Charity debt delay

I just realized that I didn't post my charity debt this month.  I've got one picked -- I'm going to commit to donating to Rootstrikers -- but I can't update the chart and everything right now, because apparently, the program that I run my charts on has switched to a different plugin, and in transferring my data from one table to the other, half of my tables became corrupted. I'm sure it's not the developer's fault.  Or, at least, I'm pretty sure of that, and anyway, I'm not going to fault him for reasonable errors in a program he builds in his free time.

So, I'll be trying to figure out how to fix that this weekend.

Oh my crap I think I almost just ruined everything

I went to log onto my blog just now, like fifteen minutes ago, and I got a 404 page.  Or maybe a 500 error.  I don't know.  I don't know how to internet. The actual website was working fine, but I couldn't figure out how to get logged in.  So I went to the dashboard on my web host (I use iPage.  Nothing that's gone wrong has been their fault.) but there were no alerts that I hadn't paid or anything.

So I googled wordpress login page not found and reached this thread on the Wordpress support page.  There was a lot of advice there that I didn't understand, so I just scrolled until I found something that seemed to make sense.  It was this:

I ran a check database and it said everything was fine. But since I'd exhausted everything else, including the fine suggestions here, and was getting dizzy from reading through all the code, I went ahead and ran a repair database and voila! - I can once again login. Who knows how it happened, but since it's fixed, my mood has been greatly elevated. (Of course, it might be the Thai food I just had.)

That didn't really help, because I couldn't figure out what repairing a database means.  So I googled that, and found this:

Backup your table (If you are using myIsam, just copy your table files to somewhere else). Than execute "repair table yourtablename".

Mostly table corruptions are on index files and easyly recoverable.

Unexpected shutdowns or disk space problems may have results like this.

Hope you resolve your problem easy.

I didn't really know what that meant.  But I did know that the index files on wordpress blogs just have a tiny bit of text letting you know that it only has to be there, it doesn't have to do anything.  So I went into my file manager, opened up the index.php file, copied the text, crossed my fingers, deleted the index.php file, and made a new file named index.php.

That got my dashboard to work, but now my actual website wouldn't load.  This seemed worse.

I crossed my fingers even harder (in my mind, with my hands I had to type) and pasted the contents of the original index.php into the new index.php.

Now, everything's working!  I think.  If I've done something horribly wrong and now there's a countdown running and my blog is going to blow up (or any other problem really) please let me know.  You can email me at watson@txwatson.com or comment on this post or tweet me at @txwatson or anything really just please let me know if my blog is going to die.

Ads by awful people ruining the world

I've started a new Tumblr, because I have trouble weighing the investment of time against the quality of the idea.  It's a catalogue of the kinds of ads that make me feel a little bit of a worse person, just for having read them.  It's called "They Don't Want You To Know."

Wordpress can publicize to Tumblr now

When I first signed up for Tumblr, I tried to figure out how to cross-post my blog there.  It turned out, it was a massive pain in the aardvark.  So I gave up.  I wanted my posts to be in both places, but I certainly didn't want to cross-post my Tumblr to my Blog, because most of my Tumblr posts are reblogs of amusing gifs. My posts here are usually longer, and more thought out, or at least contain more of my personal opinions.  There's a pretty big separation between my sense of the most appropriate posts for my blog, and the most appropriate posts for my Tumblr.

But there's a big category in the middle, of things I would always cross-post, if it were easy -- mostly, big, long posts that relate intimately to some fandom or another -- posts about the Lizzie Bennet Diaries, thoughts on a Vlogbrothers video, responses to Adventure Time episodes.  Some of the remainder are more personal posts, that seem like they ought to be on my blog, but kind of belong on Tumblr more than here.

What usually happens is I don't end up writing those posts.

But now there's an automatic Tumblr publicize setting, and this post is, in part, a test to see how the hell that works.

Here's an image, just so I have a clear idea of what's going to happen:

Media Diary

My Mass Media course has a new homework assignment today -- we are to keep a 5-day journal of all the media we consume.  I started as soon as I got the assignment, writing up the media I consumed before I got to that class (Webcomics in the morning, radio on the way to school, reading The New Moon's Arms by Nalo Hopkinson, reading Reddit in the bathroom, texting, text books, historical texts...) and continued thereafter -- I'm already at over a page's worth of content.

