It’s very unusual for me to remember my dreams, or even that I had dreams at all, which is partly why I feel the need to share this one.
I wander into a hotel that happens to be hosting a Science Fiction convention. Signage identifies it as Philcon (where I’ve never been but hear good things) and the colour scheme of the walls, carpet, and furniture is a variety of dark reds.
It’s very early in the con and many things are still being set up, but there are people lining up for panels and a large amphitheatre type room starting to fill for a special presentation of some kind. As I wander down one aisle, I come across a booth labelled Silver Surfer Pickles, where Stan Lee is sitting having lunch by himself. No one seems to have noticed. There are also no pickles present.
But since it’s Stan Lee, and he’s by himself, I walk up to the booth and say hello. He’s quite friendly and we spend several minutes talking until I look down at his lunch to see that it consists entirely of sliced red pickles.
Of course I asked, and Mr. Lee explained that these were from an earlier trial batch. They tasted great, but came out the wrong colour. The process is down now and the silver ones would be arriving at any moment. Either way, I thought they were an interesting idea and mentioned that my wife (who has a fondness for all kinds of pickled things) would probably love them.
He suspiciously looked around then hunched over an empty jar with a black marker. When he straightened up again, he’d signed (and personalized) the label, slipping it into a small box which he then pressed it into my hands. A forklift came stuttering down the aisle with a skid of shrink wrapped pickle jars and Mr. Lee told me to make sure I came back to try the real thing.
We shook hands and I wandered off down the aisle to the sound of breaking glass, clutching my treasure.
Strange that I woke up just then. I wonder what I planned to do with the jar.by
So, aside from the recently launched/about to launch Days of Geek podcast, I’ve been talking about podcasting fiction for a long time.
I’ve finally started, picking a ‘get my feet wet’ project to begin with, a 13,000-word fantasy novelette I wrote a couple of years ago. Thorvald’s Wyrd is a good trial piece in a lot of ways, but there are two big ones.
First, it’s only 13,000 words. That should make it an audio project with a clearly visible end right from the beginning.
And second, the scenes in the story are very short, exactly 100 words long apiece. I’ve broken it up into 10 episodes of 12-14 scenes each with nice little cliffhangers for every episode but the last one. I don’t know if that could have worked out better with planning.
Oh, and third, the non-immediate family feedback I’ve had on the story prior to now has been almost universally good, so I’m comfortable putting it out there. In fact, it’s already out there as a long series of blog posts.
The process is a little more involved than you might think if you’ve never thought of podcasting before, but I’ve simplified it down to 8 steps for my own piece of mind.
- 1. Scripting: the story is in its final form, but here is where I go through and highlight every speaking characters lines in different colours (there are only four with more than one line of speech). I’m planning effects on a couple of voices and may want to get a woman to speak for Sunna to avoid any falsetto issues.
- 2. Planning. This is the figuring out of what I need to do for the story to fit a podcast format. Episode length, intro and outro, and so on.
- 3. Hosting. One needs a place to put the audio files for other people to be able to download them.
- 4. Theme music. That fits the podcast. I’ve got a couple of awesome possibilities, but I’m not sure how rights will shake out at this point.
- 5. Artwork. Needs to be eye catching and appropriate. Still on the list.
- 6. E-book formatting. I need a few more self-study sessions before making the first run at this, but I want to have an ebook available when the podcast launches. Toying with the idea of print, too, but it is only a 13,000 words long.
- 7. Production. Broken down into steps by episode, see below.
- 8. Marketing. Not that I plan a huge marketing campaign, but I will be talking about it and posting about it pretty regularly in the weeks before, during, and for a while after it runs.
Steps 1-3 are taken care of. Step 7 is in progress. Step 8 I’m going to suck at, but I can probably blame most of that on everything else going on in my life.
On a production basis, episode by episode, it’s a fairly straightforward process:
- 1. Record. Find a quiet place and talk into a recording device for a while.
- 2. Edit. Test runs have shown me that between long, drawn out pauses and having to repeat things I screw up, what I record will be just a little bit less than twice as long as the final product. All that extra stuff has to come out.
