[Khida's Scrapbook] The Curve of the Wind

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The player scrapbooks forum is literally a place for writers to warm-up, brainstorm, keep little scraps of notes, or just post things to encourage themselves and each other. Each player can feel free to create their own thread - one per account - and use them accordingly.

[Khida's Scrapbook] The Curve of the Wind

Postby Khida on July 12th, 2013, 1:30 am

I probably won't use this space much, though one never knows... Most likely, the majority of posts will have to do with RL and how it impacts my availability on Mizahar, directly or indirectly. Like today's.

First, a little bit of context. I'm a graduate student in molecular biology. Despite the "student" in there, I don't follow anything resembling the usual U.S. academic calendar (e.g. no summer vacation). I've passed my preliminary exam, the make-or-break point where my committee said 'yeah, you're good to go for the Ph.D.' as opposed to 'forget it, you're out of the program'. At this stage, I no longer even take classes, I just do research towards my dissertation. Which amounts to a full-time job... and then some.

This entire year has been one huge, non-stop series of deadlines and major pushes to complete work for said deadlines, even more so than usual. And the only 'vacation' I've had wound up unavoidably eaten into by some of those very things. Long story short, I'm running on fumes at this point, if even that. Furthermore, I have umpteen things coming due within the next eight weeks, and I have to stretch those fumes to accomplish as many as I possibly can. This should be the last major convergence for a good while, thankfully... but I still have to get through it before I can think about recuperating.

As a consequence, my posting rate's dropped over the past month, and it'll probably slow down even more for a while. For the duration, I will be prioritizing threads as follows:
  1. everything Syka-related
  2. event threads (e.g. the Antiquities Society Dig)
  3. other present-time threads
  4. flashbacks and outstanding grandfathered threads (which are not also events)
Most of the time, I reply to posts in the order they were made, and I will continue that way unless something of higher priority comes due. Everything will get replies, just some may be bumped down on occasion. If it takes me a while to answer a post -- or a PM planning a thread, I have a few of those outstanding -- I apologize and ask for patience; it has not been forgotten, it just got the short end of the stick.

-- Khida | Dust | Eleret
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[Khida's Scrapbook] The Curve of the Wind

Postby Khida on July 23rd, 2013, 3:53 pm

Gadgetry: Leap Motion


...I find myself with something to share. I preordered this gadget, oh... something like nine months ago. Shipment was delayed, I think for software reasons... first three months, then six months, then seven... but yesterday, it finally arrived! And I have a shiny new toy to play with!

The Leap does this:

Official Video :
And now that I've actually had a chance to play around with one, here's what I've learned so far:

1) You think your hand is steady? Think again.

Part of this is that the Leap is really, really sensitive. It's supposed to distinguish movements down to an absurdly tiny fraction of a millimeter -- which are more subtle by far than ones I'm used to making. The other thing I find difficult to adapt to is that an area in the Leap's field of view doesn't map quite the way I expect to a place on the screen -- largely because it gauges relative to itself, not relative to the monitor. Given that the only motion-detection technology I've worked with before is the Wii, and the Wiimote is oriented to the screen, my conditioning is all off. But the biggest thing I've come away with so far is that my hand doesn't actually do what I think it does -- that 'steady movement' actually wobbles all over the place as far as the Leap's concerned.

Hopefully practice will help fix this. It definitely doesn't help that the Leap's detection zone is oriented vertically, and the 'touch plane' is an utterly imaginary, intangible thing that exists only in its perceptions. I didn't realize until now how much I relied on a backing surface, e.g. a notebook, to brace against as I draw or write. Something I intend to play with is turning the Leap sideways and running the touch plane along the desktop; then it'd basically act like a tablet, without the tablet. In theory.

I've also found that tools help a surprising amount -- my hand with a pencil is way more steady than my hand by itself. Funny fact.

2) Touch control is impressive in things designed specifically for it... when it isn't tear-out-your-hair frustrating. Touch control at the OS level is... not really there yet.

Not that the second part should really be surprising or anything; after all, touch input devices are still very new, and OS developers have other things to factor into their programming, while people designing apps for the Leap only have to worry about the Leap. It might be different for Windows 8 (though I think even that isn't geared towards 3-d motion control), but Windows 7 is definitely clunky in the touch support arena -- interacting with the OS is not like interacting with the apps shown in the video. But maybe someday it will be! And in the meantime, it's manageable... if rather slower than using a traditional mouse, at least now while I'm starting out.

As for the apps... well, right now, the majority are games. That was disappointing; not that games aren't cool, but I'm more interested in every other usage of the Leap. Some of the apps I've tried are really straightforward to use: you point, you swipe, you grab, and things happen. There are some that just baffle me, though -- in one, I couldn't even figure out what any gesture was supposed to do. And then there's the Jenga-like game, which is simple in theory but takes every advantage of the Leap's sensitivity... if you aren't right on, blocks go flying apart like they've been greased. I've toppled more towers right out the gate than actually successfully removed blocks. Good training, though.

