Politics: Improvements or SHUT UP

I am so sick of reading political news right now.  I am so sick of the “my way or NO ONE GETS ANYTHING” tone of the rhetoric.  Why are “cooperation” and “compromise” nasty words?  In politics especially they are a requirement. When people don’t apply these we get half-assed solutions that get thrown out before they even have a chance to make any significant impact (bad OR good).  Lemme give an example.

Obamacare has problems.  A LOT of problems.  I said since day 0 of the discussion I couldn’t 100% support ANY passage which exempted Congress.  AFTER ACA passed I still grumbled about this point – I think Congressmen should have to buy their own insurance from the exchange from within THEIR district.  So little tiny district in Wyoming (or GA) has shitty options?  Guess who lives with shitty options?

THAT SAID, when the GOP kept trying to “repeal and replace” without ever actually building or talking about a replacement PLAN…. that was worse.  No.  I’m sorry you don’t like cabbage soup, but you don’t get to throw it out the window because it wasn’t the steak and french fries YOU wanted.  Cabbage soup is better than starvation and right now I am facing starvation. I will gratefully take the damn cabbage soup.  I’d love steak and french fries too, but since you apparently don’t have a cow and never planted potatoes… we have cabbage soup.  Shut up or go find a damn cow.

With the walk-out of the Paris accords and the walk-out of the Iran deal…. I am disgusted.  Beyond disgusted. I can’t find a word that conveys the depths of my disgust. There wasn’t a better option on the table.  There were imperfections and issues with them (well not so much Paris, what I know of that one was pretty good for the US all said and done).  BUT THEY ARE BETTER THAN STARVING.

We are now looking at a world where Iran and North Korea will have unstable governments with nuclear bombs.  Because “someone” didn’t get HIS damn burned steak and soggy french fries.  So our cabbage soup got thrown out the window.  And even worse is the voices of people standing by and watching, nodding and saying, “So smart! So Leader! Look how we will never settle for less than steak and french fries!”

No.  No.  No.

We can eat cabbage soup now and plant potatoes, they’ll take awhile to grow. We’ll probably have to find and trade with someone with a cow for our steak.  And that’s ok.  We can work with our neighbors. They aren’t Reavers from Firefly/Serenity and going to try to cannibalize us. I don’t know how to show people that working together gets us more than working against others.  Because as mad as I am at the politicians with that rhetoric, I am more angry at voters who keep them in their positions of power.

 

Writing: I want to write a TV Show

I have been re-listening to Ready Player One – and it has made me go from “dislike” to “UGH THE WORST” on the movie.  I have moved my dial from “well, you can tell it was “inspired by” to “were they even trying?!?” And I know, they probably had a ton of difficulty getting rights to stuff (stupid copyright holders probably being greedy, selfish, bastards).

But part of the problem is containing that scale into a movie.  I have been tumbling through my Plex list of movies and IMDB to see if I can think of a single movie that gives a scale to the universe that RPO should have had and honestly, the closest I get is Star Wars IV A New Hope, but that is journey movie – they have 3 major locations (Tattoine, Death Star/Alderaan, and Yavin) and they are SO DIFFERENT it helps.  Now, it might also be that I grew up so entangled in all three of the orignal movies my mind immediately includes all that information when I watch the first one.  I won’t say I can 100% I disassociate from them.

The Pilot episode would definitely be about Wade getting to the Tomb.  Episode 2 would be getting through the tomb & end as Art3mis comes in with drawn blade.  Episode 3 would be like 1/2 chat with Art3mis.

It would have to be more than Wade.  In my TV show, there would be a side plot that develops pretty early in Season 1 (probably episode ~4-5) of 3 sixers who hate IOI.  One would be indentured. One would be the “disaffected rich kid” (daddy works for IOI) who can’t win anyway ’cause of Daddy.  The third…. I haven’t decided.  Maybe just a smart-but-truly-socially-inept young girl who got conned into it and only after the contract was signed understood the true cost?  Maybe starts out as a “true blue” and gets disaffected later?

Anyway, I would build out the world of sixers with a “sympathetic inside team.”  Their plot lines would revolve around seeking some of the high-profile artifacts that show up at the end game – like the tablet the sixers use to find the 2nd key.  These three would be the ones that found it/acquired it.  Instead of just “buying” all these at auctions – sixers need to keep their skills up and these three do… They hate IOI, but it’s “work or worse” for all of them.

They would also get to have “personal avatars” and I think one of them (maybe the third poorly defined character) would have a romantic relationship with H – at first hoping to use H to find shit out and then realized H is amazing and she can’t imagine not being in love with him (her). Kind of a truth to pansexuals of “I don’t care what your gender is – I love YOU” towards the end.  They would have to meet on the final battlefield and the poor sixer chick knows who H is but H doesn’t know it’s her…. oh it would be beautiful tension!