- 3. Voices and Effects. I’m not going to be doing special effects, but I am adjusting some character voices. This will require a little re-recording of certain lines to paste into the reading. There may be a little processing, too so the voices fit how I think things sound in my head. And, like I said earlier, I think it might be beneficial to have an actual woman play the female character. This might get a little more difficult with the next project as it has several significant female characters. And even more so with the novel I have planned where two of the three primaries are women. But I really don’t think I want to get into the whole full cast thing because time commitments go up exponentially.
- 4. Intro and Outro. These need to be recorded once each, probably, and then added to the front and back of each episode.
- 5. Upload. And schedule for timed release. I plan to have the whole thing done. Before Christmas would be nice, and I think quite manageable.
At this moment:
Episode 1-2: Edited
Episodes 3-4: Recorded
Episodes 5-10: Scripted
There will probably be a short blooper real after the fact (I’ve got a couple of good ones already), and potentially a feedback episode, if I get any.
Once Thorvald’s Wyrd is complete, I’m going to breathe a little bit before I start working on my second audio fiction project, slotted to be my 35,000 word novella, Turn the World Around. Like Thorvald’s Wyrd, it also appeared as a serial on my blog and I’m pretty happy with it. (Although a couple of recent news events threaten to make a small piece of it alternate history at any moment.)
The third project will be either an 80k+ word novel or a roughly equivalent in length collection of short fiction. Whichever isn’t the third will be the fourth. After that, we’ll see.
At least, that’s the plan. And Life has flipped around many of my plans in the last few years, which is why I’m not publicly attaching time frames to any of them. Make no mistake though, I have time tables I’d like to hit and they’re probably more aggressive than they should be considering recent experience.
Still, shoot for the stars and you might just make the moon.
Be well, everyone.by
If you’ve been here more than once, you might have noticed I have several status bars near the top right. These were supposed to be highlighting works in progress at any given moment.
Well, they haven’t really changed. For a couple of months. The first draft of “Listening Station” has been done longer than I’d like to think about, and I should really take it down, but it does make me feel like I’ve managed something this year. The third draft of Ancient Runes got about half an hour of attention over the summer. And I don’t want to think about the Sooper Seekrit Projekt at the moment, except I do want to.
While wrestling with life and in my own head over summer, I stopped being creative in a fiction direction. I think in several directions, really. But it’s starting to come back. I’m reading through Ancient Runes to get a feel for the story again and start to get back in the zone.
And I’m trying to blog way too much at the moment to get myself used to typing on a regular basis again. This will slow down very soon, especially since I’m using time that I really should be spending stitching together everything I’ve recorded for the next couple of episodes of Days of Geek.
So the status bars will change soon. One will come down and I’ll probably alter the arrangement a little to include a line for audio production.
And I really ought to spend a little more time on the DoG website
, since the first episode is up by the time you read this. Or it’s supposed to be. I mayhave decided to push it back a week so I can actually do something with the website. Why? Because I’ve spent too much of my available spare time editing audio and absolutely none of it getting podcast art, a profile image, or putting any content on the website at all. <sigh>
Be well, everyone.by
It’s strange how my mind works sometimes. Other than the Cyborg Bunnies Review, there were several other podcasts I considered doing. I haven’t closed the doors on any of them yet, but I’m also happy enough if someone else picks up the gauntlet on one of them. Ultimately, all but one fell victim to the same problem, mainly, much as I loved each idea, I’m unable to specialize. It’s just not in my nature.
I’m a generalist. Jack of all trades, the old saying goes, master of none. I have far too many hobbies, and most of them are a little on the neglected side. I know a little bit about a lot of things, and a lot about a few things. I do passing well at a large number of different activities, I’m particularly good at a few, and I’m always willing to try something else. But I’m not great at any particular skill and my knowledge doesn’t run to serious depths on any particular subject. Strong, but never superb. Good but never great. Broad but never deep.
And I’m okay with that. There’s always something fresh and new to discover.
Since the world is full of people, I can’t be the only one like that. So Days of Geek is a little like me and hopefully other people will find joy in what I’m sharing.
But I almost did a show about watching Star Trek. Sure there are other podcasts about Trek, whatever series or movie you happen to lean towards, but mine would be different because it would be mine. I didn’t completely abandon that; there’s a Star Trek TOS re-watch segment beginning in episode 2.
