Still Life with Stop Signs

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On the Road Again

So August 2018 has been a complete wash for me in terms of pretty much everything that I do: writing the blog, writing creatively, reading, video games, etc.  The Work-Life Balance needle swung waaaaaaayyyyyyy to the work side of the meter and I pretty much got nothing done in terms of my own personal projects.  Sometimes its just like that–there’s just nothing that I can do about that except work, work, work.

However (partly due to the holiday and partly due the fact that I bought a Chromebook and I’m now “untethered” from my Ethernet cable of my aging Macbook Pro), I should be back on track for my more creative endeavors–as evidenced by this blog post.  At some point, I’d like to get one of the new Macbook Pros, but right now, the outlay of money for the technology just isn’t worth it.  When I start selling stories, graphic novels, novels, and scripts to make the investment worthwhile, I will, but right now, all I really need is 1) a basic laptop with wifi access, 2) basic word processing, and 3) basic internet surfing.  For this reason, this Chromebook should give me what I need for just the basics and then I can use the Macbook Pro to fill out the more important computing functions that I have.

OtherWorlds

So, during this time, like a lot of YouTubers that I watch, I found myself wondering if what I am/was doing had any merit.  You see, earlier this summer, YouTube changed the payment “scale” for content creators so that basically on those with mega-channels or those with a LOT of followers (millions) were seeing real revenue.  There are YouTubers who used to be able to it as a day job or a hobby job and see real results for their efforts–not anymore, however.  More and more channels are disappearing or changing format and I, like them, wondered if I should change as well.  The answer is, no, Sci-Fi and Fantasy are the genres that I love.  Writing is something that I want to do and documenting my highs and lows (mostly in the writing arena), but also in life in general, and Science Fiction & Fantasy in particular is something that I really need and want to do.  So, I’m keeping OtherWorlds mostly the same.  There will be some slightly changes, but nothing major.  I’ll probably focus on Popular Culture and little more than I have been and I (may) do something with the scholarly blogs that I’ve set up for class (which means that I may try to keep up this as a general genre blog and set-up a more “professional” site and not mix the two as I sometimes do, but I’m still formulating this idea.

Avengers: Infinity War (Part I)

Over the holiday weekend, I got a chance to watch several sci-fi movies.  Some (most), I’ve seen before, but one in particular that I got to see was the latest Avengers movie, Avengers Infinity War.  I will write a review and put it on the list of Marvel movies (the ranking list) later, but I just wanted to let you all know that it was coming.  I still have to process this movie as it does not follow the traditional Marvel movie “form.”  More on this one in the upcoming week.

Hopefully, I’m back to a more regular schedule.  I’m going to cut it short now so that I can save some time for “writing.”  See you on tomorrow’s post (hopefully)

Sidney


 

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Decisions, Decisions–Chromebooks, Apple MacBooks, or Windows Laptops

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Word Count

  • Project Paradise Word Count: 357
  • Project Skye Word Count: 1617
  • Project Independence Word Count: 3041 
  • Project Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel Page Count: 12

So, yesterday I had the best of intentions–I wanted to write, but I didn’t.  I only managed to “think” about writing.  I intend to do better today.  I’m going to at least “outline” page 13 of the Ship of Shadows project.  Based on the high view rates for Monday’s post–“finishing” projects is what I really need to be working towards.

Currently Reading

  • For Fun: Edgedancer by Brandon Sanderson (Fantasy Novella)
  • For School: (A Book on the History of Rhetoric)
  • For Research/Personal Development: Great Aircraft of WWII by Alfred Price and Mike Spick (for Project Skye)

I wanted to read Oathbringer over the summer break before classes started again, but BS said that it might be helpful to read a Novella entitled, Edgedancer, before starting on Oathbringer.  I finally found a copy at MTSU’s library and I’m reading it now.  X gives a history of Rhetoric.  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.

