Tag Archives: Blogs

The Schedule

I’m so sorry for the lack of posts last week. It’s been a hectic time with work picking up and three trips in the last week. I added a new state to my list (Texas) though I can’t say I’m much of a fan of Dallas traffic or the DFW airport. This trip has taught me I need a damn GPS. And before you ask, no, I can’t use my smart-phone because I don’t have one (got asked this at least five times when I said I got lost). Thanks again to the little-red haired girl for her help.

I did see one of the best weddings ever (<5 min). It actually included a reference to The Princess Bride (Mawidge), and to Spaceballs. That’s right, they literally did “the short version”.

Do You?
Yes.
Do You?
Yes.
Fine you're married.

There were also burritos at the reception. Good times.

There will be a new chapter of The Sky Below Thursday April 30th. I’m working diligently on Chapter 7 and hope this will be something you’ll enjoy. The day before we’ll have a little summary of each character’s stories so-far since it’ll have been about a month since Chapter 6. This probably means The Sky Below will bleed into January 2016, but so be it.

What I did manage to do a lot of these last couple of weeks was reading. So as a special “treat”, I’m going to be posting my reviews of everything in my queue of “read not reviewed”. This is probably about 15 books so we’ll see how many we actually get to.

Ben Trube, Writer’s normal schedule will hopefully resume next week. If you guys have any tech questions for Trube on Tech Tuesdays, please contact me using the form or in the comments below.

And if you’re a fan of Buffy, take the time to read Brian’s fan-fic The Witch and the Dragon. Superb.

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Trube on Tech: WordPress eBooks and Star Trek Games

This week I got a couple of questions on some older posts asking for a little tech assistance. Rather than reply in the comments, I thought a special post would best serve to answer their questions, or those of anyone else in the future:

ennoundinga asks on Converting Your WordPress Blog to an eBook (Part 2)  : In my Blog export I would like to grab the comments also. Do you think there is a chance to extend the XSL transformation to evaluate the comments?

For my solution I wanted to do two things:

  • Add a “Comments” header if comments existed, and hide it if there are none
  • Format comments with the comment author and comment content

Testing for the existence of comment elements can be accomplished with an xsl:if test:

<xsl:if test="./wp:comment[1]">
  <h2><b>Comments:</b></h2>
</xsl:if>

The xpath statement “./wp:comment[1]” looks for the first comment element that is a child of the current post. If one is found the “Comments” header is printed. If not the parser moves on to the next post.

If comments are present the following code will format them into our working HTML:

<xsl:for-each select="wp:comment">
  <b>
  <xsl:for-each select="wp:comment_author">
    <xsl:call-template name="print-paras"/>
  </xsl:for-each>
  </b>
  <em>
  <xsl:for-each select="wp:comment_content">
    <xsl:call-template name="print-paras"/>
  </xsl:for-each>
  </em>
</xsl:for-each>

Both the comment content and author name are stored in CDATA statements and need to be processed by our print-paras template. This code will format the comment like this:

Name of Commenter

What the commenter said in all its glorious detail.

I’ve uploaded an update to the XSL template here (again note since WordPress has filename restrictions the extension has been renamed .xls).

Next question, I’m on a rampage!

WZ writes on AGFV: 20 years of Star Trek 25th AnniversaryBen: Followed your instructions carefully for Star Trek 25th using DBGL, but I only have the CD not floppies version. DBGL is fine. This game appears to not run because (per dos window) the game is looking for a CD to be in the CD drive. But need this to run from the hard disk instead because of physical disability makes it hard to always be putting cd’s in and out of the drive bay. Is the CD game version hardcoded to only run from CD bay? Please reply to my email… Thanks for your gaming blog, it’s great, I enjoyed all your gaming entries.

As it happens, I was reorganizing some of my DBGL files this week (no joke) and managed to create a solution to this very problem.

The 25th Anniversary Enhanced Edition CD-ROM is a little unusual. It’s an Enhanced CD, meaning it has both CD Audio content and CD data content. This means it can’t be fully ripped to an ISO image, since ISO’s only deal with CD data. But there are programs available that allow you to rip an enhanced CD, one such being CloneCD.

To rip an enhanced CD using CloneCD:

1) Open CloneCD and click Read to Image File:

CloneCD_001

2) CloneCD will analyze the disc in the drive, and ask you to select the type of CD. Many selections will work for our purposes, but for now select Game CD:

CloneCD_002

3) Browse to a folder and choose a name for your file (the program will actually create four different files so maybe store in a blank folder). Check the box next to Create “Cue-Sheet”:

CloneCD_003

4) Click OK to begin ripping the CD:

CloneCD_004

5) When you’re finished your folder will contain four files that will look something like this:

CloneCD_005

6) Create a folder in dbgl\dosroot called TREKCD (full path dbgl\dosroot\TREKCD). Copy the folder containing your ripped CD to this folder.

7) You’ll need to install the game from the CD first, then set DBGL to run it. Add a mount for the C drive to the TREKCD sub-folder. Add another mount for the D drive and select the Mount Image(s) radio button. Click Browse, browse to your CUE file and select it as the mount point.