I understand that not all IP’s were willing to get in on a movie – but maybe if they could be a shown a script that shows the depth and beauty of how their specific IP will be loved and honored…

I know, I’m all kinds of adorably naive about greed and whatnot.  Maybe HBO will pick me up and buy the TV rights…. We know they can do special effects right!

Throwback Thurs: Cinnamon

I found some old notebooks at the bottom of the box last weekend – including one my first ever journals.  The first three entries frankly brought me to tears. They are all about my first cat Cinnamon.

IMG_20180429_105112 (2)

Text:

Thurs, Feb. 18, 1997

Today I haven’t been feeling well so I called Mom and came home sick. I’ve slept most of the afternoon and I am about to go to bed.

Vic, a kid in my class, asked me on the 4 if I would go out with him. It was the morning after Cinnamen [sic] had been put down so I was still upset. He kept on pressuring me until Brittney started to beat him up. [I feel like I need to define “beat up” was usually with a piece of PAPER]

I am having a rough year so far. Vic is only making it worse. [God, I feel so sorry for him.  His timing was TERRIBLE – but it doesn’t excuse his behavior] I honestly don’t know what I’m going to do. I am terribly confused and frightening. [over 20 years later – I don’t remember why I used the word “frightened” but it makes me ANGRY.  Fear is not one of the steps of grief.]

I don’t want to go out with anybody right now because of Cinnamen, [sic] but if I don’t go out with Vic he will act like an idiot. [and this is MY problem?]

I DON’T KNOW WHAT I SHOULD DO!! [all caps doesn’t do justice to the middle-schooler’s ability to express herself… :)]

I wish someone could help me understand my problems and work through them. [Nope. Pretty sure that’s called “growing up” honey.]

Commentary:

Firstly, writing really helps me cement a memory.  That is almost EXACTLY how I remember that month.  I put down Cinnamon on the 3rd, Vic tried to ask me out THE NEXT MORNING, I told him “no, I just lost my cat” and he spent MONTHS harassing me (literally, in my diary the entry is in MAY when Mom and I got the Vice Principal involved and this is AFTER the entry “I talked to the school councilor ’cause he threatened suicide if I wouldn’t date him.”) I am so glad I don’t have that kind of drama now. I didn’t realize I was such a dramatic little brat then. But reading those entries now… wow.

And almost every entry “I don’t feel good” just reminds me that I don’t feel that way anymore ever since I (essentially) stopped eating peppers.  I was a little icky over the weekend but that was my own fault (I went to a Mexican restaurant) and it still wasn’t THAT bad.   It was 12-18 hrs of “meh” attitude towards most foods.

So yeah, there we go.  21 years ago I wrote through my own personal “horror.” I thought it was then – I have more executive function now to process the choices I was struggling with them.  Literally, look it up!  You don’t finish growing your brain until about 25, so at ~12 I didn’t have as much brain power; and these were HARD things.  Ok, some of them are STILL hard and scary for the post-25 age group.  Relationships (even ones that aren’t romantic) are HARD.

Writing: Magic exploration

I thought today I would walk through an example of my “back end” thought process on Magic.

I have a magic system that I want to have “locked” from a past conflict in the world.  It has minimized the magic any one person has and definitely minimized magic in the world. The “adventure” for the protagonist will be her (initially unwitting) cascade of unleashing this magic back into her world.

My struggle is that I want to have relatively-low-magic but not NO magic.  So I am trying to set limitations:

  1. Healers all have a random disability (blindness, deafness, loss of motor skills, debilitating migraines, etc.) because theirs is actually DEATH magic.  They don’t know this…
  2. Fire starters can’t feel injuries – making them TERRIBLE to try to use in battle.  They might be dying of a wound and not have any clue about it until they’ve bled too close to death to be saved.
  3. Water manipulators ??? – I don’t know yet!!! This is the one I’m struggling with.  I kind of want to say they struggle with memory; like short-term memories are difficult to retain if they’ve been practicing their craft.  Makes them seem “dumb” when they are children, and the more power they manipulate in the craft the “dumber” they seem.
  4. Time (future seers or past seers) have no control over the depth or distance of their power.  Their magic can be “sucked” from them at pretty much any level when they try to use it.  What should be “simple” might wipe them off their feet for no apparent reason. I actually have a thought on WHY this is – but I don’t know if I can verbalize it thoroughly.  It has to do with that object’s/target’s “depth” within one of the other magic’s realm and it takes MORE “time” to overcome an object’s earth or fire or whatever.
  5. Air magicians ??? – another one I want a good “price” for  A pure air mage can move AIR – so they are speedsters of a sort (but with limitations on their physical form) and not much else (that I’ve come up with).  But what is their downside?  Or is this the “well they might not be POWERFUL, but damn you don’t got the owchie of the others” – when really once you link air to fire or time…  you get scary combos.
  6. Earth magic has “vanished” (lies! lies I say MWAHAHAHA!)

