Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Stomach Butterflies

Stomach butterflies
are a stupid cliche
until your gut
is afflutter
with attraction
or jealousy
tender insectoid tendrils
the stomach
as though they heard
it was the swiftest route
to the heart

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Haiku Contest: Moon Law

For those of you that follow me on twitter my love for haiku is rather obvious. So, of course, I am ready to capitalize on any excuse top provide the internet with more haiku.
To that end I thought I would share this lovely item I stumbled upon: Wild Age Press is holding a haiku contest to celebrate the release of the Poetry Chapbook Moon Law by Samantha Duncan. You just need to follow them on twitter (Or Google+) and write a love haiku to the moon.
On Twitter you'll need to tag it #MoonLaw.
On G+ you'll need to share it with Wild Age Press.
You can check their blog for full contest details.
Right now their follow count and the level of competition is low.
Eight days are remaining.
Let's kick it up a notch.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

J.K. Rowling's Adult Fiction Gambles

There is no doubt that J.K. Rowling's new book "The Casual Vacancy" is going to be a commercial success. That is a given based purely on name recognition alone. What Rowling wants, however, is to take a step beyond her status as a children's fiction star to acceptance in the realm of "serious" literary fiction. Nothing about this situation thus far is unusual but some of the actions her new publishing house Little, Brown & Co. have taken, largely under her direction, baffle me.
First was the announcement some months ago that many countries would not be recieving copies of the manuscript for translation purposes until after the book's September 27th street date. The agency did so based on a system of rating countries on their risk of piracy. Too high risk of a leak? You have to wait until after the US release. This is in stark contrast to traditional logic in publishing that says you want translators to have as much time as reasonably possible to work on your book. There seems to be worry that many european countries may end up with sub-par translations in the rush to get books printed in time for the christmas season.
The second point of surprise for me was the statement that they are sending out no copies for reviews. Rowling is incredibly adamant that the book be judged on it's own merits, not just her fame as the author of Harry Potter. It is still shocking exactly how slim she is cutting back the marketing. I would have expected at the very least for the New York Times or the New Yorker to get copies so the serious literary types whose attention she is courting would see it.
In general she is running a very low key marketing campaign: A small amount of internet ads, small store signage, and a last minute TV bump via appearances on The Daily Show and Good Morning America. I suppose the part I have a difficult time wrapping my head around is the equation of fanfare with being non-literary.
She is the author of one of the most, if not the most, successful children's book franchises of all time. So no matter what she does, of course it will still be in the conversation. But if she feels this is the best way to rebrand herself into an adult author, who am I to argue? And if she cares more about re-branding than book sales, the gamble may be worthwhile.
I'm sure it's relieving to some that her piracy paranoia has at least calmed to the point where "The Casual Vacancy" will be on e-books from day one. Their initial physical book run will be two million and I'm sure that money will roll although I personally will be waiting for the reviews.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Ghosts in Tumblr's Following Lists: A Simple Exorcism

Tumblr has a problem which I refer to as "following ghosts" which happens when a blog you follow which isn't the primary blog of it's user is deleted. The blog goes away, however your blogs followed count will not change and if you look at that list, you'll see a space with no blog title, a blank avatar, a time of last update (Before the blog was deleted) and an unfollow button that, when clicked, gives an error message.
Fixing this problem is probably very low on Tumblr's priority list because functionally it does not interrupt the user experience but as someone who prefers to keep neat lists I find it very, very annoying. So I pondered over the solution a bit.

I have no idea what their data structures look like but for the sake of argument we'll say this:
You have a nice database that consists of a big list of pointers. Each pointer is just an arrow to a blog you follow. When a main blog deactivates, it handily changes the name to something_deactivated3254 leaving it as a valid object in the database to be removed. However, when the blog you followed wasn't their main blog and it is deleted this happens:
This is because your pointer is still aimed at where that blog USED to be which is currently empty space or NULL.
There are a couple ways they could fix this problem. The neatest would be to make it so that blogs are unfollowed when they are deleted. Unfortunately this would both be messy because you are allowing the actions of one user (the deleter) to influence the resources of another (the follower) and also because the sheer volume of traffic moved by tumblr on any given day means they really don't need the kind of extra processing cycle usage that would take.
Similarly having the follow list itself check for validity of blogs passively would just be a big waste of server processing for something that, for all intents and purposes, isn't effecting anyone.
My solution then lies with that handy Unfollow button. It doesn't remove the problem with the list but it puts it on the same level as the deactivated blogs and is actually the shortest to program:
Add basic error checking to your Unfollow button.
It would take a few lines, tops.
You click the Unfollow button, it runs the unfollow query just add quick conditional before that.
If the BlogVariable == NULL then remove the blog from the followed list ELSE do what you normally do to unfollow blogs. I haven't done much in MYSQL but I guarantee this can't be hard to do.
And once it is fixed we can all have nice neat lists unhaunted by dead blogs.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Review: Star Trek Online

