Saturday, 25 June 2016

Not Teaching: Week -1

I am taking a year off of teaching. Presently, there is one week left of school. (For promotion meetings, inventory, phone calls, etc) Why a year off afterwards? See my 2013 post “Year of Hell”. However, I plan to run a weekly blog over the coming year, because sure, why not have updates 3 times per week instead of twice!

I’m kind of surprised I haven’t had an emotional breakdown yet. I think I have my wife and colleagues to thank for that. My back is killing me at times though, I’m probably sitting in chairs that cause bad posture. Last year (2015) I made it to some shows at the Ottawa Fringe Festival - but last year was also local strike action with no report card comments, plus I wasn’t teaching Data Management. Don’t think it’ll happen this year.

Item counts run Sunday (June 19) to Saturday (June 25).

Step Count: About 43,250.
This whole month has gone to hell. Last Sunday I had under 2,500 steps in a day for the first time since November 2015. I just didn’t care.

Desk at Work: More cluttered, fewer binders.

Part of the reason the desk looks worse is because I had to move all of the items out of my classroom on Monday, since the care staff needed in to wax the floors before summer school (on July 4). I’ve started bringing home a couple of binders every day though, to minimize the impact this Thursday.

Teaching Related Items (from Sun to Sat):
 -Finished grading a set of tasks. I forget when.
 -Finished grading a set of Summatives (1)
 -Finished grading a set of Summatives (2)
 -Finished grading a set of Summatives (3)
 -Finished grading a set of Data Reports
 -Emails/Calls about getting more Reports - seriously?
 -Emails about a mark adjustment for last semester
 -Finished grading a set of Exams (1)
 -Finished grading a set of Exams (2)
 -Started grading the last set of Exams (3)

Desk at Home: Unboxed Nanoha figures

Funny story. Just as I thought I was done writing to a deadline, a “guest post” availability came up at the serial “Legion of Nothing”. (I previously wrote an April Fool entry for Jim’s site, you can read about that here.) From Monday morning, I basically had 24 hours to get him something. And I couldn’t pass up that chance for visibility. Between that and relaunching T&T, the desk is messier.

Writing/Art Related Items (from Sun to Sat):
 -Finished drawing/inking a math comic by Monday; also scripted the next.
 -Came up with an idea, then wrote about 1,680 words of a “Time & Tied” short story.
 -Drew, scanned and edited a new cover for “T&T” Book 3.
 -Queued up “T&T” post, tidied up serial website a bit (including links + “About Me”)
 -Minor edit tweaks to “Time & Tied” parts 1-8 (more ***s).
 -This post. Written at the above desk.

Other items (not teaching or writing) for the past week:
 -Went to another colleague’s retirement celebration for a while
 -Mailed off some key letters (including a card for my dad’s birthday)
 -Watched reviews for why “Asterisk War” sucks in between grading papers
 -RolePlay group (Star Wars) this evening (Sat).

MUST DO items in the coming week:
 -Finish grading the last set of exams
 -Finish drawing/inking a math comic by Monday
 -Start doing three class sets of report card comments
 -Start doing three class sets of report card learning strategies
 -Department Meeting on Tuesday
 -Textbook Inventory (I honestly love doing that)
 -Check pronunciation of names being read at Commencement
 -Clear out the remainder of my desk at work before Friday
 -Queue up next “Time & Tied” posts by Friday

You claim this will get easier...?

WOULD BE NICE items:
 -Catch up with #OttSlowChat on Twitter
 -Housework (mow lawn - oh dear)
Is lawn a "must" yet...?
 -Recreate a buffer for my math comic

 -Post about Cubic Formula oddities
 -Post recap about OAME (from May)
 -Post recap about Math PD (from Feb)
 -See about getting a roofer for reshingling
 -Catch up with web serials I’ve enjoyed
 -Sign up for a summer yoga or fitness class
 -Write a TANDQ article on Decision Fatigue
 -Post recap about CAN-CON (from Oct)
 -Update my Twitter Profile graphic
 -Create video for Cubic Formula song
 -Do some editing on my T&T story
 -Actually market some of my creative stuff
 -Catch up on “Sailor Moon Crystal” (no spoilers!)
 -Catch up on “Bones” (no spoilers!)
 -Get back onto tumblr
 -Read some of the books sitting at my desk

