Sunday, December 30, 2012

Final Report 2012

Still not dead!

So, okay. I did succeed at NaNoWriMo this year. I haven't mentioned anything about it since n'yeah because I'm still not done with the book yet, which is how it should be. I'm currently at 70,000 words, give or take, and steaming on to the big final battle.

I'm going to keep writing through 2013, of course. I want to finish and then revise the NaNoNovel, and then I think I'm going to work on my short story game. I would like to submit a few complete stories this year, whether or not they get published.

I had a very lovely Christmas holiday which consisted of visiting family and talking and generally being happy. I go back to work tomorrow, then I'm off again for New Year's Day, then I'm back to work for real. My resolution for the year at the office is to manage my timekeeping properly and to avoid any psychotic episodes.

What else did I do this year? Oh that's right, I bought a house and moved into it, which still leaves me feeling bewildered every once in a while. I am proud to report that my home feels like home, and now that I'm settled in I don't think I'd trade it for any other house in the world, rickety fence and all. Next year will  bring more surprises, and if they're as nice as this one has been I'll look forward to them.

I paid attention to politics more than ever this year, and now my heart is full of hate. 'Nuff said. But I'm glad Obama won.

And now because I wasn't really planning a recap of my year when I sat down I'll do some easy product shilling.

I read some great books, I read some good books, I read some okay books. I don't think I've read any truly bad books this year, which is not a terrible thing. No Know Fear was a spectacular highlight for the generally fantastic Horus Heresy series, while Betrayer left me feeling completely frazzled (in a good way). Let's Pretend This Never Happened made me laugh, and I got some warm fuzzies rereading classics like Heir to the Empire and The Hobbit.

I'm planning to read through The Silmarillion this year. All of it. I might write more about that later, but I suspect there's nothing more terrifying a man can do when he's trying to write his own epic (or any) fantasy book. I also might write more about Ravenwing, which was a very well-written book that still had me loathing most of the cast well before the halfway point.

I have fallen in love with Two Best Friends Play!, and maintained my adoration for The Mike O'Meara Show and The Big O and Dukes. The one upside to an hour-long commute is that I can keep up with my favorite podcasts without too much trouble. I would also recommend Nerd Poker to anyone who wants to listen to a filthy Dungeons & Dragons podcast from professional comedian Brian Posehn.

I've kept up with big changes in the comic book industry, but I'm sad to say that next year will probably see me cut back on my comics reading considerably, if I don't drop it entirely. I can't afford the price and the storage space to keep up with every Earth Shattering Event (tm) that comes down the pipe. With that said, I'm going to try to keep up with Saga and Transformers: Regeneration One, at the very least; and I'm very curious to see what Dan Slott has planned for the Superior Spider-Man.

I still play video games when I can, though I rarely have enough time to get serious with them. I got my first Call of Duty game for Christmas, and I'm curious to see if my Battlefield skillz transfer over. And I'm bound and determined to get Sarah on board for a Lego Lord of the Rings playthrough.

I'm not deeply committed to a lot of television shows. I'll be watching Doctor Who, and Game of Thrones, and the finale of Breaking Bad. I'll also try to keep up with The Walking Dead, which is more difficult than I'd like. For movies, I'm looking forward to the Evil Dead remake and trying to stay optimistic about World War Z. I'll take the rest as they come. There were a lot of good movies out this year, so suffice to say The Avengers was my favorite.

Have I shilled enough yet? Do I get a check from Google or Amazon now? God this was disjointed...

Saturday, December 22, 2012

I'm Going To Say This Once

I've been almost silent online about the Sandy Hook shootings. I haven't felt it's my place to comment. It was a horrific tragedy and I'm unlikely to say anything that would reach or provide comfort to anyone affected by it. (If by some chance this post does reach anyone affected by a school shooting, you have my deepest condolences.)

But as time has passed and people have started debating how we can prevent this sort of tragedy from happening again, I've been tempted more than once to get into an argument over opinions I disagree with. And, again, I've refrained, because frankly I'm not interested in getting in a meaningless fight that'll piss me off, piss somebody I like off, and end with acrimony and nothing useful coming out of it.

Then I read the NRA statement that came out yesterday, and decided that yes, I need to write something about this.

For the record, I support the Second Amendment and I'm in favor of responsible gun ownership. I have a lot of hunters in my family, who've owned guns for years (hell, generations) without incident. I was, in high school, a member of the Annapolis High School NJROTC's Rifle Team for four years, headed* the damn thing for two, and earned an Expert marksmanship medal. (And my dad likely still wouldn't trust me with a rifle in the woods. I'm not going to argue with him.) I like guns and I think they're a fine thing for sportsmen and hunters to become familiar with.

With that said… I part company with the NRA in a lot of ways. I'm not sold on the idea of owning a gun for home defense: making said gun accessible enough to be useful means that it's not locked up well enough for me to feel secure having it in the house. I don't have anything against gun control in the practical aspects: I'm fine with more background checks, I don't care what size my ammunition clip is, and I can imagine a few semi-automatic weapons** that nobody really needs to own, at least without providing significant proof that they're competent enough to handle the weapon.

Now, I didn't expect the NRA to come out in favor of gun control. But I thought they might at least acknowledge that there is a debate to be had on the issue. I was, of course, thinking of the NRA of the actor Charlton Heston, and not the somewhat more batshit one of Wayne LaPierre.

Here is the full NRA statement for your reading convenience. It starts off on a strong note, acknowledging the tragedy and the NRA's silence up until now out of respect for the victims. But then it veers over a fucking cliff and demonizes the media, the mentally ill, the media, video games, Hollywood, the media, the President, and the media amid calls to put an armed guard in every school in the country.

Um… what?

