Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Worst Church-Goer In The World

I’ve always been an agnostic, even back when I didn’t know what that was. In Trailblazers (a Sallies youth group), every year they’d give us a small questionnaire, and one of the questions was ‘Do you think God exists?’ I always answered ‘Not sure’ – I never really had the feeling that there is an almighty being who cares and watches over us. Sure, I’d identify as Christian, but only because that’s really the only label I knew.

Perhaps that’s part of the test – belief in the face of no evidence - in which case I’ve most certainly failed. Ah, well.

To be honest, I never really cared about the religion side of church. The fun was in all the things you get to do there. There was artwork. There were stories. There were little diagrams that you had to cut up and paste together to form a chart. There were mosaics. There were people – all kinds of wonderful people.

And there was singing.

Oh, the singing! Apart from the occasional camps, the singing was the best part of the whole thing. It didn’t matter whether or not I actually believed that salvation was coming from Zion’s Hill, or that I should stand on the rock of God’s word – I was having fun singing to upbeat songs, and as a kid, that’s all that mattered. I don’t know if that makes me the worst church-goer in the world or something, but it is what it is.

One time, on a camping trip with our youth group, I completely lost my voice from all the singing I was doing. On the last day I still sung along, though – in a hoarse whisper – such as was my love of singing.

In fact, I still love singing - even if I don’t sound all that good – and probably as a direct result of my time at church. And even though I don’t believe, even now I wouldn’t change a single second of it.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

No, Scott Adams isn’t a misogynist (or a creationist)

Note: This post doesn’t condone the views in either of the blog posts by Scott Adams that are referenced within – instead, I’m pointing out that neither does Scott Adams. Curious? Read more below.

I’d also recommend, if you haven’t come across this debacle before, reading this post in full before clicking on the links, as it contains quite a bit of context that the links lack.

Scott Adams seems to be in the news semi-regularly for possessing controversial views. I was somewhat aware of him being accused of being a creationist (or anti-evolutionist, whichever description floats your boat), but accusations of sexism/misogynism recently came across my radar (via Tumblr), based on a (taken down) blog post by Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert (which he reposted at the bottom of this blog post.) Naturally, being both a feminist and exceedingly curious, I decided to dig deeper, to see if there was a larger story.

As it turns out, there was. And, as it turns out, while Adams isn’t a misogynist, he sure could have learnt a thing or two about communication.

Lesson One: On The Internet, Everything Must Be Marked

First, it turns out that Adams often posts controversial stuff, not just the two times mentioned. And he does this not because he believes it, but he thinks it’d be interesting for the readers of his blog to debate about it in the comments.

Here’s the relevant comment on the above website:

Scott Adams:

The entire piece is an anti-male-rights piece.

The regular readers of my blog understand that I routinely build arguments for whatever side of an issue is hardest to defend. Then they wrestle with it in the comments. When the piece is moved from the context of the blog, the message is changed by the new context. On the Men’s Rights blogs, it’s seen as an attack on men. On this blog it’s seen as an attack on women. The readers of my own blog email me to say, “What’s the big deal?”

Add selective quoting, which further changes the message, and layer on some poor reading comprehension and you get this zoo, which, as a student of human nature, I have been enjoying. The whole thing is fascinating.

The problem is often people come across blog posts without being regular readers of the blog. If you view merely the single post, the context is stripped away. Even just scanning the recent blog posts might not give you this impression.

If you use your blog for both serious and non-serious posts, the non-serious posts must be marked as such because the very nature of the Internet means that most posts can, and will be viewed outside of the context of your blog, and thus will be mistaken for actual opinion.

Luckily, this is one lesson Adams seems to have learnt. From a more recent post:

Warning: This blog is written for a rational audience that likes to have fun wrestling with unique or controversial points of view. It is written in a style that can easily be confused as advocacy or opinion. It is not intended to change anyone's beliefs or actions. If you quote from this post or link to it, which you are welcome to do, please take responsibility for whatever happens if you mismatch the audience and the content.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to apply retroactively. I know it’s a lot of work, but I’d go back through and mark all previous posts that are similar with the same message.

