28 June 2015

How Not to Get Eaten by a Shark

I've been hearing lots about sharks this past couple of weeks, from videos on Facebook to news stories, even major headlines across the nation. West Coast, East Coast, the Gulf? Name it, there was a shark mentioned or video taped. Oh my gosh, a shark! Look at it...swimming. There...in the ocean!

This morning I'd had enough when a Fox News anchor asked of his guest, "Tell us, share with us, Chris, just how do folks stay safe from shark attacks this Summer?"

This, folks, is why I decided to study Communications. It's to help claw my way back to sanity. Seriously. Here's an excerpt from a news source:

San Diego lifeguards also depend on helicopters to track shark activity. The town of Seal Beach, California, made headlines recently by using drones to monitor sharks.

So we invade their habitat and waste tons of resources monitoring it like a militarized zone? Nice.

Here's a novel idea. How about STAY OUT OF THE FREAKING OCEAN!

End rant.

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13 June 2015

My Favorite Quotes for Writers and Communicators

"Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools because they have to say something." --Plato

"The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place." --George Bernard Shaw

"Of all of our inventions for mass communication, pictures still speak the most universally understood language." --Walt Disney

"The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak." --Hans Hofmann

"Words - so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them." --Nathaniel Hawthorne

"A writer is someone who can make a riddle out of an answer." --Karl Kraus

"I don't start with a design objective, I start with a communication objective. I feel my project is successful if it communicates what it is supposed to communicate." --Mike Davidson

"Communication works for those who work at it." -- John Powell

"To be persuasive we must be believable; to be believable we must be credible; to be credible we must be truthful." -- Edward R. Murrow

"When you forget yourself and your fear, when you get beyond self-consciousness because your mind is thinking about what you are trying to communicate, you become a better communicator." -- Peggy Noonan, former speechwriter for Ronald Reagan

What are some of your favorite quotes?

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07 June 2015

Race Relations - Character Diversity in RPGs

I'm sharing with you a concept I learned in my Global Communication class, the idea of a message coming down to the basic human condition. What better way to explore the condition of race and diversity, on a level we can each see for ourselves. Don't get defensive. Just know that we are all racist in some aspect or another. Accept it, find it in your own lives, and then deal with it. Now, I'll explain how we can do this.

Let's say in a classic text based role-playing game (RPG) every class of character is built with a different set of properties. So for example, I may play a human at 6'1" and maybe 210 lbs. If I have 200 hit points, 85 endurance points, and 300 spell points, as a basic human, I will have different reactions in game movement than another character of a different race.

If I get hit badly, I may lose a lot of blood (hit points), but then I might heal faster than the other guy. I may elect to heal myself by eating various types of food items or by consuming healing potions obtained within the gaming environment. Otherwise, I could be a cheap ass and wait for time to pass in order to heal my wounds.

A game may have a timer on restoration of hit points and maybe one set of characters has a different calculation in rate of restoration than another. That's how you distinguish races/classes in an RPG, in other words, diversity!

If the other guy is a cleric, he can heal himself with his spell points, which also restore at a particular rate with time. Either way, the dynamics of gaming, together in this sense, can be very rewarding or very exasperating. Diversity is a wonderful thing. You expend points dependent upon the situation: how aggressive the creature is, how much energy is required to swing your weapon, how far away you are in proximity to the creature, and even how protected you are with the armor you are wearing.

When fighting beside another character in a party, you have to be mindful of one another, else things could become fatal. One situation you might find yourself in is becoming idle, waiting because you are partying with someone who doesn't mind sitting around healing with the passing of time rather than using other resources like food and potions to bind their wounds (maybe they didn't know where to acquire such resources, but how would you know). One such example happened to me years ago, when my character was out hunting with an elf. I say the word elf with derision and note how classless they are. Now that's racist!

The examples I show below will have a black background because that's my favorite config when it comes to text based RPGs. So, after an exhausting battle with an aggressive ogre, I looked at my partner the elf, and this is what I saw:

He is in critical condition!

The text is in red to connote blood. The next stage after healing a bit might be something like so:

He is bleeding profusely!

This movement from one stage of injury to the next would indicate he is getting better (his hit points are slowly being restored) and we would be able to continue on and look for other creatures to kill, but in the condition he was in (critical), it was best to remain where we were - out of harms way. Patience may be a virtue, but I don't have any while gaming because...well just because. I alternated screens while waiting for him to heal. I decided to do some writing, so my attention was elsewhere until I returned about 15 minutes later to see the following text on my screen:

Elf says, "So, what you been up too?"

Elf looks at you.

Elf pokes you.

Elf says, "You must be thinking really hard about something."

Elf dances around and snorts.

I felt guilty as hell. I should have taken the time to role-play and get to know the character a bit. Maybe some interesting dialogue might have occurred. But, this was a missed opportunity.

I take another look at the elf:

He is in critical condition!

What the hell?! Now I'm pissed because this guy is such a cheap asshole. I never played an elf so I have no idea why he's not healing quicker, but I'll be damned if I wait around all night for this fucker to heal. I know food costs money, but time is money for me as well, maybe not for him.

You say to Elf, "EAT something!"

Then I realize how lame I was being. This is completely out of character in a game where role-play is strictly enforced. What should have happened was something like so:

You kneel beside Elf.
You say to Elf, "Here, let me bind some of your wounds."
You give sirloin steak to Elf.
You give sirloin steak to Elf.
You give sirloin steak to Elf.

Elf consumes sirloin steak.
Elf consumes sirloin steak.
Elf consumes sirloin steak.

You look at Elf.

He is slightly wounded.

You give Elf a thumbs up!

You say, "Ready?"

Elf nods.

Elf exits North
You exit North

If this makes you giggle, fine! But that's how we do it. Now, when you look at it from this perspective, it is kind of funny, but hell...you can't beat text based RPGs.

When we gamers get together like this, we bond like no other group of people you will ever meet! If the rest of the world could show some tolerance and compassion for one another like so, it might be a better world. Just saying.

I can only imagine how the perspective must have looked from the other side.

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05 June 2015

A Tale of Two Writers

Ha! A friend and colleague of mine helped me out today and produced some super, high-quality documentation for training on a project we've been trying to roll-out for the past six months. In celebration of the moment, I found something as close as I could get to describing how we probably feel this evening! PC Weenies is a wonderful comic strip and the artist gets deep into the psyche of geeks like us.

Imagine me as Bob and imagine her as the purple-headed geek trainer, only:

  1. We weren't writing on corporate ethics
  2. She sits in an office rather than a cubicle
  3. I'm actually the one who dreams of writing that Great American Novel!

Thanks, Amy. And like I always say, you are the bomb diggity. :)

Do you have a collaboration partner in your writing projects? How does that work out for you? Share your experience in the comments below!

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