Chromebook Nation

Chromebooking It

I was able to, at the beginning of the semester, to get a Chromebook and it has really helped me to be far more productive.  Now don’t get me wrong, I’m still an Apple MacBook Pro fan. However, for general web browsing and research, the Chromebook has been a godsend (something I should have gotten over the summer and I would have been far more productive, but hindsight is 20/20).  A Chromebook, as long as you use web-based apps, and have an internet connection, is a perfect, cheap, alternative to most computers.  Is it as sophisticated and versatile–no, it isn’t.  However, it does the one thing that I need/want it to do: basic access to the internet and web-based platforms WITHOUT having to use Microsoft’s Windows.

Alternatives to Windows

Basically, until Microsoft stops 1) criminalizing users of its Windows Operating System by making them register copies of the operating system with a license that they can’t alter and 2) forcing draconian licensing agreements on users of its X-Box systems, I will NOT support them in ANY form (to the best of my ability).  In the age of corporate conglomeration, it is almost impossible to truly boycott a corporation’s products in order to affect change in any meaningful way.  However, Microsoft (along with Electronic Arts) is the poster-child for corporate machinations that I simply do not agree with no matter how much money their shenanigans make for their shareholders.  As such, I refuse to purchase Microsoft products or products that I know will directly or indirectly benefit Microsoft (and to a lesser extent, EA).  As such, I use Macs and Chromebooks because they 1) do what I need them to do, 2) allow me to accomplish the things that I want to accomplish and 3) they DON’T benefit Microsoft.

Basic Web Browsing

My school (MTSU) uses a web-based platform (D2L) to help students and professors move into learning in a digital environment.  Since my wifi adapter no longer works on my 2008 Macbook Pro, it is very difficult to find places on campus where I can use an ethernet cable to “plug in” and find places where I can help my students become stronger students through grading and discussions online. However, the Chromebook helps me to achieve this as it is robust enough to handle the web-based nature of D2L.  Also, since most “apps” now have an Android app and/or a web-based presence, it is much more useful than one would think it might be based on the specs alone.  The true strength of the Chromebook is that, as long as you have an internet connection, it is pretty much a full featured computer and analogous to its “bigger” brothers–Windows PC/Macs.  Now this is really true if you’re not into gaming or any other processor intensive tasks, but if most of what you do/use it for is web browsing, streaming, light audio-visual, then it functions pretty much as (at least for me) a fully functional computer–allowing me to leave my MacBook Pro at home.  I’m able to MOST everything I want to via the web or web apps, it has long battery life (up to 2 – 3 days of medium to heavy use on 1 charge cycle), and it is highly portable, so it is the perfect solution where I have WiFi 90% of the time.

This isn’t a permanent solution, but it is A solution.  One that is helping to at least stay current in my graduate school and creative writing lifestyle.  Without it, I would be losing ground instead of treading water.  So, I say, until I can Macbook Pro it, I’m going to continue to Chromebook it.

Sidney




  • Current Work-in-Progress: The Independent (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 2nd Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Project Star (Sci-Fi Short-Story -1st Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue #1, Currently on Script Page 25)

 

 

 

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Sorry

Will be posting on a irregular schedule this week. Attending MTSU Orientation this week & working, so will be a little off this week. Sorry!

Hopefully, I will get back on track next week.

Sidney

Talking ’bout my Generation: Generation X

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Generation X Traits. Image Source: Karen McCullough (https://www.karenmccullough.com/generation-x-time-pass-torch/)

Word Count (What I’m Writing); Updated every 2-3 Days (mostly)

  • 1st Draft – “Project Dog” (Exposition)
    Okay, so I’m revising the way that I work. I rough drafted a new short story project called “Project Captain” (I have a title for it, but I’ll wait to unveil it). I’m now working on the first draft of “Project Dog,” a sci-fi story (I seem to be on a sci-fi kick these days). I finished the exposition last night and will move on next to the part of the story.
  • Whale Song Revision (Fantasy Short Story) (2nd Draft)
    (Researched an article on Whaling, think that I have the two characters–a brother and a sister who are on the opposite sides of the issue.  Still, no Writing so far). Need to find a place to work in revisions–I can draft new material just fine, but I don’t seem to have any time to work on “drafting” revisions.