Lesson Two: Be Clear The First Time (And Every Time)

So, as I mentioned above, Scott Adams himself began posting in the comments section of the site I linked. The problem is, the comment I posted was about the ninth that he wrote.

At first, he starts talking about the author of the post (and various others) lacking reading comprehension – but it’s hard to know what he’s talking about without the context he’s describing. In a later comment, he hints at what he’s on about:

umami:

Scott Adams also doesn’t believe in evolution.

Good to know that his lack of critical thinking skills go right across the board.

Scott Adams:

That’s another example of poor reading comprehension. I’ve often stated that evolution qualifies as a scientific fact. The confusion comes from my writings on how we perceive reality.

I’m also rumored on the Internet to be a creationist, an Obama lover, and nearly dead from a debilitating disease. (All false, by the way.) And according to my Wikipedia page, I’ve won some awards that I’ve never heard of.

Believing what you read is always risky.

Now, I think he didn’t initially post his explanation because he thought it was obvious, but only posted it when it became clear that it was not to the commenters of that blog. When something is obvious to you, it’s often frustrating when other people don’t see it, but the best thing to do is to communicate as clearly as possible what you mean the first time, even if you think it’s obvious.

If Adams had posted the post first, he would have short-circuited a lot of the complaining about ‘reading comprehension’ (but more on that below), especially that by people who just found his first post and leapt to the Reply box.

Here’s a quote from his blog post responding to the matter (in context, clearly addressing his audience):

Regular readers of my blog know that the goal of my writing is to be interesting and nothing else. I'm not trying to change anyone's opinion, largely because I don't believe humans can be influenced by exposure to better arguments, even if I had some. But I do think people benefit by exposure to ideas that are different from whatever they are hearing, even when the ideas are worse. That's my niche: something different. That approach springs from my observation that brains are like investment portfolios, where diversification is generally a good strategy. I'm not trying to move you to my point of view; I'm trying to add diversity to your portfolio of thoughts. In the short term, I hope it's stimulating enough to be entertaining. Long term, the best ideas probably come from people who have the broadest exposure to different views.

Contrast my style of blogging to the most common styles, which include advocacy for some interest group or another, punditry, advice, and information. Now imagine moving my writing from the context of this blog to the context of an advocacy blog. You can see the problem. Men thought I was attacking men, and women thought I was attacking women. The message changed when the context changed. I saw that developing, so I took down the post.

He doesn’t explicitly state that the things he blogs about aren’t necessarily what he agrees with, or that he “build[s] arguments for whatever side of an issue is hardest to defend”, and because of that, except to his regular readers, this explanation falls flat. As a result, many blogs, which only looked at the initial post by the feminist websites and not the comments (or only enough of the comments to convince themselves he was backpedalling), took this post as making excuses, as opposed to an explanation. If he had stated these two important things, then the context is there for everyone (and not just his regular audience) be seen.

Of course, many people would still attempt to rationalise their acquired belief that Scott Adams is a misogynist. It’s a natural response to attacks on notions they believe – most people subconsciously interpret attacks on their beliefs as attacks on them, on their trustworthyness. But doing the above will at least convince more people, especially the ones that read a post or the initial comments of one and think they have all the context to understand it, or those who might have been on the fence until they felt as if they’d been insulted.

A Note About Reading Comprehension

A lot of people misunderstand the meaning of “reading comprehension” – they think it’s the ability to comprehend the text. And while that may be the literal interpretation of the two words, that’s not the meaning of the term.

Rather, reading comprehension is the ability to understand the text in context. When Adams is saying the commenters lack ‘reading comprehension’, he means that they are failing to place the text within the context of his blog (which makes controversial posts so that the commenters can argue about them).

Unfortunately, people who either don’t know the meaning of term or think they have all the context take this as a fancy way of saying ‘UR DUM’, which merely makes them more entrenched in their belief that they understand quite perfectly, thank you very much.