Removed “get a banner done for my T&T story”; using a small graphic instead. And that’s where I’m at, with four days left of the 2015-16 school year. Come back next week to see what got done. #StillInSchool

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Not Teaching: Week -2

I am taking a year off of teaching. Presently, there are two weeks left of school. (One for exams, one for promotion meetings, inventory, phone calls, etc) Why a year off afterwards? See my 2013 post “Year of Hell”. However, I plan to run a weekly blog over the coming year, because sure, why not have updates 3 times per week instead of twice!

It was pointed out to me on Friday that I’ve taught my last classes until 2017. That hasn’t really sunk in, partly because I have a few other things going on in my life (which I don’t feel like sharing publicly just yet). I don't do emotions well. Maybe I'm in denial.

Item counts run Sunday (June 12) to Saturday (June 18).

Step Count: Over 48,600??
I forgot my pedometer at home on Tuesday, for only the third time all year (first time in 2016). It kind of made me want to cry. I’m getting rather emotional for a variety of reasons lately. Thank you to those who have expressed concern.


Desk at Work: Binders are away. Marking's at home.

Teaching Related Items (from Sun to Sat):
 -Generated an exam review for one class, modified one for another
 -Finished grading a set of tests by Wednesday
 -Made some calls related to missing Summative projects
 -Finished grading two more sets of tests by Thursday
 -Generated mark reports for all students prior to exams
 -Did more “Cubic Formula” work, regarding discriminant


Desk at Home: Papers to grade.

Writing/Art Related Items (from Sun to Sat):
 -Joined a Web Serial Twitter chat on Sunday night.
 -Finished drawing/inking a math comic by Monday; also scripted the next
 -Paths Not Taken, a post about my “vote for plot” serial is queued.
 -“Time & Tied” had some editing done to it, first time since mid-April.
 -The last 2,300 words on my Sunday web serial.
 -This post. Written at the above desk.

Other items (not teaching or writing):
 -Went out to dinner with friends on Monday
 -Bought and mailed a Father’s Day card
 -Dietician appointment on Wednesday was cancelled, but I didn’t check my voicemail 24 hours in advance, so that was an hour of travel time shot
 -Doctor’s appointment on Thursday
 -Doctor’s appointment on Saturday
 -Watched some NCIS:New Orleans with my wife, because Scott Bakula.

MUST DO items in the coming week:
 -Finish drawing/inking a math comic by Monday.
 -Finish grading a set of tasks by Monday.
 -Finish grading a set of Summatives (1)
 -Start & Finish grading a set of Summatives (2)
 -Start & Finish grading a set of Summatives (3)
 -Start & Finish grading a set of Data Reports
 -Start grading a set of Exams (1)
 -Start grading a set of Exams (2)
 -Start grading a set of Exams (3)
 -Queue up “Time & Tied” as my new running web serial by Friday


"Beautiful" is relative, it's 32 C outside, warmer in the classes.

WOULD BE NICE items:
 -Start doing three class sets of report card comments (*New)
 -Start doing three class sets of report card learning strategies (*New)
 -Post about Cubic Formula oddities
 -Post recap about OAME (from May)
 -Post recap about Math PD (from Feb)
 -Housework (mow lawn - this is getting put off too much)
 -See about getting a roofer for reshingling (*New)
 -Catch up with #OttSlowChat on Twitter
 -Catch up with web serials I’ve enjoyed
 -Write a TANDQ article on Decision Fatigue
 -Sign up for a summer yoga or fitness class
 -Post recap about CAN-CON (from Oct)
 -Get a banner done for my T&T story
 -Recreate a buffer for my math comic
 -Update my Twitter Profile graphic
 -Create video for Cubic Formula song
 -Do some editing on my T&T story
 -Actually market some of my creative stuff
 -Catch up on “Sailor Moon Crystal” (no spoilers!)
 -Catch up on “Bones” (no spoilers!)
 -Get back onto tumblr
 -Read some of the books sitting at my desk

