Archive for the ‘General’ Category

On learning new languages

March 29, 2012 Leave a comment

Despite my role as a translator in my EverQuest RP server guild  (I had a lot more time back then), I am by no means a prodigy at picking up foreign tongues in the big RL. I often think about how great it would be to speak more than one language with any degree of competence, but a sub-par language program at my high school, the cultural attitude of Americans toward other languages, and my own overwhelming laziness all conspired to abolish my fantasies of laughing quietly at the jokes the German guys on the bus seem to be constantly telling.


Somewhat ironically, then, I am taking a class this semester that has taught me the basics of a new language. However, it is not a language that will let me effortlessly blend in among the locals of any human civilization, past or present. It will not win me friends overseas, enable me to resolve conflicts between superpowers, or make it where I can play Minecraft with a language pack randomizer switched on. It will, however, perhaps pave the way to writing my own Minecraft mod to randomize language pack selection on bootup.

Yes, I am learning a programming language. Which one, you ask? Why, the one. The one that is so holy it has no name. The one that deifies the code in a way most ancient civilizations could get behind: inexplicable laws and swift judgment. I speak of C.

Goddammit, you ass, not that C. Whatever. Enjoy the Jets.

In addition to teaching me how to program infinite loops and appreciate code monkey jokes, this class has also shown me just how inept I am as a programmer. Granted, I am still very new to it, but I still don’t think I should take an average of sixty times longer than my instructor to write a program. I like to think I’m not the slowest person in any given class, but that assumption is being sorely challenged. School was never difficult for me, even in high school when I didn’t get to pick all idiot English courses, so getting my ass handed to me by a 100-level introduction class is a humbling experience. By humbling, I of course mean screaming, wailing, raising-my-fists-to-the-indifferent-heavens frustrating. I admit that enrolling in an entirely foreign subject matter on top of full-time employment, book writing duties, book editing duties, and the occasional need to not do anything for awhile was perhaps not the wisest choice, but that’s the whole point of things, isn’t it? We kill off years of our lives with stress so the remaining lives can be of a higher quality. Provided it actually pans out that way (ie I am able to get a better-paying day job in a field that doesn’t require as much customer contact), it’s close enough to being worth it to merit some effort. Plus, if I actually learn enough code to write my own games one day, I can add a completely new way to pour hundreds of hours into a creative project with no guaranteed return.

If it doesn’t pan out, there’s always Zoloft.

A better life with chemistry; a horrible shrieking nightmare without.

Categories: General

Nothing to See Here

March 23, 2012 Leave a comment

Seriously. Nothing you would want to see, anyway. I have been remarkably testy all week, and I’d rather save this rage up for a well-honed rant instead of spewing acid all over your monitor. Actually, I do sort of wish I could do that. Nothing personal, but spitting acid would be a handy ability to have around the office.

As a substitute for any content of my own, I will direct you to this fantastic deconstruction of Mass Effect 3‘s ending by one of my blogging role models, Shamus Young.

Categories: General

A Few Tips for the Aspiring Graduate Student

January 5, 2012 Leave a comment

As loath as I am to incorporate any aspects of my day job into this blog, the past few weeks have made it clear once again that people do not have a working knowledge of basic etiquette and proper protocol when applying to graduate school. Yes, I am including everyone in that statement. Even if you believe you may have it down pat (as surely some, given the number of times they apply, must), I can assure you that the following advice will pertain to you if you have any serious post-graduation ambitions. Some skinny guy once said that being change is important, so here is my contribution to the sweeping graduate school admissions dialogues of our times.

1. Read

Basic, right? You know, the thing you’re doing right now? That essential life skill, so versatile, so useful, completely fucking vanishes from a shocking number of people when they begin the application process.  Whether it is during the initial exploration process or three days before a deadline, the meager amount of reading required seems to completely overwhelm them. To demonstrate your superior viability as a candidate for whatever program you happen to fancy, a wise first step is to show that you can do basic research on something that will have dramatic and lasting impact on your educational, occupational, and financial future. Do not call the department to ask questions that are most likely answered by a FAQ page on the department’s website. Not only are you demonstrating a very unattractive lazy streak, you are also proving that you rely on others for your answers. This does not appeal to people who have dedicated their entire lives to the pursuit and proliferation of knowledge.

