Sunday, November 02, 2014

Doctor Who: Dark Water & Character Arcs


This entry is something of a response to my previous entry The Twelfth Doctor: Too Freudian for My Taste

My Tweet on Doctor Who: Dark Water encapsulates my feelings pretty well.

I could care less about the big reveal and the impending doom. I want to. Really, I do, but I don't.

In response to the question I raised in the last entry: My faith that Clara will leave well has gone up. Betrayal but remaining friends. I can see it not being a graceful exit, but I can see it being natural and acceptable.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Disruptive Question Leads to Health Insurance Sales Innovation

During a sales phone call yesterday, a perspective client asked a question: "Will I be locked into the policy?"

I stuttered a bit then answered, "No. That's the wrong question. The answer is, though, if you don't enroll soon, you'll get locked out of the individual health market until Open Enrollment or you have a Qualify Event." They had a couple days left of a Special Enrollment Period because they had lost their job and employer-sponsored benefits a couple months ago.

The prospect asked a great question because it disrupted my rote thinking. I had a whole bunch of long answers to how Open Enrollment and Special Enrollment Periods. They always came out awkward, stuttering and tiring, for me at least.

With my new answer I can just say, "If you don't enroll by so-and-so you'll be locked out Open Enrollment or you have a Qualifying Event." It's quick. It's too the point. It gets the message across.

It took a disruptive question for me to figure out this great phrasing. So sales people, service people, tech support, teachers, whatever, don't fear disruptive questions that stump you.

Like I read often, see the challenge as opportunity. Use it as a learning opportunity. Use it to consolidate your thinking and phrasing.

Maybe you'll even make the next encounter with a learner less tiring and stressful. Maybe the job could become easy and fun. Maybe you'll enjoy yourself and look forward to the next encounter.

Who knows? Maybe you'll even look forward to the next disruption.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Twelfth Doctor: Too Freudian for My Taste


TRIGGER WARNING FOR SAKE OF CAUTION: Freudian references to symbolic incest and castration. Also lightly crude language to emphasize execution of Freudian aspects.

SPOILER WARNING: A lot of broad sweeping emphasis and analysis on first half of season 8 and second half of season 7 of New Who. One reference to episode 9 of season 5, Cold Blood.

When I express my disappointment in the 12th Doctor, people often resort to arguing that Clara is such a huge improvement, they don't care about the portrayal of the Doctor. So I'll start with a disclaimer on Clara (and River):

I like the improvements to the writing of Clara Oswald. Many have it right that she, more than any other companion, has become a much better character after her first season.

Her alternate incarnations act as exceptions to this statement. Rather, seeing her awesome alternates before seeing the original mousy Clara set us up for disappointment, much like experiencing River Song's mostly in reverse narrative. Excepting how the aspects of the Doctor I'm criticizing affect Clara, I don't want her to change.

I love Clara. I wouldn't mind her not having to react to the Doctor's annoying aspects. She still has become much more interesting.

Twelve stated he has no interest in Clara at the end of Deep Breath. I'm not entirely sure. Maybe his interest has something more disturbing to it.

When it comes to Clara, the Twelfth Doctor has too much of an Oedipal Complex and fears symbolic castration. I see it evidenced in Robot of Sherwood then in the episodes after he meets Danny Pink. Some of it presents itself even before he meets Danny, with the foreshadowing statements about not liking soldiers.

The Doctor started showing his Oedipal complex when the Sheriff of Nottingham had Clara, Robin and the Doctor tied up in a dungeon. Robin and the Doctor focused on arguing and insulting each other rather than trying to escape. Put in crude terms, they were measuring their dicks.

The Doctor did it to prove to Clara he was the better man in an immature manner. The Doctor wanted to impress Clara. The scene fails because of the immaturity and, narratively, the audience didn't learn anything new about the Doctor or Robin.

A counter example I can think of is when the Zygons or the queen imprisoned the War Doctor, Ten and Eleven in The Day of the Doctor. They argued and quibbled. The difference in this example: we learned something about each of the Doctors that added to themes of the episode and the series.

And, well, it IS the Doctor. He will bluster and put up a front around himself. It's the doppleganger effect. Often when someone argues with themselves in literature, something will become revealed about themselves.

The Doctor tries to impress himself, but he has expectations of perfection. Can anyone ever meet their own perfectionist standards? It must get even more complicated when the Doctor is someone else, but it's still the Doctor.

In some ways, the Doctor expressed his castration vulnerability whenever he made fun of Clara as she readied herself for a date during the next couple episodes. Did the Doctor protest too much when he tried acting naive about such affectations?

The next direct threat comes from Danny Pink in The Caretaker. Notice the Doctor all but ignored Orson Pink in Listen and Psi in Time Heist. Similar to the Ninth Doctor and the majority of characters in the Universe, the Doctor dismissed them as boring and not worth his time. That reaction works much better. It shows an annoying arrogance, but it's pretty much equal opportunity hubris, well deserved, at that.

But Danny Pink in The Caretaker raises a Oedipal threat. The Doctor finally meets Clara's love interest and, if time doesn't change, her future husband. The Doctor's Oedipal reaction to Danny gets obfuscated by a couple other prejudices: the Doctor disliking soldiers, which an informed audience knew would be used in this way when first notified of it in Into the Dalek, and the incompetence of Danny when he removed the devices in The Caretaker.

If we had an innocent awkward "that's not what I expected" moment from the Doctor, it wouldn't raise too much attention. The whole thing about Twelve thinking that Clara started dating the Eleven look alike? The situation goes into a weird thinking that the Oedipal fantasy had come true, but by a random look alike human emulating Eleven. The situation stands to mention that an individual's looks do not translate into personality and the essence of a person.


The Oedipal factors become less apparent but subtextual at the end of The Caretaker and Kill the Moon. At the time of writing this entry, I have not seen Mummy on the Orient Express. I probably won't see it for a couple days. Michi has been out of town for work. Plus I want to post this entry before getting influenced by the newest episode.

The show portrays Danny Pink as a perfect character because he's well rounded. For one thing, he's perfect but in humanizing ways. He's manly (soldier) but vulnerable (sensitive by what people think this makes him). I appreciate that the show makes a point that he did horrible things. At the same time, he also did great humane things for people who couldn't do it themselves. He's attractive but socially awkward.

His reactions at the end of The Caretaker and Kill the Moon will make practically anyone want to date him. I'm a guy, prefer genders not my own, and I would want to date Danny Pink. Danny has become the foil for the Twelfth Doctor by doing the good man things that Doctor can't seem to do.

At the end of The Caretaker, the Doctor doesn't accept Danny. He doesn't think Clara should. The Doctor only kind of accepts Danny because Clara won't take crap from the Doctor when it comes to things she values.

The Doctor, on the other hand, needs her. I forget where to cite it, but in New Who (or at least Moffat's), the Doctor notes that he makes a special connection with the first companion of a regeneration. The Doctor needs Clara like a baby monkey needs a mother monkey, except the Doctor is a grown entity and won't die without affection. That connection won't allow HIM to reject her.

Danny, on the other hand, behaves maturely. He doesn't like the Doctor. He characterizes the Doctor's attitude toward soldiers accurately and says it clearly. Obviously, the Doctor's prejudice goes deeper than that, but the Doctor cops his attitude.

Despite not liking the Doctor, Danny knows that he has no right to go further other than expressing his feelings. Danny respects Clara's independence and integrity as a sentient person.

Danny's disappointment and frustration with Clara doesn't from come his dislike of the Doctor. Tension comes from Clara not telling him about her crazy other life and, essentially, lying by omission. She hid a part of herself from him. When having serious intentions with someone you're dating, how respected do you feel when your significant other doesn't share an important part of who they are with you?

Danny uses it to draw a mature line in their relationship, not as a present cause to end it. We've all probably seen or heard instances that someone would get overwhelmed, scared or whatever by this type of thing. If Danny had ended the budding relationship with Clara then and there, even used the lying by ommission as an excuse, I think most of the audience would have accepted it.

This standing by Clara, who he has only gone on a couple dates with, put the first cherry on top of his well-rounded perfectness. Danny wants to join her in her life and wants to hear about it. Maybe the adventure would get too much for him since he just learned about, but Danny wants her to share with him. He doesn't want to shut her out. If he has an ounce of jealousy or anything negative, he doesn't act like a jack ass about it.

