Classwork and the Week Ahead

Today marks the first day of the final week of my class, edX and Stan Lee’s “The Rise of Superheroes and Their Impact on Pop Culture.”

It was fun while it lasted, and I’m open to taking more classes through the site, but this one’s not over yet! :D

The class, so far, has been run on somewhat a “work at your own pace” basis–each week makes a new assignment available, but absolutely nothing is due until the very last day.
I have been doing a good job keeping up with the work, completing assignments as soon as they are made available, with the exception of last week when I was babysitting for three days at another house and did not have access to a reliable computer.
I now have all of this week to finalize my own hero’s story, design, and nemesis, and put the finishing touches on a (very rough) sketch of what I expect him to look like.

Wish me luck? :D
My “hero” is one of the recurring characters I’m already using in my original fiction, by the way…. a time-traveling dragon called Halicent who blends in with the locals by shapeshifting into a human named Oscar. So far as I’m concerned, using him in this class is just an interesting way to develop his character for use in my other work.

However, because I have only this week to finish up this and part of last week’s assignment, I do not plan to attend a certain event that my parents are getting ready for.
So if I stay away from the event, that would give me all of this week–rather than this week minus the weekend–to finish that homework, as well as compile a list of jobs I’ve applied for or want to apply for (and apply for more, certainly), continue to explore Second Life and keep my job skills up to date over all, write some more book reviews (including the promised reviews that were delayed when my Kindle broke), and get some more work done on my creative pursuits during my hypothetical free time. And keep that time open should an employer wish to speak with me, of course.

And keeping my website(s) up to date, though I suppose that technically falls under creative pursuits. ;)

In addition to the time issue, I’m also hoping to replace that Kindle in the very near future. However, birthday money depending, what I replace it with will not be another Kindle, but a Windows tablet… something I can use to work on my “creative pursuits” even when I’m not on my monstrosity of a desktop.
It’s just a matter of finding out how much my folks are willing to contribute for my birthday, seeing how much I have left of the refund after I returned my PS4, and picking out a model that fits my needs and my budget. I was hoping to find something comparable to the Surface (I like the pen-tip stylus better for drawing than the cheap round-ended thing my dad uses on his Kindle, but that’s another post entirely), but there’s no way I’m spending that for only a 32 GB hard drive.

And speaking of the Surface: Not All Tablet Stylus Are Created Equal
I wonder if I could use the “made for Surface” stylus on a different tablet? Not that I particularly care about pressure sensitivity–if I used a mouse in PhotoShop, I’d still be selecting the line thickness manually, and I’m not practiced enough yet to really control how hard I press–but in general…. Has anybody else tried it, and what were the results?

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Common Courtesy?

No job fair this Wednesday, and I can only hope it does not affect my appearance of reliability.

See, the problem is, I signed up for this job fair a month ago.
Nobody had asked me to do anything else, to keep any of my time open for any reason, so I knew, for a fact, that my whole summer was pretty much free to do what I can to work on my employ-ability, and my classwork, as well as anything else I might want to do in my hypothetical free time.
Aside from picking someone up from the bus (which anyone in the family could’ve done) and attending my class at the YMCA (which I can and will skip in favor of job interviews), I had nothing to worry about.
Sure, I had a few medical appointments to factor in, but nothing else. No babysitting, no scheduling conflicts, no interruptions.

So when I signed up, I marked my availability accordingly to what I already knew I had available. My time slot could be selected from any time of the day whatsoever with the exception of those appointments.

And as of last week, still nobody had asked me to set my time aside for anything else, or asked me if I was even available this week, so I still knew for a fact that my whole week was free to do as I deemed necessary.

So when I was offered a 1-3 pm block for this Wednesday, I took it! There was absolutely  nothing I had going on to conflict with it.
The job fair was entirely online, and I would have participated from my own home computer, so ending things at 3 meant I’d still have more than time enough to head out to the bus stop, instead of having someone else do it…. exactly as I’d have expected to do, because I’ve been doing exactly that for the last couple of months and was never given any reason whatsoever to change it for this week.

And then this Sunday, I found out that I do not have that time available. Because I’d been volunteered a couple of weeks ago, without any input on my part, to babysit…
A very obvious scheduling conflict that I could easily have taken into account, could’ve said well in advance “no, I don’t have that time available,” or even declined that block for the job fair and picked one of the other offers, if only someone had done me the basic courtesy of asking me to babysit, of asking me to keep that time open.

