Archive for Writing

July Zine-O-Matic

Yeah, it’s been a while… again. Sorry!

So Zines.

When I was going to downtown Berkeley between five and seven days a week I used to stop in at Pegasus every few days and grab a zine. Occasionally I would trade them with other weirdos and on occasion have been known to make little mini pamphlet zines.

“Wait!” you demand “A what?” or if you are a bit hip “They still make those? What is this 1994?”

Yes, they do, and no it is no longer 1994, you can put down the Prodigy CD and put on some sensible pants.

A Zine, in short, is a little home-made magazine. It’s a little cheap (usually) slice of someones life and worldview and I love them. If you really want to go deep down that rabbit hole I recommend This Book and This One Too. Also go Here and Here, I’ll wait, I have a couple of things I need to get done anyway.

Back? Great!

So I have been missing my constant fix of little chunks of peoples worlds. There are things to recommend about Bloomington Indiana, but the independent book stores are pretty thin on the ground. I could buy lots of them on Etsy, but it’s not the same as walking in and grabbing the first few zines that catch my eye with no idea what might actually be in them.

Enter Zine-O-Matic.

You give them money every month, they grab a handful of zines and send them to you. It sounded up my alley so I plopped down my dollars and waited.

With Blinding speed my package arrived. Inside were a postcard, two stickers, and six zines. I got the “Super Mondo Size” subscription so with shipping it’s about $22 a month, And I do not feel like I overpaid.

The postcard is pleasantly macabre in a surreal sort of way, and reminds me that I should start sending postcards to people.

The first sticker is of cats in clothes… which cats HATE! It has a puzzle piece on the back of the same image like my Star Wars collectible cards had in the late 70s.

I have no idea what is going on here… It has a sort of David Bowie filtered through a Love and Rockets fever dream sort of thing going on.

The first Zine I opened was Flash by Amara Leipzig. It’s a comic zine about a guy who wants to be hit by lightning. It’s clean and expressive art and the zine is very well put together with the title on translucent paper over the cover image.

Tasteful Insect Nudes by Mullet Turtle Comics is a tiny little book with pictures of bugs and their somewhat playmate-like bios.

It wasn’t immediately obvious what this zine was called… or which way was up or which side was the front. I thought it was called “For Rectal use Only” at first because there is a sticker on it bearing that warning… but it turns out it is issue 3 of KJC by Kevin Uehlein and D.W.  It is a screaming mix of psychedelic art and comics. It is a mix of black and white, color, and a couple transparent pages and makes no immediate sense nor does it need to.

Field Notes on the American Sasquatch is about 22 pages of what looks like hand typed text with a few illustrations about the life of the American Sasquatch. I am going to try to get this into the hands of Aaron Akagi who obviously needs it… It is plain black and white copy-paper either made on a dirty library copy machine or skillfully made to look like it was.

The picture can’t quite show you the title of this zine because it is in braille on a black cover. The title is actually Soliloquy by Bast Armannsson and it is a zine about communication. It includes a Braille card as well as information about Braille, Tap Code, Morse Code, American Sign Language, and Binary. This is an absolute gem packed with interesting and potentially useful information and extremely well designed and executed. It would be my absolute favorite of the bunch if it were not for the next (and last) zine…

Imaginary Homework by Theo Ellsworth.  This zine is a series of surreal homework assignments illustrated in a sort of cartoony techno-mayan sort of way. This zine is so far up my alley that I am afraid it might be about to mug me. I’m super into it.

So all in all I am hugely satisfied with this experience and will continue my subscription with Zine-O-Matic (who have not paid me anything or given me free stuffs for this enthusiastic endorsement… though I am not adverse…)

I’ll keep reviewing my treasures as they come in, and maybe soon I’ll make a few more of my own.

How to repair your scooter in 40 easy steps.

1: Be in a hurry but forget that your gas light had come on the night before. Because of this fail to notice that the corner store gas pump, a gas pump you have used a hundred times, has defaulted to diesel and not gasoline for some reason.

