25 April 2011

My Poetics - Why I Write Fiction

My desire to write started when I failed, repeatedly, at this online text-based role-playing game. My first experience was horrible because I didn’t understand much about online gaming, let alone text-based gaming AND role-play. You create a character, log into the server and utilize a series of commands to perform functions. In simplistic terms and structure, it looks something like this:

You see a dagger
>get dagger
You get a dagger
>look dagger
You look at a dagger

Then on the screen, you might see something like this:

It is a small, steel dagger with a leather grip. The steel blade has a 12-inch, engraved surface: The Enforcer

>wield dagger
You wield a dagger. You are ready to adventure!

I hope I was able to demonstrate how a character would interact in a text-based online game. It gets more complicated as you advance within the game. However, to elucidate, I left it at simple interactive steps.

Anyway, I found myself in a world that became increasingly easy to maneuver and I loved the descriptions of the settings, the descriptions of other characters who obviously played the game for many years, as they were very adept in gaining levels and playing their roles. I was considered a “newbie” in this world, but when I reached a certain level in game play, I realized that I had not played a successful character. In order to play a successful character you have to be believable. I was a big joke.

In other words, I had not done the evil things expected of an evil character, to which I was. Evil characters do not smile and wave cheerily at people. Evil characters steal from people and they even kill people, neither of which I was prepared to do. I also had a hard time keeping white bunny rabbits from devouring me in battle when attempting to collect fuzzy, white, rabbit feet. I wasn’t very convincing in my role.

Therefore, after living in this game world with my first character, I decided that I would build another character and hope that I could play it more successfully, and I did. However, something was lacking. I had this brand new character and I mastered all the commands. Now what? There were the same weapons, the same monsters to kill and all the descriptions of the land were the same. In essence, I was another character in the same setting and I was bored!

Nevertheless, I could make it work. I could role-play my character and interact with the other characters and we could create our own story, right? Wrong. Try joining a religion, where all the characters that have to accept you must like you. However, you are an evil character! In addition, you are trying to join Set’s church, God of Darkness, Hatred and the Fiery Depths of Hell….but the other characters don’t like you because you once stole from their friend and you once killed their high school buddy who plays the character Sinbad!

My angst grew and grew. Those were my frustrations in trying not only to play a character but to create a story within which others must participate in order to make real and believable. Even though it is role-play and fictitious, it was hard to get past all the egos and get other characters involved. Try forming a clan and becoming a boss when everyone in the game wants to be a boss. Therefore, you have 20 players, 20 clans, and they all have exactly one member…the boss of the clan. Okay, that was an exaggeration.

Thus, I hung up my joystick and took to solitary writing so that I could create my own stories and nobody could stop me from writing it just how I wanted it to be written. In addition, if my character joins the Church of Set, all parishioners will bow when he enters and they will accept him or experience the wrath of Diane Carlisle, the writer of this damn story!

19 April 2011

Smart Fiction

I recently finished reading Stephen King's "Herman Wouk is Still Alive"

I loved it, but I've come to realize that some people cannot separate the role of fiction from that of political motivation. They have a problem with King's depiction of the characters in this story. If you read the story at that site, please read the comments as well to understand what I mean. Some readers get really offended by the characters we depict if they feel that the author isn't genuinely knowledgable of the "type" of people they characterize in their "fiction". My answer to them: IT'S FICTION!

I think we all differ in preference to style and language, but I don't care too much for stories filled with a lot of big words and intellectual knowledge that may distract from the story. I don't have the patience for it, not that I don't appreciate the work. I'm sure a lot of it is really fine work. However, when I read fiction, I want to be pulled in, immersed. I want it to flow through my mind just like I was swimming along the words, moving with the current and fighting the rapids at the end.

I read a story one time and my biggest problem with it was that the author used a metaphor by paraphrasing a passage from the bible. I've never read the bible, so I had no earthly idea what she was talking about and the metaphor made no sense to me. Her following two paragraphs were lost in translation as well.

I think it's healthy to assume that your reader is not going to appreciate your intellect as a fiction writer if you are not writing at the level of your narrator. If you can't dumb down your narratives, then you definitely will lose some readers. As my sister once said, "You don't have to prove to me that you are smart, prove that you can write a story that I might understand!"