Kill the Moon has become interesting controversy with the abortion subtext, whether intentional or not. In this entry, my discussion revolves around comparisons of the Doctor and Danny Pink. The two of them don't have direct contact in the episode, but their characterizations feed into the Oedipal subtext. In full disclosure, though: the abortion subtext contributes this interpretation.

The Doctor and Danny act similarly to themselves at the end of The Caretaker. The Doctor has put at least one other companion into a siimilar situation as handing over responsibility of choosing whether the baby space dragon lives or dies to Clara, Courtney and Lundvik. The decision is not a fixed point in time, but it will affect the future course of humanity.

He made that argument when he sat Amy down with the Silurians to negotiate on how to share Earth. One big difference between Cold Blood and Kill the Moon: In the latter episode, the Doctor left the scene, abdicating responsibility for the decision. Honestly, I didn't think much of it until the end of the episode when Clara unleashed her anger.

I don't think The Doctor putting this decision on the three woman caused Clara's anger. His leaving caused offense. He didn't provide support for the difficult decision, whatever it might have been. The tough got going, so the Doctor got the hell out of there. By his rules, He didn't have to endure the process, so he left.

Danny, on the other hand, provides emotional support. He even provides good advice on making a rash decision while Clara's emotions ran high. The situation provided an opportunity ripe to taint her opinion of the Doctor. Danny could have easily convinced her to kick the Doctor out of their lives forever.

Instead, Danny relates to her with his own past experience, provides rational advice that she should wait until she has calmed down to make an actual decision. He let's her know that he's available for her when she needs him. Danny didn't cause the situation, but he'll help Clara deal with it on her terms.

This guy should give a course on Good Man 101 (not Nice Guy 101, that myth is for men who think being sensitive means being moody). With the amount of confidence Danny Pink has IN the relationship, I wonder why he got so awkward starting it.

Suffice to say, fans know where the season or Christmas Special will end. Clara and Danny Pink will commit to each other. Why that means Clara would leave the TARDIS rather than Danny joining the crew is beyond me. However it pans out, though, Clara will make the decision for herself, not the Doctor or Danny. Despite the second half of Season 7, Clara has become a strong, independent woman.

I also don't think Danny would let her give up the TARDIS life if that's what she really wanted. He knows that if he did, Clara would always listen for the sound of the TARDIS as the Doctor rides Sexy's brakes.

The Twelfth Doctor also seems to have an arc similar to Martha's. He's not getting crapped on by the writers in so many other ways other than his relating to Clara. He also may have more complicated feelings for Clara than Martha had for Ten. Maybe he does. Maybe stating his lack of romantic interest in Clara at the end of Deep Breath had more to do with him. Maybe he told himself he shouldn't have those types of feelings instead of speaking for Eleven.

Nonetheless, I see the Doctor having some growth to do. Very likely he won't take Martha's approach at the end of her time on the TARDIS by quitting Clara. I don't see him kicking Clara off the TARDIS. I really hope they don't have the Doctor erase her memories, either.

It wouldn't work for the progression of Clara's character, not even to mention the intertextual relationship with fandom. Considering the about face in season 8 for Clara, I have a hard time seeing the BBC going for it. Increasing the Doctor's position in that power dynamic would ruin the stupendous growth Clara has made (and probably make the Doctor even less enjoyable).

Doctor Who has disappointed me before, though.


I get how the Doctor got here. I do.

Clara has become a presence throughout his life, ever since he was a young child before becoming a Timelord. Three of them (The War Doctor, Ten and Eleven) all expressed their extreme admiration for her at the same time in The Day of the Doctor.

Throw into the mix that Clara has become his mother symbolically not once, but TWICE! The "first" time occured in the Time of the Doctor. Her pleas to the Timelords got him his second round of regenerations. The "second" time, she gave him, as the First Doctor, the speech on fear that gave him courage to become the Doctor.

Maybe Clara has also given him birth in The Snowmen, as a "third" time. It took Clara to yank the Doctor out of his grieving the Ponds. Grief is a process that can feel like unlife. The process ideally ends in a slow re-birth of sorts.

The Eleventh Doctor had an interesting familial relationship with Amy Pond. Their bond had grown so strong that he hallucinated her for comfort in his final moments. It combined into a strange mother-son/brother-sister/father-daughter thing.

Only in grief over the Ponds did Eleven become truly infantile and frustrating to watch. Eleven and Amelia meet early in their lives. The Doctor's maturation and time fast forwarding occur so fast that it provided an interesting cognitive dissonance.

Amy Pond took on much of the psychological baggage of their scewy relationship. We can see why, too. Her parents got sucked into a crack in spacetime. A raggedy man showed up on her doorstep, promised her the Universe then disappeared for almost twenty years. On top of that no one believed her that the Doctor existed.

Clara, however, has become the first companion to have a presence throughout The Doctor's whole life throughout all his regnerations. Again, three Doctors came to admire her at the same time. The Twelfth Doctor has accumulated about 2,000 years of psychological baggage and, for all intents and purposes, has been reincarnated. The Doctor has become a newborn with Clara as his symbolic mother thrice over.

I can appreciate the craft that has gone into the characterization of the Doctor. I tried writing a criticism on River's character development (with that conclusion stated in first couple paragraphs of this entry). I ended up appreciating the overall characterization of the Doctor's alienation in season six but not the execution of it.

A similar experience has occurred for me with the Twelfth Doctor so far. We have an interesting characterization, but the execution could do better. At least it failed spots highlighted above. The execution of this characterization could likely be done better with minor changes here and there.

I haven't come up with any of my own improvements (I have for many instances in season six and seven). With only a few instances that I've had the opportunity to highlight, I don't think it would require too much.

Twelve is cranky. Twelve is mysterious. Twelve is very much alien. Twelve is arrogant and self confident, except when it comes to Clara, his Oedipal Complex and his fear of castration/impotence. Most of his "unpleasant" aspects I can appreciate and accept.

The exceptions I listed, though, just rub me the wrong way. The relationship between him and Clara stunts him. I've loved Clara's growth. Her expansion feels like it chokes the Doctor, making him less of an interesting character. Unlike in season six, I feel that it doesn't add to the story.

I don't foresee much redemption for him until the Christmas Special this year. Hopefully the BBC and the production team will craft a graceful exit for Clara while allowing the Doctor to grow into a well-rounded mysterious spacetime traveler.

Friday, September 05, 2014

VStheUNIVERSE's The Geek Show: A Nerd Variety Talky Thing

Note: I wrote the bones of this entry during the first half of the show and later. Now a couple weeks later, I have it edited to post again.
Michi has just gotten on the stage of TVStheUNIVERSE'S The Geek Show: A Nerd Variety Talky Thing. I first heard about it a week ago when a friend invited us to a party. Checking our online calendar to confirm we wouldn't have a conflict, I saw this stage variety show. What a fun way to learn about what I would be doing on a Friday.

Lauren Faits is co-hosting with Aaron Amendola, so Lauren got up first. Michi got up there as the first official guest. Other guests will include Jamie Sanchez of Bit Bash, Anime Chicago and Indie Boothcraft.

Right now Aaron and Lauren have Michi grading Batmans from TV, motion picture & photoshop. VStheUNIVERSE has projected different versions of Batman on a screen at the front of the room. They've delivered some fun.

TVStheUNIVERSE projected a couple recorded skits that I'm guessing you can likely find on their Youtube channel. Writing this a couple weeks later, I can't remember too many details. My memory is shot these days (Other day, I was asking myself what that piece of furniture in the bedroom was called). They were entertaining, though.

I've written the next couple paragraphs a couple weeks after the event. I have to write about something that happened.

Aaron, Lauren, Michi and Jamie played a super silly game. They formed two teams then flew cardboard X-Wings into Death Stars. The Death Stars were actually cardboard boxes. . .and the teams flew the X-Wings by throwing them.

They competed to see who could get the most X-Wings into the Death Stars. I don't know who won. It doesn't matter. Everyone looked like they had a lot of frantic fun, jumping and scampering all about. I have the feeling most everyone in the crowd wanted to join in.

They've put together a cool stage show here. Chicago has some awesome nerd and geek talent. It also has a lot of hilarious comedians.

VStheUNIVERSE gave the impression that they'll put on more "episodes" of The Geek Show: A Nerd Variety Talky Thing. I look forward to more.

