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  Winter Waitingness 07:29 PM -- Thu December 29, 2005  

I just got the fixes on the 2nd to last WW world. There's just one more I'm going to give a little more time. I hope it comes in, because I hate having to put parts of it out after the pack happens. So that's the WW status as it stands.

Very close to nothing is getting done this week. And I don't mind. It's vacation, I daresay. Here's something wondrous: I got Guitar Hero for Christmas. If you don't know, it's a game where you play guitar. Simple as that. It's awesome. Imagine Dance Dance Revolution, but instead of stepping on the arrows, you hold down colored fret buttons on a plastic guitar and hit a strum bar. It even has a whammy bar to let you bend the notes. I have now finished Normal difficulty, although two songs in it have yet to be completed - Unsung is LUDICROUS. It's harder than any other song in the list, and it's only in the 3rd set out of 5! I even was able to do Cowboys From Hell, which incidentally is truly impossible (my first five tries, I didn't even get to the lyrics), but Unsung? No sir. It's that horrible lightning fast back and forth between red and yellow notes. It's murderous.

The great thing in Guitar Hero is that you truly experience getting better. I have just gradually gradually gotten better, and I can go back and check out the Easy mode songs I had so much trouble with initially, and just flat out wail on them. Even songs from the beginning of Normal mode, which were rather mind-blowing when I first saw them, are now just plain easy. I'm terrified to think how it can get even harder than it is, but somehow I think I'll actually just keep getting better. It's a magical game.
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  Festivus For The Rest Of Us 11:01 PM -- Fri December 23, 2005  

It's amazing just how much there is to do during the holidays. For example, there's spending days tending to your sick wife instead of working. That, and all the more common holiday madness, really slashed into my work plans. I had a secret project (see the Sneak Peek page!) that I really hoped (but didn't expect) to get done by Christmas as a big surprise. Well, it's not very far along at all. It's got some cool stuff in it though, and it will get done quickly when I finally do have time to do some work again. Then it's back to the usual projects, but I'm glad to do this one anyway. Such a nice feeling diving back into this old stuff. It's great.

Sadly, I am afraid that Winter Wackiness will not come out until at least Tuesday. I will be gone over the weekend, so no work to be done then. They're looking great from what I have played though. So consider the Sneak Peek to be the holiday treat you get. I know it's something many people have been pestering me for a lot. Winter Wackiness is a late Boxing Day present. Or an early New Year's one.

Have a nice time amongst yourselves, and I will plot more ideas for the secret project.
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  Sneak Peek: Guess! 10:53 PM -- Fri December 23, 2005  

Here's a montage of different parts of the big surprise game that was supposed to be out for the holidays and very very much wasn't. It's not very close to done at all, but give me a month or two and it'll be just about there.

So what IS it!? Good question! Feel free to guess. It should be pretty easy to figure out, but you have to guess the entire title, not just the easy part. Let's see if anybody can get it! Happy Holidays to all!
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  Birthday Update 07:04 PM -- Sat December 10, 2005  

To celebrate, I finally finished Sick Classic Mode in THUG2, and then proceeded to get the very last of the gaps (there was a FAQ involved, to be sure)! Hooray!!

There's also a 48-hour contest going on right now, and I have a really intriguing and weird entry partly done, but I think I'm going to drop it. I've done enough of it to see that it's weird and wacky (and I'll put it up sometime so you can see how funky it is), but not really worth pursuing when I have much more important things that NEED to get done. So much to do this holiday season...
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  Winter Fun 05:06 PM -- Wed December 7, 2005  

Work is proceeding at a breakneck pace right now for various super secret reasons. This weekend there's a 48-hour contest again, which I am really looking forward to, but I'm thinking I might not be able to enter, because I do need to keep plowing away at what I'm doing. I don't know, we'll have to see. Either way, I will be immersed in serious work at an intense pace. So that's why I am neglecting this journal now, and will be neglectful in the near future as well. I'll be back in time, with gifts!

