Saturday, March 31, 2012

Bingo, Bingo!

I found this online, and I realize it's been a while since I posted, so this here's a big one. Things like this have been circulating on Tumblr for a while now, but this particular one was one that found on the Border House, a community blog that describes itself as, "It's a blog for those who are feminist, queer, disabled, people of color, transgender, poor, gay, lesbian, and others who belong to marginalized groups, as well as allies." It's a good website; I've got it bookmarked and expect ti to appear on the sidebar soon. I'm not a huge fan of video games but I have the genres I like; I'm usually a simulationist fan. I loved the WipEout series even though I've only played 2097/XL and Wip3out. I loved all of the SimCity series (I would often create my own history to go with the cities and everything), and I was huge fan of Star Wars: Battlefront, Rise of Legends, Medieval: Total War and a handful of other games. One of the reasons I prefer writing and table top games to video games is because I can create my own stories, with my own characters and my own themes and issues that I want to deal with. Don't get me wrong - I'm not about to knock vidya games - but the medium acts more as a constraint for my creativity than it does an aid (although, that hasn't stopped me from "borrowing" concepts and ideas from video games in the past; in fact, one of the half-dozen novel projects I have floating around in my head was inspired by Wipeout, but writing about races is really challenging because speed is a hard illusion to keep when writing).

Despite not being a huge fan of video games, video game culture, table-top game culture, and card game culture often overlap; a member of one is usually a member of one of the other two (I say usually because I'm that outlier). What affects one usually affects the other two. Furthermore, on the periphery, one usually finds the speculative fiction community, a community I belong to in the same way I belong to the transhumanist community. So there's an web of interconnection between these different communities, and those who aren't part of them will often make the mistake of assuming that they're all the same thing. One of the major problems that I've outlined before for the gaming community is sexism, and to the same degree, racism and homophobia. Because these form a spectrum, rarely will you find someone who isn't one or more of these things. You'll be hard pressed to find "just a sexist", because odds are, they're likely a homophobe and racist, too. These kinds of people form a notable segment of the video game, table-top game, card game, speculative fiction, and comic book communities. Because these communities are diversifying slowly, with more females, more transfolk, more gay people, and more marginalized individuals in general, becoming involved, these privileged white boys who are the "face" of the so-called blanket term "nerd culture" have become more vocalized. And the way they've become more vocal is very reminiscent of the way that the South was vocal during Desegregation; i.e., not at all productive and prone to using derailing techniques. That's where this "bingo" sheet comes in at; it's a list of sexists, misogynistic, and homophobic things that privileged white boy gamer/nerds often say in response to attempts to diversify their hobby. For the hell of it, I'm going to respond to the points on the card, explaining why each is bad. I believe that if you're just learning, there's no reason to shout you down. Understand, though, there's a lot of people who believe that it's the job of the marginalized to teach them about their privilege in society; when in reality they don't want to learn at all, and are doing it just to derail the conversation. Or they come bearing their privilege and dismiss what others have to say, rather than listening to what they have to say.

So, here's the bingo card. While this is designed for the gaming community, you can use this anywhere, any time, in any discussion, be it politics or what have you, by swapping a few things out.

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Blue Pimpernel is now published!

Okay folks, it's published! I finally decided that enough editing was enough and put it up for sale. You can find the very first edition of The Blue Pimpernel here, at Lulu:

The Blue Pimpernel is here

I have plans for an ebook version and a 8.5 x 11 version, too.

The story is my take on superhero fiction and hard science fiction. The story centers around 16-year-old Renee Rhee, a non-neurotypical half-Korean teenage girl and her friends, Ofelia Stratford and Cyan Brooklyn. They exist in a dystopian America that's utterly isolated itself at the local level and as a result, has completely fallen apart. Renee and her friends live in Joliet, just outside of Chicago. Corruption runs rampant at the local levels, and after corruption and violence steal the life Renee knows not once but twice, Renee and her friends decide that they've had enough, and devise a means to fight back. Rather than be the typical "superhero fights crime," it becomes "superhero strikes against those with power." Renee is not wealthy; in fact, she's an orphan adopted by her best friend's family, who are lower middle-class.

