This coming Thursday begins the month of November, and also the start of National Novel Writing Month (known to all the cool kids as NaNoWriMo). I decided it would be a good idea to give this a try.

I’m not going to lie. I’m pretty intimidated by the whole thing. I’ve been blogging pretty regularly since about 2003, and I did a lot of creative writing in high school and college, but I’ve never tried anything on this scale.

It’s not the length that’s got me worried. The “rules” of NaNoWriMo say you should shoot for a 50,000 word novel in the span of a month. That’s about 1667 words per day, which is, oddly, right around the average length of my blog posts on Critical Hits. If my mind is open and the words are flowing, I can do that in an hour. If it’s not and they aren’t, that’s about three hours of pain — but at least the work of the day can get done.

I’m more worried about plenty of other things.

I wonder if I can make something of that length that will engage the reader long enough to want to finish it. I’ve heard from several people that this event isn’t about making something good or editing, it’s about brute force writing until your arms fall off until it’s out. Then you edit.

I’m worried about having the stamina and the focus to finish. I started this blog in the hopes of keeping my momentum going, and a weekend trip and a nasty sinus infection later I’d fallen off the wagon and wandered off into the woods. I can’t find the statistic, but only something like 14% of NaNoWriMo attempts actually succeed. Fortunately, I have several cohorts who are also taking this journey with me: my dear friends Phil and Malcolm. Having a support/nag system in place is likely going to drive me insane, but also keep me from straying. I’m really looking forward to seeing what they come up with.

As for me, I have the premise and most of plot of my story worked out, and I’m figuring out how to put the pieces together. I’ve been fiddling with Scrivener, and I’ll be laying these ideas out in said Scrivener tomorrow so I can hit the ground running on Thursday.

I know why I’m concerned about not finishing, but I can’t really pinpoint why I’m nervous about the entire business of writing a novel. I’ll be glad to get started just so the waiting is over. Maybe I’ll figure it out on the way.

To everybody doing NaNoWriMo this year, especially my dog-brothers in writing Phil and Malcolm: may your pens become king by their own hands, and wear their heavy crowns upon a troubled brow.

But that is another story.

Money Boo Boo and the Tree Of Salami

My dreams last night were plagued with Obama and Romney, as they were at the debate at the moment when Romney got all up in Obama’s face. No matter where I went, no matter what I was doing, there they were staring each other down and making their points. I couldn’t understand the words coming out of their mouths, I could just hear their voices. This went on all damned night. I think I might have had a fever or something, because I get dreams that don’t change topic for the entire night, drive me insane, and leave me exhausted the next day when I have a fever.

I’m still not sure it was better than what I’d dreamed the night before.

In that dream, I walked into my house and there was Neil Gaiman, sawing a salami-sized log on a dinner plate with a tiny hacksaw. He smiled at me. Then a bunch of people came over. He’d invited them all for individual tutoring on how to write erotic fanfiction.

I think the worst part of that dream was waking up and realizing that if Neil Gaiman offered to teach me how to write erotic fanfiction, I’d definitely take him up on it.

Commemorative Theatre Mouthwash

I don’t remember everything from my dream last night, but what remained is pretty clear evidence to me that my fall allergies are kicking my sinus-butt enough that my CPAP machine can’t work well.

I went to a play at some theatre in northern Wisconsin. Each season, they would release a commemorative bottle of mouthwash featuring art from that play. The one I was at featured green mouthwash and what may have been the face of a smiling leprechaun. I’m mostly sure Steven Townshend was attached to this project somehow, but I never actually saw him. When I looked at the bottle, I had a revelation that I had two more of these bottles from previous seasons (one gold, one purple) at home and wondered how they got into my house.

I had either created or was about to create something, and I’d enlisted the help of a woman  to do it. I went to the restroom, and as I was washing my hands, I realized I needed my friend Jake to do the guitars and bass for whatever project this was, and the music I had in my head was pretty sweet. I wish I could remember it.

