Writing is a thing I do


My NaNoWriMo progress as of last night

I haven’t written anything here in a while, and the reason for it is that I have been writing other things in other places. Now that I am officially on staff for www.indiegames.com, I’m writing articles for them 4-6 times a week, which involves finding and trying good games on top of the writing itself. It’s also November, which back home in the USA is National Novel Writing Month, a.k.a. NaNoWriMo.

Every year, a lot of people celebrate NaNoWriMo by trying to pump out 50,000 words of a story over the course of the month. It’s doable if you keep up with it, though when I tried last year I got a few thousand words in and then stopped. This year, I picked up the same story and am trying to actually finish it. It may be a little cheaty to use the same idea and what I started with last year, but this is a story idea that’s been floating around my head for years waiting to be written.

Besides, when the goal is 50,000 words, what’s a 2,500 word head start? Continue reading

Openings in Creative Endeavors

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My best friend linked me an article in which Steven King talks about opening sentences to books — how important they are, why that is, and what makes some more memorable than others. He spends a long time crafting the opening sentences to his books. It’s a fascinating read, whether or not you like to write. But while I was reading it, my mind drifted a bit. I’ve been thinking a lot about writing styles recently anyway, thanks to the author’s commentary at the end of the Ender’s Game audiobook, and this article just built on that for me. Continue reading

LimbClock’s $1 Drawing


One of my Ludum Dare buddies was offering fun, $1 commissioned sketches, so I got one. I asked him to do something with a crow, a walnut, and a bolt (as in screw, not lighting). I envisioned art involving those three things for [my old] blog back when I named it, but I am not artistically inclined and I never got around to it. I’m not going to use this as web site branding, I don’t think, but I do want it to be on here. So. Here it be.

Edit: I’m using this picture for my 404 page now! :D

An Example of International Copyright Helping Nobody — Not Customer, nor Developer, nor Publisher

This is cross-posted from my blog on Gamasutra.

This is the story all about how
My mind got flipped, turned upside down.
I’d like to take a minute, just sit right there,
And I’ll tell you how Apple’s customer service punished me for wanting to make an in-app purchase.

The Setup

When I make calls to customer service centers, I don’t usually have a normal problem. That’s the benefit of being more computer-savvy than most; I already know to check the cables, try restarting, clear the cache, etc. This time my problem was simple. I was pretty sure I understood the cause of the problem. When I made this call, I expected to be told there was no help for it and to be on my merry way, but Apple went a step further than that.

Here’s my unorthodox situation. I am a U.S. citizen living in Japan. I have a U.S. iTunes account, with which I’ve been merrily buying things for who knows how many years now from both the U.S. and from Japan. A little over a week ago, I got an iPhone from my Japanese phone carrier. I got it all set up and had no problems using my U.S. iTunes account with the Japanese iPhone.

I already had licenses for some iOS apps, from a time when my best friend got himself an iPhone and let me borrow his iPod Touch for a while. I added to that some new apps, including NimbleBit’s Tiny Tower. I decided that I wanted to make an in-app purchase, and that’s where I hit a snag.

My phone politely informed me that I couldn’t make in-app purchases and suggested that I contact customer service. Hmm, I thought. Maybe it’s because I have a U.S. iTunes account and am in Japan. So I tried making a purchase through a VPN. That didn’t succeed, either. So I called the U.S. Apple customer service.

The Punchline

I’m not going to give a full run-down of the call. In summary: I told the customer service rep what was up. He got me to give him my user ID so he could “see if [he] could find anything on my account.” He was gone for a couple of minutes, and when he came back he told me that they’d put a note of some kind on my account to keep it from allowing me to make any purchases outside the U.S. in the future, that I was in violation of the Terms of Service for having done so at all, and that I would still have access to things already purchased.

His conduct was kind of insulting; he got amazingly defensive in anticipation of hostility which was never going to come from me. He was just doing his job. I was in violation of the Terms of Service, which I should have read more thoroughly. I understood that he had done what he’d had to do to comply with Apple’s policies. And that those policies had been put into place because of international copyright law.

I also understood that international copyright law is the devil.

