Friday, December 31, 2010

On the "Sudden Short Story" Series

So, I now have what I suppose is a series on my blog. The "Sudden Short Story" series started out when I suddenly had an idea for a (very) short story back in ... October of 2009, apparently. I wrote it out and posted it. That has since turned into something of a theme for me. I'll have an idea for just a very short story, and I'll write it out.
Occasionally, I'll get interrupted or be otherwise unable to finish it in one sitting right away. Once, this caused me to go months between beginning and ending the story, but usually, that gap is filled with a combination of being busy and forgetting to finish it. These stories don't actually have months of work put into them: It's a few man-hours at the most. They're basically creative endeavors for me, but I share them with the world here on this blog that maybe 3 people read. Well, still, at least one person enjoyed at least one of my stories, so some good has come of it, anyway.
By the way, I've got 2 stories for which I've jotted down notes, and new ones can pop into my head at any time, so stay tuned. ;)

New Year's Resolution 2011

So, I'm probably not going to be able to make enough blog posts in the ... just over an hour before the end of the year to meet my 2010 resolution.
I'm going to make my 2011 resolution be similar to my 2010 resolution, but this time, I'll write at least 3 blog posts per month. Yes, this means fewer posts per year, but rather than trying to average 1 post per week (about 4 per month), I'm going to hold myself to 3 per month. That way, I won't be able to make a huge back log. The worst would be having to write 3 posts on the last day of a given month.
So, look forward to 3 blog posts from me in January, I guess.

GURPS: Low-Tech Get!

So, Steve Jackson Games, as @SJGames on twitter, had a contest a little while back, wherein entrants submitted photos of their favorite low-tech tools. I showed them a photo of my staff, and I won, so I got a copy of GURPS: Low-Tech. It showed up about 2 weeks ago, and I just now got to opening it. XD
Now, it will sit on my shelf because I'm busy, until I stop being busy, at which point it will sit on my shelf because I have nobody with whom to play RPGs. :(

On TF2 and the Ghastlier Gibus

So, I play a bit of Team Fortress 2 from time to time, and it's got some significant differences from Team Fortress Classic. I won't go into the details here, but suffice it to say that there are some MMORPG elements, including an item drop system and customizable equipment loadouts. Among these are hats, most of which have no in-game effect other than their looks. One of these is the Ghastlier Gibus.
Acquiring the Ghastlier Gibus is a bit different, in that it's easier to get than most hats. (Most have to be purchased, uncrated, received as a gift or in trade, or crafted by combining 27+ other items.) There's an achievement called "Ghastly Gibus Grab", which is obtained by dominating (killing a bunch of times w/o being killed back) someone who is wearing the Ghastlier Gibus, and the reward is the Ghastlier Gibus.
The item isn't class-specific (TF2 has the same 9 classes as TFC), so it can be equipped to any class loadout, and it's not limited to just 1, either. Thus, I've equipped all 9 of my classes with it. Why? Well, for one, I don't have any better hat items (just the defaults), but moreover, it generates more Ghastlier Gibuses (Ghastlier Gibi?), since folks who kill me a lot can get the achievement, if they don't already have it, and thus get the hat. It's not a zero-sum game: The hats are unlimited, as they exist entirely virtually. Thus, I'm maximizing the production of value. After all, not only do my assassins get hats, but if they then wear them, and get dominated in TF2 by people who don't already have the achievement, then they spread the hats, and so on.
Note: I just uncrated 2 class-specific hats, so only 7 of my 9 classes are wearing the Ghastlier Gibus at the moment, but still....

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

An Open Letter to TV Networks, Regarding Halloween

Dear TV Networks,
I've noticed that you tend to run themed programming or marathons in October, leading up to Halloween. In particular, I notice that the themes are generally "horror" in the general or "zombies" in the specific. Sometimes it's a different specific, such as "slashers" or "Hitchcock", but not usually.
My point is this: For the season when, per tradition, the veil between worlds grows thin and those who died in the past year ready themselves for their journey to the afterlife, why not show films about ghosts and the afterlife? It would give us something different from the usual mix, and it's thematically appropriate.
Well, that's what I wanted to say. It's just my two cents.

