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2016 Goals

My goals for 2015 were not met. Turtle Creek folded pretty quickly in the new year. So all my writing went to Hades. Personal goals, too. Instead of losing weight, I gained. I’m in the 230-240 range right now. I haven’t gotten on a scale to be precise. I did have a go at a gym for a while, but then that stopped.

So let’s get even more modest in my goals for 2016.

Writing goals for 2016

  • Write a screenplay
    • Just one. First draft. I’ve got the whole year to do it in.
  • Write a blog post every week

And that’s it. If I’m feeling good about it, I’ll do a stretch goal and do Nanowrimo this year. We’ll see.

 

In addition, here’s some personal goals:

Personal goals for 2015

  • Under 220 pounds
  • Get half my credit cards paid off

So let’s break this down into daily and weekly goals

Daily goals:

  • Clean in the apartment every day.
  • Sit down to write every day

Weekly goals:

  • Walk 20-30 minutes a day 3 times a week
  • Log food two days a week.
  • Meatless day each week

Monthly goals

  • Log weight once a month
  • Make financial goals each month

That’s it. That’s all I’m going to attempt.

 

 

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Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited

I play this game, y’all: Elder Scrolls Online. It’s an MMO (my first), set in the world of the Elder Scrolls. I’ve played since the beta period, and I’ve had two six-month subscriptions since. I really enjoy the game.

(You might know the deal about what just happened today, so skip down to the part where I say you can start reading again. Don’t make me point you back to this next section, though!)

Yesterday, Zenimax and Bethesda announced they were changing the current subscriber-only basis for the game on March 17. At that point, we only have to make an initial purchase of the game. Anyone with a game purchase and an account can play all content current at that point. This new version of the game will be called Tamriel Unlimited. And in June, when the game launches on XBox and Playstation, their premium subscribers will have the same deal: buy the game and you can play all that content – you only need an XBox Gold or Playstation Network membership to access online content through the consoles. This is a business model for MMOs known as B2P, or buy-to-play. You buy the game to play it, but that’s all the money you absolutely have to spend. We had mandatory subscriptions, and on March 17 we don’t.

However, there will still be a subscription service: the new ESO Plus (ESO+) membership. It’s going to be the same price (looks like) as the old subscription. Now why buy the subscription when it’s free to play the game after you’ve bought the box?

Because Tamriel Unlimited will quickly make a mockery of that last word. Expansions will be coming to Tamriel. These new areas of play will be considered downloadable content (DLC), and access to these areas is only available to plain old players by purchasing them in the new cash shop, the Crown Shop. Crowns are the new in-game currency, a premium one beyond the normal gold currency that will still be used. In addition to new DLC, we will be able to plunk down crowns for new costumes, new mounts, and a whole bunch of other stuff.

And hence the controversy. Once a cash shop and area entry costs enters into the picture, the spectre of free-to-play (F2P) rears its head, a Daedric Prince far more vicious than even Molag Bal. F2P MMOs generally make their money through the cash shop exclusively. They let you download the game for free, but then begin limiting access to areas. Holy smokes, that’s already happening in Tamriel Unlimited! The only limit being your wallet and Zenimax’s greed! WHERE IS THE AMULET OF KINGS??? IN THE CASH SHOP FOR ONLY 4,999 CROWNS, YOU MOTHERLESS DOG OF A NECROMANCER!!!

Ahem. I digress.

That’s not what we have happening on March 17. By keeping your subscription going, you get access to all areas of Tamriel, current and future. There are no barriers beyond the subscription price. Plus there are some other perks for subscribing: a bump to earning experience and crafting advances, as well as a new allotment of crowns for every renewal, 1500 crowns for every month of renewal. Even if you let your subscription lapse, you get to keep all your cool stuff. But you lose access to any DLC. You have to go purchase it like all the other free players. Reupping gets your access back.

(Hey, all you skippers – start reading again!)

So the question of the hour: Joseph, what do you think about all this?

I’m glad you asked. To be honest, I’m a little disappointed. This is my first MMO, and I enjoy it a lot. I’ve considered my two six-month subscriptions worth the money I paid. I would probably have bought another game instead of ESO, so the money I considered a sunk cost. When the game transitions in March, I’ll still have a month and a half on the current subscription.

But Zenimax and Bethesda have made it clear to me that the good times can continue! I can still subscribe and get all the game content they release just like the original bargain we struck. They just want to see F2P on the side. And, hey, here’s a sweet couple of shineys to smooth over any bad blood.

Since ESO isn’t my imaginary lover, I’m OK with that.

I do think there will be some things to watch for, though, that will signal my time in ESO is over and done with.

