I usually post a blog entry after getting inspired after work, sitting down, tapping away an entry then putting it up. I followed that process a couple weeks ago after my bike accident. Not since then have I really had much inspiration to get down and write. Plenty of chores got in the way, but I think wrist pain had a lot to do with it. My wrist feels a bit better now so hopefully I'll get back on the horse to write more often.
To get on topic, though, I went to the Chicago Nerd Social Club Writers' Panel and Networking Event at Open Books Ltd. Authors on the panel included:
I showed up late and stayed a little longer than a hour. Other commitments made me leave early. The premises of all the works sound like worthwhile reads. When I find some time, I'll have to give them shots.
Prompted by moderator, Jeff Smith, the panelists provided thoughts on
I even got to provide some input on a couple topics. I also tried to inspire a fellow audience member to balance the entertainment of others and the expression of ideas they think are cool.
Suffice to say, I didn't get much new for the panel. Not the panelists or the moderator's fault. I'm deep in the middle of my own process and have much of my own work figured out. I've gotten lots of criticism on what I've written and have plenty of ideas of refashioning what I've already written.
If it came down to it and money wasn't a worry, I could probably sit down and write for days on end. I've got the characters, much of the world and the plotting figured out.
I even got on my own case in my head while at the panel. I've got the ideas, I should just sit down and belt it out. My big hang up: I want to understand the psychological phenomena involved in utopianism before I get really into writing the fiction.
I've got my head all wrapped up around my project, and I want to get that done. It fascinates me more now. And when I finish my novel, I want to know what I'm talking about if I get published, do panels like this or do interviews somewhere else.
Even after saying all that, part of me says I should just sit down and get it written. Sigh. . .fear of missing out on life and plenty of excuses, I guess. I also like the security of paying expenses (don't feel confident that I'd deliver if I got funds from Kickstarter). Bad time management and bad life balance, I guess.
LINKS OF INTEREST:
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Tuesday, May 07, 2013
I got into a bike-on-bike collision this morning.
Should have been prepared for it five minutes earlier. I had tempted fate. Thought about how riding my bike everyday to work would make me sooooo healthy and all that. I stopped congratulating myself when I remembered that riding a bike could be risky: a crazy, fatal uncontrollable accident could happen at any moment.
Of course, I had an accident five minutes later.
Below is a map of the intersection where the accident occurred:
View Larger Map
Imagine me coming from the southwest corner heading north on the Lakefront Trail. I'm having a grand old time, taking in the nice weather, feeling the wind in my face, finally waking up from the morning slog. All the usual, pleasant, quiet before the storm stuff.
I notice some guy on a street bike speeding down from the northwest on W Belmont Harbor Drive. He takes as sharp a right turn as he can to head southwest down the Lakefront Trail. The guy probably can't turn that sharp, though, or he'll flip the bike or something.
Looking back I can rationalize the course of events that way.
At the time, my sense of causality both slowed down and skipped a couple frames at the same time. My mind saw what unfolded in front of me and refused to accept it. What idiot would be crossing into my lane and head straight toward me? It failed to make sense, so I put my trust into this guy. He must know what he's doing and must be going fast enough to avoid collision. Why else would he try to cross the path if he didn't know he could do it?
He was an idiot. He had no idea what he was doing. He took the right onto the path too fast and had completely lost control.
I didn't make all those connections until the very last moment. I entered avoid the idiot mode. I tried turning left as best I could. It wasn't enough. Of course, my instincts didn't let me turn that sharp. If I did, I would flip or wipe out on the pavement.
Through all the slo-mo frame skipping, I realized the futility of avoidance. I entered the next stage: loss control. Keeping injury to a minimum, that is. I had just ran my front wheel into this guy's back wheel then had jumped off my bike, after all. It's funny how we have thoughts about consequences before being conscious of the cause sometimes. I think a part of my mind had chuckled at this observation while my repitilian mind had focused on preventing major wounds by crashing into the grass.
No major wounds that I know of. I have my left wrist wrapped up in a bandage right now, but I had anger surging through me, the fear of being late to work, worry about hospital bills and possible bike repairs. Money's tight right now. . .and what?! My handlebars were in a super weird angle!
I became determined to get the guy's number. After cursing him out a little, I told him he would give me his name and number. . .after I turned on my phone. I assume I gave him a steely glare and curled my lip (the lip thing is what I do when I'm angry, apparently).
My phone always takes a little time to boot up. The guy asked me if I had a pen and paper. I told him no. He would just have to wait and wait he did.
All that settled, I made my way to work. The handlebars at their odd angle took a little getting used to, but I got it down. Amazing how our minds and bodies can compensate for distortions in reality that don't cause injury.
The adrenaline started wearing out. I popped a couple Ibuprofen at work. Wrist hasn't swollen at all. Pain isn't all that bad. Keeping it wrapped and elevated should probably do the trick in a couple weeks.
This accident makes for my third bike accident in Chicago (Michi didn't appreciate me smacking into a car a couple days before we got married. . .again, just got banged up is all). If I'm not in the emergency room by now, I just need some R&R.
