rydain: Vault Boy Winking (Vault Boy Winking)
Half a year between entries once again. Shock and awe for anyone who knows me.

Cliff's Notes of life in G-funk Land (and website updates) -

Dynasty Warriors 5 is still my favorite in the series. I wrote this retrospective love letter to celebrate its 10-year anniversary.

Here's another fond look back on Milon's Secret Castle, a childhood favorite game that the internets love to hate. I may suck at most modern games because minimal depth perception and sense of direction and fast twitch aiming skills, but I beat this supposed impossibility when I was ten. It took me four months, but yay?

I went to see Mad Max: Fury Road because my friends were going, and it looked like reasonable fun. I ended up head over heels in love with its insane craft and adrenalin. Fury Road knows exactly what a straightforward action flick should be and blows it out of the water with surprising nuance and restraint - and also happens to be feminist. Review here.

I'm making arts again, woo hoo. I seem to have improved via osmosis of following pro illustrators while my visual brain was in torpor. I'm working on a 4-character piece and taking my time finishing it to the best of my ability, but it is entering the Zeno's Paradox of its final phase.

We entered the current console generation with a PS4. What finally kicked me over the edge? Fallout 4. Of course I had to get the Pip-Boy edition because I can use more crap in my house when it pertains to one of the very few game series that continues to build on its excellence. I must write my comprehensive review of Fallout: New Vegas - which is probably the best game I ever played, bugs notwithstanding - as I get hyped for the November release. I also foresee myself coming down with a convenient multi-day cold at that time - or just scheduling time off because work is awesome like that.

Speaking of work, the tl;dr version is that this year has focused on a career-defining system switchover and deployment, and I have built - and continue to build - some seriously beautiful, modular, and flexible shit in ColdFusion. I'm not terribly fond of the language - just let me at the underlying Java without all the quirks and "helpful" conveniences that don't do what I want half the time. But Coldbox is a wonderful framework, and I love that I had time to learn and apply it. I PUT ON MY ROBE AND WIZARD HAT
rydain: Vault Boy Winking (Vault Boy Winking)
The last time I posted a journal entry, I was in the middle of recounting my November 2013 trip to China. Then came the polar vortex and a longstanding torpor through which I ground onward and eventually got reinspired.

I made a good amount of novel progress, partly fueled by some excellent critique from [livejournal.com profile] quufer. I got addicted to Instagram, bookmarked an absurd quantity of Nanjing photos, and picked up some mutual followers from around the world. I rebooted my personal website as a one-stop shop for the best of my artwork and article-suited ramblings. I reviewed a few local haunted attractions and conventions and brain dumped some advice on writing.

And I finally finished the writeup of China, which you can read here. Please do. It really was a great trip.
rydain: Mario bouncing in Kuribo's Shoe (Kuribo's Shoe)
I got the job. Not just a job. The job. The high end programming position I applied to at Penn State, whose listing sought a driven and creative problem solver. The one with an interview I prepared for by mainlining '80s tunes in the Kern Building lobby beforehand, and in which I shed my suit jacket and flexed for a room full of staffers in response to an inquiry about my hobbies. It's a position within a department seeking to grow and develop its information technology division. It's my closest approximation to tenure. Said department has lots of other women, who I had a blast interviewing with. You bet your ass I'm stoked.

I can still walk to work. My office space seems quiet and private. I get a deep tuition discount and a boatload of vacation - that trip to China is A-OK with the management and won't put me in time off debt for the next century or so. I do have to dress business casual - a culture shock to someone raised in the jeans and snarky T-shirt world of web development and research engineering - but I have plenty of comfortable options, and I can use a wardrobe refresh anyhow. It's a good reason to kick me back into the Cleaning Out Clothes for Goodwill Project I started a couple of weeks ago.

I've been a lazy vacation bum. I had a full week where my best defense against doldrums was room escape and tile swap puzzle games. I also had breakfast with [livejournal.com profile] penm_rx3, who has a creative writing minor and a planned cross-country move. Which gave me a nice novel-related goal of finishing my first act to send them for some hardcore critique. I do appreciate the honest feedback from my friends who share my tastes and understand what I'm going for, but I need that detailed impression of themes and threads and pacing and prose. I understand that such requires money for the hours of work and experience involved. So if I can help my friends build their bank account and shore up Act 1 as a solid prototype for the rest of my structure, style, and tone - ayyyyyyup. It's moving in steady steps, with previously yet undetermined character chemistry falling neatly into place. I had reached my limits for how much I could plan ahead, so focusing on early content is just what I need right now.

