Hey, does this iPhone blog addon work?

I have an addon for the blog website, I’m using it at the suggestion of a reader for a few weeks now.

Apparently, people have these smartphone thingies these days they can use to surf the web.

That’s pretty cool. Why, I was just using my luggable computer the other day (the one with the orange plasma screen) and thinking that portable computing is really neat.

Anyway, I installed an addon here that is supposed to let folks using iPhones, Blackberrys, Droids and similar devices choose a view of the blog that is easier to read or navigate.

Of course, I don’t have any of those devices, nor does anyone I know, so I have no idea if it works, how it works, any of it.

It’s magic!

If you have one of those devices, could you please do me a favor, check the blog website out, and drop me a comment letting me know if things are okay? I’d hate to have it just be broken and not know about it.

Thanks!

Bear Breaker

I am not sure what’s going to happen to the future of the blog.

Right now, at this moment in time, I really feel that I’m done.

I’m not playing games, or begging for attention, or trying to screw with anyone’s feelings. I’m just telling you how I feel.

I’m very, very tired of a lot of things right now, mostly having to do with trying to make life happier for other people related to WoW, and failing.

What I don’t know is whether or not I can quit writing. I feel like I should. I can’t understand how a person could feel the way I do, as depressed as I am about game and people related stuff, and still be able to write something chipper and upbeat while being me. 

And yet, time after time, stepping up to the blank blog page somehow brings out an inner cheeriness. As though, no matter how depressed I am about other things, sitting down to talk to you folks brings my spirits up.

That’s a hard habit to break. But great, that’s what I get out of this. No matter how I may have felt when I sat down, you always bring me back up.

But what do YOU get out of the deal? Some depressed old Bear grumpily bitching, pissing and moaning about something that doesn’t really matter?

I dunno.

Fine, I don’t know. What DO I know?

I know that I’ve got to figure out if there is actual, positive value to my writing this blog beyond making me feel better for a little while. Because I sure as heck have no intention of draggin’ anyone else down with me.

The what of the which, now?

Continuing on from yesterday, I’d like to ramble on a bit about something that I get asked quite often.

Namely, “Hey, I’d like to start a blog of my own, do you have any suggestions?”

No. No, I never have any suggestions. I live my life without holding a firm opinion on anything, and on the rare occasions when I am forced into a corner and have to adopt a position, I never share it with others.

Just kidding, just kidding.

I’m a blogger. I have suggestions and opinions on everything.

When it comes to starting your own blog, I have one major suggestion for you; think about what it is that you’re trying to say. What is it that’s important to get across in your post? What’s your point? Focus on what you MEAN, what idea or ideas you are trying to get across. Nail down what it is, in your head, that you’re trying to say before you start writing.

In general, or in particular posts, the most important thing is to communicate your idea, and get your meaning across.

Once you know what the point of the post really is, you can play around when writing, meandering around and having fun, making digressions, dancing around with wordplay, whatever, as long as you continue driving towards your point.

If the things you are saying in your post all pertain, in some way, to your main point, then it’s going to be fine.

Now, about that meaning.

You’ve got to focus on your meaning, your point, the reason you’re firing off a blog post, but you’ve got to do it in your own voice.

A blog is different from other forms of media in one very important aspect; the core of a blog is that it is a very personal expression of your specific opinions.

When you are writing, when you are presenting your points and expressing your meaning, always keep in mind, people who know what a blog is about are coming there specifically to get YOUR opinion on whatever it is you are talking about.

No matter how impartial someone tries to be, everything you think or say or write comes through the filter of your experiences. If you’re lucky, you are well aware of that, and aren’t under the delusion that you and you alone are tapped into “universal truth”.

When you write, the posts you make are what you think about things, and not necessarily exactly how reality really works. It’s how you think it works. Never lose sight of that.