Need a New (Wi-Fi) Laptop for the Summer

So, I have summer classes this year as well as a summer “assignment” to work on during my time at the Writing Center.  While there are computers in the Library that I have been using (including Laptops available for check-out), this still leaves me without a Wi-Fi connected computer while I’m in class, which is a major disadvantage because I can’t look up/refer to PDF documents online, or bring up other websites that might be germain to the discussion.  I love my MacBook Pro (even as old as it is), but the lack of Wi-Fi is a major detriment and deterrent to my being able to write (creatively or otherwise) in “spare” moments.

Chromebook

Right now, I’m leaning towards a Chromebook.  I’ve used them before when I was at East Lake Academy and I understand their limitations.  Basically, Chrome OS is just an upgraded browser with some other features added on to it.  As I really only envision using it as I did at East Lake Academy, for accessing Web Apps, the Web, and viewing/showing video, I’m thinking that a Chromebook should fit the bill.  The only downside to a Chromebook is that it has both limited presentation capabilities and its printing service is terrible.  As I have this computer (& the ones at MTSU’s library), I’m not so concerned with this particular limitation, but Google’s Cloud Printing service just doesn’t work for me.  Of course, neither of my printers are “Cloud Printing” compatible, coming out before this was a thing, but I usually have to connect directly to the printer or “sneaker”-net the file to my printer (or DropBox it, or use a similar solution) in order to be able to get it to print.  As someone who is often writing the document right up to the very last minute, that can make for some very stressful deadlines.

Apple MacBook/Pro

So, all things being equal, this is what I would be buying.  My computer is a 2008 MacBook Pro.  However, I’m in money-saving mode at the moment, and Apple’s products, while great from a usability and aesthetic standpoint, are NOT generally good for the cost conscious.  My plan is to get something that will get me through the summer and then upgrade this laptop to a newer model in the fall (hopefully from the WWDC announcement that should have aired by the time this blog post is published–if there is no Macbook/Pro announcement, then I may look into purchasing a *refurbished* 2015 Macbook Pro model as I can’t justify paying the cost of a 3 year old computer at the exorbitant “new” prices that Apple charges).  I love Apple’s products and their software platform (Independent Developers) create software that I like to use, but I simply can’t justify the expense at the moment.  I have too many other things that need to taken care of first and as a student, money is ALWAYS an issue.

Windows Laptops

So, I understand Windows 10 is doing much better than Wiudows 8 and, by all accounts, is a rock solid operating system.  I just do not like Microsoft as a company and so try to give them as little money as possible until they change their corporate ways (during my first draft of this post, I went into a long diatribe about Halo and the acquisition of companies/technologies, to the detriment of all but Microsoft, but suffice to say, I just don’t want to support MS as a company).  Having said that, if I could find a Windows 10 computer with full functionality, but at a price rivaling a Chromebook, I might look into the it, but the feature set would have to be extremely compelling, and it still wouldn’t be my main “driver” as I still would be looking for a MacBook/Pro in the Fall (either new or old, depending on June 4th’s WWDC announcement).

Anyway, I thought I’d detail some of my thoughts on trying to find a new Wi-Fi “laptop” as I head into the summer.  I’ll keep you posted on what I ultimately decide in a future post.

Sidney




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Witcher 3: The New (Old) Rhetorics of GrimDark

Hi, Everyone,

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Sorry that I haven’t posted in a while, but my WiFi for the past month or so has been out nearly 90% of the time.  I’ve been quite frustrated with it, but things seems to be better (fingers crossed).  In an update to the current OS, Apple has replaced discoveryd with MDSNResponder and I’ve replaced my new router with my old router.  Over the weekend (when I normally publish blog posts) WiFi was down, but as of Monday, WiFi has been up pretty much consistently for the past 3 days.  There was a small blip of about 2 hours, but everything came right back up.  As I write this entry on Wednesday afternoon, I’m WiFi enabled and it FEELS good!

I’ve been playing a lot the Witcher 3 and I’ve (mostly) been enjoying my time with it.  I have noticed that it seems to be part of that “GrimDark” genre that has taken hold in the Fantasy genre lately.  The idea that life is horrible and that everyone needs to die in order for fantasy to be “realistic.”  Game of Thrones didn’t start this movement (see Stephen R. Donaldson’s Chronicles of Thomas Covenant and Mordandt’s Need books for the early mid-80s take of GRRM’s series), but it has popularized it.

