Thursday, August 26, 2004
Fake worlds, real money
So one of the things that has caught my interest lately is the intersection (or collision) of real world and fantasy economics, as concerns multiplayer online games like Everquest and the like. This blog entry by John Tynes’ brings to light how weird the external player-support institutions are becoming. I mean, this is talking about sweatshops exploiting cheap labour to create a commodity to onsell to consumers unable to manufacture their own “goods”, for crying out loud! Odd
Attention local mass culture consumers
JB’s in the city are having an opening sale. Lotsa stuff going out cheap there, like the first four Sopranos box sets for $40 each, and whole seasons of the X-Files for $50. I walked through and saw about a three thousand bucks worth of stuff that I could get for under a thousand. I am taking it with zen-warrior-like calm that I can have none of these precious baubles I so covet. (But if I do crack, there’s a buy-two-get-one-free deal that could let me have both X-Men movies and Master and Commander for a total of $40).
Work, don’t do this to me
Dangerous developments at work today suggest that I may have to spend much of my time wrangling over contracts. This would be a less-than-desirable outcome for me, because (a) I hate dealing with and negotiating contracts, and (b) I really, really hate it. Sigh. Just when I was actually starting to tolerate turning up every day…
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Tuesday, August 24, 2004
New Manticore stuff
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I'm not sure that anyone cares, but I just added some new homeworld templates to the Starship Manticore area in RPG. I needed some extra background materials for some NPCs, as well as the random character generation thing I'm working on. Or whatever.
Apropos of nothing
Something about this just really appealed to the geek in me.
Lazy game days
Called off last night’s gaming to give Jimbo’s evil headache a rest. We certainly did not engage in any DVD-watching that could potentially get me in trouble later, but if we did, it would only have been an episode of Firefly I’d already seen before.
Feeling all, like, blah
Completely lethargic today. Absolutely uninterested in everything. Can’t even waste time effectively. I must have checked my email about fifty times, just in case. Even the improbably-entitled Radical Project Management text (featuring the trademarked-I-kid-you-not eXtreme Project Management model) cannot hold my derisive interest.
I am Ennui, Decliner of Interest! Witness my complete lack of engagement and shake, mortals!
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Monday, August 23, 2004
Nobody bought the house this weekend. Again. In desperation, we called one of the people who seemed to be a likely prospect. She told us that she was not considering our place because the neighbours look a bit dodgy. Which we can hardly argue with, because they are a bit dodgy. Possibly very dodgy.
Be that as it may, we are still a bit mystified as to why nobody has even made us an offer on the place (except that one woman who flaked out on said offer within a day). At this point, we’d even considering an insulting offer, but even that seems to be wishing a bit much.
What makes things more stressful is that we can’t lower the price much more than our predetermined minimum price because we won’t then be able to afford the renovations that we want to make at the new house. On top of that, we don’t want to accept any less because the land it’s sitting on is worth considerably more than it was when we were figuring out the overall value. And in this location, land values keep going up and up, even against the flattening national trend. At the current rate in another year or two the land itself will be worth what we’re asking for the house.
Obviously, if we want to be really rich, one solution is to just hold onto it, rent out the new place and enjoy the capital growth on both properties. But the problem is that maintaining two mortgages is taking up just a little bit more than we make, and renting out the second house will probably not do much more than keep us above water. So we will end up being (asset rich but) extremely broke for at least another year.
Which bites, because it means that we can’t plan to make any overseas trips before 2006. And I probably won’t be able to afford skiing again next year. And we don’t have any idea where we’re going to get the money to replace the car when it dies sometime in the next couple of years. And…and…and…
This is the point at which Fi tells me just to write the next Great American Novel (she’s of the opinion that the Australian market is too small to keep her in the manner to which she wishes to become accustomed). Me, I think it’s going to take some sort of voodoo bank account switcheroo with Stephen King or Tom Clancy.
I dropped Fi off at the airport this morning for her three-day jaunt to Melbourne. The first flight of the morning from Canberra leaves at a stygian 6:00 am, meaning that we needed to get up at a quarter to five.
