Category: blah blah blah


Long Overdue Update

I realize that one of the main purposes of blogging is to jot down your thoughts, feelings, and opinions. For some, it’s a personal venting apparatus, allowing us to push out the white noise that life continuously throws at you. Whether it be from your personal or professional life (or both), stress has a way of compounding on you and grinding those tiny motions of creativity and inspiration to a halt.

However, when your blog is being used with the expectation of having an audience (like this one), the blogger has a bit of a decision to make: Do they create another blog to serve as a vent/scratching post, or do they air all their dirty laundry to the public in hopes of some kind of vindication or sympathy? Some people choose the latter in this respect, and personally that just makes me shake my head and mutter something under my breath that I really shouldn’t repeat here.

Yet, when things get in the way of your creative processes and actually compromise that silent contract you’ve made with your fans, there is a certain degree of responsibility and accountability that exists. I say silent contract because while it’s not written down anywhere or mentioned verbally, the moment you present content for consumption by the masses, there is a responsibility to see it through to its end, or at the very least continue with it until you make the conscious decision to stop delivering. To that end, some notification of your plans to fade away should be made known to your fans so they can brace themselves for the end.

The reason I’m rambling on like this is because I know I’ve been silent for months at a time, posting almost never, and not really communicating with you, my faithful readers/listeners. I’m not trying to make an excuse here, but more trying to let you know what’s been happening to me and why ‘Outcast’ has slowed to a crawl.

In December of last year, the left side of my head exploded in pain while I was at work. It was intense enough that I actually had a hard time standing and walking. For the briefest time I’d lost my sense of balance. Needless to say I was scared shitless at that point, but soon enough the pain faded and everything seemed to go back to normal. I should mention I’d been under a world of stress at that point, both from work and from my new home, where my roommates seemed ready to kill each other. Add to that the increase in pot shots at me from my ex-wife, and it became a perfect storm in my head.

About a week later, I suddenly began to feel a tingling in my right hand. I thought it might have been an after-effect of too much typing/mousework that day (I work in IT/web design). However, the next morning found me in Emergency at one of Calgary’s hospitals. I’d lost most of the feeling in the entire right side of my body. I still had full motor control, but there was definitely something wrong with me.

I spent the day in the hospital, undergoing a CT scan, numerous blood tests, and even a spinal tap. In case you’re wondering, yes, a spinal tap is EXACTLY as painful as you’ve heard it to be…even with anesthetic and my apparent loss of sensation.

Since then, I’ve been back and forth to the hospital for consults with a neurologist. I’ve had an MRI, another CT scan, and was also in counseling for a time to see if my problems were manifestations of my home life. From all of this, it was concluded that I had what’s called a dissection of one of the blood vessels by my cerebellum. A clot from this dissection managed to strike a nerve, which caused my temporary lack of balance and my continuing numbness. They also found what’s called a pseud-aneurysm along the same blood vessel. This is a slight widening of the vessel, where clots can form due to lack of blood mobility in that area. They said mine was occluded, which means there’s no real danger there.

Since finding this out I’ve been doing all I can to get my blood pressure down to a normal level in order to help my body heal from all this. I’m back on my normal medication, and I’ve also been trying to move around more (walking, taking breaks from the computer, etc). It’s worked to some extent, I think. I’m still battling my weight as best I can, though it’s been a struggle.

On June 24 I’ll be heading to the hospital for a procedure known as a cerebral angiogram. Basically, they’re going to sick a needle in my leg, traverse a blood vessel leading to the back of my head, then shoot some tracer dye and take some high-resolution X-rays. This will be the final word in finding out what’s wrong with me, and if any treatment options exist. I find it ironic that in the age of the CT and MRI forms of diagnostics, my case has to rely on the oldest and still most accurate of diagnostic methods.

With all of this hanging over my head, it’s been a challenge to find the necessary quiet time to actually sit down and write. About the only time I did get was at the laundromat, which was a weekly trek when one of our main pipes in the house collapsed. When it rains, it pours, it seems.

