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I have been doing a lot of thinking lately.

Real thinking, beyond things like “what am I going to cook for dinner”.

I have more and more found myself thinking about what if.

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It all started innocently enough. I was working on ideas for my NaNoWriMo project, when the thought just occurred to me.

What if, one day, in one fell swoop, every oil well on the planet simply dried up.

No warning, no decades of preparation, just dry.

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In my story I was going to have science develop a bacteria that eats oil. You know, something to pour into the water the next time an oil rig blows up. Something that sounds like a good idea, right up until it turns out to be a bad idea.

In the case of my story, the bacteria had spread and multiplied beyond what it was designed to do and essentially ate the world’s oil supply.

The reasons that my mind was taking a walk down Apocalypse Lane are really not important though, at least not now.

More important by far is what I saw when I took that walk.

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I started with that first what if, and started thinking about what the effects would be. I opened up my mind’s eye and I could see things clicking together like the pieces of a puzzle. Actually it would be more accurate to call it a house of cards.

That was the day I realized just how much we depend on the energy we derive from fossil fuels.

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The first and most obvious thing that would happen is that within a week or two my cars would all become nothing but lawn ornaments, slowly rusting away as there would no longer be a way to get fuel for them. I would bet just about anything that within a week all remaining petroleum supplies would be federalized to keep the military and emergency services functioning as a more long term solution was found.

I suppose if I were driving a diesel I could try to use Bio-diesel, vegetable oils, or other alternative fuels, but likely those would be federalized pretty quickly as well to keep vital systems online.

Then I asked myself, what happens when the trucks and trains stop running?

What happens when no more supplies are reaching cities?

Thats where I think whatever bio-diesel we are able to produce would go. It would go to bringing food and other vital supplies to where it needed to be. There simply would not be enough left over for recreational use.

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As I continued with the world building for my tale I started thinking about what other ways the loss of oil would affect things. After all, I am a maintenance guy. I fix things both for a living and for fun.  Some people just see separate things, I see systems, interactions, everything is part of a puzzle, even you and I.

One of the primary things I do is look at interactions, cause and effect. I see the effects, and use that to tell me the cause. It’s what I have done my whole life, and I consider myself pretty damn good at it. 

This time I am looking at a cause and trying to predict the effects.

Let me tell you, it ain’t pretty.

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If the oil goes away what goes with it?

Gasoline.

Diesel fuel.

Natural gas.

Heating and lubricating oils.

Many plastics, and a lot of artificial rubber.

Add synthetic fibers like Nylon and Rayon into the mix.

Asphalt (though it won’t be needed near as much, since most cars will be obsolete)

It’s used in the pharmaceutical industry for some drugs, and in the crafting of damn near everything.

Whether it’s an actual part of the product or not, oil is used to make just about everything we touch. It’s so prevalent that attempting to live in such a way that you used none would be very difficult.

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Nearly impossible.

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What happens to the house of cards when someone comes along and pokes the base real hard with a big stick?

It all comes crashing down.

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Look at it from a local level, instead of globally. Focus on the small scale, you and your immediate family and friends.

How would you heat your house this winter?

Where would your food come from?

How would you get to work?

Would you even still have a job?

What would your community look like a year later? 

How about after five years?  

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The more I think about it the more I realise, 150 years ago the only oil we burned was to light lamps against the darkness. People survived, indeed they thrived, without oil.

People would go back to it, they would adapt and survive. As a race, we would go on.

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The world though, it would be a very very different place.

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What would you do if suddenly all the technology you use everyday without thinking about it suddenly just went away?

Yes, the world would be a different place. How would you fit into it?

Would you be able to adapt, or would you be one of the many that perished in the attempt?

Are you so addicted to technology that you would literally die of withdrawals if it you couldn’t get your fix?

Just something to think about.

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Happy Earth Day.

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Like a wave ebbing after crashing upon the shoreline a wave of quiet circled the earth last night.

As the clock struck midnight in each time zone across the world thousands of keyboards fell silent.

For better or for worse NaNoWriMo 2010 had come to a close.

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Some had reached their goals, some had not.

I would like to congratulate those that did.