So go ahead and take a look at it. I'm excited; this is my first ever publication so, while I'm not expecting a lot from it (in fact, I suspect there will be plenty bugs, as this is the first novel I've published), but I hope to take this and improve upon it for future stories.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Seven Dirty Words, Seven Moral Sins

What are the seven dirty words of the modern era? According to Pat Buchanan (WARNING! WND Link), their numbers include "sexism," "racism," and "homophobia." I'd like to expand that list to a whole new list; to replace the original Seven Deadly Sins with a new set that are more relevant to our society.

1. Sexism
2. Racism
3. Homophobia
4. Transphobia
5. Ableism
6. Classism
7. Nativism

That list is in no particular order; it's just as they came to me.

Personally, these are more grievous sins than what Pat lists, which include "filthy talk",  like calling Pat a fucking bigot with his head shoved up his motherfucking ass, or immoral conduct, which means enjoying your life and living how you want to within the bounds of others. In fact, I've come to believe that of all the great sins in society, "morality" as is commonly used is the greatest of them all. To call yourself "moral" is to say that you're standing against everything that a good society should be. To say you are "moral" means that you believe uninsured 20yos should die from preventable illnesses. To say you are "moral" means you're all about shoving your nose in business that does not concern you, including cramming your twisted "values" system down other people's throats. To be "moral" means preaching from the street corner about your faith, and forcing others to follow rules you yourself do not abide by (for instance: when was the last time you cleaned mold from your house? The Bible has some very detailed rules about dealing with mold. If you're a Biblical "literalist" then you'd better be following those rules, which includes getting a rabbi involved; these aren't like dietary laws, which you can say "Jesus excused them". No, Jesus said jack all about mold. Which means you're not excused from following those laws, "inerrant literalist"). Moral means making innocent mothers in Texas suffer for 48 hours because they need an abortion for a medical reason, because in your backwards imagination the only women who get abortions are women who aren't having sex with you who are horrible, horrible people that won't let you control their sex lives who are hussies (based exclusively on an assumption; there are women who have abortions because they made a mistake and they're not ready to be mothers yet - more power to them. That's a mature decision and it's one they deserve support in. You have no right to assume or know which reason it is, because it's none of your fucking business.)

So yea, verily, when thou whines about a decline in the moral fiber of this nation I cheer. Because if that's what moral means, we need less of them.

"You'll get yours. You just wait."

Scare me again with your sky fairy. If there is a God, and he is the architect of these archaic rules and all this hate, then he'll deserve it when I stand before the gates and knock his fucking lights out.

I highly doubt that kind of God exists, though. I doubt any kind of god exists, but that particular one - no, I'm pretty sure he's not real.

So, there the new, Seven Deadly Sins for the modern age: Sexism, Racism, Homophobia, Transphobia, Ableism, Classism and Nativism. Preach it high and wide; it's time we Sinners showed the Saints just how twisted and fucked up they really are.

The New Misogyny

So, I've read a few pieces online and I've been neck deep in political activist blogs (I need to stop doing that. My blood pressure is in bad enough state is it is most of the time). I came across an interesting article the other day detailing what's called "the new misogyny", which is decidedly different from "the old misogyny."

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Things I Learn

I've learned quite a bit from this little excursion in self-publishing. As the release date for my novel inches closer, and I get closer to completing it, I look back and realize that there's quite a bit that nobody ever taught me that I had to learn myself.

Editing a book is hard. I've proof read my book numerous times and I've had other people proof read it and each time I go over it, it seems like there's another mistake that I missed. I've also learned to become more forgiving to people like S. Meyers; to be a crappy writer is one thing, but to a be a victim of poor editing is something totally different - everyone makes mistakes, and everyone should be forgiven for making those mistakes (so long as they learn from them). Her series is rife with both poor writing and very poor editing. Professional freelance editing services cost about 0.001 - 0.002 cents per word. So the total cost of a professional freelancer editing my novel? about 2,000 dollars. To think that I could pay out 2,000 dollars and end up with something like Twilight makes my blood run cold (pun intentional). I'll forgive you for making mistakes. I won't forgive your editor for letting them slip through. In my case, I get to be both writer and editor. While most writers would jump at the chance, I realize that no, this isn't necessarily a good thing. I've had a few dedicated beta readers, and I've had people tell me that while they didn't finish it, they liked it. So only time will tell, but I have plenty of forgiveness for authors who make mistakes and none for editors, who charge 2,000 dollars for their services, who let them slip through.

