Mar 25 2012

The Best Picture of Me Ever

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CherryBlossomGneech.jpg

Taken last day at the Cherry Blossom Festival, by Mrs. Gneech. 🙂

-The Gneech

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Aug 17 2011

Fear of Being Committed, No Wait, That’s Not Right

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This week I punted on a story that just wasn’t going anywhere; I hate doing that, and I especially hate doing it when the editor for whom I was doing the story seemed so keen to have it, but it was frankly not my best work and I suspect he would have had to reject in the end anyway. Better in the long run at this stage to let it go so both he and I can devote the mental resources to something else.

This, combined with the gear-grinding on Arclight Adventures, has led me to reflect on just what it is I want to accomplish with my creative endeavors, why it is that I do them — and why I seem to have been having difficulty with them lately. And I think I’ve discovered at least one psychological factor that’s been holding me back, i.e., “fear of commitment.”

Y’see, Suburban Jungle and NeverNever consumed so much of my life for so long, that there is a part of me that’s frankly afraid to get that wrapped up in something again. I loved doing my comics, don’t get me wrong, but there were plenty of times when it could also be a draining, demoralizing, downright painful experience, and part of me is shying away from that.

Another issue has been my own underlying motivation for doing the work, and here I have not been pleased with what I saw in the mental mirror. Y’see, for both NN and SJ, my motivation was that I loved the work — I was making those comics because I wanted them to exist, I thought they were good and worthy things that would make the world a better place by being in it. This has been less true of my more recent projects. In fact, at the end of the day, what has been motivating me lately has been ego.

I don’t want the entirety of my creative output to be “ten years of webcomics and done.” I don’t want the history of pop culture to say of The Gneech: “Known, by those few who do, as the guy who did The Suburban Jungle.” I want to leave a bigger footprint.

A natural feeling, perhaps, but a terrible reason to be doing any major undertaking. Somebody recently described me in my LiveJournal as “dedicated to my own epicness” — said as a joke, yeah, but it still had the sting of truth to it. I should be thinking about the work itself, and the readers out there who will hopefully get something out it, not about what it will do for my prestige and/or fragile egg of a sense of self-worth.

So … what to do about it? Well, for starters, I’m blowing away all of my current “projects” (which have been more placeholders than actual work anyway), except for the Short Story Geeks Podcast, because I have made a commitment to my fellow podcasters on that one and I intend to honor that. But for everything else, as of this blog entry, I’m no longer “working on X” for a half-dozen half-formed ideas.

Second, I’m going to look at each of the things I have been working on with a critical eye and determine which, if any, are actually worth doing on their own merits, rather than because I think it’d be “good for my career,” so to speak. If a project can actually justify its own existence, then I will add it to my to-do list, even if the due date is “sometime after 2015,” but if not, it’s going into the proverbial sock drawer indefinitely.

I do know of at least one project which will move up in the priority list, a YA collaboration with Mrs. Gneech, actually, which we’ve been talking about on-and-off for several years now. We recently sat down and hashed out a lot of things about it, to the point where I think we have a pretty good vision for what it should be like. It’s not something that really builds on anything I’ve done before (except in the vague sense of having some fantasy elements), nor really is likely to have immediate appeal to my established audience, but it is something about which I can confidently say its existence would be a +1 for the world. 🙂

As for what other projects will be added back in, I couldn’t tell you at this stage. If you have one you’d like to advocate for, I’d love to hear it!

-The Gneech

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Jun 28 2011

My Hovercraft Is Full of Eels

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So I live in the ‘burbs of Washington D.C., and its a very diverse, cosmopolitan place. Around here it’s common to encounter people from all over the world, who speak widely-varying levels of English. But even given the linguistic barrier, occasionally there are things that just make you go, “Buh?”

This morning, Mrs. Gneech and I were taking our usual 10:45 walk around outside the office when a scrappy young teenage guy carrying a backpack, looking bronzed from much walking in the sun, approached us and said in a vaguely-slavic way, “I am zorry, but can you tell me, vere is Target?”

This is Tyson’s Corner: there is nothing as pedestrian as a Target within 10 miles. If he wanted expensive designer clothes or possibly a diamond-encrusted wristwatch, he’d be all set. So Mrs. Gneech and I blinked at him and went, “Uhh…” as we tried to think of the best option for this wayward pedestrian.