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For those like myself that simply did not reach the 50K word count goal I would like to offer a story, possibly with a side order of wisdom trapped inside it.

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Once upon a time, in the land of Brad’s childhood (back when dinosaurs roamed the earth) my family and I would take road trips. We  took them not as a means to an end, but as the vacation itself.

I remember one time that we were driving through the great smokey mountains and happened across a rest stop. A beautiful fast-moving stream was flowing along the side of whatever state highway we were traveling, and this was at a bridge where it crossed under.

We pulled into a little two or three car parking area covered in gravel next to a little grassy area about the size of my yard. It was empty and quiet. Not much traffic on the old roads these days, everyone takes the interstate. They need to get where they are going, forgetting everything in between.

As I got out of the mustard yellow Grand Torino and looked around I also saw one of those grill-on-a-pole things that parks have, a fire ring that looked like a tire rim buried in the ground, a garbage can, and a pair of weathered grey picnic tables.

What at first looked like a fine place to pull out the cooler and have a spot of lunch ended up becoming much more. It turned out to be the highlight of the trip.

As we sat there munching on our bologna sandwiches one of us had a thought. “I wonder how the fishing would be here?” said one of us, I honestly can’t remember who. Instead of leaving it at that and hustling along to whatever theme park may have been the destination we kinda shrugged and said “I don’t know, lets find out.”

Dad and I rooted about in the back  of the car, finally coming out with a pair of battered old fishing poles and a small tackle box. Nothing we had packed for the trip, just something still in the trunk under the travel worn suitcases. Leftovers from some trip to the local pond.

Mom pulled out a lounge chair and Dad and I proceeded to answering the question.

The fishing was great.

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So great in fact that we spent the entire rest of the day there relaxing and having fun. That evening we built a small campfire from dry wood we gathered in the treeline. Then we used a couple of metal marshmallow sticks we had also found in the trunk to cook our fish over it.

That was one of the best dinners I have ever had on the road, fish cooked on a stick over a fire and eaten out of metal pie plates. It’s honestly one of the fondest memories I have of traveling.

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Later that evening when the fire had burned down we cleaned up our mess and got back in the car, driving off into the night.

I don’t remember what the destination was even supposed to be, or even if we had one.

I don’t remember what we were doing before, or after.

In fact, I don’t remember anything else about that trip.

But I remember that day, chilling by the side of the road, living in the moment with people I cared about.

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Like my dad always used to tell me, and showed me that day, It’s not about the destination.

It’s about the journey.

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I looked back on that as I sat at my keyboard last night, trying to hammer out words into a story I have come to despise.

I was looking at the word count as a destination, a finish line. Something that must be reached, come hell or high water. 

I was looking at writing as a means to an end, like those sad souls that never leave the interstate I had forgotten what really matters.

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The Journey.

What NaNo was teaching me about myself.

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I learned quite a bit actually, now that I sit back and look at it. Things that I am going to have to let percolate in what passes for my brain for a while before I am ready to talk about them.

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I just wanted to come on today to congratulate those that participated. Win, lose, or draw, we are all better for having taken the ride.

NaNo is not so much about what you are going to write as it is about learning about yourself as a writer.

It truly is not about the destination, but about the journey.

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Thanks to my friends (particularly the Saucy Wenches forums writing group) for taking this road trip with me. Without the company of friends I would never have gotten to where I am now.

Oh, and I am a man of my word.

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I am enjoying my new hairdo, it is so much easier to take care of in the morning, though it is a bit chilly.

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This morning I made a tragic mistake.

I decided to review all the notes I had written on this years NaNoWriMo project. Months ago I had sat down with sticky notes, index cards, a pack of highlighters, and a 70 page spiral notebook.

They started the process all shiny and new looking.

They ended it battered and worn.

Somewhere in there though, there was a story. A tale that needed to be told. It was full of interesting characters and mind bending plot twists. It had humor and horror and anger and tears, even a mechanical rabbit named Pike.

It was going to be wicked fun sitting down this November as the fall faded into winter and taking the journey of NaNo with that battered old notebook.

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What mistake did I make you ask?

I went back and read my notes.