Classics of Geek Cinema is also a segment, though not every episode, but my original vision of it was more of a round table discussion with a couple of other people involved and picking on one movie at a time. In Days of Geek, we’ll visit a particular year and pick out a small handful of under-appreciated movies for quick overviews and reviews.
One of the things on my bucket list is to learn to say “Hello” in at least fifty languages. The idea here was a short podcast, probably fifteen minutes or less, taking ten of those for a short interview with someone who would then give me a language, letting me (and anyone else who wants to listen) walk away with Hello, Goodbye, Please, and Thank you. If I ever start a second podcast, it’s most likely to be this one, unless someone else gets there first. If someone does, I’ll subscribe early. This one would have the most variety in it, probably, of all my possibilities.
Quest for Canadian Culture sounded neat in my head, not least because, like many Canadians, I really don’t have a clear idea of what I mean when I say Canadian Culture. That was part of the point, to go out and find it. This has some possibility for the future, too, but it might be a bigger thing based on the people on my list I’d like to interview for the show.
There were other thoughts and ideas, but these are the ones that got serious consideration.
Days of Geek won, though, as it comes closer to being who I am. Broad, general, eclectic. There may be more in my future, but that’s where I’m starting. Coming soon.
Be well, everyone.by
We’ve been planning to go to Quinte Mini Con in Belleville since we first heard about it very early in the year. It’s the first Con in the area, and will become the closest without going to Toronto.
A small con, and a first time foray, it looks like the con organizers are going to every effort to put together something people will want to go. I don’t expect Fan Expo, and one of those is enough, really, but I expect to be impressed. Guests, events, panels, and a vendor’s room. Should be fun.
My daughters, particularly Oldest Daughter, made some friends in Vocaloid cosplay at Fan Expo (and created a FB group with them almost within minutes of arriving home). Several of them are going, so there’s an extra reason for us to go, even if we weren’t already planning to attend.
Quinte Mini Con is taking place the 9th and 10th of November. If you live within a reasonable drive and have any interest in cons whatsoever, I hope you’ll think about it.
But you’ll note the title of the post is “Fall Conventions”. The girls are trying to talk me into Frost Con, which is a 1-day event on the 14th of December. They want to go, mostly for the extra reason for Quinte: they know people going, and more than at Quinte because it’s in Toronto.
I don’t think there’s been a day in the past two weeks when someone hasn’t asked me if we can go. Officially, I haven’t made a decision, but my current schedule says I should have the day off. If I’m honest with myself, I already know we’re going, though it’s probably just the girls and me. Which is okay, except that means it’s likely to be my girls absorbed into a pack of other girls, all in similar costume, and me stalking them from a distance. Which is less okay, but a very Dad kind of thing.
Be well, everyone.by
We did a family Steampunk cosplay for Ad Astra in April, and a group Soul Eater cosplay for the day we spent at Anime North in May. The girls wanted to do their own things for Fan Expo, and I had a hard time finding time to put anything together, worried (or even stressed) about too many other things, and making sure the kids’ summer worked well.
And I kinda hated the wig I needed to play Professor Stein. Not to mention that I’ve really only watched about half a season of the show. The kids have all enjoyed Soul Eater, and I’ll admit it’s fun, but there are other anime series I enjoy more.
But I’ve started to think about what kind of cosplay I might do in the future. And, actually, it wasn’t hard to come up with a pretty big list in short order.
If we start from the premise of characters from shows, movies, or games that mean something to me, I have to begin with Star Trek (non-Trekkies ought to skip ahead a couple of paragraphs). Yes, the uniforms are easy to get, and the props aren’t hard to come by either, so that’s one (or even three) no brainers. But, switching up the species a bit can add some variety. Put some ears on and be a Vulcan in those uniforms, or shave my head completely to pass for a Deltan. A white wig and blue face paint get me most of the way to Andorian. And those are the easy ones. Branching out from the ship a little bit:
- Gorn, but the lizard suit would be awfully hot, not to mention expensive)
- Orion, on the order of the Andorian, but green, dark hair, and no antenna. And I’ll wear more clothes.
- Remember “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield”? A half black, half white paint job doesn’t seem too awful.
