the Windows Phone 7 camp and have a couple of Thinkpads running Windows and a Samsung Focus. My most modern Lenovo dual boots Windows 7 and Ubuntu. When it comes to operating systems, both desktop and mobile, I'm a well rounded and open minded guy.

Microsoft released a video of one of a number possible futures for mobile business computing that I found fascinating. John has been relentless in his criticism of that video and has posted a lengthy defense to that criticism. Speaking as someone who loves Microsoft's Metro-designed Windows Phone 7, I don't share John's feelings.

John's entitled to his opinion, but I think the video introduces several ideas that would revolutionize mobile computing. I agree that there are many things in the video that are sitting in the distant future. There is one thing I saw that I desperately want, and I think is within reach if Microsoft, Apple or others wanted to reach out to it.

I would love to be able to point the camera on my tablet at the display for my desktop and be able to set a file transfer based on what was on the screen, and vice versa. Using optics and displays as a LOS based interface to initiate file transfers, access advertising and make purchases would open all sorts of doors for mobile computing. Being able to share information this way would make offices, big and small, more efficient.

Obviously, there would be significant security considerations to overcome, but then, there always will be.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Looking For Words

The english language seems to languish on the pages I've written recently, but the words are flowing in the right direction. It's like fishing in a canal, you won't always like what you catch or see float by, but water is water. Even when you're doing what you love, it isn't always roses and blue skies.

I beginning to see the value of editing your own text. There is so much in the conventional realm that teaches that we're better off letting someone else alter our writing in the aftermath of writing it. As distasteful as it might be, there is some value to cleaning your own fish, even if it was caught in a canal.

I'm beginning to see words and the structure of my own language differently. Mostly, I'm just disappointed. I've got very little rhythm, but I see myself having improved a lot since 2009. My writing before that was pretty stagnant. It's true what they say, if you want to get better, you need to make a lot of text before that will happen.

Giving myself the time and space to write in bulk has been really valuable. Looking at the sum of my work, it's clear most of what I've written in that time is pretty underwhelming. I'm glad.

People always wish for this sort of instant success, to win the lottery of life, while discounting the journey. They, who were never amateurs relative to their craft, have no stories, and no perspective on their professional identity. In having to be humble about what I've done, I'm probably avoiding a gut punch by way of hubris later.

It's going to be a peaceful winter.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Negativity

My blog has been pretty negative lately. Not sure why I'm such a cranky man these days.

Maybe I need pills. :-)

Monday, October 17, 2011

Criticism

I spent the day editing text. In the aftermath I sat down to Netflix, loaded up some of my favorite shows, and proceeded to watch. Now, as I sit down to write this, I find myself in contemplation.

After spending the day scrutinizing every word and sentence I wrote, I find it difficult to enjoy any of my favorite shows. Granted, these are new episodes I hadn't watched yet, and maybe Season 3 of "Lie to Me" really does suck. Maybe the folks that produced "Law and Order: Criminal Intent" Season 9 were completely out of their minds. I'm having a hard time discerning whether I'm just being hyper-critical because of what I spent the day doing, or if my favorite shows took a turn for the worse at a certain point.

I started watching "Sons of Anarchy" Season 4 about the same time I started editing this particular document. I like the show less and less as episodes are released. I'm beginning to suspect that taking the mindset required to edit your own work effectively changes and colors your perspective on everything else.

Ending the day with a couple episodes of my favorite TV Shows is relatively new. It used to be I'd just have something playing in the background while I worked and play video games after I'd logged my time. I particularly liked shows that took place in workplaces and were accompanied with the sounds of those workplaces. So much of "Law and Order" takes place on city streets and in an office. I think I like the way the show sounds a lot more than the stories, characters or acting.

I think I need to find some way to unwind after my work that doesn't involve fictional works, staring at a screen or enduring another episode of one of the various "Law and Order" television programs. I spent the weekend painting miniatures and listening to the rain, maybe some combination of that should be my pastime for awhile.

Maybe I'm just cranky because I'm forcing myself to edit text so I'll have an assortment of finished products by the end of the year instead of an ever-growing stack of drafts and manuscripts. That's highly plausible in the wake of dreaming about books I've only outlined and longing for some sort of creative release. Whatever the case, I'll be glad when my two novels and this 90k word piece of non-fiction I'm editing right now is safely behind me.

2012 can't get here soon enough. I want to get back to just creating text and procrastinating recklessly on the task of editing it.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Fun with OS X Lion, iCloud Services

It's 2009 and my Asus Laptop has just crashed due to an update from the manufacturer causing the device to brick. While my journey to iOS 5 and OS X Lion hasn't been so dramatic, I'm certainly getting flashbacks of that fateful day I knew the laptop I had chosen couldn't function as a reliable consumer device, let alone a work machine.

In the last few days since I've made the switch to OS X Lion, I haven't encountered as many problems as I did when it was first released. Not being able to retrieve my email from my @me.com addy is maddening to say the least. Migrating from MobileMe was painful, like bidding a trusted friend farewell.

iCloud (MobileMe's successor) is buggy, prone to gaps in service, or it just doesn't work. I've spent some time exploring it's functionality and only the Calendar and Contacts syncing services seem reliable. Everything else either fails, works half the time, or not as intended. My iOS devices seem to be weathering the transition better than my Macs, which at least gives me an option.

Bottom line, I'll be seeking out replacements for the services iCloud provides and using my Lenovo Thinkpad to generate the more important text for my work. At the core of the issue is OS X Lion struggling to interface with and manage the cloud services Apple provides. I'm thinking they'll be fixing those things pretty quickly, but I've been wrong before.