Here’s How This Hurts Everybody

First, the obvious one: I, the customer, am impacted. This decision to half-lock my account so the iTunes servers will pay attention to my global location infringes upon my life by making it so I can’t buy anything with that account. Yes, I can (and do) have a Japanese iTunes account for making purchases, but then I am stuck with getting my apps in Japanese — if the apps I want are available at all. Assuming the games I want are there, I don’t want the mindless games I play before I fall asleep to be in a foreign language. Furthermore, although I can use both accounts with my iPhone, I can only use one at a time. It’s incredibly inconvenient, at best. My motivation to buy anything is drastically reduced — not to mention the fact that the soft-boiled chicken egg of faith has cracks in the shell now.

Two, it hurts the developers. Why? Because even if I want to buy their software… I can’t! You have an amazing new game on the iTunes store? Fantastic. I’ll buy it when I go back to the states. If I ever go back to the states. Because I might not. If I do, it’ll be years from now. Hopefully I’ll remember that your game exists when the time comes.

And third… it hurts Apple itself. Because every lost sale is a sale that Apple doesn’t get its 30% cut of.

So if — as the customer service rep suggested — these policies are in place because of international copyright law… who the frell is this law helping?

Trailers that Get the Wrong Reaction

I saw Iron Man 3 at the theater last weekend. It was a good movie, but that’s not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about an ad before the movie which starred this fine gentleman:

Bruce Willis in GI Joe 2

One of the trailers was for the upcoming G.I. Joe movie. Once the trailer had ended, there was a commercial for G.I. Joe pens. I didn’t pay much attention to the details of this Amazing Pen Offer, but it was very Japanese. So very Japanese that they used a clip of Bruce Willis saying “Nice,” in the movie, subtitled in a bubbly pink font with a heart at the end. Continue reading

Trifecta: Poke for OSX, Itch.io, and the Ender’s Game Trailer

Item one: there is now a Mac OSX build for Poke, the game I mentioned in my last post.

It can be downloaded from item two, which is my profile up at itch.io. Itch.io is a web site made by another Ludum Dare person. It’s designed to just be a place where indie game developers can host their game files. The site supports pay what you want models, with the minimum price being set by the developer and $0.00 being a viable minimum price. It’s a neat site.

Then there is item three, the first trailer for the Ender’s Game movie adaptation.

The book and I have a history. When I was 9, Ender’s Game became the first book so engrossing that I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning to finish reading. To this day, it and its inseparable sequel Speaker for the Dead are, together, my favorite book. I’ve waited many, many years for this movie adaptation to come to fruition.

If I love this book so much, you might ask, why would I look forward to the adaptation? Aren’t they usually bad? Continue reading

It’s Been Awhile

I haven’t posted in a while because I’ve had a busy and stressful couple of months. I’m now on vacation in Florida, halfway around the world from home.

Getting Here

The plane trip was terrible. I bought my tickets from United against my better judgement because they were the cheapest; I’ve never had a problem-free ride with them. This time seals my resolution to never buy tickets from them again. To be fair, some of the problems were thanks to weather, over which they had no control. However, I wouldn’t have been in the places with weather problems if they hadn’t first cancelled my original flight because they had no plane to put us on (it never arrived and they had no backup) and then insisted on getting me on the first flight out instead of just letting me overnight in Tokyo. In Tokyo, I have an old friend who would probably have let me stay at her place. Instead, I ended up having to stay a night in the Newark airport, dehydrated from running around from counter to counter between flights up to that point with no chance to really take care of myself. To top things off, there were almost never service representatives at the United desks, which meant I had to bug one of their partner airlines to get taken care of.

A couple of good things came out of all that, though. One is that I found out that Air Canada has really friendly customer service people, both on and off of their planes. Another is that I met some great people among the other customers. I had some wonderful chats with random people, used my silliness skillz and ability to speak Japanese to help keep some kids occupied while their stressed parents took care of reaccommodation, and sat next to an awesome older gentleman on the first flight I took.

He was a Japanese man who had been living in Canada for a very long time — longer than I’ve lived on this Earth, in fact. His English, therefore, was excellent. He had had an interest in visiting North America from a young age. For his first trip over in 1978, he couldn’t find a flight to the exact place he wanted to go, so it was suggested that he take a flight to Anchorage. From there, he was told, he could easily get a flight down to Seattle. (He didn’t say how much luck he had with that, as our conversation turned other directions, but that would certainly be true today.) Eventually, on a stay in Canada, he met and fell in love with a woman from Taiwan and ended up settling in Canada because the only language they had in common was English. xD

Our topics of discussion varied widely, though I think bilingualism and piano music took up the biggest chunks of our conversation. We learned a few things from each other, though. I now know what the Japanese equivalent of chicken soup is for when you’re sick. He and his wife have hopefully checked out Kyle Landry’s channel on YouTube by now. Talking to him helped keep the flight from getting dull.

