Tag Archives: Beer

Writing Drunk

A dear friend who was kind enough to read the rough draft of my very first novel made a comment that is still very true of my writing today. I need to spend some time in bars and see how people really talk when they’re drinking. Now I was 18 at the time, so I had little in the way of life experience, but now 12 years later I still can’t say I’m any better qualified to write a scene in which the characters are believably drunk.

I tend to get very geeky when I’m drunk which is probably not a very good model of the population  as a whole. Probably the only characteristic I share in common with people under the influence is a slightly increased use of colorful metaphors, and a decidedly increased interest in the beautiful little red haired girl (my wife in case any of you are new to the site).

Part of the problem in this particular case is that I’m still figuring out the baseline of my character, so it’s a little hard to figure out how he’s different when he’s been drinking. We all have slightly different personalities when we’ve had a few, though our drunk traits have their roots in how we are when we’re sober. In my story we’ve got a priest who’s an alcoholic saying “f— it” at the end of the world and talking about women. Most of us can probably relate.

So the obvious possibilities for getting past the block are writing this in a bar, or at home after a few pints of Guinness. This brings to mind something that all writers have to figure out at one time or another. How much can they write about things they have never really experienced? Now I’ve been drunk before, but my experience of being drunk is pretty different than the one I’m going for.

Another big one on this list is sex. I generally feel like this is one of those things you need to experience to write about well. Whether or not you choose to be explicit or Victorian is up to you, but even euphemism comes from basic understanding. But even someone who’s had great sex might not be able to write about all kinds of sex in all kinds of circumstances. As writers we have to have some basic ability to put ourselves in circumstances we can never experience. I’m probably never going to space, and it’s even less likely that I’ll commit a murder, so I kind of have to figure out how to get into the minds of characters who would do these things without doing them myself.

But even things we can experience can be tricky to get a hold of. Ultimately it takes spending time with your characters and knowing when to take a break and live to write another day. Maybe try to figure out some good source material to review, a scene that does something similar to what you want to accomplish. And maybe a little liquid libation will loosen the literary logjam.

I swear to you all I’m drinking right now is lemon-lime.

What do you talk about when you’re drunk?

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XPocalypse Now

Today is the XP’s last day as a supported operating system. At midnight EST we enter the world of “Zero Day Forever.” The “XPombie XPocalypse.” A long day’s journey into digital night.

windows-xp-wallpaper-download-20

So download your Microsoft Updates now. Get your copy of Microsoft Security Essentials. And raise a glass to the late great XP. While we can hardly say you were cut down in your prime, there was always the feeling that you might outlast us all.

A few fun facts about XP (courtesy of Wikipedia):

  • XPs final development version was codenamed “whistler” after the Whistler-Blackcomb ski resort. It’s first designation was “Neptune”.
  • The metro screen, or at least a version of it called “Starting Places” and “Activity Centers” was proposed for XP. Thankfully it was removed.
  • XP was first available for commercial purchase on October 25th 2001. You could buy computers with XP installed until just a few years ago.
  • Instead of supporting USB 2.0 at release, XP included support for Firewire.
  • XP was the first operating system of Windows to include remote desktop and product activation.
  • XP shipped with Direct X 8.0 which was later upgraded to 9.0c, probably one of the more ubiquitous versions of DirectX, still supported by a lot of games today.
  • The XP with Service Pack 3 disc (the latest version available for sale) sill included IE 6.0. The latest version of IE supported by XP was 8.0. We’re now up to 11.
  • The N and KN versions of XP come without windows media player installed to combat the dominance of Microsoft’s own Windows Media Player.
  • XP is still the second most used operating system, at 27%.
  • XP’s version number is 5.1.
  • And of course, XP is short for eXPerience. Can you gain eXPerience points? If so I have thousands.

My XP

I have three (mine, my wife’s and my mother-in-law’s old machine) aging Pentium 4 desktops (more than ten years old) each of which came installed with XP, as well as my netbook, which came with XP Home Edition. My first computer I bought with my own money, which was also the computer I used throughout college, was a Dell XP I bought for six months worth of working at the library. My first work computer was XP. The physics lab I worked for at OSU had XP installed on an oscilloscope. This OS has been a part of my working, gaming, computing and writing life for years.

Most of the novels I’ve written to date were composed on XP machines. On my netbook I’ve written more than 300,000 words (not to mentioned generated thousands of fractals on all my computers). I’ve played some of my favorite games on that old desktop: Max Payne 1+2, Elite Force 1+2, Battlefield 1942, Half Life 1+2, Deus Ex and the list goes on.

XP was also the first operating system I learned to tinker with, and probably one of the last to trust me to know what I’m doing. Now we have user account control and Windows SmartScreen (more on those tomorrow). Aside from a little warning that maybe I want to be careful messing around “C:\Windows” or my Program Files, XP let me have it, tinkering my settings, learning my registry and just generally wreaking all kinds of fun havoc. Every other system has tried to hide my new powers from me because its afraid I’m going to mess up my machine without even trying too. Trust me, I remember the pain of messing up my boot INI and having to boot up my Windows 3.1 device with a boot disk for the rest of its life (though now that I think about it that wasn’t a bad security measure). I know what not to touch, and especially what not to delete.

It may be weird to get sentimental about an old operating system, but this is one that I knew really well. I could even use some of my old DOS knowledge even though XP didn’t officially run on DOS. I learned emulators, programming, graphics generation, and whole new worlds of games on this OS. To a certain degree, computers are our modern portal to the outside world. We tweak their backgrounds and icons to best suit our needs. We put them on our laps even when they’re called “notebooks”. We create, we play, we laugh at stupid cat videos.

XP was how many of us did that for 12 years. Let’s appreciate that gift and feel better for the eXPerience. Then let’s all get a beer and swear about 8.1.

But don’t worry, I feel your pain. Tomorrow we’ll talk about how to make 8.1 a little more bearable. A little.

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