Who Do, Who Do They Think They’re Fooling?

I was cruising my morning email as we all do when the phone rang. At this time of day it’s usually some medical issue for a family member… or a spam caller. This time it was a robot named Audrey. I knew it was a robot not just from the scripting (I worked as an inbound telemarketer last century) and inability to answer the simplest of unscripted questions, but because this was at least the third time in the last week ‘Audrey’ called me.

A live telemarketer would have shifted to a ‘B script’ or been able to shift on getting a live call, but the scammers aren’t willing to put that much effort into it.

So then I wondered why even bothering to name the robot? Giving it a name doesn’t give it a life. Why even have to robot say the whole ‘this call is recorded for quality assurance?’ The scammers are calling thousands of numbers a day they are not going to save records of their scam to be used in their trials and storing all Audrey’s calls where I hung up will rack up a lot of memory. Add the false assurance that dialing a number removes you from their list. (did that to Audrey weeks ago and she still calls me almost daily with the same scam.

I feel sorry for the people fooled but also more pissed at these scammers who think they deserve my time and the right to tie up my phone line against real callers.

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chicken crossing the road

Road Trip?

I’m not usually one to think much of chickens. Oh, I love a good barbecue, a sublime egg lemon soup, and even the junk of cracked pepper and Parmesan wings, but chickens is seriously stupid. My mother still tells the tale of my grandmother chasing a headless chicken in a city neighborhood basement during the Great Depression.

But I always got my meat wrapped in butcher paper or plastic. It felt a little off to get eggs from one of the local chicken houses (really stinky places, those) that sold some directly to people and not just to middlemen and grocery stores. But even if they were fresher and more environmentally friendly to buy local, it doesn’t compensate enough when property values and taxes rise far faster than food prices… or the next generation would rather be able to sleep in in the mornings by working in a Wally world or cubicle farm.

But even if I’ve never owned a live chicken or had to care for them, my home is within farmland area. So I’ve seen enough to know they are not the brightest of domesticated animals we farm, the only ones I’d argue as dumber is the domesticated turkey.

Well, our neighbors keep chickens, including a rooster. A learning experience when kidlets were small, the last is in high school and their flock has dwindled down to three. Apparently they had a breakout somehow (‘Escape From Alcatraz’) and one was missing.

Maybe a dog got it. maybe a coyote (who have moved into the continental US where the wild deer herd runs too big in places) got dinner. Maybe it was a hit and run.

The mystery was solved when the truck driver dad discovered a terrified chicken balanced on the axle of his big rig truck two states away after a freight run. Interstates, fast traffic, bridges, the poor thing had to have been terrified. The oldest son diverted his rig to retrieve and the chicken made it back home to her flock, having only lost a few feathers.

If we want to have a moral for this: Even a chicken can become a hero after an unexpected journey…

Things that doth make one go ‘hmm’

grains falling through hourglassA couple of small things irked me today, and perhaps sharing them will reduce grinding of the teeth.

  1. I read reading a piece of fiction and the author decided to have one of the heroes jump into a black hole to cut down on travel time. They apparently are only familiar with black holes from sci-fi, and the bad versions treating black holes like wormholes or warp gates. Nothing about the time dilation and how looooooonnnng it takes to cross that event horizon. (Note the EH was key in a 1979 major movie called ‘The Black Hole’ so this is old news) If you could jump into a black hole without becoming a thin goo. AND if you pop out in some random location as not mapped network of black hole gates exists that happens to be where you want to go. THEN what good is your race for an antidote when the patient died a hundred years ago?

    Hey, kids! If you’re writing sci-fi and you want a fictional travel shortcut, don’t use a real physics term that you don’t understand at all. It just breaks the plot and the writer was a lazy idiot. Sci-fi has lots of alternate fictional ideas to choose from like: warp drive, Jump, hyperdrive, stargates– all to get around generation ships and near light speed time dilation for travel. Using a celestial object that crushes everything to a paste slowly and inescapably won’t impress anyone.
  2. I watched craft videos with a relative and these teachers/salespeople almost every vid crow that their colors are all compatible. All the similar products push that like it’s a special quality it took years and decades for their blue items coordinate with their green and orange ones. (it’s the same pointless bragging as phone companies saying you can keep your phone number when keeping was required by regulation years ago) What? purple and yellow only go together if its by this ONE company’s product? Did anyone tell pansies and butterflies and orchids they just can’t have two different colors because they weren’t coordinated?