Let's start with the main point, which is the armed guard thing. A lot of schools in America already have armed guards on the property, and I'm sad to say that they don't always prevent mass shootings. Columbine is one example. Fort Hood, a military base, could be considered another. There's also the fact that it would cost billions of dollars to keep enough guards employed to do a job that, thankfully, doesn't actually need to be done all that often.

And maybe it's just me, but I'm miserable about the state of schools in this country as it is. I don't like the idea that we need to put guards and metal detectors in schools to keep them from exploding with violence. School, particularly middle school, already felt like a damn prison half the time when I was attending. I don't want to send my future children to some place with the look and feel of Blackgate.

So I'm not in favor of more guards. There was also an implication in the statement that we should start a national registry for people with mental illnesses. It's a vague idea to start with, and I'd tend to oppose it on the grounds that it would be open to abuse by employers, neighborhood communities, and anyone else who got access to it. It also doesn't actually do anything to treat mental illness.

I think that improving mental illness treatment across the country ought to be a priority now, in addition to taking a serious look at gun control. None of the gun control measures I noted above, for example, would have done a damn thing to stop Adam Lanza, who stole a gun from his mother and shot her with it before he went on his rampage. Getting Lanza into treatment earlier might have stopped him before he started. Then again, a gun safe might have done the same thing.

What we don't need to do is get another Inquisition started against the "callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry" that makes video games. Nor do I give one shit about "Splatterdays" or the race to the bottom of "media conglomerates". (Well, I do give a small shit about that last one, but Jersey Shore has been canceled.)

The entertainment industries get trotted out as whipping boys at least once a decade to answer for the crimes of mentally ill people who might have had a passing familiarity with some violent game or show. The evidence of any actual influence is always spotty at best. (There's also the First Amendment issue, which Penny Arcade covered much more eloquently than I could, per the image above.)

And it's fairly obvious that Wayne is bringing up the evils of media to deflect attention from the NRA. Why else would he keep talking about how the media is "rewarding" killers, concealing "dirty little truths", and working to "demonize legitimate gun owners"? He's trying to make it as clear as possible that the media ought to be concentrating on MTV and >snerk< Bulletstorm, and that anyone talking about the NRA is flagrantly biased against it.

Which is, to be fair, his job. But it's not in the country's best interests to pretend that we don't even need to have a debate about gun control. And it's a farce to paint the NRA as an embattled organization being assaulted on all sides.

Gun control needs to be on the table. So does providing better treatment for mental illness. I don't agree with putting more armed guards in schools, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't consider it. Wayne said it himself: "there is no national, one-size-fits-all solution to protecting our children." We have a very clear problem that our leaders need to address: I encourage them to do so quickly and thoughtfully.

What we should not do is let the NRA or any other lobby put their interests before the interests of the citizens of our country. We should not let pundits and lobbyists spread disinformation, anger and bullshit to cripple even the most common-sense regulation. We should not let a desire for austerity prevent us from funding programs that have can prevent future tragedies and improve the lives of American citizens. Above all else, we shouldn't let this become yet another partisan exercise to score points for the next election.

We have an opportunity, in the face of this shooting, to take real actions to prevent future tragedies. Those actions won't be perfect; they can't be. But we can't afford to let the NRA keep us from taking any action at all.

I'm going to ask you, if you haven't already, to contact your Senators and your Representative, and urge them to act. I'm not going to be particular on what you urge them to do; as I've said, no one solution is perfect. But an imperfect solution is still better than failing to address the problem.

* In reality I was a figurehead. The program was run by Mrs. Miller, a parent volunteer who brooked no trespass of the range safety rules, i.e using a student's head as a gun rest. I salute her both for keeping us competitive and for ensuring that we suffered no injuries.

** Ignore anyone who talks about an "assault weapons ban" without qualifying what they mean. The term is ill-defined bullshit that can cover automatic weapons (which are already heavily restricted) and semi-automatic weapons (which covers any gun that doesn't require you to chamber each round by hand - that is to say, the vast majority of them).

Monday, December 10, 2012

Down With The Sickness

Ladies and gentlemen: I hate being sick.

I hate feeling like my body is betraying me. I hate feeling like I'm falling apart into my component molecules. I hate coughing and sneezing and sweating and wondering if I'm feverish.

I hate not being able to sleep. I hate taking NyQuil and feeling like I can't wake up. I hate taking DayQuil and waiting for it to kick in. I would not touch ZzzQuil with a twenty foot pole on a dare.

I revile sitting in a darkened room alone, either because the light hurts my eyes or because I don't have the strength to make it to the switch. I hate having the blinds open because the light from outside is too painful. I hate having the blinds closed because I can't see anything. I hate opening the blinds because all I see outside is fog and rain and drizzle and vehicles driving desultorily through the cul-de-sac outside.

I detest it when the dog, as loving and sympathetic as she is, insists that her bladder can't hold anything more and makes me take her outside, because if I don't she'll forget what she's out there for and start barking at the neighbors.

I am filled with loathing when, at 5:30 a.m. little Lina hears someone or something outside and launches a thermonuclear barking salvo at the intruder, which for all I know was nothing more harmful than a squirrel scratching at the back door.

I suffer when, having gone out into my backyard in my boxer shorts clutching a hammer, I discover that the back gate is indeed open, and spend long minutes circling the porch with my hammer raised while the dog relieves herself.

I swell with regret when I report this to my wife, and have to hold her while we wait for our morning alarms to go off.

I am utterly miserable when I have to call into my office and let my boss know I won't be in today, and might not be tomorrow; and that I'm going to need more time off on Thursday than I thought. I hate looking at the amount of leave I have left and seeing it drop down, down, down.

I flush with embarrassment when I realize how far off course this blog post has gotten.

Ladies and gentlemen: I. Hate. Being. Sick.

So. How are you?