The Baroness's articles
The Accidental Podcaster: Back To (Digital) Basics
Jul 20th 2016
I hit a new achievement in my digital farming last night.
My careful return on investment analysis for my digital crops at the beginning of the digital season meant I brought in more than enough profits to hire someone to build me a digital barn and expand my animal stock with four young cows, which in honor of my colleagues at RCM I have named Cowyar, Baron Von Cowsu, Killer McCow, and CowCoCow. Once I have reached the level that allows expansion of my barn, I will add to my herd with Vampy Cowtaker, teh_leet_milker, and BioMooCowcamist (I did not follow similar naming conventions with my chickens, but do get a naughty chuckle every time I see the one I named MotherClucker running around). With the game’s winter approaching, I will soon shift focus from crops to my new animals and working on the maple grove I’ve carved at the edge of my estate, which I have named the Alpine Retreat and rule with my digital cat, Hobbes (who loves me, unlike those snotty villagers in Pelican Town). All around us in our little corner of Stardew Valley is abundance and serenity.
The Accidental Podcaster: I Hate Your Voice
Jul 13th 2016
I had just finished a phone call with an incoming student and was jotting down my notes when a shadow cast itself over my little cubby. I glanced over my shoulder to see the overly fake-helpful face of a coworker blocking the narrow entrance to my corner.
“What’s up?†I asked, noticing her pudgy fingers fidgeting with my fliers.
The Accidental Podcaster: This Too Shall Pass
Jul 5th 2016
I’ve always been an anxious person. I want to blame circumstance - my parents split up when I was very young, as the eldest child I had a lot of responsibilities put on me from a very young age, etc. - but truth be told, my anxious tendencies started long before that. One of my earliest memories was when I was around four years old, landing at the chalkboard in our playroom with my father as he taught me phonetics (I started reading insanely early) and being very upset that I’d made a mistake because I was certain the other children would mock me for it. A good chunk of my free time as a child was learning was to prepare for disasters, both likely and unlikely. I have been known to replay and obsess over conversations that took place fifteen years ago. When planning for the future, I always envision the worst possible circumstances and use that as by baseline for preparation. All things considered, I find it somewhat amazing I don’t have a tiny Doom cloud following me about at all times.
Probably one of the most entertaining examples of this took place on my first day of kindergarten. It started with a mysterious note slipped under the classroom door. The hallway was empty; the note, a taunt from a creature signing himself as “The Gingerbread Man.†Our class was tasked was to go around the building and catch him. The problem was, each place we went, we were told we’d just missed him and had to solve a clue to figure out where he was headed next. It was extremely frustrating. Having seen many spy and action thrillers, I was convinced the gingerbread man may have tossed us a red herring and doubled back, so I made my new friend Brian help me thoroughly check all the wastebaskets and under the chairs, convinced we could find and capture the little perp before he could do something bad. After all, why else would he be on the run? I could only assume nefarious deeds were in play or on the horizon. It didn’t help that I was momentarily sidetracked when we visited the library, something I’d never experienced before, and blamed myself for the GBM getting away that time. The school staff, though helpful in assisting the other children to read the clues, seemed completely oblivious to the impending danger threatened by this gingerbread man, as was evidenced by their failure to try and apprehend it despite their witnessing the creature as it cut through their various rooms and offices.
If only I had been more vigilant...
The Accidental Podcaster: Zinger's In The Cup
Jun 29th 2016
There are a variety of sayings we have in the RCM staff room to denote an acquiescence to calm. Varyar, for example, is a swimmer, so he favors the allegory of the problems being like water going over a duck. Hax reminds us of the Sith Code. Killer has a particular sigh. But my personal favorite is the phrase â€~Zinger’s in the cup.’ The â€~Zinger’ is in reference to my favorite tea, which I tend to consume while I’m working and serves as an anchor to my well-being. To have Zinger in the cup means remembering that in spite of whatever crazy is going on in the world around you, there are still tiny bits of comfort to get you through; a physical reminder of “don’t worry, you got this.â€
Saturday afternoon, I went through about five cups.
