Saturday, November 26, 2011

Too many choices.

When I bought my first computer, it was something like 1983, and there were essentially two choices for the home market; the Commodore 64, or the Sinclair ZX Spectrum. As kids, these were the only two machines available that we gave a damn about anyhow; they had the games we wanted, regardless of how we'd wheedle our parents and suggest a computer would help immeasurably with our schoolwork. Sure, there were micros like the Amstrad CPC or the Acorn Electron around, but owning one of those would be social suicide in the playground.

When the next generation of home computers came round, there were again essentially two choices; the Atari ST, and the Commodore Amiga. Again,  there were other choices you might try, but at time Apples cost more than some nations GNPs (no change there, then. Ohh, what incredible satire), and IBM clones were still in their Cambrian era, and required more nursing and knowhow than most cars.

And so it continued. When Windows 95 dawned, there were a plethora of affordable PC Clones available, though they were so beige and indistinguishable that it didn't matter a damn which one you got. The major opposition was again Apple, and again they really were rather expensive in comparison.

I was actually making a point here, which is this:  I'm idly considering getting an Android tablet in the reasonably near future,  and the choices are simply overwhelming. I'm utterly at a loss as to where to even start looking; even finding a website that reviews what's out there is baffling,  as there's hundreds of the buggers, often giving conflicting reviews.

All I would want is something like the Kindle Fire.  I would actually be happy with the Kindle Fire,  if it offered anything for apps other than the bloody Amazon marketplace. I wouldn't mind the amazon marketplace if it had a tenth of the content the Android Market has.  And so on, and so on, back to the bad decision to climb down from the trees in the first place.

I homestly miss the days where your choices were limited,  sometimes. At least you could be an expert on the two or three options you had.

Edit: So I ended up with the Kindle Fire. Which is less limiting now that it allows you to sideload apps you own; with a little email jiggery-pokery, you can install pretty much anything. It's not what I'd think of as the perfect eBook reader, but it's several large steps towards such over the older Kindles.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Idle reflections

It's odd how at work, Black Friday has been quieter so far than yesterday, Thanksgiving. I dunno,  I think I just expected us to get less call volume on the day when traditionally most people spend time with their families,  than on the day dedicated to commercial greed and rampaging hordes armed with pepper spray trying to beat each other to that $10 discount.  Perhaps they're all tuckered out by the time my shift starts.  Or possibly have hit their credit limit.

Either way, I'm not complaining. The fact that I've been able to type this, on a soft keyboard no less,  speaks volumes as to how busy a day I've had.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

A brief update

Faffing around with the cellphone, seeing how feasible it is to actually write something for the blog on here. So far, the answer appears to be "reasonably feasible ".

I always swore I wasn't remotely interested in having a cellphone that did much beyond make phone calls; I have to admit, now that Kit has lured me into using one,  it's taken over the role of backup brain/portable entertainment system my PDAs used to fill.

Typing, admittedly, is a royal pain in the arse, but it's still the best system I've seen on something this small. Internet anywhere is incredibly nice,  too.  About the only thing I don't use it for is actually making bloody phone calls...

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The default topic for British people who haven't got anything to say

Bloody Weather.

Conversation about the weather is the last refuge of the unimaginative.
~Oscar Wilde 

It's finally starting to cool down around here. By 'cool down', of course, I mean it's merely around seventy Fahrenheit at 4am in the morning, as opposed to being some ridiculous figure in the nineties. Don't even ask about what it's like in the day. It being Missouri, of course, it's not merely hot, it's also humid as hell. Thinking of wearing dry clothes today? Well, think again!

For at least this week, however, it's going to be reasonably cool, perhaps in the high eighties, and there's even talk of actual rain this weekend. Thunderstorms! And not before bloody time, in my opinion.

The first thing a lot of people ask me what the biggest change is in moving to the US. Well, it's often the second thing, actually; usually they've got some question about the royal family, not realising I'm one of the huge majority of Britons who couldn't give a toss about the royal wedding, Princess Diana, etc. But getting back to the question of change, it really has to be the climate.