Spell checker and grammar checker get a lot of flak from modern grammarians and English professionals. Really, they're useful tools. You just have to know your grammar and your English really, really well to make use of them (which is likely why they get a lot of flak; too many people rely on them and nothing else). It also helps to know the difference between prescriptive and descriptive grammar. Prescriptive grammar is grammar as it should be; that is, the grammar your English teacher beat into your skull; don't use contractions, 'ain't' isn't a word, don't split the infinitive (i.e, "to boldly go", "to quickly run", "to sadly say"), and all the other archaic laws of the English Language. The Grammar Nazi subscribes to the prescriptive view of grammar. On the other hand, you have the descriptive view of grammar; while prescriptive is as it should be, descriptive is as it is. Individuals who study the descriptive school of grammar attempt to understand why people use words like they do. 'Ain't' is a word, because it's used in several dialects and is the contraction of "am" and "not" (some adherents of prescriptive grammar will hold this to, but only to an extent: "I ain't [I am not]" is proper. "You ain't [You am not]" is not). Descriptive grammar makes room for dialects, where prescriptive grammar does not. Some adherents to descriptive grammar, such as myself, hold that there is no way to split an infinitive in English verbs*: "to" is not part of the word and thus, not part of the infinitive; your infinitive is "run" not "to run". Those who follow prescriptive grammar would differ. Both have their purposes; when you're writing a formal scientific paper, or a business letter, one uses prescriptive grammar, because it makes things seem more professional. It also makes it read easier, because the minute you start including idioms and local color in your writing, you lose people not from your local. Editing your book is all about finding and striking a balance between prescriptive and descriptive grammar usage. As a general rule, prescriptive is best for narrative description while descriptive is best for dialogue, but several authors have made their way in the past using their own voice as they write, and all bets are off with first person narration. It's a tricky thing.

Sometimes, things that read really smoothly the first few times don't the third. This is why it's important to read it a few times. Your fingers are not perfect on the keyboard; a big one that I noticed for myself was "form" where I intended "from". Grammar checker is not going to find this (however, CTRL+F and typing in "form" will, but that requires a lot of reading to do it). I notice noticed myself repeating things that didn't even matter; space filling phrases. I don't know how common those are, but repetition is a problem that I notice with students that I work with, too. Grammar checker is good for calling attention to things like "it's" and "its"; even if you are using them right, it's good to have something there to call your attention to them just so you double check.

Said is not a dirty word. Really folks, it's not. Good dialogue should stand on its own. This is a nasty mistake made by a lot of "new" authors (I really shouldn't say "new" because I'm technically a "new" author, even though I've been writing since I was 14, better than 12 years now). What matters with dialogue is not what comes after it, but what's between the quotation marks. You're writing a book, not stage directions for a play. Let the reader decide what tone the character said what in. And believe it or not, but said bookisms slip in really easily. You have to be vigilant and catch them. The same is true for descriptions; how much time to you spend describing something, and bogging the story down? I don't like Tolkien because there's a lot of unnecessary description in his books that takes the story nowhere (although, to be fair, that's the least of the crimes I can level against those horrid books; classism and aristocracy worship are just two of the biggest sins therein). Adverbs and adjectives should be used carefully. I've seen authors argue that they aren't necessary at all, and while I don't agree with that, I do agree that they can be over used. So what is adjective and adverb abuse? It's subjective; some readers love description. Others don't. You and you alone know if you have an problem with adjectives and adverbs, but if you find yourself unable to write a sentence without one, then maybe it's time to admit you have a problem. If you find yourself using multiple pieces of punctuation in the same sentence, it's time to cut off that sentence and make it into two or three sentences. Dashes are nice. Don't overuse them; you're not Emily Dickenson and it makes the page really hard to read.