This weekend we held the first RivalCon, a two-day festival of friendship and gaming that saw community members of Rivalcastia come in from all over the country (and Sweden!) to play in person with friends they’ve known for years, but in many cases had never met face to face. It’s a good time, to be sure.
The Accidental Podcaster: Tap Time
Jun 14th 2016
Monday night planning sessions for On Tap are by far one of my favorite times of the week. What started out as a weekly logistics meeting to plan guests and write questions has slowly evolved into something that is part steering committee, part writers’ room, part true confessional. If ever I were to describe something as a “safe space,†it would be Studio B on Monday evenings from nine until one of us had to go to bed.
At the beginning, Tap meetings had almost a mystical reputation among the RCM staff. Nobody else had ever done them, or at least not on a consistent basis and certainly not for as long as we ended up doing them. Allegedly, the gatherings were secret, with no one outside of the main panel allowed. Very inside jokes referenced in front of the other staff and community members induced giggle fits and had the others convinced we were speaking to one another in code. A quip Killer made about us using planning meetings for secret cabals was interpreted and spread as gospel truth. In essence, for the first few months after our show’s premiere, the three of us were the Illuminati of RCM.
In a way, the rumors weren’t that terribly far from the truth. No, Tap meetings weren't a ruse for the eventual takeover of RCM, but they did help model the kind of planning and teamwork necessary for a show - and, if one extrapolated on the idea, a network - to create and maintain production standards a lot higher than one would expect for a group with little experience and no budget. Structure and consistency was the one thing RivalCast most desperately needed if we wanted to survive, and somebody had to show how it could work. Tap meetings, from the onset, were part of a wider initiative to model the hows of beating the odds and becoming successful.
The Accidental Podcaster: The Important Things
Jun 1st 2016
Today is a good day.
My last post talked about some of the issues that have come up to try and derail me in my empire-building, and I ended with the question â€~what things are taking priority?’ I think that scared the guys a little bit, because they spent the two weeks in between that post and today being exceptionally sweet. To be clear, RCM is instant priority, because it encapsulates everything I really want to do in one nice, neat little company. The people are a huge part of it - the guys are better than friends, and our fan base makes up the most amazing community on the Internet. But it’s more than that. Eight years ago, I was begging independent publishers to let me moonlight for them for free just so I could get some experience in the industry. Even offering pro bono slave work, I got rejection after rejection because what I ultimately wanted to do, nobody else was doing, and didn’t want to take a chance on.
Now, I’m running the kind of program I tried so hard - and failed - to find: taking novice writers, helping them find and hone their own strengths, and giving them a chance to get some publishing experience early on while also teaching them transferable skills in what I refer to as the Toolbox of Badassery. Make no mistake: people get out of the experience what they’re willing to put into it, and everybody’s got different reasons for being here. But it’s working. Over the past year RCM Writing has brought a number of talented writers to the front page. Last weekend, Hax tweaked the front page a bit so all the fiction runs we’ve been doing are neat and easy to find in their own forum and the stories, articles, and news pieces all have their own places (IT’S PRETTY). And next weekend, the summer interns have their first brainstorming session as they workshop their summer projects, bringing more fresh talent to our front page. It’s exciting.
Multiple Holidays to Finish Out May
May 30th 2016
This weekend, most of RivalCastia is celebrating a Monday holiday. Those in the UK are enjoying the vaguely named “Spring Bank Holiday,†which is generally celebrated on the last Monday in May as a secular replacement for the old late-May holiday of Whit Monday. These holidays tend to be just taking a day to rest, though in the village of Brockworth, the townsfolk traditionally participate in a race which involves rolling large pieces of cheese down a steep hill and chasing after them. Readers can learn more about the competition at the event’s official web site, though with the caution that the entire site is written in Comic Sans and thus difficult for this author to take seriously.
Here in the States, we also celebrate a holiday for final Monday in May, though ours is for more somber reasons. Memorial Day is meant to honor those who died while serving in the U.S. military. Despite what ignorant Facebook re-posts might tell you, this is not to be confused with Veteran’s Day, which is celebrated in November to honor the living U.S. veterans for their service to our country, nor with Labor Day, which is celebrated in September and has nothing to do with the military whatsoever.