I worried more about the cost of fixing the handlebars than dealing with my wrist. Even if I have to get x-rays and stuff, health insurance will handle it well enough until I get the dumb ass other guy to pay for stuff. I would have to pay 100% out of pocket to repair my bike until I get reimbursed. . .and reimbursement isn't guaranteed. Along with being an idiot, the guy could be a jerk, too.
Imagine how relieved I felt when one of the register people up front at Johnny Sprockets diagnosed the problem, fixed it in five minutes then didn't charge me a cent. I even asked if it cost anything. The guy just said nope.
I don't know if it has anything to do with being a regular for repairs there. Could just be that they're awesome for things that take minimal effort.
Doesn't matter. They're awesome. I love Johnny Sprockets and don't hesitate to tell anyone to go there for their bike needs. If you have bike needs, go. They just might help you feel like there's still good in the world after a crappy day of worry and pain from a dumb bike accident that you had little chance of avoiding.
And oh yeah, don't be an idiot when you making tight turns on your bike. Slow down and take your time.
LINKS OF NOTE:
Sunday, May 05, 2013
C2E2: Part 1 of My Response, including a John Scalzi panel and the changing forms science fiction media
My response has turned out longer than expected. I’ve broken it up into a couple entries. More will come after this one.
C2E2 ranks up there as one of the most strenuous activities I do in the year. Sounds sad, but really, stumbling around for 24+ hours in a weekend, trying to avoid people and trampling them, gets taxing for mind and body.
Didn't help that allergies muddled my mind, either. Social and cognitive activity didn't work well. This response won't have much for concrete events. I will focus more on my reactions and thoughts that bubbled up in the process.
This attendance makes for my third trip to the Chicago Comics & Entertainment Expo (C2E2). It has occurred four times in the last four years. We skipped the second one when I vacationed in Costa Rica. A tough decision, seriously, but glad I went to Costa Rica.
C2E2 has provided a great experience every year. Any general complaints I may have come from me not falling into the primary demographic. I don't get into merchandise much, don't read too many comics and don't connect so much with visual art. By nature, I don't get into permanent, materialistic things or visual mediums. Comics, I admit some prejudice in my youth and haven't found time since to explore them.
The stands had A LOT of Doctor Who merch, though. I mean, A LOT, as in about a football field’s worth of stands. Talk about oversaturation of a market. I wonder how much individual stands sold. Many other stands had a lot of similar stuff. Does the market really have that level of demand?
This remark comes from half of a couple that purchased sandblasted steins with a Dalek and a Cyberman on them. They came from a stand that had a wide variety of geek graphicked steins and mugs, though. I’m also the type of guy who spend hours at a time researching Doctor Who canon for no good reason.
I could have also partook in the gaming room run by the Chicago Game Lovers. With so much to do and people to see at C2E2, though, breaking from the familiar didn't feel appealing. Getting involved in a game then having to run off to get in a line for a panel didn't strike me as fun.
C2E2 organizers did a great job with the floor this year. They got the most gigantic room yet. A lot more stands could squeeze in. Having the dungeon bathrooms in the middle proved a godsend (especially since no one else found them, no line!). Artist alley didn't get squeezed all the way in the back, even though I didn't find it until the next day (again, gigantic!).
The floor felt well organized. Stands settled into themed neighborhoods (e.g. merchandise, comics, Artist Alley, celebrities, etc.). If managed my time better, it would have been perfect.
I only found one game stand: Chicagoland Games/The Dice Dojo. If there were more, I blame myself. I didn't have the clarity of mind to take in everything and manage my time better. Like with the gaming room, though, getting in line for the panels proved a pesky detriment.
Organization of the panels makes for the biggest shortcoming this year. Michi cited a statistic that the panel audience this year equaled the people roaming the floor. (Michi - formerly, The_Wife. . .now won't hesitate to use her name since her name has become something of brand.) Panels have elevated C2E2 above other fan/comic/pop culture conventions I've attended. This statistic goes to show that other fans have a similar opinion, if not the same.
I made the misfounded complaint that few of the panels looked interesting. Looking at the schedule now, it overwhelmed me while at the convention. This year I didn't prep by studying the schedule beforehand or use my computer to schedule and decide between conflicts. Fault on me there.
At worst, few of the panel titles jumped out at me and the schedule grid just had so much on it. I don't know how much of that has to do with me failing to prep before going. Having so many panels shows their success.
Titles failing to grab attention could contribute to making things look a little bland. At the same time, I'm not the prime demographic for these cons (even though past years had panel names that stood out). Maybe their titles attracted the attention of other people attending.
Long lines and small rooms for panels made for big disruption. I already mentioned that I didn’t partake in some activities because I didn’t want them disrupted by having to run for a panel.
The first year of C2E2, nothing to worry about rooms filling up or long lines. I had faced more trouble finding panel rooms in the labyrinth of McCormick Place. Getting in and finding a good seat had proven little difficulty.
Michi and some others tried to get into the Fierce Females of Television panel without luck. They got in line too late. Apparently the organizers had divided rooms in half for most panels. Doing so helps provide many panels and a variety of topics. Having to turn people away at the door or disrupting other activities sucks, though. Talk about huge opportunity cost to sit in on a panel.