Dynasty Warriors costume DLC is at its best when it involves absurd and/or modern themes. The Wei jobs exemplify this. Zhang He is a literal assclown, and Cai Wenji and Jia Xu are also in the circus because they are a popular fandom ship because matchy matchy let's pair up the new characters together I understand why people like it but I don't feel it at all. There's a lot of assorted military business, Xiahou Yuan is a crime scene investigator (who would totally be eating on the job to prove he isn't disgusted by anything) and Cao Ren is one of those technical rescue team guys. I have a perfect reference photo for him going after someone's cat stuck on a roof, but I've been more about words words words and there goes that damn artistic performance anxiety again. Although for once I've drawn something I don't facepalm at the flaws in two months later. Go figure. I'll get over it. And I do have plenty of in person reference for felines.
rydain: (Lu Meng in the Mist)
The involuntary sabbatical continues. My first job prospect went to someone else, but I had a fantastic interview for a different one. There's more out there, and I continue to seek. Something will eventually come up Milhouse. At least I'm happily entrenched in Hobby Land in the meantime.

I'm loving the start of Mad Men. Period-relevant conflicts! Retro-flavored production! Entertaining, believable dialog! Characters amusing me even when their knuckles are dragging a groove in the ash-strewn floor! Hopefully it holds up - unlike The Sopranos, which lost me in the morass of Season 4 by shoving major conflicts in the background in favor of wallowing in pettiness and secondhand embarrassment. Wire fans, imagine Season 2 revolving around Ziggy, Valchek, and that fucking window, and maybe bothering to mention a major drug investigation once or twice.

I finished a new illustration, a month-long culmination of last year's improvement and then some. I broke some serious mental blocks with regard to fabric and hair, those dreaded flowing surfaces that I struggled to understand. I tend to do well with solid geometric constructions like heads and armor pieces. In an illustrated style, fabric and hair have to be felt out based on some understanding of their flow. I started to get it last year, but I wanted to learn the nicely variegated locks I envied in other people's art. With this, I found a style of my own to refine.

Ah-Meng of Wu - Lu Meng and Lu Su's surly study hour )

Dynasty Warriors 8 came out last month, so I was camping the live streams from Japan. It looks a good step above the disappointment of 7, with better battlefields, a fully decloned cast, and something for every character entertainment value with some prayer of approaching my reigning personal Jesus of DW5. While waiting for the English localization, I've been making up my own stupid captions. As well as terrible submissions for Facebook Warriors - the ideal home for all my languishing jokes.

Lu Meng's slacker pyromania backfires, pun naturally intended )

Xiahou Yuan demonstrates the hazards of borrowed leather )

With my art bender out of the way, I'm gearing up for Camp NaNoWriMo in April. I like to line up a bunch of detailed scene concepts and get into prose mode to have at them, and Camp is nice for this because it allows user-specifiable goals. Word count is not an ideal metric for me, but I can deal by assigning reasonable targets to each scene and picking my total accordingly. At the very least, I hope to do 10,000 words. If I really go on a tear, I might finish Acts 1 and 2 - the first third of the novel. The rest of my outline is trickling in and not nearly as built out. But it has gone from a giant question mark to anticipation of developing conflicts, and the new material should give rise to more inspirational specifics.
rydain: (Cao Ren Sunset)
Let's get the worst out first. I got laid off. My reviews were stellar over four years of employment. I just happened to lose a game of Contract Musical Chairs during a time of uncertainty in the realm of government R&D funding. I have contacts, I have references, I have excellent prospects lined up - including an interview soon to come with a desirable employer - along with a high security clearance and the magical decade of experience required to bill myself as a senior software engineer. I'll be fine.

It's still a shock absorbed with its share of high octane beer. Spring House Big Gruesome Stout is a new favorite in the Strong 'n Flavorful lineup. It is peanut butter drunky time, and it is glorious. But consumed in measured quantities, all things considered. I continue to put in my quality time at the gym. I enjoyed a four-odd mile hike to get my just repaired car, which was backed into by a very nice and apologetic friend of a friend. I could have pinged the body shop's ride service, but where's the fun and celebratory pancakes in that? And mud-splashed pants, but they needed a wash anyhow.

