Okay, so here’s a weird occurrence:
I have TweetDeck open in another tab.
You can use your arrow keys to scroll down whichever column is highlighted.
Somehow, no matter which column I have highlighted, when I scroll down, another column scrolls down as well, but at around half speed.
TweetDeck is a Myst puzzle.
Clicking and dragging the columns back and forth did fix the glitch, but it was still funny, even if only 8 people get the title reference.
Okay, as much as I use Google, I have one complaint that will likely never, ever change: their support is atrocious.
As I said in my last post, I happened upon a Google Plus user who is not only likely to be less than 10 years old (COPPA requires children under 13 to have parental consent to use any website), but has also posted photos with location data.
This needs to be addressed. There’s no way these parents are aware their kid is broadcasting this kind of info (GP-FRICKING-S DATA). Obviously, this should be reported for the kid’s own safety, or at least send a wake up call to these ignorant ‘rents.
I go to the “report” pull-down menu of the Google Plus page. Guess what there isn’t an option for? COPPA violations. I tried the COPPA site to see if there was a place to file a report, but there doesn’t seem to be one. COPPA is a policy from the FTC, but the FTC doesn’t have any info on how to report this stuff.
The only real option I have is the police department in the city mentioned in the location data. I’m e-mailing them a link to the plus page with my concerns. I think that’s all I can do right now.
Anyone knows a more direct or effective route, please let me know.
I know I can get really uppity about people’s command of English on the internet (which is like getting mad at the wind for blowing), but here’s the heart of the matter:
I used to work at a TRS facility. If you don’t know what that is, it stands for Telephone Relay Service, which is transcribing TTY messages. Imagine instant messaging, only there’s someone reading it aloud to the person you’re talking to. I bring this up because, as deaf people essentially have to type their side of the conversation, it can be very limiting in terms of how they speak. Signed English follows a slightly different grammar than spoken or written English; there’s a lot of shorthand and multiple meanings. What makes up for it is, obviously, the signing, the body language, especially facial expressions. In other words, when most deaf people try to type the way they talk, a lot of what they say can be very hard to convey and easy to misread because they’re used to a more “contextualized” mode of speech. That’s the key fact to bear in mind when you’re writing.
Look at your keyboard.
That is your voice here.
Look at yourself in the mirror now.
Everywhere else, that is your voice. Your facial expressions, body language, gestures, inflection, and overall tone of voice all work in conjunction with your choice of words to help people understand you. That’s why there’s this general rule of thumb against using sarcasm in, say, a forum or a social site. Sarcasm is half hyperbole, half tone and inflection.
Want an example? “Oh, great. Exactly what I needed.”
Is that statement sarcastic or sincere? How can you tell? If it’s choice of words, are you only taking the sentence in quotes into consideration, or that and everything leading up to it? The fact is, familiarity with the writer aside, you have no good way of telling, and more than likely you’re only projecting your own emotions onto it (good mood: sincere, bad mood: sarcasm). Of course, you’re not going to admit to that, really. In fact, you’re not really going to admit to the possible fallacy of any of the dozens, if not hundreds, of tiny micro-assessments your mind makes when you read someone’s typed text.
When you see someone type a question, and not only leave off the question mark, but any key word that might indicate that they’re even asking a question in the first place, you think that person’s pretty damn dumb, don’t you?
When you see someone type out a five-word sentence, and not a single word is speld rihgtt (see?), however comparable your skills to theirs may be, you’re thinking the same thing: “Can you really not take five seconds to read over what you’ve written before hitting send?!”
We try to be understanding (maybe they have a learning disability), we try to be forgiving (it’s a damn Tweet), we try to keep things in perspective (they’re normally on the ball, pobody’s nerfect), but there’s a limit to that tolerance. At the end of the day, if you’re struggling with the space bar, you need to re-evaluate some things. Case in point:
I happened upon this Google+ page by clicking on a very weirdly-worded comment on a cat video. After seeing this kid’s other posts, with a similar frantic obsession with the space bar, I had to confront them on it, especially when I saw a comment on a photograph of a flower:
I couldn’t let that slide. Of course, I’ve gathered from the other posts that there’s at least a 90% chance this is a really little kid (as in, not even ten, but more on that later), and the comment isn’t really mean or judgmental (they’re not trolling), so I take the high road for a change. My exact reply was:
Let’s think about this for a second. They dismiss a photograph as not beautiful because it’s not in color, and they’re asking me to be more precise when I tell them beauty works in other ways. “Precise” isn’t exactly a “big word,” but if “open-minded” and “composition” fly over your head, I’m guessing you may not actually know what that word means or understand your own use of it. It’s like when you hear really little kids (six or less) use curse words; they have no idea what that word means, and likely couldn’t even spell it, but they’ve obviously heard it and have a vague idea of how to use it.