Now I feel like I’ve been awake forever.
Not that I forgot to mention it to him, but it was Mister ChrisT’s birthday on Friday. He is ancient and somewhat terrible, but he has the distinction of being the only person all year for whom I have bought a birthday present before said date. And probably only because Jimbo mentioned that it was coming up when we happened to be in the games store last week. Being thoughtful ahead of time is generally not my strong point.
[Aside: Not like Jimbo, who also thought to call me when he saw an uber-cheap copy of the Firefly DVD box in Woolworths, or someplace. It now had pride of place on the top of the TV, waiting for the end of the Olympics to be our new (if short term) after-work obsession.That is, if I don’t crack and watch “just one little episode” before then. Of course, I risk the Ire of Fi by doing so in her absence, which might dull the temptation.]
So, have I forgotten any birthdays before the next one I remember, Simon’s in October (which he won’t be back for, thus minimising the urgency for me to do anything about it)?
Herr Fellows has written a superb Monastery story as a response to the somewhat exuberant speculations of futurist Damien Broderick. Actually, for all I know he wrote it a couple of years ago, but the point is that it is funny and you should read it. Also, it’s good to see The Monastery concept getting a decent workout. Andrew and I came up with the concept as a sort of collaborative story setting a couple of years ago. Andrew set his 2002 NaNoWriMo story “Lotus thingy etc” there. Naturally, to date I have failed to fulfil any promises I may have made to actually write a Monastery story. Failure to expend effort is my default setting… But be that as it may, go read Chris’ rather good story. Oh, and Andrew’s, which I just noticed and is also quite neat.
This Lexifab entry brought to you…
…by the fact that all of my work now depends on other people getting stuff done, which they have yet to do. Oh, and now I find that the people with whom I will need to consult are out of contact for another week. Hmmm. This is a problem, yes?
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Sunday, August 22, 2004
Done and done
The final two chapters of “Bard Wars” are done. It's finished. You can read it here, if you want to.
So there it is, my first draft of my first novel, 103000 words or so. At the moment I'm finding it a little difficult to see past its numerous flaws and give myself any credit just for finishing it. But I did realise to my surprise this morning that I don't feel now as if I never need to do this again. I've been nursing the suspicion that I would get to the end of this thing and do my usual dilettante trick of telling myself that “I've done that, I know as much as I ever need to about writing a novel, what's next?” [Insert list of half-competencies accumulated during a lifetime of modest achievement here].
So yeah, more writing to come. I probably won't serialise any future efforts online. While that was a useful self-motivating trick, the quality suffered enormously. I flatter myself that there is a better book in me than this draft. Let's face it, this probably isn't going to be the one that lets me give up my day job.
Happily, what it does mean for Lexifab is an end to the endless blogs about word counts. I think that's cause for celebration in itself.
5 smartarse remarks
Friday, August 20, 2004
So close…so tantalisingly close
The end of The Attempted Novel draws painfully near. It’s been a week full of busy evenings and I haven’t had as much time as I would like to get it finished, but it’s so close I can taste it. The damn thing has defied me again, insisting that it needs “just one more little chapter” to wrap things up after the implausibly action-oriented Chapter 14, so I will be tacking on an epilogue. There’s no good reason for it – logically, the story doesn’t hang together well enough to justify a tidy finish – but I don’t want to risk not having a sense of closure when I type ‘The End’ (which I won’t do anyway, because that’s extremely lame).
Went shopping for presents, bought presents for me…
So I’ve been shopping around for Ian’s birthday present. His first preference is for something in the “big, colourful fantasy artist’s portfolio” genre. Searched a couple of bookshops yesterday, without success. At lunchtime I checked out a used books store next door to my preferred coffee dealer, and again, no luck for Ginge. But a copy of April Blood: Florence and the Plot Against the Medici by Lauro Martines caught my eye, so I bought that for my next reading project. It’s about a pivotal assassination attempt on the head of the Medicis by one of their merchant prince rivals (backed by the Pope and various powerful nobles) – one of those explosions of gory mayhem that result from an unfortunate collision of powerful competing interests. I fear it may also be a much better example of the effect I was going for (at times) in the writing of T.A.N. We’ll see.