When I came out, the woman simultaneously was making out with a random dude and signing over the rights to my creation to him. At that point, an actual physical label began floating in front of her that said “The Whore That Betrayed Me”. Subtle, brain. I clearly felt bad about calling a woman a whore, even subconsciously, because there was a brief flashback scene where it showed how she got her start as a prostitute and lived a life of misery and poverty eventually leading to her stealing people’s stuff for a living. It made me briefly empathize with her, then I resumed hating her guts again.

Memories I Can’t Refuse

Surprisingly, Sam was not a fan of S.T.U.N. Runner.

Yesterday, we had Godfather’s Pizza for dinner in Pekin. That particular restaurant holds a lot of memories for me. We’ve been going there as long as I can remember, and the pizza has always been delicious. It comprises about 85% of all birthday dinners in my family.

It also happens to be the site of the very first time I played Ms. Pac Man, and countless other arcade adventures.

It pleases me to no end that the place is still very much as it was some 30 years ago, except for the part where it’s almost never busy and a lot of the arcade games are old and broken. I worry that the place doesn’t have much time left. All the other Godfather’s restaurants in the area have closed, and the company itself isn’t doing so well. We don’t go very often, and I never really understand why. I think I just take it for granted.

I’d had a craving for pizza all day yesterday, and we’ve had Papa Johns and Mickie’s about four thousand times in the last month. Sarah suggested Godfather’s, and it sounded really good. Sam, being Sam, wasn’t particularly interested in eating anything, so I mentioned they’d have arcade games. He squealed and yelled “OKAY!” and ran to get his shoes on.

On the way there, we talked about what kind of pizza we were going to get. Then Sam said something I’ll never forget.

“And then we’re gonna go to the arcade and I’m gonna play with you, daddy, because I love you.”

If you heard a pop about 6pm yesterday, that was my heart exploding. I could not craft a sentence that more perfectly fulfilled my every need as a father. I was stunned. My lower lip quivered.

When we got there, he ran around in circles until we ordered, and then he ran to the machines and did some more circles while I got quarters from the change machine and told him how the sound of the coins coming out used to be my favorite noise in the world. Since he’s so young, he usually doesn’t stick around to finish whatever game he’s playing — unless it’s a driving game. For some reason, those keep him. His experiences with gaming are so different from mine at that age. He’s used to my Xbox packed full of games he can switch between whenever he wants, and he looks at me like I’m crazy when I tell him we’re out of quarters. But he loves bright colors and weird synthesized noises, and that means he loves the old stuff from when I was a kid — even if it’s just for awhile.

He’s been bugging me to play games on the MAME cabinet in our dining room lately. I’ve had a couple parts loose and some stuff that needs configured on it for a few months, so it hasn’t seen much use. He heard Froggy’s Lament from Buckner & Garcia’s Pac Man Fever album on the way back from Grandma’s last week, and he’s been wanting to see that froggy. I think it’s time to fix that.

Definitely loving the whole “dad” gig right now.

It’s Like Sleeping In A Webhosting Motel

Yesterday evening, I was having trouble getting my blog to autopost to Facebook and Twitter. I didn’t know if I’d misconfigured the plugins or if it was a problem with my webhost. Turns out it was the latter. Dreamhost has an absurdly low threshold for memory usage on shared accounts — and apparently, I had enough WordPress plugins installed to cause their autokill script to start autokilling, which basically brought the whole thing to a crawl and/or didn’t load pages. I really didn’t have that many plugins loaded. Just Akismet (anti-spam), a Google Analytics plugin, a cacher, and the autoposters. In another hosting environment, it probably would have been just fine. I eventually wound up getting a account, which will scan my blog’s RSS feeds periodically and post to various social networks. Doing the work to get them up and running was a good exercise, but I’m at a point in my life where I’m just happy to see it run. I have no desire to blow all my free time fixing something the hard way unless the payoff is really super rad.