I’m not trying to make excuses here…not looking for sympathy. I’ve been wrestling with telling you all this because I didn’t want it to sound like I’m whining or complaining. However, I feel as though I owe you all some kind of explanation as to the silence on my part. Those of you who’ve been so patient thus far I cannot properly thank you enough.

So, where from here? The writing is beginning to come back, though it’s a slow go at the moment. Chapter 20 is finished in a writing sense, but I want to hold off on recording it until Chapter 21 is finished. I can’t really give a definite date as to just when 20 will be released just yet, but I’m hoping for sooner rather than later.

Until then, you might want to check out a couple of other podcasts out there that I’ve been enjoying as of late. The first one is Alex White’s Gearheart stories, which you can find at http://www.thegearheart.com. The next is Tales from the Archives, an anthology of the steampunk world created by Tee Morris and Philippa Ballentyne. You can find it at http://www.ministryofpeculiaroccurrences.com

So until next time…thank you…and have a good one.

State of the Podcast

So as you may know by now, given my relative silence as of late, things in the ‘Outcast’ world have been pretty chaotic. It’s a little difficult to get your writing groove on when everything around you seems to demand some kind of attention, or leaves you with such a bitter taste in your mouth that any kind of inspiration just goes PFFFT out the window.

Life’s been filled with several ups and downs for me, as well as I’ve moved yet again. Now, while part of me thinks it’s a step up in life, it also involves taking the contents of a 2,000 square foot basement suite and smooshing it all into a bedroom the size of a college dorm room. I’ve already downsized my bed (queen down to double), gotten rid of 3 desks and a stereo stand, and have even more paring down of my worldly possessions to do before I’ll be satisfied.

I’ve just recently dug my microphone and stand out of my half dozen or so as-yet packed boxes, and am working on setting up my recording ‘studio,’ as it were. I’d like to say that I’ll have something out soon, but it seems every time I say that I wind up being silent once more.

However, now that I’m slowly getting back into a kind of living routine, I do want to become a little less silent in the podosphere once more, be it either with more frequent blog entries, podcasts, and voice spots on other shows. I’ve realized that the only way I’m ever going to beat this whole thing is just to bear down and get it done.

That’s about all I can say for the moment. I’ll update you all when I know more.

The Podcasting Curse

Ok, anyone who wants to line up and take potshots at me for this one, please do so. Skeptics over on the right, right-wing conservatives over there, and everyone else form a third line right here.

All right…everyone comfortable? Good.

I’m not sure if I’m just the unluckiest S.O.B. when it comes to podcasting, or if there’s some kind of higher power out there determined to either silence me completely, or turn my desire to finish this project into a TV movie. The fact is, however, I think I’m cursed.

Those of you who know me know I once tried my hand at a general ‘rant’ based podcast called The Kick In the Cast a few years back. Any of you who remember some of the content of said podcast also know that I had a fair bit to complain about, from car troubles to my father dying, to numerous financial woes. What you might not know, though, is that each time I posted and episode, something bad usually happened in my life.

I thought that after the divorce and moving into a new place that I could finally be at peace with whatever demons seemed determined to keep my voice off the air. However, that wasn’t the case. Shortly after posting my latest episode, my work’s network crashed, and crashed hard. We lost a lot of data, and it’s been an expensive road to recovery since then. We’re stable now, but we’re not out of the woods yet.

I dunno…it just seems strange that every time I try to move this podcast along, something happens in my life not soon after that just saps all the energy from me. It’s almost like someone or something is punishing me for trying to succeed at this. I know it sounds corny, but I can’t help it.

This is not to say I’ve stopped writing, however. Chapter 19 is finished being written, and Chapter 20 is 2/3 done. When I’ve finished 20, I’ll be recording 19 for release (hopefully soon), and I’ll take my lumps as a result. If there is some spectre out there determined to make this a struggle, then I hope he/she/it is ready for a fight.

Ok…back to work.

Helping a Friend

Ok, I know I’ve ranted and raved about Second Life a lot on this blog, and some of you are probably getting tired of it. But, if you’re still reading this just hear me out this one last time, ok? I promise I’ll shut up about SL for a while after I’ve said this.