So now my mom figured I’ll just do the job fair while babysitting. It’s online, after all, so why not?

Here’s why not. It’s through Second Life, a program that is notorious for not liking WiFi. Or at least it was when I first used it back in college.
In my household, the only computer with the hardware necessary to run it efficiently is my monstrosity of a desktop, a machine acquired precisely because it could handle hardware intensive games and programs like Second Life. None of our laptops are up to the challenge.

And in the other household, where I’d be doing the babysitting? It isn’t worth risking my personal information. The antivirus program I had installed myself (as requested because of previous problems the owner has had) reports that the computer has “not been protected in” a considerable length of time, I have no idea how long it’s regularly left on and online, it has two separate virus scanners running at the same time (the other one of which I did not install) and conflicting with each other, and shows a dozen or more viruses in the brief time it took me to find out if it did have the necessary hardware.
A suggestion to new computer buyers, by the way–all of this is high risk; you should only ever use one antivirus program (I recommend AVG; even the free version does a good job), keep it updated, don’t click on questionable links like when your “bank” threatens to close your account (call the bank up to verify, would you? Never click a link in those emails), and shut down the computer when you’re not actively using it.

And then there’s the other issue. How can I attend a job fair while babysitting?
That would mean either babysitting while paying little-to-no attention to two toddlers because I’m busy with the job stuff–fulfilling the legal requirement of a live body, perhaps, but totally defeating the purpose–or dropping whatever I’m doing in the job fair at a moment’s notice, the digital equivalent of stopping in the middle of an interview to drive home.

So my options are as follows:
Try to do the job fair while babysitting.
Reschedule if possible.
Cancel the job fair entirely.

Doing the two of them at the same time is already out for the reasons I gave above.
Cancelling is only to be done as a last resort–I do want the people I’ve already committed to meeting with to think I’m reliable enough to honor my commitments, you know.
So that leaves rescheduling.

And…. the next available block is…. this Saturday. From 9 to 11 AM. Also the last available block.
That means it’s at the same time as a physical job fair my dad wanted me to attend.

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Whovians: Fans versus “Fans”

“There is no cause so right that you will not find fools following it.” –Larry Niven

Thus it seems with fandoms. There is no story so good, so innocent, or so full of lessons worth passing on that you will not find even one fan prepared to stink it up.

I know that. It’s an unfortunate part of human nature; no matter how good something is, no matter how good most of the fans are, there are always a few out there who make the rest of us look bad. Continue reading

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Patreon is Live!…. ish

https://www.patreon.com/sidequestpublications

I’ve created a Patreon “Creator” profile to help with my writing and to offer up early access to my novels and free short stories to anyone willing to become a patron.

I’m still working some kinks out with making intro and thank you videos, but the profile is, for all practical purposes, up and running.

The only thing left that I need to do is post the prologue to my current work in progress, to provide a free sample of the work being funded. Such a sample will be found on:
Pioneers of the Shatteredwaters on WordPress.com
Side Quest Publication on deviantArt.com
and of course on Side Quest Publications on Patreon
As well to as any site set to auto-sync from any of these.

So check it out! And if you happen to have a few dollars you’re willing to throw my way… I appreciate the patronage.

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Bugging Me: Fictional “Fat” People

That should read “fictional overweight people,” but “fat” works better for the title’s rhythm. Also it’s fewer letters and some sites are weird about title length.

Anyway:

The problem that bugs me lately is overweight people in fiction. Specifically, the problem is how they are sometimes handled in fiction.

There are the obvious problems: the overweight person is treated like a slob, or lazy, or greedy, or any number of other reasons that translate to “they’re overweight because they can be,” and is usually the villain, while the hero has this super thin supermodel figure because of whatever reason.
Or the reverse, perhaps the thin person is sickly and the overweight person is considered “normal” by society’s standards.
The time the story is set besides the point, neither of these portrayals are particularly realistic, but that isn’t even the problem I have right now. No, my problem stems from the fact that authors need to point out the characters’ weight at all.

It’s fine if your story happens to include characters who are overweight; this, as I unfortunately know from personal experience, reflects reality.
It is just as fine to not include overweight characters, provided you either simply don’t call attention to it (that is, you never actually claim that none of the characters are overweight), or you have a good in-story reason for not including them (such as a dystopia in which everybody is starving… though even then, glandular disorders can still realistically create overweight characters).

