Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Struggle Ain't No Snuggle

Don't worry if that title doesn't make a whole lot of sense to you. It isn't that clear to me either. It's meant to suggest some sort of adversarial something or other. Yeah, I know. It rhymes real nice though, don't it?

This week has been a fairly rough one for me. I started off good, getting a lot done on Monday. But I got really sick Monday night (stomach bug), and spent the next few days moaning and groaning. And deeply disinterested in doing anything but lying in bed. I wasn't able to avoid work, so I basically stumbled through my day like a zombie then came home and crashed. Not fun.

Even so, I managed to write a short story (based on a rather feverish dream I had, and remarkably non-Lovecraftian considering that fact.) I did a critique for a friend on Thursday, as well as one for the online critique group I frequent (, great group BTW.) I did several revisions on old stories that needed touching up and turned in eight submissions to various paying markets.

One of which has already come back with an accompanying rejection. Sigh.

On the plus side, the nausea helped kick my weight loss into high gear. I am down about ten pounds since New Year's, right on schedule and feeling great about it, even though I didn't feel so great. Some times we have to dig a little deeper to find the bright side of things, huh?

I did manage to get some voice recorder work done on Monday, but when I decided to reorder the structure of the story I was working on, I got a little thrown. I am planning on taking another run at that story tomorrow. I also wrote the dream story start-to-finish on voice recorder, then transcribed it (with heavy edits.) That was more the normal process, though, which works great for short pieces (this one is about 2k.)

This week, like the last few months and like the months that preceded NaNoWriMo, has been fairly unproductive compared to my first six months or so writing. I take solace in the fact that my actual output, while smaller, is of a higher quality.

All of this is meant to be a short explanation of why I don't feel like doing the blog this week. Snort.

Media Breakdown:

I finally saw the new Underworld movie (Awakening.) Great special effects, fun fight scenes, barely passable plotting, as illogical as ever. The movie felt (and was) very short and incomplete. I suspect this was originally a very long movie that's been chopped into two parts.

I also caught the first episode of the second part of the second season of The Walking Dead (phew.) It was good. Not much in terms of action, except for one brief and fairly awesome scene, but I am still enjoying the often hammy and overly dramatic zombie goodness. The show is one step away from a soap opera, and mostly keeps my attention by virtue of being the only zombie show on TV, and therefore the best. Plus the zombies look great and the squick factor is very high.

That's it for this week. See you next time.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Double-Fisting the Voice Recorders

Despite the suggestive title, today's blog this isn't about excessive alcohol consumption (or deviant about sexual practices.) Rather, it's about one of my favorite subjects--using a voice recorder to increase my productivity. Or in this case, two voice recorders.

Why on earth would I need two? you might be asking yourself. Also How do I indicate italics in html so I can write this blog on a text editor instead of fighting with Blogger's crappy tablet web-interface? Or maybe that's just me.

Edit--figured out the italics thing. Ya! Now I'm gonna use way too many italics today, just to celebrate.

Turns out you don't really need two, but it sure is handy. At least, I think it would be handy. This is all theory, since what I am using currently is an MP3 player and a recorder. If this new process pans out, however, I likely will investing a second recorder, mainly to save myself effort in transfering files back and forth from recorder to player.

The idea is this: record a Zero Draft on my recorder (what I am already doing), then transfer it to MP3 player, then record a first draft on the recorder, rinse-and-repeat until I have a near final draft to transcribe and final edit. This is basically just looping the recording phase in an attempt to minimize the amount of typing/editing/time I have to spend when I am at home in front of the computer.

Important caveat: I spend a lot of my work time driving. It is practical for me to spend that time recording, but not typing. Using a recorder doesn't really save me time, since I can certainly write faster and better at the keyboard than I can by voice. Doing stories by voice is a clunky process for me. But it is a more productive use of available time than staring at traffic or listening to podcasts or whatever.

In order to make the looping efficient,and easy to parse, I am now recording very short files, generally one paragraph at a time. This makes it easy to loop them when I am transcribing (and thinking while I type) as well as helping me to organize better when I am on the road recording. By doing short files and multiple passes I am hoping to reorganize the way I think when I am writing verbally, as well.

I already use a basic version of this system when I record a Brain Dump about a story prior to recording the Zero Draft, and that's worked well for me so far. So this expansion of that system ought to work out great. I'm finding, like all things, that the more time and effort I put into writing verbally, the more my process improves. Practice makes perfect, or at least more efficient. Especially since I make it a point to regurlary evaluate what I might do differently to improve my process.

One more note--Writing Verbally (or Verbal Writing) is my new preferred term/keyword for Writing Using a Voice Recoder. Much less clunky, no?

Media Breakdown--I listened to the audiobook version of Cory Doctorow's Little Brother. I have enjoyed much of his short fiction, but often been somewhat unsatisfied whith the endings. I went into this book worried that I would have a repeat experience, enjoying it up until the end then finishing unsatisfied. I am happy to report that my fears are unfounded. Little Brother is an awesome book from start to finish. I highly recomend it for anyone with an interest in crypto, civil liberties, and hacker culture. I'm looking forward to the upcoming sequel, Homeland.

And that's it for this week. See you guys next time

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Awesome Stuff I Enjoy

This is yet another week that I haven't got much done writing-wise. I had planned on this week being FebruWriMo, with all the attendant NaNoWriMo type word-frenzyness. Frenziness. Whatever. Point being, that hasn't happened. I say "happened", as though their was some sort of mystical waiting-and-hoping process here. Truth is, I have not done the work, because I have chosen to spend my time on other pusrsuits. Mea culpa.