A few episodes back I made a plea to you to help out a friend of mine, whose wife died of a rare form of cancer several years ago. Alas, he fell short of the fundraising mark he’d set for himself, but not by much. However, undaunted as always he’s continued to fight, to raise awareness, and to inspire people to do their part in any way they can to help out.

Of course, people coming together to help fight something like this is by no means a new thing. When Joe Murphy passed away, and even before that, the podosphere was abuzz with calls to action for fundraising, spreading the word…everything social networking specializes in. The outpouring of support I witnessed as a result of that was nothing short of awe-inspiring…especially to one as new to the whole social media thing as I was back then.

Well, last night I bore witness to something so ambitious, I was left feeling humbled.

I was with a few friends on SL last night, and one of them had an announcement to make. Shujin (the man who lost his wife) was there as well, and the announcer revealed a fundraising plan so insanely large-scale that it was almost unbelievable.

The plan is simple enough: he created a small donation box (2 prims in size), and put out the call to every member of our little group (1300+ in all) to utilize their contacts to try and place these boxes all over the grid. The announcer set up a separate SL account to manage these donations so as to maintain the integrity of this charity drive.

But he hasn’t stopped there…oh no…

Every year, Shujin puts on an event in SL as a last-day fund-raiser for his charity (The End of Cycle for Sarcoma). These donation boxes will become active a few months before the event…basically when the Ride for Roswell starts accepting donations for the upcoming year. Well, along with the donation box comes another little present: A media box (I think that’s what they’re called). On the day of the event, this box will take over whatever audio stream is currently playing in the sim it’s in, and replace it with the stream coming from the fund-raising event itself. Someone generously donated a 1,000 listener Shoutcast stream specifically for this event.

Needless to say, Shujin was floored by all of this…as was I.

Even as we were listening to this announcement, land owners, club owners, and even a few mall owners were already making contact with the announcer, pledging their willingness to place one of these donation boxes on their land free of charge. As well, they’ve also pledged to talk up their contacts & friends to try and spread the word.

Based on such a huge amount of support so early into this, I’ve a feeling that by the time the event rolls around, Shujin’s team is gonna set a record for donations…all because of Second Life and the friends he’s made on it.

Not bad for a pixelated chatroom, wouldn’t you say?

A Productive Weekend

Hey all.

No, this isn’t an episode post just yet, though progress has certainly been made on the next episode/chapter of ‘Outcast.’ It’s amazing how much energy one can expend converting a few lines of outline text into a full-bodied chapter of content. Mind you it’s not a bad thing, writing oneself into exhaustion before calling it a night. I mean hey…keeps you honest, right?

However, being a geek and not a nerd, I do have a life away from the keyboard & screen. Granted, it’s not as lavishly outgoing as some people’s lives, but it’s enough for me. So, in between the fits and spurts of writing I got done this weekend, I headed to this one Irish pub (Tipperary’s) in NW Calgary to meet up with some of my fellow Calgary-based podcasters. It’s a monthly get-together where we sit down, have a couple of beers (yay for Transit), and either focus on a particular subject or just shoot the bull.

The event’s hosted by podcasting veteran Daryl Cognito, host of Atomic Suburbia. In truth, I’m shocked at just how many Calgary podcasters there are. Of course, I tend to move in different circles from a lot of them, so I really shouldn’t be surprised. Most of the podcasters I’ve met here are real entrepreneurs, always trying to find ways to ‘monetize’ their podcasting skills. I’m not sure if that’s the norm for other podcasting groups in other cities.

Thanks to the cold, this past meetup was little more than a social gathering with only a few people. We all talked shop for a bit, had a few drinks, and headed for home after a couple of hours. There wasn’t much to take away from the meetup, save a few laughs, a potential job lead (Thanks, Eric), and a gift from my new hair stylist (Thanks for that, Rachelle). I also got to pitch to everyone a new product my company’s working on, which could potentially re-shape how company boardrooms are used.

Anyway, after I got home and thawed out – gotta love those minus WTF kinds of days – I logged into SecondLife to zone out for a couple of hours. After going through a rather lengthy list of DJ’s announcing the starts of their respective runs, I came across a message that left me just tickled. Basically, it was an ‘Outcast’ fan who found me in-world, saying how much he loved the book and that if it ever gets published, he’s ready to purchase two copies.