If you haven't yet migrated your MobileMe account, upgraded to iOS, or made the switch to OS X Lion, I'd go ahead and wait a while longer.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

iOS 5, iCloud and OSX Lion

I'm anxious.

I got about half way through downloading Lion, for the second time, got cold feet, and cancelled the download. It occurred because of the lengthy list of things iCloud does not do when compared to the soon-to-be defunct MobileMe. They actually tell you as you're going through the process of transferring services. It's cool they did that so people wouldn't freak out in the aftermath. I think Apple will probably integrate all those old features as iCloud gets stable but my last experience with OSX Lion was less than stellar.

You need OSX Lion for iCloud to sync everything between Apple's desktop and mobile platforms.

I like the idea of everything being integrated, but it feels like a distinct shift from being a service professionals would use to one tailored for consumers. With Apple's increasing market share, I guess I shouldn't be surprised. I can still be disappointed.

I went ahead and put iOS 5 on my iPad because I hadn't yet given it a chance. While the new features are provocative, the walls around the garden have gotten higher. There are yet more applications shipping with the device you can't get rid of if you don't want them. They've even got one you can't hide in a folder because it basically is a folder.

iOS 5 signals a departure. Instead of holding a mobile PC in my hands, I'm saddled with a content delivery device I don't fully control. Maybe I was deluding myself before, but my eyes are wide open now. Looking at what Amazon intends to do with Android and what Apple has now done with iOS, I'm hoping the Windows 8 Tablet devices take a higher road.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Organized Religion & Fiction

I've largely avoided addressing religion in any of my fictional works. I've always constructed complex belief systems to serve the same function in their place. I've tried to give the protagonists and antagonists powerful ethical and personal reasons for their actions during the course of the story without any particular real world faith being involved.

In outlining a book I intend to write in 2012, I haven't had that same luxury. I will have to include certain elements of real world religions in the story because so much of it is told with our modern world as a backdrop. It's forced me to confront a lot of my own demons with regard to organized religion.

When entering into any sort of discussion about the benefits one finds among the fellowship of a particular faith, people are very quick to point out how they personally benefit. They basically imply that they gain access to celestial benefits everyone else is bereft of because they don't jump through the same hoops they do. They are essentially "better" than other people and derive a great deal of dubious personal worth to that end.

There is rarely mention of how they are able to access opportunities to do good in the temporal realm, and if there are, it's an afterthought. Worse, serving one's fellow man is generally a commandment one is expected to accept blindly because obedience is better than comprehending one's personal agency. For this reason, organized religion has little that appeals to me.

I'm not sure how being part of a traditional religious organization will grant me the contrivances one needs to aid others more than worshipping privately would. I see many of the intrinsic benefits one finds in such organizations, but I also see the long shadow such institutions cast. Looking around our once great nation, there is little benefit in supporting huge monolithic organizations these days, and even less in giving them money.

Then there is all the pseudo-social hoops one must jump through to gain acceptance into religious institutions. Honestly, being a creative person, I already spend enough time worrying about getting the perfect stranger to like and appreciate what I do. Mixing that with my desire to worship seems like a bad plan. I don't need the temporal body of a religion to tell me I have worth and a purpose. These are things I can just as easily provide myself, at no additional charge.

Clearly, I have strong opinions on the issue.

That said, I do not want my fictional works to become a soap box or platform for my views on organized religion. I don't think it would serve others, or my story, in doing so. In trying to be objective, it's made me realize a lot of things about myself and how I quantify faith.

I do tend to make my works something of a message about how important a person's agency is. Preserving one's own ability to choose while infringing no one else's is paramount to seeking Righteousness and the preservation of Justice. Both of those concepts, I believe, are intrinsic and require no validation on the part of men, Gods, or authors of fiction.

Communicating that same message in a fictional setting possessing elements of real world religions, will be a difficult challenge. I already have thousands of words worth of content collecting dust within previous attempts to do so collecting dust. Hopefully my latest attempt will be different.

I think that if I were to push my views in a work designed for commercial consumption I would be just as bad as the religious institutions I try to hold myself separate from. I do want people to know it is equally fine to practice one's faith in private or in the public forum that is organized religion provided they are doing so with their eyes wide open. Of course, the outcome of that choice isn't as important as how you live with and apply it.

Both require that you seek your own ways to be righteous in the world, and as much as it is promised, neither can really guarantee any celestial reward. Doing good while preserving your own agency and the agency of others is a reward unto itself and should be done as a matter of course relative to our very human condition. There need be no promise of ethereal blessings or heavenly protection. Relying on your own power to choose should be enough to navigate our temporal world.

It's easy to communicate this on my blog, but not so easy via a fictional work. It's easier when I take myself out of the equation and cease to worry about being commercially successful or what people will think about me when they read my work. Of course, my Twitter account does nothing to aid me in this endeavor. ;-)

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Wayne Static's Pighammer

As of today, I used to be a huge Static-X fan. Their last two albums very gently shoved me away. I really liked the idea of the metal crowd reaching across the gap to something with an obvious industrial influence. Their early stuff is very inspired, much the way Fear Factory was in the early 90s.

On to my point.

Wayne, Static-X's front man and song writer, has gone ahead and done a solo album. I went ahead and read the reviews and interviews relative to the release and listened to some of the tracks. I half expected it to be like picking up Fear Factory's "Mechanize" album and the music would sound like a moment of clarity.