I'm outlining. I'm pushing conflicts forward into the Great Unknown of my narrative's center. I'm researching soporific details required to contextualize and develop assorted business machinations. Readers will only see the tip of the iceberg, but it needs the apparent weight and fortitude to sink a ship.

I'm working up the nerve to draw again. I get art performance anxiety in ways that writing rarely pings. Oftentimes I'll make a godawful first sketch that needs to be thrown out. Then the next one starts to get it, and the connection clicks between brain and hand, and I surprise myself with some improvement or another, and I wonder why I ever feared the challenge to begin with.
rydain: Mario bouncing in Kuribo's Shoe (Kuribo's Shoe)
What I've been up to lately:

Noveling, which has been more about slow steady steps than a race worth describing in its entirety. Lots of outline shuffling, pacing grumbles, recontextualizing scenes so they fit within a timeline instead of floating in space. I need to jump off my cliff after the vague shapes within Act 3's fog, and I've just about shored up the foundation required to do so. I keep meaning to write up a master post explaining the project, my source list, and my progress metrics.

Enjoying a slow marathon of Deadwood. I expected realistic Wild West. I was pleasantly surprised to get realistic Wild West with heavy historical basis. I don't know much about the TRUFAX behind it, but I appreciate the research and focus on the unique conflicts of near-lawless gold rush frontier towns. And Calamity Jane is awesomesauce.

Finally excited about a new KOEI game. Dynasty Warriors 8 is nearing release, and a hell of a pleasant surprise after the disappointment of 7. Costume designs are back to that heavy Chinese aesthetic influence I love so much, and the stories seem to offer the something for everyone appeal that DW7 threw out the window to focus on its few anointed characters. I'm preemptively in love with the new Wu characters, Han Dang and Lu Su - historically nifty, known to interact with my other favorites in the same force, and drawn as unique, mature, down to earth men rather than cookie cutter avatars.

Han Dang )

Lu Su )

Rehabbing an owie in my sacroiliac joint, which led me to realize that my longstanding intermittent hip and back grumpiness was the result of undiagnosed glute weakness. Turns out that squats and deadlifts don't necessarily hit the posterior chain like you'd expect. Your hip and low back muscles can end up taking the brunt of the load, which leads to unpredictable strains and other fun bullshit. To get my butt back in order, I've switched over to one-legged exercises like Bulgarian squats and single leg squats and deadlifts. I also picked up a Rumble Roller to eradicate muscle knots that a regular foam roller can't quite hit - and oh does it ever work. OW OW OW. At least my upper body has been behaving itself.

Listening to weird electronic music, from atmospheric to catchy. The awesome soundtrack to Sleeping Dogs made me itchy to assemble something similar for my own triad-related novel. I haven't made any real progress on that, but I did discover some new tunes thanks to label websites and related videos - including the current music selection, whose full album is excellent background for programming.

Trying not to do the year-long bathroom dance because


(The setting of my novel, for those unaware)

In November. With a group of family and friends. As part of a tour featuring cultural highlights in Shanghai, Suzhou, Wuxi, and Hangzhou, plus a cruise down the Yangtze. The tour showcases important locales like Sun Yat-sen's mausoleum and the massacre memorial, and gives us a free day to explore the city. I hope to spend that free day with a local guide, going off the beaten path for a strong sense of Nanjing's character. There is that matter of a 13+ hour flight each way, but I have a known superpower for sleeping on airplanes.
rydain: (Cao Ren Sunset)
My final word tally: 17,000 and change. Which doesn't include the leaps I made in planning, both in substance (notes, detailed brainstorming) and getting the best ever handle on my writing process. As I mentioned, just forging onward doesn't work well for the narrative I'm going for. Instead I need a somewhat iterative combination of the following:

  • Decide on the overall development of a plot or character arc - main points, where it might lead afterward, implications, thematic aspects, etc.

  • Consider how to show it in scenes. Sketch scenes in as much detail as you need. If I'm lucky, they jump into my head all at once. Otherwise, I need to hammer at them by brainstorming about the intended feel, finer points of content, and dialog hooks - which help me conceptualize tone and character chemistry, even if I don't use them all as originally conceived. If I'm struggling with an opener or ending, I brainstorm it separately, and perhaps alter or redo the scene to fit.