The Renaissance is one of those periods that always catch my eye as being one I should be more interested in learning about, if I weren’t so lazy. So, I believe I shall celebrate the end of The Attempted Novel with a few rounds of anti-laziness-inspired Library Lucky Dip. After I finish this, and Glen Cook’s The Black Company and China Mieville’sThe Scar and Stephenson’s The Confusion, that is.
After netball last night (we’re getting better - we may even be competitive by the end of the season), Fi and I visited Erika and Mal to coo over Piper. I am happy to report that she is small, dark-haired and a bit wrinkly, and appears to have the correct number of digits. Oh, and she has a decent set of lungs, for which I’m sure her parents are grateful most of the time, except possibly at two in the morning. Erika can’t do anything much for the next six weeks due to the caesarean, so we may have to visit again with stacks of Buffy DVDs and perhaps some brie and chardonnay.
Have yet to catch up with Ange and Michelle and their little girl (I think) Hannah. I believe I will be free after tonight's planned Finish-a-thon.
Because we don't think many people will bother to look at houses during Olympic weekends, we're just advertising on the net this weekend, but we'll still be open tomorrow. There was a lady just back from England who wants to come and have another look at the place, which is moderately promising (but of course tedious, repetitious disappointment has by now taught us not to get our hopes up). We're almost at the point now where if we don't sell, we're going to start going backwards. Sigh.
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Wednesday, August 18, 2004
Under the gun
Work has amped up a couple of zillion notches since I officially became a project manager at the end of last week. As is the way of things in the APS, this means (a) more responsibility and (b) no more money, but since I had basically nothing to do before, I’m not complaining for the moment. This endeavour to which I lend my countless years of experience, my drive and enthusiasm and my notable strategic powers (WTF?) is, however, an IT project, which means I have to be on my guard for the Forces of Doom and Entropy. As near as I can tell, fighting off said Forces is pretty much my job description (there’s also something in there about effective communicating, but I’ll deal with that absurd fantasy when I get to it), so expect lots of semi-disguised reports from the front lines over the next couple of months.
The novel’s still not done. All the characters keep jumping up and down and accusing me of ignoring them in my unseemly race for the finish line. Which is true. While I was writing last night, one of them just inserted herself into a scene and performed what I can only describe as a piece of character background improvisation, drastically changing her role in the story. And now I think there are other characters looking at her sideways and saying “Hey, if she can steal one last walk-on scene, then so can I”.
To which I can only reply “Keep your mouth shut or I’ll do to you what I did to her.”
Popping out all over the place
Two sets of friends have had baby girls in the past week. Fiona’s cousin Erika and her partner Mal (a work colleague and cricketing buddy) had theirs at something like two in the morning on Friday the 13th. She was almost a week overdue, and in the end had to be delivered by caesarean, but Eks and baby Piper are reportedly fine. We’ll be seeing them tomorrow evening, I hope (although when I agreed to that I did forget that we have multisports after work, so I might have to double check that).
I’m getting this second hand from the answering machine, but it looks like Ange and Michelle had their baby girl (whose name I have temporarily forgotten) on Monday. I haven’t called to congratulate and find details yet, because I can’t seem to find their number, but yay!
More craziness on Hephaestus Station
Jimbo and ChrisT came over on Monday night for more Starship Manticore gaming. We’ve started putting the HeroQuest system through its paces, and I was very satisfied in particular with the way the Extended Contest rules smoothly added excitement and drama to a scene where the PC’s tried to overcome a malevolent AI and rescue some scientists (details when I update the campaign log thingy). Believe it or not, Chris’ idea to remotely control a lab manipulator arm to open a door was a dramatic high point, charged with risk and desperation. It’s that kind of system, and I’m loving how easy it makes the GM’ing job.