Currently Reading (What I’m Reading); Updated Weekly (mostly)

  • For Fun:
    Transhuman edited by Mark L. Van Name and T. F. K. Weisskopf
    Just started this anthology – it was given to me at a LibertyCon some years ago, but I’ve just now gotten around to reading it. I may not finish it/read all the stories, but so far, I’ve read the first story and liked it.
    The Belgariad David Eddings
    Last week was NOT a good week, so I needed some “comfort food” for reading and my go to book for “comfort food” is the Belgariad (followed closely by Diane Duane’s So You Want To Be a Wizard.)
  • For School:
    Afrofuturism (by Ytasha Womack): This book describes the academic genre of Afrofuturism (essentially African American Science Fiction that deals with social issues in culture).  I just finished Chapter 5 today and I’m at the beginning of Chapter 6 (this book has 10 chapters).
    Wrote out a fairly extensive list of possible research topics to explore from chapter 5. Really intriguing book.
  • For Research/Personal Development:
    Great Aircraft of WWII by Alfred Price and Mike Spick (for Project Skye)
    Great Aircraft of WWII is a book that I’ve had in my collection for sometime–I’ve glanced at it periodically, but never read it cover-to-cover.  Now, with Project Skye, I intend to do just that.

Generation X

There are very few images of me online (mostly because I don’t really put the images that I take online), but if you looked at me, chances are good that you wouldn’t think that I’m as old as I am. While I look like a Millennial (or so I’m told), I’m actually part of Generation X, a generation that, I feel, has been largely forgotten in the midst of the two mega-generations: Baby Boomers and the Millennial. I wanted to take a moment to talk about my generation for a moment.

The Melting Pot

One of the problems that I see (particularly in today’s society and culture, especially in America) is the loss of the idea of the “Melting Pot.”  In fact, this was a central tenant of the new burgeoning race relations in this country after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the ending of the segregation laws. There was this idea that America was a bright and shining land in which all races could (and should) blend together in a “Melting Pot” in which we each shared in each other’s cultures, values, and traditions in order to make us a strong, unified nation, instead of the divisive, back-biting nation that we had become under the racist ideologies of segregationists. I watched in wonder growing up as this (unforced) diversity played itself out, watching the various cultures of Laverne and Shirley, Happy Days, Alice, The Love Boat, Fantasy Island, American Bandstand, and Mork & Mindy to name a few. Now, let me be clear, these were not a part of my particular culture, but it was fun to look in on them to see how they lived, worked, and played. My own culture, in fact, consisted of shows like Good Times, Sandford & Sons, Different Strokes, The Jeffersons, What’s Happening!!, Soul Train, 3-2-1 Contact, and The Electric Show. While featuring a predominately African American cast or a cast of diverse races, they still brought in guest stars from other races which helped to promote this idea of the seeing the “Melting Pot” in action. This, sadly, went out of vogue toward the end of the 1980s and early 1990s and it seems this idea isn’t as prevalent or ingrained in the succeeding generations.

Technology

One of the things that stands out about my generation is the fact that we got to see many of the technologies that are now ensconced in culture, develop and mature (and in some cases die). We are very much “children of technology.”  Most of us can remember the time before there was MTV (and music videos), remote controls for TVs (you actually had to get up and go to the set to change channels, the rise (and fall) of CDs, DVDs, and (unless something changes in the near future) Blu-Rays. We’ve seen the rise of video games and seen them crash into a heap, buried in landfills, only to rise again, like a phoenix and become the titans of the entertainment industry. We’ve seen the computer morph and merge from the introduction of the original Apple computers when they were the “new kid on the block” and now (as of a few days ago), Apple is the first trillion (with a “t”) dollar company. We can remember when computers only had 64K of memory (Commodore 64) or when video game controllers only had one button. I could go on and on, but in most cases, Generation X have seen the rise of many of the technologies that we use on a daily basis.

Sure, every generation sees new technologies and progress during their lifetime, but I feel this is where Generation X is unique. Having had a period in our lives without excessive levels of technology, but gaining it early in our lives, we are comfortable with technology or without it. We don’t need it to stave off boredom, but use it to enrich our lives. We aren’t afraid of technological change, or the pace at which technology changes, but we don’t require technology. It isn’t a necessity for us, rather a tool that enriches our lives. I find, that as a Generation X’er, I am as comfortable with a book as I am with a Kindle as I am with the Kindle app on my phone. Any of the three would useful to me depending on the situation and circumstances in which I wanted to read.

Bourne to Win

Jason Bourne.  I love the character, I love the inventiveness of his characterization, and I love the pathos that Matt Damon portrays when playing the role of Bourne. However, I do have an issue with Bourne. He’s perfect–and he did nothing to earn his perfection. One thing that I feel that Generation X has learned is that life is hard. If you want something, you have to work for it until you get it. You have train and work and sweat and sacrifice, but if you do so, more often than not, you’ll find the rewards are well worth the effort.

