Tag Archives: Wikipedia

SOPA & PIPA

Representative Price,
Senator Burr,
Senator Hagan,

As your constituent, I ask that you oppose SOPA (H.R. 3261) and Protect IP Act (PIPA). Otherwise, I cannot in good conscience support your bid for reelection.

As a writer, small business owner, videographer and blogger, the internet is critical to my success in those media and has been instrumental to  my career. It allows me to reach my audience affordably and with minimal carbon footprint, and without fear of arbitrary censorship. Read More →

The tragedy of civilized progress

Post-apocalyptic New YorkEvery morning, I wake up, get into a stale metal box and travel down a concrete corridor at high speed, at the risk of injury and death, in order to get someplace I have no desire to be.

There I stay for (usually) nine to ten hours a day before coming home. At home, I have two or three hours before bed, where I repeat the whole process again from scratch.

I don’t have children yet, but I cannot help but wonder what would be the point of having children if I will forever have so little time to spend with them?

I am not alone in these circumstances; my wife does the very same thing. So do my mom and dad.

So does my boss. And so does his boss. So it isn’t even a matter of hierarchy; climbing the corporate ladder won’t net me any more freedom.

Nor is their any hope in sight of ever living any other way. “Retirement” is largely based on faith in government funds which quite frankly cannot afford to support my generation or those who are schedule to retire before my generation without even further increasing the cost to me to do so.

Every morning, I stare at the bumper of the car in front of me, and silently I ask the human race:

“Is this progress?”

Consider the following figures, taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/40-hour_work_week#Annual_hours_over_eight_centuries:

13th century Adult male peasant, UK 1620 hours
14th century Casual laborer, UK 1440 hours
Middle Ages English worker 2309 hours
1400-1600 Farmer-miner, adult male, UK 1980 hours
1840 Average worker, UK 3105-3588 hours
1850 Average worker, U.S. 3150-3650 hours
1987 Average worker, U.S. 1949 hours

In the 1980s, the average American worker had to work 500 more hours per year than his European ancestors did 600 years ago. And I have to assume that it was actually easier for the blacksmith or wagonwright or farmer in the 14th century to stop what he was doing and go visit his child or wife in the middle of the day than it is for us to do the same.

What progress have we made?

Using the data provided by the United State Bureau of Labor Statistics, Erik Rauch has estimated productivity to have increased by nearly 400 percent. Says, Rauch:

“… if productivity means anything at all, a worker should be able to earn the same standard of living as a 1950 worker in only 11 hours per week.”

I must ask us, as a community, as a country, as a society:

WHAT IS THE GOAL?

We dash madly from project to project, from home to job and back again, taking classes before work, after work, at work, and what is all of this meant to accomplish?

At best, we’re going in circles. At worst, we’re going backwards. Our standards of living have improved, but the time we have per day, per month, per year to enjoy those standards has decreased.

Once upon a time, a father could support his wife and children with his work alone. At least the mother had time to spend with her children, even if she was also responsible for educating them. Now my wife and I must both work just to sustain ourselves — we couldn’t realistically support children at our current income.

When will our many inventions and increased production net any kind of universal payoff in the ability to enjoy all the niceties we’ve invented over the years? And how can this possibly come to pass?

April Sage’s Day

Bah humbug.

April Fool’s Day is a holiday which glorifies dishonesty. If you absolutely must mess with people today, I encourage you to play pranks in good taste rather than outright lie.

For example last year someone stole and hid the desk and chair from one of my coworkers. However, they left her computer and other working materials in place. I like the sort of prank which causes a lot of laughs, but no real harm.

That said, I have enjoyed many an April Fool’s Day joke, especially announcements by major companies, such as Blizzard’s preview of the bard class (a la guitar hero), Burger King’s left-handed Whoppers, NASA’s claim of water on Mars (a glass of water and a Mars candy bar), google’s pranks, wikipedia’s pranks, and so forth.

My friend Ben (getting married this July) played an awesome April Fool’s prank on me when he insisted (after months of excitement towards D&D and roleplaying in general) that he’d done some more research and found that playing D&D would offend his good Christian sensibilities. He’s way too good of a liar.

Pranks and tall tales which are fairly evident or quickly revealed are all part of the fun. Just make sure you aren’t saying or doing something dishonest which is truly hurtful. And remember that everyone draws that line differently.

TV Tropes 101

individualityIf you ever look at the sidebar on the right, among the various navigation options you’ll see I’ve included websites I use for research. Obviously dictionary.com, wikipedia. Google maps I use to see how streets connect in distant cities, so that in a novel if my characters make a left onto Pennsylvania Ave. in DC, I know where they’re going, even though I’ve never driven through DC myself.

The one I want to call your attention to is www.tvtropes.org.

It’s my new favorite website. OF ALL. Even more addictive to me than wikipedia (where I also spend significant time).

Tropes are common elements employed in the storytelling arts, similar to cliches but not identical; mostly because of the negative connotation that “cliche” has. Tropes are value-neutral, although SOME tropes are bad. It would be fair to say that cliches are a type of tropes.

The TV Tropes is a wiki site with less stringent standards than most wikis, resulting in a lot informality. This can make it hard to follow when a particular troper doesn’t phrase things clearly, especially when the “definition” of a trope is given in terms of additional tropes, which the reader may not know yet. (And if THOSE tropes are similarly poorly defined, it becomes an endless circle of confusion.)

But some are well-written enough, and the examples are the heart of the tropes. You can also look up your favorite tv shows, books, and movies, and see which tropes have been identified within them.

One of the most popular movies of all time was The Matrix. Just how original was this ‘groundbreaking’ film?

Let’s check its trope page to find out. There we find a list of several dozen tropes identified, commonly used in many other books, movies, and shows.

Here are just a few:

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/ThereIsNoTry
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/TheObiWan
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/SamusIsAGirl
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/NighInvulnerability
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/MyNameIsInigoMontoya
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/CatScare
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/BadAssLongcoat
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/AlwaysSaveTheGirl
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/CrypticConversation
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/DreamWithinADream
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/GunFu
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/SignificantAnagram

And of course my all-time favorite trope:
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/RuleOfCool

Now how many of the tropes above did you already identify as references to other movies? Or in Samus’ case, video games?

Knowing these elements is way of admitting that nothing is new under the sun, the admission of which frees one to use these elements deliberately if desired, or avoid them, or at least acknowledge them.

Tropes in Woman’s Best Friend

In addition to researching tropes used, averted, suberted, or lampshaded by others, I often search for tropes in my own work by plugging words or themes into the TV tropes search engine. I’m curious how many tropes I unwittingly used when simply writing a story, without keeping any particular tropes in mind. (This is how most tropes occur, rather than by intention.)

Woman’s Best Friend dodges a lot of typical dog tropes, which pleases me. However, Evil Detecting Dog makes an appearance (both played straight and subverted), and one scene could be interpreted as Kick The Dog (even though it wasn’t a strictly superfluous action).

Naomi is quite obviously a Distressed Damsel, which is a trope Older Than Dirt. It looks like I also lampshaded Not With the Safety On You Won’t. Mark is fairly obviously a Workaholic.

There are a couple others, but I won’t list them here as they are spoilers.