meaghan_bullock: (Default)
I have now reached the point in my current novel where I am trying to figure out how to Google really awkward things like the effects of decomposing bodies on the pH and chemical composition of bodies of fresh water.

I think that it would be incredibly entertaining the create an aggregated list of "Google searches of the working writer," just because the things I know my friends have searched for their projects are wide and varied.

In other news, I am just a shade over 15,000 words (out of a projected 100,000) on this novel and it is coming along quite nicely. I do hope it continues to do so!
meaghan_bullock: (Default)
I have been a Redskins fan since I was a little girl. Both my parents cheer for the Skins. I distinctly remember playing the "football game" in the car with my dad when he drove me to kindergarten: he'd name either a team or the city, and I had to supply the other half of the name. (To this day I am convinced that the Rams and Raiders are in LA, that the Houston team is named the Oilers, and that the team is the Phoenix Cardinals, not the Arizona Cardinals.)

I remember the Redskins winning the Super Bowl against the Broncos, and again during that period of time where Buffalo got to the Super Bowl every year just to get smacked down by the NFC East repeatedly. There was a time when I could recite the entire first and second string of the Redskins, along with statistics. (That time was in high school. These days, I don't have the time.)

Sure, I root for other teams. I like the Packers (which makes for wonderful hilarity when you live in Chicago, let me tell you), and I cheer for the Panthers and the Jaguars. Yeah, I'm weak vs. big kitties. However, you will never catch me rooting for the Lions. How do the Lions count to ten? 0-1, 0-2, 0-3, 0-4....

But no matter who else I'm cheering for ("whoever's playing against Dallas" is a popular team to support in Chez Meglet), the Redskins are always first in my heart.

It's been really hard to be a Redskins fan since Jack Kent Cooke passed on, I must say. Now, I'm sure Dan Snyder means well, but if the shuffling of personnel and coaching staff has shown me anything in the last decade and a half, it's that Snyder has no clue how to effectively run a football team. That being the case, he needs to sit down, shut up, and let the people who know what they are doing run the franchise. The Redskins are one of the oldest and wealthiest franchises in the NFL, and have one of the most loyal (one might almost say rabid) fan bases. I mean, they're not the Green Bay Packers, but I think Redskins fans are pretty hardcore.

And yet, Snyder is making a series of terrible business decisions that are driving his fans away. Take for example the season ticket debacles, wherein the Redskins franchise management kicks their fans in the teeth repeatedly. (Compare to the treatment that the Nationals and the Capitals gave to fans in similar situations.) And lest we forget, there's always the fact that those much-desired tickets to games like last year's against the Steelers get sold to other teams' fans while bypassing the Skins' own waiting list.

That's not only bad management and a violation of the fans' trust, it's downright bad business from where I'm sitting. Your ongoing ticket purchasers are going to be Redskins fans, not Steelers fans. Why cater to them? (Yeah, fine, I don't like the Steelers. So what?)

I've loved this franchise all my life. It pains me to no longer be able to respect it. Besides the abysmal treatment of loyal fans, there's also the problem of the Redskins just downright being terrible since Mr. Cooke passed. At this point, I think it's safe to say that the problem is probably not with the coaches or the talent (at least not in full.) I can think of few other teams who have shuffled their coaching personnel so much, even in lean years (I mean, heck, Lovie Smith's still coaching the Bears, and Childress is still coaching in Minnesota.) The Redskins have some of the best talent in the League (at least on paper.) And yet they don't look like a team. Watch a New England Patriots game sometime; those men are absolutely on the same page (and, as they demonstrated last year, they can hold it together decently even without Brady.) The Redskins are wearing the same colours, but not playing on the same team.

It's easy to blame the head coach, but I'll make the point that Joe Gibbs couldn't bring this team out of its slump – he who coached them to two Super Bowl victories in my memory, and I'm only twenty-seven. We've gone through, what, five head coaches during Snyder's ownership? And none of them managed to succeed. That tells me that something is really, really wrong here.

But what do I know? I've only been a Redskins fan my entire life, and I'm just some person who watches a team I love fall apart under new ownership. What lessons am I supposed to take from that, I wonder?

NaNoWriMo

Oct. 25th, 2009 11:13 am
meaghan_bullock: (Meaghan)
So, NaNoWriMo is starting up again in 7 days. For those of you not familiar, NaNoWriMo is a demented event wherein participants endeavor to write 50,000 words between 12:00:01 am November 1st and 11:59:59 pm November 30th. I've done it several times before, and even succeeded a couple of times.