I didn’t get all that stressed while I was traveling. I wasn’t doing so hot when I was at the worst part of being dehydrated and hungry with most of the shops closed in Newark, but a very friendly TSA agent pointed me to a Subway in a different terminal and that sandwich and 40 oz. water made everything better.

Anyway, I made it.

I’m spending my first few days with my grandmother, who lives here in Orlando. She’s getting up there in age, and although she’s been able to retain her house with help from friends and family, she has a lot of health problems and can’t maintain the house very well. So I’ve been helping her with cleaning and just keeping her company. Not terribly exciting, but very nice.

Here soon, two friends of mine will arrive from Alaska. When they get here I’ll be transferring from Grandma’s house to the hotel we have reserved. It’s near Disney World, where we will be spending five days of our time here. Madmoose and I are big fans of the Disney theme parks, and are looking forward to having enough time to see all the Disney World parks in one go.

Ragingmoose, Madmoose’s wife and the second person coming to meet me here, is one of those silly people who believes the Disney parks are for kids, so it’s taken us some years to convince her that this big expensive trip is worth it and that she should come. We tried a few years ago, but she said no at the last minute. This time, when we started making our tentative plans, she said that even if she decided not to go (or was unable to because of failure to get time off as a junior employee) that Madmoose could still go without her. That was good to hear, but he and I are both very glad she is coming, too. :D It wouldn’t be as much fun without her.

Aside from spending time at Disney, there will be some more time spent with my locally-located family and some time spent just putzing around Florida. Ragingmoose and I will both have some homework to do, so there is that, too. We have tickets to Arabian Nights and Medieval Times, since neither Ragingmoose nor I have been to any such dinner shows.

On a more personal level, I am looking forward to access to peanut butter, almond butter, beef jerky, and sunflower seeds. As well as not wondering what menus say (or assume you know). I already miss the cleanliness of Japanese airport commodes.

Surprisingly, I also miss the ability to be understood in Japanese. That flight from Toronto to Newark was probably the most dangerous flight I’ve ever taken, those pilots did an amazing job getting us there safely, and I felt like I was unable to express my gratitude properly because the words I would have used in Japanese just don’t exist in English.

Amazon Now Allowing Kindle Account Merging Across International Stores

Amazon.co.jp launched its Kindle store last month. When I logged into my US account today to see if the next Dresden Files book had come out yet, I saw a message telling me that I can consolidate my Japanese and US Kindle libraries.

Great news! You can now shop for Kindle titles at Amazon.co.jp. Consolidate your libraries and manage them from Amazon.co.jp. Change your preferred shopping site to the Amazon.co.jp Kindle Store to shop for Japanese titles in Yen.

Continue reading

Future Plan Roller Coaster

My mother tells me that the first thing I ever said I wanted to be was a teacher. I don’t remember that. The first thing I remember wanting to be was an astronaut… specifically, a pilot. Much as I like learning the results of scientific experiments, I don’t much like to do them. Scientific experimentation is a tedious process. But being a girl with terrible eyesight, my chances of being allowed to take that career path were slim to none. I considered acting, but don’t have the passion to commit to strings of fruitless auditioning, working odd jobs on the side until I get lucky.

In high school, however, I locked my sights on a target about which I was — and still am — very passionate. Video games. I wanted to be a video game programmer. I learned some programming in high school, went off to college to get my degree in computer science, and started reading industry publications.

That last part is what dampened my enthusiasm. Not my enthusiasm for games, not my love of game design, not my desire to make games. No, just my enthusiasm for joining the video game industry. What I was reading synched up with things I’d noticed about the games I was playing to strongly indicate that commercial video games were going the way of commercial films. As costs to make them rose, funding to create them had to come from somewhere, and the people who could afford to fund the games wanted to make a profit and didn’t really care about revolutionizing gaming. On top of that, this was about the time that the scandal about how EA was treating its employees came out, illuminating a darker side of the industry. Continue reading