It wasn't.

It does sound a little better than Wayne just fooling around in the studio for a weekend, but it doesn't fill me with confidence that either he, or Static-X will ever return to the pre-"Start a War" album days. Wisconsin Death Trip, Machine and Shadow Zone are amazing albums that defined a time in my life when I was mostly out of control, endlessly angry, and conflicted as a creative.

I'm better now. I promise.

If you're a hopeless fan of Static-X, it's better than Cult of Static and most of what's on their Cannibal Album. I think it will probably do well in that regard because the fans have been craving something closer to the Static-X's first four albums. In that regard, Pighammer delivers, and I may still pick it up to support Wayne.

Tomorrow is, after all, another day.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Thank You Steve Jobs

I spent yesterday morning in my bed using my iPad to generate text using the WriteRoom App. I didn't know yet that Steve Jobs had passed away. It wouldn't be until later when I'd pop open Safari and see Apple's site that I'd receive the news, and again when a friend called and left a message on my phone.

My good friend Dan suggested that we have some sort of gathering of our friends, with our Macs and iPads to reminisce about the fruits of Steve Jobs' labor. It felt silly for a moment, I mean it's not like I actually knew Steve Jobs. Then I thought about how much Apple's products had really changed my life.

I got my first Mac in 2009, at Elle Phillip's recommendation, a tool that would be integral to my personal metamorphosis. What a difference it is to have devices that will work as hard as you do. Tools that were crafted with the same care as you would craft things. My work in the last two years is a testament to that synergy.

In the last two years I've written close to a million words (I'm almost there) toward my books, rendered hundreds of hand drawn images, communicated with dozens of colleagues and peers, and done hours and hours of tireless research. My iPad and my Macs helped make those things possible by being incredible tools that redefined my workspace and my workflow.

Steve Jobs is responsible for the company that provided me those tools.

I remember vividly the day my iPad arrived at my home. I'd wanted such a device since there'd been even a hint of them, outside the boundaries of science fiction, back around the turn of the century. Steve and Apple understood what it would take to make such a device "Magical" for me. It wasn't the screen or the user experience delivered by iOS on a tablet, it was the 10 hours of battery life that would allow me to go anywhere I wanted and generate text and images without worrying about finding a outlet.

There are a great many people who do not understand Apple as a company or the type of person Steve Jobs was. The more callous of those folks make jokes about cult-like behavior on the part of their customers and Steve's own ability to warp reality. I think that if all you do is surf the Net, check email and play games, one can appreciate a Mac.

If your work ethic is such that you generate thousands of words of text and/or hundreds of thousands of pixels worth of visual content in a year, you'll come to more than appreciate a Mac. You'll depend on it. When you push your own limits as a creative person, you need tools that have no limits.

For me, Steve Jobs and company provided. I am hopeful that he's planted a seed at Apple that will allow them to continue to provide folks like me with the tools we need. I think for the foreseeable future, his legacy is secure.

-- Sent from my Tech Envy Generator, using the BlogPress App, edited on my MacBook Pro

Monday, October 3, 2011

Junk Drawer

Everyone has one and every writer should have two. All the things I've written that go nowhere often help me climb otherwise impossible creative obstacles when reviewed. Hindsight is twenty-twenty when it comes to creative things. There are so many things you can do right in the present if you knew what you did wrong in the past.

Make sure you keep what you did in the past, no matter how terrible or malformed.

(Edit: It occurs to me there's two ways to read that last sentence, comma arrangement notwithstanding, both work...)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Amazon Fire Tablet

There is a ton of hype surrounding this new device. Then there's all the shameless headlines claiming this device will take on Apple's iPad just for page views. Finally you have what must be obviously a serious gamble on the part of Amazon releasing a $200 Android tablet at what is probably cost.

Does Amazon have the content to back up handing these things out for virtually no profit? I think they do and then some. The problem is that the media and tech blogosphere is being really quick to shove the little guy into the ring with the iPad. It'd be like watching a Ford Focus try to outrun a BMW 530d during a chase scene in a John Frankenheimer movie.

Maybe if Robert De Niro is in the Ford Focus, and he's packing a H&K MP5.

I don't see a lot of people holding an iPad in one hand and an Amazon Fire in the other and weighing the pros and cons of each item before making a purchase. They barely resemble each other in what they would and can be used for by both casual consumer and tech adept. Employing my previous comparison, I don't see someone who went in to buy a BMW 530d being talked into a Ford Focus instead, and vice versa.

There's some chatter that Amazon's Fire could unleash doom for it's more expensive Android brethren fighting for market share. Could a cheap device being handed out at cost for the purpose of distributing paid content wreck the ambitions of devices put on the market to provide that and dozens of other services in addition, just because it's cheaper?

The tech market is largely perception based. It is for this reason that companies don't release their sales figures unless they are pretty sure they're top of the heap. Just because a device doesn't sell well, there must be something wrong with it. Given the youthful nature of the mobile computing device market, it's not odd at all that it would all look like melodrama unfolding in a junior high hallway.

The analysts making the assertion that a $200 price point will give Amazon an edge in competing with Apple haven't been paying attention to the last 10 years of mobile computing. My first laptop in 1999 was $2500 for a 200mhz. Most of the people who buy and rely on mobile computing devices are used to paying a high premium for the privilege of bringing their computer with them wherever they go. Relative to what my iPad does for me on a day to day basis, the $700 I paid back a year and a half ago seems like a bargain.