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Things change with time, so do people. Even ideas evolve.

I have changed since last winter, when I sat down to draw up a plan for the coming year amidst the wreckage of what last years NaNo turned into. Things that were high in my mind then are simply not that important anymore.

It may just be me getting older, I am not really sure.

The story in my notes though, I no longer think that it is something I want to write.

The plot, the setting, all of it seems dead to me now.

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I think it’s time to walk away from that project, grab myself another shiny new notebook, and start over.

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At the same time it saddens me, I am looking forward to it.

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There was a time, not so very long ago that I was truly a diehard fan of Windows.

I have been using it since before it was an operating system in it’s own right, and was merely a graphical user interface for DOS.

If I remember correctly (and I am pretty sure I do) the first DOS/Windows machine I had the privilege of working with was a 286 running Windows 3.1 on top of DOS 5 or perhaps 6. I know that by the time we upgraded to a 486 in ’94 we were running Windows 3.11 over DOS 6.22.

Lets just say that I have spent a bit of time tinkering with my operating system, back when you still could. It was fun and yet kinda frustrating at the same time. Like playing with a logic puzzle until finally everything just “clicks”.

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How in the world does my having geeked out at an ancient operating system have anything to do with what I am doing now?

Simple.

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Today I took the first step into a larger world.

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Quite a while ago a friend of mine came to me with a problem. A laptop computer that was quite simply toasted. It had failed so badly that it would no longer even power up, much less do anything.

Thus began a long process of finally getting it to power up and find most of it’s parts. There were numerous issues, each dealt with in turn. The only problem still remaining was (and still is) a failed hard drive.

Well, it turns out that the data on that hard drive is all my friend actually cares about. It kinda figures, the one thing I cannot fix is the one thing she really needs. (The data is truly irreplaceable.)

She has already replaced the computer, and decided she does not want the carcass back. She just wants the hard drive to save towards the day that she can afford high end data recovery. (none of the things I can do worked, it won’t even spin up.)

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So I find myself in possession of the laptop I have dubbed Scarecrow. So named because without a hard disk it’s story starts with it walking down the yellow brick road sitting on my desk needing a brain. I figured as long as I have it I might as well try to fix it up. It would be nice to have a separate system to do my writing on.

Borrowing a power supply cord from my daughter, who just happens to also own an Acer,  I was able to get it to charge up. That was a good start.

Then came the realization that there were no recovery disks made.

I could not simply pop in a DVD and walk away for an hour while Windows firmly embeds itself into the very atoms the computer is made of. I can almost hear the Windows disks as they are inserted telling the poor computers “Resistance is futile, you will be assimilated.”

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Anyhow….

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I started making calls to the manufacturer, looking for a way to get a set of install disks. They would be more than willing to help me, for a price.

That conversation went something like this. “You want how much for a set of recovery disks? Are you mad? Are they made of powdered unicorn horn? Hand delivered by Santa Claus?” Apparently the customer service specialist did not find this amusing. At any rate, I did not send them in a pile of money for a set of disks.

I decided to do something else. Something I have not done in years.

I decided I wanted to get under the hood and see if I could make something work.

Something not tied to the big ticket companies, something I could still tinker with.

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Two weeks later I got something in the mail.

A disk labeled Kubuntu 9.1.

Today is the day I started using Linux.

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That computer is back from the dead now, only awaiting the purchase of a hard drive for a full install.

I feel like Dr. Frankenstein, only completely different.

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I can’t really say I have been quiet of late. I have actually been writing quite a bit. It’s just that I have been doing all of it on my Warcraft blog instead of this one.

I like writing, though I have been going through a bit of a slump recently.

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What does this have to do with world building you ask?

Patience grasshopper, we’ll get there.

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Lately most of my work has been going on the gaming blog because quite frankly it’s easier to write. I have been playing the game for nearly four years now, the words just flow. I don’t have to make up the stories, I just rattle on about what I see happening.

It’s actually more like the diary of a character in a story than a story in and of itself.

With that in mind I still don’t intend to neglect this place, far from it. This is the place where Dechion the gamer lets Brad the real life avatar come out to play from time to time.

