Posts concerning writing

Considerations for a Space Opera Setting: Neuroscience

21:07 26 Feb 2012. Updated: 23:47 02 Mar 2012

A clear implication of my having settled on some kind of “bioAI” in my examination of AI in the setting is that neuroscience must be quite advanced indeed, given that a strong understanding of brains and how they work would be necessary to bio-engineer them. In the gap between bio-engineering and “pure” manufacture there are clearly many mysteries, but even so, the setting’s neuroscientific understanding must be formidable.

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My Choice of Writing Style Guidelines

18:31 12 Feb 2012. Updated: 23:19 02 Mar 2012

Stylistic choices I’ve made for my writing.

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2012 Goals

11:47 01 Jan 2012

I’m deliberately giving myself fewer of these this year, partly because I particularly don’t want to start the year feeling as if I’m already behind, so I’m trying to make the first quarter, at least, one in which I don’t have a pile of self-imposed tasks. So, this year, a shorter list of goals.

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2011 Goals Review

13:41 25 Dec 2011

I feel as if I did worse than usual on my goals for 2011, but that could be due to getting a bunch of them done early, with not many coming in the second half of the year.

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Favorite Posts of 2011

19:01 18 Dec 2011. Updated: 11:54 25 Dec 2011

What I liked most from my posts this year.


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“Still in the City”

23:44 11 Dec 2011. Updated: 00:48 12 Dec 2011

At Clay and Gough, after I crossed the street, there was something. No cars in sight, no car sounds, not even from Franklin. No people in sight. No people sounds, until a man in Lafayette Park broke the spell by speaking to his workout partner.

Until then, however, I had felt as if I were alone.

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S0E1, Part One

23:59 06 Nov 2011

She couldn’t hear the evacuation sirens, but her retina display told her they were sounding. The crew of Circus Catch should be rushing around, following their evac drill, and the command staff should be preparing to abandon and scuttle.

She, however, had to remain still, reining in her adrenaline, clinging to the outside of the hull.

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Considerations for a Space Opera Setting: Artificial Intelligence

23:48 16 Oct 2011

The effect of AI on a setting is similar to the effect of sentient alien beings, in that it helps to define the limits of “humanity”. By AI here I mean strong AI, the ability to create sentient machines, and particularly sentient machines of vastly greater intelligence than humans.

While it’s certainly possible to include AI created by non-human civilizations, that’s really the realm of “sentient aliens” rather than what I have in mind here, which is strong AI created by the human race. The interplay/tension between those two groups is critical a lot of space opera, e.g. Iain M. Banks’ Culture series and Dan Simmons’ Hyperion Cantos—not to mention Battlestar Galactica and critical aspects of the background of the Dune setting.

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Considerations for a Space Opera Setting: Energy

19:02 25 Sep 2011

Given that I’ve chosen FTL travel and FTL communication as well as a scale that involves a fair amount of space, energy production and consumption are going to be important in the setting. The availability and cost of energy help to define many of the parameters of the milieu, including its economy.

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Considerations for a Space Opera Setting: Aliens

15:14 07 Aug 2011. Updated: 18:19 17 Sep 2011

FTL travel, and the “big universe” aspect of space opera, mean that if a setting includes alien life, humans are likely to encounter it. Its presence or absence does a great deal to shape the setting, both in terms of power dynamics and politics and in terms of how it feels.

Note that I’m not considering the question of whether or not it’s more “realistic” for a setting to contain aliens or not, as the question of our being alone in the universe is both too large for this post and not one I want to try to answer satisfactorily before starting to write this particular space opera piece.

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Blog Milestone/Schedule Shift

20:51 31 Jul 2011. Updated: 21:44 01 Aug 2011

Today marks five years of posting to this blog at least five days per week (it was every day for the first year). Well over a thousand posts, on an eclectic variety of topics. When I started, in August 2006, my intent was to blog every day for a month. I did that, then kept on going, but after a year recognized that I needed some breaks in a week.

I’m quite proud of having posted that regularly for so long. That being said, it’s time for a change. The new schedule is a minimum of one post per week, posted Sundays (or earlier, but that effectively means Sundays).

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Phantom Post

19:58 18 Jul 2011. Updated: 17:38 23 Jul 2011

As I write this, tadhg.com is down, and there’s no chance of it coming back before tomorrow. So I have a post to write, but in the knowledge that once I write it, I can’t put it on my blog for at least a day.

That makes writing it feel quite different, and makes explicit the extent to which I regard my posts specifically as blog posts. That might seem obvious, but there’s no real reason why my posts couldn’t be considered pieces of text that merely end up on a blog, pieces that could be reposted or repurposed elsewhere, rather than being categorized so strictly.