The rhetoric of postmodern fantasy is that there cannot be “good vs. evil” because that’s too simplistic.  You must have gray in everyone and everything.  Everyone (heroes included) must have some evil in them (and you must show it) and everyone (villains included) must have some good in them (and you must show it).  Otherwise, they say“your story is too simplistic and doesn’t mimic real life.”  It is too much of a fairy tale and real life doesn’t happen that way–we don’t have good vs evil, we just have everyday folks in a world of magic.

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This was brought home to me as I played a Quest in the Witcher 3 storyline.  Since i can’t spoiler tag anything reliably on my blog, I’ll be as non-spoilery as I can.  There is a decision that must be made and it is presented as do you kill x thing or do you free it?  I’d already been lied to by a “ghost” in another quest line and doing the “right thing” there ended up costing a life, so I was unsure how to proceed on this new storyline.  So, I spoiled it for myself and read the various outcomes via Wikis for Witcher 3.  Well, imagine my shock when I discovered it doesn’t really matter per se which outcome you choose.  Outcome 1: Some people die.  Outcome 2: Some other (different) people die.  The only choice you’re making is which set of people die.  The game doesn’t tell you that–it pretends that the choice is between “right vs wrong.”  One side says that something evil is killing things and then when you get to the evil thing, it says that it was imprisoned and that the other side is evil.  Neither choice actually saves anyone, however.  There are going to be deaths, the choice is actually whose deaths are you choosing, which the game intentionally misrepresents under the cloak of “right vs wrong” (This thing is evil and killing people, go kill it vs. I was imprisoned by those things–who are, by the way, going to eat some people, so set me free if you don’t want that to happen.)

Again and again, I can’t help but shake my head and wonder why have we decided that shades of gray somehow means a more complex and rewarding narrative vs a “good vs evil” hero’s quest yarn.  It doesn’t.  It’s just the “train wreck” phenomenon. Humans like stories and the tragedy is a genre of story where the protagonist fails and we watch that for the purient interest of watching a “wreck” unfolding in front of us.  It doesn’t make it a better or more complex tale than the “hero’s quest” or “good confronting evil.”

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Fantasy as genre, can (& should) do better than just the tired old “GrimDark” philosophy of the world is a crappy place that you live in and then die in (in as gruesome of a manner as possible) that seems to latch onto the genre like a leech every few years or so.  Fantasy should be about world-building, unique magic systems, awesome characters, and larger-than-life spectacle that push (but not break) a reader’s (or gamer’s) credulity.

I’ll Get You My Pretty (discoveryd and mDNSResponder and why I’m Peeved with Apple OS X)

This is perhaps the 4th or 5th post dedicated solely to my home network and the problems that I’ve been having with it.  Seems that I’m NOT alone.  There are multitudes of complaints and problems with the way WiFi works in OS X Yosemite.

Now, last time I talked about this, I thought that I had pretty much solved it, by going backwards with firmware, but the problem is even more insidious than I thought.

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Image Source: austinally.wikia.com

I’LL GET YOU MY PRETTY (So What’s Actually Wrong with my Network)

It appears that Apple (since 2002) has used a very reliable process for WiFi called mDNSResponder.  It has (apparently) been a workhorse over the years and has had very little in the way of issues.  Its like a worker bee that just drones away in the background and gets its job done the the best of its ability.  Well, last October, when Apple released OS X Yosemite, they decided to replace mDNSResponder with a new process for WiFi called discoveryd.  This process is more like a prima dona rockstar: Great when it works, but has so many issues that it isn’t worth investing in.  Based on what I’ve read, it appears to have been written to help OS X features such as AppNap and (perhaps) Power Nap but it has caused no end of frustration to users of Yosemite. Here’s what an article at Ars Technica said about the issue:

Resolving DNS names, resolving Bonjour machine names, resolving Bonjour service advertisement and discovery, and opening ports in NAT gateways to allow incoming network connections are all jobs that have been performed by the mDNSResponder daemon. This was introduced with Mac OS X 10.2 Jaguar back in 2002. mDNSResponder is written in C and has been released as open source by Apple, and it has found its way to all kinds of non-Apple operating systems and hardware.

