On Protest

We talk a lot about the way people protest.  When a group rallies to protest, we complain that they’re blocking traffic or impeding normal day to day life.  When those protests turn violent (either by circumstance, intent, or outside manipulation) we argue that they’re criminals, why should we listen to them?  When students walk out of their own graduation in protest, we call them disrespectful or crybabies.  When a professional football player takes a knee to silently but visibly protest about something he believes strongly, we call him unpatriotic.

I say “we” in this because sometimes I have those knee-jerk reactions.   They’re always very brief, but I still sometimes have them.  I personally, have only a few things that I could protest that affect me directly.  I’m not black, I’m not gay, I’m not a woman, I’m not transgender, I’m not hispanic.  But I am human.  And I am affected by changes to our education and healthcare policies, so I do have a few things to “personally” protest.  So I’ve been thinking a lot about protest lately, and the way that change is enacted.

Protest doesn’t work at all if the person(s)/idea(s)/organization(s) being protest isn’t(aren’t) inconvenienced in some way.  An invisible protest isn’t a protest at all.  Nobody would have noticed or commented, if 100+ graduates simply hadn’t shown up.  If that football player had waited to take a knee when he got home, would we have talked about the issue he raised at all?

We complain about the way people protest, and we condemn the moment that protest turns violent.  But we also have to think about why protests do turn violent.  Sometimes, it’s a plan B.  Sometimes, something happens to escalate it into violence.  Someone is attacked, something is thrown, someone is pepper sprayed, etc.  Violence leads to more violence.  Sometimes groups infiltrate peaceful protests to incite violence, and make the protesters look bad.

Violence is never the answer, but it happens.  We need to look at ways to keep protest from becoming violent.  The first and second reasons I listed above can be mitigated.  The third, I just don’t know.

So what’s the answer?  You know as well as I do there isn’t ONE answer.  But I think I may know one way.  We, those of us who aren’t disenfranchised in one or more ways, or even those of us who are disenfranchised in different ways, need to be able to listen to and understand what protests are saying.  And be willing to learn, and be willing to talk, and be willing to change.

We can’t complain about the method of protest, if we’re not willing to provide avenues that WILL work.  And that’s on us.

My Personal Weight Loss Challenge – Day 1

My pants don’t fit anymore. I had gotten down in size, and replaced most of my pants. None of those fit, and the ones that I kept ALMOST don’t fit. I’m not going to buy a larger size.

So… it’s time.

I don’t have a specific plan. I didn’t the last time, either. But that’s ok. I know what I need to do.

  • No more “occasional” sodas. They’ve become less “occasional” lately, and more “sometimes”. None. Gone.
  • No more Gatorade. If I can’t find the Powerade Zeros that I used to like, I’ll find a new one to like.
  • Cut down on the carby snacks. I’m not giving them up completely, at least not until the Lays contest is over, and they get rid of the Tikka Masala kettle chips.
  • More walking.  I used to get more exercise at my job, and I’ve gotten lax on that.
  • More biking.  I miss my bike.  It’s time to get it all back in shape, and start taking the kids for rides.  I hope the weather clears up in the next day or so.
  • Back to salads for lunch.  I went on a stint of eating a carb-heavy, but cheap, lunch every day, and those are all now gone (Blast you and your crazy sales, Kroger).  So it’s time to stop eating like crap.
  • Make an effort to keep track of how much I’m eating.

My current weight is XXX.  Once a week, I’m going to weigh in, and note how far I am from that original, undisclosed number.  When I get to my target, I’ll reveal the numbers.

Also, sorry for dropping the ball on the creative writing.  I was hoping to build off of feedback, but didn’t get any.  I should have known that, though 🙂  My readership is probably a single digit number 🙂

Anyway, my project starts about 20 minutes ago.  I’m back on the salad track with today’s lunch.

Day 05

A slight departure from the Gestalt themed stories today.

Paul glanced behind him as he walked up the dimly lit street.  He knew the way, but he also knew what lurked down the alleys.  Once upon a time, it had been him.  Those days were long behind him, but he was sure he’d find an enemy or two that he made, if he looked.

His picked up his pace as he walked past The Spin, a record store well past it’s prime.  If he hadn’t been in a hurry to reach his destination, he would have paused, not to peer in the window, but to stare at the ruins across the street.  He had always had a fondness for the old place.  But now was not the time.

Onward he moved, past empty lots that he still remembered as something else, past construction sites that always seemed to be construction sites, not buildings.  A restaurant or two, a condemned building.  Here, he paused.   He stared at the boarded up windows.  He wondered who (or what) lived inside it now.