Yes, it's easy to forget that I'm not the typical iPad user and that even the games loaded on my iPad are somewhat work related. I use it to create far more content than I consume, something the majority of people who use desktop computers at home probably can't say. I'd really like to bash Jeff Bezos (it'd be easy) for his snide comparisons made during the unveiling of the Fire tablet, but he isn't trying to sell one to a guy like me.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Old Staff Fighter verses New

Clickorz to emgiggen

Sadly, the older pic looks better when cut and diminished to 200 x 240 pixels for the fly-in graphic during combat. Dave and I have been talking about developing for a different platform that would give me more screen landscape to play with. Might not be a bad idea as my artwork outgrows our current 800 x 480 limitation.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Artist Evolution

Clickorz pic to embiggen

When I was a kid I couldn't figure out which of my hands was the dominate and it wouldn't have mattered much because I couldn't tell my right from my left most of the time. Writing a sentence was a challenge until a few of my teachers got together and spent considerable time helping me retrain my chaotic mind to control my limbs. I still suck at Street Fighter.

I've been working on doing the Artwork for a game for the Windows Phone with a friend. I've been a doodler since I was small because I was told that anything I did to train my hands would help me overcome my disability. I wasn't very imaginative back then so it was all Transformers and thinly veiled replicas of my favorite comic book heroes.

I was talking to my business partner and friend last night about the progress in the game when he told me he'd handed it off to someone he works with. Every time he does that my heart sinks a little bit because like most creatives I thrive on the thing I fear most, criticism. So far, including what was described to me last night, everyone likes the artwork for the game. That's a big deal for me because I've only been doing digital artwork for a year.

My cousin posted a blog to his google plus stream that had been maintained by a gentlemen who started at ground zero and eventually transformed himself into a remarkable artist. I haven't posted a lot of my work because I'm self conscious about it, but the blog made me go back and look at the work I'd done in the last year.

I've painted/drawn/rendered Master Red, a character in our game, dozens of times trying to get him to look right. I wanted him to portray magnetism and intelligence like so many of the good people I associate with on a daily basis. I wanted he and the other two masters to be inspiring when the player sees them on the screen of their phone and receive their mission orders.

I'll have to go back through all my files and find some for Masters Blue and Green, and some of the other characters we've introduced over time. I'm beginning to see why keeping your old artwork is as important as keeping your old writing. Looking back I can see a lot of things I did right day 1 and things I still do wrong to this very moment.

When I'm simply told "this is awesome" it does little to help me refine this skill I've had to reach out to. It does a lot to keep me going though because drawing is extremely tiring for me and I think has been the source of a lot of my eye strain recently. Any fuel to carry on burns the same, and I'm grateful.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

In The Name Of God(s)

Folks ought to figure out the implications of their actions relative to their own temporal identity before doing it in the name of a Celestial one. Maybe God doesn't care about your earthly means and contrivances? From what I've seen, it's a lot safer bet. Glorifying a heavenly entity shouldn't be about earthly things that won't matter in a month.

You want to glorify a Maker, a (the, w/e) supreme creator of stuff? Create something that can't be spent, lost or easily forgotten.

Okay, I'm done for awhile. Ranting that is. Maybe.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Illustration Frustration

I started doing some illustrations for a small book I've been putting text toward for a long time. I feel pretty good about what's in the book, but the type of illustrations I want aren't completely inside my skill set. It's nothing fancy, just some small bugs that live in my mind.

I've done a fair number of extremely detailed drawings of these characters but I want what I put into the book to be far simpler and very small. I want there to be little Chitterlings in the corners of the pages, sitting at the edge of the text as though it were a ledge, and similar. I want them to be no larger than three times the height of the text unless they are standing next to a header.

It's a statement about the type of creative person I am in general. I like to make things complicated.

Trying to limit myself to as few lines as possible to craft the little guys on the pages. I'm allowing myself some liberty when it comes to rendering things they are carrying, but otherwise they need to be extremely simple. The book is part of my table top RPG I've been creating over the last five years and I'd like to finish it before the end of the year.

Maybe having illustrations at all is just a bad plan.

Gonna take one of my precious days to craft as many of these little guys as I can just to see if I can render enough of them that I like for the purpose. It feels like I spend way too much time with a tablet pen in my hand already. Being a one man crew on most of my projects requires doing a lot more of what I don't like as opposed to what I really enjoy.

Having some off-the-grid creative license in that regard comes with a price you pay in time.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Dear Me, Look Back Here In 112 Days

Looking in my Things App on my iPad this morning was pretty depressing. I'm writing this entry more to give myself something to look back on in four months than to illuminate anyone else that might read my blog regularly. Going into Fall and Winter my mental health generally suffers if I don't provide myself an even greater degree of focus.

I've got about 124,000 words left to write between two novels to make four total for the year. Collectively it's somewhere around 250,000 words that I'll have to edit and arrange for publish and make covers and such for. I've got a couple of people willing to help me with this but it will be a push to see it all happen before 2011 elapses.

Visting the Raging Rickshaw forums today made me realize just how much is left to complete our App for the Windows Phone 7 Marketplace. I think Dave and I have reduced the overall complexity of the game but added in several elements that will require a lot of additional artwork. I've got less than two months of real time to make that happen including the work that needs done on my novels into the equation.

I'm very close to completing several works for Storytelling Sciences and I'm not worried about the text required for that project. I've thousands of words waiting to go in and find a place. I've too much content if anything. I'd like to do some illustrations for the books though, something that might push the whole thing into next year. I need to find a play test table for the final form of the game, hopefully some folks that have never played it before.