I am debating whether to publish the diary here, after I've finished.  We've been told we're allowed to omit porn, (not exactly, but the teacher was very clear about our not having to list things we're not comfortable sharing,) but we're supposed to cover everything else.

If I do decide to publish it, I definitely can't count it towards my daily wordcount.  That would absolutely be cheating -- I'm only up to 4:30 on the first day and it's already at 351 words.

I was right! (about Denzel Washington)

I wrote a review of Flight last month, in which I suggested that Denzel Washington keeps tricking me into watching religious movies.  Quote (arguably spoilery):

But I think this is the second time in a row Denzel Washington has tricked me into watching a religious movie.  I mean, the commercials made it clear that this movie had a lot to do with alcoholism.  They did not make it at all clear, though, that it was about the struggle between drug abuse and salvation through God.  It was basically an ad for AA.

Well, Xan Brooks interviewed Washington for the Guardian, where he explained that he does, in fact, seek out particularly moralistic movies in service of a religious goal.

Sometimes he wonders if there is still more he can do. "I remember some years ago asking my pastor: 'Do you think I'm supposed to be a preacher?' And he said: 'Well, you are. You have a pulpit of your own.'" Washington gulps at his coffee. "That's not to say that I'm preaching, necessarily. I don't want to tell you what you need to do. I mean, I'm not turning it up to 10 when it comes to being correct, I'm not that guy, I like my wine."

He does, however, have a firm moral stance on the roles that he takes. Washington rejigged his Oscar-winning role as damned, dastardly Alonzo Harris in Training Day so that the character's come-uppance was more severe and admits that he tried to do the same with Whip in Flight. The film, he feels, lets Whip off too lightly.

It's a pretty good article, and I do still really like his movies.  It's nice to know in advance now, though, that if I go to see anything starring Denzel Washington, I can expect a lot of God, too.

Pants Points 1.1 final report

Today is the last day of the trial run, version 1.1, of the Pants Points system -- and I think it's been a resounding success.  It continues to be a little bit uncomfortable to talk about the state of my laundry on the internet, but as with most things I figure I probably wouldn't stick to it if I wasn't using the internet to hold me accountable. Final score: 1440/1750.

Now's probably also a good time to update on my other winter break goals: 

  • I have not finished the first draft of the story I'm on.  That said, it's kind of turning into a novella.  I think it's pretty good, so I'm going to finish[1. I mean, even if it sucked I'd finish.  Every story feels like it sucks somewhere in the middle of it, and it's supposed to.  That's what first drafts are for.] then put it on hold for a total rewrite after I've got some distance from the story.  
  • I learned a lot about regular expressions.  Like, now I know what they are, and have used them in a few situations.  I'm pretty sure if I had a big project that regexes would help with, it would be easy to look up some syntax and write them.  Learning code is going to have to get on the list some time soon.
  • I am not finished learning the concepts on the College Algebra CLEP test.  I've been working on it, but I'm struggling with quadratic equations.
  • My finances aren't totally sorted, but they're in a much better place than they were at the start of vacation.
  • My spaces aren't clean.  Maybe neater than they might otherwise be, but definitely not clean.

So, going into this coming semester:

  • Straight A's.  Obviously.
  • Read books from all this year's Clarion authors, in case I get in.
  • Finish learning, take, and ace, the College Algebra CLEP test.
  • Keep up with my responsibilities to the Observer (school paper) and the Community Outreach Group, but don't take on more external commitments.
  • Finish the story I'm working on, figure out what to start on next.  (Probably the rewrite of my first novel.  I'm looking forward to that.)
  • Stay marginally organized.
  • Here's the new set of Pants Points rules:

[table id=4 /]

The Perfect Score bonus is now 7, so the max possible daily score is still 50.  The biggest difference is an adjustment in some of the multipliers.  The version 1.1 rules stand:

  • For a perfect day (all items on the list, clean) the day’s score gets bumped up to 50 points.  The total possible points without this bonus is 37, so that’s a 13 point bonus.
  • The day’s score is locked in the first time I leave the property of wherever I woke up.  (That means if I crash at someone’s house, I need to have a change of clothes with me or I’m not getting points for that day.  It also means I can’t run out to a gas station in a t-shirt and dirty pants, then come home and put on a clean outfit to blog.)