Just like last week, I'm not particularly keen on beating up on myself for my lapses. I've tried guilting myself into accomplishing more, and it doesn't work (for me anyway, might be a wonderful tool for you.) Instead, I'm going to spend some time talking about some of the awesomeness I've been consuming lately.

First up--Little Brother by Cory Doctorow. I just stated listenin to this on audiobook yesterday. I'm only about a third in, so this isn't a full endorsement, but so far, so awesome. I have enjoyed Doctorow's short fiction in the past, most notoably on Starship Sofa (great podcast for SF fans, BTW). One thing I've picked up on about his work though is that his endings are often meh. I'm really hoping he works harder on the ending of this book, since it's novel length and all, because I'm really digging the story. Good stuff. I'm planning on checking out some of his other novels now, because I am liking this one so much.

In the same vein, I just finished listening to Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, read by Wil Wheaton. This book was really good as well. The writing was not as polished, definitely reading like a first novel. The characters and plot were decent but nothing amazing. The 80's nostalgia was absolutely outstanding, and the whole reason to read what would be an otherwise average book. If you grew up playing Atari 2600 and Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, this is the book for you. Plus, Wheaton does a great job with the reading, so I definitely recommend the audiobook version over the text version.

I'vebeen watching a ton of the old Mega Man cartoon with my son lately. For no comprehensible reason, he is absolutely in love with it. It took him all of two or three days to start singing along with the theme song, and the show is now the only thing he wants to watch. I find it to be a good dose of cheesy, retro fun. It's not really well-animated, the plots are thin, and on and on. It does feel true to the early entries in the videogames series, at least enough to satisisfy me. Despite it's flaws, I quite like it.

On the subject of robots, I just had the chance to watch Real Steel. As an exercise in Hollywood unreality, it was pitch-perfect. Except for the incredibly silly yet undeniably fun robot-boxing theme, it could have been any estranged-father/son-triumphantly-reconcile movie ever made. Totally forgettable, but worth watching exactly once to see the robots beat the tar out of each other. SF geeks who need quibbling details like control schemes that make sense, tech that is in any way plausible, or even such minor details as fully developed characters need not apply.

I've been spending a huge amount of time on another sort of robot, an Android, if you will. The tablet that gave me so much grief trying to do a blog on the soft keyboard the other day has proven itself to be a compelling gaming machine. I have had many late nights lately, lying in bed playing Triple Town, Base Defense HD, and various and sundry other games. Between the stuff that is available for free on the Android Market, and Amazon's free-app-of-the-day, I have yet to spend any money on software. But my tablet (Iconia A500) is very close to replacing my laptop, already. As the software development sector matures over the next few years, I don't see any reason it won't.

I do really wish I could dual-boot Ubuntu on my tablet. One thing I really don't like about Android is how much stuff the OS tries to hide from the end-user. The insistence of manufacturers on trying to keep consumers from having root access to their own machines in furtherence of this is annoying as well. I haven't rooted my A500 yet because the process looks like a pain, but I am sure I will sooner or later. I really wish Acer hadn't made it such a nuisance in the first place; that attitude is very customer-unfriendly. Even so, I do really like the tablet. Full-sized USB port for the win.

I can't think of anything else, so I guess I am done for the week. See you next time

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Tablet Blogging Again - Acer Iconia A500

So the main theme today is going to be on gadgets rather than on my ongoing struggle with LMS (lazy man syndrome). So fair warning to those of you who tuned in merely for my customary self-flagellation--this week's blog is bound to disappoint.

Unless you were tuning in for spelling hijinks. Apparently Blogger's spelling auto-checker thingamawhosit doesn't work in Dolphin browser lite on my tablet. And I can't remember if disappoint is spelled with one S or two. I also may have the number of Ps wrong. How dissapointing.


I got a new tablet this week, the Acer Iconia A500 mentioned in the title above. So far, I'm loving it. Much better build quality than the crappy Coby I had previously, and the new version of Android is an improvement as well.

Side note--due to their ridiculously horrible customer support, I will never purchase another Coby product of any kind. Also, I will never shop at Toys-R-Us again, for the same reason. Just saying.

I've mostly used the A500 for games so far (of course). Their are tons of free and cheap games on Android Market, plus the Amazon Market free-app-of-the-day is often good. So I am definitely happy on that score.

You didn't know I was just gone for about an hour, but I was. Turns out that editing a blogger blog is really difficult (once you get a few paragraphs in), using the installed soft-keyboard. I've got a wireless keyboard and mouse hooked up now, but it's still tricky going compared to just doing the durn blog on my computer. Which is a shame because I had hoped to be able to do the Sunday-morning-blog-in-bed-thing.

Okay, I am now typing this blog in an external note-taking application. The fact that you are reading it indicates I was successfully able to copy-pasta it back to Blogger. But what a pain. I wonder if this is a fault of the Blogger interface or of the Android OS? Either way, I may look into starting a WordPress blog instead, assuming that platform is easier to work with via Android.

Okay, I'm tired of the shenanigans, so I'm going to wrap this entry up. Although the Iconia A500 isn't great for blogging, it's awesome for games, comic books, and movies. I suspect I will find more uses for it as well, hopefully some that are at least marginally productive.