I do a large amount of writing and creating for the purpose of recreation with my friends playing RPGs. It feels like a stretch to keep it all going and stay on schedule even after putting things into perspective with my Things App (awesome App btw). I would rather my work schedule suffered than my mental or physical health. My LARP crew has already stated that they want the game to continue after the first Chronicle is complete, and my RPG tables continue to contain interested folks.

Then there's the new Space Marine game. I will play through the whole thing on Normal mode before the end of the year. Somatic Dyslexia be damned.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Laying in Bed

My morning ritual since returning from vacation is to lay in bed and make text using either my iPad or my Macbook Air, whichever went on the nightstand before I fell unconscious. As a kid I hated getting up in the morning because some of my best ideas seemed to come to me in that half wakeful state. As an adult, I've typed so many words, I can actually work a keyboard in that same state.

The result is a few thousand words of odd ideas probably inspired by my travels, a fresh perspective and all those potato chips and cottage cheese I ate the night before. Strange and angry dreaming aside, I think that my trip to Seattle wasn't as restful as I would have liked. The Penny Arcade Expo was incredible fun and I hope to make a return visit, but like my typing in bed, it was a somewhat awkward experience.

I mostly abhor any social situation involving more than a half dozen people. To that end, I'm glad we had so many friends present in Seattle with us and a pair of gracious hosts willing to navigate the labyrinthine roads and highways to get us where we needed to go. The weight of the journey always seems to fall sometime after you've returned home.

It's Friday, and tonight I'll get to roll some dice and pretend to be a Lawful Evil Elven Wizard. I have a different outlook on table top RPG gaming than I did previous to visiting PAX. I'm excited to participate for completely different reasons. I guess it takes being in a cramped space with thousands of like minded people to make you realize how much you are part of a culture.

I'd carried a sliver of guilt over the practice because I thought I was leaving myself bereft of more traditional social gatherings. I see now that I'll always have a more intimate connection with my friend playing her Chaotic Good Half-Orc Barbarian than I would passing the salsa at a Super Bowl Party. There's a difference between being on, and rooting for, the same team.

I've laid in my bed typing for almost four hours now, in the dark of my room. It occurs to me, I need to buy better pillows.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Finishing a Book

If you haven't ever finished writing a book, this is what you can expect if you ever do.

Step 1: Stare at the blinking cursor in disbelief. The mind floods with all sorts of chemicals that make you feel awesome and anxious at the same time.

Step 2: Like anything you create, you'll ponder whether or not it will teach others, make friends or just generally cause trouble.

Step 3: You'll want to print the darn thing out as quickly as you can, so you can hold it. The printer will (of course) be out of toner, so you'll have to go to the closest office barn and pay way too much for black gooey stuff for a machine to shoot out onto your paper.

Step 4: The darned thing will get printed out (finally) and you'll realize that you should have gone through it more first, added page numbers and other details that would help in the editing.

Step 5: You'll go and write something ridiculous on your blog or pat yourself on the back via Facebook, Google+, Twitter, etcetera.

Step 6: Suddenly, that sinking feeling will wash over you as you realize it's a first draft. Thousands of words you'll have to go through, over and over again, to make it right.

Step 7: The weight of a few thousand words rests a little lighter on whatever metaphysical force keeps you going. A little of what you were put on the Earth to do... is done.

Step 8: Smile.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Lenovo E420, Ubuntu + Windows 7


I grew tired of running my WP7 developer tools and Ubuntu inside VMs and decided I would start looking for a dedicated Windows machine. After my iMac died, I had to cut my usual six months of looking down to about ninety days. I wanted something that had a great keyboard and would seamlessly run Windows 7 and Ubuntu 11.04 side by side.

After some looking around I found the Lenovo E420 on Amazon for $499.99, provided by Tiger Direct. The specs on the machine were exactly what I was looking for, something running on fairly low wattage, great keyboard and cheap. I was reasonably concerned about dual booting Ubuntu and Windows 7 on it, even though everything should have led me to conclude that a Lenovo would work like a champ.

The only one that seems to have more Linux certified laptops than Lenovo was Dell. I did spend a fair amount of time on the Dell website, and found lots of machines with the right specs, but horrible keyboards and design otherwise. I decided at length to go with the Lenovo even though I'd read about people having problems with the wireless.

It arrived promptly. I was amazed at how light it is, even for a 14" laptop, it's very easy on the arms. I was surprised when I opened the box and pulled the laptop out. It clicked on and worked in every respect on the Windows side from the moment I booted it up. As I suspected from the pictures and reviews, the keyboard was excellent, even better than my MacBook Pro.

After I loaded Ubuntu 11.04 and updated it via ethernet cable, everything worked perfectly, except the wireless. Here's what I had to do:

I opened Terminal in Ubuntu and typed:

sudo gedit etc/modprobe.d/blacklist.conf

This opened the file in gedit. I scrolled to the bottom and added this:

blacklist acer_wmi

I saved the file and rebooted. Went ahead and peaked in the bios to see if there was a wifi switch built in. Someone on one of the forums recommended I turn that stuff off. It, of course, gacked my wireless abilities and I had to go back and turn them on. In the aftermath, the wireless popped on and everything worked in Ubuntu.