Conclusion

As I hope to have shown, Adams clearly doesn’t believe the stuff he’s accused of believing – but he poorly communicated his explanations, and could have been a lot clearer about the whole thing. Let this be a lesson to anyone finding themselves in the middle of a debacle like this one.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Splitting Up The Blog

For a while now, this blog has served a few different “masters” in terms of focus – I’ve basically used it to talk about whatever I want to talk about. But for the last few months, I’ve been thinking about splitting it up into different blogs, each with a different focus.

And now, it’s done. The blogs are:

  • Mark Is Not A Geek: This blog, which will remain my ‘personal’ blog, for amusing anecdotes and non-tech-related articles.
  • Opinionated Mark: For articles/rants discussing my opinion on various tech-related stuff.
  • Another Line of Code: Programming-related articles and advice.
  • MarkKB’s Software Blog: Articles and announcements related to the software I develop.

This split will allow people to follow the stuff that they want, without having to sift through the stuff they don’t want. It’ll also be a lot easier for me to organise. (It will also pressure me to blog more often, since I hate seeing five-month-old blogs at the top of the page. ^^; )

I’ve already moved the old posts across, but there’s still a bit of work to do – I still have to redirect the old posts to the new ones, and import the comments. I’ll also have to redesign the blogs so they all fit nicely together (and fit with my website), and also update the link the website header (although those two I’m going to do with the next design update of my website, which will be ready next year.)

Finally, if you just want to follow the whole lot, I’ll be posting links in my Tumblr blog, MarkKB’s Thoughts and Stuff.

I’d be interested if you think splitting my blog is a good or bad idea, so if you have an opinion, sound off in the comments below.

Until next time!

--MarkKB

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Yet Another Lilo & Stitch Fansite has now launched!

… what? It’s still October!YAL&SFSv2

Okay, YALaSFS is now up! Right now there’s not a lot of articles, but I plan to do updates every three to four months (and not teeny tiny updates either.) So, I’ll see you again around February, eh?

You can visit YALaSFS at http://lasfansite.atspace.me/. We’ve also got a forum and a Facebook page, so be sure to check those out as well!

If you’re a Lilo & Stitch fan and have a website, be sure to sign our fan database!

--MarkKB

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Gibraltar Installer 1.0 Build 06 has been released

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Yet Another Lilo & Stitch Fansite: The Whats and What-Nots

OK, hopefully you’ve read the announcement of the relaunch of Yet Another Lilo & Stitch Fansite (if not, clicky the link – it has screenshots!) What I hope to do with this post is explain what I hope to achieve with the website.

So… what is YALaSFS?

You’ve probably grasped by now that Yet Another Lilo & Stitch Fansite is meant to be, first and foremost, an encyclopaedia of all things Lilo & Stitch-related. It’s not comprehensive right now, but I hope to build it up to that point over time.

It’s also an archive of interactions of The Powers That Be (aka the creators of Lilo & Stitch) with fans – forum threads, emails, etc. – so that interested people can read them long after they’ve disappeared.

Last but not least, it’s a forum and a community. I used to be a part of quite a few Lilo & Stitch forums myself, and they’ve all since been abandoned. I liked being part of those communities, so it’s my hope that by providing a website people will want to visit, I can also foster a community of enthusiastic fans bonded by similar tastes around it, and one that will last much longer than those that came before.

Who is this site aimed at? Well, fans, obviously, but I want it to be specifically a resource that fanwork (fanfic, fanart, etc.) creators will use when crafting their works of fiction. With that in mind, I hope to eventually have a lot of detail in it that will be useful for those people. It’s not there yet (I’d prefer to have an incomplete website than none at all, and I’m sure others would agree) but it’s definitely on the roadmap.

What Isn’t YALaSFS?

I made a conscious decision when relaunching YALaSFS that it would not be a wiki, and I would be the primary author of the articles on the main website.

There are several reasons why it won’t be a wiki, involving lack of hierarchy, little editorialisation, the ease of vandalism and a lack of stability. Admittedly, it’s also somewhat about control – I’d like the website to have a certain tone, and there are some topics I won’t be covering.

It’s also an opportunity to do a lot of research, and that’s something that really appeals to me – and I don’t always like it when things are handed to me and all I have to do is rubber-stamp them.