P.S.: If you saw this post and would like to mention a good ghost- or afterlife-related film, then leave a comment below.

Sudden Short Story 4

Notes: I came up with this one a few weeks ago. Normally, I write these down right away, but I had already closed the computer down for the night, so I jotted down notes and went to sleep. Then I kept forgetting about it. Here's the story, finally.
Yog was in the arboretum mortis, reading some ancient literature, wheren his friend Randy found him.
"There you are!" he said, a little too loudly for Yog's liking. Randy, like most people, spoke and listened because he preferred it when having a direct conversation with someone in his own presence in meatspace. He was right there with Yog, after all, though Randy hadn't been left much choice. Quieting down after getting a stern look from a stranger across the room, he continued, "You've been offline for over an hour. I was starting to get worried."
"I decided to read these the old-fashioned way," Yog replied. "Back when these things were written, people didn't have any direct feeds. Frak, back then, the closest thing was a ticker tape, and they had to go to a special machine for it."
Randy took the opportunity to see what Yog was reading. He caught "and studied Whateley's gorilla-like lope as he crossed the bit of campus visible from the window.", and quickly responded - as it took him essentially no time to search the work in which that exact phrasing originated - "'The Dunwich Horror' by a certain Howard Phillips Lovecraft, early twentieth century writer of horror and something called 'weird fiction', which is apparently --"
"Do you want to know what I found that was interesting?" Yog interrupted.
"I might as well."
"'Yog-Sothoth knows the gate. Yog-Sothoth is the gate. Yog-Sothoth is the key and guardian of the gate. Past, present, future, all are one in Yog-Sothoth. He knows where the Old Ones broke through of old, and where They shall break through again. He knows where They have trod earth's fields, and where They still tread them, and why no one can behold Them as They tread.'"
"Well, seeing as how you didn't read the whole text to me, I gather that you wanted to draw my attention to that section, but all that I see is a bit of a coincidence. You're named Yog-Sothoth, there's a Yog-Sothoth in that book, apparently, but, come on, that's bound to happen at some point. With all of the weird names that people have, and all of the weird words made up for fiction, somebody's going to be named something that's been used before."
"Yes, but I'm not so sure that this is a coincidence. You know that bit of a gap in my memories, right? Well, I don't recall why I named myself Yog-Sothoth. I can't help but think that this is more than a coincidence."
"So, does this mean more book-reading," asked Randy, trying to not show his disappointment.
"No. I remembered something else. Let's go to the Sol System."
Yog got online, put the book away, and went to the front door, where Randy was waiting. They took off, and landed at the nearest warp-gate terminal. Yog went first, requesting a warp-gate to Earth, and stepping through as Randy asked for the same.

When Randy got to Earth, he initiated a call to Yog. "Hey, you forgot to specify where on Earth. I'm near Kyoto. Where are you?"
"It doesn't matter. I just checked and Mars is closer."
"'Closer'? Where exactly are we going?"
"We're going to an asteroid in the belt," Yog replied. He forgot to dissonate his communications, so Randy heard him as he said "warp-gate to Martian night, midnight preferred".
Randy followed suit, and soon both were standing under the night skies of Mars, at a gate that was shortly before Martian midnight.
"The Solar asteroid belt's pretty boring. There's nothing interesting there except 1 Ceres, and we're nearly opposite it!" Randy complained.
"Yeah, but I've got these numbers in my head that don't match anything else there. They work as systemic coordinates, though, so I might as well have a look. If you're coming, then make sure that you bring enough fog." With that, Yog gathered up a large volume of nanofog, set the protocols for long-term control, made an ovoid around himself, set the outside to shimmer, and took off into the night sky.