These goals are set 'till the start of Spring Break (the Monday).

Update about responsibilities this semester

So I'm back on the school newspaper this semester, and tonight is the first production night.  Or, rather, production day, going into night.  I got here at about noon, and it's almost eight, and it is roughly all I've done today. I mean, I've done other stuff too, but that other stuff primarily consisted of dicking around on the internet while I waited for other people to get their pages finished so I could edit them.  (I'm the copy editor.)  I tried to get some of my blogging done, but a significant portion of my writing energy and attention was diverted by the paper.

So, it's going to be hard to keep up with this blogging schedule, again.  I'm not cutting down on the minimum wordcount -- I did that once already, when I was as busy last semester as I'm going to be this one -- but I'm going to have to change around my habits to keep up with it.

So, Minecraft is probably going to have to take a back seat soon.  Also probably a lot of YouTube.

Or maybe there will be advantages to having my time structured again -- I had plenty to do this vacation, but it was all under my control when it got done and when I had free time.  Maybe being at school often will force me to get my work done earlier, and I can go home and relax?  (That would be nice.  It's very stressful to end a day frantically finishing up the things I put off.)

So, this isn't a rules update or anything.  Just an observation.

Talk to you on Monday.

Why I love having a blog

While writing that last post, I remembered why I love having a blog.  I used to lose things on the internet, all the time -- I'm just bad at keeping track of the things I've seen, or figuring out what I'm going to want to find again later. Every computer I've owned has so many bookmarks that I can't sort through them, and in every one, it was so bloated that I just let it die and started anew when I got a new computer. While I was writing that last post, I wanted to find a specific part of a video I spent an hour searching for one late night, months ago.  It might have taken me hours.  Instead, I tried a few search terms, then found this one:

academic citation site:www.txwatson.com

I actually have secret pages under this domain name that I keep sources filed away on.  Altogether, it's awesome to have a website full of the things that I thought were important enough to show other people.

Time and quality

Regular readers may have noticed that, over the last week or so, my posts haven't been great.  There are reasons for this.  I won't say they're good reasons, but they are reasons.  I have become busy. Busy is a weirdly familiar state for me, I've been here before, and I like it here.  But just because I like it doesn't actually mean I'm any good at it -- which is what's wrong right now.  I'm terrible at balancing the demands of my environment with my time, my energy, my need for time off and space alone or with my friends.  At times like this, I have historically started to slack in every area, letting my grades slip in classes, my relationships slip in care and quality, my effort in writing or work decline just slightly.

It is my hypothesis that this is a bad thing.  I don't think I'm doing myself any favors by letting my schedule get so overwhelmed that I can't handle any of the stuff I'm doing.

But there aren't a whole bunch of easy ways for me to cut back.  My application stories for Clarion demand my attention because they need to be finished and they need to be good by December.  My classes demand a certain amount of attention because they aren't on my schedule -- I'm on theirs.  Work, obviously, requires me to be present and cognizant at particular times irrespective of my preferences.

This blog, though, is pretty much entirely in my control.

That said, my blogging is one of my favorite parts of my life as it exists at the moment.  I don't want to stop.  I have no intention of stopping.  But the current rate of work is getting heavier than I can handle, and it's pushing the quality of my work down.

So, it's time for some new (temporary) rules.

Starting with conditions:

  1. I am employed temporarily this Winter -- this rule change shall not extend beyond the length of that employment.
  2. While I may have been flexible about the exact number of words I make here before, with this new standard, I have to adhere strictly.
  3. My fiction writing has to get its share of the time that this frees up.

I'm making the following rule changes:

  1. The new minimum word count is (temporarily) 700 words every weekday.
  2. Starting tonight, my short stories have a 100 word minimum, every day, including weekends.
  3. Starting Monday, the new blogging end-of-day is 10pm.

I'm going to go eat some food, work on some writing, then go to bed -- I start work tomorrow.  And after work tomorrow, I'm going to have homework I need to work on.  And writing.  Maybe I'll be able to avoid a pileup of work this semester.