The problem with Bourne is that we never really see him train. Sure, he’s this ultra-cool, ultra-competent fighter agent, but he “discovers” his fighting ability in the first movie, The Bourne Identity. Yes, later movies flesh this out and show more of his history, but what it took to get him to have his almost preternatural fighting ability is hidden from the audience.

In many ways, Generation X is the last major generation that got to see that hard work yields results. I can remember the training montages in the Rocky movies in particular and remember equating hard work with success. Now, with the Bourne movies, those qualities of hard work, discipline, and training are hidden away from view, making it seem that one can be (and should be) freakishly good at something without having to put the hard work to become good at it.

In closing, every generation pushes against the one before it and the ones after it. It is, perhaps, the natural order of things–the old must eventually make way for the new and this cycle continues. However, even in this cycle, I think we can take a moment to both reflect on this cycle and ways that we can temper its effects. While my generation is caught in-between Baby Boomers and Millennials, there’s no reason why we can’t all find away to learn from (and respect) each other’s ways of seeing the world.

Instead of looking back at the past and the divisions that defined us, why not look forward instead at the ways our commonalities unite us?

Sidney




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I earn a small commission on the purchase of these items.

(Unintended) Story Research: “The Independent”

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Truck carrying oversized load (SpaceX rocket). Image Source: https://cdllife.com/2018/video-trucking-spacex-rockets/

Word Count (What I’m Writing); Updated every 2-3 Days (mostly)

  • Revision Month (i.e., “2nd Draft” Central)
    I have stories that I’d like to revise during this month, but I’ve not tried to do multiple projects inside of a single month before and I’m not sure that’s going to work, but I can’t think of any other way. Projects currently awaiting revision include: “Whale Song,” “The Independent” (subject of today’s blog post), “Project Skye,”
  • Whale Song Revision (Fantasy Short Story) (2nd Draft)
    (Researched an article on Whaling, think that I have the two characters–a brother and a sister who are on the opposite sides of the issue.  Still, no Writing so far). Need to find a place to work in revisions–I can draft new material just fine, but I don’t seem to have any time to work on “drafting” revisions.

Currently Reading (What I’m Reading); Updated Weekly (mostly)

  • For Fun:
    Transhuman edited by Mark L. Van Name and T. F. K. Weisskopf
    Just started this anthology – it was given to me at a LibertyCon some years ago, but I’ve just now gotten around to reading it. I may not finish it/read all the stories, but so far, I’ve read the first story and liked it.
    The Belgariad David Eddings
    Last week was NOT a good week, so I needed some “comfort food” for reading and my go to book for “comfort food” is the Belgariad (followed closely by Diane Duane’s So You Want To Be a Wizard.)
  • For School:
    Afrofuturism (by Ytasha Womack): This book describes the academic genre of Afrofuturism (essentially African American Science Fiction that deals with social issues in culture).  I just finished Chapter 5 today and I’m at the beginning of Chapter 6 (this book has 10 chapters).
    Wrote out a fairly extensive list of possible research topics to explore from chapter 5. Really intriguing book.
  • For Research/Personal Development:
    Great Aircraft of WWII by Alfred Price and Mike Spick (for Project Skye)
    Great Aircraft of WWII is a book that I’ve had in my collection for sometime–I’ve glanced at it periodically, but never read it cover-to-cover.  Now, with Project Skye, I intend to do just that.

Stumbling Upon Research for a Story

As I was watching YouTube videos over the weekend (to decompress from a fairly hard week last week), I stumbled upon a set off “trucking” videos on the site. Now, I’d actually found one earlier in July and watched it for details regarding living in a cab and the “realities” of being in such a small space for trips across country hauling freight. YouTube’s algorithms must have finally caught up with that particular viewing because it started offering other trucking videos over the weekend. One YouTuber, in particular, by the handle of indianajacktrucker caught my eye and I watched one of his videos. That one video gave quite a bit of insight into the trucking profession, covering trucking etiquette, truck stops, parking, why truckers are using their trucks instead of truck stops, food, and even a poignant moment discussing the murder of another trucker who parked in an abandoned parking lot because a “big box” store wouldn’t allow him to park on their parking lot.

The Independent = Project Independence= “Space Truckers” = Real Truckers = Story Research

So, readers of the blog over the past year have heard quite a bit about the story that I wrote entitled, “The Independent.”  It was referred to under the name Project Independence & Space Truckers on the blog. It was my attempt to “futurize” the profession of the “trucker” (i.e., what would freight hauling/haulers look like in the future)? Now, this isn’t unique–it remember games like Starflight and Elite (& and from what I hear, Elite Dangerous) were doing something similar as far back as the mid 1980s. However, I’ve not seen it done in fiction in a way that I personally like, so I wrote this story (with hopefully a larger story in mind).