- Remember “The Gamesters of Triskelion”? One of the thralls outfitted for battle, but carrying a coloured brain in a jar (one of the Providers).
There’s plenty of possibility there, but expending my search into some of the formative and influential bits of media from my youth…
- The Man in Black/Dread Pirate Roberts from the Princess Bride, because that would be awesome.
- The Tick, although really I’m built about half way between the Tick and Arthur, but maybe I could pull it off.
- Jack Burton, the hero in his own mind from Big Trouble in Little China. But this needs a wig. I couldn’t grow that mullet.
- Condorman, but I think I’d get mistaken for the Vulture a lot.
- Prince Colwyn from Krull. Cool outfit, but the movie was better left in my memory. It doesn’t hold up very well.
- Last Starfighter uniform, because really, who doesn’t want to hit the Death Blossom button?
- (Original) Battlestar Galactica uniform. In all its cheesy glory, I still like it much better than the modern incarnation.
- Ming the Merciless from Flash Gordon, circa 1980. Not because the movie was necessarily good, but because I’d look awesome in a full goatee and over the top red and gold cape.
And that’s just getting started. There just aren’t enough cons. Well, there are but I’d run out of money trying to manage cosplay for more than a couple. Might do that anyway.
Be well, everyone.by
A while back, oldest daughter declared she wanted to try a pencil and paper fantasy role playing game. Of course I stepped up to the plate and offered to dust off my ancient GMing skills to run an intro campaign for her and any friends she might scrape up who were interested.
On the one hand, I’m not sure that was such a good idea as I really haven’t done the RPG thing since about my fourth year of university, and that’s longer ago than I like to think about.
On the other hand, I’m not sure that was such a good idea since she passed over pretty much every game I pulled out of a box I haven’t opened in far too many years, and instead glommed onto the game she’s heard about and even seen referenced on TV: Dungeons and Dragons. Youngest daughter joined the party at this point.
I don’t own D&D. Haven’t played it since university, and that was only sporadic among other things. That’s okay, though. I know people I can borrow stuff from, including a bunch of modules to avoid having to start from scratch. In particular, I now have on extended loan all of the hard copy core materials for D&D 4e and the pdfs for the first six modules of the “War of the Burning Sky” campaign.
My remaining problem, okay my remaining hardware problem, is a lack of dice, or it was. Scouring the house, I can up with a paltry few. Where the rest have gone over the years, I have no idea. Maybe they went to visit the missing dryer socks. It doesn’t really matter. I quickly decided I needed more.
Last year at Fan Expo, I saw a booth with a bin of polyhedral dice. A small sign had the at $0.30 each or some dollar figure I can’t remember. At the time, I thought it was neat, but as yet had no idea of my daughters’ future interest in RPGs, so I kept walking.
Knowing better this year, I hoped to find the same booth. It’s a lot of the same vendors every year, right? I told myself that several times, but as we crisscrossed the floor on Thursday, I didn’t catch even a glimpse of it.
On Friday afternoon, I suddenly found myself alone and headed for the con floor with 20 minutes to myself. The first aisle I turned down, I saw it. The Bin of Dice.
30 cents each, a random scoop for $12, or as hand selecting as many as you could get in the cup for $15.
I dove in and started hand picking colours and sizes, making sure I’d get some that would please the girls, too, paying attention to things that would meet their approval for colours and sizes. $15 later, I had 67 dice of various sides, sizes, and colours including a small 6-sided die carved from blue jasper.Set for whatever game might come up, I vowed to bring the girls back to choose a few of their own, knowing, as any father of daughters must, that though I have the best of intentions, my perceptions of the proper colours are obviously and fatally flawed in some small way and they will certainly be able to pick something better. I noted the aisle and even took a business card.
And never found it again.
Not during the remainder of Friday, not Saturday, and not Sunday. I lost the aisle and the business card disappeared from my pocket even though I have all of the rest of the ones I picked up that day. It gave me a feeling of the overused fantasy trope of Ye Olde Magic Shoppe, or in this case Ye Olde Bin o’ Dice.
But still, I did well, and the girls agreed, not having seen the bin themselves, that I managed to pick out some pretty cool dice. They were particularly impressed by the ones that came closest, or even matched, their favourite colours.