He continued, his destination now in sight.  He let up his pace a bit, and looked around.  Another empty lot, though he remembered when a junk store had stood there.  A narrow monolith further down, where he had honed his craft.  Yet another empty lot.  He still remembered the blaze.  

He continued past another monolith, with another memory or three.  A few doors down, the sound of rock music played from an open door, the lights inviting.  Even this place held a plethora of memories.  He glanced back up the street, and let the memories flood over him again.  Then he turned, and continued past the open door, on to his destination.

Writing challenge thoughts

I’m obviously lagging behind a bit. But I’m ok with that. I won’t be done in 30 days, but I feel like I’m getting somewhere with what I am writing, so I’m gonna stick with it, but at a pace I can work with.

I’ve fallen behind on a number of things, my two programming projects being at the top of the list. As it’s probably obvious to anyone who knows me, these stories are tied heavily to my Gestalt card game project. It’s helping me find my focus and get back into the swing of things.

I am hoping to start generating a bit more feedback, though. I’d like to know if anyone thinks the characters are interesting, or if there’s something I’m not addressing. Of if I’m too concerned with the passage of time. (five years ago, three years ago, etc. Is it really that important to create such a distinct timeline?)

These are mostly just random thoughts, I just knew I wasn’t getting any stories written tonight, so I wanted to at least write something.

Day 04

He spotted Dak at a table near the back of Django’s, one of the busier entertainment facilities on Belarus. Entertainment center, Brendan though, what a bad name. He wasn’t sure how that ever came to pass. He read some about Earth culture before the forming of the Earth Government, and was fascinated at the various forms of entertainment available. Music venues, casinos, theaters, sports arenas, nightclubs, coffee houses… Now they were all just “Entertainment Centers”. Each was capable of hosting nearly any kind of event, and they often did. But most of the time, each center focused on three or four types of entertainment, and offered it in an intermixed, sometimes cacophonous, experience. M.E.C.H. technology had worked its way into nearly every aspect of modern life, he supposed. Even businesses were modular and multi-purpose. Django’s was part coffee house, part arcade, and part tattoo parlor. Brendan had no idea why Dak liked it so much.

Dak smiled and waved him over as he worked his way through the crowd. Dak was sitting at a tabletop arcade game, where holographic monsters destroyed holographic buildings. Well, Brendan assumed that’s what the premise of the game was. He couldn’t see much of it, as Dak had his “kit” spread across the table. He appeared to be prototyping some new project. Where the table was uncovered, he could see a translucent building corner springing up from the surface, and the arm of some hairy monster reaching into the windows.

“Really? This is where you pick to work on that thing?”, he asked by way of greeting.

“Sit down, maybe you’ll see why”, was the only reply he got.

Brendan sat. Between the roar of the monsters on the tabletop and the buzz of the tattoo artist working five feet away, he worried he’d have a headache before he finished his conversation. “Sorry, man, I can’t say it helps”, he half-shouted.

Dak sighed, and looked back down at his project. “It’s a perfect storm of white noise. This is one of the few places I can come to concentrate.” He gestured at his kit. “I’ve gotta get a prototype ready to roll by the beginning of the week.”

Brendan glanced at the datapad and strewn notes. Dak had been working on a new plasma cutter for the mining M.E.C.H.s since Brendan had arrived on Belarus. It was certainly coming along, but it seemed impossible he could turn these notes into a prototype in four days. Dak was an engineer working in the same facility that Brendan had been assigned as a pilot. They’d hit it off immediately. Dak had been on Belarus for a couple of years, but had lived less than 10 kilometers from Brendan on Earth before that. He and Brendan had never met, but Dak actually knew Eric.

“Don’t you fly your first mission on Monday, too?”

“Yeah…” Brendan couldn’t keep the note of worry out of his voice.

“Hey, I saw your scores, man. You’re gonna do fine!” Dak looked up, really noticed Brendan’s demeanor for the first time. “Seriously, it’s gonna be great. I think they’re putting me on board, too.”

“Oh, no, it’s not that. It’s just…” And he told Dak about the Eric’s good luck jacket.

Day 03 – Brief

The U.E.C. colonies are a collection of city-states on planets, moons and asteroids in the Sol and neighboring systems. While a few of the planets and one moon were subjected to terraforming that have made them habitable, it was discovered that the terraforming experiments had a significant impact on the orbits of the planets. Deeming further experimentation too dangerous, the remaining colonies have been developed using sealed biospheres either on or within the world. The terraformed worlds are now known as the Core of the U.E.C., or United Earth Colonies.