I was born, raised and lived for the first thirty-odd years of my life on an island which doesn't know what weather is, beyond 'light drizzle'. Occasionally we have a thunderstorm, but comparing them to the storms of the Midwest is like comparing a couple of AA batteries to a hydroelectric dam. Our summers are warm without being unreasonably so, our winters cold but not dangerously so; snow happens, but unless you're up a mountain somewhere or the depths of Scotland, you're going to be lucky if you get more than a couple of inches per year. Not that that doesn't mean the whole country grinds to a halt as soon as a few millimeters of snow accumulate, but still. When the local papers talk about blizzards hitting the UK, someone needs to remind them that a blizzard is when you can't find your car for three weeks.
"I say, what frightful weather. Back home for tea and crumpets"

In short, I'm basically a creature who's been moved out of its natural environment, like a penguin who's been dumped in the Sahara. Everyone here native-born has at least had a lifetime to acclimate to the perverse nature of the local climate, and furthermore are presumably bred from people who also got used to it. If Mr Darwin (not a terribly popular figure around here, admittedly) is to be listened to, local Missourians should be adapting to this horrible, 'roll 2d20 for weather' style meteorology they have round here.

Kit has mentioned that this has been an pretty hot summer as far as things go around here. This is good, because I'd hate to think this had been one of the more balmy years, and I only had worse to look forward to.

Still, I've got the Autumn Fall to look forward to. For the two weeks it lasts before we're having to hope they clear the snow off the roads by the morning again.

Monday, August 8, 2011


Well, it's been a while since I posted here. This is something I tend to feel guilty about from time to time. The longer it goes between posts, the more reluctant I become to post something, because I never quite know what to say after such an absence, and it slowly spirals downwards. Sometimes (like Livejournal), I eventually never come back at all.

I'm not even sure what I'm feeling back about; it's not like anyone but a handful of people read this blog. A very small handful, at that. I don't make my living doing this, much as I'd like to be, so it's not like I'm not bringing home the bacon.

Well, enough of that. It's about time I started posting when I feel like it, or when I have something to say. If there's an period where I don't write anything, it shouldn't be a source of angst and soul searching.

Right now, I don't have an awful lot to say, other than the guilt stops here, today.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Just a quickish update to say goodbye to a couple of things, at least for the forseeable future; eventually, I might well go back to them, but for now it’s au revoir.

Firstly, goodbye Wordpress, and hello Blogspot. There are various minor reasons I decided to port my blog over to there, none of which add up to anything convincing, besides wanting to give the major competition a try. My online life is already pretty dominated by Google; my email, RSS feeds, and search engine needs are already solely met by them, Google Docs is the best of a bad bunch of online word processors (when I actually need one), Youtube is owned by... yep, you guessed. Might as well see if the blog is any better right now.

Secondly, the last update of Ubuntu didn’t agree with the laptop. After a couple of days of poking around and reinstalling the whole thing, I reached the conclusion it was a) probably the video drivers that were causing the problem, and b) it was fixable, probably, though most likely beyond my ken to do so any time soon.

At about the same point, it occurred to me that anything I’m using regularly right now is available in Windows as well as Linux, and to be honest, most of the Windows binaries are a damned sight easier to install than most Linux builds. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very fond of Ubuntu, and I do like the OS as a whole, but functionally, there’s no reason for me to be using it right now, other than to be faintly smug and elitist.

So, Windows 98 it is for now.

The nice thing of course, is decisions like these aren’t set in stone. I can change my mind tomorrow, and revert back and forth as the mood suits me. It might piss off my readers if I kept switching blog URLs all the time, but I’m sure both of them would cope.

If only all choices in life were so easily changed ;)

Monday, February 21, 2011

On a personal note

When I started this particular blog, I quietly swore to myself I wouldn’t be writing about boring, everyday things that happen in my life. That’s exactly what I used to do with Livejournal, write up all the dull shit happening, as if anyone actually gave a damn. The trouble with this was that for the most part, my days are pretty repetitive; I go to work, I come home, I bugger about with the hobby du jour, I go to bed, prior to getting up and rinsing and repeating. This is probably true of most people, but that doesn’t make me Samuel Pepys. This becomes so repetitive to write about that suddenly I’m updating once every six months, and that’s only to say that nothing new or exciting is happening.

So here, I decided I’d at least try to be a little different, and write about things that people not in my immediate family might have a passing interest in. So far, that seems to be working. I can’t claim my posts are interesting to read, that’s the readers call, but at least they’re not boring to write.