2: Fail to notice this long enough to fill your tank and ride a mile where your motor will die a coughing and gasping death while spewing thick exhaust that smells suspiciously unlike gasoline. This step is very important because without actually riding the scooter you could easily fix the problem and skip almost all of the rest of these steps.

3: Since you will now be approximately equidistant between the corner store and home, push your scooter to your garage where you at least have a few tools. Make sure that there are between three and five hills between you and home for maximum sweat stench. For bonus points make sure you do this while kids are getting off school for maximum humiliation.

4: Giving the service manual a quick one over, begin taking off everything that is in between you, the gas tank, and the carburetor. This is about 1/3 of the scooter.

5: Pull out the gas tank and drain the contaminated diesel mixture into a container almost rated for the job. This is a wonderful moment to explore the incredibly slippery nature of diesel. It is also when you can remove the fuel filter and blow air through it to clear out the oily mix. Note at this time the remarkable similarities between diesel and olive oil, none of which include the concepts of “pleasant” or “maybe destroying my life” which each keeps firmly to itself.

6: With the gas tank slowly drooling its poison mostly into the pan but a fair amount all over your new tarp, it is a good time to attempt to remove the carb. It is an even better time to discover that all the screws are locked tightly in place and seem to be made of lead since any attempt to budge them just strips the head.

7: Panic. This is an incredibly important step. Consider exactly what it means if your only mode of transportation is destroyed at a time when you desperately need to get working and you live about 13 miles from the nearest bus stop.

8: Panic. This may seem very similar to step 7, but this step goes much deeper. Really get into how badly everything could go from here on out. Don’t hold back, let this develop into some grade A existential terror.

9: As the sun sets realize there is nothing useful you can do in the dark with a headlamp and a flashlight. Let the panic burn low into a deep and penetrating depression. This is absolutely the most productive thing you can do.

10: Power up your solar array. Watch British quiz shows you have watched a handful of dozen times already. This will keep you from having to think actual thoughts and let the deep funk draped over your soul simmer in the background until you are exhausted enough to sleep.

11: Sleep. Do this fitfully and wake up often enough so the constantly evolving terror dreams never have to give up their hold on your mind.

12: Wake up with a sort of manic enthusiasm and optimism that today you can fix everything. Put the fuel tank back, fill it with a mix of gasoline and carb cleaner and utterly fail to start the engine. The battery you have been abusing now for hours should at this time go dead.

13: Pull the battery out of your scooter and locate the battery charger you haven’t used in two years. It is best if the charger was the cheapest you could get at the time and entirely unsuited to charge a scooter battery. It is even better if it has been destroyed by humidity. If this is the case, rip the cables out of it and make them into a jury rigged set of jumper cables so you can hook the battery into your solar array. Since the charge controller is not intended to deal with a scooter battery, obsessively check it with a multimeter every 15 minutes until it is obvious that the battery is just as in need of replacement as you have been fearing for months.

14: Consider the problem of the carburetor. Decide that your best chance is to force gasoline into it to displace the diesel. Dismantle more of the rear end of the scooter so you can get to the drain screw. Drain the carb in place. It is important at this point to drench your entire engine block in fuel. Now, with the drain left open wrap your lips around the open gas cap and blow as hard as you can for some time. This will force gasoline to flood the carburetor and dribble all over the engine block as well.

15: Remove the battery from your solar array before you destroy it completely. Install the battery in your scooter and attempt to start the motor. This will immediately drain the battery and will not work at all.

16: Just stand there staring at the scooter for a moment. Really look at all the parts and components that you know nothing about and are utterly unqualified to mess with. Really come to grips with how little you know about the things you are trying to accomplish.

17: Panic. Try to revisit steps 7 and 8. This is a good time to swear at the top of your lungs and maybe throw a tool or two around the garage. Spend 15 minutes trying to find your screwdriver.