Report cards! I can barely process that yet. And that’s where I’m at, halfway into June, with 2 weeks left of the 2015-16 school year. Come back next week to see what got done. #StillInSchool

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Not Teaching: Week -3

I am taking a year off of teaching. Presently, there are three weeks left of school. (One instructional, one for exams, one for promotion meetings, inventory, phone calls, etc) Why a year off afterwards? See my 2013 post “Year of Hell”. However, I plan to run a weekly blog over the coming year, because sure, why not have updates 3 times per week instead of twice!

This post, with me still in school, will ideally remind me of what June is like, and generally act as a contrast to later posts. I have now taught my last lesson in all my classes (more or less, 3U is weird), so the “Teaching Related Items” below might actually be taking place DURING the school day (8:30-2:35). Seeing as I don’t have to prep new lessons during my abundant spare time.

Item counts run Sunday (June 5) to Saturday (June 11).

Step Count: About 52,740.
This was the first week SINCE 2015 that I had two consecutive days (Sun & Mon) under 7,000 steps. Though I also had over 10,000 steps on Thurs & Fri without being at a conference or anything.

Teaching desk at work: Tidier?

Teaching Related Items (from Sun to Sat):
 -Cappies Gala celebration Sunday night. (~5 hrs)
 -Finished setting exams for my 2 courses - by Tuesday. Oops.
 -Finished grading a set of 9 exponential tasks.
 -Staff meeting on Tuesday.
 -Set/Adapted tests for all three courses.
 -Teacher’s Council meeting on Thursday.
 -Sent in receipts for PD reimbursement (at meeting).
 -Finished setting alternative evaluations for a student.
 -Last Anime Club of year, Friday lunch.
 -Extra filming for Math Music Video (a student effort).
 -Kept up with student and parent emails (didn’t initiate).

(The Writing desk looks like last week, except the Nanoha figurines are on the floor, and my laptop is on the desk.)

Writing/Art Related Items (from Sun to Sat):
 -Finished drawing/inking a math comic by Monday
 -Another 2,000 words on my Sunday web serial.
 -This post. Written in the living room.

Other items (not teaching or writing) for the past week:
 -Doctor’s appointment on Monday.
 -Kinesiologist appointment on Wednesday.
 -Housework: unclogged eaves troughs and replaced lightbulbs.
 -Booked a nice place for dinner (relatives came to town).

MUST DO items in the coming week:
 -Finish drawing/inking a math comic by Monday.
 -Finish grading a set of tests by Wednesday
 -Dietician appointment on Wednesday.
 -Finish grading a set of tests by Thursday
 -Doctor’s appointment on Thursday.
 -Finish grading a set of tests by Friday
 -Another 2,000 words on my web serial.


WOULD BE NICE items:
 -Finish grading a set of tasks by Friday (*New)
 -Start marking Data Summative Reports
 -Start marking Exponential Summative Reports (*New)
 -Start marking Graphing Summative Reports (*New)
 -Post about Cubic Formula oddities
 -Post recap about OAME (from May)
 -Post recap about Math PD (from Feb)
 -Housework (mow lawn)
 -Catch up with #OttSlowChat on Twitter
 -Catch up with web serials I’ve enjoyed
 -Write a TANDQ article on Decision Fatigue
 -Sign up for a summer yoga or fitness class (*New)
 -Post recap about CAN-CON (from Oct)
 -Get a banner done for my T&T story
 -Recreate a buffer for my math comic
 -Update my Twitter Profile graphic
 -Create video for Cubic Formula song
 -Do some editing on my T&T story
 -Actually market some of my creative stuff
 -Catch up on “Sailor Moon Crystal” (no spoilers!)
 -Catch up on “Bones” (no spoilers!)
 -Get back onto tumblr
 -Read some of the books sitting at my desk

I’ve removed “Book an eye appointment (been over 3 years)” since a provincial benefits plan is in the works before November, and it may be equivalent or better. I’ve added a whack load of marking. And that’s where I’m at, a week into June, with 3 weeks left of the 2015-16 school year. Come back next week to see what got done. #StillInSchool

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Not Teaching: Week -4

I am taking a year off of teaching. Presently, there are four weeks left of school. (Two instructional, one for exams, one for promotion meetings, inventory, phone calls, etc) Why a year off afterwards? See my 2013 post “Year of Hell”. However, I plan to run a weekly blog over the coming year, because sure, why not have updates 3 times per week instead of twice!