Speaking of neglect, I haven't finished my novel, and haven't been writing an hour a day like I should. But this stuff I'm doing is important! On the other hand, I'd hate to lose my inertia and get lost as to what I should be doing. So I need to make time for that too... it might be a draining couple of weeks! Back to the grindstone. I'll try to be less sneaky about my projects in the future, but just let me have this one last shocker. I enjoy surprising people.
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  On Reuse 06:31 PM -- Thu December 1, 2005  

A lot of people think of living with recycling, reuse, simplification, etc, as living in misery. That is, you deny yourself everything fun and good for the sake of the world. And you can definitely do that, and it would be the best for the world, I am sure. But you don't have to do that. People like to think of that kind of misery and go "forget it!" and just continue on throwing trash everywhere.

But the right way to reuse and recycle is not that. Don't beat yourself up, don't go nuts and try to restore the world in one afternoon. It's about changing attitudes. There is no recycling where we live now, and it makes me uncomfortable. I don't feel right throwing away plastic bags and bottles and cans. I've recycled all my life, I was raised doing it. And that's the key. To develop your mindset such that you feel comfortable and happy doing the things that are good for the world. Not to deny yourself what you like, but to learn to appreciate and like things that are good.

The example that made me think of this issue: Today I was thinking about wrapping christmas presents. I thought of doing it in something reusable. In the past, once or twice, I've given things (to my wife) wrapped in a towel. It does the job, and you don't waste anything. I've also used junk mail quite regularly. Of course, I will end up using wrapping paper (maybe junk mail, but if we've already got wrapping paper as I think we do, it would be a waste not to use it!), and that's fine. I'm not denying myself the wonders of wrapping paper. Rather, I have the mindset that appreciates the craftsmanship and fun of wrapping things in junk mail, and feels good about the savings (not the biggest savings ever, more like a matter of principle - I'm lethally cheap).

There's lots of ways this kind of "appreciation of the bad" manifests in every life. My wife drives half an hour each way to get to work. But she appreciates the view (which is quite amazing on that road), and the time to think. Not that she doesn't often wish she could just teleport to work, but the drive is a small sacrifice for the great place to live (sure beats the city!). Another really simple example: I love ramen! It's very good. I eat it like 3 times a week.

So don't pity me and my ramen. I eat it because I like it. If I could, I'd recycle because it doesn't feel wrong like tossing recyclables does. I live my life the way I want to, because if I didn't... well, I'd be really stupid. So when it comes to doing the "right" thing, don't force yourself. Find the good in it, see if you can appreciate it enough to make it worthwhile. If not, I'd say you should find some other right thing to do, because forcing yourself to do things just doesn't work.

But there's so much fun and good feeling that comes from doing things that you know are good. I think most of the time, if you give it a try, you find you like it better than not doing it, even if just because of the feeling of doing good. A lot like exercise. And a lot like exercise, you'll often fall out of the habit and back to your slobbish ways. That happens too. But it doesn't change the fact that you really enjoyed the exercise, recycling, and ramen!

(One last example: I really appreciate my vegetarianism, because it's easier on my semifunctional stomach, cheaper, broadened my food horizons dramatically, stopped me from worrying about what's in my cutting boards, kept me from having to prepare gross raw meat, and it's a healthier diet. I could whine about the meat I miss the flavor of, but I almost never remember it - I'm too busy eating what I do have! Very busy, he said, patting his big belly)
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  November Ends 07:49 PM -- Tue November 29, 2005  

I'm proud! I printed out the certificate and pinned it to the wall already. I normally eschew such sillyality, but you know, I wrote 50,000 words in one month that all connect into a coherent tale (a crappy one, but each word does relate to the others!). I feel like I really accomplished something! Of course, on the other hand, the story isn't actually done. It's really close... I'm right in the middle of the climax, but it could be another 10,000 words before it's completely rounded up. And then it needs decades of editing before it's readable. But I did it!! I'm a nano winner!

I'll slow that down now... one hour a day should be good. Then when I finally finish I can set it aside for a couple months and pretend it doesn't exist, which would be for the best.

I got an early birthday present! It's a keyboard (the musical kind)! It's super cool and I am trying to be musical on it. I'm trying to learn some music theory, though I have no actual resources for doing so.