18: Do a little more reading and order a new fuel filter, spark plug, and battery. Ideally be at a really tenuous place financially and have this use up almost all of your money so that if this doesn’t work you will just have to embrace really long hikes or maybe just wander off into the woods and survive off of hunting wild turkeys with a pointed stick.

19: At this time remember a trick to break stuck screws that you had told someone about only a week or so before. Find your vice grips and break loose some of the mildly ruined screws.

20: Since your optimism has now had a boost, this is a very good time to discover that at least two critical screws are still locked up tight and you still cannot get the carb out for a thorough cleaning. Walk away from the scooter pretending that you will never have to deal with this problem ever.

21: Watch every video you can find online about repairing your scooter. Really delve into forum posts where people address every problem except the one you are having. Give your optimism a really good kick by finding a thread about someone who has done exactly what you have done. Read response after response of people who, instead of addressing the problem and offering solutions, tell the poster what an idiot he was for not noticing it was diesel and question how anyone with the brain power to stand upright could make such an amazingly stupid mistake.

22: Since you need some sort of win. Take side off of the engine to fix the kickstarter which has been really sticky and hard to use for a year or so. This will be much easier than you thought and will go quite well. The renewed ease of kickstarting will not be enough to get the fuel pump working with a dead battery however and the engine will not turn over.

23: Watch more videos and read more forum posts. Become very informed on procedures you cannot perform because you don’t have the right tools, materials, or parts and because the carb is still stuck on.

24: Because you have not bothered to actually do so yet, check the spark plug. Be pleased it is working perfectly and be a little annoyed that you have already ordered one, but realize that it is nearing time to replace it anyway and move on.

25: Following the advice of several contradictory posts, sacrifice your ear syringe by filling it with gasoline and squirting fuel into the carb and cylinder.

26: try to kickstart the motor over and over. Each time it fails to work, take she spark plug out and the air hose off and squirt a little more gasoline in. This will not work at all.

27: Panic. You should be very good at this by now and it will come quite naturally.

28: On a whim, research how to jump start a scooter without destroying its electrical system. Be surprised at the amount of positive information there is on this subject and how little it contradicts itself.

29: Try to charge the battery again just in case. This is a very good time for your multimeter to break so you have to just guess at timing. This will not work at all.

30: Since the sun is now gone, scrub the worst of the grease off of your hands and give up for the night. Watch Dr Who so you don’t have to think about things until you can sleep. Have the episodes you watch be particularly emotional, let this trigger a bit of a cry, feel silly about crying over Dr fucking Who, feel silly about feeling silly. Eventually fall asleep.

31: Jump up in the morning with a strange amount of energy, Pull a battery from your solar array and heft it into the garage.  Repurpose the makeshift jumper cables you had made from the dead charger to hook the battery up to the scooters battery.

32: Holy fucking mother of fucking fuck… Start the engine.

33:Disconnect the battery and run the engine for an hour or so, periodically at full throttle to attempt to build up charge. Eat three packets of instant ramen and drink half a gallon of water.

34:  Kill the motor. Try to start it again which will not work. Panic for a few seconds then kickstart the motor which will work.

35: While the engine is running, begin re-assembling everything you have taken apart.

36: realize you have done so in the wrong order. Revisit the versatility of the word Fuck. Take everything apart again.

37: Realize, preferably at the very last steps, that something is not fitting right. Fiddle with an odd bracket that seems made mostly just to vex you. This will take an hour.

38: Realize that you are going to have to take everything apart again in a few days when parts arrive and just set the bracket aside. Promise yourself you will look it up later.

39: Take the mostly assembled scooter for a very rural ride. Run it full throttle for an hour or so to burn off diesel and build up as much of a charge in the battery as you can.

40: Return home. Drink an ice cold soda very slowly. At this time you may wish to collapse on to your sofa. Feel like a total badass conqueror of motors. Feel like you have not let your ancestor monkeys down by both making and using tools. Feel physically and emotionally drained, but with a pleasant edge. You may at this time wish to… Breathe.