    I’m pretty close to making that a drinking game. They’re so earnest about touting reds, greens, and blues being specially coordinated, instead of quality or hue uniqueness.

After much time spent in deep contemplation of automated voice mail systems, I posit that time navigating them should count against any time decreed for Purgatory or hell.

A smart AI there would be a boon to humanity.

Resolutions, part 20

I make resolutions all the time.  Some don’t last as long as it takes for hot french fries to cool.  A few take hold and stick.  Some (like get healthie) are so big and vague that they are doomed for failure.  Organizing my work area is transient, an ephemeral as lasting as a morning fog.  The tricky part is making good ones, meaningful ones, that lead to gradual improvement.

Holiday street light decorations shining along the river

image by Jack on flickr at [https://flic.kr/p/5LPmyy], under Creative Commons 2 [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/]

I start off every year hoping to grab aspects of my life that are both important and doable.   The ones that last longer are ones I want to do.  “Shoulds” never last, and in fact rarely have any impact.  Forcing improvements, just creates stress, disappointment, and inadequacy… then no matter how noble the improvement it dies in bitter dregs of failure.  The change, the resolution, needs some tangible benefit to become self-sustaining.  One long term resolution I renew every November: to write more steadily again and finish story drafts.

The problem is that writing original stories doesn’t result in as many tangible payoffs as writing fanfiction. Fully original stories have so little payback for the effort.  Professional editing and marketing costs way more than I have the resources for.  The stories I have released have not generated commentary or sales, which are the only feedback you get.  Fanfic can easily track hits, subscriptions, likes, and comments.  I’ve gotten more of all four metrics for a single short story fanfic I posted two weeks ago than dozens of originals I’ve put for sale or released for publicity.  I can resolve every year to do more original stories, but there just isn’t any payoff for the time and effort.

But yet again I’ve resolved to work on that rewrite of my novel draft this year.  I made some changes last time I started the revision, but I really have to stop trying a major new effort in the holidays.  I still love the concept and have a good character or two, but the nitty-gritty of deep revision is like writing from a detailed outline and my muse chokes.

That time of the year by Evan Wood

Shuffle them words!

I don’t know how to fix that and so I’ve set some simpler resolutions, some are non-writing and some are not very significant but boost confidence, like crossposting a well-received story to another site.  (that’s turning out not as helpful as it’s just not generating much feedback compared to the first place– confirming that changing sites when I did had been a good move)  On the good side, NaNo crazy resulted in eleven posted stories, which has also boosted hits on older stories.  But now I have like six unfinished stories with recent chapters and a challenge I really want to post.  There just are not enough hours in the day to have more than two active stories.

Send help, or at least a cookie!

The clock of NaNo Doom

Every year I reserve the last two weeks for NaNo prep. Some years it goes better than others.  2019 has achieved an abysmal low.

On the 17th my computer’s power supply cacked out. Would not recharge.  To make it extra fun I had some governmental paperwork, that could not even be done over the phone as the governmental eforms also cacked.  A rushed search for a new universal power supply and then a second universal power supply and I was good or a day and a half.

black whirlpool in the water

Whirlpool by David O’Hare. Attribution under Creative Commons 2.0

Then then that stopped charging.  Holding it in hard made connection, but not enough to charge.  The socket to the motherboard came loose, and my tech said that people don’t do that kind of welding any more.

It was a five year laptop, that had already had 3 fans and 2 keyboards.  Some keys were starting to stick again and the case grill had cracked off.  I’d used it hard, but I was going to have to suck it up and finally leave Win 8.1 for the supposed bliss of a touch based interface.

That is actually why I don’t want it even after 48hrs of working on set up.  There’s hidden settings, and control panel is NOT default present in the start menu.  I’ve been having an ongoing issue that mouse ro;;over in both sometimes desktop and very frequent browser acts like a right mouseclick.  It’s not an ad and fussing with settings didn’t help.  I reduced the issue about 75% when I disabled touch screen in my browser.  But it still happens, with a syster right click blocking what I’m working on.

It is a more powerful machine, but the ONLY neat feature was that my active desktop background appeared automagically when I logged in on the first boot.  I’m still waiting for that burst of enlightenment and joy Win10 promised.