I’ve had such a weird love/hate relationship with Dreamhost. On one hand, I got in during an insanely good deal and got to lock in a $10/mo price on unlimited space and bandwidth forever, and there’s lots of cool features. On the other, if I want to do anything even remotely out of a narrow scope of stuff they think is OK, it’s not gonna happen. I realize this is just a feature of shared hosting, but it just seems asinine.

When I was writing the @dndnext bot, I wanted to run a Perl module on a timed schedule to post updates. Their version of the Net::Twitter module was older than time, and they wouldn’t update it “because it might break other people’s code”. And I get that principle. I really do. Except Twitter had since switched to OAuth authentication over a year ago, and the version they had installed would never ever work in a million years. They had me trying to use CPAN to install some modules locally for myself, but some permissions issues came up, and eventually they told me I was on my own. So, anytime you saw an update, it was me running Strawberry Perl on my local machine. Laaaaaame.

But, as I said before, they are cheap and I do find their service useful. I just get what I pay for.

Oh well. It’s my morning to sleep in tomorrow, so I’m going to listen to some old Protracker modules and do something incredibly nonproductive now. Hell yeah.


If You Can Read This, I Will Already Be Doing Something Other Than Copypasting

I’ve been blogging since about 2003, but I’ve never had to set one up before. My old LiveJournal just asked me to pick a theme and pic and off I went. Stupid Ranger was on Blogger for awhile, and then switched to WordPress (which Josh set up, not me). Critical Hits existed for quite awhile before I came around, so I never had to worry about that either. Setting WordPress up on my own (and by that, I mean with a one-click install) hasn’t been very hard, but it’s had its quirks. Mostly, I’ve just been researching to make sure I had the right plugins to make sure I wasn’t comment-spammed off the face of the earth. I haven’t ever reskinned WordPress or written plugins for it before, which is something I’d like to know how to do if the need ever arises. Well, actually that’s not 100% true. I did write the code for the Gamma World Junkulator, which is a plugin in the sense that it’s PHP code that really doesn’t have anything to do with WordPress and just sort of doesn’t blow up when you run it. So that counts.

I spent a little time today setting up this blog to auto-post to Facebook and Twitter. I’d been debating whether I should only repost certain things from here. I’m not exactly sure what my rationale behind that fear was. It was if my feeds would get clogged up with my once-a-day blog posts and everyone would get annoyed and try to kill me. Thinking that through (and the laziness factor of not having to manually cut and paste a link twice every time I post here) pushed me over the edge. I still have to do that if I want to post to Google+, though. I really want Google+ to succeed. I like it better than Facebook, except for that part where only about 10% of the people I want to talk to on it even know it exists (much less want to use it).

Setting up the Facebook and Twitter plugins was a little weird, but it wasn’t too hard. The strangest part was that I had to “create an app” on both services, which wasn’t so much what (being a developer) I’d consider “creating an app”. It was more like defining a circumstance under which it was cool for WordPress to post on my behalf, and then handing WordPress the keys to do so.

In fact, once I realized what it was I was doing, I felt pretty silly. I’d just gone through a much more detailed process just a few months back, in which I actually did create an app to post to Twitter — the perl script that populated the @dndnext bot. Incidentally, if you’re wondering what happened to that, it wasn’t really anything spectacular. No legal notices or bad blood or anyone getting disappeared in the middle of the night. It just really didn’t do what we were looking for so we shelved it for awhile until we figure out a better use. Anyway, I had to set up that twitterbot using the same authentication procedures I had to follow for the WordPress plugins.

If you came here from Facebook or Twitter, that either means I did my job properly or I got sick of messing with it and posted it the old-fashioned way. That’s how we used to do things before the robots.

Well, I haven’t gotten it to work yet, and I’m not sure if it’s Dreamhost’s fault or not. The entire domain’s been running like crap all night (long response times varying from 30 seconds to timing out completely). Instead of bashing my head against it for another hour, I just filed a support ticket and will be going to bed. Nerd life, yo.