Belarus is about as far from these core worlds as is currently possible. It has the distinction if being the farthest and second farthest colony from Earth. It shares this distinction with Caliope, another moon orbiting the same gas giant. Their orbits carry them in and out of this rank at various times during an 11.2 year cycle. Belarus is slightly better defended than most of the other mining colonies, as it is the home of the imaginatively named Belarium, which is an integral part of current starfaring research.

While common belief has led mankind away from the notion of life “out there”, the U.E.C. is not without its predators. A few colonies have left the U.E.C. and fringe groups of raiders have developed ships capable of attacking less defended colonies for their supplies. These attacks are very infrequent, but it is quite possible that they have prepared these outlying colonies for a far more dangerous threat.

Brendan knew all of this. He knew that he might help defend Belarus against a raider attack. But his thoughts were far from the nature of Belarus as he continued up the high street into the entertainment district. It would be a joke to call Belarus a thriving metropolis. The buildings within the biosphere are very utilitarian, though there are a number of entertainment facilities to keep the miners happy. So far, Brendan had made one friend, and if he was going to find him anywhere, it was here. If he had any hope of finding his brother’s jacket before something happened to it, he was gonna need Dak’s help.

Day 02

She looked over the reports again. The long range scan data contained pages and pages of information, and in the three decades of her career, the monthly status reports had all been essentially the same. Nothing out there, at least nothing unusual. The occasional comet passing through a neighboring system, a solar flare. Most months, she just had to scan the status report’s cover page, and sign off on it. She had initially been annoyed that someone had brought her the detail report this month, rather than the summary. And brought it two weeks early, at that. “The new guy screwed up,” she had though, “and now that it’s here, this is the version I have to deal with. Typical bureaucracy.” Then she read the cover page.

Christine Addams had been on a career trajectory that would have taken her to the top of Earth Defense. Until the purpose of “Earth Defense” changed. When the U.E.C. was formed, the Earth Government formed the Earth Defense, as they were sure that the colonization of the nearby solar systems would attract the attention of other life, out in the cosmos. While no evidence of extraterrestrial life had been discovered, mankind had abandoned the hubris that we were alone in the cosmos. The Earth Defense was formed, and was tasked with the patrol of the core planets and moons of the U.E.C.

Nearly a decade ago, the balance of power in the Earth Government changed. The lack of evidence of life out there was taken as a sign that humans were alone in the universe, and the focus of the Earth Defense was shifted to the role of “Colony Cops”. While Addams had been a stellar officer in the fleet, her disillusionment in the new Earth Government put her at odds with a few of her superiors, and she found herself shifted sideways into a dead end position: Chief Communications Officer for the Fleet Academy.

As the academy is positioned at the far edge of the solar system, the communication staff handles a number of duties that aren’t specifically related to the academy itself. Collecting and forwarding the long range scanning data happens to be one of them, and had always been one of the more tedious tasks that pass over Major Addams’s desk. Other less pleasant duties include processing correspondence for cadet discharges and passing on bad news to cadets and other staff of the Academy.

As Christine Addams poured over the detail report for the third thing, a few things crossed her mind. The first was that she might be looking at her ticket off this rock. The second was that the Earth Government was in for a hell of a surprise. The third is that Belarus is only a mining colony. If the reports could be taken at face value, something was heading this way, and it looked like Belarus was right in its path. At best, they had a handful of M.E.C.H. pilots to handle some of the heavier mining tasks.

Major Christine Addams closed her eyes, and steeled herself for the vid-com that she had to initiate to Earth.

Day 01

“It wasn’t even a very nice jacket.”

Brendan grumbled to himself as he trudged up the main road of Sector Omega. He’d only been on Belarus for three days, and he’d already grown to hate the colony. Less than a month since he’d graduated from the academy. Three years since he said goodbye to his family, and signed up for the fleet…

“Keep it for good luck. Wear it when you fly.” That was his older brother, Eric. He had been so proud that his kid brother had made the grade. Brendan had only been twelve at the time. It’s not an unheard of age to be accepted to the academy, but it wasn’t common, by any means. Eric had already settled into his life tending the family store back on Earth. Brendan joining the academy not only meant there was one less mouth to feed, but also that at least someone in their family would be making a name for themselves.

Brendan spent his first year in the academy convinced that someone had made a mistake. He struggled with everything, but finally hit his stride. The comm-vids from Eric and the rest of the kids certainly helped. By the time he graduated, he wasn’t quite at the top of his class, but he was a damned respectable pilot.