Disclaimer: I'm not a Linux guy and found that fix on the Ubuntu forums. That said, I would strongly recommend you avoid buying anything with the intent to run Linux if you're squeamish about getting into Terminal to fix things. As a writer I like Ubuntu for the customizable workspace and text editors, and use Gimp (image editor) every once in a while.

My experience with the laptop since has been pleasant. It's clunky and likes to PC-speaker-beep whenever you unplug things, the sort of fun and irreverent stuff you don't get from a Mac. There were other surprises as well.

The Good:

This thing never gets hot. Even running a pretty graphically intense game for a couple of hours, it barely even gets warm except near the vents. No heat comes through the bottom to your legs or through the keyboard to your hands.

The Keyboard is, of course, awesome, something Lenovo is known for. The only way to improve it were to make it backlit. Trackpad and old style pointer are the good you'd expect as well. Two-finger scrolling and such works just fine in both Ubuntu and Windows.

Battery life is decent for a 6 cell, particularly considering what I paid for it.

This thing is, for the most part, tough. All the ports are tight with no wiggle, no flex anywhere save a few places that don't really matter. It's very light in spite of feeling very durable.

For $500, it performs surprisingly well as a gaming machine. I don't have to have my games set to the highest settings to be satisfied though. It runs World of Warcraft at 30FPS with default settings at "Good" like a champ.

The Bad:

The screen has a terrible viewing arc. You need to be looking at it straight on otherwise it's washed out. The colors are very muted as well. A multimedia machine this is not.

The optical drive feels extremely flimsy. I wouldn't go using it as a caddy for your 20 oz. coffee mug, it'd snap right off.

No Bluetooth.

Other Stuff:

The speakers aren't bad. Better than I thought they would be for five hundred bucks.

The Lenovo bloatware isn't too obtrusive. I haven't removed anything except Norton Anti-virus because everything else hasn't gotten in my way yet.

Plenty of ports for what I do, and decently placed on the laptop.

For $500, I couldn't find anything that had the combination of features this device possessed.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Writing Process

Step 1: Write a 5,000 word outline.

Step 2: Take three weeks using the outline to write a 75,000 word book.

Step 3: Take three months reading your own text and sharing with a few trusted folks to edit and revise the content.

Step 4: Agonize about the content, overburdening your psyche.

Step 5: Rewrite the one chapter you despise setting off a chain-reaction of plot inconsistencies.

Step 6: Spend considerable time assured that you've ruined the work and that it should find a dusty home with "the others".

Step 7: Consumed by the remorse a creative person feels having abandoned one of their children, revisit the work until you've fixed all the plot consistencies.

Step 8: Return to the version of the book written before you rewrote the chapter you hated. Y'know, the one that seems perfectly fine now, in the context of the unaltered plot that makes more sense having revisited the marvelous outline you wrote.

Step 9: Look for rogue and/or absent commas, punctuation and other minutia that 95% of the people who read the work won't notice are amiss.

Step 10: Gaze down upon the finished fictional work and wonder how the devil you're going to get it published and through whom.

Repeat.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Diablo III Debacle?

Got some work done today but I couldn't help myself. I've been caught up in some serious anticipation waiting for a new Blizzard game called Diablo III. I loved the first two.

I'm a fan.

The first two games boasted free online play with other folks, single player offline play, whatever you wanted, on your own terms. You couldn't pay real money to level a character or upgrade your features. The first two Diablo games were so utterly bereft of the bullshit and industry shenanigans that they are enshrined on virtually every computer I own, even if I don't sit and play them for hours like I used to. I loved the mods people put out that let you mess with the game after you'd passed it seventeen times with each class.

Diablo III will have none of that from what I hear.

Online Play Only.
Cash for Item Marketplace.
No User Modifications.

I'm an angry guy right now anyway, and maybe some of how I feel is misplaced rage.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Amnesia Project

Last year I wrote a novella about a guy with amnesia (yeah, another one) that turned into a Storytelling Sciences setting. I wasn't really sure what to do with it. Having spent the last couple of days going back through everything I wrote toward the project, I feel like it needs picked up again. After a short conversation with a couple of friends it sounds like I may have a couple of interested readers.

Aside from the clarity one gains looking at their work one year later, it's an enjoyable read. All the pressure I placed on myself back then to write the book in the first place has evaporated. Just me and the text.

The novella is ten chapters written from the perspective of the three main characters, each taking their turn to tell the story. I really like having to switch gears as a writer to do this, but I'm not sure my readers will agree. Even if the first book isn't that great, it'll help me firmly establish those characters in my mind and portray them better in subsequent books.

I may not even publish the first novella for that reason. Yeah, see my other posts about the preparatory writing one does to actually pen that commercial work. Given that each of the characters are so decidedly separate from your standard person made up of human experiences, the process has begun to make more sense in that regard.

I had hoped to have readable copies by tonight but I want to actually finish the novella. Comparing my outline to what I actually have, I'm something like 12,000 words shy of my target length, two days of work. Guess I'll have to see if anyone is up for weekend coffee and some cheesy science fiction.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Boise MacLife, Aftermath

I got up this morning and said a short prayer that my day would go well as I headed down to do battle with MacLife. I arrived at their downtown location with the intent to inform the technician to halt all actions relative to our service dispute until I arrived at their Overland (30 minute drive from my house) location for talks with their owners.

I entered to find that not one, but both owners were there, a suitably rare occurrence I'm told. Apparently their roof was leaking over one of their displays and an employee had called in with a Kidney infection. Behold the wonderful and terrible power of prayer.