This post, with me still in school, will ideally remind me of what June is like, and generally act as a contrast to later posts. Heck, I’m curious as to whether I’ll have a learned response to stress in January and June of 2017. Not to mention whether this is anything like where YOU are at this time of year?

Item counts run Sunday (May 29) to Saturday (June 4).

Step Count: About 65,900.
That’s something I suspect I’ll lose, as most of my non-teaching pursuits are sedentary. That’s also an unusually high amount, due to last Sunday including ‘Anime North’ (Saturday alone, which isn’t included, had 22,434 steps - a new record).


Pictured: Current state of my teaching desk at work.

Teaching Related Items (from Sun to Sat):
 -Finalized a test. Generated a review.
 -Marked two sets of tests (about 120 pages)
 -Feedback generated for six rough data summative reports
 -Finalized the MCT Summative (regressions) optimized for Desmos or TI-83 (that got interesting)
 -Secretary duties for Annual General Meeting (AGM) for Carleton-Ottawa Mathematics Organization (COMA)
 -Returned a phone call and met with a parent after school
 -A couple other calls related to students with week old tests
 -Helped out with the Grad Breakfast (~45 min Thurs)
 -Donated to students doing “Relay for Life” and dropped by after school (~60 min Fri)
 -Usual Anime Club, Friday lunch


Pictured: Current state of my writing desk at home.

Writing/Art Related Items (from Sun to Sat):
 -Managed a post about Supergirl which I’d been trying to pull together for a week.
 -2,000 words on my web serial, posting Sundays (it takes about 5 hrs)
 -This post. Written in the living room. (The desk itself still has my "Anime North" merchandise stacked on it.) Of note, my math webcomic update had been buffered from before AN.

Other unrelated items (not teaching or writing):
 -COMA dinner after the AGM on Monday.
 -Doctor’s appointment on Wednesday.
 -Dentist appointment on Thursday.
 -Booked in to attend ConBravo (July) and got a hotel.
 -Watched Linkara’s 400th episode.
 -Discovered I can only scroll back about 10 days on Facebook.

MUST DO items in the coming week:
 -Cappies Gala celebration Sunday night.
 -Finish setting exams for my courses by Monday.
 -Finish drawing/inking a math comic by Monday.
 -Doctor’s appointment on Monday.
 -Staff meeting on Tuesday.
 -Kinesiologist appointment on Wednesday.
 -Teacher’s Council meeting on Thursday.
 -Finish grading a set of exponential tasks.
 -Finish setting two tests by Friday.
 -Finish setting alternative evaluations for a student who had been away.
 -Book a nice place for dinner (relatives coming to town).
 -Another 2,000 words on my web serial.



WOULD BE NICE items:
 -Post about Cubic Formula oddities
 -Send in receipts for PD reimbursement
 -Book an eye appointment (been over 3 years)
 -Post recap about OAME (from May)
 -Post recap about Math PD (from Feb)
 -Housework (mow lawn + replace burned out bulbs)
 -Catch up with #OttSlowChat on Twitter
 -Catch up with web serials I’ve enjoyed
 -Start marking Data Summative Reports
 -Write a TANDQ article on Decision Fatigue
 -Post recap about CAN-CON (from Oct)
 -Get a banner done for my T&T story
 -Recreate a buffer for my math comic
 -Update my Twitter Profile graphic
 -Create video for Cubic Formula song
 -Do some editing on my T&T story
 -Actually market some of my creative stuff
 -Catch up on “Sailor Moon Crystal” (no spoilers!)
 -Catch up on “Bones” (no spoilers!)
 -Get back onto tumblr
 -Read some of the books sitting at my desk

There’s some other things that’d be nice, but no way I’ll get to all that this week anyway. And that’s where I’m at, starting June, with 4 weeks left of the 2015-16 school year. Come back next week to see what got done. #StillInSchool

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Supergirl vs Agents of SHIELD

Why am I watching “Supergirl”? It’s a bit of a puzzler, maybe you can help me out.