2nd Draft–Focusing on Characters

I’m planning on rewriting the story and focusing more on the characters. Hopefully, now that I have all of the “events” of the story locked down in more or less the way that I want them, I’m hoping to create “Larger Than Life” characters who are at once memorable and realistic. Just by watching this one video (and I’m hopefully going to watch more next weekend when I have more time), I have quite a few ideas for the two main characters and the secondary characters, especially in regards to character traits. Now, I feel like my major task should be to try to come up with Internal Conflicts for the two main characters that they can be struggling with in regards to the story. I feel that this is where I’m weakest at the moment (more on this to come in a future blog post), but now that I’ve written the 1st draft and spent some time away from it, I can see the problems with it more objectively and hopefully work on fixing them to the best of my ability in this new 2nd draft.

Well, that’s all I have time for at the moment. Here’s hoping you have a great day!

Sidney




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I earn a small commission on the purchase of these items.

Tai-Chi Experience

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Word Count (What I’m Writing); Updated every 2-3 Days (mostly)

  • Project Ship of Shadows (Graphic Novel) Page Count: 20
    Goal = 5 Pages a week.
    Actual = 4/5 Pages done so far this week.
    Didn’t get any more pages done. Intended to “Rough Draft” the next five pages, but was too tired to do so. Perhaps weekends would be better for rough drafting while weekdays better for draft? We’ll try it and see. Perhaps another blog entry in the making

  • Whale Song Revision (Fantasy Short Story) (2nd Draft)
    (Researched an article on Whaling, think that I have the two characters–a brother and a sister who are on the opposite sides of the issue.  Still, no Writing so far). Need to find a place to work in revisions–I can draft new material just fine, but I don’t seem to have any time to work on “drafting” revisions.

Currently Reading (What I’m Reading); Updated Weekly (mostly)

  • For Fun:
    Transhuman edited by Mark L. Van Name and T. F. K. Weisskopf
    Just started this anthology – it was given to me at a LibertyCon some years ago, but I’ve just now gotten around to reading it. I may not finish it/read all the stories, but so far, I’ve read the first story and liked it.
    Traveller RPG: FINISHED!
  • For School:
    Afrofuturism (by Ytasha Womack): This book describes the academic genre of Afrofuturism (essentially African American Science Fiction that deals with social issues in culture).  I just finished Chapter 3 today and I’m at the beginning of Chapter 4 (this book has 10 chapters).
  • For Research/Personal Development:
    Great Aircraft of WWII by Alfred Price and Mike Spick (for Project Skye)
    Great Aircraft of WWII is a book that I’ve had in my collection for sometime–I’ve glanced at it periodically, but never read it cover-to-cover.  Now, with Project Skye, I intend to do just that.

Not a Normal Saturday

So today is not a normal Saturday for me. Normally, at this time in the day, I would either be on the road or already at home, deeply ensconced in a video game. However, a friend of mine asked me to attend a Tai-Chi class today. I decided why not and will meet her in a few minutes to attend the class. Consider this blog entry as the “Pre-Class” experience part of the blog entry. I’ve done martial arts (karate) as a child, but I’ve never really been into the more transcendental arts such as Tai-Chi and Yoga that deal with spirit as well as athletics (or at least as I’ve pictured them). I’ve been wanting to pick up the martial arts again, going so far as to research Tae Kwon Do, Karate, and Wing-Chun in my local area and making phone calls/visiting web pages to research prices, times, and locations, but they never seemed to work out. Well, actually the Wing Chun dojo in Chattanooga (Dojo Chattanooga) looked like it would be a good fit, but that was before I started in PhD school. It is probably still doable, but I don’t want to commit to something that I can’t see through and the June that I just had would have probably been a step too far in terms of actually going to class and training.  Or so I tell myself, which is why I find myself on MTSU’s campus on Saturday morning . . . and I’m wondering if this is a good starting point. I guess I’ll find out soon.

I’ll let you know how it went in the next blog post. Stay tuned!

Sidney




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I earn a small commission on the purchase of these items.

Finished Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson (Mini-Review)

Oathbringer_Amazon

Word Count (What I’m Writing); Updated every 2-3 Days (mostly)

  • Project Independence Word Count: 6,000 words (+1,200 words)–1st Draft Finished (7/6/18)
  • Project Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel Page Count: 12

Goal = 5000 words  by July 7. 
Actual = 6,000 Words finished on July 6.  I wrote 1,200 words Friday night while I waited to go home.  I didn’t have a great couple of days, so I just wrote.  I only had 178 words for the 5,000 word goal, but when I got there, I wasn’t finished, so I just kept writing until the story was done.  I’ve given it to my alpha readers and then will do another draft whenever I get the feedback back from them.  I’ll probably work on a revision/revisions for the month of July before delving back into a new project in August.  Watch this space for future developments.