Of course, C2E2 is still young and learning. I have to give them credit for trying to increase the variety of panel topics. I also think the increased industry and celebrity presence caused disruption. Typically those panels should get prime attention since they draw people to the con.
Panels with less assumed drawing power in the past have done a lot to build the C2E2’s reputation for great panels and contributed much to this year’s equal attendance for panels and floor. A difficult balance to strike, but I think giving more credence to topic-oriented and less-assumed audience drawing can go a long way.
Less panels with bigger rooms also might help. After all, anything that doesn’t make the schedule can get scheduled for the following year.
Has it become obvious that I didn't attend too many panels. I only went to three:
I had some personal connection or interest in them all:
FUTURISTIC FRIGHT PANEL
For FUTURISTIC FRIGHT, John Scalzi and Alex Hughes had a fairly free form discussion about
A moderator helped to start the conversations by asking some questions. Scalzi, Hughes and the moderator all had good presence. They had a pretty good rapport with audience. I don't have the best recall of topics other than ideas and the development of technology make for an interesting interaction.
I regret that I don’t remember much about Alex Hughes. She made a great remark, though, about how to deal with an author having an idea that scientists and engineers are developing. Make your story better than reality, she said.
Michi bought Hughes’s first book, Clean. Michi liked it a lot and plans on reading the sequels. I plan on giving it a shot, too. Being the first time I heard of Hughes, my brain hadn’t calibrated that much for emotional investment at the panel.
The industry somewhere along the line decided to consolidate the wholesale distribution channel from a lot down to two or three. Book stores came into the picture, especially big stores like Barnes & Noble. They asked for science fiction to come in the form of a book with page counts between 120 to 300 or so as we have become used to.
Now we find ourselves in the electronic Internet age. Many other medias have gone through chaos: music, movie and TV. The story of Internet music distribution has all but been finished by the acceptance of iTunes and other means. We see the stories of movie and TV unfolding in the news every day with Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Youtube and Bit Torrent.
The evolution of electronic distributing stories, fiction and poetry doesn't make it into the news that much, though. Scalzi has jumped to the front of experimenting with this realm. He wrote The Human Division. It’s a series of related but not directly connected episodes all released separately, about a week apart from each other. TOR will collect it into an individual volume and release it soon.
Episodic short-form fiction makes or an expensive undertaking in the time of paper. Especially if the industry pushes to have it in book form of 120 to 300 pages. Episodic short-form issued electronically makes for a less expensive of an undertaking.
I bet this approach has other advantages, too. I can't think of it all. Releasing something new on a regular, shorter basis keeps a brand on the mind of consumers. Infrequent releases of something longer form may not stay in the public’s mind as long. In this day and age when there's so much going on, publishing something often like The Human Division will keep Scalzi on peoples' radars.
I have no illusions that one paradigm is better than another, just better suited for a situation. History and anthropology show us that humanity organizes technology to adapt to their environments, whether that be natural or socially human created. Human adaptation creates feedback loops that have gotten us where we are now and will get us to where we go in the future.
I respect Scalzi and everyone else who can keep up with all this change. Albeit they have more of an immediate necessity than I do at the moment. They get their everyday livelihood by keeping abreast of these things and staying ahead of everyone else.
My fear comes from feeling behind. Right now, I'm just working on developing material to market and distribute. Whereas Scalzi and others have an interesting interplay of how their ideas interact with distribution. . .I'm somewhat stuck in an old paradigm, the novel. I'm hoping to make enough of a splash with a novel that I can write another one because people want another one.
It's great to see people thriving in this environment and willing to share their knowledge about it. Despite all that, it's kinda scary and intimidating to a beginner. I just hope to figure out how to navigate all this someday. . ..
More forthcoming. . ..
LINKS OF INTEREST:
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
I haven't gotten all the timelines of the movie down. Frankly, I don't care to do so. The characters weren't compelling enough to make me care for most of the movie. A lot of reviewers phrase that the movie doesn't dumb itself down and explain itself. Being bored was one reaction.
Now I can say that I didn't get beyond understanding the characters other than they are engineers trying to make an invention that would make them millions. They accidently invent a time machine. They then experiment with it to see what happens. It takes four days (roughly double that for them just sitting around in a hotel room doing not much of anything).
I didn't get any sense of personality from the characters. They don't want include their other two partners. One of them wants to punch some guy in the face (who was that other guy, anyway). At first they don't want to run risk of paradox or anything. An event arises that causes them to operate their failsafe machine. . .and it somehow involves a girlfriend that one of them instantly develops. Huh?
How does the main character have a wife and a child, anyway? At least not have one that doesn't argue with him all the time about spending all his time in the garage and no time with the family? No tension after so many attempts at experiments to make money fail? Attempts at secondary characters fail because none of the secondary characters were developed enough to make the audience care or understand why they should be there.
The "science" of the time travel makes enough sense, like how the "science" of Inception makes sense. Whereas the rules of Inception make the narrative boring for me (even as I appreciate the consistency), the rules of Primer without "dumbing down" make it too convoluted for me.