  • Save every dialog snippet and scene idea that comes to mind, even if you don't have an intended home for it. If you're ever stuck, go through the list for inspiration.

  • Lay out your scenes and notes on events that haven't yet been sketched out thusly. Is the pacing too rushed? Think about what other conflicts are going on - whether strongly pertinent to a main plot thread, tangential, or worth including to reinforce a theme, add depth and nuance, etc. Is the pacing too bogged down? Think about what could be cut or compressed - for instance, development might be better incorporated as exposition instead of shown in a scene. (Though you might not want to get too cut-happy before your rough draft is even done. If in doubt, make a scene and deal with the streamlining afterward.)

  • When you have a compelling scene concept, write it out. This is where the Just Write Crap concept can help. Sometimes your first whack at prose will fall flat on its ass, but you can't improve it if you're afraid to try in the first place.

My outline has begun to split itself into acts separated by time, which is helping me organize those main points and build out the requisite subplots around them. There's the initial challenge, the delicious optimism, swimming in the proverbial money pit, and subsequent danger and resolution. Act 1 is mostly planned into scenes, Act 2 is getting there, the last act is vague but has a known general outcome, and the rest is main points that need to be nestled among that subplotty awesomesauce. And this provides some metric of rough draft progress far more meaningful than raw word count, even if I don't yet know how many scenes I'll need. At least I feel like I'm going somewhere substantial and sustainable.
rydain: (Cao Ren Sunset)
Sandy came. Sandy went. Sandy largely passed us over. The spousal unit went out in the gusting wind to redirect our rather ineffective downspout away from the house, then resumed playing video games. I spent most of yesterday with the Suspended Piano of Dreaded Impending Power Outage hanging over my head, and I was convinced I would jinx it by going out to the gym, microwaving food, and taking a shower. Turns out the storm blew a bunch of energy elsewhere and veered below us instead of hammering Happy Valley as we had expected. We were damn lucky, and I feel for those that weren't.

My art inspiration has gone on hiatus, and creativity has been slow this month in general. It seems that my brain wants to wipe its slate clean for That Very Special Time of Year.


My months of planning have given me a much stronger footing. But I still have outlining left to do, a subplot whose details remain frustratingly out of reach. I can't finish that to my ideal standards in two days. There's a certain amount of process that can't be rushed, and that needs to percolate and iteratively refine itself over time. But I do have enough solidified to bang out plenty of useful scenes and perhaps extrapolate some reasonable ideas for the rest. This year, I should make my word count with structurally sound material, a much better wheat-to-chaff ratio, and no emergency Russian gangster crossover antics - although I haven't ruled out the possibility of another such outtake for the lulz. I haven't done squat for [community profile] cottoncandy_bingo either, so perhaps there's some double duty writing to be had there.

I'm trying to make myself brainstorm, or at least pick up the reference books I had been saving for a power outage. My brain is pulling a Hoagie and giving me a major case of the Don't Wannas. It will come around. It always does.
rydain: Mario bouncing in Kuribo's Shoe (Kuribo's Shoe)
The annual Grange Fair rolled around last week. It's no ordinary rural gathering of livestock, crafts, and any food that will maintain its constitution in a deep fryer. It's a settlement - literally. Families pass down their tents for generations, and every year is a reunion as neighbors watch each others' kids grow up to take on the tradition themselves. Pittsburgh transplant that I am, I don't exactly have a stake in these long-term local fuzzies.

But I sure as hell love the bungie trampoline.

Length of line: half an hour. Price of admission: $6. Time permitted: a good five minutes, which is plenty - I got loopy and had to pace myself. Best fair ride ever? My audible WHOOOO! says it all.

Back in the tail end of elementary school, my cousin and I used to watch wrestling. He was all about the Ultimate Warrior. For whatever reason, I had a crush on this guy.

So what if he was Bad, whatever that meant in the utterly serious world of 1990 kayfabe. DAT MULLET!

(In other words - I was 11. Shut up.)