The protagonist doesn’t know all this.  She also doesn’t know that earth magic HASN’T entirely disappeared. It’s “earth” combined with others in different amounts that allow other gifts to manifest (and actually are more common than “pure” gifts).  They assume that when someone is a “plant wizard” they just have pitiful amounts water magic.  It’s actually a case of they are like 33% water, 33% healing, and 33% earth…  They seem “weak” because there IS a problem with earth magic… but that’s getting into plot.  Lightning is air+fire magic.  And yeah, THEY are scary in combat.  Air+earth is basically grenade. 1 in a million people has 33% air, 33% death and 33% fire which is basically the ability to make someone DROP DEAD with a thought.  Air seems “simple” until you apply it with another magic.

So in this system if you are born with “pure” magic you have the capacity to become a full-fledged sorcerer.  This is using ALL types of magic to their full potential.  So a seer is just a person without the other types of magic unlocked. The mages – lesser magics are born with combinations and that’s all they ever get.  BUT they also have access to their full strength all the time and without the drawbacks sorcerers suffer from. Not to get into plot, but there aren’t any sorcerers at the beginning of this book.

I did math:

I don’t want it to be that a LOT of people have magic, in fact I want it to be relatively rare.  So in a city of 100,000 (London in 1600 was about 200,000 so… “medium” city) I want ~1-5% of the population to have “powers,” with these pure powers (sorcerer potential) being approximately 5% of that group.  This means 3,000 people have SOME kind of magic at a random level of ability. Which means 150 will be “pure magic” users (above).

I moved to Excel for the next bit so I could play with numbers (out of ~3,000 “magic” users in the city):

Magic: % #
Healers 25% 37.5
Fire 10% 15
Water 25% 37.5
Seer 15% 22.5
air 25% 37.5
100% 150

Because remember, I said 1-5%  of the total population (1k-5k) with POTENTIAL actually use magic and ~5% of magic users are “mages” (pure in a type). I think this is the balance I like.  I want fire to be VERY low (they don’t survive childhood easily…) and healers and seers are more “rare” because they can choose not to USE their powers. And for healers… if every time you helped a customer something nice you had debilitating migraines would YOU actively pursue a customer service career?  It takes a special kind of crazy to do that.

So the protagonist is a healer. Her maid is a water-user. The queen is a seer. Another Lady in the court will be a seer although it’s not publicly known. One of the people she works with in the king’s healers’ corp (when they are near a battlefront) is actually a non-practicing fire starter masquerading as a super-weak healer.

I have space for another ~35 healers, I think I will have 20 of them be “public” (working in the city) and 5-10 “noble” (supporting/working for nobility) and that gives me a few numbers to throw around (I think 5-10 working for the military throughout a large — think Germany- sized country– is generous and explains why they will allow a nobleman’s daughter to work with the army!)

Readers (unless/until they find THIS blog post) won’t be told a lot of this through the plot.  They also won’t necessarily know WHY earth is broken (at least not in the beginning).  I want to avoid an info dump at any point, but I’m trying to figure out how to dribble what I want the reader to get to if it’s “lost knowledge.”

Review: Reviewing Reviews by a Reviewer

I am wrapping up a project at work that has kind of consumed my life for the past few months (hence the super-sporadic posting).  I have been a bit manic about when/how/what I post. Hence there have been a few weeks where I got stuff scheduled the weekend before or managed to keep up with the occasional night-writing and the past two or three weeks have been deathly silent.

But now I am working on the reviews for my project-team. Because I think it’s important to give them feedback (the good, the bad and the ugly).  And it’s hard because reviewing-up is stressful (especially since I can’t be anonymous). Reviewing peers isn’t as bad, my workplace DOES have a good culture about constructive reviews.  ASKING for reviews is also hard because as much as my company has a culture to encourage constructive reviews – I don’t feel like everyone does it.

I have 2-5 managers I love working with because they give me AWESOME feedback (“the audio was kind of scratchy” or “I wish the examples had been more department-specific” or the like) where not only do they tell me something was wrong, they tell me what would make it better (even when I then roll my eyes in my brain and go “yeah…. not with OUR time constraints” or the like).

I like constructive feedback.  I LIKE it.  I crave it as an employee. I want to be better. I promise, I’m not trying to do something less than awesome and if it’s less than awesome I either didn’t know/realize or HAD to compromise because of time/money constraints.  That old time-money-quality triangle is something I balance in my head A LOT.  Probably more than I should. But if no one mentions it, I might not realize I missed awesome (’cause that was my AIM).