Doubles, triples and quadruples dabbling in the timeline doesn't get explained until the end. . .and it took an explanation online for me to connect obscure events to a plot point. The sound quality sucking could have done something with the obscurity.
To me, it's a mystery why so many people like Primer. Maybe so they can feel challenged by a plot not being spelled out for them, requiring multiple re-watchings? I would be into multiple re-watchings if the characters and the world built proved compelling. . .but they don't.
I found the movie too boring to re-watch. Reading the summary multiple times and peoples' theories about it held my attention better. I'm just not motivated to watch it again in the attempt to make connections and gain comprehension.
Can anyone else explain why so many people like it?
LINKS OF INTEREST:
Sunday, April 07, 2013
WARNING: Spoilers Ahoy!.Lately I feel like I've been in a minority when it comes to the last couple episodes of Doctor Who: "The Bells of Saint John" and "The Rings of Akhaten". They have vastly underwhelmed and disappointed me.
The worst part: I expected disappointment for "Bells." Jenna-Louise Coleman shined as different iterations of Clara Oswin Oswald in "Asylum of the Daleks" and "The Snowmen". She did so as one-time characters in different historical and futuristic periods.
How could Clara Oswin Oswald top herself extended over the minimum of a half season? We also have a track record of companions disappointing me during the Steven Moffat era of Doctor Who. They shine in the beginning then fizzle into just a companion. They have their occasional bursting into light again, then they go back to bleh for the sake of plot.
Clara Oswin Oswald has mostly shined. The character and Jenna-Louise Coleman have done a great job with the material they're given. They have great chemistry with Matt Smith and The Eleventh Doctor. He has done great work with his material, too.
I heard or read an interest interpretation that I unfortunately forget the source. Somewhere on the Internets, someone said this pair work so well because Jenna Louise-Coleman talks as fast as Matt Smith. Clara is something of a companion version of the Doctor. She acts as a female mirror of him rather than a foil or even the everyperson to act as the audience stand in. I really wish I remember where I read that.
My disappointment doesn't lie with Clara, even if she acts as a vehicle for the things I'm disappointed in.
The blame doesn't fall on where I thought it would: the characters or actors.
Well, maybe I'm disappointed in the Doctor lately. Really? Having him stalk Clara as a child and as she grows up? Those flashbacks would have worked just fine without The Doctor in them. As a way to insert some tension at the end and for Clara to stand up for herself as an individual? No. That could've been done more organically as the two get to know each other. Is Clara a Ganger being used to spy on the Doctor? Sorry, that was just badly executing.
Ever since "The Angels Take Manahattan", we've been seeing an immature off balance in a dangerous type of way Doctor.
The Tenth Doctor claiming himself "Timelord Victorious" seemed wrong and terrible. Nonetheless, as audience members, we rooted for him at the same time. He had witnessed horrible injustices throughout his 800 or so year life throughout the universe. Who wouldn't want to fix the universe after all that? It was wrong but understandable and coming from a sympathetic character.
But, anyway, I think the characters and actors do the best that they can with the script they're given. I have no problem with the character development, either. I don't know where the season/series arc is going. I can only criticize the pacing of the development of both the characters and arc.
What does this character arc/development have to do with the larger arc Moffat has created with The Silence, River Song, the War against the Doctor, and the Great Intelligence. Series 5 had great progress. Series 6 slowed down but there was progress halfway through. First half of Series 7 was about the departure of the Ponds. Now we want to get back to the series arc and find out who the real Big Bad is, what is their motivation and how the hell have they been able to pull off everything they've done!
The funny part, though, which is my major issue: I could probably handle all these deficiencies if we had better world building and Good secondary episode-length characters. We had the child-queen in "The Rings of Akhaten." She really didn't do much other than motivate main characters and bounce themes off them. That's not what makes a great secondary character fit for world building.
I compared this episode a lot to "The Beast Below" a lot last night. I won't get too deep into my comparison because the parallels should be pretty obvious. In "The Beast Below," though, we had great Secondary characters: Liz 10, the voting booths, Smilers, Winders, Hawthorne and even the Star Whale. If it weren't for the novelty and interesting aspects of all these characters, that episode woudn't have held my interest for very long. It also helped how interrelated they ended up.
I've finally come to accept the hypothesis that "The Angels Take Manahattan" is mostly an episode about stories (thank you, Laura Koroski and io9 for highlighting this hypothesis). I appreciate the decisions that Amy and Rory make in the episode.
Nonetheless, we hardly had a world around the Doctor, Amy, Rory and River Song. The two secondary characters in the beginning really just establish the story or play out as plot device. Modern day New York City hardly felt like anywhere special. No one other than the main characters showed their faces. Did we even have extras in the background? NYC of the past was empty except for cherub Weeping Angels, adult Weeping Angels and Statue of Liberty Weeping Angel. . .did the episode get set in NYC just so we can have a Statue of Liberty Weeping Angel?
If "The Angels Took Manahatten" was a one up on a show like Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits, it would have been a strong episode. The episode had interesting enough ideas and plotting to carry an anthology show. We wouldn't need to care TOO much about the characters.