I brought them safely back to the hotel and eventually home in a style of box we somehow all recognize as Chinese Take Out, even though I’ve never actually seen real food come in one.
And sorting through the dice, I find this distribution:
- 13 20-sided dice
- 6 12-sided dice, including 1 itty-bitty one
- 13 10-sided dice
- 8 10-sided dice numbered 00-90 by tens
- 10 8-sided dice
- 8 6-sided dice
- 9 4-sided dice, including one that doesn’t work because all of the 1s have been replaced by D’oh and at least one of the sides has been rotated so things can’t line up. It’s obviously intentional.
Add these to the five I found in the house, and we should be good for any game that comes up. I’m not fooling myself, though. If I’d found the bin again with the girls, we would have had a second Take Out box of dice to bring home, but that would have been fine, too. Maybe next year.
Be well, everyone.by
The Podcast Launch
So I’ve been thinking, and talking, and writing, about doing a podcast for a long time, coming up with a lot of thoughts and ideas of things I’d like to do.
The primary criteria involved are fun and interesting. Removing those will turn podcasting into a drudge task that doesn’t last very long. Not what I’m after in a hobby.
I thought I had it with my girls deciding it might be fun. The youngest wanted to help with interviews and the oldest actually wanted us to co-host, and we were going to talk about a variety of geeky things we enjoyed together or even as a whole family. Unfortunately, that excitement didn’t last long. Schedules may partly be to blame, but we recorded bits and pieces of several episodes and they lost interest in doing it. The Cyborg Bunnies Review was no more, gone before it had really gotten moving.
But I still wanted to do something, and the taste of getting things going wasn’t enough. Plus, two friends had been kind enough to submit to guinea pig interviews. Those had to happen.
And life happened, too.
So I found myself in the back half of August when we’d planned to launch in June and I went back to the list of all of the ideas I’d had for podcasts, combined a couple of them, took some inspiration from the podcast that never was, and came up with Days of Geek.
Interviews, audio essays, classic geek cinema discussion, reviews, and Q&A panels I’ve recorded at conventions (mainly Fan Expo so far, but I’ve got a couple from Montreal last fall, too). An eclectic collection of geeky things I find fun and interesting. I think other people might, too, but we’ll have to wait and see.
I have tentatively scheduled to launch on September
17th24th. (Still need cover art and a couple of small things.) There’s nothing really stopping me at this point except I only have three episodes in the can where I wanted at least five. Life again.
But I’ve also scripted the next two episodes, rough plotted five beyond that, and listed the main subject for forty more. Just at this moment, I have one more interview, 12 more recorded Q&As, and no shortage of geek cinema or subject matter I can go over. Plus some co-hosting ideas of my own. There’s no shortage of content—all I have to do is produce it.
So I’m going to aim for weekly and when life makes that hard, I’ll post a quick audio apology and miss a week. People are pretty understanding when the content is free.
And I think this is going to be fun.
Stay tuned for the launch, and be well.by
At first glance, the Surface RT has a lot to recommend it.
First, because whether any of us wants to admit it, cool is a consideration. The keyboard that attaches by magnets is pretty cool, and the charger works the same way. I don’t know if anyone remembers the initial advertising campaign, but it was smooth, clever, and cool.
Still, cool is only one item in the list, and it doesn’t trump functionality.
Other things I like:
- The Surface is, so far, the only tablet to possess a full USB port instead of a micro. Most of the androids have a micro USB jack and a micro SD port (the Surface has the SD port available). The iPad has neither.
- The touch screen works well, even up to iPad standards in my brief experience, and the Windows 8 interface actually works pretty well away from a non-touch machine, of course that’s not surprising since it was obviously designed for touch.
- The Windows App store is slowly coming up to snuff. There’s a lot more available than when the Surface launched last fall, even if there are still some gaps.
- And the embedded Office RT suite was actually a nice touch, keeping pretty much all of the functionality I’d need for any writing or tracking tasks that I typically have going on.
I’m a writer, and if all I wanted to do was a little writing, the RT would actually be fine. Not great, but fine.
But there’s a lot more to my life than writing, and the connectivity the 21st century is bringing to us all is here to stay, so I can’t help but compare it to other devices in my possession, thinking about the laptop functionality I wanted to replace even as I struggled to find things that my two year old iPhone couldn’t do faster and better. I didn’t come up with much.