For once, though, it’s worth touching on personal events. Last week we had an interview with Homeland Security, and my green card was renewed. For the first since perhaps 2002, one of the major stress factors in my life has just... stopped. Gone away. I don’t have to deal with the interminable paperwork or shockingly high fees for filing said paperwork for at least ten years, and even that would just be a renewal. I have to admit, it’s left me flailing a little to suddenly not have that looming in the background.

I can’t say the approval came as any surprise, given I’m from one of the few countries left in the world that still likes the US. I’m pleased that once you got past the stock forms and demands for financial records of nonexistent things, once you actually get to the face to face level, the immigrations staff have been extremely pleasant. This was true in London, and it’s true in St Louis. Indeed, it’s hard to be concerned about the outcome of the interview when halfway in the interviewer starts pulling up pictures of her cats on her iPhone and showing them to us.

Really though, the whole thing’s had a sense of anticlimax for some time. There’d have been a time when I first moved here when I would actually dream regularly that I’d been deported back to England. I wouldn’t call them nightmares, as they were pretty dull as dreams go, but clearly my subconscious wasn’t thrilled at the prospect. For the last year or so, though, it’s just been another minor stress to add to the pile, a tediously slow exchange of correspondence we wished would just be done.

And now it is. It feels somehow sudden that it’s all over, but unless I want to start the naturalization process in a few months, I don’t actually have to deal with Homeland Security until 2021. Citizenship isn’t anything I’ll be rushing into, incidentally, until I can find out what the long term effects are on both sides of the water. I hear that Neil Gaiman has always, somewhat superstitiously, clung to his British Citizenship like a drowning man clinging to a wooden plank, and I would love to know why.

Nine years of bureaucracy ended in a single day. If nothing else, I thought it would be worth noting here.

Monday, February 14, 2011

In Soviet Russia, Internet reads YOU

Some (most) of the hits this blog gets seem to come from a particular source, an auto finance blog. I'll not give the url, as that might just invoke their fel spirit; at best, it'd be free advertising for them. Note I've never written about cars, or finance, in any way, shape or form. I don't think I've even used either word until this post. I have no interest in auto finance, I have no car, I have no intention of getting a car. Or a loan. Or a car loan. Or...

And yet, still, somehow, traffic comes from them, to me. With no visible sign of an actual link to my website, either. I note when I try to follow the link back, it goes through about 3 layers of Yahoo addresses before landing wherever it lands, which does nothing to raise my respect for that company.

 I'm not sure why they're latching on to me, but I suspect I'm one of thousands. I wish they'd bugger off, though. The hits on wordpress, I'd rather be authentic. It's not like I'm being paid for them, after all.

Perhaps I can entice them to sod off and ping my AC account.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A true story

I recently found out that my PC specs are adequate for running Team Fortress 2. I remembered that that looked like a lot of fun when I’d seen my brother playing it on the 360, so I duly ordered it through Steam. I found a bunch of server affiliated through a particular clan that I enjoyed, and got to playing.

And died. Over and over again.

Now some of that is probably because my PC just about meets the specs; it certainly doesn’t have the sort of Super Fandango Quad-blit video card that I see used on youtube, whose framerates make me insanely jealous. It stutters at times, and I suspect my characters heads would be exploded a lot less were it a little smoother.

But I persevere. I have a crack at it most nights, I get to the point where names of the other players are starting to sound familiar. They don’t say a lot, as they’re too busy firing rockets and flamethrowers at my asshole, but I attribute emotions to them, I start to judge their level of competence, and I slowly begin to get better at the game. I learn where the taunt key is, and use it liberally. I learn how the different roles play out, and basically how to lay down some smack occasionally between deaths.

And then, late one night, someone makes a comment about ‘Jesus, how many bots do you have on here?’ I pay it no mind at first, but obviously my subconscious nags away at it. I check and find you can bring up the scoreboard with the tab key, and sure enough, ‘BOT BOT BOT BOT BOT’. Out of the 20 players on the server at that point, 3 are actual people, the rest are being run by a computer.

Now, it’s a credit to TF2 that the bots are that good; that they can make complex tactical  decisions and contribute to a team’s game so well, that they can mimic human players reasonably, and they don’t get stuck running on the spot against a wall somewhere. They’re possibly some of the smartest AIs I’ve seen playing a game. But I get the feeling I might as well have just been playing offline half the time. I suspect the clan’s servers have more real people during reasonable hours; I tend to play well after midnight, and anything up to 4am.