DBGL_Mount

8) With the imgmount selected, click the Grab button next to the main then Browse to add files from the CD image to run at startup. Select INSTALL.EXE. Your run window should look like this:

DBGL_ReadyToInstall

9) Click OK, and run the file to run the install program. When the installation is finished copy the files it installed into your TREKCD folder. Your final directory should look something like this (you may not have the CFG or savegame files):

DBGL_Folder

10) Edit the Profile again and change the Main to STARTREK.EXE in the TREKCD folder, and Setup to SETUP.EXE (in the same folder). Your final setup should look like this:

DBL_PlaySetup

Note: You probably want to set your machine to 7500 cycles for optimum performance.

GameRunning

And you should be good to go. Let me know if you have any further questions.

 

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I’ll be back next Monday … hopefully

Been kind of a screwy week for sleep schedules and getting my writing thinking cap on. I’ll do better next week, I promise 🙂 Just need a day that isn’t simultaneously in the 80s and raining. What’s up with you guys?

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This post has been scheduled for 1/15/14 at 6:35am

Sometimes I schedule blog posts.

I like it not only because it means the blog tends to be released at a consistent time, 6:35am, but because it let’s me get to ideas when they’re fresh in my head which is not always immediately after I get up.

Other times an idea will strike me but I miss the window for writing about it. Writing a post about Black Friday right now wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense, especially since January and February tend to be the months I spend the least money after the post holiday shock.

I like to feel like I’m having a daily conversation with everyone who comes to read this blog, but I’m also keenly aware in part because of my own habits, and what I’m able to observe from stats, that a lot of you don’t read the blog the day it comes out. A post can tank on its first day, and be one of my most popular by the end of the month, so what does a day or two’s advance writing do to change the reader’s experience?

Sometimes I “write the week” so I can focus on other projects that have been falling by the wayside. The first week I was working on Surreality I wrote all of my blog posts on Sunday so I could ride out the week with my head solely on my characters. Inevitably though, those are the weeks when I tend to have the most ideas I want to share with you.

Last month when I was on jury duty I had some time to kill before I reported in. I wrote Wednesday’s post Tuesday morning describing my time spent downtown assuming I’d have duty for the rest of the week. By noon I was released and Wednesday morning I was driving back to work as my post from downtown hit the web. I could have posted late on Tuesday instead of the regular time on Wednesday, but I kind of like to maintain a consistent release schedule (except when I don’t like last week 🙂 ).

A blog’s kind of a weird cross between the immediacy of other social media like Facebook and Twitter, and longer form non-fiction like articles and books. Ultimately I want my writing to be fresh even if it wasn’t brewed twenty minutes ago. Even if it’s topical or seasonal, when those things roll around again I want my writing to have something to say.

Do any of you “write the week”, or on “focus weeks” do you let the number of posts decrease? What works for you?

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[BTW] FAQ v.2014

As of today I’ve officially been writing this blog for two years. I thought it might be helpful for readers new and old alike to get the answers to some common questions about the blog, myself and anything else that might come up:

Who is “the little red-haired girl”?

Well aside from being Charlie Brown’s favorite obsession, it’s one of several affectionate nicknames for my beautiful wife. And yes, she does have red hair. She’s also my editor. I kinda got the whole package.

242416zoom

What is your next book?

The book I’m currently working on (and yes I’m getting back to it shortly) is Surreality, a noir/technological murder mystery due to release sometime in the first half of this year.

What does “DM” stand for and what is it?

DM stands for Dark Matter and is the working title of another book in the pipeline, a science-fiction action adventure story. I finished the rough draft of this in 2011 at 200K words, though I plan to significantly rewrite it when I have the opportunity. Dark Matter is the working title in part because as it turns out there are a number of books and even a video game or two with that title, so I will likely change it, but maybe not.

What is a fractal?

Well, for starters my masthead is a fractal. Your brain is a fractal. Every tree is a fractal. It’s all fractals man!

A lot of you came to my site from this post, so you may at least have an idea or curiosity about fractals.

A fractal is a category of mathematical shapes or objects, with a variety of methods for drawing or defining those shapes. All fractals have two main properties: self-similarity and infinite complexity. Infinite complexity means the fractal is, well, infinite. You can zoom in to smaller and smaller portions of the fractal and it will still look as complex or craggy as it does at a higher level. Self-similarity means that one part of a fractal looks a lot like another part (they may even be identical). Here’s a good demonstration of both concepts working together:

Kochsim

Fractals can be used to model nature, or create mathematical art. It’s the art bit I probably like the most, and drawing them is a fun programming challenge (probably why I wrote a book about it 🙂 ).

BOF_Map26_(-0.708108)_(0.266986)_5_3

How do you pronounce your name?

True-bee. NOT Troob. Trube or not trube.

How long is your beard?

Beards cannot be measured only in inches (or feet) but in the memories they carry. So about 7 inches from my chin to the tip.

What is AGFV?