It was clear to me they were not going to let me have the screen. They believed that the PMU portion of the logic board which regulated voltage had gone bad and that the machine was not long for this world. I accepted this explanation as that was part and parcel to my suspicions back on the 15th of last month.

I felt that I at least owed them a $49 diagnostic fee and nothing else because the remainder could have been avoided with an accurate diagnosis. They still wanted to make an attempt to acquire my screen and wrestle with Apple to that end. One owner felt it was worth a short while the other believed it was a lost cause. I tended to fall somewhere in the middle as usual.

I had a nice conversation with the owners, asked them about the new Macbook Air and bantered a little bit. Turns out they are really knowledgeable in that regard. Then, one of them helped me carry what remained of my iMac back to my car.

I think that the lesson I would take from all this is to listen to yourself more than you do anyone else. Had I followed my instincts and had the display removed before I took it home, I would have avoided a lot of trouble... assuming they still had my screen when they made the promise initially.

In the end I still have a computer I can't use for work and I'm light $49 dollars I expected to pay anyway. That they allowed my computer to leave their shop less functional than when it entered only proves they don't hold themselves to the same standards I would hold myself. Simply, I navigate this life attempting to do no harm.

I would caution anyone that wishes to use MacLife's services to get everything you are told in writing, make sure you ask lots of questions and follow your instincts. In the end, I haven't tried visiting the Apple Store in the Mall for service so I can only say that MacLife is likely the lesser of those two evils if you need repairs done to your Mac. If there is a third option for having a Mac repaired in Boise, I'd love to hear about it.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Boise MacLife, A Summary of Events

Arthur brings in iMac on 07-15-11

Intermittent display issues and the computer gets hotter, faster.
Sometimes the display freezes and won't come back up after more than one reboot.

Arthur is told by the MacLife Technician that it could be the Screen, Logic Board, Video Card or a combination.

Arthur returns on 07-20-11 (3 Business Days Later)

During that time the Technician has installed a new screen and is confident that this will correct all the issues. Arthur is skeptical, still believing that the Logic Board and/or video card are somehow involve and relates those concerns. Also, Arthur did not approve the repair, only the diagnostic work to determine what repair should be required. The Technician offers to put Arthur's screen back in, no harm done, if he doesn't want it.

The Technician says that he’s had the new screen in a couple of days and that he’s run my iMac without any problems.

Arthur and the Technician discuss the cost of a logic board noting that if that were required, it would be nearly $1100 to fix. That being put into context, Arthur agrees to take the iMac and try it out on the condition that he be given a refund and his old screen back if the repair does not fix all the issues.

Arthur takes the iMac home and discovers that it has dead pixels but that it fixes some of the heat and display issues. Freezing and start up failure issues persist in the wake of the repair. Arthur takes some time to troubleshoot on his own before giving up and returning the iMac to MacLife.

Arthur returns on 07-26-11 (4 Business Days Later)

The Technician was wrong in their diagnosis relative to the screen. The iMac is still having issues. After a freeze it needed to be unplugged for several minutes before it would come come back up again. Virtually same problem as before.

Arthur asks that the Technician do as he agreed, refunding his money and reinstalling the screen. The Technician says that he will "try" to find the old screen and refund Arthur's money. Not understanding the Technician's apprehension he asks him some questions. Apparently Arthur’s screen was sent back to Apple. Arthur is baffled, but assumes that they will honor their agreement and give him his iMac back whole and his money.

Not having received a call, Arthur returns on 07-30-11 (3 Business Days Later)

The iMac is not fixed.

Arthur questions the Technician and Maclife Staff discovering that the screen was an exchange part, as opposed to a stock item, and that his screen had to be returned to Apple within two days receiving the replacement. Apple will not return said part, the Technician says it’s already left their warehouse on it’s way to limbo.

The Technician contacts the owner while Arthur waits.

Arthur discovers that the owner is willing to give him his iMac back, without a screen, and $375 of the $500 paid originally. This essentially deprives Arthur of $125 and a $500 part on an iMac that was mostly functional and now useless.

The Technician states that he will attempt to call Apple on monday to see if they will refund the money for the screen, resulting in a larger refund but still no screen in the iMac. Arthur is angry beyond the point of being rational and departs to spend a day in contemplation.

Arthur returns to MacLife on August 1st, 2011. Stay Tuned.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Post-PC Depression

I've felt like there has been a computer shaped hole in my soul for the last couple of weeks. My iMac is on the blink, and I've been craving a dedicated Windows Machine for my work with Windows Phone 7. In my mostly late night quest to find the perfect machine to round out my workflow, I did as I always do. I read dozens of reviews, looked at hundreds of machines and did no small amount of contemplation.

As usual, I bumped into a lot of animosity toward Apple Inc.

It occurs to me that there is a lot of misunderstanding about why people buy Apple computers. Marketing magic aside, the Apple will appeal to the sort of person that takes a year to make a decision when buying anything over $1000. They have long activity cycles which completely infuriate the folks who want to buy the latest thing, right now, this second, as quick as it can be shipped. Apple tends to update their gear once a year, and that's roughly how often you'll have the latest and greatest hardware.

I bought all my Apple devices shortly after they were refreshed so that the hardware was current at the time. With my MacBook Pro it was simply happenstance (my Asus got hosed unexpectedly), but with every other device, it was purposeful. I bought them in such a state as to allow for some ability to upgrade later. Roughly the fifteen month mark was my plan.

I like to have a plan.

