bookmark_borderResearch Research Research

You can never research too much. Well, not really.

You can get lost in YouTube Hell: going in for videos on sword work and realizing you’ve migrated to watching kittens dancing to Timberlake.

You can start reading articles on sword work in Wikipedia and realize you’re now reading an article on nuclear fission (true story).

But in terms of backstory (stuff you will probably never use), you can never research too much. Know your subject matter. Know the character. Know the setting. You don’t need a degree in something in order to write a believable character. You just need to know enough to write about it. Your comfort level included. For example, I will never be comfortable enough to write a character who is into math. I know this. I can research all I want and it will never take.

Continue reading “Research Research Research”

bookmark_borderFree Speech and Copyright

For future reference, you can always tell when I am writing (vs playing World of Warcraft) because I am putting up posts here.

That said, I am a big fan and supporter of Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). Basically, in a nutshell, EFF is an organization representing and fighting for the rights of email, stuff on the internet, and cell phones. Basically. They’re much more than that, of course.

Apparently there is/was this big event called the “e-G8”. Not exactly sure what or who they are but I just read an article about the co-founder of EFF and his attendance at this event.

When Barlow had a chance to speak, he expressed his own surprise at being on the panel, “because I don’t think I’m from the same planet, actually.” He then proceeded to trash the foundational assumptions of everyone who had just spoken.

I may be one of very few people in this room who actually makes his living personally by creating what these gentlemen are pleased to call “intellectual property.” I don’t regard my expression as a form of property. Property is something that can be taken from me. If I don’t have it, somebody else does.

Expression is not like that. The notion that expression is like that is entirely a consequence of taking a system of expression and transporting it around, which was necessary before there was the internet, which has the capacity to do this infinitely at almost no cost.


Later, after the Big Boys up front with him had a chance to change their pants, they confronted him about it.

Culture Minister Frédéric Mitterand took Barlow to task for his dramatic statements. “I do not share this apocalyptic vision of some dictatorship that will be creeping back through the internet into our lives to control our thoughts and the way in which we function,” he said. Some controls on the internet are eminently reasonable—we need “economic solutions to economic problems.”

The head of Universal Music France talked about just how much money was necessary to nurture new talent. DIdn’t Barlow understand economics?

“If you’re spending $5 billion on new artists, we’re not getting our money’s worth,” Barlow cracked, and he reframed his argument in economic terms of scarcity and abundance.

“Trying to optimize towards scarcity, as you are by all of your methods, is not going to be in the benefit of creation, I promise you,” he said. “It’s not IP enforcement that gets you guys properly paid.” In his view, payment comes from building a product that people actually want to buy—and the movie industry’s repeated record box office takes in recent years show that people have no problem coughing up the cash for something of value.

“I am not against being compensated for what you do,” concluded Barlow.

So why would I, a crippled up old Southern lesbian, give a rip? Well, on a large scale, I don’t want them to start regulating the Internet. Once they start regulating it, they start controlling it. I don’t want them in my email and certainly not controlling what I can or cannot post. On a much smaller scale, I do believe there is a need for some sort of regulation, but not of the Internet itself. There are hundreds of web sites where people can upload whatever so that other people can download whatever. This includes music, books, movies, photos, etc. Some are legitimate. The vast majority are not. There are people who actually scan in entire paper books into .pdf format then upload them so others can “enjoy” them. This is theft. It is piracy. I’ve discussed this before. So on the one hand, keep your nose out of my stuff. But on the other hand, I understand about copyrights. We can’t copyright ourselves to death or we’ll be in a massive gridlock. But a copyright needs to be honored.

So, folks at e-G8, work on shutting down online piracy. You can keep arresting and suing the user but until you get the pirate and the pirate sites, it’s like bailing water without turning off the faucet.


Now for the podcast post. (gosh, that’s hard to say out loud!)

On my iPod Touch, I have started downloading podcasts. I subscribe to a bunch of them. Each time I sync the device with iTunes, it puts all the new ones on there. I had to mess with the settings for a while to figure out how to keep the ones I wanted on the device vs getting deleted because they were “old”. Basically, I keep the device setting (in iTunes) to manual.