Reliving the Dark Ages

Tonight, we played Dominion (the Dark Ages expansion). I like that game, but I always get wrecked. It’s not like I’m the best in the universe at CCG’s like Magic and WoWTCG, but I haven’t wrapped my head around the continuous deck building and cycling like some of my friends can. Maybe if I played it more often, I’d have some strategies. As it is, I find myself only knowing what about half the cards do on the table, and then forgetting to read the rest until it’s too late halfway through the game. Still fun, though.

The Dark Ages expansion has some interesting mechanics in it. Lots of weird ways to trash cards and gain crappy cards to make deals for better cards. I bought a ton of Cultists and forgot to buy victory points before it was too late. (It was a nice change from buying too many golds and forgetting to buy victory points until it’s too late.)

We played a few games of that and sat around swapping old D&D war stories. Well, I should say two of us regaled the other two with old D&D war stories, because only half of us had played the game at all previous to this campaign. I hope they weren’t too bored. (I’d had just enough hard cider to not to care at the time.)

I find it endlessly strange and awesome that ten years down the road, it’ll be old war stories about our campaign they’ll be tossing around. Hopefully, I’ll still be there and then we can all bore the crap out of yet another person. It’s the circle of life.

[Review] Bachelorette

There were a couple reasons why Sarah and I decided to watch BacheloretteWe liked Kirsten Dunst and Isla Fisher. Lizzy Caplan was in it. We’d seen her in True Blood and in Party Down, and she was always funny. Secondly, we had had a stressful weekend and we needed some bawdy humor. This looked like it would provide that.

What we got was a bunch of people being terrible to themselves and each other.  The movie centers around three women being assholes to another girl who is simultaneously heavier than them and getting married before they are, so they have a stripper call her a cruel nickname from high school at her bachelorette party and then ruin her wedding dress by trying to fit two of them in it to show how fat the other girl is. Then they spend the rest of the movie trying to figure out how to get it fixed and cleaned, which involves all of them doing drugs and further soiling the dress with all sorts of situations that are supposed to be shocking and funny (but aren’t).

I’m at least moderately certain the movie was supposed to be a comedy, but it wasn’t even what I’d call cringe humor. It was, instead, stress humor. The kind where you get stressed and don’t laugh. Ever. If I were to lay that aside and think of the movie instead as a drama, now I am faced with trying to empathize with four caricatures of some of what the creators considered the worst sides of being a single woman. They try to have each of the horrible people have a little epiphany and become less horrible, except that is not what happens at all. For instance: at one point, the promiscuous one with the drug problem says “I just sleep and do drugs with people who are nice to me because I don’t know how to do anything else”. Then right before the wedding, she gets her stomach pumped because she tried to kill herself with a bottle of xanax because a computer programmer wouldn’t sleep with her. Then she gets drunk at the wedding like two hours later. REDEMPTION ACHIEVED!

Only thing I enjoyed in the movie had very little to do with the actual plot: Lizzy Caplan’s character got back together with her ex-boyfriend played by Adam Scott (they were the love interests on Party Down, and it was nostalgic).

I cannot express to you how much I recommend you don’t see this movie. It will not make you feel anything but awful. It will undo any good feelings for Kirsten Dunst you ever had, and you will feel sorry for Sacha Baren Cohen for having to live with anyone associated with this movie. It made me sad for single people, for men, for women, for the institution of marriage, Luxembourg, and eventually for humanity itself.

If I could go back in time and prevent this movie, and it would cost me my life to do so, I’d still do it.

Flail-O-Meter: 1/10

The Moffatts Take Manhattan

Last month, my wife was really sick and quarantined in our bedroom. My natural response was to sleep on the couch and try to watch on all Doctor Who episodes aired since its revival in 2005. I was not successful in this endeavor. The Series 7 premiere was looming, and I skipped over about half of the Tennant years so I could watch all the Smith stuff.