That said, eventually people will be able to contribute in some way to the website (although it will be moderated), and major contributions will be credited.

What’s In The Future

I’ve already talked a bit about the future, but here are some major things that I hope to do:

Expanded Universe mini-encyclopaedia

One thing I’m thinking of for the future is an Expanded Universes section, where prominent fanauthors can put up mini-encyclopaedias of their own universes.

I’ve noticed on fanfiction sites that a lot of people try to stuff lots of information into their profile, which makes it look ugly or unwieldy, not to mention the fact that a lot of people won’t scroll down more than a few screens to get to the fics, and so a lot of good fanfics aren’t being read. And while you can put links to that stuff in your profile, the fact is not a lot of people can be bothered putting up their own websites for that kind of stuff.

Basically, with this section authors will be able to link to their page on the mini-encyclopaedia in their profile. Those people who want to read it can follow the link, while those people who are just there for the fics can go straight to them.

It’d also be helpful for people other than the main author contributing a story to a fan-universe – they can get a feel for an original character (or refresh themselves on the basics), or the events in the universe (so they can write a good story that slots in to continuity).

Editing will work like this: the author will submit a request to modify, create or delete a page, and I’ll edit it for spelling and grammar and try to approve it within the day. Not everyone will be able to have a section, to make sure that it doesn’t get too unwieldy, but I hope to have a process that is fair worked out.

Guest Editorial Articles

One thing I’d like to do is have a selected member of the community write an article on a specific topic every so often – things like tips to improve your L&S fanfiction, or a critique of a specific episode, or an essay focusing on a background character, or something like that. It’s an idea I’m toying with, but I’m not too sure if I’m going to go ahead with it.

Timeline

A final thing I would really love to do is a timeline feature. That is, a timeline of the entire franchise, filterable by character, movie/series, location and ‘universe’ (for those pesky holes in the time-space continuum.) It’s something that’ll probably come way off in the future, if at all, but it’s something I really want to have on the site.

Conclusion

I’d love to hear from you guys about my thoughts and ideas, so don’t hesitate to post a comment! And again, I look forward to working on this website – Lilo & Stitch is something close to me, so I really want to contribute something to that.

Thanks for reading!

--MarkKB

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Yet Another Lilo & Stitch Fansite: It Has Returned (Almost)

There may be five people in the world (if that) who know that I used to run a website called “Yet Another Lilo & Stitch Fansite”.

Well, ‘run’ isn’t entirely accurate – more like ‘uploaded stuff once in 2006 and then never touched it again.’ Well, at least I’m sure that’s what it looked like from the outside – the truth is I’d been tinkering with it a bit since then, but I was so busy at the time I couldn’t really devote much time to it.

So, in 2009, I decided to revive and update the site, and since then I’ve been working on it on and off to make sure that it’s at least somewhat presentable when it launches in October.

That’s right, I’ll be launching the website next month! Here’s what the home page and the article for Lilo look like right now (click to enbiggen):

 

I hope you’ll agree that’s a heck of a lot better than the old site, right?

The new website is located at http://lasfansite.atspace.me/. Right now it’s just got a teaser page with links to the Facebook page (which you can subscribe to for updates and whatnot) and the forum (which is open, by the way).

It's also home to some artwork drawn by myself, which you can view in larger form here, if you like: ‘Moving Boxes’ on deviantART

I’m pretty excited about working on Yet Another Lilo & Stitch Fansite in the coming months, and I hope that you guys reading will find it interesting enough. My next post will be about what I hope to achieve with the website, so stay tuned!

--MarkKB

Monday, June 27, 2011

Web analytics on MarkKB’s Web – what that means for you

I’m now using Google Analytics on some parts of my website to gather data on who visits my website. This data is completely anonymous – in other words, there is no way for me to know who is visiting my website, just what you visit, as well as a few characteristics.