Damn the cliff! Full speed ahead!

I need to start packing… I don’t currently actually own luggage per se…

This problem is solvable, it will be solved, I will solve it, it may have already been solved by someone else, well then never mind.

Continuing to go a bit mad, but I carved out time to finish a few more items.

By popular demand! Notebooks!

They are smaller than the last batch, which is actually much more work to make, but people seemed eager to have some they could shove in a pocket.

So shove away! These are vaguely pocket sized! If your pockets are not tiny!

There are also some Flickerbox Hexes and some Robots? left… those who have pinged me outside of the shop… I am vaguely aware that that happened but I am running quite ragged, the candle is burning at both ends and the middle and has been doused in kerosene and lobbed into a barbecue. the store is there and it tells me what has been sold and reminds me to deal with things, anything else is very hard to grab on to. I will try in the next couple days to turn my attention that way.

In the meantime I am still playing with pricing these things… I suspect I am underselling my efforts, but for now $8 plus shipping, still reduced shipping for multiples.

Eh? Eeeeeeeeh?

D&D and me part 7: This Is Not OK!

Sorry that I have been so quiet lately.

At first I was kept away from by sheer laziness and then a few things in my life became less than awesome and I did/do not feel like sharing them so I just went all CyberHermit.

A few ideas have been percolating in my brain during this time, and one of them was a post on the title/word/label of Gamer, what it once meant to me and what it had come to mean recently. It has been simmering on a back burner for months.

A conversation I had today coincidentally followed by a post that several of my friends have been passing around ignited something and cut right through my malaise.

Words Needed To Be Said!

So this is going to be a bit long and probably it will wander, such is life. Shall we?

LOAD”*”,8,1

I think I have commented before on my mixed feelings RE: the surge in popularity of things that once were obscure.

When I was a kid, even knowing what an Orc was could get you mercilessly teased, and now World of Warcraft is so mainstream it might almost as well be football… or at least rugby. I was talking to a co-worker about this, and about how much easier kids have it these days with nerdiness being kind of hip in general, and more specifically the acceptance of role playing games and the diversity of the players available. Even more specifically the fact that Girls Do Game.

When I was a kid this was an insane idea, even bringing up D&D to a girl was a guarantee of a dateless existence at best, and now I do not know anyone at all who plays in a male only gaming group.

I told my co-worker as much and she mentioned that in high school her friends would not let her role play because she was a girl. This was a concept I found crazy buckets. While I will admit to a prejudice when it comes to women in role playing games, it takes the form of assuming they will be playing an interesting character with emotional depth. (not that plenty of men don’t, but in my experience [and in my prejudice] nearly all women do) I have been proven wrong only a couple times in this, and I am generally very excited when I have a good gender mix in a game.

It was a fun conversation while the business of the day was gotten to. We both moved on to other things, many boxes were lifted, much lettuce was crisped.

Then, at lunch, I found that several of my friends had simultaneously referenced This Post.

I was horrified.

Now I was aware of some incidents of sexism, racism, and other negative behavior that had occurred at game conventions I had attended, but these were usually things a friend or a friend of a friend had witnessed… or stories of the Bad Old Days. Tales from another time or place or involving people who were relics that had somehow survived into the modern age like pleisosaur hiding in the depths, only to emerge for conventions.

I have spent a lot of time today thinking about this.

I am a White Male Player of Games, which means I live on one side of a filter that I rarely have to be aware of. In addition to this filter I swim largely in a bubble of carefully selected comrades (this metaphor is getting out of hand) so there is a lot I will never see. If I am aware of this handful of incidences, then how much is going on that I never see? Tips of icebergs and all that.

Notice I did not call myself a White Male Gamer… This relates to the post I was going to write originally and that needs to be touched on now.