Doctor Who has those episodes, too. "Blink" does great there. It's a one-up Doctor-lite episode. Most every fan loves that episode, and the Doctor really ends up playing a secondary role. His character has the weight of his history behind him.
Nonetheless, since "Blink" is just a one-up Doctor-lite episode, we don't need to have a ton of character development. We just need quick characterization and an interesting, novel situation. But if the Doctor has anything more than his secondary character status, the characters in this story would need more development for it to resonate with the audience. Looking back, I could see myself feeling disappointed if the Doctor came to the fore front of the episode as a primary character. We'd either get all the answers right away or get annoyed that the Doctor hides vital information from us.
"Blink" stands on its own because it is a standalone episode and doesn't need the depths of world building character development that many Doctor Who episodes need. The plot and ideas prove strong enough for one episode that we don't have to get pulled into the quality of characters developed.
Of the four episodes from "The Angels Take Manhattan" to the episode last night, "The Rings of Akhaten," only "The Snowmen" felt like it had strong secondary characters. We had: Vastra, Jenny, Strax, the previous governess/Ice Governess, the family of Captain Latimer and, off-screen, the memory of the Amy and Rory going away.
Albeit, this episode needed strong secondary characters. The Doctor became reclusive and didn't want to get involved with people. Clara needed some way to learn about the Doctor and get closer to him. The secondary characters gave her that opportunity.
My hypothesis makes the great secondary characters in "The Snowmen" kind of sad. They only rose to their height because the plot needed them. Writing stories DO require an economy of elements, especially TV and movie writing. Those media only afford a certain amount of time to tell a story. Everything needs cramming into that small space.
Even a novel has to balance these elements. A novel allows for more freedom. The audience, however, can take away that freedom. Fail to properly balance all the elements in the story, you run the risk of alienating your editor and audience. The novel doesn't get published or doesn't meet enough success for an author to have easy time publishing again, if at all once.
Doctor Who has fallen out of balance. Over the last couple weeks, I've caught myself asking why I continue to watch. I did that even with the first half of the seventh series. The sixth series disappointed me, but the plot had enough compelling elements to it and River Song still had her charm. Nothing like an origin story to make a character more pedestrian and less exciting.
I think my continued watching has to do with hope for the future. Maybe the plot arc will pick up again, and we'll have the answers we've been looking for. Maybe the mystery of Clara Oswin Oswald will become more compelling again. The loss of balance tipping away from world building has come to disappoint me, though. We need more strong secondary characters and settings.
Last night's "The Rings of Akhaten" was pretty with the special effects and the variety of alien creatures. It didn't do much for me, though, because I didn't connect with the setting and the aliens. There's something to be said about literature and art getting us to experience what characters experience (alienation for the Doctor, feeling lost - that theme seems to be a big one for Clara and trying to get a hold back onto optimism and wonder at the world).
We've lost the feeling that generally pulls us into Doctor Who, though, the sense of wonder and excitement that the Doctor and the TARDIS bring to us on our TV all too infrequently. The wonder at seeing new worlds being built and injustice in them getting righted. Even when the Third Doctor was stranded on Earth, we could get a sense of world building and wonder (just look at the technological gadgets he got fascinated in!).
It's the feeling that most of the Star Trek franchise, Star Wars and a lot of science fiction has brought to us. On the one hand, if Doctor Who wants to go down the hole of existential alienation, let's go all the way and really feel it in an innovative way.
I rather dislike skirting this middle ground, though. It focuses all on story and primary characters at the neglect of world building. Let's go somewhere new, meet someone new and encounter new problems that we don't face here on Earth. But let's really feel it and really get absorbed into these new worlds and societies. Let's wonder how that 45 minutes or 60 minutes went by so fast and how come it can't last longer. Let's wonder how we got so absorbed into this fictional world or these crazy, unrealistic problems. Let's build a world and experience it together.
LINKS OF INTEREST:
Saturday, March 30, 2013
I understand Pandora's recent restriction on how much time mobile users can listen for "free" per month. A business needs revenue. Pandora isn't a charity. I get it.
I still think they made a bad decision from a market penetration standpoint. $.99 per month isn't that much to pay for 40+ more hours of music on a mobile device if you use it a lot. I do. With other options out there, like Spotify, iTunes radio stations, though, I think Pandora might end up losing listeners rather than gaining them.
I, for one, have re-discovered Spotify and found more merits to it. A year or so ago, a friend of mine argued that Spotify did a better job of relating songs to each other on a station.
I disagreed at the time. I think my disagreement came more from finding virtues in Pandora's broader swath in relating songs to each other. At that time, I had been getting back into finding new music via music broadcasters like Pandora and Spotify. I wanted to discover more music, so Pandora's broad swath made sense at the time.
I probably would have paid the $.99 this month, too, if I wasn't taking a long weekend trip to the Carribean. Last time I went out of the country, I couldn't use Pandora. Why spend even $.99 this time when I wouldn't have access for almost a week. I'm on a budget, and every dollar counts.
It hasn't help Pandora's case, when it came to me, that BBC America will broadcast the premiere Doctor Who Series 7 Part 2 tonight, either. I always like listening to Doctor Who music around premiere time. I'm excited, so I want to get into it.