It's your big chance to prove your cognitive superiority over creatures with a thickened nerve for a brain.

2. Plan Ahead

Once you’ve done your research (to reiterate: not at the expense of the lone department representative who may or may not have time to answer your inane questions), it is best to come up with a strategy for conquering the complex and shifting world of application requirements. Most graduate programs require the submission–electronically or no–of official transcripts and letters of reference. These things take time to collect. Many universities can take anywhere between two days and two months to process a transcript request order and actually put the goddamn things in the mail. References, likewise, can be a solid piece of granite that gives your application weight and support, or they can be an inflatable dock that tosses your ambitious ass into a freezing lake when you try to put weight on it. Approach every reference as though they are the latter until they prove themselves to be the former. Remember: unless the guidelines (which you read, of course  you read them) specifically say otherwise, it is not the university’s responsibility to follow up on your references, your transcripts, or the fact that you are applying from a third-world country 12,000 miles away. Your future, your legwork.

3.Remember the “Dead” in “Deadline”

Deadlines are published, often early on, for a very good fucking reason. Their purpose is to establish a cutoff date for applications so the people behind the scenes can conduct their unpleasant, scatological rituals to determine who will be accepted into the cabal. If this graduate program is THE ONE for you, make note of this deadline and plan to submit everything at least two weeks prior to it. Why, you ask? To allow time to correct for mistakes. As mentioned earlier, references are unreliable. If you wait until the last minute to submit your materials, you won’t know if they actually came through for you until after the deadline has passed. Think of the deadline the way a skydiver thinks of the ground. If you don’t get everything in order before it hits (and you aren’t Peggy Hill), your graduate school plans will end their existence as a gooey, stinking crater.

Above: industry-standard response to all applicants inquiring post-deadline if all of their materials arrived.

4. You Do Not Deserve an Exception

I don’t give a shit if your host family’s only donkey broke all four legs while carrying your pompous Peace Corps carcass to the only mail depot in the entire country. Your reference swore you a blood oath over the corpse of their firstborn that they would have the letter in on time and still failed. You only took one class at that university back in 1764, and it was just some introduction to literature class, so you didn’t figure that the instructions (remember, the ones you read thoroughly because your ENTIRE FUCKING FUTURE might depend on following them correctly?) meant that one when they said to send in transcripts from every school you attended. All of these excuses, no matter how close to the truth they might be, do not fucking matter. If something cataclysmic happened that prevented you from getting your shit in, perhaps a stage 4 meltdown two blocks over, it might not be the best idea to careen headlong into a full-time, grueling graduate education before you get your life back in order. If you were just a short-sighted dipshit who just heard of the program two days ago and it’s only one day before the deadline, learn to plan ahead. Even if you are granted an exception to the deadline (which is just a hair shy of betting on the Infinite Improbability Drive to rescue you from the vacuum of space), you don’t fucking deserve it. Nobody does.

When you ask for one, I fantasize about appropriately-labeled physical violence.

Graduate school is a serious decision, one that can change your life forever (whether for better or for worse is a topic for another discussion). Plan out your application process like you would plan out your wedding, the purchase of your first house, or the acquisition of your first pet aquatic turtle. If you don’t, you will have nobody but yourself to blame (though, based on past experience, you will do your absolute fucking best to blame everyone else). If you still manage to get in despite your disgusting lack of regard for the ulcers you gave the university support staff as they coddled your ass, know that you have earned their unmitigated, undying enmity.

Categories: General


November 24, 2011 Leave a comment

My Thanksgiving 2011 began with fireworks. Not festival fireworks, not interpersonal fireworks, but pirate fireworks. More specifically, I was turning pirates into fireworks for profit and amusement. Not much profit, perhaps, but the amusement side of things made it worth it.