Spent all day today doing non-work things, but they were good. Christmas shopping! I love that I can do that while sitting here at my computer. Yesterday was Ninja work, got some stuff done there on the Ninja Skill system, which is how you earn belts. Belts serve no purpose other than to allow you to access harder levels (and that's only the first few, then the rest are just for fun). Ninja Skills are kind of like Gallery Goals, there are 99 of them, although many repeats like "Earn 100,000 total points" and "Earn 200,000 total points".

Wow, I feel like something is done. It's a weird feeling.
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  Thanks be to new news 08:32 PM -- Wed November 23, 2005  

Nanonews: I am at 46,600 words, writing the climactic showdown. It'll come in very close to just the right length, and I'll easily finish in time. Then, over the next 20 years or so, I'll rewrite and scribble out all over the thing, until at last it is somewhat legible. Should be exciting! Today Sol and I discussed some changes that would need to happen, and they were depressingly exhaustive. Rewrite may well be the right word, and I fear I won't ever have the energy for such an endeavor, which is a sad thought, because I like the story, even though I think I'll never have the writing skills to do it justice. We'll see!

Hey, don't forget to vote in the Monthly Merge! Time is running out for that. I've got plenty enough votes for WW, seems people much prefer voting on that than on the actual contest where they could win fabulous prizes! What's the deal there?

I want a desktop publishing program. I am thinking of getting PagePlus. I messed around with MS Publisher, which came with my computer, and did some extra fancy cards for Dueling Doodles, a card/drawing game of mine (formerly Art Attack for those in the know). They look cool. I can only imagine how much cooler they'd look if I had a decent publishing program! And then I could make catalogs, nicely written rules, and who can even guess what else. The wonders of DTP are limitless! We had a little talk about the prospects of self-publishing my card/board games and selling them here. Would be nice.

I finished playing Land Of Legends today. Fun! There's a "Legendary Campaign" it asked me to embark on next (the normal campaign again, only way harder). No thanks. I loved it, but I loved it being easy. I don't want torture.

Not a lot of work getting done this week, caught up in holidays and Sol being on vacation. I got a trailer hitch put on my car, that was fun. Now all I need is a trailer...
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  Dumb, Dumb, Dumb 10:26 AM -- Thu November 17, 2005  

I drew a "D" today, so work on Dumb: The Game I shall! The returns on that effort have so far been what might be called abysmal, especially for the hours I spend cranking out puzzles (I spent more than 3 hours making the one called "On The House"... oh, that was a tricky one). Unfortunately, after 8 (9?) years in this business, I have absolutely ZERO skill in marketing, so I don't even know how to go about making it popular and known.

I'm really happy with it in terms of actual results - it's a cool site that's a lot of fun, and I can't believe I'm still able to make puzzles for it and haven't completely run dry (and not a repeat of puzzle type yet! That'll be coming soon though, I'm quite sure). I just wish it was paying off. It just needs to get the exposure somehow. Presumably advertising it would be good (as opposed to just creating it and leaving it sitting there, which is what I've done so far!). Wish I knew a good place or way to do that. It's definitely the kind of thing, though, where once it gets over a certain point, it'll grow on its own, as people introduce it to others.

And for that, it shall need more puzzles! Which is what today is about. I consider 100 puzzles my "done" point, where I won't stop making puzzles, but I'll stop worrying about the need to crank them out. I'm quite a ways from 100, and I don't know if I'll ever get there... feel free to submit your own ideas! It helps.

Nanonote: I'm just under 35,000 words. Still way ahead of schedule! Whoopee!!
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  NanoThoughtMo 08:41 PM -- Mon November 14, 2005  

This weekend, we had no Netflix handy, so we dipped into our lineup of movies we own for something to watch (we have no cable/satellite/whatever, but we still have the addiction toward sitting in front of a glowing box mindlessly). We watched 3 movies: Dogma, Unbreakable, and The Matrix. They were all highly inspirational towards my nanowrimo writing. I think in part a lot of the ideas I had actually were originally inspired by those movies.

Like Unbreakable, my story is about a superhero kind of thing, but trying to deal with how it would be in the real world (not that I will admit to any knowledge of the real world, or ability to describe such), although mine is a lot less in the standard superhero mold.

There isn't a lot directly related to Dogma in my story, but somehow it fits. Mainly just to be inspired by the writing of Kevin Smith.