Totally separate from grammar, punctuation, spelling, and word use: self-publishing means covering all aspects of the book, which includes cover design. If you want to have a good cover, you have to have a good idea of graphic design. This means knowing the basics of color theory. For instance, my novel, the Blue Pimpernel features a blue pimpernel flower on the cover. I designed it in Adobe Photoshop CS4, and when I made it, I was able to achieve a few neat effect by using posterize, linear burn, and a gradient that faded from a very vibrate blue (Red 0/Green 0/Blue 255 on the sRGB [standard Red/Green/Blue] gamut) to black. So I was happy with it; all the blue on the cover was done with B255 or B250, so the cover was a very blue cover. It came back, having printed off, a rather vibrant violet/reddish purple color in some spots and gray in others. This confused me. At first, I thought it was because there was to much red in the cover, so I went in and pulled some of the red out. Then, when I printed it again on the school printers, the color was a slate-like blue gray. I decided to redesign the cover, thinking I did something wrong. I still got the slate-like blue gray. I printed off the first cover (unadulterated; the one that came back to me as violet/reddish-purple in some spots and gray in others) and that likewise ran off in that slate-like blue gray. By this point, I'm all confused. So I emailed them asking what the deal was and why my blue came back gray and purple. Turns out this is an extremely common problem when printing. See, I'd done my cover in RGB. RGB is web colors; as far as the color spectrum goes, one gets a broader selection of colors with wRGB and sRGB. Which is why monitors display sRGB and why it's the default for most pictures. But as it turns out, printers don't use RGB. When you send something to print, it undergoes a conversion process to a different selection of colors - and a much narrower selection - called CMYK. CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black. With RGB, colors are achieved by mixing red, green, or blue. With CMYK, colors are achieved by mixing cyan, magenta, yellow or black. Having a larger number of colors does not mean you get more colors with CMYK. In fact, because of the way the colors cyan and magenta are achieved, you get a much, much smaller range of colors with CMYK. Here's a comparison; notice how much smaller the CMYK gamut is than the RGB or even the Pantone gamuts. See how CMYK mimics blues? CMYK has a very narrow selection of blues that one can pick from (although it does really well with reds and greens). Here's what was happening: when I selected my color, B255, it was well outside of the CMYK gamut. So when I sent it to print off, the printer would convert it to the closest color it could find. The proper way to mimic R0/G0/B255 in CMYK is what follows: C100%, M100%, Y0%, K0%. It displays bright blue on a RGB monitor, unless you're in a CMYK work space, where it is a muted gray-blue. Thus, the printers a Lulu ran it off as C100% and M100%; making the cover purple, while the printers at the college, which aren't as good as the printers at Lulu, ran it off as it appeared on the screen in CMYK; a slate gray-blue. To further complicate matters, the linear burn feature does not work well when inside of a CMYK workspace. So I had to start from scratch with the cover, rebuilding it in CMYK and trying to find a way to mimic an effect similar to the linear burn.

So that's where I'm at right now, and that's another reason why I've been really busy lately. However, release date is coming up soon. Keep an eye on this space for future developments.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Fuck: Promoting Decency in Language

I occasionally visit Roger Ebert's blog from time to time - I'm not a huge fan of movies, I think the movie industry is a pile of shit and I could only wish Hollywood was half as liberal as the conservatives in the tinfoil hats wearing the persecution complexes say it is - but this one stuck out so I had to comment on it.

I've blogged in the past on bullying. I think bullying is endemic, and I think that the bullies have friends in high places who are willing to excuse their behaviors in the "name of tradition," which is this skewed thing that White people remember when they think about television shows set in the 1950s. In it, little scamps who always said "gee wiz" and wore stripped shirts knocked out Mr. Humperdinkel's back window with a slingshot, and had to apologize and everyone learned a valuable lesson. Bullies as they were remembered are nothing more than bromances waiting to happen. All you had to do was stand up to the bully and the problem went away.