Don’t try to smother your opinions or personality or attitude to fit your view of  being “professional”. Be yourself, and by that, I mean write in your own voice. It’s why people are coming, they know that this is your opinion, and they want to get to know the person behind the words. They will get a feel about you from your voice in your writing. Hide it, and your writing will suffer. Badly.

One way to develop your voice is to write, and re-read what you’ve written, while thinking the words aloud in your head, or even saying them aloud after they’re on the screen.

What you write should flow naturally, just as you would say them yourself.

If, when you re-read your own writing, it sounds natural to you, then it’s you. You’re good. Have fun finding a way to phrase something you like better, if you wish. But you’ve gotten it to sound how you think you sound. It comes across as being you. Score!

If it sounds stilted, or confused, or isn’t what you’d say… fix it.

Everything on your blog is your opinion, your observations, and your understanding of how things are and how they work. Don’t try to hide that fact by being all monotone and clipped. Be yourself, and by that I really do mean, write as an expression of how you talk normally. Or, through the magic of having the time to think up the perfect phrase, how you’d LIKE to talk.

“But wait!”, I hear you say. ” What if I screw up! What if I get things wrong! I’m out here on a limb, damn you, and now you’re telling me to be the real me, honest and true, and if someone goes off on the real me, it’s gonna hurt!”

That’s true. If you are being yourself, and people go off on you, then you’ll feel it personally.

But if you are being false or hiding behind a mask, then if people like that person on the blog… well, it’s not you they like, now is it? If that’s a big concern for you, then you might want to rethink your reasons for writing a blog. It’s damn personal experience. If you’re not prepared to deal with the idea that some people will like you for who you are, and others will hate you, then you might want to find some other means of personal expression. Like origami.

Also, inevitably, you will make mistakes. Accept it. Write about your own experiences and ideas, and then read all the comments your readers leave, looking for new ideas, information and points of view. If you’re lucky and open-minded, you’ll learn as much from your readers as some of them may learn from you. 

An example. The internet is a crazy place. Crazy Cat Lady x1 beeellion.

Somewhere out there on the internet is an expert on everything.

Everything.

Someone who, shall we say, has devoted their entire life to the study of the mating cycle of the middle-American fruit fly.

They started studying at the age of 12, and have spent every minute of the last 43 years obsessing over that one thing. Fruit flies.

They’ve grown 100 generations of fruit flies in controlled environments, under varying atmospheric pressures, and measuring extremes in gas content percentages.

When that person sees your throwaway post about the fruit fly, accept the fact that they are going to be outraged, tee off on your audacity for daring to write about it, and then spend the next 4 paragraphs correcting you.

Be grateful.

It’s not that they hate YOU for making a mistake, it’s that they know a shitload more than you do about that subject, and when given the opportunity to share that knowledge, they are going to do it.

It’s rare that you’re ever going to get such expert guidance on any subject. Don’t feel like a failure that you got some facts wrong… seriously, feel grateful, because mistakes can always be corrected. 

Just update whatever post you wrote that had a few mistakes, make sure you thank the person for correcting you, and be grateful for having learned something new. Your understanding of the subject, and the world in general, has just grown.

Don’t worry that, now that you’ve made a mistake, all those people reading your blog took off in disgust. Some might stop reading, sure, but if you thank the person that corrected you, update your original post, and show that you are the kind of person that reads comments and wants to know what is right or wrong, and are learning from your readers as well, most will stay around. 

Your attitude, personality, and voice are yours and yours alone, and those are the reasons most people keep coming back. 

Now, as far as your grammer and spelling….

Screw ’em.

Seriously, don’t even worry about it.

Will spelling mistakes and grammer errors drive some of your readers crazy?

Hell yes!

Focus first and foremost on the meaning you want to get across, and in sharing it in your own voice. Conversational discussions don’t follow grammer rules, and you don’t write in the same voice as other people. Abuse triple dots for pauses all you want, use silly smily faces, care not for the worries of grammer nazis, and give of your thought more to the important things, like actually having a point to this damn thing somewhere, and saying it in your own voice. 