Back in 2014, I wrote a post about watching “Agents of SHIELD, Season One. In fact it was one of the only shows that I kept up with that year. I did it in part because it reminded me of my writing style - a pretty slow build to larger events. Granted, the show did it better than me, because they have more mini-arcs (particularly now). Also, they’re professionals.

Supergirl” is similar, what with the build up to their season ender, and other arcs en route, usually surrounding the DEO - but while it’s apparently pulled me in, I don’t feel like it’s done so in the same way. It’s less like how I write. (Or how I want to write?) There’s a difference somewhere in here that I can’t quite articulate.

Let’s get the preliminaries out of the way: I’m not that big on Superheroes. I haven’t seen all the Marvel movies, I don’t watch “Arrow” or “Flash” (or even have Netflix), and I don’t generally know enough about actors and actresses for that to be a draw. So WHY have I not only been watching “Supergirl”, but streaming it - since it’s on TV at an inconvenient time for me?

Well, I can’t analyze much without spoilers. So consider this your final warning, mostly for “Supergirl” but also “Agents”. The rest is below the graphic.


Is the answer in some data crystals? Or ice crystals?


BREAKDOWN


The first key difference jumping out at me is the narrative discontinuity between Kara as Supergirl and Kara as, well, herself. “Agents” didn’t have that, there was generally an issue that everyone was dealing with. “Supergirl” almost feels like two shows at times, the villain of the week show, and the struggle to live a normal life show.

I get why that has to be a thing. And the writers are pretty good at having a thematic bridge between the two narratives. But some of the scene switching still felt jarring for me. (Mood whiplash?) Heck, sometimes I was actively irritated. I always felt more interested in the fantastical stuff, or the stuff with Kara’s sister, though the CatCo angle was getting better towards the end.

I guess it says something that the former kept me coming back, until the latter found firmer footing. But that wasn’t enough.

The second difference is the romance angle in “Supergirl”. Sure, “Agents” had the Fitz and Simmons thing, but I couldn’t even tell them apart for the first several episodes. And the Ward and Skye thing wasn’t a big factor until the end of Season 1. Meanwhile, “Supergirl” had the love triangle of Kara-James-Winn... which then angled out to Kara-James-Lucy, and then Siobhan became a factor, and I love that kind of stuff. (“Marmalade Boy”, there’s an anime for you.)

So the interplay between the characters was great (both romantic and otherwise, to be fair), in particular the way the dynamics kept changing. If they’d kept that triangle static, I bet I would have lost interest.


Both shows have a good
sense of humour too...
Related to that, my final point is the pacing. “Supergirl” was obviously rather faster paced than “Agents” in their first season, though I think both shows are about on par now. And they’re really good at having small hooks, leading towards a long term payoff. Like Lash on “Agents” and the Martian Manhunter on “Supergirl”.

One thing they both do is have the end of the episode end on a cliffhanger of sorts, or at least a scene that would lead naturally into the next episode. Which is very much the format for a serial too. And perhaps it’s that constantly evolving narrative that hooked me.


CONTEXT


In the end, that serial connection is the real reason I’ve been wondering about this. I mean, if I’m still watching “Supergirl” without any comics backstory or particular interest in the genre - what’s stopping me from reading serials for the same reason? Or from someone else reading my serials?

Aside: Okay, time is obviously a problem. There are some serials I haven’t been back to in a month that I will DEFINITELY return to in July. Meanwhile, I would often watch “Supergirl” at work, while grading or writing up quiz solutions. Hell, there’s other blog posts I haven’t gotten around to completing here either.

So I suppose the question is, if we remove time as a factor, what keeps a person reading or watching something? Particularly something a bit of a tangent to their usual fare? Is it really the narrative pacing, or is there more about the characters that I’m overlooking?