National Public Radio (NPR) must haves: (and the average length)

    A Prairie Home Companion – actually, this is American Public Media (APM) not NPR (13-20 mins)
    Car Talk (53-58 mins)
    Fresh Air (42-48 mins)
    Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me (47 mins)
    This American Life – this one may fit better into the writing category (58-60 mins)

Writing Related:

    Garrison Keillor’s “Writer’s Almanac” – another APM (5 mins)
    Grammar Girl – all writers should listen to at least two of these (4-11 mins)


    The Dog Trainer (comes from the same place as Grammar Girl) Not listened to it yet so it may get deleted (3-7 mins)
    That’s Gay – funny video podcast about/for us gays and lezbos (3-4 mins)

You don’t need a player to get or listen to podcasts. I normally either listen to them directly from the website or I download them and listen later. That’s how I used to listen to ‘Wait, Wait…’. I sometimes listen to “Writing Excuses” and “Litopia” (they have a sidebar chock full o’ ways to subscribe/download to podcasts).

The problem with podcasts is that you are listening to someone’s voice. And the beauty of voices are in the ear of the beholder. There are some people I cannot stand. Carl Kasell, who does the “Wait, Wait…” shows – cannot stand his voice. The idea of winning his voice on my answering machine just is not appealing. I enjoy him, enjoy his sense of humor and style, but nope no way on the voice itself. Grammar Girl has a good voice and enunciates well (good?). I can listen to Garrison Keillor all day and enjoy every second of it. Except when he gets long-winded and I forget where he started. Some podcasters insist on putting loud music on before and after. “Writing Excuses” also tries to be funny. Which they usually aren’t. Which is why I don’t listen to them very often. Again, your mileage may vary and my opinion is just that: mine. Lorna has no trouble listening to Carl Kasell.

The good thing about podcasts is that you can listen to them at any time. On the way to work, while waiting at the drs office, etc. “Grammar Girl” is best listened to when you can take notes. “Wait Wait…” is best listened to when no one will look at you weird for falling down while laughing.

Just don’t let them pile up on your computer or device. I save “Writer’s Almanac” and listen to them all at once, usually a week’s worth. Same with “Grammar Girl”, although sometimes she fries my brain. And don’t get a ton of them. Get a ton at first then weed out the ones you know you won’t go back to often enough to make it worth the space on your drive. I’ve tried out a lot more podcasts than the ones I listed above. Some were just silly/stupid, some were loud and obnoxious, some were just not for me.

Again and as always, I would like to hear from others who do the podcast thing. And if you don’t, I’d like to know why. And no, I won’t ever do one. I have an awful voice and the accent would drive people nutso.

bookmark_borderConficker Worm

No, you can’t go fishing with it. You might be able to go phishing with it, though.

At any rate, make sure your virus software is up to date and run a scan. The Conficker worm is spreading slowly but surely.

I was pointed to a cool quick way to find out if your ‘puter is infected. The Conficker Eye Chart works thusly:

Conficker (aka Downadup, Kido) is known to block access to over 100 anti-virus and security websites.

If you are blocked from loading the remote images in the first row of the top table above (AV/security sites) but not blocked from loading the remote images in the second row (websites of alternative operating systems) then your Windows PC may be infected by Conficker (or some other malicious software).

So, like, go there. But still do an update and scan. I use and recommend AVG anti-virus.

Conficker Working Group (makers of the “eye” chart)
AVG anti-virus
Protecting Against the Rampant Conficker Worm – PC World article

bookmark_borderSocial Networking Revisited

How funny that another article pops up about “social networking” online: Facebook Users Get Worse Grades in College

Her study found that Facebook user GPAs were in the 3.0 to 3.5 range on average, compared to 3.5 to 4.0 for non-users. Facebook users also studied anywhere from one to five hours per week, compared to non-users who studied 11 to 15 or more hours per week.

However, Karpinski emphasized that correlation does not equal causation, meaning Facebook use might not be the culprit behind lower GPAs or less study time.

For instance, students who spend more time enjoying themselves rather than studying might tend to latch onto the nearest distraction, such as Facebook. Or students who use the social networking site might also spend more time on other non-studying activities such as sports or music.

The study did show that students who work more hours at jobs spend less time on Facebook, while students involved in more extracurricular activities were also more likely to use Facebook.

I found that last paragraph above to be the most interesting. If a student works while at college, they are less likely to use or spend less time on Facebook. Perhaps the added reality of having to work to pay for things makes one less likely to want to dive into the false reality of Facebook and other such things.

bookmark_borderThe “In” of Internet

Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, LinkedIn – not only do they have us CombiningWords with CapitalLetters in weird places, it has us spread too thin. In author groups, having a MySpace or Facebook page is THE thing to have. I have neither. I have a Blogger and LiveJournal space but they only point here. I am a member of LinkedIn (not sure why, but I am). I’m not part of the “in” crowd.