The term Gamer used to have two real meanings. One was that you were a gambler, this term had no relevance to my life so I will just drop it and move on. The second meaning was that you played role playing games, board games, war games, or other tabletop games. The use of Gamer to describe people who played video games came a bit later, but there was a big overlap so using the Venn diagram of “Gamer” was still pretty useful. When a Gamer met a Gamer they had common ground. Both probably had interests the other could relate to and share as well as both being somewhat outside of what society called normal or even acceptable.

Pretty much from second or third grade on I have identified myself first and foremost as a Gamer.

In recent years a few things have happened to make me step away from that term. For one thing, it has come, in the public eye, to mean much more someone who plays video games. And while I do certainly do that, I mostly play one or two older games and generally think the industry stopped producing many worthwhile or fun games with the obsolescence of the Super Nintendo.

For the other big reason I have to bounce back to my misgivings about the increased popularity of things once obscure…

The title of Gamer has become Something Ugly.

By distancing myself from that world I could ignore the rotten elements that had been festering there… or so I thought.

Part of my conversation with my co-worker was about how inclusive the role playing, board gaming, and the like communities were. My perception was that We Were Better Than That.

And we should be.

Gamers, Fandom, Cosplayers, Anime Nerds… People who read too much, people who collect things, people who spend hours poring over obscure information for no reason other than they love it. We should be 100% inclusive and enthusiastic towards anyone who shares our loves and obsessions just our proclivity to have such loves and obsessions! This is true even if they don’t look like us, don’t talk like us, or have the same plumbing we happen to have! The world is full of hate and exclusion and horror, we should be the ones to take care of our own. No Matter Who They Are!

Our hobbies/ways of life are not damaged by the inclusion of others, they are strengthened and improved. Exclusion breeds stagnation and eventually death.

My eyes have been opened, I am going to keep them open. I challenge you all to do the same. If I see this bullshit I am going to act. If you see any of this in the way I treat others, please slap me the fuck down.

Lets play some games.

Escape From Bleak (life after NaNoWriMo)

So As Promised I have decided to revisit one of my NaNoWriMo drafts for re-writing, editing, and maybe beyond.

I chose my most recent one because some of the things left out of this draft are still lingering in my brain, and because I really like the beginning and want the rest of it to at least match it.

This is entering into unknown waters for me, which is a good thing, so I thought what the heck, let’s all go along for the ride and see what happens?

Here is the first draft more or less how it looked at the end of November, but reformatted to be readable… and have chapters… Be warned it’s raw and hurried first draft stuff… not for the faint of heart.

EscapeFromBleak_nanodraft_formatted

As I wander blindly down this dark alley I’ll post about the process and toss up more drafts in case anyone is interested.

So now step 1: I will read the damn thing. Wish me luck.

Bleak : NaNoWriMo 2015 part 4

NaNo-2015-Winner-Badge-Large-Square

51144 words

Is it readable? Sort of?

Some bits I liked, some I am not terribly proud of. The ending is a hot pile of steaming mess. The characters were fun though and I kind of want to develop them further… I think this deserves to go in the “Maybe I’ll rewrite it” pile, which is less comfortable than the “I want to rewrite this” pile but a lot more comfortable than the “Holy fuck what have I wrought?” pile.

Total words per minute average: 18.9, total -actual- time spent -actually-writing: 45.57

I wrote almost entirely in 15 minute bursts with fifteen minute breaks. I think my best stuff was done when I got distracted and kept writing for a half an hour or an hour. I need to work on my writing stamina and stop distracting myself so much. I also need to work on my dialogue. I think if I can make my dialogue less of a train wreck everything else will get much easier.

Am I going to post this to be read… I’m thinking about it. The end is Really embarrassing, like series canceled with no notice embarrassing. I am going to sit on it for December then decide which of my first drafts get my love in January.

Ah what the hell…

In all its painful typo laden first draft glory

Read more

Bleak : NaNoWriMo 2015 part 3

A little late on the update, such is.

Well I did fall behind, then pulled ahead, then had a minor mental breakdown and fell behind again… I am feeling much better now.

I’m at 38100 which is about 1900 words behind, piece-o-cake!