Back to the internet

It looks like the cheesecake picture I took yesterday didn't work.  Sorry. I'm back at the internet now, but I can't stop thinking about the way I wrote yesterday.  There were some pretty big flaws -- it was prohibitively annoying to edit the posts, and the paragraphs are tiny.  Like, one sentence each.  They felt so much longer when it took as long to write each word as it takes me to write each sentence now.  But it was also nice to approach blogging as a journal of my thoughts limited to my head, rather than my thoughts bounced off of the rest of the internet.

When I got home today, I went straight to Tumblr, Boing Boing and YouTube, and I had like ten tabs open and I was going to do a big "I missed you, Internet" post.  Then, my computer froze, and I lost all those tabs.

I don't feel, though, like what I wrote yesterday was really very different from what I write every other day, and I'm still puzzling out what that means for me, and what that means about what I think blogging is.  Right now, I feel like this blog is about my experience in a hyperconnected world, and because it's about hyperconnectivity, there's nothing that's irrelevant.

I'm going to head back off into the depths of the web now.  I'll report back soon.

Technical difficulties have been overcome

My computer is back!  I think I lost a lot of files, but I don't know which ones or how many.  This would probably be less of a problem if I consistently backed things up. Working out of a Chromebook for the past couple weeks means that everything I've done in that time is backed up on the internet, and I'm happy about that.

I'm also happy that I now have a computer that is not at all cluttered with junk, and has a significantly better hard drive!  It took much less time this time around to get everything plugged in and working, and I've got a new third monitor as well, so my office is at maximum sexiness.

The only downside, I think, is that I'm having trouble typing, having gotten as used to the chromebook keyboard as I was...

Anyway, my new computer says hi.  And I might be keeping the chromebook.  For reasons.

Obama and Gun Control

Yesterday, I wrote a post called "Depressing realities of gun proliferation," which I've amended in 2 ways.  I quoted an episode of The Newsroom about a report by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence on Obama's terrible record on gun control.  First, I said it was episode 3, when in fact it was episode 4.  Second, I was unable to find the report online. Fortunately, commenter Albert linked to the PDF of the report, which you can find here.

On Naming Names

Trigger warning: rape When I was writing about the shooting in Colorado, I hesitated to put the name of the arrested suspect in the post.  It was something I thought hard about, and I had to stop writing for a bit to try to figure it out.  People were throwing his name around a lot, and mostly just saying horrible things.  Calling him a murderer.

Ultimately I decided to put it in, but to be really clear that he was only a suspect, and no matter how damning the evidence looked at the moment, I didn't have all the facts (and neither did basically anyone else on the internet.)

Newsweek posted this exchange on Tumblr earlier today:

searchingforknowledge:

faineemae:

newsweek:

The first photos are coming out of the Colorado courtroom where ‘Dark Knight’ shooting suspect James Holmes appeared before a judge this morning. His hair was orange, he was wearing a jump suit, and heappeared dazed.

“Holmes is being held on suspicion of first-degree murder, and he could also face additional counts of aggravated assault and weapons violations.”

on suspicion

he did it, just say it, he did it.

He appears dazed, does he? Some sympathetic language for a mass murderer! Have ANY of you managed such sympathy for nonwhite killers?

Whoa, relax. That the killer appeared “dazed” is simply fact here. How in the world does this become a racial/media issue in reporting that?! Let’s not do that. This case is already too much to handle as it stands. Also, “on suspicion” is necessary. That whole “innocent until proven guilty” thing is a pretty important piece of our democracy, no matter who’s in the courtroom.

(Emphasis mine)

I had already been thinking about this, with a lot of apprehension, when I watched SourceFed's video earlier today, Twitter Rape Victim Punished!?, which addresses a case in which a teenage girl faces possible jail time because the two rapists, as part of a plea bargain, in which they got a slap-on-the-wrist punishment and a gag order, preventing the girl from talking about the case.

If you didn't watch the video:  The case involved the two boys raping her, then, months later, sharing pictures of the rape on facebook.  They were not charged with rape, and the judge ordered the victim to never talk about what happened to her.

As part of their coverage, Elliot Morgan and Tricia Hershberger gave the names of the girl, the judge, the rapists' attorneys, and the two rapists, Will Frey and Austin Zehnder.

I think they made the right decision, too, but it's a pretty radically different decision.  And as a news source, SourceFed is pretty clearly going beyond the call of reporting, moving towards attempting to influence the story.