So far VStheUNIVERSE has done a good job, in one episode, getting some laughs and highlighting a lot of geek projects and nerd organizations. I expect this show to attract a bunch more attention, introduce a lot of stuff to the public and give people a good fun time on Friday. That last one will probably prove attractive to people who could care less for the bar scene alone.


Saturday, August 23, 2014

Karl Urban, Pranks and Alienation

Moderator closing out Karl Urban panel at Wizard World (paraphrasing here): "What we learned today, Chicago, is that you don't want to get in a prank war with Karl Urban."

In some cases, you may not even be on the same movie or set. Sounds like a high chance of becoming collateral damage.

Pranks cited included:
  • During filiming of Lord of the Rings, Viggo Mortensen calling Urban's agent 2 am local time, impersonating Urban. Mortensen, as Urban, stated something to the effect that he couldn't get on the plane for an appointent [or shoot]. He had lost his lucky red socks, and he NEEDED them. Mortensen then just hung up. The agent called Urban soon at 3 am local time, waking him up from sound sleep, trying to coax Urban to get on the plane, they would by new lucky red socks. At 3 am. . .and Urban never mentioned whether he really has lucky red socks or anything like that.

  • In a prank on someone else, I think his driver, urban smeared peanut butter all over their windshield wiper. Later, while driving in the rain, the driver used the wipers. It smeared the peanut butter all over the windshield so bad that the driver had to pull to the side of the road clean up the mess.

  • There was something about someone smearing honey, peanut butter and whatever else sticky they had available on a traffic cone. They put the cone in someone's parking space. Suffice to say, they came to park their car. The mark made ready to get out of the car to move the cone. Instead somone else had come along. Thinking to be helpful, they moved the cone then end up with a mess on their hands.

  • On the set of Almost Human, (I miss that show more than I expected I would), Michael Ealy became some frustrating collateral damage. During a prank targeted at someone else, on the way out to a date, dressed quite nice, Ealy got smeared with a lot of some liquid that wasn't water. Hopefully that didn't ruin the date!
I've listed only a few of the pranks. All of them were hilarious, I'll admit, even if some edged closer toward dangerous. The panel just about dissolved down to retellings of pranks and the audience cracking up.

Funny and entertaining as it all sounded and probably was (or not), hearing about all these pranks got me thinking. These actors and other famous people that go on tour probably feel a bit of alienation and estrangement. They have to spend a lot of time away from home and other pretty drastic uprootings on a regular basis.

Ive heard about pranks from enough showbiz types in interviews to know that Karl Urban doesn't have a unique relationship with pranks. Also look at all the partying that these people do. Consider the stories of alcoholism and drug abuse that sounds more prevalent in this community compared to the general population.

People in the general population often engage in these activities and fall into addiction. I don't doubt that. It really seems much more frequent among these people engaged in such unrooted lifestyles/careers.

Many in the general population feel jealous of famous people. People living such mobile lifestyles and seeing the world receive much envy. These people in the general very likely have their own issues of alienation to deal with.

Their everyday alienation has its own characteristics: instead of going all over the place by someone else's dictates all the time, the general population more often than not doesn't have ulutimate free choice where to live. In many ways, they end up selling their time to prepare for jobs and careers then working those jobs and careers for someone else.

Even if they're contractors or self employed, they still sell themselves, just with more responsibilities to file taxes. Not many people become independently wealthy. Even if they do, they reached that point and maintain it by exploiting others and putting them into a state of alienation.

Retirement has its own batch of alienation issues.

Underneath that jealousy and envy for people like Karl Urban in showbiz, the general population very likely doesn't realize the alienation felt with that lifestyle. I know I hadn't until recently. TV episodes and movies about showbiz types experiencing alienation always bored and pissed me off. How come these types of people couldn't appreciate their success and jetsetting.

It took an NPR news story awhile ago to get me to understand that these people CAN feel alienated. Forget the story and when I heard it.

Hearing about the pranks and some other stories from Karl Urban yesterday, though, got me thinking. All this pranking, partying, addiction, etc. really could present itself as a form of alienation. . .and Urban didn't sound like anyone who has lost control and immersed himself into these activities in a way that gets in the way of living.

All of it just seems like a way to stay sane. They feel the pressure to perform, perform well and, if anything, to LOOK attractive. Just look at the tabloids and the reviews of performances all over the Internet.

Further throw on top that these people don't have a steady home and, even if they do, they may not spend a lot of time there. Their work associates change all the time when they finish one project and move onto the next.

I won't say these people in showbiz necessarily live better or worse lives and jobs than the rest of us. I just want to raise consciousness, among my readers and myself, that famous people that we often envy are PEOPLE, too.

Very likely, they experience alienation, too, and don't live a paridisiacal life that sometimes imagine them living. Sometimes their paradise just ends up a symptom of not having a grasp on their lives, like we all feel to various degrees.

[Signal sucked at the conference center that hosted Wizard World. The huge crowds overwhelmed the wireless data feeds. No one knew if we actually had a WiFi connection or what the sign in key for it was. It had become pointless to even try using Internet on my mobile until most everyone had left at around 8 or so in the evening. I plan to add my usual frills later.]

Saturday, August 16, 2014

A Couple of My Thoughts on How to Survive and Succeed at Dating, Sales, Pitching and Job Searching

I haven't had to "Play the Game" for 12 years now, but here's a couple of my thoughts on dating and rejection:

1. If you've learned to stay sane while job searching, pitching stories or anything sales-related, it can be something like that. I'm not one to promote objectifying yourself or other people, but this is one of those places that it can be beneficial. Stay true to yourself, don't oversell, like yourself and respect other people, beyond that, it's marketing, sales and not getting caught up in closing the deal or things not working out.

One thing I've read and learned: some sales people focus so much on closing ALL their deals or that BIG deal that they don't evaluate the chance at success. They just keep pushing, spending money, losing time, etc. etc. on something that will never close and may slip through their fingers the next time the client is looking to make a purchase or renew the deal.

Most successful sales people work through references and the easy, profitable sales. Quality and receptiveness above quantity. The 80/20 rule - Focus on the 20% of your customers that make you 80% of your revenue compared to the 80% of the customers that make you 20% of your revenue.

As for the pitching ideas or job searching, the sanest thing to do there is send off the pitch or cover letter/resume. Forget you did it and work on the next pitch/resume. If it's something you REALLY want, maybe you'll follow up or something, but only if you REALLY want it. Otherwise, forget it until you get a call back for an interview. Do the interview, send a thank you e-mail/letter then forget it. Move onto the next prospect/sale. Keep prospecting/selling/pitching until you land the closing or job. Forget your inquiries until they come back to you.

2. The other thing is to always be observant of opportunities and jump on the ones you want. Don't hesitate to ask dumb questions. One thing I read the other day: "If someone compliments you on something you've done, ask them if they've got a project or job that will pay you to do it." Someone will inevitably have something for you.

In other words, if you see someone looking at you the whole night at a party or something, take action. In that situation, it doesn't even have to be snazzy or clever or anything.

My equation for success in this situation: Try to have a small conversation until you find something in common then Compliment them (You're pretty) then mention something you have in common (when I first met my wife, I said "You like Buffy") then make your move (something as simple as "Can I kiss you?"). If they're receptive, they'll totally go for it.

3. Move quick. Try to get a date the first time you meet them or very soon after. No one likes the phrase "The Friend Zone," and people can still avoid it. Nonetheless, the more you skirt around the issue, the more the other person will get confused, tired and just give up if they aren't sure but think you might be interested. Other people plain just don't know you're interested. Expressing your interest is something to be clear about.

And I don't mean telling them you love them or any crazy extravagant or disrespectful proposal or expression of feeling. In the beginning, we're all floating on clouds and melodramatic. Expressing our true feelings at that time can scare someone. I'm just talking about asking someone out on a date, following my step 2 of making moves and such. The crazy propositions and expressions of love are when you're both head over heels over each other and struggling to just think about everyday things.

4. If an opportunity for fun and adventure with someone pops, say "YES!" and take it. If it's someone or something that you can't stand, say no. But if you're not sure, don't have opinion and just plan plain neutral, say "YES!" and see what happens. It could turn out to be real fun. Worse that can happen is a break up eventually.

5. Don't get stuck in a rut. Try something new. If you're with someone and after a degree of serious analysis, if it's not working, end it. If you've been with someone for awhile, though, take time to analyze whether it's working or not. Trying to address objectively to figure out if it's really not working or just something you're feeling in the moment. But if you haven't made any serious commitment, end things and move on.