- I’m about to become an honest to goodness podcaster, so the idea of being able to work anywhere on some audio processing and editing, is appealing. There are some apps to manage this, but they’re limited and clunky so far.
- Voice recognition is weak, but I don’t know if my expectations are reasonable or if I’m just used to Siri and Dragon.
- Both cameras are merely 1 MP each. My phone’s primary camera is 8 MP. While the secondary is merely a VGA for Facetime, I don’t know that you can get a new phone with much less than 1.2 on the secondary. Not looking for super photography here, but for the price tag on the surface, I’m looking for better than crappy web cam level. They take grainy, noisy pictures, even when the tablet is resting still on a solid surface.
- It suffers from the age old mandatory Windows update problems. I’d had the device for three days before it downloaded an update without telling me, and I didn’t even know it had things to install until I tried to power down. That installation then took 20 minutes. This is one of the main things that has so irritated me about Microsoft for years.
- It’s under-powered. I suspected this from reviews, but it’s a tablet not a full-fledged computer. The reviews and comparisons were, if anything, generous. I spent far too much time looking at splash pages waiting for the apps to load. Simple things were 3-5 seconds. Stuff that needed processing power ran 8-12. On average, with one or two exceptions, equivalent apps on my phone loaded twice as fast. But those are mobile versions! Yes, but so are most of the apps on the Surface. Don’t be fooled.
I bought the 64 GB version in a keyboard package, and paid $500. This is after a recent price reduction of $100 by Microsoft, as well as an extra $100 on sale at Best Buy. For what I got, it was too much. Had I paid the original $700, “disappointed” would be far too weak a word. At $350, I could have lived with it. At $300, I think I would have been satisfied. Even still, I did my best to test out everything I’d want to do with it for almost a week before making that decision. I really wanted to like the RT, I just couldn’t.
I keep saying I’m done with Microsoft, but I keep trying. I don’t know why. I might have had enough this time.
But what other options do I have?
As far as the iPad goes, the lack of external connectivity has always been a deal breaker for me. It probably has the best functionality but it’s over-reliant on “the cloud” and doesn’t want me to be able to plug anything in on my own or have any extra storage without paying hundreds of dollars extra for it. I love how the iPad works, but I don’t like the closed nature of the system.
So taking the Surface out of the equation, unless I’m willing to shell out even larger dollars for the Pro version, which is actually a PC and actually running the full Windows 8 so can actually manage full programs instead of apps, I think I must now be leaning toward an Android tablet, even if it’s only for expandable storage reasons. Well, and I think the app store is approaching Apple quality.
The Surface is cool, but it’s made of unequal parts awesome and suck. There’s too much suck.
Be well, everyone.by
Let me follow this vaguely back to school title with the note that, just like physical health, everyone is responsible for their own mental health. Period.
Don’t blame the world or other people or things beyond your control. These may be causes, but they are not excuses. Take responsibility, take action, do what is necessary to get better.
For my part, a combination of things in various aspects of my life drove me to centre on my family and tune out the rest of the world a bit. That second part really isn’t healthy, either, stealing from one part of your well being to feed another, but I figured that out eventually too and I’ve taken the steps to centre myself and decide on a clear vision of who I want to be. The nice thing is I’m mostly that person. The other nice thing is I’m aware that it requires ongoing growth and effort to continue to be that person and to improve him. And to be there for the people around me.
Every day is a new one.
On a less abstract note, it was a busy summer. We made some significant progress in de-cluttering the house, although a bit portion of that clutter has merely moved to the garage for the moment. There were lots of small activities, video games, movies, geocaching, karate classes, and football skill improvements, as well as the usual summer chores and cleaning up the yard. I cut down three dying pine trees to save five more—whoever lived in the house before we did planted them a foot or so apart and they’re far too big for that now, but I hope I’ve given the rest of them a fighting chance.
And of course, there was Fan Expo, about which I have written much, and I’m probably not done yet. I also haven’t managed to put the good cosplay photos I took at the con up on Facebook or Flickr. I should add that to my list of things to do.
Be well, everyone. Mentally, and physically.by