Wednesday, April 13, 2016

This Year I'll Learn Korean

I've decided to learn to speak and read Korean.

Way back in middle school I started French lessons with a wonderful French teacher, but my family moved away in the middle of the semester, and I never resumed teaching myself.

We moved to a small town in northern Wisconsin, and the only language that high school taught was German. The instructor of the class was also the mayor of our town, and he did not speak German. Later I took German introductory courses in community college, two years of them, but even we six students who'd stuck through it to the end never learned to speak or translate much.

On my own I tried to learn Japanese through Pimsleur tapes. Yes, cassette tapes: I was living in Minneapolis and driving to work in St. Paul, which necessitated over an hour of commuting time one way (outside of rush hours it's a 15-minute commute). I decided to use that time to learn Japanese, and my car had a tape deck, so I paid something like six bucks for the introductory lessons and became pretty skilled with it, for a beginner. Eventually I invested in the advanced lessons as well. But I had no one to practice with and I didn't know enough to understand the anime I was into at the time, so I lost interest, and now I'm stuck with a load of like-new cassette tapes.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Fuck This Game

And now I'm done with Blade & Soul.

Early on, you have to choose a faction. This means nothing while you're training. But when you level up to your mid-20s and move out to whatever desert region, you get a load of quests that can only be completed if you wear your faction uniform.

Of course, wearing one faction uniform means the other faction can attack you. While I was gathering quests, a player from the other faction attacked and killed me from behind. Then he and his friends hung out at the resurrection point and killed me repeatedly: either my computer or my connection is very slow, so when the screen finally loaded it was just in time to see my character die, while one person kicked my corpse and another taunted me to "stay down".

That's entertainment.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Once Into the Fray

That's how I see it, squaring off against The Enemy. There are two species of humans at war with each other: one side has, as I frame it, hearts and minds intact. They care about people and issues outside of themselves, because they understand things like community and ROI.

The other side has, as I frame it, withered, blackened little hearts and calcified brains. Their passions go no further than satisfying their own desires, and so everyone else is assessed either as a tool to attain those desires or an obstacle to those desires. They have two qualities spinning around each other in a tight orbit: ignorance and fear. These feed on each other and fuel all their other motivations. They hate [blacks/women/Muslims/gays/liberals/disabled/etc.] because they don't understand them, and they're unwilling to learn more about them. Not from the authoritative source, anyway: they're very willing to learn from other hate-mongers who are not black, female, Muslim, gay, etc., about what these groups must be like.

So there are people who care about benefiting everyone, and there are people who love money and guns and hate education, and I see these two sides at war. There are people who secure Freedom of Speech, for example, because it's best to permit everyone to express their views and move our culture forward; and there are people who use Freedom of Speech to oppress others and, eventually, kill Freedom of Speech.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Upgrading Weapons in Blade & Soul

A friend of mine started posting really intriguing screenshots of her character in a new MMO. It seemed to be appearance-heavy with gorgeous aesthetic in the clothes and the forms of the character, and while I knew my graphics card isn't up to snuff, I wanted to try this game.

Unfortunately, Black Desert is invite-only and in beta, and so far I haven't been allowed in.

But then another friend started posting pictures of her gorgeous character in a high-graphics setting, so I checked that out too. Anyone can sign up for Blade & Soul, so I did. And as I said, my graphics card isn't great, so all the characters look like they're finely crafted in Fimo and misted in olive oil, but I can still appreciate the environment.

But as with any new MMO reinventing the wheel, there's only so much playing skill I can bring to the game. Everything after that is a different way of fixing weapons, a different way of upgrading equipment, etc., and it's not very intuitive to engage with. And then even if you can find an online forum that's talking about these things, the official FAQ is written in broken English and the Stateside forums are stocked by native speakers who struggle with constructing coherent sentences.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Pulling My Pants Down to Fart

I'm undertaking a lot of work for fun. I've purchased a domain name, I've purchased hosting services, and I've started a WordPress account. This is all to collect all my writing activities online in one hub. All my North Korea posts (I'll figure that out later), all my travel writing (Iceland's complete; Ireland's next; then I resume chipping away at all the SE Asia entries), and whatever an editor's portfolio is supposed to look like.

I've been published. I've sold a couple dozen erotic fiction short stories. One of my humor pieces was accepted by a literary magazine. I think that's about it, I haven't worked too hard at this, I have to admit that.

In fact, I was researching information on Iceland, and my specific line of inquiry drove me right to my own travelogue from 2008 on this blog. So rather than reinvent the wheel, I went through all my old posts and pasted them into the new travel journal. But I also reread the interstitial posts, the asides as I caught up with my life in the moment.

I had a lot of aspirations and no follow-through, that's what I see. I see a couple friends I had great affection for, with whom I no longer speak. Out of hostility, not attrition. I also see that many more people used to comment on my posts eight years ago, that's something different. I can't delete this blog again (and I wish I hadn't the first time) because this is actually a valuable record of stuff I'd like to keep track of. My friends said valuable things.

I also found a comment by another writer. I didn't know who he was back then, and he's much bigger now, but he made a point of negatively referencing my blog posts and directing hostile users to a couple of my blogs. I don't think I did anything to him personally, I was just convenient to pick on when he didn't feel like writing a full article. And they wouldn't pick fights here: I'd notice a spike in my stats and look up where traffic was coming from, and it was always from him. I could find the "wow, this guy's an asshole, huh?" post on his blog and the link to something I'd written.

I let that discourage me way more than I should have. I'm not going to blame him for my choice to stop writing, or to stop pursuing a serious career in writing, even if I've deleted most of my blogs.

My fucking blogs. That word is suitably ridiculous sounding, yet I brandish it as though it were viable currency. Fuck me.

Today I had a day off. I'm finally working in an office that acknowledges MLK Day. I spent the day copy-n-pasting my old Icelandic travelogue into my new "professional" website, with photos and geotagging and everything. And it's done, and no one will read it, but I will continue this work until it is all completed. I may not fully understand the utility of WordPress, but I'll get it. And even if no one acknowledges my mediocrity, and I never push myself to be an adult, I will complete this action.

Monday, January 11, 2016


My wife woke me up today with news that David Bowie had died.

I had the good taste not to laugh in her face, but this sounded ridiculous. I accept that his physical body has failed, but in no sense is Bowie dead. We still have his movies and his music; it's not like we have to turn those in. He is still vibrantly alive in our hearts and minds, there's no question of that. For fuck's sake, he's inspiring ordinary people to write poetry right this minute! After his ersatz "death" he is still acting upon our lives.

When my body fails, I will be dead and forgotten. Bowie's the opposite on both counts. Nobody can do better than that.

Watching all my friends in very real pain, however, that's what has me choked up.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Silver and Gold, Silver and Gold

Image: Universiteit van Amsterdam
When I hear about people investing in gold and silver bullion, I think of alarmism.

There are many good reasons to invest in precious metals, of course, and many intelligent, mature people have already done so. There are also a great many scams built around this market, fed by some prominent firebrands, bigots and amoral opportunists. This is managed by starting in a place of self-reliance and emergency preparation, then preying upon people's fears and whipping them up into a frenzy until rational thought goes out the window.

That is exactly what happens when you get mad. It has been demonstrated in carefully directed studies that you make worse decisions when you're angry. That is why racists and misogynists are so easily led: their thought processes have been disabled. "Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering." This we all know. But this, perhaps, is a post for another time.