6. Be cool. Don't get worked up over things. Have fun. No one likes someone who's thinking too much or sweating.

The rejection might not be about you unless you make it about you. If you can learn something about it, cool. My main lesson was express interest and try to get that first date quick. You can always figure out stuff later.

If there's nothing to learn, though, don't fret and just move on. Life is too short to get caught up in self doubt that doesn't lead to growth, self doubt over stuff that other people don't mind and also, it's too short to being a dick and disrespecting other people.

7. Another important lesson/thought from my experience: Whatever you do, DO NOT dump someone in public.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Help Launch Uncanny: A Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy

My wife, Michi Trota, is Managing Editor of the new, just announced yet-to-be-published, Uncanny Science Fiction and Fantasy magazine. They tapped her the for the position a couple months ago.

This project excites both of us a lot. Uncanny not only provides Michi a great opportunity. It will also contribute quality stories, poetry and critical analysis and reflection on science fiction, fantasy and nerd and geek culture to the community. A worthwhile project indeed!

Michi will work with some amazing people on the magazine's staff, too. Lynne M Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas, the publishers and editors-in-chief, both have many publications and projects under their belts. In addition, they have both received award nominations and actual awards. These two have experience and know their stuff!

I could probably write a ton more. Honestly, though, I'd just be recapping their tweets, website and Kickstarter campaign. I've had my nose to the grindstone with work and my own projects so much that I haven't had the opportunity to learn much more to provide further insight.

All the above said, I urge everyone reading this entry to visit the Kickstarter campaign page for Uncanny and contribute toward their goal. Uncanny will provide much contribution, insight and thoughtfulness for the Science Fiction/Fantasy and nerd/geek communities. We never can have enough.

The Kickstarter campaign has done pretty well since it started Tuesday. As of this writing, they broke the $18,000 mark with a goal of $26,000. Every little bit will help. They also have some fun rewards for contributors, like
  • A first year's subscription at $25
  • Having a SFF writer/personality review a move/TV show/book of your choice for $100
  • Signed art for $150
  • Manuscript critiques for $200
  • Dinners with editors and authors for $250
  • Guaranteed entry into a workshop with Mary Robinette Kowal for $250 (her workshops usually fill up within minutes)
  • . . .And more!
All these fringe benefits make for great reasons to support Uncanny. The best reason, though: a great product for release to the public that will provide hours of entertainment and food for thought.

Go now and provide support!


Saturday, June 28, 2014

Increasing Creativity Part 2: Compounding Sources



The last entry established a groundwork by explaining compound interest. This entry will start porting compounding conceptually for increasing creativity.

The short quick answer: Our minds can work like an interest-bearing bank account. Instead of increasing the balance of monetary value, our minds can increase the balance of creative content.

The mind should probably be looked more like an income stock that can go up and down in value day-to-day but still pays dividends and capital gains. The vagaries and demands of life and near-certain biological degredation of the body causes this additional nuance.

Understanding doesn't always come with short answers. Read further for elaboration.

Return to beginning


My access to other blogs has become problematic. I like reading them on my mobile devices: 2+ year old LG Android and first generation iPad. I use the Feedly app, on the mobile devices and on my laptop.

Blog reading works fine on the laptop. I have no complaints about the technology. My issue revolves around my attitude problem. I don't care for consuming content on the laptop, except for background media like music. Laptops and desktops should focus on producing and developing content. I feel lazy and passive consuming content on these devices.

The Android works fine, but the small screen makes reading difficult and it gets slow. I get impatient. My eyes and brain strain focusing on such a small device and scrolling so often.

The iPad has the best dimensions and user interface for reading blogs via Feedly. I don't have to scroll much. When I do, I simply flick the wrist.

First generation iPads have become overweight paperweights, though. Apple no longer supports them or provides OS updates. An OS update would likely cause more problems. The first generation iPad doesn't have enough memory. To make things even worse, it can't handle the methods new apps use to manage memory.

My iPad has the habit of closing apps with little notice. OK, maybe some notice. It stops doing anything onscreen for a few seconds then closes. Using the browser or anything with major graphics for awhile likely triggers this reaction. Even without some kind of obvious trigger, music stops and an app will close after extended use. Music has also taken to skipping like a scratched CD Without clicking.

Webpages with lots of ads and sophisticated coding makes text flash in and out multiple times before stabilizing. Many times this indicates a trigger that an app will shut down. Even if it stablizes, it gets annoying.

I want fast action on my mobile device, consuming content, especially articles. I could get information faster from a newspaper or book.

My mobile tech has become obsolete. It happens. I've come up with an affordable solution: buy a high-end big-screen mobile phone. It provides the benefits of:

  • Having just one device and provider
  • Continued unlimited data
  • Decreased costs
  • Added network access flexibility
Hopefully it will last and provide me with ease of use.

Return to beginning


I inarticulately addressed this topic previously a little more than eight years ago. I ruminated about feeling disconnected from the world since I had no Internet. You can read it by clicking here.

It has more of an emotional philosophical tone to it. This time, creative content development is king.

I develop more creatieve content when I maximize my creative, information or news content consumption. Since my mobile content consumption has slowed down, I've noticed a reduction in generation and publishing of my own creative content.

My RSS feed reading and resolution to post more creative content and more regularly started around January 2013. The table below shows the trend of my blog posting for the months between January and June for the years 2013 and 2014. I include this entry on the table.

Month 2013 2014
January 4 1
February 0 2
March 2 1
April 2 0
May 3 3
June 3 1
Total 14 8

Other than creative, information and news content consumption reduction, these explanations could also apply:

Increased hours at work from January to market and verify delivery of health insurance policies after retail market purchases during the first Affordable Care Act retail Open Enrollment and launching of could have played a part. This issue spanned from January to April. Entries posted during this time span was 8 in 2013 (not ACA affected) and 4 in 2014. That matches the overall trend.

The decline trend also remains relatively consistent for the months of May and June. 6 in 2013, 4 in 2014. I have a hard time correlating the decline with the Affordable Care Act. Besides, I did most of my creative, information and news content reading during private times that polite company doesn't discuss. That activity has remained consistent.

I have taken on more DIY projects and chores at home. I have increased the steps/procedures for my dental hygiene. Both of these increases add to reproductive chore time and take away from leisure/production time. I can't dispute the contribution this factor has played into reducing time to write creative content.

Even while engaging in reproductive activities, though, I often ruminate on concepts, information and ideas. I do it without trying. My brain does it to stay occupied while doing an activity that requires little attention. The little monkey in my brain doesn't stop.

Personal issues also go through my mind during such ruminations, too. I observed a lower frequency of those during this span of time in 2014.

Reduction in cognitive and time resources, in general, have probably played a marked influence on my reduction in creative content creation. Above has already addressed time issues.

Riding in temperatures down to -20 degrees Fahrenheit created by the weakened polar vortex in very constricting layers took its toll. I'm still traumatized and expect sudden downturns at any time. The emotional toll of trauma, no matter the absence or presence of evil, has its costs.

Teaching and selling a product and system while learning it thoroughly at the same time makes for a rough time. Add onto that managing time to make sure money gets made rather than just tutoring people. Frustrated people facing much increased costs and getting marginalized by not-fully-thought through requirements weighs down the emotions. Such a cognitive load will take away resources from creative content creation.

May remained steady between the two years, which supports the Affordable Care Act hypothesis and weakens the cognitive load argument.

June makes the Affordable Care Act hypothesis less strong but strengthens the cognitive load argument. I have had a hard time with time management lately. So many things to do and so many people to see. I'm back to fighting for my time again.

Return to beginning


I rediscovered Rollo May. More apt, I found his work discussing how much significance and meaning has to do with people's happiness and well being. These works also had less talk about love. May's writing about love felt a little too wishy washy and mystical for my tastes.

May's writing about significance and meaning had so much to do with my project that I found myself inspired. I had to get another book of his about about violence. It focuses more on how lack of inherent significance and meaning can lead to violence and/or an ideology of violence. These days with terrorism, shootings at schools, violence against the marginalized and many stories hitting the news, May's writing doesn't just ring true for my project. It also has relevance to the contemporary human condition.

I've also rediscovered and started reading Dr. Chris Ferns' Narrating Utopia: Ideology, Gender, Form in Utopian Literature. I had bought it years and years ago in my spate of getting as many sources on utopianism as I could, looking for a definition or characterization that I could use.