It’s also slightly creepy to think that even if I weren’t online, there would be anything up to 24 bots, all battling it out, 24 hours a day, with no end in sight and nobody even watching. On multiple servers and maps. War has never looked so futile.

So, back to the drawing board. Time to look for more servers where real, breathing people actually play at OMG o’clock. On the plus side, playing against bots for so long has made me a better player. I suspect the bots have a fair better reaction time than most people; they don’t have to see something and lurch for a key combination or anything, they just do it. On the downside, I also suspect I’ll be back to getting killed to death pretty quickly; however good the bots are, they’re not as good as some of the hardcore players who drink, sleep and shit TF2, and eat punks like me for breakfast.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Written 1/29. Promptness is a virtue

I suspect I need a peer group. At least, some kind of Blog peer group. I still cringe at the word ‘blogosphere’, but this blog really is a wee bit isolated.

Trouble is, every other blog I’ve seen recently is selling something. At the very least, they’re selling themselves, desperate to get pagehits to their sites by any means necessary.

Now, that’s not necessarily a bad thing; given my flirtation with AC/Yahoo, I can’t really claim I haven’t done this without being an enormous hypocrite. The sad thing is, you see so many ‘successful’ sites that get thousands of hits a day, and say absolutely nothing. I noticed one site had somehow sent me a few hits my way, and I was curious how. Google Chrome inched its way past the screens of ads, and led me to a blog where there was no sign of the article cited, just 40 or 50 esoteric articles on blog design. I can’t tell if mine was ever mentioned anywhere or just generated randomly with some sort of bot to generate him that tiny bit more traffic. The posts involved appeared to be little more than links to other posts on other blogs, with a thumbnail picture of something vaguely relating to the topic thrown in.

And this site, mind you, had hundred of comments on the posts. On each post. I didn’t even dare read them. How much can you have to say about the importance of graphics in articles?

The point is, this traffic being generated to my blog was never, as far as I can tell, touched by human hand. It was certainly never read by anything sentient due to these clicks, I’m sure.

Am I the only one who finds this a bit depressing? I mean, if we’re going to play silly buggers and write articles and posts that aren’t going to be read, why don’t we just code something up to write articles that no-one will read? Then the two algorithms can just get on with it, and anyone creative involved can go for a drink and relax.

So, this is why I’ve previously been reluctant to join any little blog circles or things of that nature. Discussions on AC’s forums are all about the Search Engine Optimisation of articles, and how to maximise potential hits by parroting key phrases a certain percentage of times throughout your writing. Not only does this seem slightly dishonest, the writing equivalent of trying to lure someone into the back of a van with the promises of puppies, those who do it well turn out articles which are frankly... inelegant. Search engines are supposed to love these (or did; I don’t believe Google relies on SEO any more), but for humans trying to read, it’s a load of tedious, repetitive bollocks.

The short version: I’d love to read your blog, actual real person. I’d love you to read mine. I don’t even care what it’s about, as long as I find it interesting. If you’re such a real person, feel free to subscribe.

If you’ve a blog that’s optimised for maximal hits from Google, I’m probably not interested. If I was interested, I’d have looked you up on Google, wouldn’t I?

If you’re a bot, go play with the other bots. You already outnumber actual people; don’t crowd those of us left who actually write for the hell of it out entirely.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The perennial problem - What the hell to write about

I got a little off-target from my new year’s resolution this month, mostly due to spending the early part of January filled with snot and despair. That’s probably one of the worst colds I’ve had, and the only thing I felt like at the time was a quick, merciful death. Much better now, barring a pulled muscle or something in my side/back that feels like a knife to the ribcage. But only a very small knife.



Of course, I’m raring to get back into writing something every day, if only for my blog if not actual (*gasp*) fiction. And of course, I can of bugger all to write about. I suspect that piece yesterday about childhood memories and snow is going to get posted whole to AC/yahoo as some kind of prose, partly because I suspect judicious use of keywords like ‘snow’ would be fairly popular right now, but mostly to see if ‘dogshit’ registers on any censorship radars over there.


That’s not exactly writing, though. Nor is this, this metawriting bullshit that I’m doing right now, writing about writing without actually writing about much of anything. It’s really just a fallback position for writer’s block. This month, and probably next month, that’s not something I really mind, though. I’m mostly getting into the habit of trying to write something every day. Quality over quantity will hopefully come later. Hell, I wouldn’t mind both at once.