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Monday, August 16, 2004
Don’t harass me. I’m delicate
Discovering whole new realms of tiredness this morning, after a sleepless weekend of writing, painting and watching the Olympics instead of sleeping. I don’t know what the hell I was thinking staying up until about four o’clock on Saturday night to watch the men’s road race (although it did have quite an exciting ending, as such things are measured). And this morning I was up at 5:30 to put Fi on a plane. Guh. Brain so fuzzy that even my second coffee is having no appreciable impact.
It’s not done yet. When will this torture end?
My pain and yours persist as the draft of “Bard Wars” continues to meander towards a conclusion without ever quite reaching it. I missed the deadline (but so did Ev, so no harm there) but had every intention of knocking it over by the end of the weekend anyway, just to be done with the damned thing. The 13th chapter, in which I had intended to wrap everything up, refused to come to any sort of conclusion (despite several convenient deaths) and so I was forced into yet another extended scene.
Now I find that one of the characters, perhaps sniffing the blood in the air, has the (not unreasonable) suspicion that the final act of the story will be his richly deserved slaughter, and so has taken over the scene and is literally holding it hostage while he draws out the inevitable. So it’s still not done yet, and with Jimbo and Chris coming over for games this evening it won’t be done until tomorrow night at the earliest, at which point I will post the last two chapters up, pour myself a scotch like a real writer, and then club the entire manuscript over the head and bury it in the backyard compost heap in a primitive midnight exorcism ritual (like a real writer).
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Wednesday, August 11, 2004
Beating the spammers at their own game
This is an amusing little transcript of a Lovecraft geek with some time on his hands taking on the proponent of one of those ‘Nigerian finance minister’ scams. Take your time over it, it gets increasingly hilarious.
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Tuesday, August 10, 2004
I had actually intended to go to work today. Really. Apart from a croaky voice I felt fine when I woke up. Bit of stiffness in the joints, but nothing you wouldn't get after a spot of exercise the previous afternoon. No problems. All that hale and hearty fitness went away the second I started sneezing. Then I made the mistake of getting out of bed.
Now I'm wrapped up in about nine layers of wool products with the heater going full blast to counteract the insidious wintry exertions of the outside world. And consuming tissues, throat lollies and tea in enormous quantities (not to mention counteracting their intended effects with milky coffee and M&M's, because I am sick and therefore have clear license to consume garbage in any proportions I choose).
And, I hope, writing the odd bit of my novel instead of stalling with redundant health reports on my blog.
So, the progress?
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As reported last night, 12 chapters are now completed for a total word count of an improbably round 86,400 (with an average chapter length of 7200, because I am distracting myself with all manner of unnecessary statistics-keeping). I am now looking at Chapter 13 being the final chapter of this draft of the story, though there's a likelihood I'll need to wrap some things up with a (wossname) denouement-y, epilogue-y thingy. We'll see who's still standing after the ball.
My plan after this, and I'm not sure how much I've talked about it, is to completely rewrite the thing almost from first principles, employing heretofore unprecedented tools of literature like plans and an outline. Hopefully they may help me access that previously-untapped wellspring from which spring plausible characters and adequate description, fundamentals I feel are somewhat noticeable in their absence from this draft.
But that might have to wait for a bit. I've decided to try my hand at something completely different next, inspired pretty much as a direct reaction to the somewhat miserable tone of 'Bard Wars' themes of deception, betrayal and generally being horrible to one another. To which end, I'm probably going to write a romantic comedy.
Bear in mind, though, it's still me writing it...
Deranged by flu but oddly productive
No updates last week due to preoccupation with actual work at work and novel-finishing pressures at home, and no updates since Saturday due to an extremely unpleasant bout of flu. Played the Coldest Game of Golf Ever (-2 degrees for the first hour or so) to celebrate Ian's 33rd birthday, which must be significant in some way. This did not, obviously, do my joints any good.
Chapter 12, the probably-penultimate chapter, is done and posted, with 5 days left to make my Opening-Ceremony-of-the-Olympics deadline. And I still don't like the name of the thing. But for possibly the first time ever I am confidant I will [insert favourite marathon analogy here].
Can't talk more. Need rest and decongestants.
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