Back in the Saddle

I’m back in the blogging saddle again, after a nice long vacation.  It saddens me to realize I have a whole empty month in the archives of this blog now.

So, I only have a minor sort of excuse for the long absence.  The first couple of weeks of July were due to my own laziness, and trying to finish up some of my actual work before my vacation.  Then I had two weeks of vacation back home, which was very busy and Internet-free.  Returning to my normal life thereafter meant I had to catch up on the entire Internet from the time I was away, and so it is only just now that I find myself a functional human being once again.

My goal for August is to get some sort of structure into my life, so that I can work on:

  • my research,
  • revising my novel,
  • writing a couple of short stories,
  • going to the gym,
  • and a few other ongoing projects.

If I can organize myself better (quite possible by implementing ideas I read six months ago in the “Getting Things Done” book), I should be able to set aside time for regular blogging here, and the pace will pick up.  See, it’s not that I don’t blog because I don’t have anything to say, but rather that I don’t blog because I get lazy and distracted by other unproductive things.

(Now, some will argue that blogging is unproductive.  They might be right, if productivity requires there being some specific value to that which is being produced.  But from my point of view, even if blogging has no value to me, I’m still producing something.  Hence, I tend to get distracted by consuming things — movies, TV series on DVD, comics, whatever — and thus I fail to procrastinate by procuding things.)

So by September, I think, I’ll try to upgrade my WordPress software, and customize a theme for this place rather than using a pre-existing one (nice though they are), and get on some sort of regular publication schedule, and make this place just a little bit more lively.

(Damn, that was some long-winded adminning.)  Anyway, that’s all I have to say about that.

Woo hoo! Site upgrade!

So, I updated my WordPress installation from the default 2.0.something that came with my hosting account to the latest 2.5.1.  Now the back end administrative stuff is all swanky.

So, um, yeah.  That’s really all I’ve noticed so far, as it’s late, and I’ve just finished the install.  But, in celebration, I’m switching to a new theme, at least for a few days.

What’s that, you say?  Shouldn’t I be working on a short story, or revising my novel, or *gasp* doing my research?  Or even just writing some actual content for this site?

Why, yes, yes I should.  Is it any wonder I have decided to fiddle around with the site?

Argh! I am filled with Internet rage!

So, I was working on a delightful post about Jackie Chan and Jet Li’s The Forbidden Kingdom.  I had a not-insignificant amount written, actually, when my Internet connection decided to die inexplicably.  Unfortunately, I discovered this when I saved my work in progress, and thus my work was sent off into the aether, apparently without being cached locally.  This has so irritated me that I don’t think I’m going to actually finish that review tonight.  I am too full of rage.

A New Approach

My posting here has been somewhat languid, and I think it has been because I’ve been self-conscious at writing for a site with the explicit aim of reaching people I don’t know. My writing here has been polite and restrained, and ultimately somewhat lacking in personality. Consequently, I’ve never felt the drive to keep posting something new, because when I do, I’m trying to eliminate my voice.

I don’t know why it took me so long to realize that. It took this entry of author Justine Larbalestier to crystallize it for me. When I look at the blogs I read regularly (such as Neil Gaiman, or John Scalzi, or Charles Stross), it’s because of their unique voice, and not necessarily because of their content. I’ve come across lots of “voiceless” blogs that have an interesting post or two, and I’m glad to get that content, but without having a unique voice, I’m not motivated to read more. So I don’t know what the rationale was for trying to de-voice my own writing.

Clearly, that mindset has to go. Which means my writing style here is going to change a bit, become a bit more casual, and hopefully a lot more fun. Changing that mindset will mean that some of the content I’ve been sitting on for a few weeks now will actually see the light of day, and make this site more interesting for whoever stumbles across it.

So cheers! Here’s to fun!

Why Start This Site?

When deciding to start up a new site — especially one that includes a blog component — the most important question to me is “Why?”. It is important because it determines your editorial slant and your motivation for putting together the site, which can also determine how well you’ll maintain it. So it seems reasonable to me to start this new site off with a little discussion of why I’m starting a new site, what it’s going to be about, and some of my philosophy behind it.

This site is meant to project my public persona to the world. Not that I expect to reach the world, per se, but rather that if the world comes looking for me, this site will contain the stuff that I don’t mind them knowing. So this site will try to convey my sense of humour (starting with the title), my interests, and my work, all in one reasonably entertaining package.

In some respects, my work and my interests overlap, as I am pursuing my PhD in Computer Engineering at the University of Toronto. Thus, as you might expect, I am interested in many aspects of technology, ranging from cool software and gadgets to computer security and high performance computing. I am sure that from time to time my opinions on these topics will come up as entries on this blog.

This interest in science and technology also extends the impact they can have on society. I have certain hot-button topics you may hear about — links between video games and violence, ignorant laws relating to technology and security, and copyright terms — but that’s about as political as this place will get.

I’m sure it will strain my credibility when I mention that I — a computer engineer — am also interested in science fiction and fantasy. This interest crosses all media — books and magazines, television and film, comics and anime and manga, video games, websites, and what-have-you. I do have some degree of discerning taste, however, and do enjoy things outside of those genres, but as I try to deepen my understanding and appreciation of these speculative works, you can expect I’ll write a lot of content on these subjects here. Commentary and reviews of books, television programming, short stories, movies, comics… I’m sure I’ll cover them all.

That said, I’ll cover them with one caveat: I’m mainly going to cover the good stuff, at least with respect to written science fiction and fantasy. My reasoning for this is two-fold.

  1. As John Scalzi has suggested in this post, written SF gets dumped on quite a lot, in general. And thus he feels it is his job to be a booster for the genre. Of course there are going to be bad works of written SF, but why dwell on those? It seems a lot more sensible to talk up the good stuff, so that more people find it. So, while my discussion of SF will (hopefully) not be simply gushing praise, the stuff I do talk about will be the good stuff, and the bad will be quietly ignored.
  2. I do have aspirations to produce written SF myself. And I really don’t want to be the dick who slagged off another writer’s work when I could conceivably meet them at some point in the future.

Admittedly, the second reason is a lot more self-serving that the first, but hey, my heart is in the right place. And you needn’t worry about this turning into writing advice blog — I figure I should actually achieve some measure of success at writing before I start dispensing advice. Thus, while there may be occasional posts on writing, it will mostly be a discussion of the troubles I’m having with it, and follow my efforts to overcome those troubles.

From time-to-time I’ll also produce little essays about some of my favourite things in various media — ideally, things that are not already widely acclaimed or popular, but that are really good nonetheless. In some cases they’ll be projects of people I know, but usually it will be stuff I’ve been fortunate enough to stumble across that just really spoke to me.

This site will not go into much detail about my personal life and relationships, beyond an abstract level, anyway. The people who need to know about my personal life are involved in it, and can get the information first-hand.

With that, I think, I have set the stage for what this site will become. Over the next little while I’ll probably adapt this entry into a more coherent About page, and start detailing my academic life. I’m sure I’ll also be tweaking the look of the site for a while, until I find something I’m really happy with. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to figuring out how things will develop.