I ask about the random spaces. I tell them that I can’t walk them through the rest until we establish some basics. They say that they’re using Touchpal, and that “A, B, & C” are all on one key, so it’s hard to work with.
Touchpal is a keyboard app that lets you use swiping gestures across your keys so you don’t have to pick up and relocate your finger. It was pioneered with some Blackberry models and has moved onto iOS and Android. First thing’s first, these spaces are appearing often nowhere near those three letters. Second, it’s a full keyboard, so there’s no “combined key” for the first three letters of the alphabet. What they’re referring to is an icon on the spacebar labeled ‘ABC’ that you use to switch functions on the keyboard. I’ve explained this, and they have yet to reply.
Let’s get to the more pressing issue surrounding this encounter, starting with some facts:
This kid is likely less than 7 years old.
They do not understand how to use the device they’re using to talk.
They have a Google+ page.
They have posted at least two photos of nearby parks complete with GPS location data.
Here’s the more pressing issue:
WHERE THE HELL ARE THIS KID’S PARENTS?
Their kid is broadcasting location data via photos that would be waist-height for an adult, and commenting on gifs and YouTube videos, each of which can link back to that Google Plus page. Do I really need to spell out how seriously bad this can all go?
Look, I’m not a parent, but that doesn’t mean I can’t call these folks out as the ignoramuses they are. When my brother and I were little, we got in big trouble if we played with the telephone. When I sent out my first e-mail ever, my Dad read it before he’d let me send it. This isn’t rocket science. If you’re going to give your kid a device that lets them talk to potentially anyone, anywhere in the world, you take a goddamn interest in what they’re doing with it and you watch them like hungry hawks. I don’t care how busy you are, if you can’t be bothered to make sure they can’t broadcast their location data or access mature-rated YouTube videos, much less watch where your kids go online, you need to rethink every life choice you’ve ever made up to that point and start making some changes. No, you can’t watch them all the time. I know, I get it. That doesn’t mean it’s up to everyone else to watch them for you.
That is your goddamn flesh and blood.
That is your goddamn lineage.
That is your goddamn legacy.
That is your goddamn future.
That is your goddamn child.
Take the fucking reins and get this situation under control.
I should not be teaching your kid about black and white photos and how a keyboard works.
Damn, I thought I had a chicken breast left. Ah, well.
Don’t worry about Part One.
Fun Fact/Tangent: in the commentary tracks to the prequel trilogy DVDs, Lucas himself talks of how silly he finds the notion that any narrative with one male and one female lead must inevitably have a romance between them. So, yeah, that post about the leads in Miyazaki films never really hooking up beyond BFFs… Lucas is on board, too. That’s pretty damn cool.
I mean, yeah, I’m a hopeless romantic who has contributed to some of that mushy-lovey stuff (both as an appreciator and occasional creator of it), and even I get sick of every dude and dame being “destined” to do the “I Do”s down the line. In fact, I’m a really big fan of the convention of “love at arms’ length,” wherein two people have feelings for each other, but cannot reconcile them beyond, to crib a phrase from an Ebert review, unpossessive adoration. Hell, there’s quite a bit of unpossessive adoration going on throughout my life, but we’re getting off topic.
The point is, that stuff like those trashy romance and cheesy love stories exist IS NOT THE PROBLEM. What is the problem is the sheer abundance of it, the uphill battle the other stuff has to fight to stand out against it, and the various arbitrary institutions that make that uphill battle a losing one in the first place. What I may want for myself isn’t what I want for everybody, that’s fricking moronic (I’m pretty damn full of myself, but I’m not that egomaniacal), and while I don’t want what I want for myself to go away or become an excuse for vilifying people (why can’t we just hate people for the assholes they are and leave their taste in films out of it?), I don’t want that to come at the expense of everything else. It’s foolish (I’m an idiot, I’m not that big an idiot).
I want some damn options.
I have to wonder sometimes if you risk making yourself the tiniest bit more vulnerable when updating your security measures amid news of something like this “heartbleed” business.