In Star Trek Online you play a new Star Fleet officer who, due to extreme circumstances, is put in charge of a ship and sent off to do all the usual Star Fleet things: exploring space, talking to aliens and shooting those aliens with your phasers and photon torpedoes.
The game's basic exploration quests come in a couple flavors that you'll pick up pretty rapidly. They can get monotonous but unlike many MMOs you shouldn't need to spend a lot of time grinding. The quests give a lot of exp and simply making my way through the storylines I found myself leveling quite quickly.
New levels means a higher Star Fleet rank and bigger and better ships to command. The game has a class system: Captains are either engineering, tactical, or science officers which have different abilities but all of those abilities can be acquired by having the appropriate classes in your bridge crew.
As far as bells and whistles go, players have the option to create their own alien races in both appearance and racial bonuses. Clothing, ship exterior and ship interior all have some level of customization. It isn't as dandy as City of Heroes but it's enough to give your captain a sense of individuality in the vast mass of officers.
The game also has the prerequisite MMO crafting system which would work well if it wasn't for the large amount of each material required to make anything. The materials can be purchased from other players for relatively cheap and the industrious player can make a profit building ship parts out of their anomalous science but for those who don't want to bother taking the time you aren't missing out on much.
The most fun I had in the game was in the space battles. Shields are directional and weapons all fire in particular angle ranges so your position matters. It gets most interesting toward the end game when you have fleets of federation ships up against those of the Klingons or the Borg.
If I had to settle on downsides to the game, my first complaint would be that the music gets really old, really fast. My other main worry for the game can either be a negative or a positive depending on your play style: Outside of strike forces and and fleet actions which are your major end-game activities, there is no reason to ever involve yourself with your fellow players.
You can cooperate with other captains on missions but in true star trek fashion you tend to bring your whole bridge crew down on away missions so there is never a real worry of being alone against your enemies. And while some of the space fights can be challenging, it was usually a problem that could be solved by upgrading my phaser banks and torpedoes instead of trying to call in friends for help.

Over all, I would consider Star Trek Online worth a play for certain if you were a big Trekkie and if not it is still a good game especially by standards of what you can play for free.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

My Hopes for Doctor Who Season 7

The new season of Doctor Who starts filming this week meaning the fans are that much closer to the end of the drought they've had to endure since the end of season six. (With a brief respite via the Christmas special) While I'm excited for Doctor Who's continuation, I have some reservations about the show since Steven Moffat took over that hopefully will be addressed:  

False Tension

While world threatening disasters and life threatening situations are the bread and butter of the series, seasons five and six saw the action quota taken to new levels. While dangerous intrigue makes for decent television, it makes for poor story telling. The audience needs to resonate with the characters on some level beyond wondering if they are going to survive the episode because we know they survive the episode.
On a related note: The false deaths really need to stop. The risk of death is a low quality tension. Actually character death can be a higher quality tension but it is one of severely diminishing returns. I'm looking at both Rory and The Doctor here.
Rory is the obvious example as his constant stream of deaths has become something of a joke among fans but Moffat hasn't exactly been using a light touch with his penning on death's of the doctor. We know the doctor isn't going to stay dead and, even with suspension of disbelief, the more you use the "The Doctor is gone" gimmick the less effective it gets.

Serialized Plot

Steven Moffat loves to plot. He plots so hard. Day and night the man is a plotting machine.Which happens to be my largest issue with the show since he took it over. One of the strongest points of Doctor Who was that, while there were overarching plots through the seasons here and there, the show has generally been very episodic. Like catching an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation it, rarely mattered where you dropped in. You wouldn't necessarily want to watch the show out of order but if you wanted to introduce a friend to the show then you could pick a couple of your favorite episodes and let them watch without too much worry about needing to explain the details.
That is not the case at all since Moffat took over. The writing has become obsessed with showing off just how clever it is and the long winded and convoluted plotting, while being entertaining for fans to speculate about and light-heartedly shake their fist at Moffat when they get trolled by, is off-putting to potential new viewers and makes the show much more about the mental work of what is really going on than it is about the characters.
I hear this is going to improve in S7 as Moffat has said the season will be a bit more episodic. This sounds like good news as Moffat's best writing was back when he was just writing episodes and not arcs.

Sexy Amy

At the beginning of season 5 I really liked Amy Pond. She was snarky, energetic, sexy and didn't take the time lord's shit. As I worked my way through seasons five and six I came to like Amy less and less. I read an article on the Tiger Beatdown the other day that makes a lot of valid points against Amy's character. I agree with it pretty thoroughly. But above and beyond her kidnapping bait, sexual object, and womb personified statuses I really just hated the fact that she never grew as a character.We were constantly running into the same exact situations and conflicts so by the end of season six I was really just hoping Amy and Rory would stay at their nice little house that the doctor acquired for them by dubious means. I signed up for Doctor Who not Amy and Rory's Domestic Soap (IN SPACE). Amy and Rory are coming back for season seven although it will be their final season. Here's hoping Amy gets something resembling character growth before being permanently and thoroughly removed from the show.