It is fine to have a particular character fixate on their weight, if you are establishing this character as having an eating disorder, an odd personality quirk, or is just really into eating healthy… perhaps, in the last case, they have a family history of certain health problems and are trying too hard to offset that history.
It is fine to have a character fixate on their weight if you are establishing something about the world they live in, whether it’s that society’s definition of “beauty,” or some magical influence in which casting spells is as much a workout as running ten miles.

It is fine, even preferable, to have a considerable variety of characters and an equal variety of their reasons for their figures, just as you would with any other trait.

All of this is perfectly fine… provided you never actually mention a number or any other specific details.
Because once you start giving the reader specifics, you had best make sure those specifics are realistic. Otherwise you’ll find yourself offending a lot of people over what may well be an insignificant detail.

Do not, for instance, do not, give me a mother of three grown children who is lamenting the fact that she has to wear a size 12 as though only “fat” people wear something that big, unless you can give me a damn good reason the character should be unusually small.
Why? Because that isn’t fat!
Look, I have never been pregnant, so I don’t have that influencing my weight. I’m still in my thirties, so while I’m certainly not going to get younger, I should (theoretically) find it easier to lose my excess weight than someone in, say, their fifties. I have a medium frame… but I’m short.
Assuming I build some lean muscle and lose that excess fat, size 12 is right around what I should be wearing. I’m basing that, not on how big I’d like to be, not on what “seems normal,” but on how big my doctor says I ought to be.
But someone who has been pregnant, not once, but three times, is old enough for all three children to be fully grown, and gives not a single detail on her frame or height? Okay, so she “doesn’t think of herself as tall,” but she’s never claimed to be short, so I’m assuming she’s average for a woman. And since her frame isn’t mentioned either, I’ll assume medium. And she isn’t a runway model, nor a ballerina, nor an athlete, nor anything else that requires extreme attention to her weight. By all rights, she should be wearing a few sizes larger than me. Yet she with her size-12 “I wish I could still wear a size 8″ attitude thinks she is fat.
And the only purpose this element served in the story is to show off that magical influence; she tires and sweats and yes, even loses weight, simply by casting what appear to be extremely simplistic spells in the form of songs. And even after another sorcerer had explained this effect to her, she still doesn’t understand how she is losing so much weight, and fears that she’ll eat enough to bloat back up because the spellcasting leaves her hungry all the time. There was nothing in the plot that required giving readers such a specific number….

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CampNoWriMo 2015 Day 0

Alternate title: I’ll finish that novel yet!

Welcome to my first ever Camp NaNoWriMo listing. I’ll be working on my fantasy pirate novel, currently titled The Graft, for the duration of April and beyond. You can check out my profile over on the site if you’d like, or even encourage my progress by sponsoring me and helping The Office of Letters and Light raise money to buy school supplies and the like.

Just like with my NaNoWriMo posts, I plan to update my Camp NaNo progress a day late, and the numbers reflect that. That is, Day 1’s progress will be labelled for Day 1, but posted Day 2, Day 2’s progress will be posted Day 3, and so on.

Unlike NaNoWriMo, Camp NaNo allows me to set my own goal. I can, if I choose, take it easy and write a short story and leave it at that, or a collection of short stories, or poems, or a script, or whatever.
It also doesn’t look nearly as bad if I don’t write every single day, or if I don’t make a specific daily count every day.
So this time around, I won’t be updating you with word count progress… just plot progress.

For Camp NaNo, I opted to, as that alternate title would suggest, finish a novel that I started during my second NaNo event, back in 2011.
Because I am going to be editing as well as adding new content, the novel’s current word count will be included in my total; as such, I elected to set my Camp NaNo’s word count goal as 75,000, which requires me to add at least 30,000 words to the current draft. Perhaps I shall change that as I go, depending on what sort of progress I make…. :D

Good luck to all the campers out there, and let’s get writing!

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My Authors, Male and Female

I’m a member of one of the NaNoWriMo groups on FaceBook, and the question of how many male and female writers we read seems to appear a lot lately on those pages.

Granted, the real questions were about how many male versus female authors male readers read, but it inspired me to examine my own personal library. Continue reading

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Language and Misunderstandings–When Worlds Collide!

Okay, this blog is, or was supposed to be when I created it, mostly about my fictional pursuits.

Yeah, I knew that wouldn’t last long.

This post… isn’t about those pursuits. Not even close. Though a creatively-inclined person could work it into a story if you so chose.

No, this post is about the misunderstandings that arise when we don’t say quite what we mean, and who holds responsibility for those misunderstandings. Especially when the misunderstandings carry tones of prejudiced attitudes.