It is difficult finding things to write about, mind. It’s a truism that you should write about what you know, but I don’t want to ramble on about my Childhood indefinitely, because that’s really something only I’m interested in, and presumably the idea of a blog is to write about stuff that a hypothetical, invisible (non-existant) audience might find interesting.


I have interests I like to write articles about, but to be honest, there’s a pretty limited audience for reviews of Roguelikes. Anyone sufficiently interesting in that type of game invariably knows about the ones knocking around in the first place. Anything more in depth is doomed before it starts. Suppose, for instance, I decided to write a strategy guide for Nethack. They already exist, it’s already been spoiled to death over the last 20 years, there’s strategy guides in abundance already, and it would probably be filled with inaccuracies brought on by having played the damned thing for way too long and building up a collection of bad habits and assumptions. Dog help you too, if there are any errors, or even any questionable suggestions about how to play. I’ve seen dissections of Maniac’s (rather decent) ascension guide that, if printed onto hardcopy, would make respectable phonebook replicas. And they get quite personal, too, in that oddly polite but wounding way you see from veterans of USENET when they decide to wade into a thread with their size 12 boots on.


So, nothing roguelikey, then. Except possibly a review of Crawl somewhere with some kind of twist to it. I seem to be well liked by the admins on the forum, and they seem keen on backlinking any mention of the game, which wouldn’t hurt traffic.


My interests otherwise are kinda limited. I can be outrageously British and pull a fair bit of attention that way, but there’s another 60 million or so of them out there, and quite a few already have the corner marketed. The Internet does not need another website about cats being amusing. ‘Eating pizza’ is, while popular, something that doesn’t really need much written about it.


I read the BBC news daily, not with a view to looking for ideas, but just to keep up on things and get a news source that isn’t too horribly corrupted by US politics and commercial interests. Whatever else you might say about the BBC, they’re reasonably unbiased, or as unbiased as a news center can get. I do tend to keep an eye out for things I could write about though. Again, there’s remarkably little jumping out at me. Nothing I wouldn’t just be repeating parrot-fashion from the original source. I can, in all honesty, see why AC like (and will pay more for) first-person accounts of events. There’s way too many sites around nowadays that do exactly that. I don’t even mean aggregators like Boingboing or Fark or so on, there are hundreds of cookie-cutter news site that just cut and paste stuff in its entirety. I suppose that’s true of most places online nowadays; for every Facebook or Twitter there’s scores of imitators trying to jump on the bandwagon. Total members of these sites: 3. And at least one of those is the developer’s mother. It seems particularly pronounced with any news or article feeds, however.


Anyhow, I think this is yet again enough rambling for one day. No real conclusions, no specific, clear-cut ending, no moral to the story.


Why, I could be writing about life itself.


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

This is something that’s been batting around in my head for the past few days, probably because of the snow we’ve been getting here. It’s not what I’d consider a life changing event, or something that I always remember, but it does pop back into memory now and then, and I have no trouble remembering it clearly when it does.

I’m not sure how long ago I’m remembering this from, I was about seven or eight, I’d guess. Old enough to walk home from school on my own, or at least old enough back then when no-one was concerned about vans full of paedophiles cruising the streets.

Between the street I grew up on and the street behind us, there was a narrow alley; this seems to be a standard thing between terraced streets that back onto each other; at least I’ve never seen any in England that don’t. Even houses around here in the US seem to have something similar, though UK alleys (or ‘backs’, as they were known round our way) seem to involve more brick walls and privet hedges, and less chain link fences. And more dogshit, as I recall, though dogshit in general seems to be in decline in the wild.


Anyhow, I digress. This back ‘lane’ was pretty much the standard walk home. At this point in time, people in Yorkshire were still pretty lairy of using their front doors. These portals were reserved for any members of royalty that might visit, and everyone else came in through the back door. I’ve no idea why this was, or why people only opened them for births, weddings and funerals, but I know our own front door, until it was replaced with one of those uPVC monstrosities so popular in the 1980s, would have been a challenge to open, the dust in the locks and frame probably welded it shut.


So, I was walking up the back lane, heading home. It was dark, and it was snowing quite heavily, heavier flakes than I’ve seen since, even the godawful weather they get here in Missouri. It was that calm kind of snow, though, the kind where there’s absolutely no wind behind it whatsoever. The kind of snow where it’s actually pleasant to be out in, where it’s only just started to fall so you’re not wading through it up to your shins, and it’s not actually cold enough to be a pain in the arse.