And exhausting. Holding your arms up and waving your hands around in deliberate, focused ways turns out to be very tiring. Something else practice shall have to improve.

But all that aside, substituting a pair of chopsticks for my mouse is just fun.

3) ...I'm going to have to break down and learn some flavor of C. You know, in my copious amounts of free time.

I'm a self-taught programmer; I've learned things more as opportunity afforded (or as inspiration struck) than through formal education. I can write in Tcl, Java, R, three obscure languages specific to games; I've done basic stuff in Python, too... but I've managed to avoid dialects and derivatives of C throughout. Not to say that C is a bad language... I've just been able to get away without it for my entire decade and change as a programmer. But it looks like that's about up now!

The Leap has an API, of course; that's how apps get written. Now that I have one... I want to get into those nitty-gritty details and write something for it myself. They have APIs for quite a few languages, actually. I could write for it in Java... but I've become rather disillusioned with that language, and I don't much care to break it out again. I could dust off and hone my Python skills... but that's apt to be just as time-intensive as learning C would be. My language of choice these days is Tcl, which I'd be happiest using here... but I'd need a C interface between Tcl and the Leap. Hence, breaking down and learning at least enough C to be able to write that mediator.

Pencil that in on the to-do list... someday...
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[Khida's Scrapbook] The Curve of the Wind

Postby Khida on August 5th, 2013, 12:01 pm

State of RL

Workshop teaching: check

Annual committee meeting and report on progress: check

Paper #1: in progress

Various pieces of time-consuming correspondence: in progress

Major data analysis: delayed due to computer issue in progress

Paper #2: awaiting resolution of said computer issue and analysis

Keel over and sleep for a week: if only...
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[Khida's Scrapbook] The Curve of the Wind

Postby Khida on September 6th, 2013, 4:56 pm

Activity Update



I seem to be not quite so weighed down by RL anymore. Tentatively. Hopefully. Enough so that I've removed the notice from my signatures, anyway... I don't expect to be quite back up to normal activity levels, but I should be back to replying to most things within a week at the outside.

Knock on wood.
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[Khida's Scrapbook] The Curve of the Wind

Postby Khida on September 10th, 2013, 12:47 pm

Writing Quips


Happened across these when I was cleaning out some notes; figured I might as well put them up to share. Excerpted from here.

  • If you aren’t sure what to write about, just write; there’ll be plenty of time later on to read it and see what you wrote about.
  • Learning to write well is 1% learning and 99% writing.
  • ‘Write what you know’ does not mean you should only write things you already know about; it means learn about things and then write about them.
  • The only thing more painful than writing is not writing.
  • If you write regularly, soon you’ll have a lot written. If you don’t, you won’t.
  • If you absolutely cannot think of anything to write about, write about a character that cannot think of anything to do and the things that happen to him.
  • If, while writing a story, the story takes over and begins to write itself, let it.
  • Why is writing so hard? Look in a plumber’s toolbox, a fisherman’s tackle box , or a lawyer’s briefcase. Count how many tools they have. Compare this to a writer, whose toolbox contains tens of thousands of words.
  • Good writing is contagious; you catch it by reading good writing.
  • The key to writing is writing. If you do that, the writing takes care of itself.
  • Torture your characters. They can’t hit back.
  • Writer’s Block: The amazing ability to stare down a computer.
  • If the pen is mightier than the sword, then a writer with a computer connected to the Internet is mightier than a nuclear bomb.
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[Khida's Scrapbook] The Curve of the Wind

Postby Abstract on September 11th, 2013, 1:26 am

Can I just say... I love these. I love this logic. I like this one especially:

"The key to writing is writing. If you do that, the writing takes care of itself."

Yup.
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[Khida's Scrapbook] The Curve of the Wind

Postby Khida on September 25th, 2013, 10:53 am

Writing Consistently


That is a great one, Abstract! I especially find it apt with RP, because my characters definitely have minds of their own...

On today's topic -- I started keeping a daily word-count log... oh, some time ago now. Partly because I'm organized six ways from Sunday almost as default mode (well, about three ways as default, six ways under pressure...), partly as one aspect of an effort to get myself into the habit of writing consistently. Not just writing for fun as the whim strikes, which I've done for years, but setting goals and meeting them and doing it day after day. I've got half a dozen non-RP writing projects which move along only in fits and starts; along with maintaining my characters on Miz, I want to push some of those through into actual motion. I've tried some different ways of tracking in the past, so that I know as opposed to just think I'm meeting goals, and to keep myself on-task, but not much worked to make me write. Flat word count is the one that seems to do best.