“Oh, no, vait,” he said, and checked his crumpled sheet of scribbled notes. “I mean, vere is Perfect Pita?”

Well, I can certainly see how one might confuse “Target” with “Perfect Pita.” (Wait, what?) Fortunately, Perfect Pita was right in the same Coke-bottle-green skyscraper as our office, so all we had to do was point at it and say, “In the lobby, all the way back, on the right.” He thanked us and went his way, and we went ours.

Naturally, he went up to the side door that read “Lasik Procedure,” and wondered where the pitas were. Fortunately, from there it was easy for him to spot the main lobby doors and go on in. By the time we were finished with our walk and coming into the building, we met him coming out again, after having spent a grand total of maybe 30 seconds inside.

Worried that he might have just stepped into the lobby, not seen the Perfect Pita, and stepped out again, Mrs. Gneech asked, “Did you find it?”

“Uh, yes, zank you,” said the kid, smiled in vague embarrassment, and took off, leaving us to wonder what the story was.

“I’m geocaching,” suggested Mrs. Gneech.

“It’s on my ‘bucket list,'” was my response.

Hell of it is, we’ll never know. But life is like that, around here.

-The Gneech

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Apr 16 2011

Random Dead Frog

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So it’s a rainy day … tornado watch even. And we step out the door to run some errands only to be surprised by a frog on the patio. “Oh, neat! A frog! … Er … wait, there’s something wrong here…”

The frog, sitting in a fairly normal attentive-frog pose, was quite dead, with its mouth hanging open and a purple-black tongue lolling out. Yeeks. Ate some pesticide, perhaps? We don’t put any out ourselves, but who knows what the neighbors do. The frog has no visible wounds, so it’s not like some predator left a half-finished job on the porch. It looks for all intents and purposes that a frog just decided our porch was a good place to die.

Okay, creepy. We have a random dead frog on a cold and stormy day. But we also have errands to run, so random dead frog is left where he is.

Later, we’re back home and taking care of stuff and I happen to look out on the patio: random dead frog is still there, sitting attentively…

…facing the other way…

Time for the jibblies. O.o WTF, random dead frog? And why is it that you’re ten inches closer to the door?

Mrs. Gneech decides it’s time for the random dead frog to go. So we head out to the patio, to find that the random dead frog is now facing in a third direction. ¬.¬ But in short order it’s scooped up in a plastic bag and tossed into the trash. No getting in and laying a curse on the house for YOU, random dead frog!

Still.

WTF random dead frog.

-The Gneech

PS: I’m actually fairly sure that what happened is that the random heavy spurts of rain caused puddles which floated the dead frog around as they washed off the porch. But I didn’t see this with my own eyes, so it’s just as conceivable that we had a haunted frog on the porch. If it reappears after having been thrown away, we’ll know to call in the local exorcist.

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Sep 07 2010

Returning to What Passes For Reality…

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Steampunk Gneech is steampunkishWell! I’m home after what has been a … unique … Dragon*Con. You remember all that stuff that happened to Mrs Gneech and me? The pet hotel debacle? The fall on the escalator? There was also a fire at the hotel. What a weekend!

On the other hand, I met some cool new folks, completed my long-worked-on collection of MST3K signatures, got a ton of development work done on the new comic, and took part in a World Record attempt (for largest collection of steampunk costumes in a photo).

As you can probably tell, I spent a lot of time in the steampunk track, where apparently I fit in like the proverbial bug in a rug. Having hitherto not been much involved in the contemporary steampunk scene, I spent most of the time simply going to panels and soaking up what people had to say, but I was pleased to discover that a lot of the people in the fandom have similar opinions to mine in regards to such things as the preponderance of brown, the rather silly nature of goggles on a top hat, and the fact that “steampunk” is kind of a crap term. It was fun to sort of come into it as an outsider (Technomancer’s Toybox and similar things notwithstanding) and still feel like I had something to offer. One of the editors for Kerlak Publishing, when I mentioned that I’d be starting a steampunk(-ish) comic early next year, perked right up and was eager to be in the loop about it.