This person and I chatted for a bit after that (turns out he was in-world too), and it kinda dawned on me that used properly, Second Life could almost be considered a form of social media. Granted, it’s not as portable and readily accessible as, say Twitter or Facebook, but the basic principle remains the same: You can connect with people with common interests over the Internet. Of course, when you think about it, just about any MMORPG could be considered the same thing. While in the game worlds you’re expected to fulfill a certain task or quest, you can still just sit back and chat with friends with no real pressure to do anything else.

This is now the 4th time since I’ve started writing/podcasting ‘Outcast’ that someone from Second Life has let me know they’re a fan of it. Maybe it’s because of my lack of so-called ‘normal’ feedback from things like email and voicemail, but for some reason I just feel special for getting that kind of ‘love’ for the book. I also know I’m not the first podcaster to take advantage of Second Life’s reach to promote a project. Hell, my avatar still wears an Ionath Krakens T-shirt more often than not. Still, it’s an interesting feeling, being able to interact with fans like that.

I also got my first voicemail feedback call on the new line. I’m a little hesitant to relay the details of it here, mostly because I want to save it until the next episode. As well, another podcast author sent me an email, happy that I’m back in the saddle again, so to speak. Ah tell y’all…ah kin feel the luv in this here room, bah gum.

Other than that, I managed to get some recording done for the QN podcast, and another project I’m working on, all while plugging away at my own project. A busy weekend, but damned if it wasn’t productive as all get out.

So, thanks to a slight technical problem, the infamous NARC line is no more. I let the K7 line slip for more than 30 days, so I had to re-register with K7 with a new number, since they don’t let you choose the number you want.

As a result, my new voice mail line is 206-339-1069…not as dramatic as the NARC line, but oh well. Guess now I have to make a new outro for future episodes…

FINALLY! Hm…I seem to be saying that a lot, don’t I?

Well, anyway, after far too long, here we are again with episode 17 of ‘Outcast.’

IN THIS EPISODE:
Still reeling from the alley attack, Dalan is plagued with the vision of nearly ending Daro’s life. As he tries to reconcile his guilt, Te’Ki fears his condition is a result of her story, and accuses him of lying to her that everything was all right.

In the rage that follows, Dalan realizes something is happening to him…something he was not warned about. This event only compounds his overall feeling of helplessness, and he heads off to his training session to get some answers…

No matter the cost…

Episode 17


Ok, now that you’ve had a chance to listen to the episode (or at least download it), I wanted to relate a story to all of you about something that happened to me recently. Don’t worry; it’s a good thing, trust me. 🙂

As some of you may know, I’m a bit of a SecondLife junkie. That being said I’m not like some of those WoWzers out there, determined to spend every millisecond of my free time in some other world, but I do have a few places I like to hang out and chat with friends at least once per week.

Anyway, one of the places I hang out at is a virtual nightclub, and I’ve gotten to know the DJ there fairly well. (Well, as much as you can get to know someone in a place like SL, anyway). He does a few hours at the club every Wednesday, and it’s not just him spinning tunes. There’s fake commercials, gags, flashback news segments…the guy really gets into his work and I think it makes him one of the best SL DJ’s around.

A while back he put out the call for some sound bites, and after getting myself settled in my new place I decided to send a couple his way. One was an intro for his flashback news segment, and the other was one of those ‘This is a test,’ EBS warning things. Needless to say he was overjoyed that someone actually wanted to help him.

So I was at the club a few weeks ago just hanging out, and the DJ decided to play the EBS warning message. I think I’ve said it before how much I can’t stand to listen to my own voice, so I was having a less than fun time while this thing was droning on and on…and on.

All of a sudden, in the chat window, I see the following line:
Hey…that’s the dude who does Outcast!

Ok, so by this time I’m a little more flattered. I mean the DJ and the club owners are fellow Outcasts, but to see this kind of line from another club regular was nothing short of a pleasant surprise. So, after a few moments I typed the following:
*sighs* Yep…guilty as charged.

A few more miscellaneous lines of text went by, then this showed up:
Dude…that’s YOU?