Like this, but with more lasers

While engaged in the above activity, I was rolling this post around in my mind. Thanksgiving posts should be about being thankful, but how to do it without sounding trite or insincere? Even more alarming to me was my lack of content ideas. What am I thankful for? Why am I having difficulty coming up with things? I’m a recent resident of Dreams Come True land. I have a decent job, a place to live, a functioning car (for the time being), amazing friends and family, and the best damn girlfriend I could ever have hoped for. All those things could fill a (rather dull) book. What am I so worried about?

A few pirate ships later, the answer came to me: I was afraid that the above sounded too ordinary. I wanted my Thanksgiving post to stand out among the millions just like it. What was something unique that I could be thankful for? Green pens, maybe, or horizontal blinds. Something wacky and quirky and wow-look-how-original-I-am-y.

It was then that the cranky asshole hardwired into my marrow–another thing for which I’m thankful–asserted itself. “Bullshit,” it said. “Utter bullshit.” Those three words (one of them’s twice) kicked my ego in the teeth, and I realized that it’s perfectly fine to be thankful for the blessings in your life even if they don’t stand out. Thanksgiving should be an eating contest, not a pissing contest. Who gives a shit if this post sounds like everybody else’s? That just means that there are other people who have the same great things I do, and that’s fantastic.

So, to all my friends and family old and new, near and far: thank you for enriching and shaping the course of my life. To my newly-acquired editors: thank you for believing in me and giving me the chance of a lifetime. To my beautiful Tori: thank you for the past 6 years of friendship, love, faith, dedication, and laughter.

To everyone reading this post: thank you for stopping by, and I wish you a safe and happy holiday.

Happy hey!


Categories: General

November Used Drain Soul (It’s Super Effective!)

November 10, 2011 Leave a comment

Buckling under pressure, I’ve decided to be cheap (and late) with this week’s post. Navigating the past week has felt akin to navigating the asteroid belt near Corneria, and I’m afraid my battered Arwing has fallen victim to the stalwart, enigmatic Rock Crusher. (Side note: if anyone figured out exactly how it is supposed to crush rocks, the hours I squandered pondering that question will not have been in vain.)

Seriously, does it just bump into asteroids?

I promise to have more meat and mead for you next week, but between drafting my next book, editing graduate school essays, learning DreamWeaver, working full-time, weddings, holidays, car troubles, math courses, and responding to a very amusing beta invite, I’m afraid I haven’t much left in my larder to satiate the masses.

Categories: General

By Way of Introduction

September 20, 2011 Leave a comment

Having squashed the shockingly strong impulse to troll my own website with the very first post, please allow me a moment to explain myself.


Great. Well done. If I can steal a moment, I can steal a mile (that is how that saying goes, right?). Now then, you are here for one reason alone: to follow along as I awkwardly attempt to create a collection of noteworthy, amusing, or disheartening entries. Much like a young child making a popcorn string, I imagine I will develop an irritating and endearing habit of eating posts for my own immediate gratification instead of placing them on the string. Thus, I can’t promise you a lovely, hand-crafted decoration in time for the holidays, but popcorn strings (and, by extension, blogs) are fashionable no matter the season.

As for the proposed content of my popcorn strings, I imagine they will be largely self-indulgent with the hope that my reader(s) will find them engaging enough to spend a few idle minutes with them. A personal blog I kept years ago was just such a creature, but my readership consisted entirely of my small circle of friends. Ideally, this will have a much larger readership if only because I don’t plan to whinepost about my personal life much. You can expect snippets of fiction, swaths of poetry, and daubs of video game, book, and movie reviews. Still indulgent, of course, but perhaps in a more entertaining way.

As a parting thought, I’ve read that text-only blogs are dull. In an effort to avoid falling into a habit of imagelessness, I present you with a picture of a castle in Ohio.

The last remaining proof that the wicked Duke of Cleveland wasn't just a legend

Categories: General