It's smart fiction to dumb down your writing. You don't want your poor, fat, uneducated protagonist cogitating on how to dissipate the mass fortune she's acquired through winning the lottery. She can just think about how she's gonna spend all that cash!

10 April 2011

Phone Upgrade Nightmare

I had such a wonderful experience trying to upgrade my phone from the Blackberry Tour to the new 4G Samsung Epic. First, I would just like to say that I loved the phone features, the applications and the look and feel of the Samsung Epic. However, it's hardly worth having a phone packed with so much punch when you can't keep a battery life of more than a quarter of a day.

Smartphones, learn a lesson here. Stop cutting corners and selling the new features and the great looks through marketing gimmicks. You're going to have returns (a bunch of them too) because people are not going to keep these phones, at least not the people who value the dollars that they earn. I'm not going to pay for a phone and a plan when I have to see my battery life tick away right before my eyes. It's not normal to watch a battery drain a quarter of the way by 9:30 in the morning!

Either redesign your software and processors or provide a bigger battery to deal with the ill-designed, inefficient Operating Systems. I would suggest the involved companies hire more experienced developers and engineers, but that would just cost too much of THEIR time and money. And why did they charge me a re-stocking fee when I returned a phone that was obviously defective? Yes, I consider a poorly functioning phone to be defective, so sorry if every single one of them functions the same. It just means that every single one of them is defective.

Consider this:

For every 100 customers, say 25 make a return at $35.00 for a re-stocking fee. That's $850.00.

If you charge $10.00 per each new phone (call it a new phone service fee and deduct it out of the rebate scam already in place) you can do away with the $35.00 re-stocking fee (we'll get into why a re-stocking fee is bad business later on).

If you have 10,000 customers who bought new phones and 2,500 made a return in the old system,you made $87,500.


If you have 10,000 customers who bought new phones and 2,500 made a return in the new improved Diane Carlisle system, you made $100,000.

$100,000 new system
-$87,500 old system

This way of doing business would yield $12,500 more per 10,000 customers. You do the math, I've been drinking beer.

You would make a profit of $1,250,000 per million customers over the old way of doing business, and you won't piss off your customers by charging them a re-stocking fee after they're already pissed off and disappointed.

Charging re-stocking fees is bad customer service. Why do you think someone would change their mind about wanting one of your phones? Maybe because it's a crappy phone? If you put out a product that some people don't like, isn't it pretty shitty to then charge them $35.00 for the inconvenience of YOUR selling them a crappy product? STOP SELLING CRAPPY PRODUCTS! Then you won't have to worry about a re-stocking fee.

Customers are almost always happy to pay a lesser fee up front as a "just in case I want to return it later" security blanket. It's much better business than the "you didn't read the fine print you dumbass" knife in the back.

08 April 2011

JavaScript for Xpages (8.5)

Well, I requested a new course at work, JavaScript for Xpages (8.5) and my request was approved! This is the reward I get for wrapping up a 6-month project. I think it is well worth it because I get to learn something new. I may or may not be able to utilize the acquired knowledge in a future project, we'll see.

This course is offered by The Learning Continuum Company, Ltd. (TLCC) at a cost of $499.00. The sale ends on May 5th. Get it here TLCC JavaScript for Xpages. So what do I think of JavaScript for Xpages (8.5)?

The layout of the course materials is a good one. It's easy to follow and the brief instruction on the Domino Designer Interface during the Introduction of the course made the steps flow so easily. I didn't feel lost at all. Maybe it's because I've been using Domino Designer for 4 years, just never got into the Xpage features. I'm more of a forms, views and frames person. I have to break away from that!

As is the case with all new programming courses you have to go through the traditional "Hello World" routine that only serves to remind you that you are a newbie, yet again --but only to the syntax of the new language. Yea, it's just script. So what?

I can't wait to get past the Intro and move on to the good stuff. I think I'm going to have 21 hours of a whole lot of fun today and next week. I'll probably author a post-mortem blog entry when I'm done with this course.

alert('Snoopy Dance!!')

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