Narrating Utopia helped me dig deep to discover/remember the purpose for my project and led me to rediscover Rollo May. In addition, I have a better understanding why The Project consumes me. Suffice to say, it remains a core process I started as a teenager to find my identity then move onto my next step. I like to think of it as a meta-project. I study how other people have defined significance/meaning and try to create an ideal humman and society based on that definition. I want to help society and me to better find significance/meaning and fill life with it.

I started The Project years and years ago without knowing why and forget it every once in awhile. At least I tell myself that. Seriously, I should just read the beginning of one character's journey in my novel's first draft. He practically says word-for-word my question and goal.

The fact that I wrote the last four paragraphs with little effort and could write plenty easily goes back to this post's argument. Instead of working against the argument, it supports it. Yes, I haven't written many blog posts in June. Instead I've redirected my attention toward a project that I've had at the center of my teenage and adult life. The quantification of blog posts written does not contain all of my content creation.

I have produced content, just not for public consumption at this point in time.

Return to beginning


Consuming content inspires more content. The more content taken in will lead to more content going out. Nuance brought about by analysis: the type of content coming in influences the content going out.

I started writing this post thinking that content only included creative, information or news. Like astrophysicists talking about information and black holes, I find myself broadening the definition of content to also include:
  • Physical things
  • Abstract objects/products (insurance really comes down to being a promise with rules as to when it applies and how it gets delivered)
  • Emotions
  • relationships between people
The list probably goes into infinity.

Production of content for my blog has gone down as my consumption of other inspiring blogs has gone down. During the first quarter of the year, insurance, Affordable Care Act and business content consumption increased. My output in these categories increased during that time.

DIY reproduction chore content has increased. Since it has the function of reproduction, it consumes and produces at the same time. I have little choice whether to deal with it or not. It generally must be addressed.

Reproductive content generally acts more as a time consumer. Unfortunately, time isn't content, it stores content. Like any storage device, time is limited. Unlike a storage device, we can't replace time or our allotment of it. At least not yet.

Other than reproductive content (notice that who does reproductive labor often becomes a contentious issue), the form of content generates more of that form of content. Doing reproductive content hopefully reduces it. In a sense, efficient reproductive content helps to produce future free time, or more philosophically, event-oriented content storage.

We absorb ourselves into content. Our minds ruminate over new content to adjust our concept of the world and universe. We are what we eat. Even food can be categorized as content, but probably more along the reproductive line of content. Whether we remain conscious or unconscious about our content consumption and production, the more we take in, the more we digest, the more we produce.

Return to beginning


This process acts as a form of compounding. Like I said in the beginning, though, our biological and social conditions make the quantity and value of our content more variable, unlike an interest-bearing bank account where the value of principal remains the same.

We can become damaged and we degrade. Content gets destroyed. Our productivity processing content, in and out, degrades. Thankfully the human race has developed technologies that can immortalize intellectual and certain experiential content.

Society and history, in a sense, can act as a mind that does the same as our own minds through material and social technology. The types of content we spread around, the more that the rest of society generates, good and bad.

Technology in the form of writing and other content form factors allow us to transcend time with our content. Neil deGrasse Tyson discussed immortality granted to us by writing in an episode of Cosmos. Tyson stresses the fact that our future generations can judge us as good or evil by our content, and we won't be around to defend ourselves.

Technology and our impact on society and other people allows our content to travel in time to the future while those in the future can connect with the past. Society then can process our content like our present day society processes it, whether to stop it or let it compound to produce more.

People and societies will determine the content's value in the marketplace of ideas like Wall Street determines the cost of stocks. Our content enters a marketplace of content, either to continue compounding in other organisms if found valuable or to possibly go extinct from lack of interest.

We consume and produce content everyday, whether conscious or unconscious of
  • Doing it in the first place
  • How we're doing it
  • What kind to focus on
We can choose the focus and quantity of what kind we produce by choosing the kind and quantity we consume. The value of the content is up to the consumer. Content acts as the medium we use to interact with the world and leave our impact.

Manipulate it often and well to maximize your interaction in a way you want. On the one hand, what do you want take away from the world? On the other, how do you want to be remembered by the world? Who knows where it all leads?

I know we can control our content output by controlling our input, though. We have a powerful tool available to us here. I have some ideas how to use it. How do you want to use it?

Return to beginning

Return to beginning

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Increasing Creativity Part 1: Compound Interest, An Applicable Financial Concept

Skip to Links of Interest

Books and articles about personal finance often bring up compound interest. Put simple as I can: When a bank pays a consumer interest on money in their savings, checking, CD or whatever account, the bank deposits it into the same account.

If kept there, the bank continues to pay interest on deposits. They will also pay interest on previous interest deposited into the account. Each time the bank pays interest in the future, they will pay for both consume deposits and previous interest they had deposited into the account.

Here's an example with numbers:

On January 1 consumer puts $10,000 into an account that pays 12% annual interest (good luck with that! I'm trying to keep this simple). The interest breaks down to roughly 1% a month. For simplicity, let's just say every month is 30 days. Let's also say the rate is fixed. It doesn't increase or decrease (again, simplicity, folks!).

On January 30, bank deposits $100 into account to pay the 1% interest on the consumer's original deposit $10,000. If the consumer doesn't withdraw or deposit anything, next interest payment deposit will be based off $10,100.

February 30: Payment of $101. based off $10,100 in account and 1% monthly interest. End balance: $10,201.

March 30: Paid $102.01 End balance: $10,303.01.

April 30: Paid $103.03 End balance: $10,406.04.

May 30: Paid $104.06 End balance: $10,510.10.

June 30: Paid $105.10. End balance: $10,615.20.

July 30: Paid $106.15 End balance: $10,721.35.

August 30: Paid $107.21. End balance: $10,828.57.

September 30: Paid $108.29. End balance: $10,936.85.

October 30: Paid $109.37. End balance: $11,046.22.

November 30: Paid $110.46. End balance: $11,156.68.

December 30: Paid $111.57. End balance: $11,268.25.

Over that one year after the consumer deposited just the original $10,000, the bank paid them $1,268.25 total interest.

Before I knew better, I would have calculated interest on a straight 12% for a year. Done that way, interest payments on that $10,000 would come to just $1,200.00.

Getting interest payments monthly at 1% compared to a straight annual 12% gets $68.25 additional through the whole process. $68.25 doesn't sound like much after putting in $10,000 and also getting $1,200 in interest payments. It isn't if we just take into account that one year.

What happens if we ran those numbers for 12 years, though? I won't show my work like above. Instead I'll just jump to the conclusion.

Total interest at 12% straight interest annually for 12 years on originally $10,000 deposited: $28,959.76. End Balance: $38,959.76.

Total interest at 1% compound interest monthly (12% annual paid every month at rate of 1%) for 12 years originally $10,000 deposited: $31,906.16. End Balance: $41,906.16.

That $68.25 one year additional from compounding turns into $2,946.40 after 12 years. Maybe not up there like $30,000 or so but still a pretty good chunk of change. Every little bit counts.

Compound interest works to the consumer's benefit when the bank pays it. It loses its fun when borrowing through credit cards. Instead of getting paid more thanks to compounding, the consumer ends up paying more to the bank because of compound interest.

For the sake of simplicity, just reverse the calculations above. Most banks require initial payments soon after they issue a loan. Imagine that the bank makes a deal with the consumer that they don't have to make their first payment in the first year or in the first twelve years.

For the one-year deal, the consumer pays $68.25 extra because of compound interest. For the twelve-year deal, the consumer pays an extra $2,946.40. Who wants to pay that much just for the privilege of using money and not having to make their first payment for awhile? The consumer could have used that money to pay down the balance.

Compound interest has the bank paying the consumer interest on accrued interest in deposit accounts. A phenomenon that yields some amazing results.

On the other hand, compound interest also has the consumer paying the bank interest on accumulated interest in loan accounts. A frustrating process that makes paying back credit cards and other loans so difficult.

Reality makes the process more complicated. For deposit accounts, the consumer could deposit and withdraw during the process. Each month has a different number of days, which affects the monthly interest payments.

For revolving loan accounts, the consumer could charge and will pay back the loan during the process. The days in the month also affect the interest charged to the account.

Things get even crazier, for better and worse, when it comes to shares in mutual funds, stocks and other products that reinvest dividends and capital gains. Since the value of shares change day-to-day or even moment-to-moment, the re-invested dividends and capital gains can mean losing more or less money every second as share value changes.