I've commented before how I don't trust people who claim to have good memories. Claiming any of the above was even remotely true and attempting to prove to me that Andy Griffith or Leave it to Beaver are historical documentaries is enough for me to laugh you out of the country (fools like this are already promoting The Flintstones as a historical documentary). The memory is a funny thing, and the way memories are built are influenced less by the actual events and more by the things we see and hear about those events. This concept of the 1950s as a Utopia where the only Black guy on stage was a mailman who was always smiling and you never saw a gay person are memories of the 50s clearly built ex post facto. This argumentum ad excogitari praeterium/ratio ad fraudulenta historia is a framing device through which most conservatives - indeed, most Americans - view the present world.

This is especially prevalent in the way that we tell children to deal with bullies. The rugged independent nature of America dictates that we shouldn't rely on authority for anything, including dealing with our problems. All too often, said authority is the problem in this country, anyway, but that's another point. Because we live in this imagined past, all that needs to happen to deal with a bully is to bust him in the face (unless said bully is a girl. And then, when other girls fight back, we stand aghast a how violent society is making girls. Welcome to the world where no matter what you do you can never win - 51% of the human population lives here. It's not a pleasant place). For those of us anchored here in the real world, without our heads rammed up our ass and lodged in the colon of the made up past, that's not how this works. Not remotely. Violence isn't the answer, first of all, because it accomplishes nothing. Second of all, victim blaming and saying that it's the job of the individual being picked on to fight back leaves a bitter taste in my mouth; it's the job of the bully not to bully. How about that?

Enter a movie named Bully. I've heard in passing about this movie; it's a collection of stories about individuals who have been bullied, with the intent of yank America's head out of it's ass the hard way. It sounds like a pretty good movie - a movie that, unlike Avatar, serves a social function that society desperately needs (because what society really needs is more Magical Native American stereotypes projected on fictional creatures. Especially when most people treat Native Americans like they're fictional, anyway). So, in being what sounds like a pretty good movie, with a useful social function that society very much needs, the MPAA did the usual thing the intelligent folks at the MPAA does: they rated it R so that teens, who the movie is about, wouldn't be able to see it.

I'm Still Alive

I'm still alive, no worries. It's been week 10 at the college, and I'm still proofing my novel (and I've had to go back and redo my cover something like 8 times) but I'm still here. Because I'm coming up on Spring Break (two weeks off), I'll spend a little more time blogging than I have this week.

Don't worry, I'm still here. I haven't gone anywhere :)

Saturday, March 10, 2012

A Teapublican's Paradise

This came across my feed this morning, and when something like this comes up, it's always worth a look-see. It posits itself as a response to God's Own Party, and with it, the Randian fantasies and Teabagging Rhetoric that seems to be tying together the Big White Tent of "boys-only" bootstraps and bigotry.

It even starts off with an awesome pitch, too:

Imagine, if you will, a country where there is:
No Obamacare
No Obama
The Fair Tax is the law of the land
The Income Tax code is simple and the forms are easy to fill out
The IRS is as toothless as a plate of Jello
There is a complete Laissez Faire free market
No Labor Unions
No Government involvement in Business, Health Care, Labor matters or pretty much anything else except national security.
So where is this mythical Tea-paradise?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Going Gandalf

I read an interesting article today Times. Apparently, there's so muttering of the wealthy and rich planning to go on strike (yes, yes. Bear with me. It is every bit as ridiculous and stupid as it sounds). In certain communities, it's called "Going Galt," after the designated hero in Rand's novel, Atlas Shrugged. Now, I have my own opinions on Rand's work - being a socialist and all - that put me on the diametric opposite end of the scale. I've even taken a look at Rand's work before and dissected it, taking it apart, figuring out what made it tick (nothing) and then putting it back together again in a way that made much more sense.

So naturally, I felt the need to comment on this article as well.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Two Types of Consent

I've been all over this for the last few months since I started the blog, but as I look back, I realized that never once have I managed to make a coherent, solid argument for uplifting other than, "it's our moral imperative." While to some people, that's enough, but to others, it's not. Unlike a lot of other "debates" - climate change, evolution, a woman's right to control her own body - this is an actual debate, and one that deserves to be handled with respect for all sides involved. While uplifting isn't on the table yet, as our science advances, we'll see an increasing potential for humanity to make it so that we're not the only sapient species in the solar system anymore. I'm all for this. Let me lay out why, and then answer to the issues against it.