As for Dragon*Con itself … it’s suffering from growing pains in a major way. The ratio of costumers to non-costumers took a serious nosedive this time around (particularly as many members of the 501st Legion didn’t come this time around, I hear); and there were entirely too many panels that you simply couldn’t get in to see. I’m seriously worried that Dragon*Con will fall prey to the famous Yogi Berra quote, “Nobody goes there any more, it’s too crowded.” If I wanted to go to a con where I couldn’t get into any panels, couldn’t navigate the dealer room for the crowd, and couldn’t see any costumes, I’d go to San Diego Comic-Con. 😛 There are also way too many non-geeks (who don’t buy badges and don’t support the con) crashing the party. One commenter I heard referred to it being like “Nerdy Gras” — partiers with nothing better to do are coming to get trashed and get free entertainment by looking at the geeks.

The good news is, people are starting to recognize the problem; what steps can reasonably be taken to deal with it, have yet to be seen. Personally, I think we should start a major advertising campaign talking about what a bunch of totally uncool nerds the people at Dragon*Con are and how unless you’re the kind of person who thinks math and historical romances make an interesting combination, you’ll be bored stiff there.

Anyway! I did have a very good time, down to sitting right among the MST3K cast members in the audience of the “Servo vs. Servo” panel and heckling Kevin Murphy and J. Elvis Weinstein with them. 🙂 Got a lot of work done, met a lot of cool new people, and generally had a ball, so overall I’d say it was a smashing success.

-The Gneech

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Apr 30 2010

iPad Get! So How Is It, Really? (review)

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Gneech and his iPad! Let's hope they'll be happy together...

I thought about doing a spoof video of myself geekgasming as I opened the box a la Stephen Fry, I really did. But in the end, I was thwarted by the fact that Mrs. Gneech wasn’t here to operate the video camera, and that I was too bouncy to wait.

So, how is it really? Is it like a laptop? Or just an iPod? What’s the verdict?

Granted, I haven’t exactly been running the thing through its paces, but I did buy the limited 30 days of 3G access and took the thing with me on some errands, I played the first few minutes of “Sam and Max: The Penal Zone,” and now I’ve got it on the keyboard and I’m posting to my blog. So it’s not a bad little test. I haven’t tried the funkadelic “Periodic Table App” or keyboard toy — I’m looking for a gadget I will actually use, particularly when I’m at conventions. Really, that’s what I wanted it for, to replace my Old and Busted laptop with some New Hotness.

Overall, I like it. While it is heavier than it looks, it’s not so heavy as to be unmanageable. The interface takes a little getting used to, (although people with an iPod/iPhone/iWhatever already will have a much easier time) and the apps need a little more baking. On the other hand, sliding, swiping, and touching the screen quickly become second nature and it won’t be long before you’ll wonder how you managed so long struggling with a mouse.

Regarding the apps, most of the ones ready out of the gate are just iPhone apps with either a big black margin, or blown up to double size and fuzzy as all get out, so they will take some time to catch up. Stanza particularly suffers here, because if you double the size of the app, and then shrink the font down in order to get more words on the screen, they’re still fuzzy from being blown up. Guh. That would quickly give me a headache. The iBook and Kindle apps are much nicer in this regard. iPad native apps that make better use of the larger screen real estate are much better, and by this time next year there will be a lot of awesomeness in that department. (I haven’t tried out the native word processor yet; I’m not sure if I want to go that route or just write to the cloud with Google docs or something. I have yet to see how much writing on the road I’ll actually want to do.)

I will say, the shiny shiny screen can be a turnoff, especially once it’s covered in thumbprints. It’s not a deal breaker, but it is just a tad annoying.

Still, the iPad is exactly what I expected it to be — the first generation of a new and all together different type of computer. This is going to be the “pushbutton easy” machine that will start showing up everywhere — in the doctor’s office to call up patient records, in the waiting room at the doctor’s office in place of a magazine or portable game, in the kitchen looking up recipes, lying in bed and watching that episode of Doctor Who you missed last week, sitting on the tray in front of you on the plane and showing a movie you actually want to see. It’s the internet from your comfy chair. It’s your e-mail while you’re riding the bus. It’s gonna be big.

That said, I don’t necessarily recommend running out and buying one now, unless you particularly want one right now. For me, the iPad came at just about the perfect time, as I was looking to replace my laptop anyway and had the money allocated to spend. Certainly, the apps could use some time to cook, and no doubt next year’s model will have a camera and better multitasking (i.e., any at all).

But if you find yourself gazing longingly at one and you’ve got the money to spend, I say go for it. You won’t be disappointed.

-The Gneech

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