From The Matrix, well, I pretty much rip it off relentlessly. Like the Matrix, my story is (intended to be) somewhat philosophical, dealing with what reality is, though really I only use that as a kind of setting for the action to place in. But like The Matrix, it's about people being able to 'break the rules' of reality (but like in the movie, there's a reason why they can, and that is the mythology of the story, but that mythology only exists to give me a reason for the storyline). I was always really moved by the end of The Matrix, and that's probably the core of the inspiration to my whole story, although it burbled in my head for many years, so it's a real mishmash, not just a rip-off. All about finding inner strength to overcome obstacles. I'm afraid my ending might come out pretty similar, although I was always disappointed that Neo died (I'm not even gonna put *SPOILER* because, come on people, it's THE MATRIX). To me it would've been much more powerful, and more importantly, logical and realistic, if he had refused to die in the first place, if he just decided that that rule couldn't apply to him. But I guess they couldn't be all up in the Christian mythos if that had been the way. And they had to have the whole romance/wake-with-a-kiss crap. I have no such hangups! In my story, if someone dies, it's over. Luckily you won't care, since they're not well-written enough to be appealing!

Two other Nanothoughtmos. First, I never understood when writers would say things like "my character did something I never expected!" Steven King discusses that stuff a lot in On Writing. But I always thought it was wacky hippy nonsense. No more! I've never written anything nearly as long as what I'm writing now (30,000 words so far!), and I've seen that happen time and again in this story. It twists in ways I never thought up, and characters go places I didn't expect (and new characters appear). I don't have the willful vapidity needed to claim that the characters are writing themselves, though. I know I'm writing this, and it's all coming out of my brain. It's just that over the course of such a long project, things end up working out to be easier, or cooler, or just a better fit, when done a new way. Or I find I need to bring in a new character for reasons I hadn't considered. But it's cool, and it is kind of magical seeming. Like I wrote stuff way at the beginning that I thought was a throwaway, and since then it's percolated in my mind while I wrote other parts, and suddenly there's a spot where I can tie it into the main story in a way that makes the whole thing better. It's really amazing, especially just the sheer number of things that are coming together in ways I never expected. This isn't anything like the story I originally had (although to be fair, it was a lot more like a premise than an actual story). It's really amazing!

Okay, this is almost as long as the novel itself. But here's the final Nanothoughtmo. Picture a novel you think is really crappy. I can't think of any good generic examples offhand. But when you picture the author of this book, I'm sure you think like I do: he's some hack who is just cranking out words soullessly to try to make a quick buck. Or so I always thought before. But here I am now, and I am the hack! I mean, when you think of a book that has no real depth or message, just shlocky romance, or murder mystery, or fantasy junk that's just about beefy guys slaying dragons, you don't think of it meaning something to anyone. But that's what I'm writing. It's totally just an action sci-fi horror fantasy urban thing, it has no deeper meaning, I'm not trying to put forth a metaphor for the Israel-Palestine conflict, I'm just writing an adventure that sounds interesting and exciting to me. So it is exactly that shlock you think of as churned out for a quick buck. I mean, there is sort of a "meaning of the universe" thing going on in it, but it's purely invented - just stuff that's there to drive the action, not like some kind of attempt to explain how the real universe works. It's definitely not my philosophy on reality. It's more like just a different kind of fantasy shlock.
But what makes this an interesting thought is that though the story would be, if you read it, just a throwaway bit of fluff for you, it's a life-changing experience for me, the writer! I don't know how to explain it, but to me, it's not a bunch of words I'm rushing out to make a buck (especially since I don't think I'll be able to sell it), it's a powerful experience of delving into my mind and seeing what's in there. What's in there is ridiculous over-the-top action and bad dialogue that doesn't make a lot of sense, but that's only a problem for you, the reader. For me, there's a lot to the experience. It's powerful. Does that make sense? It sounded so much better when I was doing the dishes earlier. I'll never look at crappy books the same way again. I now understand that even though it's throwaway junk from my perspective, for the writer, it's a grand experience.

But I could be wrong, those guys may just be hacks, and this is only special for me because it's my first time writing one continuous thing that's so long.
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