The production cycle for Apple is an important measure of whether and when you should buy their products. The fine folks at MacRumors have figured this out and concocted this handy buyer's guide based on how long it's been since a product has been refreshed. No other computer manufacturer seems to have this habit of creating expectation relative to their products. Most seem to update as soon as there is new stuff to through into the interior.

There was a certain infamous article written recently where the author charged Apple with trying to convince consumers that specs don't matter, and that's why the technical specifications often lag somewhat behind competitors. I would argue the opposite, those things matter a great deal to Apple.

Most people do not buy and use a computer in the same way as a tech reviewer. They seem to be writing those articles for each other as opposed to the average consumer of electronics. I think the people who write computer and device reviews have so much tech pass through their hands they quickly lose perspective on the sorts of folks that drive the market.

My mom's Toshiba that's so old you'd expect to shovel coal into it to keep it running? It's a viable device until 2013 when Microsoft ceases to support Windows XP. Sans the OS losing legacy support, it will have an activity cycle somewhere around a decade. My wife's G5 iMac will be no different, already six years old and still capable of running Apple's Lion OS when it comes out.

I think the majority of consumers keep their computer until the device simply gives out or falls apart. More than a few have a storage space full of old obsolescence they can't bear to git rid of. You know how you are.

Yeah, I constantly dream of getting new computers and devices (and bags to carry them in), but as yet none of the Macs I bought in 2009 are likely to be replaced any time soon. That's a bold statement considering I once purchased a new laptop or desktop every 12-15 months from 1999-2009.

I plan to keep and use my MacBook Pro as my primary device for the conceivable future. Such plans are the coleslaw at the side of a big plate of tech envy though. The industry keeps churning out wondrous devices, like the Samsung Series 9 Laptop.

Here's the rub: I have talked about selling my MacBook Pro to upgrade many times, and gone through what is certainly a habit cultivated over ten years of owning products from HP, Asus, Toshiba, and similar. In a nutshell, I get that itch to trade up because the little guy is going to die soon. 15 months of use in the hands of someone like me is something like 3500+ running hours. The screen on my iMac gave out before the guts did.

I think there is some part of me that actually misses the tech grind though. I've even found myself looking at the Dell and Maingear sites going through all the endless combinations of different devices. Oh, and I can't stop looking at Alienware. I've wanted one since before they were bought out, and I still think they're very cool.

I wonder if they have support groups for this condition I have, whatever one would call it.

Post-PC Depression? As my father often says, yeah, I know...

Thursday, July 7, 2011

MacBook Pro - Solid State Drive

I own a 2009 Macbook Pro, a 5,5 MB991LL/A to be precise. It was the first Mac I ever owned and still my favorite. When my iMac started to act up I decided I needed to upgrade or buy something new to use as a primary. In the end, I decided to take my Macbook Pro from 4GB of RAM to 8 and add a 256 GB SSD.

I couldn't be happier with the outcome.

If you work with documents and projects of a size that require that you watch a loading bar a dozen or more times throughout your workday, a Solid State Drive is a good upgrade. xBench puts my MacBook Pro at 25 points higher than the average Mac Pro. Put into the proper context, my two-year-old Macbook Pro is a madman when it comes to most of what I do.

Aside from the performance boost, there were a couple of other bonuses I wasn't really expecting. First, my Macbook Pro is very quiet compared to before. It makes almost no sound whatsoever unless I'm playing a game and the fan kicks in. Second, it gets slightly better battery life now. Not a huge amount, maybe 25-30 minutes of additional operational duration.

If you are trying to decide between upgrading or buying a new machine, I'd take a look at an SSD as a possible option. Depending on your computer, it might be a significant performance boost for less money than a whole new machine. The difference with regard to my MacBook Pro was like night and day.

There's no Trim Support for the SSD I chose, but hopefully the release of the Lion version of Mac OS X will change that.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Without Duress

It's a turning point and a milestone when you are forced to reconsider your basic beliefs and live one's life differently. However, such a thing is also special when it is done without duress. It's rare enough in real life I have a hard time writing about in a fictional setting. Somehow it always feels sparse and contrived.

We spend so much of our time merely reacting instead of proactively engaging life. I notice that many of the fictional works that find themselves receiving a wider audience seem to include hapless folks in extraordinary circumstances.

In editing my first book there are many characters that are merely victims of circumstance. I've tried really hard to give at least a couple of the main characters the sense that they aren't merely reacting but working to create their own legacy in the face of adversity. Looking around in my own life it is difficult to find examples of people who are heroic without also being reactionary.

I blame the modern Christian faith for depreciating works of charity and acts of pious contrition. Much of what I think is pretty heroic is done by what would otherwise be idle hands and done out of some expectation rather than a pure measure of one's will. Trying to reach a US audience with these elements almost requires that your characters live in a strange vacuum or alternate reality.

Being righteous and portraying such an attribute in a fictional work is difficult without great care taken in both the language and the timing. While the act of writing such works should be a constrained mechanical process, the result must feel spontaneous as opposed to a reaction on the part of the protagonist or person.

Pushing past language to convey the intangible emotions associated with humbly aiding someone else is difficult. Most people have a pretty strict understanding of right and wrong they rely on instead of constructing that view case by case. I've read more than a few attempts to create these elements in a fictional work, most of the time I merely feel betrayed.

Like so many of the best things in literature portraying righteousness isn't done in a single sentence or paragraph. It is generally accomplished through the entire body of the work. Real life is no different I suppose, it isn't a single decision that makes us righteous, or one hundred, it is the sum of a lifetime.