Again, as of OS X 10.10, mDNSResponder has been replaced by discoveryd. Curiously, discoveryd is (re)written in C++, not exactly one of Apple’s favorite languages. It’s not on Apple’s list of open source projects . . . For instance, when the system is unable to resolve DNS names, discoveryd log messages indicate that it doesn’t recognize the replies from the DNS server to its own requests. discoveryd is also a frequent guest in the CrashReporter logs.

One of the functions of the mDNSResponder was to talk to a home gateway and ask it to forward incoming network connections for any services running on the Mac in question. In the non-Apple world, this is done with the uPnP IGD protocol, and Apple had its own NAT-PMP protocol for this. More recently, the IETF has standardized PCP, a new protocol that also works with IPv6 and firewalls, not just IPv4 and Network Address Translation (NAT) as used by home routers. mDNSResponder supported all of them, but it looks like discoveryd doesn’t use any of them.
Source: http://arstechnica.com/apple/2015/01/why-dns-in-os-x-10-10-is-broken-and-what-you-can-do-to-fix-it/

Wait, what?  Apple, your old software recognized old and new protocols, but your new and improved software doesn’t recognize any of them?

HOLD ON TO YOUR BUTTS

Now, I searched and searched trying to find the issue or cause of my network’s problems and instabilities.  I wasted countless hours trying to diagnose this problem, even reverting back to old hardware and firmware to see if I could get my network to go back to the way it was: rock solid.  It seems that I’m not the only one.  Word is that Apple has reverted back to mDNSResponder for the Beta of the upcoming OS X El Capitan.  Here’s what 9to5 Mac had to say (click on link previous link for full article): After many complaints from the developer community about poor networking performance on Yosemite, the latest beta of OS X 10.10.4 has dropped discoveryd in favor of the old process used by previous versions of the Mac operating system. This should address many of the network stability issues introduced with Yosemite and its new networking stack.

Now, while I’m hopeful that this will clear up the issue and help me get back to my first love (writing), I’m not too happy with Apple at the moment.  No where could I find any mention of these issues on Apple’s (official) Help pages for networking–they just gave general advice such as restart your router, etc.  If you know there’s a problem, or a problem piece of software/code, say so.  Relying on the forum’s to figure it out isn’t an answer.  I searched forum after forum and tried suggestion upon suggestion.  Most people knew there was a problem, but no one could narrow it down to one specific cause/case.  However, there were developers who had more experience who apparently were warning Apple about this very issue (I reference Craig Hockenberry’s blog on the issue–warning: Salty Language).

Now, I didn’t find out about the discoveryd issue until MacWorld included it in a segment on one of their podcasts and then I was able to look it up and see that, hey, those are the very issues that I’m having, ah ha, that’s why I can’t get my wifi back to being consistent and solid.  In the Ars Technica article, there are workarounds to getting mDNSResponder back on your system before Apple “officially” does it and I would have loved to have known that because I would have tried them during the school year.  Now, however, I have to either wait for El Capitan or risk losing the writing that I’m doing over the summer by trying those suggestions or signing up for the El Capitan Beta (the 1st solution involves going into terminal and the 2nd involves a beta–which is, by definition, a testing platform).

SOLUTIONS

I would love it if Apple designated their help files as Novice, Intermediate, Power User & Developer.  I consider myself a Power User and given enough information I can maintain my system rather well.  All that Apple needed to do (for me) to have been satisfied was to give those general hints (restart router, etc.) in the novice or intermediate categories, but in the power user section say, “if you’re still experiencing problems, it could be . . . (and say discoveryd might not be working correctly on your system.  You can find our older mDNSResponder here, download it and tell us if it solved your problem).

Or perhaps visit an Apple forum anonymously and point us in the right direction.  I can’t tell you how many forum posts I looked at on the Apple forums and none of them listed discoveryd as a possible vector.