In writing this one, however, I feel acutely the sense of a lack of an audience; this is despite the fact that I know it’ll be read once the site is up and running again. If I regarded it more as an essay or story, that wouldn’t be the case, but intrinsically it is its own form, a blog post, and in this instance would make little sense as anything else.

Hopefully its phantom half-life will be brief.

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The NSA Style Guide

23:29 13 Jun 2011. Updated: 21:37 20 Sep 2013

That’s not an ironic title, or one referring to some fictional work—Government Attic has secured the release of the NSA’s writing style guide, and BoingBoing cleaned it up, so that you can now find it on Scribd.

I love the fact that it includes a section instructing NSA writers not to use “bureaucratese”.

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Considerations for a Space Opera Setting: Scale

19:36 22 May 2011

By “scale” here I mean: how far does space that humans have explored extend? How far is it feasible for humans to travel within the civilization? How many systems make up that civilization?

“Space opera” implies a large setting, but in real terms “large” is fairly meaningless, and allows for rather a lot of variance.

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The New Yorker on Waiting for GRRM

23:51 19 Apr 2011

Laura Miller’s “Just Write It” is an overview of fan discontent with George R. R. Martin over the amount of time it’s taking to finish A Song of Ice and Fire. As a longtime (perhaps erstwhile—but I am planning to read the next book) fan, I thought it covered the ground well, and in particular the interesting question over what duty, if any, an author has to finish a story.

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Considerations for a Space Opera Setting: FTL Communication

22:55 05 Apr 2011

I’m still thinking about my large-scale science-fiction/space opera project, and the next major consideration after FTL travel is faster-than-light communication.

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How Much is Blog Shilling Going for These Days Anyway?

22:53 18 Feb 2011

I received a kind of monetization offer for this blog today, one that I hadn’t encountered before: a service that would pay me to put up articles that they would provide. The kicker would be the links at the bottom of these articles (no porn or gambling, they assured).

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Happiness Progress

21:06 14 Feb 2011

Long-time readers of this blog will know that happiness is a recurring concern of my posts. Recently, I seem to have made some kind of significant step, or crossed some important line, towards happiness.

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Fun with pandoc, Vim, and email

23:52 21 Jan 2011. Updated: 01:35 22 Jan 2011

I’ve mentioned pandoc once before, and it’s again proved rather useful. I’ve been looking for more ways to use it, as I love its core principle (although I naturally wish that it focused on reStructuredText rather than Markdown) of being a comprehensive text format converter. It might at one point be the answer for getting from reST to PDF—something that the current reST tools don’t help me with because I insist on using Unicode, and XeTeX isn’t yet supported. But today pandoc helped with a different task: going from reST to plain text.

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Self-Expression & Voice

22:37 16 Jan 2011. Updated: 20:10 18 Jan 2011

What does it mean to truly express yourself? At first glance, it may seem that this is a pointless question, since the truth value of self-expression can only really be measured by the subject. But that’s not how it really works, and generally we’re well able to spot falsity, artificiality, and posturing. I don’t mean that we’re able to detect lies, as I’m not really talking about objective truth here, but more about what we believe about ourselves and the use of our genuine voice, where “genuine” is something that can’t necessarily be pinned down by a solid definition.

This lack of a solid definition, and of empirical testability, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. It’s probably easiest to observe “non-genuine self-expression” when children do it, or when we ourselves remember doing it as children. Children will generally do this imitatively, trying to act in some way that they’ve seen others act, most likely in an attempt to be treated similarly to how those others are treated. It’s clear to an observer that it’s an act, and the child knows it’s an act but is committed to denying that knowledge. That is an example of the inverse of self-expression, but probably only one of the easiest forms to spot—after all, which is more likely to occur as we grow older, that we give up posturing and posing to attract the kinds of attention we desire, or that we become far more adept at so doing?

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2010 in Blog Tags

08:26 07 Jan 2011

The most common tag I applied to blog posts in 2010 was: personal, 63 times. (Unfortunately it isn’t clear how to link to WordPress posts with a combined tag and year constraints, so the links go to all the posts with the tag, not just 2010’s). I’m a little surprised that was the most common tag.

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2010 tadhg.com Blog Statistics

17:55 06 Jan 2011

Some statistics on my posts from 2010.

  • Total Posts: 263.
  • Total Wordcount: 85697.
  • Total Writing Time: 128 hours 24 minutes.


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2010 Morning Pages Statistics

05:09 04 Jan 2011

2010 is the first year in which I consistently kept metadata such as tags, writing time, and wordcount for my morning pages, which means it’s the first year in which I can do certain kinds of data analysis on them; this post covers what I think is interesting data about the 392,582 words that I wrote in my morning pages in over 240 hours in 2010.

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