I’m at the point where I’m looking at what is left to do and the amount of time and space to do it in and realizing I need to trim plot a touch. I’ll keep notes in case this isn’t an immense pile of ass and deserves a rewrite. I’m still planning to do a rewrite early next year, but I don’t know if this will be the one to get it.

Average words per minute: 9.94… ow… At the rate I am going I will finish December 3d… time to up that rate, excuse me folks, I have some words to spew out.

Bleak : NaNoWriMo 2015 part 2

Week two was a bit rough.

Famously the second week is much harder than the first and mine fit that mold nicely. A couple days of very little writing, a few sub par, and a few just above the daily goals and my initial lead has been eaten up fast! I have yet to actually fall behind though, and that is a nice feeling.

I’m at 25,411 words at the halfway point of the month… so juuuust above where I should be. I’m averaging 18 words per minute and 1.64 hours of actual writing a day.

Tonight I am going to try to pull ahead a bit since this week is going to have a couple massive speed bumps and if at all possible I want to keep ahead, if only a little.

 

Bleak : NaNoWriMo 2015 part 1

So Things are going well…

I opened with a blast of over 5000 words and have written more than needed every night aside from one so far. This has put me at 17,316 words on day 8, this is 3982 words more than I need to be right now. This feels pretty good.

The story and characters are feeling right as well, this might be one of the few kind of readable ones I have punched out and is so far in consideration for revisiting after I am done. I have a bit of a bug up my butt to properly finish some of these. I plan to pick one of the three I like best to begin rewriting in January.

Some stats… I am 34.63% done about 25% of the way through the month. I seem to average 18 words per minute and write in one or two hour long bursts per day with a few 15 minute bursts scattered around them. If I keep up my current rate I could finish on the 24th. I am unsure what I would do if that happens.

I am still not sure where the book is heading, but I am at the point where I really have to start heading that direction. A planning session or two in the near future are called for.

The book is a post-apocalyptic space opera. I am trying to keep as much science as I can in the science fiction… but the presence of faster than light travel kind of kills a bit of that. I am looking at a lot of charts about orbital distances and reading a lot about fusion. It may or may not help in any way.

Forty Four

-The atomic number of ruthenium (which is very pretty)

-The code for international direct dial phone calls to the United Kingdom

-Julius Caesar was assassinated in 44BC

-Wu Han died in 44AD

-Gary Busey was born in 1944

Yesterday marked the forty fourth anniversary of my entry, in approximately this form, into what we perceive as this state of existence.

It is an arbitrary date to use. A theoretical shift forward on the scoreboard of life… But I suppose it will do.

The day itself was not terribly remarkable. I woke up in a borrowed house and had a pleasant morning. I took a relatively luxurious shower and had plenty of time to settle into the harsh reality I call “being awake.” I had to work and it was a later shift so there was no time for any particularly fun activities… But work passed quickly enough and afterwards I was treated to a lovely Thai dinner. Cake and presents happened the night before, so all told the rituals were pleasantly observed.

So this leaves me thinking about the significance of passing this particular milestone set to the side of linear time.

That nasty little voice hiding somewhere behind my eyes would love to endlessly recount all of my many failings and dissapointments. I am increasingly finding that voice to be incredibly dull however, so it can go cheerfully fuck itself raw for a bit. It is a lot more interesting to look at where I currently am, where I want to be, and what tools I have to deal with the obstacles in my way (both internal and external).

This was supposed to be the year of “getting some stuff done.” Instead it was the year of recovering from disaster and wallowing a little in the comforting embrace of depression who loves me and is always there when I need it… Depression is also very boring and can fuck itself raw.

So this year will be a year of getting a few things done and knocking down a lot of obstacles so that I can get even more done. It had an OK start and is sitting in a bit of a swamp, but I am thinking it’s going to be a pretty satisfying tick forward on the arbitrary scoreboard and quite a few ticks forward on some much more interesting scoreboards.