They moved through the belt, heading where only Yog knew. The destination appeared to be an ordinary asteroid. Randy caught up to Yog when he stopped, touching their fogs so that they could talk.
"So what's this, then?"
"I think that a part of me is here. I think that I've pieced it together: It is the gate, and I am the key."
"Well, then, how do you unlock it?"
Without answering, Yog moved toward the asteroid. He orbited it closely, looking for anything that he might have missed. After a few minutes, he stopped, and messaged Randy directly, informing him that he didn't see anything that would be out of the ordinary for an asteroid of that shape and size in that system. Randy moved up alongside Yog, and said unto him, "Well, we could start cutting, though it would take a while with this little fog. We could surely crack it with more material, but I doubt that you want that, if it really does contain a piece of you. Are you sure that this is the right rock?"
"Yeah," Yog sighed, "I thought so," and rested his hand upon it. In a moment, his hand sank, unexpectedly, into the surface. "Oh, maybe that's how it's supposed to work," Yog commented, as he sank further and further into the asteroid. Randy put his hand on the surface, but nothing happened.
"It must be somehow keyed to you, Yog," he said, and used his fog to look at and feel the area around Yog. "I'm not sensing any action, though." Too quickly, though, Yog was gone.
With nothing else to do, Randy waited. It was a bit unnerving, that. There was nothing to occupy his time, and even the nearest contact point was subject to luminal lag, so there wasn't much point to anything other than passive reception. Since he was waiting for Yog, Randy figured that he might as well look into some old media, but then, Yog emerged from the asteroid.
"Well there you are," Randy said, as he followed Yog back to Mars. "So? What happened?"
"I'm not at liberty to say, nor can I, really," said Yog, "Whatever is in there, there's a reason that I made myself forget it. This time, though, I at least got myself to remember why this rock is here, so that I don't repeat this incident."
"Well, it's not like you had much choice," Randy retorted, "since I was here, too. It's not like you could make me forget."
"Oddly enough, I feel like I could...."

"wheren" - a blend of "where" and "when", developed to express both and the interconnected nature of space and time
Note (2010/December/29): I apparently started this back on July 28th, which was itself apparently after I first had the idea, per my note above.

What I Got for Xmas 2010

Here in the states, Xmas is celebrated on December 25th, and it's traditional to exchange gifts. Here's what I got:
-a sweater
-pajama pants
-Under Armor (special case of under shirt)
-Forbidden Island (the cooperative board game)
-Mushishi (anime) ^_^
-some Munchkin stuff
-some money from relatives

I think that that's it. Everything's going to get some use. I'm on schedule to watch Mushishi in late January or early February.
What did you get for Xmas? Also, happy new year!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

On 3D, Color, and Talkies

So, you may have noticed a 3D trend in film lately. There becomes a question of permanence. Is 3D here to stay? It seems like a fad. After all, 3D was a gimmick in the 1970s and 1980s, and even back in the 1950s.
However, 3D has something in common with synchronized sound (a property of films known as "talkies") and color. It's part of how we experience reality. Reality has sound (except to the deaf), reality has color (except to the colorblind, though even they can see some colors), and reality is 3D (except to those who lack depth perception). So, while I'd say that films don't need to be in 3D, they also don't need to be in color. It doesn't mean that the technology will go away.
That being said, the previous point that 3D has come and gone might indicate that it will fade again since the technology wasn't accepted just because it was widely available.

Personally, I think that 3D will first solidify itself outside of theaters, where individual people watching their films on personal laptops or handheld devices will allow for the use of autostereoscopy, such as via a parallax barrier. That is, you'll no longer have to wear fancy headgear for 3D, since the screen will effectively "know" where your head is, since you won't be likely to change it, a la how the Nintendo 3DS will work. (It loses the 3D effect if you're viewing the screen from off to the side.)