This data includes:

  • What pages you visit
  • How you got to this site (e.g. via a link, a web search, ect)
  • Your browser, its version number, and what versions of Flash and Java are installed.
  • Your screen resolution
  • The country, state, city and ISP you are browsing this site from

So, what can I do with this information? Well:

  • I can tell what programs and parts of the site are popular, thus allowing me to focus my attention on stuff that matters to you
  • I can get a good idea of what browsers the people who read this site use, so I know which browsers to test for, and thus make your browsing experience better
  • I know which operating systems are interested in my stuff, so I can have a good idea of which ones to support in my programs
  • I know where my audience comes from, and so can target them appropriately.
  • Let’s face it, these kinds of statistics are facinating, and it’s kinda cool to know these kinds of details. (I got a hit from Moscow the other day, and a few weeks ago someone using Windows 2000 visited the site. I mean, wow.)

So, this is mostly good for you guys, as well as good for me (and my ego! :D)

Another thing: right now, there are only a few places where I’m monitoring this stuff, but over the next few months I hope to roll it out across the website.

And finally: If you do not wish to be tracked in this manner, you can use Google’s opt-out addon to stop Google Analytics scripts from running.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Why the devs Peter Bright wrote about are wrong (and why Peter Bright is right about what to do about it)

Monday, May 16, 2011

Left Hanging – A Trip To Japan (Full Commentary)

I don’t normally post picture descriptions here, but this one was pretty long, so I decided to link it here if anyone wanted to read it.

 

Left Hanging - A Trip To Japan by ~MarkKB

This is the cover for A Trip To Japan, and part of a set of covers I sketched for my fanfics. (The last one I drew was for Starlight.)

I Don't Think You Thought This Quite Through

This picture is remarkable to me, at the very least, because most of it isn't actually based on the original sketch - and it turned out, at least to me, rather well. Okay, so people do that all the time, but I prefer to stick to my sketches (because when I don't, they sometimes get a bit wonky.)

Sure, it's laid out the same around about, but there were quite a few problems with the original, the least of which being that I'd only sketched the general shape of Tokyo Tower, and not the individual struts. (It was a small box on a page with other small boxes, and thus wasn't really intended to be a full sized pic, so there!) This meant I vastly underestimated the length required to represent the Tower at the angle I had it.

Of course, this was meant to be only a quick, fun piece so I'd have a visual representation of one of my fics in a 150-pixel-wide preview and a 400-pixel-wide contents-page-image for my website, and also for a good idea of what a proper version might look like. (Much of the small problems with this pic won't be noticable at 150px, that's for sure.)

It's, in a way, a concept drawing - I'll probably do a proper version later.


Accurate To A Point

Speaking of which, Tokyo Tower is actually a lot taller than it is in the picture. I did it the way I did because I didn't feel comfortable putting it at much more of an oblique angle, but I wanted to keep the picture within a certain size (and the Tower within the box.)

However, rest assured I took pains to make sure everything else was accurate, including some Flickr photos for the view straight down from the observation tower and Google Maps for the sides of the buildings. A big thanks to the people who for whatever reason took those photos! (And if you want to check them out, they're in the references section below.)

The Tower itself was modelled using beizer curves in what I thought approximated what it would look like under that perspective. After I thought it looked OK, I drew the lineart around it. It was all done by eye (thank you second computer!) so I probably messed up a bit (especially since, naturally, there are no photos of the tower in the perspective I would have needed. Eh, oh well.)

Drat You Perspective!

I'm quite sure I committed about a bazillion sins when it came to laying out the perspective for this piece. I'm fairly sure, for example, that Nani's not quite aligned with the direction of the window (toward the camera) and that the buliding below is not quite angled right with the tower. And I think the focal point is a little messed up.

*beat*

Eh, I don't think anyone will notice. *gets a hundred angry comments*

But, as I said, it's concept drawing really, not a "proper" piece.

(Speaking of Nani, I was never really good at drawing her, and I think she's a little... I dunno, off in this pic. Still better than I've ever drawn her, though...

And speaking of people not looking right, Lilo had to be redrawn quite a few times before I was satisfied. It was kinda hard getting the perspective looking more-or-less how I wanted it.)

How could you be so heartless?

Huh? I'm not quite sure what you're talki- oooh, right, the picture content.