I recently found myself dragged into an argument–because I allowed myself to be, as these things happen–about the use of fictional languages versus real ones.

Continue reading

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Trouble With Outsourcing–Best Buy

Someone once told me, years back, that it was “racist” to expect a business to require its employees to know English when dealing with English-speaking customers.

No, I didn’t get it, either.

I’m sorry, but language is learned. It is something we choose to use. It is not part of the completely-beyond-your-control details that make your race your race. Ergo, it should be impossible for such an expectation to be “racist.”
Now, I believe in retaining older languages, not letting them die out. But that’s another argument entirely.

But besides that, can you see, from a business point of view, just how that logic fails?
That’s right, this person told me that it is racist to expect people who are paid to provide me with a service, a service that I pay for, to understand what I am saying so that they can provide that service accurately and efficiently.

That’s not racism; that’s good business sense. Continue reading

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My Artistic Flaws to Overcome

Otherwise known as, my personal failings as an artist. ;)

Not exactly a “New Year’s Resolution” list–I’m nearly a month late on posting that–but it could serve the same purpose.

Anyway, the things I’m trying to overcome as an artist:

1. I’m impatient.
I can take a long time to get a story written down without trouble, but I can generally see the event unfolding in my mind only slightly faster than I’m capable of typing.
But with a single drawing, I see the entire image in my head, all at once, and I want to get it down! Right! Now!

I’ve long ago learned that what looks like a simple sketch might take a more practiced artist (which is to say, one with any practice at all) several hours to draw, so I know I’m being unreasonably impatient with my own work.
But there is a fine line between knowing this and being able to act on it.

And on the subject of projects that take far longer to create than to imagine, I’ve recently taken up woodcarving, and would also (once I have the tools) like to give wood burning a try.
So now I really need to work on drawing; I’d like to make some of my own patterns, instead of relying entirely on images other people provide… though there’s nothing wrong with using a premade pattern for practice, or occasionally for gifting under certain circumstances.

2. I hate to waste resources.
It is almost entirely for this reason that I prefer working digitally. Granted, the ability to undo a mistake with the click of a button is nice, but what really interests me is that I can never “use up” my papers and pens.
But I do have plenty of sketchbooks, bought over the years with practicing in mind. As I admitted to a friend on deviantArt, how is that not waste if I never use them?

3. To follow up with the digital art, I like to experiment.
I take very much a “what does this button do” approach when trying out different tools and features. I’ll willingly use any shortcut for the sheer curiosity of seeing what it does.
That being said, I still try to make something good.

4. And another “digital” flaw–I am terrible at drawing on one surface (graphics pad) while looking at another (computer monitor).
I think a lot of people who do digital art have this problem.
The other common problem is that computers break down. If I rely entirely on digital art, never practicing on paper, then the loss of such a tool represents time that I am not practicing. Note that this is just as much a problem for writing as for drawing. And a digital file is much more easily corrupted than a piece of paper.

5. I am forgetful.
In seeking advice, I might ask an artist how he or she achieved a particular effect… and then ask that exact same question the next time that artist puts up something using the same effect.
This is also why I don’t enter many contests, or don’t often reply to comments or thank people for following/liking my work (or for offering constructive critiquing), in spite of leaving such messages in my inbox for the very purpose of reminding me.

6. In spite of being a writer by choice, I don’t always convey my intended meaning very well, especially in “real” communication (as opposed to all those fantasy narratives I dream of publishing).
Case in point, if I ask what tools you used to achieve a particular digital drawing, I’m not asking what program you used–I’ll actually ask what program it was if I want to know that, and I’ll usually only be interested in that for financial reasons.
No, if I ask you about tools, I’m asking about details like line thickness, opacity, number of layers, and so on. I consider those to be the tools. The program you’re using is merely the canvas you use those tools on, and makes less difference to me than whether the piece is digital or hand-drawn.
And speaking of which–the tools we use do not make the artist, but they can make a difference to the art, else why do we choose certain kinds? Why would we need to?
The answer: we choose them because they make a difference. Different tools work better for different projects, and our talent allows us to learn those tools and decide which one is best for the effect we want.
I see it one of two ways: either the time and talent, as “things” used to produce our art, are just as much tools as the physical implements (in which case tools most definitely do make the artist precisely because talent does ;) ) or….
The talent makes the artist, the artist chooses the tool, and the artist uses both talent and tool to make the art.

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