I don’t understand Twitter. Verbal voyeurism, even for a writer, can only satisfy so far. I love gadgets. I have all sorts of gadgets. I even have a cell phone! It only allows me to send and receive phone calls and not surf the ‘net or check email but that’s the way I like it. It’s the way I like my food, too. I don’t eat a burger with mustard and ketchup. They tend to overpower the main tastes. I think the subtly of lettuce and tomato bring out the wonderful goodness of the dead, cooked cow. I don’t eat many casseroles unless the items put together are balanced and not overwhelmed by one particular spice. Yeah, more evidence I’m weird. But I digress….

I just read an interesting article (Are you a twit if you don’t want to Twitter?) on how “social networking” is starting to overwhelm folks.

It shouldn’t be surprising that quick-hit online communications, the stuff of 140-character “tweets” on Twitter and “status updates” on Facebook, leave some people cold. Craig Kinsley, a professor of neuroscience at the University of Richmond, notes that studies of human interactions reveal that our brains crave networking, online and off, but differentiate between the quality of the interactions.

“Many short contacts may leave the user wanting deeper, more meaningful exchanges. Like a meal of cotton candy, when you come right down to it, there is not much substance,” he says. “A good conversation with a good friend is much more life-affirming than a few tortuously abbreviated or emoticon-filled lines in a tweet that anyone can read. How special is that?”

Our brains crave prolonged social activities. Maybe this is why instant messaging and chat rooms grew to such proportions. We could have cyber conversations with instant gratifications vs Twitting or updates on Facebook.

Earlier in the article:

“Being exposed to details, from someone’s painful breakup to what they had for breakfast – and much more sordid details than that – feels like voyeurism,” says the 31-year-old public relations executive in Washington, D.C. “I’m less concerned with protecting my privacy, and more concerned at the ethics of a ‘human zoo’ where others’ lives, and often serious problems, are treated as entertainment.”

Exactly! Human zoo. Reality shows are taking over the networks, even Animal Planet! Do we really need to surround ourselves with such type of reality? We are too removed from it to fulfill that neurological need. Personally, I’d rather sit at a table at Waffle House and listen to my friend tell me of her soap opera love life. Facial expressions, hand movement, pauses here and there – they speak more than any emoticon ever can.

bookmark_borderOy! What Happened?

I don’t really understand what happened. All of my sites are on a private server with my webhost. It makes tracking problems down quite simple since errors mean it is either on my end or theirs. No middle folks to deal with. One of the things I can do with the server is set the amount of space my websites can use. More space than it is using means the sites run faster. Less space and everything slows to a crawl or stops altogether. My space prior to yesterday was a mere 235mb. The most I had used was around 150 or so but with Mike’ new site, that had been slowly rising. But at some point yesterday, the memory usage spiked to over 450mb. And the sites shut down. All of them. But I didn’t even think to look there when I first found out the sites were down.

I contacted tech support and checked out the forum and some other places but really had no clue what was wrong. I put up a “site down” message so that folks wouldn’t wonder if they had a problem on their end. I got an answer from tech support and he pointed out the memory usage as well as a huge memory usage within the databases. Spammers were smacking one or two of the sites hard and all their blocked messages were being stored in the database. I raised the memory usage to 500mb, made some changes to the .htaccess files (which I had never ever touched before), and made a “robots.txt” file and put it on all the main directories. I went to the databases and “dropped” all the stuff in the SpamKarma tables. I left the blacklist alone, though.

Within a few hours, the extra memory was gobbled up. I waited. I checked the error logs again. I added another IP block or two to the .htaccess file. I waited and finally gave up and went to bed. We had things to do today and I didn’t get a chance to check anything until this afternoon.

So now, there it is. Everything is working. And I learned a few things. While the problem was with just one site (this blog, actually), the memory usage downed them all. I now know that when all of them is down, then there’s a few places to look first.

Spammers are the armpits of the internet, aren’t they?

UPDATE: Holy shit! I just got finished deleting well over 10,000 spam comments! All of them porn crap (surely Asian teens have more to do?) or prescription meds for men.

bookmark_borderThe Internet as Art

I found an article today about a new domain extension thing (they’re called top-level domain). On the sidebar of the article was a cool image called The Internet Map. Isn’t it beautiful?

attributed to Matt Britt
larger, more detailed version

The description says:

Partial map of the Internet based on the January 15, 2005 data found on Each line is drawn between two nodes, representing two IP addresses. The length of the lines are indicative of the delay between those two nodes. This graph represents less than 30% of the Class C networks reachable by the data collection program in early 2005. Lines are color-coded according to their corresponding RFC 1918 allocation as follows:

* Dark blue: net, ca, us
* Green: com, org
* Red: mil, gov, edu
* Yellow: jp, cn, tw, au, de
* Magenta: uk, it, pl, fr
* Gold: br, kr, nl
* White: unknown