Listening to Doctor Who music on iTunes gets a little boring, though. I don't want to listen to the music as arranged on albums anymore. I also would love to hear something new and related. Heck, listening to Spotify, I learned that there was a score released for the Doctor Who A Christmas Carol special. It's been 2 or 3 years since it was broadcast, and I hadn't known.
The Pandora selection of Doctor Who music has always sucked. They pretty much only played songs from the David Tennant specials and from the combined Series 1 & 2 album. Not horrible selections, but not enough of actual Doctor Who music. I've gone to the station because I want to hear Doctor Who music!
So Pandora taking away my privelege of listening to them after awhile has become a win for me. I've found other avenues to listen to music in ways that benefit me. Spotify's Murray Gold station practically plays only Doctor Who music (with some Sherlock and The Avengers music thrown in). I can't object to that.
I have no problem observing that I think this decision may end up hurting Pandora more than it helps. Sure, getting a little influx of revenue will make a nice boost and looks good in the short run. It feels more like a work around patch to the problem than a solution to revenue issues, though.
If I have found other avenues to listen to music that meets my needs better at different times, I'm sure other people have, too. I don't actively look for different products and don't like being the first to adopt things. If this action of Pandora's has led a passive consumer to switch products for even just selected uses, imagine what a more active and opinionated consumer will do.
Combine that with the revenue Pandora gets from advertisers. Consumers can pay $3.99 to listen without ads. A lot of people, like me, have no problem suffering ads for free music. Now Pandora has lost an ad listener for not only the post-40 hours per month period, but for periods before that when something like Spotify better fits my needs.
So, on one hand, thank you Pandora for depriving me of your service. I've been able to find another product that can provide for my demand better at times. You've helped me see that I have got some other great options out there.
While helping me, though, you may have hurt yourself. By depriving me, you have lost the market share of my own and probably many other ears for a period of the month. And not just after the 40 "free" hours, but other times before that point.
I hope you don't regret your decision. Heck, maybe it will even help you come up with a better product. Maybe you can win me and others back 100% of the time. I'm not leaving you, but I don't have any other problems "dating" other online music programs. Thank you for showing me the other opportunities out there. You're a good friend.
Yet, you might want to work on your product and marketing strategy. The underdogs might get you in this dog-eat-dog world.
LINKS OF NOTE:
Saturday, March 09, 2013
I've slacked enough through the dreary February. The last couple of weeks I've been too sick and worn down to much of anything.
It has come time to announce my wife's, Michi Trota, panel at the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo (C2E2) this year. Last year, it was the Geek Girl and the Artist. It gave us all a pleasant surprise. A bunch of people came in to give their attention and take in some interesting observations. Who knew that young girls and women loved Captain Kirk so much because he went out and DID STUFF (and I don't mean had sex with things, he made things happen). I know I didn't.
For the last panel of the first night of the con, we expected most people to have left the convention for some partying or get some sleep. They had two more whole days to hit the convention floor and sit in on other panels. But no, enough people showed up and stayed to keep the panel going for a half hour past the scheduled end time. The conversation got so organic and fun that, unfortunately, the girls didn't have enough time to field questions from the audience. Oh well, the audience had a good time.
I'm proud to say that Michi will be doing another this year at C2E2. Unfortunately, it occurs on the other end of the convention schedule. The other end, as in, the middle of the last day, on Sunday. Not necessarily the most ideal time. The three times I've gone to C2E2, I haven't gone on a Sunday. Friday day or evening then all day Saturday had just pooped me out too out. Nothing on Sunday really caught my eye, though.
You'll see me at C2E2 on Sunday this year. At least you'll see me at Michi's panel. The first sentence of the panel's description:
This moderated panel will demystify the spectre of the "fake geek girl" that's been haunting geek culture.You can read the rest of the description and get time/location at the C2E2 Website.
As they did last year, The Chicago Nerd Social Club has provided sponsorship for her panel. You should check them out if you live in Chicago. It's a good crowd, and they have plenty of ideas for things to do. They welcome ideas for other things to do, too!
If you're up on the whole podcasting thing (I've gotten big into listening to them a lot lately these days, myself): a reliable source told me that the guys from Loot the Room will record an interview with her soon. Keep your eyes for it!
And I'm hoping to get into the groove of posting regularly again, like back in January. I'll try not to let work, ironing, laundry and getting sick get in the way. I'll try my best!
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Saturday, January 26, 2013
With the Affordable Care Act and all, I've heard a lot of talk over the last few years about medical providers keeping digital records. That's fine, but why don't we keep some kind of medical records of our own? They won't have the level of authority as a doctor's medical record, but keeping your own medical records has its uses.
I'll admit, I'm a little biased on this topic. As a health insurance agent, I've heard people ask "How am I supposed to remember five to ten years of medical history?" when filling out an application. I usually just tell them to work from memory best as they can.
I've had my fair share of surprises, though. Plenty of people fail to remember
I've even seen people get declined for life insurance because they can't remember where they had a test done. The life insurance carrier can't get the information they need for underwriting. They can't even start figuring out if they can take a risk on the applicant. All this after the applicant has gone through the paramed appointment and everything.