What is it about “Supergirl” that managed to bring me back, week after week?

As I said, it seems to be something that I can’t quite articulate. Let me know if you’ve spotted it, because I should probably seek out more of that same kind of thing. After June. Oh, June. You’ll be worse than April.

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Math Gets Physical

This year, our school’s learning plan (SLP) wants teachers to include instructional strategies to focus on “intentional movement within a lesson”. Most of that information was discussed at the staff meeting at the start of April, with the idea that implementation of five consecutive movement days would follow before the end of the month.

The month of April. Report card month. Play month. The month where there are literally only 3 days when I am not at the school, sometimes working 12 out of 24 hours, and now I have to do unconventional lesson plans on top of everything else. Perfect. (Say that with the same inflection as Marty McFly in “Back to the Future III”... Clara? Perfect. We’re going past 60mph, I’ll never make it.)


Honestly, part of my frustration stemmed from me feeling like this is a good idea, and so I wanted to be able to do it right. Furthermore, this idea of physical activity having a positive effect was reinforced twice during the month.

Once was when I was at a teacher directed PD event, when Bruce McLaurin stated that some years ago he’d had his math class taking free throw shots in the gym (to determine where on the court one had the greatest chance of scoring). After that, the students worked quietly for half an hour without being aware of it. The second time was in talking with a colleague, who said that her first period class had seemed very tired, so she had two students lead a “body break” which included jumping jacks. Even the student who hadn’t participated had seemed more energized afterwards.

Ergo, after being at school for 25 straight days, and with only five remaining teaching days in April, I finally bent my mind towards how I could at least attempt this within the recommended time frame. Because I’m a teacher, and I think doing the impossible is in our job description. Please be understanding if the implementation is somewhat lacking.

BEST LAID PLANS


I was giving tests in my 3U and 4U classes last week, so that meant I was trying this with my MCT 4C class. Which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, as they’re my smallest group (only 9), and I’ve been having to revamp a lot of that course material already (it’s been 4 years since I taught the course, and there’s a new text). The unit we’re currently in is Polynomial Functions. Specifically, the expectation “recognize and evaluate polynomial functions, describe key features of their graphs, and solve problems using graphs of polynomial functions”.

Sample graph. Personification not included.
So, I went into Desmos and screen captured ten different polynomial graphs, with their equations. Then I decided half of the room was for “even” functions, and the other half for “odd” functions. On the diagonals, “positive” leading coefficient and “negative” leading coefficient. Ergo, a “four corners” activity (roughly corresponding to a Cartesian Plane). I created ten slides, starting with both equation and graph, then shifting to some with only one or the other. (Current technology did make implementation easier now than it would have been four years ago.)

We were doing a quiz on Monday, last period. I did this beforehand, in the hopes that it would remind the students of what we did last week better than ten minutes of study time with their notes. I would call it a success - when I saw uncertainty in terms of where to go, I could ask for clarification. A couple students were caught by a graph in standard form, choosing odd instead of even. At the end, one student said “I think I get it now. But I would have preferred pointing.”

Moving on, Tuesday/Wednesday we were looking at difference tables, the “a” value, and the points required to define a quadratic versus a quartic, etc. My plan? Construct a line through a point. So there should be lots of variations. (Indeed, one student picked the zero slope.) Then add a second point. Now everyone has the same line. But there could be different parabolas. Now add a third point, and so on. I even worked out equations in advance, in Desmos. Here’s that link, if you want to see.

I was hoping for some discussion, and comparison of different - or not so different - graphs. But the students simply held their sheet up into the air, or shouted out a value for slope, rather than actually incorporating movement. I adapted by having people raise hands if they had “concave up” versus “concave down”, and getting a volunteer to come up to the board to draw before showing my Desmos as a possible matching equation. Repeat for cubics, and so on. So, some of them were out of their seats.