The DJ told me later he had a hard time not saying anything as the patron slowly made the connection.

It was kinda cool to see something like that happen in a place where I least expected it. I guess it goes to show that anywhere you show your face, virtual or otherwise, if you’re in the podcasting game, you might be recognized.

Settling Down

Ok, so yet another long time in between posts. I’m hoping that with this entry the frequency of posts here will increase substantially.

So, for those of you who’ve been following this little roller-coaster I call a life, you know that I’ve been going through the beginnings of a divorce, and for the past few months I’ve been living with family members. It’s been tough to live like that, especially after 10+ years of your life being a certain way. It was difficult trying to keep myself focused on things, as I was constantly bombarded with the after-effects of basically being kicked out of my home, dealing with loose ends, late bills (stuff I actually owed), and keeping up a strong work ethic at my job.

Well, I’m happy to say that things are finally settling down for me. On August 1st I drove up to my former home with a truck, loaded all my things into it and drove to my new place. Ok, so it took about 4 trips to get the majority of my stuff from one place to another, but the fact remains that now I’m 99% moved out of my old place. I say 99% because there are a few things we still need to deal with. It’ll come with time, and we’re both being as civil as we can about it. Thankfully there are no kids involved, and my new place doesn’t allow pets. Custody won’t be a problem.

One thing I have noticed, though, is something that I wasn’t able to really put my finger on until last night. See, I was goofing around in SecondLife and I was constantly having to tell myself ‘You don’t have to be anywhere…just relax. There’s nothing for you to do except sit here and enjoy yourself.’ I think one of my biggest problems as of late has been this feeling of constantly being rushed. You know; switch to a window, write/play for 2 minutes, then switch to something else…as if you’re trying to hide from the world what you’re doing. Doing that at work I can understand. Not too many supervisors feel comfortable with you taking a minute to relax your brain before diving headlong back into your work.

But when you get that feeling at home…it’s time to take a BIG step back.

I was on SL for over 3 hours straight, and only got up to refill my water. Other than that, I was focused on chatting with friends, listening to some great music, and just being there. It’s something I haven’t felt in a long time…relaxed…completely and utterly relaxed. I was actually able to lose myself in what I was doing, and didn’t come up for air until nearly midnight (which explains why I’m do dog-tired right now 😛 )

As I learn to relax more, I’m sure it’ll be reflected in my writing/podcasting. No longer bound by any real pressure, I’ll be able to open the floodgates of my imagination and finally turn that diminished spark of inspiration into the raging bonfire it used to be. Ok, that sounds hokey, but it’s true. I mean hey, the length of this blog post should tell you something about my recovery.

Anyway, with any luck the next episode will be up soon.

Until then…

Let’s face it: Life can, and often does, stink.

I mean some days it feels like no matter how hard you try, or how much effort you put into something, there’s always a surprise waiting to either bean you with a reality snowball, or give you one of those life-wedgies that makes you wonder why you even try in the first place.

I’ve been living proof of this for close to 2 years now, and let me tell you it’s not fun. From financial headaches, to growing tensions at home, to now living with my sister as my wife and I try to sort some things out, I have been and am still going through a personal hell as of late. With the combined pressure from work and home, quite truthfully I’m amazed I’ve stayed sane as long as I have.

I’m not saying my situation is unique by any stretch. I imagine a lot of people go through this kind of shit on a regular basis, and deal with it in their own ways. What maybe puts a spin on my life is the fact that on top of all this I’m trying to carve out a space in the New Media sphere as well, which if you’re going to do it right, you have to make a commitment to it. Be it time, money, or whatever, if you want to run in the podosphere, you have to contribute.

Over the past 13 months I’ve had to work two jobs, both of which were extremely demanding. I’ve torn down our company’s website twice and put it back up, I’ve delivered over 100,000 newspapers in that amount of time, and I’ve pushed my pressure coping abilities beyond any semblance of a normal limit. I’ve seen sides of myself in the past year that I never knew I had, and in retrospect wish I’d never seen.

So you can imagine my initial reaction to a comment made by a listener to my novel when they say that unless there’s an update soon, they’ll have to unsubscribe to it.