Dechion can take those years of playtime and slap together a moderately interesting post in just a few minutes. Here Brad actually takes time to think about what he will write.

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Holy crap.

I just reread that and I sound like a psycho.

I don’t have a split personality, honest.

I know my head is a bit on the empty side but there is only room for one personality in there.

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Moving on…

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Following Tami’s example I have started making preparations for this years NaNoWriMo already. Last year I did not complete my work, and in fact I tossed it all after rereading it. While the individual words were good the way I strung them together was a failure of epic proportions.

This year though, this year will be different.

This year I will have a plan.

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With that goal in mind I have narrowed it down to three major things my story will need.

  • A plot. The action of the story, the conflict.
  • A World. The place the plot occurs.
  • Characters. The witnesses to the plot, we see it through their eyes.

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That might be simplifying it a bit too much, but it is really early on. The basic premise of any plot is conflict.

  1. Introduce characters.
  2. Make their lives miserable. (face it, if their lives were nice there would be no story)
  3. Allow them a way to grow because of (or despite) the misery.
  4. Say good-bye as they live happily (or crappily) ever after.

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The world where the story takes place is a huge influence on everything. Essentially the setting IS one of your main characters, if not THE main character.

In fact,  the setting is likely the only character that you will see in every scene in the story.

It needs to be well thought out, internally consistent, and it needs to fit the plot.

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I once thought the story took place separately from the world.

Like the actors in a play are separate from the painted scenes behind them, I thought of the setting as almost an afterthought. Something that existed parallel to but separate from the story being told.

I could not have been more wrong.

Just as the characters must fit their roles within the tale so must the setting.

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Over the last few days I have been working on imagining a world.

As I was doing this I had several ideas for story lines come through the old worn out brillo pad I use when my brain is in the shop for repairs. I found a couple I really like, and think I might just be able to weave them together into one story.

Hopefully one that sucks far less than my last attempt. *Shudder*

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Anywho I ran into a problem.

The world in my vision would simply not fit as a character in this new blended story. It would not have been quite as out of place as a sparkly unicorn in a horror movie about aliens, but it would have been close.

If I am treating the setting as a character in the story then I did what any writer would do. If the character just isn’t working, cut it and find another one that will.

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So I guess thats where I am now. Back to a vague plot and a few ghosts of future characters.

Time to regroup and make another world for them to play in.

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I may be starting over, but I just got to do something most people never will.

I just balled up a whole world and threw it in the trash.

Then again, had my world been a reality we would have found that the human race had done the same thing to the setting our story is unfolding in.

Post-modern distopias are depressing.

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I guess I’ll get back to world building now, have a good weekend.

Todays post was brought to you be the the letters W, T, and F and the number 50,000.

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Lesson Learned

This month I have been writing a story.

Not a particularly good story, but what I consider decent.

I have been trying to write this in thirty days, and to have it fill at least fifty thousand words.

As of this writing I sit just past the halfway point of the month with fourteen thousand words written.

There is a problem with those words though. In an effort to stretch the story out to fill the word count I was hoping for I am compromising the story itself. I am simply inflating things and adding “fluff” to make it longer.

I don’t like what it is turning into.

Hell, I would probably like it better if I wrote the story the way it wants to be written and then transcribed the Gettysburg Address to fill in the word count. (Yes adding a scene where some crackpot standing on the street corner recites it could make it fit, but thats the kinda crap I am talking about.)

In short, I simply don’t think this is going to work.

If I am to write something I will write the story as it comes to me, screw the word count.

If I am not done in two weeks I will finish it regardless.

The lessons I am learning from this are many. The one that sticks out though is one I learned before grade school.

Slow and steady wins the race.

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Just a quick note on something of great importance.

Pink%20Ribbon

A guildmate of mine in the World of Warcraft was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. 

This guild, Sidhe Devils of Keal’thas (alliance) will be holding an in game event to both show our support for our friend and help raise money for further reasearch.

A whole lot more information (and a much better written post on the subject) can be found Here.

Please take the time to go have a look.

If nothing else, please have yourself checked as recommended by your physician.

I now return you to you originally scheduled NaNoWriMo hiatus, already in progress.

-Brad

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