Currently Reading (What I’m Reading); Updated Weekly (mostly)

  • For Fun:
    Transhuman edited by Mark L. Van Name and T. F. K. Weisskopf
    Just started this anthology – it was given to me at a LibertyCon some years ago, but I’ve just now gotten around to reading it. I may not finish it/read all the stories, but so far, I’ve read the first story and liked it.
    Traveller RPG: I started this a while ago as a book that I was reading just before bedtime, but I didn’t really make much headway.  I restarted it and I’ve just finished the introductory character generation section and I’m now moving on to the skills section and will be soon moving into the “lore” section.  This is a revamp (rules 2.0) of an old school British RPG from the 1980s.  Updated for modern times, this fairly short book still gives a great set of rules, game system, and lore that I hope will serve as inspiration for new sci-fi works in my own writing life.
  • For School:
    Ancient Rhetorics, Digital Networks: A book that combines New Media (digital rhetorics) and combines them with ideas and theories of the Ancient Rhetorics.
  • For Research/Personal Development:
    Great Aircraft of WWII by Alfred Price and Mike Spick (for Project Skye)
    Great Aircraft of WWII is a book that I’ve had in my collection for sometime–I’ve glanced at it periodically, but never read it cover-to-cover.  Now, with Project Skye, I intend to do just that.

Finished Oathbringer Last Week

So, I finished Oathbringer last week.  I wasn’t intending to finishing it, but I can’t say that my week was the greatest due to the amount of schoolwork that I had this week and the fact that I didn’t do as well on my presentations that I would have liked.  So, as normal, I retreated into my books, specifically Oathbringer and finished off approximately 250-300 pages this week.  The book clocks in at over 1,200 pages (!) and I had been reading 2-3 chapters per day, until the last couple of weeks.  For those who don’t know, Oathbringer is book 3 in Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archives series.

Dalinar’s Story

Each book in the series, so far, has a focus on one or two major characters while other characters are present, but are in the background.  In each of the two previous, we find out about the background of our “focus” character throughout the course of the novel.  Book 1, The Way of Kings was Kaladin Stormblessed’s story, while Book 2, Words of Radiance  was Shallan’s story.  Even though Jasnah Kholin is on the cover, it is actually her father, Dalinar, who is the “focus” of this novel.  We get to see his history and his motivations as to how he became “Blackthorne,” a figure to be feared and why he moved away from that persona.  Sanderson masterfully weaves the reasons into the story and by the end of the book, we see Dalinar journey on an arc that leaves Dalinar (and the readers) with an understanding of why Dalinar deliberately learned to restrain his battle lust.

Moving the Story Forward

What I like most about this Fantasy series is that it actually moves the story forward.   If there’s one thing Sanderson is good at, it is actually progressing the story.  For instance, the “Big Bad,” Odium, has been teased for two books, but this book, not only do we get to see him, we also get to interact with him and see what makes him the “big bad” in this story.  In other words, he gets Darth Vader it up.  Other contemporary fantasy writers (I won’t name names) tend to stay mired in the potential of the threat, rather than actually getting to the threat itself.  I really liked this book.  While it isn’t my favorite novel in the series–that honor still goes to Book 1, The Way of Kings–I still thought that it was a great novel that really engages the reader while moving the story forward.

Overall Grade: B+

A very good addition to the series.  Maybe not the best one so far, but it definitely slacked my thirst for new content in that universe.  Now that I’ve finished it, however, I’m consigned to wait another 2 to 2 ½ years for Brandon Sanderson to release another.

Sigh.

Sidney




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I earn a small commission on the purchase of these items.

 

 

Going Loud (but not Stupid)

Going Loud

I guess the theme is going to be mostly about characters this week. One of the things that I really want to do is to make my characters become more distinctive. I’m trying to address a concern that I have about my characters being too passive, not in that they do not act, but rather they’re too reserved and don’t emote. I need them to become more distinctive and to stand out more.

Being Stupid

So, I’m probably going to step on some toes here, but I hate stupidity in ALL its forms. There are people on YouTube/Twitch who do “drunk ” streams and I can’t click away from their content quick enough (and in some cases, block them entirely). So I have to make sure that as I’m creating my characters and trying to push them out more and give them more distinctive traits, that I don’t overdo it and push them into “stupid” territory. Hopefully, my beta readers will let me know if my characters become too farcical rather than the real emotive beings that I imagine them to be.

Sidney