Do I have wifi as I write this.  Nope.  I’m tethered to the ethernet cable.  Yet, as I look at my MacBook Pro’s Activity Monitor, I see both discoveryd and discoveryd_helper sitting there just staring at me.  But right now, my Apple TV and my iPad are both useless to me, so any research I need to do must be done here tethered to cable or not at all.  And to know that I still have to wait until El Capitan releases (probably in Oct., nearly 4 months away) before I get an “official” fix is all the more egregious.

Almost there . . . Wi-Fi and the Writer

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Almost there–this post takes its title from Star Wars: A New Hope (aka Episode IV) during the “trench run” sequence.  I think that I finally figured out the problem with my wifi (crossing fingers, knocking on wood, throwing salt over my shoulder, and any other good luck myths that I can use).

If so, that will solve a HUGE issue for my for my writing and should make me more productive and regular in terms of fiction and this blog.  I’m on summer break and I should be using this blog to explore ideas for writing for the upcoming writing year.  I’ve decided that, hey, I’m a teacher, so my writing year should start and continue all throughout the school year.  Kinda’ sorta’ like what companies do with their fiscal year.  Summertime should be a time to let projects lie fallow (for editing), trying to come up with rough drafts (for things to turn into stories later), and finally new ideas for new projects (that can turn into rough drafts later).

But, with no wifi, I’m chained to the one area in the house that my ethernet cable will reach and its really affected the way I write.  I finally think I tracked down the issue: long story made short, it appears to be an issue with the mac and the airport utility (firmware) used to communicate between the router and mac.

So here’s what I *think* happened: (new) airport basestation –> downloaded (new) firmware when I plugged it in and connected it.  (new) firmware and (new) airport basestation ≠ (old) 2008 macbook pro and (new) OS X (Mavericks/Yosemite).  plugged in old base station.  (old) base station + (new) firmware did not get along, resulting in an unstable wifi connection (up and down constantly with new and old basestations).  finally reverted back to (old) basestation with (old) firmware with (old) 2008 macbook pro with (new) OS X (Yosemite).  Did you follow all that?  That’s 6 months of reading forum posts, trying different OS X solutions, YouTube vids, and waiting to see if new updates of IOS/OS X would fix the problem (hint: it didn’t).

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Fingers very crossed that going backwards on everything but the OS results in a stable wifi connection again.  The computer is long in the tooth, I know, but it still has life in it and does everything I need it to do.  It runs all my software (except the games on Steam, but that’s what I have my PS4 for anyway 😀).  I would hate to spend money on a new laptop just yet when it really isn’t needed just to get wifi working on the new router if the old one will work just as well with the correct firmware.

I can’t say that I fault Apple for this–I mean this is a 7 year old computer.  But still, Apple has knocked it out of the park for me so often in that the software just works.  I never thought that I would experience a compatibility issue with Apple’s own router and firmware because of the age of the computer as everything worked seamlessly so far (and even when I used Apple software on Windows machines like Airport Utility for Windows, Safari for Windows, and iTunes for Windows–those all worked flawlessly).

More to the point, however, is how wifi affects me as a writer.  Unfortunately, I live in a neighborhood where it isn’t a good idea to show off your possessions (even a 7 year old laptop), otherwise I’d be living the writer’s dream and writing on the deck in all seasons except winter.  Since that can’t be the case, I find I write better (and more) when I find places inside with lots of sun and that are sun-warmed.  Ethernet, while giving internet access, limits me to the family room area (which is pretty dark and relatively cool), exactly the opposite of what I like as a writing environment.  Hence, my reluctance to write and one of the main reasons this blog is so haphazard.

I’m going to think positive and hope that I am “Almost There . . .” in getting my wifi situation sorted and moving up to be more productive and professional as a writer.

Errata

Sorry this blog post is late . . . IIterally just got Wi-Fi back about 50 minutes ago.  It has been out since Friday night.  Eventually I will get this problem sorted, but it is very annoying to say the least.  