1. I’m not having fun playing the game.

I think that wraps it up, actually. I have fun playing the game. When I’m not having fun anymore, I’ll quit.

What will make me have less fun playing the game?

Having to pay to enter areas on top of my subscription. Having to buy items in the crown store in order to compete with others. Losing the guild of which I’ve been a part since beta and not finding a worthwhile replacement. Having the subscription model cancelled and losing access to DLC anyway.

All of that is coming. All of that is in the cards. As I understand it, only two MMOs have lasted a substantial amount of time as a subscriber-only service: World of Warcraft and EVE Online. All the others started F2P or went that way naturally, almost like it was a natural progress of MMO economics.

I don’t think Zenimax or Bethesda want it to happen, in the sense of their having planned this to happen all along, ha ha, suckers! I think both companies would happily have replicated the success of WoW and EVE with the Elder Scrolls Online game. And honestly it was worth a shot. The Elder Scrolls community had the best chance of pulling it off.

But it didn’t happen. We tried. We didn’t make it.

Ooooh, that sounds like I’m blaming us, the players, for the transition! I’m not. I don’t see it as blame. I don’t blame people for trying something. The cash wasn’t there – and the cash is and always will be the bottom line here. Please stop excoriating Zenimax and Bethesda for this. Spoiler alert: they are doing this to make money! They care about the product, they do, but if it’s not making enough money, and there’s money on the table over there, they are going to go get that money.

And this is something that people who check every damn pot and crate in ESO for mats ought to understand.

Eventually the game will decline into a F2P model. I can see it happening. The skyshard delves in each zone will be locked, and a key purchased in the crown shop. But not today. Undaunted Pledges will require an up-front bribe of crowns for the Undaunted folk that pass out the pledges. But not today. The Dark Brotherhood and the Blades will charge entry fees to their august organizations, crowns only, please, the Morag Tang didn’t initiate no fools. But not today.

The Imperial City will have a special crown-only portal (right this way across the bridge, sirs and madams) at which the other factions won’t be able to camp.

Want to explore the wonders of Vvardenfell? Gain entry to Solitude? Approach the madness of Labyrinthian? Ship tickets and tolls will be available for crowns wherever you find a wandering merchant. Go ahead and extort those big meanies for 32 gold all you like! The crowns will be whisked instantly away to wherever Stendarr keeps his collection of bitcoin thumbdrives.

Abner Tharn will sell us his knockoff of the Amulet of Kings, granting us god-like powers, and then sell us his special Amulet of Kings Essence to recharge the Amulet every hour, all for a quite reasonable amount of crowns, clink, clink, clink.

But not today.

And so today, I play.

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“Unforgiven” Story and Thematic Premise Worksheets

This is a proposed breakdown of the story and thematic premises of “Unforgiven,” the classic screenplay by David Webb Peoples and filmed by Clint Eastwood.

Unforgiven – Story and Thematic Premise

Feel free to download and give feedback. This is to prepare for an upcoming discussion of the screenplay for Turtle Creek Screenwriters. If you’d like to come, please rsvp at the Facebook page. Thanks!

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2015 Goals

Perhaps a different approach this year. Last year’s challenging set of yearly goals went down in flames spectacularly, so I’m going to ease back on them quite a bit.

Writing goals for 2015

10 classic screenplays broken down

1 thorough breakdown of Chinatown

2 first drafts

1 rewrite in process

Rough draft of process Powerpoint complete

Outline of Sci-Fi Trilogy

In addition, here’s some personal goals:

Personal goals for 2015

170 pounds or below – attained and maintained

Credit cards paid off completely

Windows and balcony door replaced

The things I find I actually do are daily goals. A little bit here and a little bit there. And nothing too drastic. That tends to get me overshooting and then burning out. I’m working on the long haul here. Push goals later, when I’ve got something to push.

Daily goals:

Write 30 minutes every day.

Log food and exercise every day.

Weekly goals:

Log weight every week.

Take stock of writing and choose focus for next week.

Check into Mint and adjust spending as needed.

Monthly goals:

Attend North Dallas two out of three months with pages.

Turtle Creek script breakdown meeting – unless it just fizzles out.

And finally one-off goals:

When credit cards are paid off, schedule the window replacements.

I will use my Outlook to chart progress on all these. That’s the “taking stock” part.

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2014 Goals in Review

I didn’t do so well. In fact, I didn’t hit a single one.

Let’s remind everyone of the goals:

Write stories
I want to have first drafts for three spec scripts that have Fade To Black on a final page by years’ end. They do not have to be perfect. But they will be written.
Two of these spec scripts will be rewritten.
One will be polished.
I also want to have a strong outline of events for my sci-fi trilogy of novels, 26 character explorations for major characters (it’s a big story), and ten first-draft chapters for the first book.

