Friday, June 26, 2015

War Stories

I realized today that I have Papa Stories to tell my father's stories, an effort to ensure they are not lost in the mists of time.  I have been very negligent, however in relating my tales, as they may be.  I'm not sure why; I mean this blog is called Illini6 because of my deployment, and it was previously named "Major Thomas and the KBR Fairies."

I checked and I have less than 10 posts on the military and/or deployment; and half of those were from when I was supporting the 108th Sustainment Bde's deployment to Iraq as a member of the Family Readiness Group (FRG).

Did I ever tell you about the largest
Green Bean coffee shop in "The Stan?"
I looked back through those posts and I see that my very first poll resulted in several readers wanting to see more "war stories"  but I have only ever related one here.

I think it might be time to change that.  I still want this blog to be about my writing, but it is also time to share some of my stories.  It's been over ten years since I returned from "The 'Stan" and I've been telling my stories since then, but not writing them down.

I lost my journal early in country and never picked it back up, so my memory is almost all I have, and that's been growing, let's call it embellished over the years.  Please forgive me if any facts are corrupted, changed or forgotten.  I assure you it is all in the name of improving, "The Story."  Feel free to chime in if you were there and remember it differently.  I may not amend my story, but I will acknowledge you and have a scoop of ice cream in your honor.

I'm not going to add a tag for, "War Stories" because I don't want to pigeonhole myself; some of these stories may technically be training stories or humanitarian deployment stories.  I am going to change my background image however.

You know the difference between a fairy tale and a war story?  Fairy tales begin, "Once upon a time" and war stories begin, "I shit you not."

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Singular Gender Neutral Pronoun for English

Wow, that's a long post title, but I wanted to be specific.  This is a fairly hot topic lately and somewhat charged with emotion.

I know there are many people who are struggling with societal gender and sexual roles; descriptions; and labels.  I had been thinking about this for a while and I had originally gone to the Wikipedia page for it.  I recently found an old blog called The Gender Neutral Pronoun Blog.  From there I found there are several facebook pages (here, here and here for instance).  This issue is very hotly debated, deeply personal and potentially a raw nerve glaringly exposed by the ubiquitousness of social media and the internet.


I had originally come up with three reasons I wanted to decide on what singular gender neutral pronoun I wanted to use:

  1. Spiritual discussions and my search for a definition for; as well as a convincing argument for the existence of a GOD.
  2. For use in my Science Fiction and Horror writing
  3. To use on the internet when I'm unsure of a person's gender or they have identified themselves as non-binary in their own gender.
I've decided, based on visiting the facebook sites above, that I will leave off #3 entirely.  A particular post caught my attention and I realized that a person should be able to choose their own pronoun.  When I am out and about on the net I should stick to what I've always done, use their web ID as a proper name and make no other assumptions.

My search for a word for GOD that neither diminishes what I hope is the Ultimate Consciousness was what originally made me think of this.  The decision process was fairly long and specific for this particular application so I won't go into it here (maybe a future blog post).  Suffice to say I decided on "GOD" as the spelling of the name and "G" as the pronoun.

Neither of these is appropriate for self-aware artificial intelligence, aliens that don't fall into our gender structure, or genetically modified humans that would populate my stories and need pronouns.  I went back to the drawing board.

Am I overthinking this?  Of course I don't think so, but additionally, seeing all the talk on-line regarding this subject I thought I could make available a detailed explanation of my decision that others could use when making their own decision.  Or not, it's completely up to them.

Possible Letters

In building this pronoun I want to use letters that evoke the other pronouns, are unambiguous when sight-read, and are more rare (because I want to balance out the letter use).

Candidates consonants based on letter frequency are:  Z (0.074%), Q (0.095%), X (0.150%), J (0.153%), K (0.772%), and V (0.978%).

Z has an advantage in my mind because "she" and "they" both begin with a digraph, which Z can be pronounced as well. 

The two least used vowels are U and I.  Unfortunately I is ambiguous to the extreme, being pronounced like |ee| or |i| or |I|.