How to Con-Go for Cheap

I felt like writing about how to go to a convention on the cheap. Here are some tips.
  1. Pre-Register, and pay for the whole weekend. Basically, this is how to save money on the initial cost. Pre-registration is usually cheaper than the same days at the door, but there's usually a cut-off point (maybe a month before the con, sometimes more, sometimes less). It might be possible to register between then and the con, so that you don't have to wait in line at the door, but it won't be any cheaper. Also, paying for the whole weekend is almost always cheaper than the sum total of each individual day, and sometimes it just makes sense. For instance, I've been to some cons where paying for the entire weekend cost less than or equal to two single days, so there was no reason not to get a 3rd day out of it.
  2. Don't pay for a hotel room. There are 3 main ways to go about this:
    1. Go to a nearby convention. If it's in driving (or biking or walking) distance, then just drive there in the morning & then drive back home at night.
    2. Stay w/ a friend. Maybe you know somebody who lives near the con (and might even be attending) who has a couch, and maybe you can do the same for them for a con in your area.
    3. Split a hotel room. This isn't as good, as you'll still be paying something, but it's cheaper than paying for a whole room.
  3. Don't pay for food. Pack your own. Sometimes, the convention or venue doesn't want people doing that (I haven't encountered this problem yet), so, to solve this, eat breakfast before going to the con, and eat lunch (and perhaps dinner) in your car/hotel room/friend's room with whom you're staying, or wherever you can manage to eat some sandwiches without annoying someone.
  4. If there's a raffle, then play it. This one kind of varies. You'll have to compare ticket prices, prize values, and odds of winning. If you're not sure, then you might have to play it one year to see whether what you win is worth it, and then play or not play in later years based on that. Note, though, that this represents a gain in market value. If you need money, then hold off on paying for tickets, since you'll probably win objects, and not money.

Also, there are some ways to save that are more highly conditional:
  1. Get a group discount. This requires two significant things. Firstly, the con must actually offer a group discount. Secondly, you'll have to join or make a large enough group. We're usually talking double-digits of people (10 or more, 25 or more, etc.).
  2. Run events. At least at gaming conventions, it's common for someone who runs a game to get money off of his cost of entry, sometimes up to the full cost of a weekend ticket. This often involves planning pretty far in advance, and always involves, well, running some games. FYI, I've never tried this. I'd personally rather pay and play.
  3. Look into special discounts. For example, some conventions give a special recruitment discount for wrangling up new first-time attendees.

So, there are some basic tips for attending conventions cheaply. Maybe this will be of some help to someone.

Post Surge December 2010

Today & tomorrow, I'm going to be posting about 20 posts to this blog. There are a few reasons for this:
1. I have a handful of unfinished posts that I need to wrap up & publish.
2. I have several post ideas that I haven't gotten around to writing.
3. I resolved to do about 52 posts this year.
That last one is the biggest contributor to why they're all bunched up like this. There was a convention back in October, which kept me busy, and then I got sick afterwards, and then November was a bit weird, plus Thanksgiving was there at the end, and then pretty much the entire period between Thanksgiving and Xmas was used preparing for it (both w/ gift-getting and w/ trying to fix the lights on the tree (they still don't work, by the way)), and now it's just after Xmas and the year's nearly over.
So, yeah, expect lots of posts here today and tomorrow.

Crazy Idea: The Seven Skies

I had a random idea for what the seven skies could be in terms of space travel:
The first sky is Earth orbit.
The second sky encompasses lunar orbit and the space between.
The third sky extends to the Solar system.
The fourth sky includes interstellar space, and is the path to the fifth sky.
The fifth sky includes other star systems.
The sixth sky includes intergalactic space, and is the path to the seventh sky.
The seventh sky includes other galaxies.

I suppose that this could be useful in SF, particularly regarding a space opera.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Sudden Short Story 5

"...All of these precautions... How did anyone ever assemble an electronic computer without breaking something?"
"Well, back then, electronic computers were consumer appliances, just like optical computers are now. Most people bought them pre-assembled off the shelf and never even cracked the case. They worked well enough for however long, and they were replaced regularly.
"It's funny, actually. You see, electronic computers had gotten to the point where they were all laptops, at least off the shelf. The only large form-factor ones were those assembled by hardcore gamers, and they ended up being the first consumer base for optical computers. Nobody else could justify the large form-factor, and most computers for personal use didn't need the speed boost at that point."
"So we have gamers to thank for modern computing, eh? How about that. So, do you like all forms of alternate computing, or just this one?"
"I think that I just like old things. You know, I'm thinking of building a mechanical computer after this. It should be even more interesting: Apparently, they never achieved commercial production before electronic computers took over.
"I dare say that it must have been a terribly interesting time, back then. Even electronic computers could fill entire rooms, and had to be serviced by large staffs...."