Incensed? Sure…at first. I’ve never been one to take threats well, no matter how sublime or severe they might be. Now, of course this comment could have been made in fun…maybe with a dash of sarcasm thrown in as an attempt at a general nudge to get me off my butt. If so, then I waaaaaaaaaaaay over-reacted initially to it, but it does bring up a valid point: Should we take it so personally when someone unsubscribes?

Years ago, Scott Sigler’s podcast novel ‘Infection’ (the predecessor to ‘Infected’) sparked a bit of controversy from one of its listeners. In one scene, Perry Dawsey (the main character) threatened to hurt a woman. After that episode aired, one listener emailed Scott and said she was un-subscribing from the novel because of the misogynistic tone the book now had.

Now, to Scott’s credit, he reacted fairly well, stating that yes, his book wasn’t for everyone, and he wouldn’t harsh anyone for unsubscribing. I mean hey, it’s the person’s choice to subscribe or not. Still, I can only imagine the initial reaction.

I’ve looked at my Podiobooks stats off and on since putting ‘Outcast’ up on there, and while the numbers of subscribers have been increasing, so have the numbers of folks who’ve unsubscribed. Granted, the ratio still greatly favours the subscriber side, and for that I’m eternally grateful. 99% of the feedback I’ve been getting has been more than encouraging, and a real beacon to me in this rather chaotic sea I’ve been sailing in as of late.

I know mine’s not the only podcast to have people unsubscribe. People with infinitely more talent and a larger listener base must see fluctuations in their numbers that would make my eyes bug out of my head. I guess you need to have somewhat of a thick skin in the world of web 2.0, because not everyone’s going to necessarily ‘like’ you, and some may even drop your podcast due to disinterest or prolonged periods of silence.

I guess all you can really do is shrug your shoulders, look at your calendar, and move on. Unless it’s your main source of income, podcasting / web 2.0 work is little more than a hobby, and should really only be fostered when you have time and energy to spare. Should things come up along the way, they need to take priority and as much as it may hurt, you have to shelf your hobby until you’ve dealt with everything else.

If your hobby involves interacting with an audience via the Net, then the most you can do is ask for their understanding that there might be delays in content delivery because of life’s little curve-balls. I mean hey, for a while Tee Morris when nearly dark during his re-doing of Morevi for one reason or another…and his book was already written!

So, in conclusion, I guess I’ve answered my own question. Should I take it personally when someone tells me they’re unsubscribing? No. Just shrug your shoulders, brush it off, and get back to living. It’s all you can do.

More Stormy Seas Ahead…

I’m convinced that the Fates have me square in their crosshairs, dead to rights.

To say working on ‘Outcast’ has been a struggle for the longest time is a drastic understatement, and part of it is this seemingly comedic string of bad things that seem to happen not long after I”ve recorded and posted an episode.  From a $5000 car repair bill to my dad dying, to my current situation…it feels like someone or something doesn’t want me to finish this project.

Things, however, have really…and I mean really…come to a head.  I wasn’t really aware of how much stress I’ve been under this past little while, and it’s beginning to show.  Work, home, and everything else in my life has become this giant ball of anxiety for me, and to be honest how I haven’t dropped dead from a heart attack has amazed everyone, especially my wife.

To that end, I’ve actually started into counselling to try and deal with a lot of the issues with which I’m faced.  It’s a little embarassing to admit that I might have a problem, but I also know that acknowledging that something’s wrong is the first step to fixing it.  I can only hope and pray that going this route will bring me some sense of peace at some point.

Again, I want to thank all of you for your patience, your feedback, and continued support for the book.  I’m not fading out or anything like that; I just wanted to finally admit to all of you one of the darker reasons I’ve been so sporatic with my posting schedule.  I’ve been denying that there’s something wrong with me for a long time, and now it’s finally reared up and taken a large chunk out of my life…one I have to fight like hell to get back now.

Unfortunately, what this means is that the posting schedule will be about as spotty as it is now, but it will continue.  Heh…like the song says: Never Surrender…I’ll never be overcome (Disturbed: ‘The Curse). I know I have one hell of a battle ahead of me, but I know it’s one I can win.

I just have to fight it now…

Thanks.