If you don’t watch Doctor Who, you might as well quit reading now. If you do and haven’t watched it all, you definitely want to quit reading now!


OK, I’ve loved this show since I was a kid and will continue to watch it as long as they make more, but I’ve got some Doctor Who rage I need to get off my chest. I may well have overlooked or misunderstood some stuff. Feel free to enlighten me in the comments, but leave my eyebrows. I need them.

A couple nights ago, I watched “The Angels Take Manhattan“, in which the Ponds leave the show. They hyped the crap out of this episode. There was so much about how it was so brilliant and touching and how tears would be in our eyes.

I’m gonna be that guy now. The one who did not experience any of the things in the promotional hype packet. I hated that episode.

Why? Because I think I’m coming to terms with the fact that I hate the way Steven Moffatt resolves big plotlines.

In both the series 5 and 6 finales, our protagonists find themselves in a strange and impossible scenario. In both, Moffatt pulls some arbitrary time-travel rule out of his ass and everybody treats it like it’s gospel.

In 5, I can buy the Pandorica’s universe-blueprinty light getting transmitted everywhere and deus ex machinaing everything back into being. I don’t understand how everybody was running around and existing and time travelling when the universe and time itself had effectively ended, but it was cool enough that I can handwave it and make it OK. That and having people erased from time, but if you’re a time traveler they’re not really erased makes me wish they’d pick a model for time travel and stick with it. Is there one timeline that can be changed? Are there multiple timelines and a new one can just fork from an existing one if you change one?

In 6, there was all sorts of weird hubbub about fixed points in time, and really bad things happen if you don’t let them happen. Like, for instance, having all of history happening simultaneously. Which makes for some neat visuals, but then having linear time happening (despite all the timepieces refusing to budge past 5:02pm) means we have yet another model for time travel, except this one just plain doesn’t make any sense. And then, people remember stuff that happened there despite some people being different people and it not ever really existing or maybe it existed at all points in time or maybe that existence never existed or I DON’T KNOW WHAT THE HELL. Also, not resolving him going back to see the Ponds until the Christmas episode: not cool. Glad I didn’t wait months for that.

And now, we’ve got the weird Moffatty arbitrary rules-wagon rolling in a pivotal episode where we ditch a couple beloved characters. Apparently, if you find out what’s going to happen in the future, you can’t change it. Except, like, every other damned episode where you totally do that because you travel in time. I don’t get why Rory’s tombstone was still there if the timeline was altered, and I don’t get why his seeing it only changed the timeline back for him alone if it was a fixed point. And I didn’t really get why the Doctor could never go save Rory. Yeah, he can’t land the Tardis in 1938 because the Angels have taken a big time-dump what with warping everybody back there repeatedly. Could he go there in 1937, hang out a year and save him in 1938, and then TARDIS the hell out in 1939? Could he just drive to New Jersey and have that work OK? For a show that had a dude hang out for 1894 years to guard over his girlfriend (who was in literally the safest damn place in the universe), they gave up awful easy on poor Rory. And Amy’s message at the end, talking about how they “lived well”. Last I checked, they spent 60 years in a prison surrounded by monsters.

And, OK, last thing I swear: as interesting an idea as the Statue of Liberty being a Weeping Angel is, and as cool and shocking as that visual was…. REALLY? NOBODY IN MANHATTAN IS GOING TO SEE HER WALKING AROUND? DID YOU NOT SEE GHOSTBUSTERS 2? OK, I feel better now.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I actually really do love this show. I just feel like Moffatt is just making shit up as he goes along sometimes, and doesn’t really care about continuity or consistency. Usually, I’m OK with leaving those behind for an episode, but not when you’re going to say goodbye to some characters you’ve come to love over several years. I dug the Ponds. I was a little weirded out by Amy being all “I have both of you” and then having a married couple on the Tardis, but it totally worked. They deserved better than what they got.