That's par for the course in the mainstream media now, but it's a pretty radical departure from historical media ethics.  The issue of names is one of many areas in which the guideposts for bloggers like me aren't as clear as they might once have been, and it's difficult to make those decisions.

Regular readers:  If you think I've crossed a line in past or future coverage of sensitive topics where the release of names might be unduly damaging to those named, or you spot other ethical issues where you think I'm getting it wrong, let me know.  I want to have that conversation.

Readercon!

Today's the first full day at Readercon, so this post is coming to you from the mysterious past, and ANYTHING could have happened since I wrote this post.  There could have been a super-volcano.  Causality might have stopped working.  Another cookie company's flagship product might have come out of the closet. I'm back from the first evening of Readercon, though, so I can tell you what happened on Thursday night.

The first panel I went to was about portrayals of medicine in SF -- mostly, about their absence.  Through that panel, I discovered the Spoon Theory, a method for explaining what it's like to have Lupus, or any other chronic illness without obvious signs.

Most people start the day with unlimited amount of possibilities, and energy to do whatever they desire, especially young people. For the most part, they do not need to worry about the effects of their actions. So for my explanation, I used spoons to convey this point. I wanted something for her to actually hold, for me to then take away, since most people who get sick feel a “loss” of a life they once knew. If I was in control of taking away the spoons, then she would know what it feels like to have someone or something else, in this case Lupus, being in control.

[...]

I asked her to count her spoons. [...] She counted out 12 spoons. She laughed and said she wanted more. I said no, and I knew right away that this little game would work, when she looked disappointed, and we hadn’t even started yet. I’ve wanted more “spoons” for years and haven’t found a way yet to get more, why should she? I also told her to always be conscious of how many she had, and not to drop them because she can never forget she has Lupus.

I also got referred back to an article by Elizabeth Bear on Charles Stross's blog, that I read in 2011 and had mostly forgotten about.

The more research I do into human neurology--and writing Dust and the other two Jacob's Ladder books required more about brains than I ever wanted to know--the more convinced I become that we, human we, are not divorceable from our meat. In one of the Jenny Casey books, I have a artificial intelligence researcher protest to her creation that he's nothing but piezoelectrical patterns in crystal; he retorts that she is, likewise, piezoelectrical patterns in meat. And while that remains true... the shape of the circuitry, and the neurochemical baths that wash it, have a hell of a lot of influence over who we are.

I'm not sure this was the specific feminist critique of the singularity that she mentioned in the panel, but it quotes a large chunk of an earlier piece.

The second session was about the utility of realistic fiction, which was fascinating, but didn't give me a huge amount of stuff to link to.  (They referenced a blog post I haven't yet been able to find, but it's in my notes.)

I'll be taking careful notes over the course of the weekend, and will be coming back on Monday with a lot of stuff to talk about.  For the remainder of the weekend, Mike has a book review that's going up today, and an "Ask A Star Wars Geek" installment for Saturday.

My computer broke

I don't know what happened.  I was watching a YouTube video earlier, and my computer just... turned off.  And now it won't turn back on. I'm hoping that it, like, overheated or something, because it's so hot out, and that tripped some kind of failsafe that just won't let it turn back on until it has decided it is cool enough.  I hope that's what it was, because I find it difficult to cope with the idea that my computer might have been more seriously broken than that.  I'm certainly not allowing myself to think about the possibility that it's just completely and unsalvageably trashed.

So, today's blogging is all going to be light and fluffy, because I can't handle trying to critically analyze things today.  I've been angry enough about things on the internet in the past week or so, and that's when I wasn't feeling a constant physical beating of stress in all of my upper body.

So, good news if you want to read me talking about stuff I like.  That's all that's going on today.  Except my computer breaking.  I don't like that.  That is not a thing I like.

Blog announcement: New blogger, Star Wars Q&A

My friend Michael DiTommaso, fellow writer and dedicated Star Wars geek, is joining the blog for a regular Saturday column, "Ask A Star Wars Geek." The first installment consists of questions from me and some of his friends, but he'd love to get reader questions to answer.  You can send in questions at:

starwarsgeek@txwatson.com

The aforementioned first installment will be posted later today.