Since the Affordable Care Act was passed, I've also filled out a couple health insurance applications as my employer looked at their group plan options. Thankfully I had a good enough memory that I was able to dredge up the necessary information. I could also work off of old applications.
Well all get older, though. Our memories lose their edge. We end up having more accidents and stranger bodily issues arise. Remembering medical history DOES get harder.
All those issues on my mind, I put together a simple spreadsheet where I keep a log of my medical, dental and other relevant history and claims. I can just type in the information then not have to worry about remembering all of it. Another use for keeping your own digital records: you can keep your facts and dates straight when communicating with insurance carriers about claims.
The headers of the spreadsheet looks something like this (click at it to see it full size):
I used my experience with medical questionnaires on health insurance applications to make the fields. The top part should be pretty self explanatory.
That cuts out a lot of work for underwriters. Applying for life or health insurance also becomes much more efficient. Stress gets cut, too.
Makes the job easier for a new health care provider to do research or find out where to get medical records, too. No need for
Much easier just to get a phone number off a spreadsheet, especially when not much contact has occurred in years.
Sure, they could have closed shop. That's a whole other issue, though. Not much the patient can do but make sure their authoritative medical records follow them from doctor to doctor.
The ongoing record under the contact information part becomes a little complicated, though. Claims and ongoing medical conditions can require multiple phone calls, visits, e-mails and references to some online accounts or status updates, check ups or procedures. Some conditions even have a multitude of procedures that need to be done.
I like to use the merge function to my advantage for this part. I don't use merge for the "Date of Note" or "Note/Status" much, if at all. New information gets added in these fields more than other data.
New dates and notes pretty much keep getting added to
Just merge the cell in these columns that has information with blank cells underneath that match up to the fields where you put "Dates of Notes" and "Notes and Status." You won't need to keep typing and sifting through this same information. You put it in once and just look at it once.
Those parts could change in the future if you
This simple spreadsheet will save time and effort trying to recall all those appointments and treatments. Get the application or visit a new doctor then pull out the spreadsheet. You'll be in and out with the past in no time!
It can get a little cumbersome, though, after a couple years. I can see it getting even moreso later. As of now, I put more recent stuff at the end. I have thought about putting it at the top. I won't need really old information after awhile, so it will keep getting pushed down further and further.
Maybe have multiple spreadsheets for multiple years. The individual sheets remain manageable and easier and faster to load. We want the experience with this tool effortless and painless, after all.
Using a database program for keeping these records might help more. I've started using LibreOffice Base to take notes for my bachelor project. I've used more elegant databases, but those cost a whole lot more than the price tag of FREE for LibreOffice Base.
Database programs don't have the simplicity of spreadsheets. They also require more customization and set up time. As we get old and subjected to more injury and sickness, though, our health histories become more complex. The simplicity of a spreadsheet might end up a mess and difficult to sift through for desired information.
With a database, though, you can do all types of filtering and sorting information. Instead of copying and pasting, you can have the database just display entries that have certain characteristics. Also, no need to mess with highlighting a ton of spreadsheet fields then use the sort command. Just tell the database to sort with a click on a header.
A database also has the advantage of just showing one note at a time. A spreadsheet requires you to sift through tons of irrelevant information. Then you have to manually avoid all the irrelevant text that stays on the screen. Don't have to do any of that crap when just looking at one entry at a time.
I'll have to look into using a database to keep my personal digital health records. Yay, yet another task to add to the list. . ..
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Monday, January 21, 2013
A little more than a week ago, I read the Huffington Post article, "Dislike Peter Jackson's The Hobbit? Then You Don't Know Tolkien" by Seth Abramson. I agree with Abramson, but I also don't think he fully appreciates the history behind The Hobbit, as we know it today. If he did, I don't think he'd have as much trouble with the Tolkien philistine critics out there.
It took Abramson's article for me to reach this conclusion. Like him and many others out there, I think Peter Jackson could have cut a bit and emphasized different aspects of the film to make a more enjoyable viewing experience. I won't get too deep into the actual film or its narrative, though. I had fun watching it and don't have strong enough feelings to criticize the film itself.
I won't get all that deep into the technological aspects of the frame speed, 3D vs 2D or anything like that. I saw the 24 frames per second (fps) in 3D version. It looked fine with only one or two things that took me out of the action and drama but nothing that stands out too much. I haven't seen any of it in 48 fps. I'm curious to do so some day, though, just to see what all the fuss is about.
Something else has struck my interest more than these two aspects: the arguments over Jackson's loyalty to the original books. Many people have criticized him for stretching it out to three films when the source material is one book (a lot of that argument seems to revolve around Jackson and/or the film company being greedy and cynical). They also argue that The Hobbit, or There and Back Again, was a simple, fun adventure romp, not some kind of epic quest to save the world. Where would the material come from to fill all that extra time?