Once you’ve got your post done and you’re happy with it, sure, use spell check on it. When you’re writing very, very well and in your own voice, you’re in the groove and things are flowing, then go start worrying about spelling.

Spelling is important, and so is grammer. People can be so immersed in a story or article that a sudden mispelling is actually jarring. It throws them out of the moment, and back into an awareness that, oh yeah, this is some schmucks’ blog. Having a moment like that broken by spelling mistakes sucks.

That’s especially true of writing stories. A lot of mine are posted long before spell check is done, and re-reading my own stories on the PBeM I can see how disorienting it is to be visualizing a scene and boom! There’s a horribly mangled word, right there, throwing me out of the story.

So sure, go back over your work looking for spelling mistakes, if you’ve got time. Do it while re-reading it to see if it flows in your voice.

But don’t worry about it, don’t allow your fear of grammatical and spelling mistakes to stop you from writing. That’s the real danger.

The meaning of your posts is what you want to get across, and the voice you are speaking with is one of the reasons people keep coming back.

Long after you’ve forgotten you wrote about something, one of your readers may have walked away thinking about things in a new light, because they’d never seen that one thing from your particular point of view.

That person isn’t thinking about the way you mispelled “Mangle” that one time, in band camp. They carried away, and are thinking about, your idea.

That’s what lasts.

I’ll share an example that matters a lot to me, of how spelling and grammer are transcended by meaning and ideas.

My favorite poem is by Richard Lovelace. I’m adding it here for you to see what I’m talking about.

Tell me not, Sweet, I am unkind
For, from the nunnery
Of thy chaste breast, and quiet mind,
To war and arms I fly.

True, a new mistress now I chase,
The first foe in the field;
And with a stronger faith- embrace
A sword, a horse, a shield.

Yet this unconstancy is such
As you too shall adore;
For, I could not love thee, Dear, so much,
Loved I not honour more.

I love that poem dearly, but the first time I read it, it didn’t exactly flow smoothly in my understanding. I had to work through it, figure out how it should sound aloud, see how the meaning tied together.

If it were analyzed purely based on modern spelling conventions and phrasing, I’m sure it wouldn’t be handled kindly.

But spelling and grammer have nothing to do with why I love the poem.

It’s stayed with me over the years for the meaning of the words, the power of the ideas, and how they resonate with me.

If you want to write a blog, do it. There are several “How to get started” articles and posts out there to help you through choosing software, modifying themes, picking a name, and getting your posts seen.

But when you’re starting out, forget about things like themes and stuff. It’s all about the writing you do, what you’re saying, and how you do it. Most people will use a feedreader and never see your pretty theme or fancy sidebar.

What they will see is your writing, naked on a page. Your ideas. Your meaning. And how you choose to express yourself.

Make sure when they’re seeing you stripped naked… that it’s really YOU. Your voice, your personality, all natural, no bullshit, and all original parts. :)

And drive your post towards your meaning!

Setting up comment Gravatars

I’ve been asked this a few times, so here you go.

I use a WordPress theme that ties in commenter email addresses to a Gravatar image they set up themselves.

If you do not have a Gravatar you setup yourself, then this site randomly assigns one to you from a various set of generics.

If you would like to set up your own Gravatar that this site will display next to your name in the comments, simply visit the Gravatar website and follow the instructions to be found there! That’s where they all come from.

They’re just there for fun, but I’ll be straight with you… I love seeing what people choose as their own Gravatar, their visual depiction of themselves.

It’s neat!

Blogging and secret endorsements are a no no!

You’d think this was a no brainer, covered under “being an honest, ethical person”, but bloggers are people too, and subject to the same moral lapses that plague anyone.

Someone says to you, “Hey, if you tell people how much you loved my product or service ‘X’, I’ll give you something. Money, a free product, whatever. Something. A free WoW Account. Just… don’t tell anyone that you’re getting this. Just act like you loved it and wanted to talk about it all on your own, spontaneously.”