I caught a match some years back when our cable was out and I had nothing else to watch. Oh, the hilarity. Betrayal commented about ad nauseam for those who managed to miss the other 409812 expressions of shock that Rhyno just came out of nowhere and gored Kurt Angle! Breaking out of pins at the last microsecond! Apparent exhaustion followed by inexplicable bursts of strength! Chants of USA for two guys from the same country! Botching the big bang signature move, followed by hard-fought victory!

I was recently directed to this over a friend's amusement at some random Japanese wrestler who could have been Cao Ren and Xiahou Yuan's long lost angry cousin. And there went that glee again. The stage mannerisms are more animated, more scrappy, more cartoonish. The moves are sold awkwardly at times, which somehow makes it even more amusing. Too bad for the language barrier. I'll just have to tolerate the pain of never knowing the deep and nuanced reason why Abbad got whacked with a crutch.

rydain: Mario bouncing in Kuribo's Shoe (Kuribo's Shoe)
Last week, we doubled the RAM in my computer and swapped in a faster hard drive. After three successful data migrations, from OS upgrades to moving all my business onto this current machine, OS X decided to put on its best trollface and only copy over some arbitrary subset of my profile. Repeatedly. Which kept me up past 4 a.m. on a weeknight until I decided to fuck it all and manually drag over all the missing data on my old drive, which was left untouched and mounted externally. A computer without satisfactory customization is like a fire hydrant that some other dog peed on, especially with the complication of Data Restoration Whack-a-Mole. I need to be able to come home and sit down and listen to my music while diving into any current project - and I was closing in on my latest artwork at the time - so I took a morning off to recreate that comfort for myself.

The silver lining? This gave me a good reason to go through assorted downloads and notes from long ago. I threw out all sorts of random offal just sitting around, and I came across quality amusement long since forgotten. I present to you a dream log from five years back, which still brings the relevant images to mind.

Not so happy Mr. Owl )

Murder on the desert ship )

Scary Pittsburgh tunnels and '90s celebrities )
rydain: (Lu Meng in the Mist)
June, my unofficial 2012 month of Pittsburgh reunions.

The first was a meetup with some of my best friends ever at a noodle restaurant that hasn't changed since high school, from the menu to the blown-up photos on the striped orange wall. This week's occasion was my old neighbor's summer party. Her mom and my mom go way back, and we always got along well over the years. I invariably enjoyed loafing around with her friends as well, even though I tended to be the runt of the group because I was two years younger.

It was a hell of an awesome party. Nice buffet, cookie tray, keg of quality brew supplemented with a variety pack from the neighbors. Friendly dog, backyard up the hill, kids running around with Super Soakers and chasing fireflies in the dusky blue twilight. Very chill and down to earth and reminiscent of various others hosted by my parents' friends over the years, in which the young ones found their common ground as the grownups sat and drank beer. One's demographic may change, but the get-along aspect remains the same - with a bonus case of Small World Syndrome as I realized that I was sitting across from one of my first online friends. Conversation ranged from renaissance fairs to Halloween costumes and the Toledo Zoo, which apparently has quite the impressive hippo exhibit. Interesting people tend to be educational by sheer virtue of their variety of knowledge, and I was reminded of some American historical tidbits that I hope I had only forgotten rather than never learned in the first place. At least I remembered "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too", even if I didn't recall the specifics of Tyler's presidency itself.

My mom still lives in the house I grew up in, and I stay in my old room whenever I visit. The neighborhood noises are strange and the bed is rather short, but I always sleep well.
rydain: Vault Boy Winking (Vault Boy Winking)
Christmas road trip family baked goods overload, plus homebrew from the in-laws' neighbors. I even managed to keep my 6 a.m. - 12 p.m. vacation sleep schedule. Tomorrow my ass goes back to the gym.

I also spent a great deal of time dinking around with my shiny new Dreamwidth layout. (Peanut gallery: What's Dreamwidth, Uncle G-Funk?) It's based on a fork of Livejournal's code, and here's why I jumped there.

You may have noticed that Livejournal's comment page design has shat the bed. Massive customer outcry has had little effect, and signs point to worse interface mangling in the future. Between LJ higher-ups' disdain for its userbase and Dreamwidth's reputation for respecting its own, I figured it was about time to start mirroring. Until the end of the year, you can sign up free - no invite code required. In the future, I should have some invites to hand out. I'm not entirely sure how that works.

I will continue to cross-post, so feel free to stay with LJ if you prefer it. Just extending the offer is all.

August 2015

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