U is too guttural, making it sound masculine to me.  It's also too big sounding for what I want to be a short word.  O has this problem too.

I'm leaning toward E over A only because it is more recognizable as part of a pronoun (he, she, they, we).


I'm going to rule out the use of "they." I already feel that English is at a disadvantage because we use, "you" for both the singular and plural second person pronoun.  I don't want to see, "they" end up this way also.  I believe in maximizing the information communicated efficiently.  I think we are missing out on an opportunity if we use, "they" this way.

If I may digress slightly; I'm certainly not a grammar nazi, but I am a communication nazi.  I don't mind when words are added or changed; or when definitions are stretched.  I do mind if they become more confusing, more redundant and/or convey less information because of the change.

I know language changes, especially English; but I want that change to be for the better, to grow the communication or clarify it.  Not all change is good.

That's also why I'm ruling out, "Xe" pronounced as |zee|.

Using a table based off the one in Wikipedia and The Gender Neutral Pronoun Blog:
He called him on his phone, which is his.  He likes himself
She called her on her phone, which is hersShe likes herself
It called it on its phone, which is itsIt likes itself.
They called them on their phone, which is theirs.  They like themselves.
Suggested Gender Neutral Singular Pronouns
(Sasha Newborn 1982)
Hu called hum on hus phone, which is hus. Hu likes humself
Ne called nem on nir phone, which is nirs.  Ne likes nemself.
Ey called em on eir phone, which is eirs.  Ey likes emself.
Ve called ver on vis phone, which is vis.  Ve likes verself.
(German based)
Ze called zem on zir phone, which is zirsZe likes zemself
(Foldvary, Fred (2000))
Zhe called zhim on zher phone, which is zhersZhe likes zhimself
My Suggestions
(replace he with ze)
Ze called zim on zis phone, which is zisZe likes zimself
(replace she with ze)
Ze called zer on zer phone, which is zersZe likes zerself
(like a noun)
Ze called ze on ze's phone, which is ze's.  Ze likes zeself.
Iz (or Iq or Ix)
Iz called iz on iz's phone, which is Iz'sIz likes izself [it breaks down with the possessive for any of them]

Gender-Neutral Pronoun Blog had a good rating system based on three criteria graded on a five point scale: 
  • Ease of pronunciation
  • Distinction from other pronouns
  •  Gender neutrality

Based on this rating system the blog rated Ne/nem/nir/nirs/nemself as the best.

I'd like to do the same, however my criteria are a bit different (I will rank each candidate against each other, except Short):
  • Ease of pronunciation (actually pronouncing the word)
  • Distinction from other pronouns
  • Gender neutrality
  •  Ease of sight-reading (guessing the correct pronunciation and ease of identifying as a pronoun)
  •  Letter usage (use of rarely used letters and or phonemes)
  •  Easy rules to remember
  • Short (graded by total number of letters used in all forms)
    Green are the top, or "best" grades and red are the bottom or "worst" grades. 
As you can see, my own invention had the lowest score, and lowest was graded as best.  I was probably biased, of course.  I don't see that as a problem, since there is no convention and it is a personal choice.

The numbers and my rationale are there so anyone can use it and make their own decision.

Based on this, I'll be using "Ze" as a singular gender neutral pronoun in my fiction writing.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Just What Did Indy Jones Accomplish in Raiders?

I've seen it argued in two very different places that Indiana Jones was completely ineffectual in Raiders of the Lost Ark.  Had he not been involved the outcome would have been the exact same.

But this was predated by What Are you Doing Movie (formerly Down in Front):

"Once the Nazis get the Ark, if Indy went home, it would turn out the same way. … Now, if this was a Vin Diesel movie, he would kill all the Nazis and then he would punch God back into the box."
— Down in Front,
Raiders of the Lost Ark @0:04:40

So here is my take on the concept.  I agree that Indy did not affect the action surrounding the Ark (other than killing and maiming many people, who I am sure felt that he was quite influential in the movie of their lives).