That’s wrong. It’s misleading, it’s unethical, deceptive BS, and here in the US, if you’re a blogger, it’s actionable.

Here in America, the Federal Trade Commission, also known as the FTC, published new guidelines last October that makes it absolutely clear that such deceptive endorsement practises aren’t allowed, even for bloggers on the internet.

You can always endorse whatever you want… but you have to admit up front that you’re getting a kickback for doing it. That you were paid, whether in goods or in services.

For us WoW bloggers, if you want to talk about how much you love a particular mouse, ventrilo service, headset, a Ferrari, book, etc… you have to be clear to mention whether or not you have received anything for providing your opinion in favor of that product.

Per the posting;

The revised Guides specify that while decisions will be reached on a case-by-case basis, the post of a blogger who receives cash or in-kind payment to review a product is considered an endorsement. Thus, bloggers who make an endorsement must disclose the material connections they share with the seller of the product or service.

How will this affect the Big Bear Butt going forward?

Well, it won’t.

Despite what people who email me sometimes think, I’m not paid by anyone to write here, I’m not given anything at all by anyone. I don’t have ads, I don’t have paid link throughs, I don’t do paid endorsements, I don’t get services, nothing.

I did talk favorably about, and review, the book by Christie Golden called Arthas: Rise of the Lich King, but I didn’t even get anything for that. I received an advance copy to read to review, and as soon as I was done I gave it away. I also was alotted a certain number of books to give away as part of a promotion, and I was happy to do so, to benefit my readers, and I thought it great fun.

Doesn’t matter whether I got anything or not for that, of course, since I was up front about the whole arrangement. :) I be good with the FTC, dawg.

I write here for fun, and as I’ve said before, the day it’s no longer fun is the day I close up shop.

If someone were to ever wish to hand over any money to me, they don’t even get to hand me money for nuthin’… they have to get something for it, by buying a shirt or mug over at the Cafepress Store on my sidebar. :) And even if you decide you don’t like me anymore, at least you’ve still got a shirt to cover your naked bod or a container with which to hold your hot, steaming beverage. That’s better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick!

So, there shall never be any secret money-making shenanigans here at the BBB.

That being said, however… if anyone out there IS a Ferrari dealer and wishes me to endorse your product, you can reach me at tigerlordgm AT yahoo DOT com.

Just sayin’.

On break

The words have drained out of me. There ain’t none there to share.

I find I have nothing of value to say, assuming I ever did in the first place.

Nothing about Bears, nothing about patch changes to instances, nothing about playing at all, nothing about the game or the life outside.

Perhaps it’s simply depression, or the winter blahs, or perhaps it’s a function of how busy I am with more important things like work and family, I don’t know.

I do know that since Sidhe Devils blew up a few months ago, the game feels a lot different for me now than before. Most of it has to do with trust issues, of course, and the baggage I have in my head from years of cheerful upbringing, but I learned long ago that just because you can identify something with logic and reason, that doesn’t necessarily change the way you feel about it at the time.

It’s not the only thing going on, but it’s certainly a major contributing factor to my blahs.

Wherever my head may be at, I don’t have any inspiration to write anything. And if I don’t have anything useful to say, best if I don’t say anything at all.

I’m sure things will change, and I’ll have an attitude adjustment soon.

Looking back on things, I’ve mostly been cheerful and optimistic for years now, day in and day out, even with the occasional rants, and I think that might qualify as crazy all by itself. Hmmm. 

I just wanted to let you folks know that there won’t be any real bloggage until I get my words back, and get my head screwed back on straight.

Thanks for your time, and have a fun week.

BBB

The challange of fantasy language

An earlier comment by Domm sparked a discussion about creating original language and terms for places, people, whatever in your writing.

I was going to comment in more depth, but it’s actually one of my, well, if not ‘pet peeves’, it’s certainly one of the subjects that I burn the most brainpower on when I’m writing. So I think it warrants a post of it’s own.