I'm doing it again this year, but I am a lot more stressed than the last two times I did it (and succeeded). On the one hand, I'm doing a story that I'm really excited about. I love my characters, and I'm completely in love with my world. Bits of the first scene have been spinning around in my head for some seven or eight months now. I have the first few events of the timeline, and I can already picture how interactions go between my three main characters.

Unfortunately, what I haven't got is an antagonist. Or a plot beyond those first few events.

Now, many people will say that NaNoWriMo is all about flying by the seat of your pants, and seeing where the story takes you. I tried that the first two years I did NaNoWriMo, and failed miserably. The two years in which I succeeded, I had a clear and definite outline. It changed and morphed a little along the way, but for the most part I knew where I was going and how to get there. It meant that whenever I got stuck on a particular bit of the story, or got bored, or decided I really didn't want to deal with whatever was going on, I could skip ahead to the interesting bits and come back to fill it in later.

(My manuscripts are often festooned with notes enclosed in triple asterisks or triple dollar signs or pound signs, anything that normally won't show up more than once in a row, telling me to come back and fill something in there. I'm also really fond of putting stuff like $Tavern_Name so that when I figure out what the heck something should be named, I can come back later and fix it all with one find-replace.)

So, I don't presently have a plot. And unfortunately, unlike the names of taverns or cities, I can't just throw in $Plot_Event tags all over the place. I'll never hit 50,000 words that way.

Mostly I am nattering and maundering. I'll figure something out. I usually do. It just makes me anxious when I don't have my story planned out in, say, September.
meaghan_bullock: (Default)
It comes as little surprise to anyone who knows me that I love the Final Fantasy series. With that in mind, I was certain I'd buy Final Fantasy Dissidia even if it was not at all in the traditional mode. Besides, who can turn down the chance to finally resolve the epic question of who would win: Kefka or Sephiroth?

Accordingly, I pre-ordered Dissidia from my local GameStop, and while I wasn't quite hardcore enough to pick it up at midnight, I did swing by on the actual release date. Being me, I also grabbed the strategy guide, which in retrospect was probably a really smart decision, since I would eventually like to get a large number of the Accomplishments.

My first, overwhelming impression of the game was that it is stunningly beautiful. I haven't tried it out on my TV yet, but on the PSP screens the models are lovely. There are no jagged edges, no oddly aligned polygons. The colors are bright and fresh, making the game visually quite an experience.

My second impression is that this game is much harder than I was anticipating. I pictured something I could get through purely on button-mashing (much in the vein of Kingdom Hearts), or else something with simple and easily memorizable button combinations such as the Super Smash Bros. series. That was a definite mistake! The prologue is simple enough and can definitely be handled with the "hammer on the buttons until you win" method, but after that the difficulty curve went astronomically high. Granted, I am no expert at fighting games, but I was very surprised.

There are two kinds of attacks: bravery attacks, and HP attacks. The damage you do with an HP attack is equivalent to the bravery points you've accumulated through bravery attacks, so both attacks are necessary to complete battles. Dissidia also features a leveling-up system, which has been crucial to my progress so far. I've developed a habit of checking the strategy guide to see what the highest-level enemy will be, and grinding in Quick Battles until I am at least 3 levels above that.

Speaking of the strategy guide, it appears to be a significantly improved offering over the usual Brady Games fare, featuring a layout that makes sense and, heavens forbid, actual information instead of gratuitous over-use of character models, which was the case in the Final Fantasy XII guide.

The in-game manual is probably my very favourite part of the game. Square Enix chose both a protagonist and an antagonist from each of the first ten Final Fantasy main series games, but that doesn't mean they forgot about everyone else. Pressing Start in any of the menu screens allows you to bring up the manual. Information is presented by the characters who aren't playable. For example, Rydia explains about summons. This would be quirky and cool on its own, but the writers really got into it; each manual page is presented very much in-voice for the appropriate character, and it's a touch that I love to death.

I've heard others complain about the voice acting, but I'm not quite sure what the issue is, unless I've only been hearing from the people who will complain no matter what if they cannot access the original Japanese voice data. American voice acting has come a long way in the past ten years, and I found nothing to complain about in Dissidia, except that I would perhaps have swapped Bartz and Zidane's voice actors. So far I've not found any gratuitous over-acting, and the voices are pleasant to listen to.

Thus far, I've completed about half of Cecil's tale and completely cleared the Warrior of Light, and while I will finish the game, I don't see it being something I'll return to repeatedly the way that I have with previous installments in the Final Fantasy series.

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Meaghan Bullock

November 2012

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