“Keep it for good luck,” Eric had said. Maybe he should have kept it himself. Brendan sighed, as he remembered the comm-text. Central command never personalized anything. Certainly nothing as personal as a vid call. “Cadet Garrison, it is our deep regret to inform you that your brother, Eric Garrison, has been killed on Earth. You have been granted three days to grieve. — Major Addams, Central Command”. Of course, Major Addams didn’t mention giving him time to return to earth for Eric’s funeral. There would have been no point. It’s nearly a month’s journey from the academy back to Earth.

It took a while to get connected to Jennifer, but when he did, she confirmed the news. Robbery gone bad. Eric had been closing up the store for the night when the robbery happened. The store’s sec-vid system wasn’t very good, but two gunmen entered the store, and as Eric was handing over merchandise, one of the gunmen got twitchy. Jennifer and the kids were getting by, but the insurance money wouldn’t last forever. Jennifer couldn’t run the store by herself. The last time Brendan spoke to her, she was talking about selling the business.

“Keep it for good luck.” Eric and his wife Jennifer had taken in Brendan and Jake when the three boys had lost their father several years back. Eric was ten years older than Brendan, and his own oldest child was the same age as Jake. Brendan had done what he could to help out, but always felt like he was a burden on his older brother, who had taken over their dad’s business when he retired. And now he’d never see Eric again. That had all been about 6 months before graduation.

So when graduation came and went, Brendan signed up for the detail that paid the best. Rather than be a flashy fighter pilot for the Earth Defense arm of the U.E.C., he signed up as a M.E.C.H. jockey one one of the mining outposts. The extra pay, he’d have sent back to Jennifer to help her and the kids. It’s the one thing he felt like he could do, to preserve his brother’s memory. That, and wear the jacket whenever he flew.

Seven months since he lost his brother. One month since he finished the academy. Three days since he arrived on this rock. Two hours since he discovered that some jackass had stolen his brother’s jacket.

Writing Challenge, My Way

I’ve been thinking about doing one of those 30 day writing challenges, but I looked though several pages of suggestions, and nothing struck my fancy.  As I was drifting off to sleep, an idea popped into my head.  So now, rather than sleep, I’m going to get the idea down here, so I know where I’m going with it.

As I started to write this, it was still Saturday, May 7.  I’ll set the challenge to begin on Sunday, May 8, and run until Tuesday, June 7.  We’ll see how well I stick to that.

The premise:  Each day, I will tell a portion of a story.  Each portion will not necessarily be told in order, but by the time it is all done, there should be at least a coherent narrative.  Each day’s segment will establish something new about one of the characters or about the setting.

Here’s where my friends and readers come in:  After each segment, I would love feedback from you.  It may influence future segments.

Ok, now that I have that down, I must retire for the night.  Mother’s Day is upon us, and I need to try to rest up so I can try to make the day pleasant for the mothers in my life.

I’ll leave you with this, the first (pending) line of Sunday’s Day 1 installment.

It wasn’t even that nice of a jacket.

Something, Something, Something, Networking.

I’ve been wanting to write for several weeks now, but the time just hasn’t been right.  A lot of private things have happened, that are beyond the scope of what I like to write about here, but they involve loss , grief, and general sadness. Those are not the reasons I’ve been wanting to write.

This also isn’t going to be an update about my family.  That one will come soon. (Spoiler alert:  Kids grow up too fast.)

My emotional state has jump started me back into working on my projects that I’ve been not giving enough attention to.  I’ve jumped ship from my previous development platform, though, and am now trying my hand at Unity.  I have to say, it’s pretty powerful, and does a lot of what I want to, and a lot more.  But I feel like I need to learn a lot to really excel with it.

One of the things that I really want to get right with my software is networking support.  My game will support asynchronous online play, and far too many of the games that I play don’t get asynchronous play right.  I’m looking at you, Catan.

I have a very clear vision of how Asynchronous play will look in Gestalt, and it’s a model that has worked very well for games like Ascension and Penny Arcade.  When you load the game, if your credentials are saved, the app connects to the game server.  The server stores a list of games that are active or recently completed, as  well as a move history, the contents of each deck, and individual information about the players.  The contents of hands, discard piles, decks, as well as keeping track of the last move the player participated in.

When you join an existing game, it will set the board to the position it was in the last time you played, and then send you each move that has been made since.  Each of those moves would be displayed to you, then you’ll be able to play your own moves, if it’s your turn.

So I’m spending a lot of time making sure that the routines to handle the network are all in place.  I want to be able to store exactly what I need and retrieve it properly.

I feel like I’m learning a lot every day, but I also feel like the process is going a lot more slowly than I’d like.

I know this is probably my most boring post to date, but I just want to get down some of my thoughts about what I’m working on.