So as I come to the end of this project I am trying to think of some way(s) I can get the constructive critique I want.  I know at least one person on the project I am going to ask to get lunch with me and have a very frank conversation (a – I think he’ll be super-honest and b- he’s been extremely involved in several pieces of the project that were the pieces that went a little sideways). For most of them, I think I am going to give them constructive critiques (most of them highly positive) and just send them a quick email asking them for the same.

Hopefully, this also means I can get back to writing here on the regular instead of the manic sporadic writing I’ve BEEN getting in.  I have a character fluttering in my brain begging me to write her story but I’m soooo mentally tired every night.

Review (SPOILERS) Ready Player One [Movie]

I can’t review Ready Player One without spoilers.  I might be able to, but I’d have to go watch the trailer a bunch to make sure what I talk about is only from the trailer.  Oh, but can I assume people HAVE read a book that’s been out for 7 years?  I generally have a ~1yr policy on not spoiling books so….  (1 year from when you learned about the book is my general rule.)

So you have fair warning: I will be spoiling both book and movie if you haven’t consumed them yet… well, stop reading or don’t complain. I’ve done what I can to make sure everything that might preview on Twitter or Facebook or elsewhere has given you time to go “noooo, no spoilers!”

I have been avoiding other reviews so everything I say is my own.

I suspected from the trailer, but I have to say I think it’s disappointing that they (a) left out the whole D&D part of the book and (b)if he was in any kind of formal school that was…. ignored? Edited out? It was world building I wished they had included.

know they had to trim things to make it into a viable move-length format but…. but since RPGs is my area of geekery (I loved how that played out in the book) I don’t like that it was completely cut out.  I feel like they managed to keep video games, movies & music – but roleplaying got cut completely.  I didn’t even see some good WOW references or EverQuest (and maybe I just missed them).  The closest was a troll but I didn’t see anything that screamed “RPGS” in it.

So putting that aside, I would say that as a movie inspired by the book; it’s good.  As a movie based on the book it lacks some of the depth the book had.  Not surprising, Ready Player One was told in first person and converting that to third person limited is damn difficult.  And on that front, I think this might be the best conversion from 1st person book to movie I’ve seen.

That said, it still loses some of the… urgency that Wade experienced in the book. I felt like he was less invested in hating IOI and more invested in his own comfort.  In the book it’s clear from page 3 or so that IOI is despised and even if Wade doesn’t feel he has the power to stop them; he would if he could. That was not evident in the movie.  I wish they would have minimized the romance with Art3mis rather than minimize the personality and motivations of the protagonist.

Which leads to the fact they minimized his role in general. I don’t know how I feel about this one. On the one hand I feel like Art3mis/Samantha was a much more interesting character and more plot-driving. I kind of love that she was the one to stick out the danger of IOI’s headquarters. BUT the romance element was… frankly, I felt like it was forced.  I just felt like they kept pushing the “kiss the girl” thing which wasn’t as true in the book.  At least my memory of the book it felt like they formed a friendship and he had a crush on her before he met her – but after meeting her he found the friendship as important as potential romance.

My other beef is minimizing the international nature of the world. I feel like it got set in OK and stayed there.  Everyone was just magically there; I kept wanting the scene where H comes to “rescue” him and I hated that WADE didn’t call H.  If I step away from the book, it’s fine and makes sense.  But definitely, the classic stands, “The book was better.”

I will watch it again when it comes out on DVD.  I will try to distance myself more so I can watch it without wanting to see the book on the screen.

Trivia: Peppers

I get so annoyed with people confusing black pepper with bell peppers.  How can anyone who cooks think these things are anything alike?

Thanks English (#ThanksObama)

Well in this case I can very firmly blame the English.  Ok, mostly the English but also the Dutch, Portugese and Spanish – basically “Europe.”

You see, when Europeans came to America and found these…. things… that added flavor to food; they didn’t want to bother learning the natives’ language so they took them back to Europe and marketed them as “peppers.”

Prior to America, the most “spicy” food most Europeans ate came imported from Indian in the form of these little black pods called “peppercorns.”  So, these master marketers decided to call this new tasty treat a pepper!  (So creative. The most creative. Believe me.)

As an aside – corn meant “grain” so a “peppercorn” is a pepper-grain (which is fitting).  And pepper was a word from sanskrit which might have meant something like “berry” waaaaay back when; Ergo it’s “berry grain” which if you’ve ever seen perppercorns growing fits:

image from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_pepper

So, when these Europeans wanted to sell something that made food tasty, they named it the same damn name as what people already knew.  Or so damn close that 200 years later people don’t understand:

These are two totally separate plants.

In fact, you have to go up past species and genus and family and order  to Clade or Kingdom “Andiosperms” (clade) and “Plantae” (Kingdom).  It’s not even like they are closely related and so yeah people might have crossed the wires a bit… NOPE.

So, the next time you hear someone talking about peppers stop and ask if they mean real peppers or the Europeans-didn’t-want-to-confuse-people-to-make-profit peppers.