Make sure you back up into the cloud, its way better than any of the old hardware solutions.  Backup your bookmarks and anything you do creative. Expect to take days to weeks to recover.

And try not to have a disaster near NaNo.

The Winds of NaNo

grains falling through hourglass

In Search of Lost Time by Alexander Boden on flickr, without changes, per Creative Commons.

Summer heat and RL issues finally faded this week, leaving me less than three weeks before Nano starts. I was thinking of skipping this year as I have too many WIPs for my comfort, but I realized that the structure and deadline act like a booster vaccine for my diligence. This year was much warmer and I had a huge months-long worker turnover so I only got a relative few chapters/stories finished.

Some years during NaNo, I get my original story drafted (the challenge) AND substantial stories and blogging done. I need engaging story ideas!

I have another week before I get into this year’s prep, which is as a pantser, deciding which story idea to use and decite what plot elements to include. One big choice is whether to do original or fanfic. I don’t know yet. thens a vry primitive summaryabout a paragraphor or broad outline. Before the 23rd, I want to post for a WIP and polish & release a dark fantasy with demons- that has a more horror ending. Third, in the next few days a horror I submitted for the AITHWIP Halloween might be chosen.

Definitely moving into my most active writing part of the year! The boost usually lasts until late spring, Summer heat and humidity really thwart my cognitive function!

Little peeve of the Day

Trigger and Content warnings:

I can understand the need to warn readers that the work may have a disturbing event in an article or story. Unfortunately, disturbing things like violence, rape, and abuse are part of life. Even if they all ended tomorrow, there’s still plenty of people carrying scars. Even in the future when we are all gone, you cannot fully understand an era or people if you are ignorant of how violence or the threat affects people.

So these things will remain in our psyche for a long time. Ignoring them will not make them go away. In fact, ignoring them leaves victims less able to react in disbelief and shock. Nor does it provide ideas or hope. Better to show survival and coping, that being a victim is not the end.

Trigger and content warnings allow people who have issues with a particular trauma skip over sections or an entire story. It is a kindness, a bit of the golden rule, and good business. Kindness that a trauma isn’t refreshed. A golden rule as you don’t need people picking at painful areas for mere amusement. And really good buisiness for a writer. Fool me once, slipping in a trauma I wasn’t ready for and YOU are the abuser. I will leave a comment sometimes, I won’t be back for more stories, and I will not recommend it.

Once Broken, some things may not be easily fixed

Tags and warnings are important.

But warnings spoil my story! How can I shock or surprise my readers if I tell them bad things are about to happen? It will weaken my story, real life doesn’t warn you! Stories, older stories don’t have warnings!
You just have to deal with it. Older stories were far less graphic, things that need content warnings were mentioned in euphamisms and happened off camera. The character will still be surprised their hand is amputated by the villain, the reader will still feel their shock and pain, so the warning will not harm your target reader who likes angst, and it gives a fair chance for readers bothered by that violence to skip over a section. It’s a win-win, for a tiny bit of spoilery if handled well, you don’t tick off readers.

Okay, Okay. I’ll put warnings in, but I’ll put them at the end of the chapter in the footnotes so it doesn’t spoil the story… They can skip to the end of the chapter to see the warning, then its their own fault.
Now that is just cruel. (and a little obsessive about refusing to warn) You care so little for the readers, you think they want to skip back and forth because you are too lazy to properly tag and do a postscript half-a apology for being offensive? You do not respect their agency, and think lying by omission is just great. It’s not that important and the story is SO good they won’t care. Don’t fool yourself, you are breaking their trust with this deceit. If you cannot be honest why should I have to zig zag, when you missed the meaning of ‘warning?’

Warning tags won’t stop people who trust your tags are accurate or don’t care, but do you really want to alienate those who do care about their pain? (they have money to, young author) Tag your stories.

Temptation…

I am very tempted with the DC Universe service. I have a long fondness for the characters, and I am very intrigued by the Doom Patrol trailor.

But I really don’t believe in subscribing to more than 2 services. I was interested in getting Disney service due to the Clone Wars… but my faith there is not strong.  DC already crashed and burned when bringing the dark, nihilistic Batman into a shared universe. It almost had to go up. Diana and Arthur did it right, and Billy has the right optimism, too.

The issue is that I am fond of my cable lineup and I am not sure I can convince anyone in my family to drop a tier.