ENDING THE WEEK


Wednesday, I gave them all graphs when they entered. (The same graphs from Monday, retooled on a different sheet that I cut out.) I asked them to try and create an equation. After a minute or two, I handed out equations at their desks, but for someone else’s graph. Most of them (six) got up and moved around to compare of their own volition, without me saying anything. (One absence, and two stayed seated.) This led into a handout on the “a” values, and finding them from the y-intercept using factored form.

I’m not quite sure how to classify that - collecting materials for an activity? Anyway, it’s something I might be able to do again, and seemed more successful than Tuesday. Thursday I went very low key - it was a requiz of Monday’s material (I take the better of the two results). After giving them time to look at solutions, I covered them, and said they could take the new quiz from my desk whenever they thought they were ready, as I circulated for any other questions. I think only one student asked his friend to bring him the quiz.

Friday... was kind of a wash. Five students would be away for a host of reasons (field trip, family trip, religious day...) and I wasn’t sure what I could do with only four present. I decided to teach the “Graph Dance” moves. (Oh, FYI, there’s Graph Dances stretching back into 2011.) But then only two students actually came, one of them not a fan of my musical efforts, the other not keen on dancing.

Well, they both had to use the washroom, and the nearest one was locked (likely due to vandalism), so I guess the trip to the other side of the school counts as a win? Even though part of the idea behind including movement was to “have fewer washroom breaks”. Alas. If I remember to, I’ll try the “Dance” thing again in the coming weeks.

CONCLUSION


As I said initially, I do think there’s something to this “intentional movement” concept. It’s the main reason I’m blogging - so that I have something I can refer back to later. The preparation time wasn’t much more than a half hour each day (Mon to Wed), but granted it was a small class. The secondary reason for this post is to see if any of you, the readers, have thoughts about this. Or improvements I could implement in the future. So feel free to comment below!

And with that, April is done. As a bonus, I had a head cold for a couple days in there too. I am starting to think that April is indeed a worse month than June, even if it can’t top January for sheer hideousness. Of course, it may not help that my own personal calendar ticks over an additional year at the end of April. My tens digit is now a perfect square! Huzzah, peace out.

Friday, 1 April 2016

Guessed Writing 2016

It happened again. Last April 1st, 2015, I wrote an ‘April Fools’ update for another serial writer, namely Jim Zoetewey at “Legion of Nothing”. (Here’s a link to that 2015 entry still on his site.) This year, the “Fools Swap” was again proposed in the “Web Fiction Guide (WFG) Forums”. Alexander Hollins again graciously organized it.

And so like last year, I’ve decided to write about my writing process. There’s spoilers here for my 2016 entry to “SyncPoint, if you wanted to read that first.


ASSIGNMENT


You may recall that last year, in 2015, I’d hoped to write something that wouldn’t immediately be recognized as fake. Ultimately though, I'd also decided I wanted my entry to act as a bit of a window into Jim’s universe - the main characters, the rules, that sort of thing. So those things were foremost in my mind when signing up for 2016.

I was given “SyncPoint” by J. A. Waters. When I did my initial check in on February 22nd, I noted the serial had been running for about a year, but less than 30 updates. (Of note, J. A. Waters has another serial going as well.) This time, I did not have years of backlog to consider using! So I decided to make it a project for my March Break.

I started reading on Sunday, March 13th, aiming for at least 5-6 parts per day. I quickly realized that the setting and style were up my alley, what with a “Back to the Future” reference early on. In fact, the way a multiverse played into the tale, it inspired me to re-categorize the links off my serial site - sending anyone keen on my “Epsilon Project” over to “SyncPoint” too.

BACKLOGS


Like 2015, I kept a text file to track what seemed like key details in the story. (Or even the little details, for the observant - like doilies). The funniest thing was how random “april fool” ideas I had while reading ended up being addressed by Waters himself. For instance, after Sidella left, I thought maybe I could pull her roommate back in... oh wait, he’s doing that. Actually, she’s a main character. So maybe the ex... oh, there she is.

Then Leonard showed up, and I thought, maybe I could have a scene with doubles... again, J.A. did that a few parts later, not only with the Solstons but also the Reis. Well, okay then. There were a couple little things though - like I wondered if I could get any mileage out of the fact that there were two “Greg”s, and my name is also “Greg”. Plus there was the bit with Bugsy and the “writers"... would it return later too?