In all, I’m not that worried. I had my Yahoo! account hacked a few months ago. Fortunately, the worst thing was a few people on my contacts got some extra spam. It could have been a thousand times worse, so I lucked out. The solution was rather simple: no more e-mail from me.
Between Facebook and Twitter alone, getting messages to people has never been more streamlined and immediate. Sure, those can be hacked as well, but I’m going to know about it a lot sooner than my Y!Mail, which I hadn’t touched in months, years even. The only real reason I keep Yahoo! around is because of Flickr. Everything else there that I ever used dried up a long time ago, like 360 or Personals, or has been subbed by something better, like Messenger. About the only service I’d ever like to get back in the swing of things with is Answers, because that was a fun little corner of the Y!sphere.
To that end, I want to give you all a tiny pearl of wisdom regarding security: check on old accounts. If there’s some page or site you belonged to that you haven’t logged back into or checked on in a few months (years?), check back and make a decision. Update your stuff there or dump it altogether. Set calendar reminders if you have to. I know it sounds silly, but just a little alarm set every three months to check on your Weasyl or About.me or Match and take five minutes to give it a once-over.
Good night, and good luck.
Here is my entry for the 2014 Sci-Fi London 48-hour Storytelling competition. I was given the following prompts around which to tell a short piece of science fiction:
"Title: AN ETERNITY MEASURED
Line: As far as I’m concerned you’re 31 with a mental age of… Probably 12.
Theme: What if people could reproduce asexually?”
This was a challenge, but a lot of fun to work on, and I look forward to next year.
I’d been thinking of using my podcast/audiolog series as a platform for works of short fiction, and now I’ve been given a great opportunity to give it a try.
He gave her a puzzled look over his shoulder, “Why would you do such a thing?” She tried to roll her eyes, but got dizzy in the process, and shut her eyes while trying to keep her balance and formulate a retort.
“Look,” she managed, trying in vain to point, “I’ve just been lectured by an answering machine with a stupid haircut, I don’t need this from you.” How much of this suddenly-difficult thought ended up in spoken words was just beyond Susan’s grasp. Fortunately, it turned out to be enough.
The way it simply up and says at random, “No 3G. We’re going 1X.”
I try to send a picture message to someone, and as it’s sending, that 3G goes to that fucking 1X and stays there. The message does not move at all. I try resending it, and it’s like it doesn’t exist. I don’t even get a “failed to send” error message. All my old phones have done that. This one decides to keep running at its own brick wall and not stopping unless you shoot it.
I basically have to delete the message, write it up all over again, and send it again, hoping this time the phone does its fucking job and sends it.
The two best pieces of writing advice I ever got both have to do with Star Wars. The first is from George Lucas, the second from Sir Alec Guinness. They may seem almost mutually exclusive, if not outright contradictory, but they can work in tandem if you play the self-discipline game well enough.
1. Set a time window and confine yourself to it. Sit down at your keyboard (or notebook if you’re totally hardcore and want to go the longhand route), and stay there until “quitting time,” whether you’ve got anything or not. Lucas called this his Midwestern sensibility, going to his desk at 8 in the morning and not leaving until the afternoon, even if he never put down a single word. Walter Tevis (The Queen’s Gambit, The Man Who Fell to Earth) had a similar method: try to get to the typewriter by about noon and stay there until around four. Some days you’ll write a little, others you’ll write a lot. 90% of success is showing up.
2. If you absolutely have to take a break, don’t get up unless you know what the next thing you’re going to put down when you get back is. In other words, don’t get up because you can’t think of anything; that’s how projects get away from you and end up in the to-do pile. It’s sort of an “out of sight, out of mind” situation. Essentially, “interrupting yourself” gives you an incentive to return as quickly as possible, no dilly-dallying. It sounds counter-intuitive, really, but I think that’s actually why it works. It bypasses your auto-pilot, specifically the one that’s programmed to put things off in favor of short-term satisfactions (i.e. goofing off).
I tend to favor the latter more than the former, purely because of time. When I was writing my novella, I would come home from work in the afternoon, and apart from making dinner or obvious bathroom breaks, I stayed at my desktop until I had to go to bed, averaging roughly 5 hours a day. I did that for about three months. Going back to Walter Tevis, he did say of his discipline, “I’m not a Nazi about it.” and would give himself the odd day off. In any case, it’s kind of silly to devote so many hours a day to a short story, unless you’re giving yourself a challenge.