The consumer can even buy and sell shares to take advantage of fluctuations to create their own manual compounding process (timing the market this way not suggested, even though I try to do it sometimes -- let's just say I didn't reap the high 30% gains that many passive investors did in 2013). Much more complicated stuff.

Using compound interest and other financial methods can help grow wealth. A lot of wealth can help free up time and provide freedom tocreate. All well and good. I follow these practices to reach that point. If you try, too, I commend you.

For this series of entries, thogh, I plan to port the concept of compounding from the financial field into the field of creativity. Unlike a bank account and interest, compounding in creativity doesn't happen automatically. It requires adoptiong personal habits and taking actions. It requires fighting inertia. After building some momentum, though, it could almost feel automatic.

I'll delve a little deeper into practices that compound creativity in the next couple of entries (at least soon to be posted entries).

Return to beginning


Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Sick of Metaphysics: Genesis of My Projects and Today's Frustration

Skip to Links of Note

I've grown impatient with metaphysics in my adulthood. Scarcity of free time and desire for productivity may have more to do with this distaste.

Twenty or so years ago (feels like lifetimes ago), I had little problem reading a work that made little sense to me. I enjoyed it. Four things generally happened:

  • I came up with my own interpretation
  • I would skip over parts that made little sense to me then paid more attention to parts that did
  • I would slow down to try understanding better (probably the slowest and cognitive taxing thing to do)
  • I would just keep reading, try to pay as much attention as I could, then eventually just get it spontaneously, as in an AHA! moment
I enjoyed reading more back then. It probably had a hypnotic effect on me. A little younger than than then, my parents had no problem taking me around town as long as I had a book. Just sit me down, I'd read and stay out of their hair.

The shapes of words, letters and paragraphs fascinated me on some level, I think. At an even younger age, I would cover different parts of book titles on covers with colored labels. Something about it fascinated me. Maybe it had something to do with my ability to read even when I didn't fully comprehend.

Science fiction, role-playing rule books (mostly Advanced Dungeons & Dragons) and psuedo science, social science and philosophy books became my steady diet. The social science and philosophy came about mostly through a fascination with Terence McKenna, a combination of psychonautic anthropology and drug-induced mythology. Beat literature also caught my attention, too. Some amount of outrageousess every once in awhile kept me attentive.

Work on my novel started around this time, too. I had read the beginning of the teenage dystopian canon: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, 1984 by George Orwell and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. Much of my real reading into the genre took place during my college years and after. Suffice to say, these three books influence my novel quite a bit.

On an embarassing note, so did my adolescent hormones. The novel started as a patchwork of scenes in my brain that I wrote down in random order. Many of them focused on a date between a man and a woman that turned sour when she found a book he had squirreled away. Books are forbidden, see!

Before that point, though, the man and woman had the teenage fantasy of a great date. It had a late-night skinny dip scene that took place in a swimming hole deep in the woods. Even better: the woman had helped liberate the man out of his clothes after some bashfulness on his part.

How ironic that later in the night, after seeing the book, she ran away to report this guy to the authorities because he had a book. Liberated, indeed!

Hindsight pats me on the back for cranking up the taste levels on those scenes. Wish I came up with that improvement myself. Let's just say good-natured ribbing by critics of different genders helped. Looks of horror prove even more helpful with more offensive fare. Youth. . ..

Looking back, I have a hard time gauging what precisely I wanted to write. So many influences. For awhile in my adulthood I thought I wanted to write a simple thriller set in a superficial dystopic setting, focusing more on the natural human fight against a shadow conspiracy that somehow shaped the world and conditioned people into boring lives. If only I could minimize my ambitions that much.

My disorganized brain back then had great imagination but little control over scope. It somehow had created a proto-dystopian society that drew on a lot influences. Funny, really, how we get bombarded by so many influences and never realize it.

I guess it explains how a phenomena I've experienced occurs. I just write something that comes to mind, which I think works. Other people that give it a read come with a pretty cool interpretation for its significance that I could never have consciously created. Always a fun experience.

The project became less fun and more complicated by the college experience. Just writing a piece of fiction wouldn't cut it. It needed the backing of some kind of academic project. My project sponsors and I reached an interesting project goal: Dissect three pieces of utopian/dystopian literature and three historical utopian communities to see what attracts, repulses and makes people go meh about them.

Fourteen years after my last semester at college, without a degree, I still work at this damnable project. The novel hasn't received any worthwhile attention for years. The academic side has sucked me in, along with all the usual adult things like work, chores, social life, investments, gaming and all that stuff. First drafts for five essays have come out of it.

Mr. George Ripley and his community, Brook Farm, in 1840's West Roxbury, MA exasperates me. They do so because I don't understand their metaphysics, some strange mish mash of European Romanticism, New England Transcendentalism, Utopian Socialism, New Engand Unitarianism and whatever other influences this guy could grab onto and digest into his sponge of a brain.

Errrmmmmm. . .sounds familiar.

Seriously, though, why does the definition of Nature have to change over the centuries? How does the implications of realism change from Plato to today? What motivated some German guys, some English folks, a few New Englanders and apparently people in France that their individual sentiments and passions are better than a well-designed society? How did they create enough of a heritage that we respect it today? How do they say they want to write in plain language of the people, but readers today get lost in words we recognize but somehow their combination just puts us to sleep? And what's up with Kant, German Idealism and how it's supposed to reconcile the mind, the world and some crazy realness that we can perceive with our direct senses?

I probably don't have to answer all the questions there. Mr. Ripley could have helped much if he had written more clearly and succinctly about many of these things, though. Maybe if he delved deeper into HIS understanding of the metaphysics he read rather than just quoting a lot of it and expecting his adversaries to just nod their heads and agree.

For the Constitution of Brook Farm, he, along with his fellow organizers, wrote as motivation many effects and symptoms in society of problems they saw. They hardly addressed any root cause other than just human nature or the organization of society.

If he just said the organization wasn't efficient, and they started Brook Farm as an experiment to see if they could stumble onto something better, I could work with it. Even better, if they kept copious notes, analyzing and dissecting all the little experiments they did to see results.

But no, they saw Brook Farm as some grand solution. They hardly seemed to know how to articulate specific problems, though. They didn't do so through materialistic descriptions. By that time, Mr. Ripley didn't do so much metaphysically, at least nothing in writing at the time. They just focused on promoting this community doing things right, and the people in it just kinda did what they did.

I can appreciate not having time to write anything. The last couple months took a lot out of me and didn't give me much energy for writing. Nonetheless, beforehand Ripley had written so much intimating his intentions without articulating his reasons.

Maybe afterward he could have written something a little more reflective highlighting things that worked, things that didn't work, how they worked, how they fulfilled goals and so forth.

But no. . .he just sunk into literary criticism journalism and paying off debts from the venture. OK, that might be understandable. Getting saddled with debt on something that didn't work out, did Ripley want to revisit or did he want to move onto brighter pastures.

I wish I could take that approach. Unfortunately, I've somehow convinced myself that these projects have reached high levels of importance and will make a difference. Much more important than doing everyday things to make other people's lives betters. Something about it has convinced me that I'll make a much bigger impact by finishing it and releasing it into the world.

Dang it. To do so, I'll have to dig through metaphysics and philosophy to figure out what organizating principle this George Ripley followed.


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Saturday, May 03, 2014

EPIC POST: My Last Five Months and Missing My Creative Side

Section Jumps:
   A. Chi-Fi 0
   B. C2E2
   C. CNSC and Chiditarod

Just a funny note: Apparently after the US, Russia and Ukraine vie for 2nd highest sources of traffic on The Lextopia for all time. Ukraine wins in the last month. They have a a long lead ahead of Russia for the month.

What's up with that?

Anyway, the last couple months have kept me busy and worn thin.


First three months of the year, I spent long hours at the office selling Affordable Care Act-compliant policies. A lot of new products to learn. I also had to learn a lot of new procedures, Website portals and what to expect for tax filing time.

The new plans, themselves, didn't cause difficulty. Procedures, portals and tax stuff came easy after seeing it all repeatedly everyday. Odd new question here and there didn't cause much challenge after awhile, either.

The volume of demand caused the most trouble. I had to wait for hours on end to get in touch with representatives at insurance carriers for answers. New and current clients filled up my days trying to secure new coverage. Their feeling intimidated by everything didn't help, either.