Abramson and others, on the other hand, point out that these critics who just want a simple adventure romp have it wrong. They fail to know or understand that Tolkien left behind plenty of source material in the appendices at the end of The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. I read the appendices once, maybe twice, and some other pieces of work that had tons of information about larger events and people that happened concurrently and led up to The War of the Ring.
In my view, both sides of have it right. I see only one part where both sides are wrong: saying that the other side is wrong, they don't understand and that there is a right or wrong answer. I take this approach because at one time or another, Tolkien had imagined The Hobbit in so many different ways on his own, as a standalone story, as something of a prelude to The Lord of the Rings and as probably everything else inbetween.
Tolkien originally came up with The Hobbit as a way to entertain his children or his children or grandchildren (I think he notes this point as in introduction to an edition of The Hobbit, or There and Back Again). Even the first edition published didn't have the One Ring in it. It was just a magical ring of invisibility. Also, Gollum willingly bet it in the game of riddles.
I haven't read the older editions. I don't have any further details of changes from earlier editions to more current ones. Nonetheless, it still stands: the earlier editions of The Hobbit, or There and Back Again was a standalone, not a planned prequel to the Lord of the Rings.
Later, down the road, though, The Hobbit, or There and Back Again did become a prequel. Tolkien kept updating new editions as they got released to make the stories consistent. As mentioned before, he also wrote material that he put in the appendices at the end of The Return of the King.
Tokien had also written a story called "The Quest of Erebor". Based on the link, Tolkien originally wanted to include it in the appendices of The Return of the King. He ended up not putting it in, though, to save space. This story fills the gaps in how Gandalf and Thorin put together their scheme, why they included Bilbo and other such topics not addressed in The Hobbit, or There and Back Again.
Peter Jackson just conflates all these different sources into a series of movies. The people criticizing Jackson for creating new plot points or anything like that just to fill time don't have the most solid ground to stand on. From my understanding, Jackson does do it a little by giving the orcs in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey a motivation rather than just random encounters met by the dwarves. I haven't read The Hobbit, or There and Back Again in awhile, but my instincts tell me that characters with motivations lead to a more absorbing story rather than not.
Abramson makes a valid point that these "haters" probably don't know Tolkien. I think he misses the point, though, that the movie the "haters" wanted would have been just as valid of a movie of The Hobbit: There and Back Again as the one Peter Jackson has and will make. Simply put: every version that a faction argues is the real version is a real version. Tolkien wrote most, if not all, the source material that Jackson is pulling from.
I, personally, enjoy that an argument such as this one can be made. Part of me wishes that the copyright had expired and anyone who wants could take and retool the story without needing any special rights or permissions. Tolkien had done a fun job of creating something of an artificial verbal history of Middle Earth as he had come up with new stories and worked to make them all consistent with each other, altering and developing the canon to make it richer each and every time.
Will the stories of Middle Earth become legend and myth for future civilizations as our current one falls or fades away? Will Middle Earth be like the myths we tell of Greek gods and goddesses, Persian gods and goddesses, Gilgamesh and Enkidu and all the rest of the stories that we have from our ancient history? I wish I had a time machine or the ability to observe some future time to see if this potentiality becomes actuality.
Just imagine the stories that would come about through errors in translation! Imagine all the different stories that could be developed for futue generations through the innovations of non-Tolkien writers! It would make an interesting sight to see, that's for sure.
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Tuesday, January 08, 2013
A blog trying to explore creativity, community and stuff like that, like this one, has a place for tips on making sense of finance and organizing stuff. I came to the realization that a creative person could use these types of skills when I read an Asimov's Science Fiction column by Robert Silverberg a long, long time ago.
Silverberg's argument boils down to: "Creative people will likely not become rich, comfortable and ready for retirement solely from writing or whatever they create. Even creative people, unless they have some kind of fortunate windfall, will need to invest wisely to reach independent wealth and a comfortable retirement."
I won't give out stock tips or get too deep into investment stuff. I have reached an awkward stage in my life/career. I feel comfortable enough with my knowledge and instincts to follow my own advice. I may even offer my thoughts to friends and family, leaving it to them whether they find my advice sound or not.
At the same time, I have enough professional qualifications that weak social contacts might view my ruminations as qualified advice. Some people might view my 10 years working in the insurance industry and light experience evaluating risk as certification for being considered an investment professional. I don't offer that kind of advice and don't want the responsibility that comes along with it.
I have no problem giving advice on saving time, reducing stress and possibly even protecting personal finances against sudden physical and health-related losses. This blog entry or future entries are not any kind of marketing pitch, though. At most, I hope someone might take my ruminations, investigate and research them a little more then come up with useful conclusions of their own.
And if I present some tips to set up some practical organization principles and tactics, I hope people will take them to heart. They could make more sense of financial or health information. At the very least, they might address some issue in the future more efficiently than if I didn't mention some stuff I might mention.
All in all, this entry has become more of an abstracted, unclear rumination to say that I may want to bring up topics on how to handle the financial realm. Lots of people find financial stuff impractical, once you get deeper into it. I hope, every once in while, to shine some practical light on these topics.
Guess the only way I'll find out if I'm any good at doing so is by going ahead and writing about it. Please join me in some future entries to see if I'm any good at writing about these topics.
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