I mean, I didn't worship Gadget like a
goddess... wait, this was a thing somewhere??
I ended up reading faster than I’d thought. Part 19 I was forced to walk away from the story for a while, because WOW, my character “Alice Vunderlande” and his “The General” were perhaps separated at birth and you did NOT just make a “Rescue Rangers” reference because Gadget was an idol of mine back when I was younger and I need to breathe properly. (I think that was on Tuesday.)

Incidentally, and I said this last year, it’s a good idea to read the comments on posts too - assuming they exist. Because (again) that’s the future audience, plus there’s usually extra remarks by the author. For J.A.’s Part 16, someone wrote “I literally start every chapter not knowing which version of which character I am dealing with, or when it is set”, which is great for me as far as fooling people goes. Also, I learned that J.A. had given a mini shout-out to other serials on JukePop, which was pretty cool.

At some point, the idea of a courtroom trial came to my mind. Hard to say when that was, but it stuck. I caught up completely on Thursday, March 17th, decided that idea still worked, and on Friday I started writing out the scene. Part of what I liked about that setting was how it would let me snapshot all the main characters at once - without necessarily having them at each others’ throats. And it was maybe just plausible enough to fit into the universe.

THE ENTRY


Aiming for about 2,000 words (roughly the length of J.A.’s entries and my own) I decided the first half would set up the location and key characters, and the second half would need to be Bridget, leading into a finish - likely with Bugsy. This worked well for breezing through Rena (I know nothing about Nalan, and cursory research didn’t help much) and Rippante (who swears a lot - and in my own writing, swearing is a bit of a microphone drop, so I wanted to save swears for the climax, if at all).

Alice Art
(Commission by Cherry Zong)
For other characters, having Talbot or Rebecca felt like it would be overloading the scene. At the same time, I couldn’t resist the paragraph cameo of Alice (from my “Epsilon Project”), because somehow she just FITS into that world. And I absolutely had to put in the line about Dwayne Johnson being “a pillar of the community”. (It’s actually my favourite bit, because it will be read VERY differently depending on if you know "SyncPoint" or not!)

The writing came together surprisingly quickly. I was already into editing by Sunday the 20th. I found I had to tone Sidella down from the first draft, she was a bit overly emotional. (I now wonder if I write excessively emotional characters, which is WEIRD, because at my core, I’m not that different from Sidella at all... so do I write terrible characters?) But there were only minor revisions aside from that.

The minor revisions became kind of constant over the following week (how about mushroom stools instead of regular ones!), so on Wednesday the 23rd, I send J.A. Waters a message saying I had something, in case he wanted the file. He said sure (thanking me for being timely), so I sent it to him on Friday the 25th, a week early. That stopped me revising it, and gave him time to make a little graphic, if he wanted. (He did - nice lego piece! It's below.)

CONCLUSION


I ended up being pleasantly surprised by how well my “extra” part can blend in, given how I (obviously) hadn’t read SyncPoint’s most recent Monday’s episode when I pitched this one to J.A. I also recommend you check out kaleidofish, who wrote my “Epsilon” entry here. Including link-outs! Extra props because my per-week-plot-vote caused a rather short time frame to write in. (Interestingly, kaleidofish’s regular serial also does interactive voting - find it at “Redwood Crossing”.)

So where are the doubts this year? Last year I worried about overthinking things with Jim’s entry, and whether I should have set things in the past with so many main characters. This year my doubts are on a more generic level. Such as, are my own characters interesting to anyone aside from me? Am I perhaps a better analyst than I am a fiction writer? Will anyone who finds me through this swapping actually stick around? (If anyone did last year, they’ve been shockingly silent.)

That said, I was also worried that J.A. Waters would see my entry as too irreverent. And he liked it! So, as last year, I guess it is what it is. Thanks for reading about my writing process! New voting for “Epsilon Project will occur Sunday morning, and my time travel serial will resume (on that same site) with Book 3 this summer.