Repitition got to me by the end. Sending out form e-mails with information here and there changed didn't tax me much.

Giving the same verbal presentation, whether in person or on the phone, started wearing me thin. My throat and neck (from keep phone steady on my shoulder) had gotten pretty sore. My brain and mind had grown fatigued, too.

I survived the labor-intensive three months of the first open enrollment of the Affordable Care Act, though. Coming home at night, I had plenty of laundry, dishes and ironing to do. TiVo needed its attention, too. Michi showed great patience throughout the ordeal. Now I need to make sure all these new clients pay the first premium. They only have one more week!


Could commuting to and fro work during this Chiberian Polar Vortex have drained me even more. Covering all of my skin in four layers of clothes and accessories, I could tolerate all the way down to -20 after windshield. I might have found it even a little comfortable by the end, temperature-wise at
least. All that bundling got me a little stiff after awhile.

Most of the time I would don the same clothes for the bus commute when the temps got lower. I might have biked when things got a little colder every once in awhile, too. No one born in the last forty years had seen anything like this! Seriously? A day that got lower than -50 windshield? I had no precedence to follow.

Temperatures rising might cause me more difficulty. I still have trouble figuring out how many layers to wear and which accessories to use. People complain about it not reaching 60 on a consistent basis in May yet.

I fear it a little. I still don't feel comfortable wearing fewer than a couple layers at a time.

Trying to predict the rain gets irritating, too. I can ride through snow, as long as the city salts and paves the roads. A couple weeks ago I had a fall during a freak icy storm without salty roads. Oops! At least with snow, though, I don't get too drenched.

I look forward to warm weather again, though. Putting on all those layers takes time and effort. Will it actually get warm, though?

Return to Section Jumping


Still experimenting with dough. I've found a good base "regular" pizza dough: 1 cup pure gluten, 1 cup whole wheat flour and 1 cup bown rice flour. It does poweder the trick well enough.

I'd like to figure out a recipe that friends who have celiac disease or a gluten-restricted diet can eat. In my opinion, people who haven't been diagnosed with celiac, allergies or intolerance to gluten shouldn't hesitate to eat gluten.

I like having my friends that have gluten issues around, though. They should have the chance to enjoy food, too.

Maybe I also look forward to the challenge. I have yet to hear anyone rave about any gluten-free recipe that synthesizes a food everyone expects to have gluten in it (pizza dough, bread, etc.). I more often hear about the recipe not having a taste or tasting like cardboard.

I like receiving praise like anyone else.

Over at Gluten Free Girl, I found a guide of gluten-free flours. It does a good job explaining textures, flavor profiles and how the flour can work in a recipe.

Based on the guide, I'll probably end up with 1 cup teff flour, 1 cup sourghum flour, 1 cup brown rice flour and a yet to be determined amount of amaranth for taste.

My last batch of flour used some tapioca. It may have made the flour a little too sweet, though. I'll try it without tapioca in the next batch.

Up to now, I've tried taking a gradual approach from my base "normal" recipe toward a gluten-free recipe. Changing just one part at a time would help me figure out the properties of each ingredient.

This approach proved wanting, though. The pizza would have that tasteless/cardboardy taste right out of the oven. Some time in the fridge fixed it. Waiting for pizza to "ferment" in the fridge doesn't strike me as the way to go. I want it ready to eat out of the oven.

I think I depended too much on psyllium husks and guar gum. People had told me about using them in gluten-free recipes. I've seen xanthan gum as another popular ingredient. I think depending on these ingredients for their binding properties made the pizza too fragile and liable to fall apart.

Apparently teff makes a great binder. It doesn't have gluten, but it has a similar part to it called prolamin. Both gluten and prolamin act as storage proteins. All grains have some type of storage protein. The proteins have their amino acids in different orders, though. Prolamin could have similar enough properties to make teff a good replacement.

I won't know for awhile how this recipe will turn out. I hate letting stuff go to waste and sit around. I want to use up the flours with gluten in them, so I'm mixing all of it together. This process also satisfies my desire for trying to learn the different properties of ingredients.

Funny thing I've noticed over the last couple weeks: people write and say that a good gluten-free dough requires a mix of flours. My experience has shown me that even a recipe with gluten in it requires a mix of flours to get the recipe right. I can only think that maybe people buy a pre-mixed mixture of flours for their recipes?

Return to Section Jumping


Tabletop role playing remains my constant nerd activity. Playing in a Pathfinder group and a D&D 3.5 group. Both mark my first extended time playing either game. Nothing too much to report there. They both do a good job distracting me from the day-to-day and get me to hang out with people. Only so much goal-directed productive stuff you can do everyday.

I've found myself questioning what I'm getting out of the games, though. They haven't grabbed me as much as in the past. A friend and I agreed that sticking with just a somewhat serious fantasy genre might have gotten monotonous. Maybe I want to switch it up after one or both these campaigns conclude.

Couple weeks ago I helped someone play test a tabletop boardgame. My first time playtesting something. They've put years of thought and work into this thing. I can't really say much about it since it's proprietary. I wouldn't want anyone to steal his idea.

I had a fun time at it. I'd love to play again. Us play testers and Michi spent a lot of time encouraging the creator to finish up the game and release it. I could see a lot of people getting into it.

Return to Section Jumping


After Chicago TARDIS last October (or was it November?), I've wondered if I want to go to cons as much as I have. I can appreciate them. I question what I get out of them, though.

My fandom runs to a more casual bent. I don't have anything to market (yet!). I don't have money to spend. Visual arts don't grab me. Panels haven't gone as in depth into things as I'd like (people tell me I should check out WisCon for more depth). I find myself more tired than invigorated or inspired lately from going to them.

Ah well. I'll probably take more of a break. Try to focus a little more on myself, trying to build up some assets and projects. Maybe if I can chill a little more, I can get into these things a little more.

Return to Section Jumping

Chi-Fi 0

A little more than a month ago, we went to Chi-Fi 0, a one-day con in downtown Chicago. They originally wanted to have it a weekend long event downtown, which would be something new since I moved here seven years ago. A dispute with the original venue caused them to downsize to one day, however.

I prefer a one-day event. This one delivered a good time. Maybe it didn't have the breadth of say, a C2E2 or a Wizard World, but it had some degree of intimacy they don't. It felt a lot less intimidating. I found myself chatting with vendors a lot more rather than feeling like I have to rush all over the place to SEE EVERYTHING.

A one-day event also doesn't tax the body as much. Walking around for a day doesn't require as much recovery time. Smaller crowds minimize the irritability and tension from dealing with claustrophobia. Plus I rather like the ability to take in everything a little more indepth while having time for other things during the weekend.

I spent most of my panel time at ones about diversity, creating safe spaces and issues of harassment at cons. I learned a thing or two, had a couple laughs and enjoyed the personalities of the panelists. Disclosure: Michi was on most of those.

These panels were more on a 101 level. Living with one of the panelists proves difficult to hear about all this stuff, already. Michi and the other panelists do a great job, though.

Maybe one of these days a panel or workshop for "allies" would do some good. If I had more time, I might consider it.

I had a good time in a panel on World Building. I tried writing a more involved blog entry on it. No luck there. It just wouldn't come out the way I wanted, and I gave up. I also have forgotten a bunch of details.

The panel gave me a trick or two for fleshing out characters. I might have made a useful connection for the future once I get one of my projects finished. Some underlying tension and differences in style between the panelists proved compelling but nothing too extravagant. Nonetheless, I found myself in a good mood afterward and inspired for some of my own projects.

Most of my socializing with vendors occurred after this panel. I tried attending a panel on community building through gaming. The panelists couldn't make it, though, so someone else got that room.

We attended the Geek Bar Chicago room party. As Chi-Fi was my first small, intimate general interest con, this was my first con room party.

A lot of people had a good time. Exhausted and feeling a teeny bit introverted, I didn't engage as much in the party as I would have in a better mood. They served some good drinks that I believe acted as samples for what they'll have once they open this Spring. They had food, too, but nothing ovo vegetarian.

The party got a little too loud, though. Hotel broke it up after other guests complained. Ah well, it was late and fun while it lasted.

We topped off the night by catching Raks Geek. Michi performed with her LED poi and flags. She did a great job. So did everyone else in the troupe. This happened long ago, I was tired, memory not so great, so no indepth review there.