Let it be said that I'm sure no-one likes Lilo Pelekai being in mortal peril, least of all myself. Oh, I may write stories where she *is* in mortal peril, but I write them because they make good stories, not because I like it. Writers shouldn't be afraid to free their characters from the padded box, just because the reaction might be bad.

That, and it's all my muse's fault. Go blame him.

Now, I'm sure you're wondering how Lilo got in such a position. Well, normally I'd direct you to my fanfic, but the funny thing is, much like another picture I drew, I haven't actually gotten to this point in the story. So this is all :iconriversongplz: spoilers!.

Hmm, I need to stop doing that.

Eh, well, go read A Trip To Japan anyway. Be warned, the first few chapters are a little narmy because I wrote them a while back and stuffs. I'm in the middle of rewriting them anyway, so eh.

One last thing: I really wanna support Paint.Net, I really do, but Paint Shop Pro is, quite frankly, sooooo much better. Which is why I switched when it came to really doing this picture, and why I'll be sticking with it for the forseeable future.

Whew, that was pretty long...

Refs!

Tokyo Tower
Looking Straight Down from Tokyo Tower by crispyteriyaki (Flickr)
Temple and Tokyo Tower by crispyteriyaki (Flickr)
straight down from tokyo tower (2) by jacquelynyoung (Flickr)
And special thanks to Google Maps and Street View.

Observation Tower
Tokyo Tower by returntoasia (Flickr)
A cel from the Cardcaptor Sakura episode A Trip To Tokyo Tower, collected by Rallihir.

Nani
This still from Lilo & Stitch.

Sketch: 6 November 2009
Initial lineart (foreground - Paint.Net): 27 December 2009
Lineart (background): 9-10 May 2011
Lineart (foreground), Paint (background): 10 May 2011
Paint (foreground): 10, 16 May 2011
App: Except where specified, Paint Shop Pro 8.10

Monday, May 02, 2011

Software Updater 1.0 Build 03 has been released

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Website: Ctrl-Alt-Bkspc’s new sidebar, more bug reports, and minor layout changes

Another day, another update to the website. Here’s what’s new:

<Ctrl><Alt><Bkspc>’s new sidebarScreenshot of CAB Sidebar

Website: http://www.markkb.com/stuff/cab/

When I updated the sidebar for my website last spring, one section that didn’t get the treatment was my webcomic, <Ctrl><Alt><Bkspc>. Part of that was because I was having trouble configuring it so it looked reasonably OK, and I didn’t want to hold up the update for all the other pages.

A few months later, and it’s here! Every page contains handy links to the RSS feed, my Twitter account, and the comic’s Facebook page, and the front page contains links to various voting portals (because TopWebComics isn’t the only one out there.)

(Oh, and <Ctrl><Alt><Bkspc> now has a Facebook page!)

There’s a few more things in the pipe for <Ctrl><Alt><Bkspc> (including actual comics :p ), so hang tight!

Bug Reports layout updateScreenshot of a bug report with the new style

Website: http://www.markkb.com/stuff/bugs/

Let’s face it, the various pages in the Bug Reports section were looking pretty terrible and bland. So with some generous tabling (what, it’s tabular data!) and a sprinkle of CSS (see below), the pages are certainly looking a lot better than before.

24 new bug reports submittedScreenshot of the list of bug reports

I’ve just submitted twenty-four new bug reports into the system, and updated information for two more. Why would I voluntarily do this, you may ask?

  • Transparency: I want to keep people who use my products in the loop, and to let them know that yes, I know about these problems, and yes, I’m fixing them.
  • Encouragement: I hope that by submitting bug reports myself, I can encourage others to do the same. I want to know about your problems with the product, so I can fix them – but I can’t do that if you don’t tell me!

Tables style updateScreenshot of a table with the new style

Tables now look a heck of a lot better, with borders, blue headers to match the headings on the rest of the site, and a whole lot more padding than before.

New RSS iconrss

The old one was in pretty dire need of a makeover, so there’s now a new icon to take its' place.

Over the next few weeks I plan to do more (and potentially bigger) updates. I’ll let you know when that happens.

Updated 14/07/2013 to fix broken links.