But actually, what he changed was himself, and his relationship with Marion.  He had a character arch in which he changed.  The Ark didn't change, the fate of the world didn't change, but there was a personal level of change.  This isn't what we expected and maybe it's not what some wanted, but I do think it was worth the movie, and better than Amy's dismissal.  What do you think?

Also, this was one of the experiences that influenced who Indy was when he searched for his father in Last Crusade.  Did he affect the world in that one?

Let's talk about it.

BTW:  I remember my Dad loved two specific parts, first was when he complained that he hurt everywhere and Marion could only kiss him on the forehead (just before he fell asleep), and the second one was when he put on a stolen Nazi uniform and it didn't fit.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Happy St. Patrick's Day 2015!

Every year I try to write a leprechaun joke, or at least an Irish joke in honor of St. Patrick's day.

This year I came up with a simple and clean one:

If St. Patrick had not driven all the snakes out of Ireland, what kind of snakes would be living there now?

Erin Co-bragh
Ha Ha Ha Ha, That's so funny!
If McDonald's had their way they would be Shamrock snakes!
Not a snake and not really Irish

Ireland forever.  Happy St. Patrick's day!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Identity Crisis (or GOOOOAAAA er no, no goal)

This blog has had an identity crisis.  I've tried several approaches and I thought I had settled on making it a professional product where I could share some of my fiction writing and opinions.  I thought I would share some of my writing goals, trials and triumphs.

Other things kept creeping in.

I realize now, I have about 5 loyal readers, but they are all family and friends.  Why do I have only 5.  I think it is because of all that creep, the identity crisis.

This is really no place for my personal goals.  Those 5 people care, but no one else.  This is no place to whine, or talk about family; not if I want even only 5 other readers.

In June and July of 2014 I rededicated this blog to writing, changed the background and pledged to make it more professional and writing oriented.

Then I went astray.

In December 2014 I promised my goals and I never delivered them.  I talked about my Greek goals, but the only people who care about those are those 5 readers I have and other people who study second or more languages.  Those language people have their own forums and since I'm not providing any insight on how to do it (possibly how not to do it) then they don't need this blog.  I can go to those sites dedicated to language learning if I want to share.

This blog is for writing, my fiction and non-fiction.  The only goals this blog should cover are any writing goals I have.  I don't particularly have any this year.  I've got so much other stuff on my plate that I didn't and couldn't make any writing goals.

That's okay for here.  I don't need writing goals, at least not now.  What I do need is to write.  That's what you are going to get.  In December I said it might be messy, and it certainly will be.  What it won't be is personal, non-writing related goals or issues.
I know, I know, but non-goals in Rugby are difficult to picture
and can never feel as sad as this image.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Over the Limit

If it's not one thing it's ten things.  I've gotten myself into another fine mess.
Don't tell them how much he
weighs, Stanley

I weighed myself and I'm over my own self imposed limit.  I told myself I should never go above 250 lbs, and now I have.  This is unacceptable so I began an exercise program yesterday.

This is health related so I'm going to have to make Greek study a 1B priority.  Speaking of which, I should have been reporting on my progress.

I read on Lifehacker and am trying a program of habit sprints.

Here is the habit plan I set up on 19 Jan 15:

  1. What is the habit:    STUDY GREEK 90 MINUTES DAILY
  2. What is the trigger
  3. Reminders:
    1. TooodleDo reminder
  4. Accountability
    1. Tracking sheet
    2. Weekly Blog Reports (for report review)
  5. Consequences
    1. Positive
      1. Ice Cream
    2. Negative
      1. undecided

You are supposed to do a weekly review and adjustment.  I failed to do that, but here is the one for this week:

  1. How many days did you do the habit?
    1. 8 (out of 46) x 90 min
    2. 38 x <90 min="" span="">
    3. 3 days at the beginning with no study at all
  2. What worked?
    1. Anki flashcards
    2. Recording spreadsheet
  3. What got in the way?
    1. Daily prompt on day planner
    2. Remembering the exact number of minutes
    3. Doing a weekly review
    4. Can't have ice cream with new exercise routine
  4. How can you adapt your plan to overcome your obstacles?
    1. Pimsleur CD to and from work
    2. Record minutes by pen in my notebook
    3. Get Skype to work and have Skype conversations
Here is my plan for this coming week:

  1. What is the habit:    STUDY GREEK 90 MINUTES DAILY
  2. What is the trigger
    1. Driving
    2. After exercise
  3. Reminders:
    1. Not needed
  4. Accountability
    1. Tracking sheet
    2. Record minutes in notebook
    3. Weekly Blog Reports (for report review)
  5. Consequences
    1. Positive
      1. If I get 90 minutes in a day = IDK
      2. If I have a skype conversation = IDK
    2. Negative
      1. undecided

My Greek study has had very slow progress and I really think what I need to do is engage in conversations.  That is the main thing that will really get me going, and I'd better get going because the rest of my life can't wait any longer.

I've got to find a workout program that only take about 30 minutes a day.  Also, SEL and I are signing up for pool access at our park district.  It's the exercise she wants to do.  I'm going to have to do more.  Any suggestions?

Did you see how slow this guy's Greek study is going?

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Hate Hiatus?

Now I'm conflicted.  In my last post I asked if you all wanted me to continue posting the story, "Hate to Say I Told You So" and I would know if there was enough interest by getting 10 likes, pluses and/or comments.  I got five.  That's more than I've ever gotten before, which is something in itself, but it's only half what I considered to be a reasonable audience.

I also got a comment emailed to me that I should write just for enjoyment, and shouldn't care what others think or want.  This is true to some extent, but it's more complicated than that.

Why do I write?

I write because I do; I tell myself stories in my head all the time (ALL the time) so it seems much more productive to write them down rather than just keep them in my head.  I also write because I have to; I'm compelled to.  This all means that I can, will and do write for myself without regard to others.  All well and good.

I also love to tell stories.  I tell stories about myself, about people I know.  I embellish, I practice (in my head and with others), I pantomime.  I like telling stories so much that I want more to tell, so I make some up.  I don't want to tell the same old tired stories so I write them down to keep better track of them, to help remember and improve them.

There is the rub.  Writing is storytelling, storytelling is writing, and storytelling needs an audience.

I would love to get paid to write.  I want to be able to devote as much time as I could ever want to writing.  I want to go on tour to talk about my stories.  Telling stories about stories is almost as good as telling stories, oh heck, it is as good as telling stories.  I know that those who are that successful are very few and far between.  I can hope for it, and work for it, but shouldn't expect it.

So really, I can't just write for my own amusement with no regard to audience.  I can write with no regard for PAY, but I need to know that there are people reading the stories, and the bigger the audience the better.

I'm juggling a lot of stuff and I actually have far too many balls than I can handle right now.  The only way to get better at any of them and to be successful juggling is to decide which balls to juggle and which to keep on the ground, nearby.

I can't help but tell stories, so that ball is always going to be in hand.  I can get more bang for the buck (yes, I know I'm mixing my metaphors) if I actually write those stories and have an audience.  Let's say this is a torch I'm juggling and have to juggle.  As long as I'm going to juggle a torch I might as well light it (there, my metaphors match).

Here is the problem with "Hate..."  It take too much time.  It was intended to be fan-service for myself, but I got into this thing with the songs and now in order to have a chapter title and any magic I need to find an appropriate song.  Sometimes that can soak up close to an hour of searching and thinking.  If I don't have a pretty big audience clambering for it to continue then I don't think I can spare the time.

I can't juggle a flaming chainsaw.  It's just too much.  I am putting "Hate to Say I Told You So" on hiatus.

For all you who have been reading and enjoying "Hate..." I am not totally abandoning it.  I have the outline.  It will take about 14 chapters to complete (much more than I originally intended).  Someday when I have more time and the ability to move this up in priority (like when I'm not trying to spend 90 minutes a day to learn Greek) I will return to it.  I absolutely do not want to leave a partial story out there.  That is unacceptable.

I will probably switch to another, simpler story, if that is any consolation.  Also, with the shutting down of "Flowers Of Mundelein," I'll be posting my progress with learning Greek here, and anything else I need to share.