A Game Forever Voyaging was a brief recurring feature in the first year of the blog. Due to a reduced interest and the amount of work that tended to go into each post these are on semi-permanent hiatus. Getting old games to work on modern systems is still a favorite hobby of mine, and if something particularly interesting comes along I might share it (or if you have any requests). I still do quite a bit of technical posts, but these tend to center more on the creation and formatting of eBooks, which is a little more germane to my self-publishing audience.

What happened to CFML?

The Consumers for Fariness in Manufacturing and Labor was another early hallmark of the blog, and one I’m proud of. I still think from time to time about the ways to think about where our products come from and what we can do to encourage fair wages for those who make them. It’s a complex problem and one that needs highlighting so you may see me back in this space again. You can still read all the posts here.

What’s up with all the acronyms BTW?

Blame IVCF. Seriously.

What is your day job?

I am a developer for [a mid to big engineering company]. I work largely in Java, Javascript and C# development for a particular software product or other utilities our team needs. I learned programming with Visual Basic and C++ and still have a strong fondness for both of those languages.

Where are you?

I live in Columbus, OH. I work in Delaware, OH. Both are at about the middle of the state (Columbus is the capital). My state is spelled O-H-I-O!

Who’s this Brian person I keep hearing about?

Don’t bother with him, he’s bad news. Actually he’s my good friend and fellow writer (and occasional anime fakesub partner). He blogs over at BrianDBuckley.com.

Do you do guest posts?

Maybe, but realistically probably not. I’d like to sometime, but each writing year only seems to get busier with projects.

Do you take requests?

Absolutely, in fact if you have any more questions and want to write them in the comments, I might just answer them.

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Personal Writing Quirks

It’s been an off month for the writing, and the first week of January didn’t shape up too well either, what with the being sick and all. A few days of sitting on the couch reading comic books (mostly Y: The Last Man) and watching The Cosby Show on Hulu+ set me on the path to the mend, so here I am, your thrice weekly voice in your inbox, or wherever you read this blog.

Thursday is the two-year anniversary of the blog. If you’re interested we’re registered at Amazon, Bundle Dragon and B&N if you want to buy gifts (just kidding). Believe it or not, the blog was not really a New Year’s resolution back in 2012, which probably explains why I’m actually still doing it. It was, and still is, a great place for me to write about things I normally don’t make the time for, whether it’s thoughts on writing, little short story ideas, experiments, or the occasional techno-babble tirade.

I’d be concerned about the month gap in working on my novel were it not for the fact that this seems to be the way I work on every project. Observe:

1) My first finished novel draft, Atlantia, took four years to complete (back in highschool). At least 70% of the book was written in the last year.

2) Surreality’s initial draft and subsequent drafts were worked on steadily for a month or two, dropped then finished in a fit of productivity.

3) DM had about 30K words written before I set it aside for a while, then added another 170K words in about four months of straight work.

I wish I was the kind of writer who stuck to the X words a day every day way of working, and indeed I can keep it up for long periods. But something always seems to knock me off the rails for a bit. And when I get back on them it’s like I’ve thrown the third red log into the train to get it up to 88 MPH:

Redlogdmc

Image Source: Futurepedia

I also seem to have a sinusoidal curve when it comes to ridiculous turns of phrase. My wife/editor tells me it’s every other chapter. I thought it had to do with my writing quickly, but even my slower 800 word per day pace has produced a few sentences that were upside-down and backwards, so to speak. This is after I’ve read the words out loud even.

pi-graph-decimal_6D8DEE37-93B0-A01B-429A510A88D03511

The trick to fixing it seems to be distance. No matter what my pace, if I’m looking at something I wrote today, I’m probably not going to find every flaw. Which admittedly is why some of these blog posts are a little imperfect, thank you again for your understanding of this. But put a week between me and the piece, and suddenly I am an editor again.

One more quirk. When I was shooting for 1600 words a day it took about an hour. Now that I’m shooting for 800 words a day it can take 30 minutes to two hours! I think some of this has to do with endurance training. If you write 1600 words a day for many days, it will seem normal and a reflex. My 800 word pace is a little more in flux because of trying to decide between rewriting, reworking or regurgitating existing text (okay not so much that last one but I could come up with another “re” word. Maybe reconstituting?). When I blog, 500-600 words comes easily in 25-40 minutes, as long as I’ve been consistent the last few weeks. Today for instance, it’s a little longer.

In other words writing every day makes writing every day easier. Who’d thought?

What are some quirks to your writing process? Are you pretty consistent, or a little more see-saw like me?

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Blog Will Return 10/28 (or 10/29)

Been a little inconsistent with whether the first post of the week is Monday or Tuesday, but regardless next week I am on vacation in the Smoky Mountains with the little red haired girl. In my absence here are a couple of images I’m tossing around for a new banner. What do you think?

FB_Mandel_(0.3911)_(0.229471)_00442_wide2_lq

FB_Mandel_(0.3911)_(0.229471)_00442_wide3_lq

FB_Mandel_(0.3911)_(0.229471)_00442_widebsm3_lq

Have a great weekend and week!

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