Overall, a good time. I wouldn't mind Chi-Fi 0 sticking with the one-day format. I understand the motivation for a whole weekend: more people will come, more ability to get big talent to sign autographs and do panels, it's expensive in downtown Chicago, etc. etc. Yet, a one-day event allows me to manage my time sooooo much better.

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This makes the fourth Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo (C2E2) I've attended in its five-year history. It keeps expanding, getting bigger spaces in McCormick Place each progressive year. I only made it for Friday and Saturday.

Not because of anything bad, C2E2 may have sealed the deal on me pulling back on attending cons so much. I listed a whole bunch of reasons above.

One other thought: I feel like C2E2 might emphasize the comics a little too much and not enough on gaming. I know it highlights COMICS in the name, but I'm just not so into comics. And as things stand presently, the city of Chicago doesn't have any gaming conventions. Games could use some con love in this city.

For panels, I only went to ones organized by Michi: Opening the Clubhouse Doors -- Creating More Inclusive Geek Communities and Glass Ceilings, Missing Stairs and Gatekeepers: Geeks Still Deal with Sexism.

Both good panels on a somewhat 101 level but still providing a few insights I hadn't heard before or thought up myself. Actually, enough insights that I don't feel like I'm doing enough to be an ally or to be educated on these topics.

If you get a chance, go check out Michi's panels and essays. People come for the topic, but they keep coming back for more because Michi does a good job putting these things together, recruiting talent, writing and analyzing these topics. A bunch of change has and will come about because of all the energies she puts into these issues.

Saturday morning I spent a couple hours event marketing for The Chicago Nerd Social Club (CNSC) table in artist alley. I had a ball!

For once, I got to use my event marketing experience to promote a group that I have an emotional connection to and would love to see grow. Plus I find that I socialize better when I have script or some kind of framework to use.

The amount of people who live in Chicago that haven't heard of us surprised me. We have over 2,000 people in the Facebook group. They've sponsored Michi's panels in the past, and many people planned on going to her panels that day.

It's a big city, though. As much as the group pervades our lives, I guess it doesn't pervade the whole of Chicago Nerd Culture yet.

I would feel remiss to not mention the upcoming Maneki Neko Con. I'll admit, I probably won't go. One of the organizers of it manned the CNSC table with me, though. It sounds like a fun time for people into anime being run by passionate people.

Most of the time, I had great, positive interactions with people attracted to the table. One negative conversation sticks in my mind, though. Some guy just walked up to the table. He said, "Isn't the CNSC name opposite of what nerds are like?" or something like that.

I responded simply with "Oh, we've found that nerds are quite social."

He quieted and walked away. I'm just amazed that someone walked up and said this at C2E2, a con catering to nerds! Of course, I guess it could have been someone from one of the exhibitor tables that just wants to make money off nerds, not connect with them.

Otherwise, I spent most of those two days following Michi around. I made up a schedule of panels for Friday. General mental fatigue overtook me before I could put a schedule together for Saturday. I bet I really wouldn't have bothered going to any other panels, though. I just didn't have it in me.

C2E2 gave me the chance to see a few people I haven't seen in awhile and meet some new people. The event didn't give me a bad experience. My general status of mental fatigue and exhaustion just makes big things like this not really my pie these days.

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CNSC and Chiditarod

Even longer than a month ago, I volunteered for the CNSC station for Chiditarod: A grocery cart race with the goal of raising money and food to help feed Chicago's hungry. CNSC volunteers turned one half of Emporium Arcade & Bar into Mos Eisley Cantina from Star Wars: A New Hope.

I manned the check in station, making sure racing teams complied with requirements to enter, start the clock and tell them to have fun in the Cantina. They had to hang out for 30 minutes to stay out of the cold and have a good time. We had some Star Wars trivia, but they didn't have to participate if they didn't want to.

Good time meeting and working with some new people. I enjoyed being something of an authority. Just being amongst all that excitement and general giddiness was a fun experience in itself. Seeing the novel costumes and themes that teams took on made for an amusing time. Plus, all the shenanigans, the shenanigans!

Chiditarod pushes for a great cause, makes for a fun time and raises quite a bit of food and money. I encourage anyone and everyone to participate in it, whether as a racer or a volunteer. You'll have lots of fun!

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I've felt at a loss for the last couple weeks. Not much creativity has occurred. With so much focus on work and chores around the house, I've felt stretched thin and a little depressed. I've wondered if I've lost touch with myself and who I am. All this has led me to believe I need to take more care of myself. . .somehow.

Last night I went the annual meeting of our local credit union, Northside Community Federal Credit Union. As I told a fellow member, I joined the credit union a few years ago for the good yield on my savings and, as I found out later, my savings would get invested in the community rather than farmed out to suburbs and more affluent areas. Michi and I live in a good part of the city, but the credit union's neighborhood can always use some investment.

I went to my first annual meeting a couple years ago. That one seemed a little looser and less about sticking to a schedule. The board and other presenters brought up some interesting history about the neighborhood, the credit union and also the state of the economy back in the '70s when the credit union started. I enjoyed that presentation and learned some stuff.

I enjoyed winning some Cubs tickets, too.

Last night's meeting proved lackluster compared to the first meeting. One of the board members seemed to want to get into some of that history stuff, but we had to stick to a schedule. It was mostly business last night with an interesting video recording of one of the original founders. She made a point about the economy in the '70s and how important the credit union was back then to unconventional savers and borrowers.

The weather last night felt comfortable enough that I walked the mile and a half home. It gave me some time to think. Like my response to the annual meeting, I thought about more interesting times that I've had in the past compared to my fairly repetitive present days.

Back in high school, I published a very low budget 'zine called The New Beat. It stressed creativity, literature and an attempt at culture. I wouldn't really consider it of high quality, nothing that I would publish today when I'm trying to be professional.

It had a bunch of creativity, though. My friend who I convinced to act as editor for a bunch of issues wrote an interesting essay on Mozart and Salieri. Sure, you could look it up on the Internet today. Then, though, no easy to access Internet, and I had never heard of Salieri before then. I tried my hand at writing short reviews of books, movies and music.

We also reaped the benefits of being part of the press. I received at least a couple demos from bands. I did an online interview with an electronic musician who performed in Boston.

Erik, my friend and editor for a couple issues, and Igot to go backstage to interview Sam Black Church, our favorite Boston hardcore band and fun, down to Earth guys. Those made for some experiences.

In college, I contributed to a 'zine called FEED. I started writing a column called "The Partee Man." It followed a style similar to this blog entry and like many of the entries I've done about events.

I went to parties and reviewed them. I let my writing get a little bit more personal then, so they came out more like this entry than most of my other ones.

The editor of that 'zine and I would spend late nights laying out the thing and finalizing it. We didn't get the interesting benefits of the press like I did with The New Beat. I guess I could have done stuff like that if I wanted and tried.

At the time, I wanted to focus more on my creative writing. I probably could have gotten some interesting experience and learned things if I pushed that angle.

Later when that editor graduated, he handed the reigns to someone else. I continued doing the layout (got some college credit for it, too).

The 'zine still needed a "Partee Man," so I gave the title to someone else. I didn't have as much fun working on it that way, but I didn't want to see it just disappear. I gave it another semester or two then let it die. More serious academic and writing duties called to me.

Around the time of FEED, I also had a two-year stint as manager of the band Aesthetik (hey, I'm credited for the lyrics I wrote on one song, whoo!). The band played a bunch of gigs around Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire.

I followed them to a bunch of gigs that I booked. We had a lot of adventures. My last adventure with them included one late one spring/summer night in Boston after gig, public transport having closed, no shelter arranged and ending negotiating the rate on a hotel suite down for a roof over our head to sleep.

Near the end of that time, I had taken a couple other bands on to represent.

Gave up all that for my college studies and creative writing.

Sixteen years later, I've moved halfway across the country. When I find the time and energy, I'm still working on those studies and creative writing. It has become something of a compulsion. I feel lost without thinking or working on it.

Now that I've found some time for it, I've run into some researchers and writers block. The writers block extends to other things like this blog or what have you. The mental exhaustion, the work, the chores, trying to save up money, etc. etc. it has all just piled up.

Maybe a lot of this thinking comes up because I grow a year older in just a little over a week. I have no idea why I don't have as much time as I used to. . .. I'm surrounded by some degree of creativity, but I'm not really engaged in it. I'm blocked.

I'm missing my creative side.

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