When I factor in the time and energy sink that is graduate school (and am I ever counting down until it's done!), consistently setting aside time to write anything 'extracurricular' becomes much more challenging than it sounds on the surface. I set the bar what seems almost ridiculously low -- if I make 1000 words a day, I'm content. That's usually about three posts for me, and when I'm on my stride, I can meet that before I even get to lab in the morning. Anything I write in the evening -- sometimes nothing, sometimes as much again, or anything in between -- is then bonus. But when I'm not on stride... well, there's this past July, where I averaged only about 400 words/day, and August, where I didn't even reach 300 -- not even one typical post per day. Those were months where basically almost-nothing happened, and it was very frustrating, and I was very very tired, which was absolutely justified but didn't make me feel any better about practically not posting for anybody. Except when I was too tired to care.

The downside of counting things is knowing exactly how far behind you really get. On the other hand, I am very much back on stride this month, and I have the numbers to prove it. (Also the much reduced post-debt list.) I also, on a whim, decided to take all the words I've written on all my characters since I started with Mizahar, and see what my "lifetime" daily average is since my first IC thread.

...funny enough, that came out to 870 words/day.

Rather higher than I expected. Rather a lot higher. I've had some fairly slow seasons, and yet I'm still in shouting distance of what I'm aiming for. After the last couple of very slow months, I'm pretty happy about that. I'm almost tempted to try and set the bar higher now, see if I can keep up with more... but I have the specter of my dissertation looming ahead, which does a pretty good job of squashing that impulse. Maybe after I'm through...
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[Khida's Scrapbook] The Curve of the Wind

Postby Caelum on September 25th, 2013, 2:02 pm

A thousand words a day is impressive. 870 words/day is impressive. Hell, five hundred can be too. Your scrap caught my attention today because I recently was drawn into a discussion regarding discipline in writing, goal setting, pre-structure, word count, et cetera.

In the discussion I admitted that I’ve given myself a 5k a week word count goal for my current script work. The reaction was borderline shock. They thought my goal needed to be twice that at minimum and that I was low balling myself to a detriment. I disagreed, and here’s why.

In addition to writing, I work a full time desk-riding job at an office that requires a forty minute commute. I’ve got a husband, family, friends, two cats and a dog who all require various levels of time and attention from me and my family is doing a good job lately of producing extra drama for me to deal with. By the time I have narrowed down my writing time, it is divided up further. There are usually one or two paying gigs, another one or two gigs I’m doing as a favor for a local non profit/charity, my silly fun time (read as: Mizahar), something I’m editing or critiquing or brainstorming with a writer friend because I am their writer friend, and then at last there is the script with the 5k a week word count goal.

To me, that’s highballing myself. A good friend of mine who is not a writer remarked to me the other day that she could find time to type four times that in a week, but if she had to make the content up out of her head and with any luck make it good she’d be hard pressed for a handful of paragraphs. That is what I ultimately argued with those who thought I was lowballing – do you want 15k words of poop this week or do you want 5k words of awesome? (Okay, so “awesome” might be a bit of a stretch; it’s only a second draft. Regardless, you get my point.)

Sorry for the ramble in your scrap. 870 words/day is bloody amazing. You should be proud.

-k.
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[Khida's Scrapbook] The Curve of the Wind

Postby Khida on September 25th, 2013, 2:47 pm

Rambling which is still mostly on-topic is just fine. :) Discussions are welcome.

When I decided to do the math, I figured it would come out to more like 500. I don't feel like I've done that much over time -- looking at my chart day-to-day, I see all the days I skipped more than the ones where I exceeded. But I am quite happy with this as it is.

What makes a good goal definitely depends on the context. If I had to split my time more ways than I do now -- which is really 'graduate school' and 'everything else' -- I would be writing much, much less. The most important thing, I think, is not what number you hit -- it's that you hit a number, consistently. Whether it's number of words or number of hours, or whatever other goal. Granted, if you have an external deadline, it's good to hit that too, but otherwise...

Anyway -- 5k/week sounds perfectly respectable to me. Especially with everything else you've described going on. Tallied, that's like saying 'two novel drafts per year'. And that's not a small amount of work in any context!
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[Khida's Scrapbook] The Curve of the Wind

Postby Caelum on September 25th, 2013, 5:01 pm

That is exactly the balancing logistic to my weekly word count goal. 5k a week is doable time wise, capable of being strong writing, and fits into the draft turn around schedule. Of course, by draft three consistently hitting a word count needs to be the least of my worries. If it isn’t, then I’ve done something horribly wrong. Lol.

Re: your emphasis on discipline, I have recently discovered the worth of anger, pride, and determination. What I mean is that some of my not-always-awesome characteristics can be put to good use by turning it into a competition. Obviously, Mizahar’s Nano holds to the same truth. I need it specifically, however, and all the time, so I spent a few months scrounging up and scratching at a few writerly friends until I netted a few who are also doing a first or second draft from scratch so word count would be key. We made a shared spreadsheet and update our counts daily. Just knowing that one of them is a thousand or more words ahead of me is sometimes all I need to motivate me to open up the script and put in the time when really I was considering watching, I dunno, freaking Family Guy and having more wine.
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