I know that when I’m writing, especially a story set in a pure fantasy setting, it’s one of my biggest weaknesses and concerns. And it’s a weakness that truly cannot be corrected by doing or practising, but by study and learning. By research and knowledge.

For getting the rhythym of a story down, learning character development, designing story arcs and having fun just writing… you can learn as you go, and get better by the simple act of doing.

But not this.

I’m talking about the etymology of words and the history of language itself. How our current words and usages developed from earlier languages and cultures, what informed and infused our language, and what the roots of words are.

For most fiction, it’s a minor but fascinating topic, because the best way to nail a character in a modern story is to work back to the style of language that person uses, and get the phraseology right. How someone talks is influenced by and indicative of how they think, and someone using the wrong words for their persona, in a well written story, sticks out like a sore thumb. It’s jarring, and for some thrillers and spy novles I’ve read, it’s been used as a technique to intentionally have someone be caught out in the story as an impersonator by those that knew the original person well.

How often have you seen the device used, where one person knocked out a guard, took his radio, and when someone asks if he’s okay, he tries to impersonate the guard he knocked out well enough to fool someone?

Okay, we’re geeks… I can reference Han in the cell block command post trying to run a bluff while Luke went down the row looking for the Princess’ cell.

It’s a device that works best when your grasp of character personality is consistent. The characters talk in a way that is evocative of who they are and how they think, and the reader gets a feel for that, and can even learn to recognise what is or is not ‘appropriate’ dialogue.

We have to delve a whole lot deeper for fantasy literature, though. Most especially when writing a book or books about a fantastic world with cultures and species completely divorced from our own, a world disconnected from our own language roots.

Not only do you have to develop dialogue specific to a character personality, but you don’t have cultural accents that you can use properly without riding the razor’s edge of farce.

How many people expect their dwarves to sound Scottish? Show of hands? Anyone?

Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about.

But far more than that, and the heart of it, is using terms that have a specific, traceable historical etymology that others WILL recognise, in a world that could not have developed a parallel.

It’s a subject I think about all the time.

As an example… I know from my own background what a Company, Regiment, Battalion, Squad, etc are, what they represent. 

I have military organizations in my own fantasy world.

Do I create a whole new organizational structure from scratch, with different terms, starting from base principles and reasoning, and let people figure out what they mean along the way, or do I use known terminology that the reader is already familiar with, take the hit on it being out of place, hoping that the time savings and familiarity have more benefit than irritation?

Many other people are comfortable with the size and organizational groupings that those terms represent. Using familiar terms will help them grasp sizes of forces quickly. Do I use those exact same tems to represent military organizational structure in my fantasy world, at least for this one culutural setting, knowing that for true military historians who know how these terms developed it will be jarring and even, possibly, irritating to see?

Everything has to be subjected to that kind of analysis. Do I go with the familiar, or do I create from scratch? At what level is it acceptable to use the familiar?

Ranks of aristocracy like Count, Duke… these are also prime examples. 

And then you get into naming conventions. Names are so redolent with the flavor of a particular culture, aren’t they?

I really don’t have a good solution for this. As I said, knowing the issue exists, and trying to research the origins of words and make conscious decisions as I go is the best I can do. 

When I call someone a Sergeant, or someone is a Duke, I have at least tried to think about how those terms came into use, and may even have worked into the history of the world why those terms may have come into being… or have knowingly developed an exact traditional reason why Duke Hope has leaders in his forces he has termed Generals, but not a single other Border Lord will promote someone to a rank of General in their own force structures, out of respect. Or why nobody, not even Duke Hope, will name themselves King of their area, why they each respect the limitation of calling themselves Duke as the highest position of authority amongst the Borderlanders.

I’m really curious if any of the other writers amongst my readers have insight into learning more about etymology, or using it in your writing, because really, I would love to learn more about it. The entire subject fascinates me.   

I think that the better you understand the root of language, the better you can work your true meanings, or layers of meanings, into what you write without everything being right there on the surface.