Give feedback for others
My number for last year, I’m putting at 15. I want to double that this year: give solid feedback on 30 different scripts.
I also want to iron out a way to share electronic copies of scripts for Turtle Creek, something that gives writers control of their own files.

Writing about story
I want to break down twelve different classic screenplays this year, one a month.
I want to complete a process exploration Powerpoint.
I want to have two thorough breakdowns of scripts that get into the level of detail from Kristen Thompson’s “Storytelling in the New Hollywood.” Chinatown will be one of those.

All of the writing goals are not done. I have several attempts at a first draft on two stories. But none are complete, and so of course none have been rewritten or polish. Hardly any work at all has been done on the sci-fi trilogy.

In giving feedback for others, I would say I hit around 15. I never found a way to do electronic copies of scripts, and indeed Turtle Creek Screenwriters is not doing that anymore. I’ve placed it on life support on Facebook, but time will tell whether or not it lasts through 2015.

In writing about story, I got 10 screenplays. I am about a third of the way through a process Powerpoint, and I have no thorough breakdowns. This was the best out of the three, though.

So now I have a baseline on my basic level of work. It pretty much sucks, but that’s where we start. Plus, I’ve lost almost 30 pounds on my diet in 2014, and that’s a definite plus.

I’m going to take a bit to feel goals out, but as for 2014, I’m done. I’m going to aim smaller in 2015 so that I don’t start from behind and stay there all year. I’m going to keep going on the diet, adding in some exercise. My schedule is going to change from nights to days/evenings. And I will be free to go to the North Dallas Meetup as well.

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Cornbread

I hope you’ll forgive me, but I use a recipe to make cornbread. And it’s not my mama’s recipe, because I can’t remember it. She showed it to me once and I hate to ask her again because it seems like I didn’t listen, and I did. I just forgot it.

So my go-to recipe is from the How To Cook Everything cookbook. I choose it because of all my cookbooks, it has the least amount of flour in the recipe. It’s half a cup to the one and a half cups of cornmeal. Can you believe every other cookbook I have has more flour than cornmeal in their cornbread recipes? Are we making cornbread or wheat bread with a corn aftertaste? So of all of them, this recipe is the least offensive.

But I remember some techniques my mama uses and I apply them to this. For instance, I leave out the sugar. I didn’t need my mama to tell me that one, by the way. Sugar in cornbread is like Notre Dame in the Iron Bowl. It’s not happening. But try and tell a cookbook compiler this! You just have to bless their heart and skip on down to the salt.

Also, I melt the bacon drippings in my cast iron skillet just like my mama does, and then pour a lot of it into the batter. I’m sorry, my vegan friends. If it’s cornbread, it’s infused with the essence of bacon. That makes for a nice savory cornbread all the way through.

I have also made a concession to the bachelor life I lead. Instead of real buttermilk, I use powdered buttermilk. I use that for my bread as well, so I have it on hand. That way, I can just buy the one flavor of milk I regularly buy and not have a half-gallon of buttermilk in the refrigerator asking me to make biscuits every time I open the door. The powdered buttermilk works just fine for the flavor.

But listen: tonight, to accompany that mess of black-eyed peas I’ve got going for New Year’s Day, I thought I’d look for another recipe for cornbread just in case one was hiding on me. So I cracked open my Culinary Institutes of America cookbook. Yes, they had a recipe for cornbread!

Well, something they were calling cornbread. I am here to tell you they did things to cornbread even General Sherman would recoil from. Not only did they have two and a half times as much flour as cornmeal in their ingredients, not only did they have sugar…

Oh, I can’t hardly bring myself to type the letters. Vanilla. They put vanilla in their cornbread!

And are they going to pay to fix the hole in my drywall where I flung their offending tome from me? No.

So, anyway, I went back to How To Cook Everything. And now my cornbread is done and my black-eyed peas are right beside them on the plate with some sweet gherkins to brighten it all up. Happy New Year!

Happy New Year 2014

Blackeyed Peas and Cornbread – Happy New Year 2014

Cornbread
(modified from How To Cook Everything by Mark Bittman)

  • 1.5 cups yellow cornmeal
  • 0.5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1.5 t baking powder
  • 1 t salt
  • 5 T powdered buttermilk
  • 2 T bacon drippings
  • 1.25 cups water
  • 1 large egg

Add drippings to cast iron skillet and place in oven, preheating it to 400 degrees. Combine dry ingredients. Add egg to water and mix. Add egg mixture to dry ingredients and mix. Remove hot skillet from oven. Swirl bacon drippings around pan and then pour most of them into batter. Mix to combine. Pour batter into skillet and replace in the oven. Cook 30 minutes.