BOOKS

Currently, working my way through 2 books: Trading in Danger by Elizabeth Moon (rereading) and Teen Titans: It’s Our Right to Fight (Graphic Novel).  I love the idea of a young girl as a space captain which is why I love this series by Elizabeeth Moon so much!  Later books go off the rails for me (they take the character too far from the roots by making her too much like Honor Harrington rather than fufilling the promise of interstellar trade/commerce with combat intermixed with shipping schedules.).  The Teen Titans have always been a “guilty pleasure” for me.  One of my first comic books was a Teen Titans title (the one where Starfire fights her sister–it also has the origin of X’Hale (?)).  The storyline is from the mid-eighties, but it was intense.  Another Teen Titans comic that I bought at the time was when Dick Grayson abandoned his Robin identity for Nightwing.  I remember not being impressed by the suit, but the late 90s/early 2000s revision made him relevant.

WRITING

I am approximately 1.5 sections (of 5 total sections) through Project Roland.  I missed writing on Tuesday, so I’m approximately a section behind.  I have a May 31 deadline, so I may need to step up the speed (as much as I can).  I have decided to work around my network issues by writing/working Project Roland when I have Wi-Fi and working on (paper & pencil) rough drafts/notes for other stories.  I worked on 2 ideas today while my network was out: Project Templar and Project Djinn.  Hopefully, these 2 projects will turn into short stories over the summer.  

MOVIES

Just rented White House Down last night and watched it via Amazon streaming.  I have to say that I wasn’t impressed.  I would give it 3 stars.  It is very derivative and the narrative seems to try for over-the-top spectacle at the expense of the narrative/characters.  It takes its cue from Die Hard, but I referenced scenes from The Matrix and an odd tone shift as we got a scene from National Treasure.  The other movie that dealt with The White House that summer was a better movie (Olympus Has Fallen).  It wasn’t great, but I didn’t have to work as hard to stay invested in it as I did with White House Down.  

I plan to see the new Avengers movie next week.  Internet willing, I’ll post (spoiler-free) impressions on the next blog entry.

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I think I’ll end this post here–talk to you all next week!

Ugh!  Wi-Fi, Writing & the Limits of Technology 

So, last week I shared with you that Apple released an iOS update that I thought would fix my Wi-Fi connectivity issues.

Well it worked for most of the week until last night. Last night as I was working on section number two of Project  Roland, my wi-fi decided to disappear and it has not reappeared as of my writing this blog post right now.

Luckily, I had mostly finished the part of the section that I was working on, but last night I was really in the groove.  I feel that I might have finished the entire section although it would’ve cost me several hours of sleep.

This blog post is being written on my iPhone you seeing my cell network and voice dictation.  It is not my preferred way to work, but at least technology allows you to have other options should your primary option on the street not work the way you need it to.

I do hope that Apple gets its iOS and network problems sorted soon.  Even though I am using a workaround, it is very different and difficult to create a blog post where as normally it is much easier and doesn’t require nearly as much effort.  I cannot imagine trying to work on project Roland portly using this method, let alone trying to write a long form work this way.  

For those who are wondering, I’ve been to several Apple support the red’s in the past. I am going to paste in a post from one of these threads that illustrates what I am currently facing: I had no trouble with wifi connections until I installed 8.3  Now I keep losing the wifi connection on my ipad2 . . .  I have tried the reset network connections, it really didn’t help, the wifi connection is intermittent.  Works for a while then drops out, nothing I can do to get it back but wait and wait and wait, then like magic, it comes back, but who knows for how long.  Please, Apple, fix this!!!  This is from a user named JaneSCA56 and Her post describes exactly what I am going through.  For those who want to follow this thread to find out when or if my issues will be fixed I have hopefully linked the thread to that message so all you need to do is click on the message to follow the thread  (as I will be doing).

To tie this back to technology, I think we need more stories about how technology doesn’t work or works only intermittently and heroes and protagonists must find ways to either work around the problem or or where they must find new and different ways to solve a problem even when technology doesn’t work as intended. I think that as I go forward I will try to add in more stories with these  themes.