Funnily enough, I’m giving myself a challenge now. Next week is this storytelling contest for a London Sci-Fi convention, in which the main gimmick is you have 48 hours to not only write your story (based on a handful of “prompts” such as a title, line of dialogue, and so on) but also film yourself telling the story. It doesn’t have to be a full-blown short film, more like a dolled-up v-log, though things like props and graphics are encouraged. I’m a bit nervous about trying it, and I’m frankly expecting the worst, totally buckling under the pressure and fouling up the entire process.
So, as a kind of warm-up, this weekend is devoted to writing a short piece of fiction. I started roughly earlier today and I’m hoping to have it done over the weekend. There won’t be a video, but I will post the story to my DevART page and here, among a few other places. It’s going decently, thus far, a fairly steady flow to the progress.
It’s based on an idea I had years ago, and features Roombas, bureaucracy, and nurses with six arms.
I need to stop making terrible, tasteless jokes on The Reverb Room and get back to writing about Roombas and nurses with six arms. It’s practice.
So, I’m about to write this journal entry on my Gamespot page about a NES game I played as a kid, and I decide to check eBay to see what an original cart is going for, purely out of curiosity. I happen upon a guy selling a copy with an opening bid for about five bucks. That’s fairly typical for a NES cart, with higher opening bids if the game is “complete” with boxes and manuals. Imagine my surprise to see this guy is selling a complete version of the game for a mere Lincoln. Granted, it’s an opening bid that could easily launch a bidding war, but it’s still a low start.
Then I read the item specifics, and this is where I could make an enemy of a total stranger… on eBay… again.
First, he says the game has been given an “A” rating, which I don’t believe for a second because that box has clearly been used to hold up the short leg of a table. I could have let that go; maybe he’s got other games for sale and he simply copy+pasted a description and didn’t check it closely. It happens.
Then I keep reading.
He says the box is new and factory-sealed. Remember what I said about the crushed-looking box in the photo? The bottom is held shut with Scotch tape. It would be one matter to say the box is factory-sealed when it really isn’t, but that it has tape on it makes a potentially-innocent mistake look all the less innocent and not at all a mistake.
When I worked in retail, I sold a GameBoy color game to a little kid. The policy with new games is that they can only be exchanged for the same game if the shrinkwrap has been removed. Apparently, there was some misunderstanding between this kid and his mom, like he wasn’t supposed to get the game or it was for someone who it turned out already had it, or something along those lines. Whatever happened when that kid left the store, the result was him and his mom coming back to try and return the game, which had been opened. Returns called me to brief me on the situation, quoting the mother as saying the game was already opened when I sold it to the kid.
I marched up to the returns counter, and got handed the game in question while one of the managers was talking to the mother. In place of the shrink-wrap was a big, round, clear plastic sticker along the top of the box. I say clear only because that’s what the sticker obviously looked like before it got fixed to a pair of black jeans and then crumpled up in someone’s pocket before being repurposed as a flimsy excuse for a seal. It was barely on there, half of it flapping up and down like a leaf in a breeze. I overheard the mother say to the manager that it was how the game was sealed when I sold it.
Needless to say, I was livid, absolutely seething. This was downright insulting. It’s been over ten years since this happened and, as I’ve only remembered it now, it’s a bit fuzzy and I don’t recall exactly what came of it. I seem to remember the mother and kid’s getting a bit wide-eyed when they saw me look at the game and then look to them over my manager’s shoulder. It didn’t get much more confrontational than that, and I stormed off before the matter came to any sort of resolution. I think someone came back to talk to me about it later, and while they ultimately didn’t believe their crap, either, I think they were given “something” for their “trouble.”
Look, they may have made some honest mistake, but it’s only an honest mistake if you’re honest about it. They weren’t.
Anyway, I’ve sent a PM to the seller to ask for a little clarification. It may not sound like it, given the backstory I poured out now, but I am reserving judgment on the guy for now. We’ll see where this goes.
Got back from Noah. Not sure if I liked it or not, or if I’d recommend it, or if I should try and explain why or why not for either of those points. As such, I’m going to take a page from the book of Monstervision host Joe Bob Briggs and give you a list of things in this film, so you can judge for yourself if you really, really want to give it a look.
Natural gas mining.
I’m going to expand on a few of these things on my other sites, namely Facebook and my Blogger page, but this is all I’m saying here.