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2014 Goals – Personal and Writing

OK, so here’s my goals for the year of 2014:

Write stories

  • I want to have first drafts for three spec scripts that have Fade To Black on a final page by years’ end. They do not have to be perfect. But they will be written.
  • Two of these spec scripts will be rewritten.
  • One will be polished.
  •  I also want to have a strong outline of events for my sci-fi trilogy of novels, 26 character explorations for major characters (it’s a big story), and ten first-draft chapters for the first book.

Give feedback for others

  • My number for last year, I’m putting at 15. I want to double that this year: give solid feedback on 30 different scripts.
  • I also want to iron out a way to share electronic copies of scripts for Turtle Creek, something that gives writers control of their own files.

Writing about story

  • I want to break down twelve different classic screenplays this year, one a month.
  • I want to complete a process exploration Powerpoint.
  • I want to have two thorough breakdowns of scripts that get into the level of detail from Kristen Thompson’s “Storytelling in the New Hollywood.” Chinatown will be one of those.

That’s a realistic plan for me to follow, I think. I’m aiming for entering the Austin Film Festival in 2015 (not next year), and attending it as well. By then, following this basic plan, I will have first drafts for six screenplays, and at least four second drafts, and two or three polished drafts. I doubt I’d win at that point, but in 2016, I’ll be at nine or ten first drafts and five solid drafts. By then, I will consider myself a decent amateur writer.

As far as personal goals, I’ll keep on with the usual ones:

  • Lose 52 pounds this year – one pound a week
  • Have all credit cards paid off
  • Home repair – replace windows and patio door

Hopefully, I’ll get one of those 0% checks for one of my credit cards. Then I can use that for the windows. I live on the third and fourth floor, so replacing those windows and doors are going to be a pain. I have to be able to clean the outsides of the windows, and the patio doors need to actually lock. They do now, but it’s evident that someone tried to or did get in through the patio doors. The area where the latch hooks into the frame is bent in. It would be easy to pop that door open. So all of that gets fixed. I’ll get that money back when I sell the condo.

That done, I’ll see if the roof has finally been fixed. If so, 2015 will be the year I repaint the inside of the condo. And then I’ll wait for the magic number of $125,000 to reveal itself and off to L.A. I will go!

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December Writing Goals

Didn’t do so well with the July ones. Still no first draft of A Hill To Die On, no draft of Way in the Middle of the Air.

So let’s do this. By February I want a first draft of Way in the Middle of the Air. I also want to sketch out more of the Resilience trilogy, maybe have a few chapters done by the end of February.

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Writing Goals as of Friday, June 21

1. Finish the first draft of “A Hill To Die On” by July 15th

2. Start first draft of “Way In The Middle Of The Air” on July 15th – along with the “Go Your Own Quest.”

3. Work up analysis of “On The Waterfront” for July 16th meeting

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Sleep That Knits Up The Raveled Sleeve of Care

Well, not so much, actually.

New research has shown that sleep preserves and enhances unpleasant emotional memories.

A recent study by sleep researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst is the first to suggest that a person’s emotional response after witnessing an unsettling picture or traumatic event is greatly reduced if the person stays awake afterward, and that sleep strongly “protects” the negative emotional response. Further, if the unsettling picture is viewed again or a flashback memory occurs, it will be just as upsetting as the first time for those who have slept after viewing compared to those who have not.

…”We found that if you see something disturbing, let’s say an accident scene, and then you have a flashback or you’re asked to look at a picture of the same scene later, your emotional response is greatly reduced, that is you’ll find the scene far less upsetting, if you stayed awake after the original event than if you slept. It’s interesting to note that it is common to be sleep-deprived after witnessing a traumatic scene, almost as if your brain doesn’t want to sleep on it.”

So MacBeth unwittingly had the right idea. Sleep after a traumatic event and you guarantee a strong emotional response later on. But if you want to avoid the power of the traumatic event, the best response is to stay awake.

This suggests also that what you think about right before you go to sleep is important. It might be worth it to try and think about good, happy thoughts before going to sleep. The custom of praying away your cares could stem from this. Letting go and letting God, truly believing that — it would help the ability of sleep to iron a more peaceful attitude into your brain rather than the opposite.

It doesn’t have to be prayer, of course. Spending an hour before bed doing anything you enjoy would suffice, I’d think. Reading a good book, listening to some great music, a relaxing stretch, a nice cup of cocoa, a lovely bout of sex with your lover, all of it would be pleasant enough to be the moodlifter before sleep.

Something to think about.

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