Ignatius Reilly Issues Notpology

I've been watching this unfold for the last few days, but I haven't had much time to comment on it. So now that I have some time, I'm definitely going to say something.

For those who aren't caught up, the last couple of weeks have been nothing short of an all-out attack on the rights of women to be human beings in the United States. The Right-Wing is bringing it hard and fast; one assault after another. You almost get the sense they know they're gonna get their shit trashed this coming election, so they're doing everything they can to leave a mark and failing. This panic has lead to some strange, circus-like situations over the last few years. The strangest of them all, perhaps, is the fact that Ignatius Reilly could somehow become respected among the Republican Party as one of the most speakers for the regressive, backwards, wrongheaded movement.

Well, the Democrats managed to get a young law school student named Sandra Fluke to testify before congress. While the Republicans, in typical form, tried to silence her, she still managed to get some important things said. This, together with a general empathy towards human begins and a belief that a woman should control her own body as opposed to the government controlling it, pretty much shoots down the clown posse that Issa had testify before congress on the BC issue (for the record; all of these clowns were men. Speaking about women's biology and bodies. And the Republicans gave it their best shot to block an expert, so to speak - that is, someone who knows what women go through by virtue of being one). So, naturally, Ignatius Reilly wasn't pleased and he made some typical remarks expressing his disgust and thereby making everyone sick:

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Practical Nanotech

The other day, while surfing the internet at work (I was actually helping a student find sources; when doing so, I type in the first word that comes to my mind - or the second, if the first isn't appropriate. This just happened to be the first word, and is often my go-to example), I found this really neat web-page. It's called Nano & Me, and takes a look at the every day applications for nanotechnology. It's really cool. I've talked at length about nanotechnology before, but I've never broken it down into practical applications - which is what some people need in order to appreciate the full scale (pardon the pun) of nanotech. This website does a good job of doing just that; taking a look at the practical applications of nanotechnology in every day life. Below the fold are a few things that stand out to me from the website.

Human Black Box: Follow the Money (Part 3)

In the previous two installments, Anjali was given an assignment by ANTARES to hunt down information on a guy named "K-Wave." Along the way, she ran into an old friend, and found herself unraveling the interesting history of a man who vanished 5 years after the fall.

Today, Anjali comes a little closer to finding the truth - but still has a long way to go from understanding it.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Because Being Poor wasn't Humiliating Enough

The United States must have some kind of envy towards poor people. I'm not entirely sure what it is, but there's just something about being poor that means you become the envy of the middle class. Everyone goes out of their way to talk about multitude of different ways that they want to make your life miserable, and this fellow from The Daily Caller is no exception.

I'm not all that familiar with the Daily Caller, but because they let a publication like this on their webpage, I'm going to assume that they have a mild right-wing bias. Lately, it seems like we're seeing a furious attempt to reinstate the power of masculine authority - putting the father in the Fatherland, as it were. Attacks on POCs, attacks on trans and gays, attacks on women's rights, xenophobia, a strong nationalistic bend with a worship of men who were nothing like the people being worshiped, the merging of corporate interests and "heroic capitalism" with the "grassroots" movement... why, if I didn't know any better, I'd suggest that these folks were fascist. But they're not, clearly, because they say they're not. And that's all that matters, because you'll be damned before you can convince them that they're wrong about the historical truth about the positions that they hold.

I digress. This guy from the Daily Caller is a piece of work. He believes that poor people who have to survive on government assistance - who don't have it hard enough as is - should be punished even more. They should have a scarlet "P" stamped on their forehead. It's their fault for being Black Latino poor (don't you dare tell me that's what I'm thinking when I say "poor", you racist liberal). The Right has turned out a parade of monstrous, sociopathic clowns over the last 10 or so years - so much so that the Joker would feel right at home, if he hadn't made it clear that he was an "American villain" when he refused to join forces with the Red Skull. Brion McClanahan is little different, with the exception of the fact that he'd readily jump at a deal to work with the Red Skull.