I say there was no wind, but that was the odd thing; the snow wasn’t falling straight down. I don’t know if it was some weird eddy or current in the air down that alley, but the snow was coming along it in a gentle swirling corkscrew movement. It was like walking down a tunnel of swirling flakes, each one clearly visible from the ambient streetlight behind the houses. Even more oddly, hardly any of it was hitting me, as if I was in the eye of some extraordinarily docile hurricane. This whole scene lasted the two or three hundred yards I walked to our back gate, and I remember being as awestruck as it’s possible to get when you’re that age. In fact, I suspect it’s the first time any sort of natural phenomenon had impressed me to that degree.


And then I more or less forgot about for thirty years, until it was time to find something to put in a blog entry.


I’ve lived in a variety of places since then, and I’ve been out walking in the snow many times since (usually not by choice), but even in the same alley, in the same conditions, I’ve never seen snow behave like that again. As memories go, I know it’s not terribly spectacular, and the BBC could probably recreate the scene on a budget of ten quid, but it clearly made something of an impression on single-digit-years me. And I still think of it fondly now and then today. It was probably one of the few moment of actual, literal stillness in my life I can recall, a time and place where everything else was still bustling about gently, but where I was, absolutely nothing was happening.


Or this could just be the point where I’m crossing the line into pretentiousness, so I think we’ll call it a day.


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

I think I give up. For now.

I'm a savvy enough geek to be able to compile stuff on Ubuntu, if I've got a cheatsheet/webpage open with careful instructions. Did this with Dungeon Crawl as soon as I got the laptop up and running, and Unnethack seems to be working also.

I can't fathom Sporkhack, however. I've no idea when it comes to SVN, or what to do with a .diff file. I'm not really prepared to delve into it given some of my misgivings about the changes in the fork, either. It really is way too much complexity to just setup a bloody roguelike.

Given the layout of the homepage, I almost have to think the author is deliberately not just putting the sourcefiles up on a nice, simple html link to download. Possibly just to spite me, and me personally. Given I've seen him memorably described as an 'ass with a top hat on it', it's entirely possible.

Oh well. Shower, and then we'll see if Dwarf Fortress wants to be more friendly.

(AC) Distraction-free Word Processing

I'm reasonably picky when it comes to word processors-slash-text editors; if anything, I'm looking for less features than most offer. I imagine Microsoft Word would be ideal were I trying to put together a presentation for an office meeting, but I really don't need the pages of templates and options for tables and clipart when I'm just typing up a bog-standard article or blog entry, I don't need eighteen pages of settings to tweak. Also, the computers I tend to be using aren't usually on the cutting edge of technology; Word, and its open-source counterpart, OpenOffice, tend to require something capable of launching the Space Shuttle to run smoothly, eating up prodigious amounts of RAM to produce a two-page essay.

(click here for the words that earn me the monies)

And because I'm lazy, there's at least a 24 delay on getting these things posted

Getting increasingly difficult to think of something to write about every single day. On the other hand, still very much wanting to, just drawing a blank when it’s coming to thinking of anything suitable.

(On an aside, got my 500 in for yesterday, just haven’t gotten around to uploading it yet as it’s an actual article I need to post to AC.)

That seems to be a problem a lot of the time with me, coming up with ideas as what to do actually do. I’d like to think I’m a pretty creative person, but I have the hardest damned time being creative on demand. I suspect (and hope) that I just need to be a tiny bit more organised and methodical about actually sitting down and writing. This, of course, is the exact reason I’m still making myself do 500 words on an empty tank.

That really seems to be the advice of any modern, successful writer, incidentally. They say, without trying to be too sarcastic, that to be a writer, you actually need to write stuff. Write stuff, and keep writing, and finish what you’re writing.

They also mention that reading voraciously is just as important as writing things. However, I don’t think ‘not reading enough’ is ever going to seriously make it onto my list of character flaws.

Stumbleupon also occasionally brings up random advice articles about writing blogs (usually on someone’s blog, for extra degree of meta), despite my best efforts to ‘train’ it not to. They offer all kinds of advice on how to start and maintain a blog, but I suspect the blogs they’re talking about and the blogs I’m talking about wouldn’t meet on a Venn diagram. Theirs seem to either be carefully crafted tools designed to lure unsuspecting web tourists into a whirpool of Search Engine Optimisation and targeted marketing, or blogs with a singleminded obsession with a particular subject that’s quite terrifying. They’re usually about something most people wouldn’t waste writing a paragraph about, but these folk apparently burn with the fire of a thousand suns for particular method of knitting or countertop refinishing.

I definitely don’t want that. I’m passionate about many things, but not to the point where I want to talk about it online every single bloody day, to the point where I’m paddling in the shallow end of the Asperger’s pool. And I certainly don’t want a blog capable of pulling in thousands of hits but having the personality and creativeness of a knife between the ribs. I would rather have absolutely no-one ever read this, and be happy with what I’ve tapped out here.

That being said, the same doesn’t /quite/ apply to stuff I write up for AC. I crossed the Rubicon of shamelessness for money there some time back, when I was being paid a few bucks for writing articles about things like ‘care of leather upholstery’ and ‘installing a dimmer switch’. In other words subjects which I had absolutely no idea about, and never would, but which Google did... It’s amazing how quickly you can learn enough to sound like an expert on something in 350 words or more. Though it’s less amazing how quickly you can forget this useless, useless, information.

I dunno. I think it’ll come together eventually. At least I’m not tooling about with flash memory cards and interface issues any more.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

2010 and all that

2011 has turned up fairly unobtrusively, and I have the nagging feeling I should be typing up some sort of review for the past year, highlighting my personal ups and downs and generally how things went for me. It is, I suspect, ‘the thing to do’.

Yet I can’t think of anything particularly to say about 2010 that was particularly remarkable. It wasn’t the best of years, and I can think of general times throughout it when we were broke, or miserable, or (more recently) ill, but I also can`t think of anything horrifyingly awful that happened, either. Things carry on, good, bad, and the immigration status, which appears to be a lifelong task.

It doesn’t help that it just doesn’t feel like a new year yet either. I was working last night, I’m working tonight. There’s absolutely no sense of today being a holiday or anything special, beyond the way that the people who are actually calling today are entirely the ones too stupid to realise that everywhere is closed today. I’m not exaggerating when I say that if these people lost just one or two more braincells, they’d be physically incapable of using the phone in the first place. I can totally understand why William Faulkner, on losing his job at the post office, said “I reckon I’ll be at the beck and call of folks with money all my life, but thank God I won’t ever again be at the beck and call of every son of a bitch who’s got two cents to buy a stamp.”

We get the ones who can’t afford a stamp. Or sometimes, have accidentally swallowed their stamp.

An Aside: I just referred to Facebook in conversation as ‘Livejournal’. This is probably the first sign of senile dementia. But then, I suspect anyone that knows me wouldn’t be in the least surprised by that.

Getting back to 2010, I suspect it’s going to be one of those years that, when I am truly old and senile, isn’t going to register as one of the memorable ones. Like most of the 1990s. I barely remember a damned thing about that decade; not the fashions, not the music, not even many events in my life. The events I do remember, I would be hard pressed to tell you what month, or even which year they actually happened.

This of course is another reason it might be worth scribbling in here most days. I used to actually enjoy posting to Livejournal just for the hell of it, and keeping a record of what was going on, even if it was bugger all. There’s a good five years or more I have archived from there which is a significant fraction of my life, including the years when Kit and I got together. These years of course will eventually be a matter of public interest and historical record, but in the unlikely event that they aren’t, it’s nice personally to be able to browse through these.

All this puts me in mind of Michael Palin. I’ve been reading his diaries of late, the ones covering most of the ten year period where Python were doing their most work, the TV series and the movies and whatnot, and it’s fascinating stuff. I’m sure he didn’t expect that so many people would read them eventually either. I’m pretty sure he wrote them without the intention of anyone but himself reading them, ever. But he still wrote them anyway.

Perhaps all that is as good a reason as any to try and stick with the 500 words/day here. Perhaps I don’t even need a good reason. It certainly passes an hour or so at work when it’s fairly quiet, time that would otherwise be consumed with more horrible deaths in Dungeon Crawl. I’m certainly not bored with doing it yet, or frustrated with the technology I have to do it on. I know Kit is following it on an RSS feed (*wave*), and I suspect she’ll get bored with reading it sooner than I do writing. Or perhaps not. The important thing is, I’m writing it for me, not for any bugger else.

And that really strikes me as reason enough.