Memorial Day was originally known as Decoration Day, and evolved from a number of local springtime tributes held for the dead of the U.S. Civil War. During World War I, the scope was expanded to honor the American military members who died in all wars. The day is typically celebrated by decorating the graves of deceased military personnel and holding parades, many of which feature active military as well as members of veterans organizations. This is also a time where many American families hold picnics and barbeques. To help remind Americans of the true meaning of the day, in 2000 the National Moment of Remembrance resolution passed, asking that at 3 PM local time, Americans “voluntarily and informally observe in their own way a Moment of Remembrance and respect, pausing from whatever they are doing for a moment of silence.â€
The Accidental Podcaster: Priorities
May 18th 2016
It’s been one of those weeks, writing-wise. Hell, let’s be honest, it’s been one of those weeks life-wise, too. The ones where you start quite a bit - snippet here, paragraph there - of a bunch of different projects, but can’t get your thoughts together long enough on any one thing to see something through to its completion. They’ll all get there at some point. Just not necessarily this week.
Part of the reason is that in my various roles, both at Rivalcast and in my day job, it is widely understood/assumed that I am In Charge; that is, I have a track record of responsible behaviors and knowing where to find things to Get Shit Done, and therefore must be able to do anything at any time with a certain level of competence and panache. This is a dangerous assumption and one that I try to minimize whenever possible, because being In Charge naturally leads people to assume I Have Answers and thus come to me with all kinds of problems I am most assuredly not qualified to handle. People come to me with situations and are pleased because I seem to be taking time and thinking, but honestly, most of those thoughts are trying to control the panic over figuring out what can possibly be done and why the person is coming to me in the first place. Pull a few rabbits out of your hat and people begin to think you’re a magician.
And those are the easy ones.
The Accidental Podcaster: Identity
May 4th 2016
It was a gorgeous spring day for my last community college visit of the semester. The atrium where the college reps tables were set up skirted a student art exposition showcasing their work for the semester - excellent, because I’d have the double bonus of increased traffic for my visit and get a more interesting focal point for my people watching. My assigned table was at the end of the atrium, directly across from the station where students of the sketch classes were doing free portraits of festival goers. It should have, by my estimation, been a very busy morning, so I wasn’t even upset that my laptop battery drained itself in the first couple of hours trying to connect to the wifi. It was here things started to go astray.
Without the distractions of paperwork, my brain focused on the (increasingly loud) conversations of the students nearest me. One in particular stuck out - a first-year, dressed in expensive designer Bohemian look clothes, who was spending more time talking about how she was being persecuted and punished for, in her words, being a “full-out 100% lesbian†(or, alternately, gushing about the attractiveness of Chris Evans. Yeah.) than she was actually sketching. We’ll refer to her as “Tortured Artist†for reasons which will soon become clear. When a same-sex couple sat down at her easel to have their portrait done together, I got to learn more about Tortured Artist’s perceived notions of herself than I’d think appropriate in an academic setting. The “persecution†part was her own words, though her examples of this persecution were among the most laughably first-world problems I’d ever personally witnessed: Her father was punishing her by not buying her the new car she wanted, but a different one instead (her presumably straight sister got to pick her own car). Tortured Artist was being persecuted for her art by her fellow students - they just didn’t understand her work (never mind that of the pieces I saw, it was truly awful). She loudly described, in vivid detail, her embarrassment the first time she took a girlfriend home to meet her parents and they didn’t embrace her choice as openly and readily as she wanted (it sounded to me like they weren’t disapproving of their daughter’s choice, but confused about the Chris Evans thing, too). The piece de resistance, however, was how at the beginning of the conversation this girl’s mother was an ally, but by the end she, too, had apparently bought her ticket on the persecution train via the inexcusable sin of purchasing Tortured Artist’s organic something or other snack from Giant Eagle, a local grocery chain, rather than from Whole Foods Market.
The bitch.
The Accidental Podcaster: Chaos
Apr 19th 2016
It is April, 2006. I am nestled in one of the many crevices in the basement of the old math building, a colored pencil behind each ear as I furiously count tiny boxes. I’m modelling a number of different rule sets based around Conway’s Game of Life - given a row of cells in one of two states (colored or uncolored), the state of the cells in the next iteration are determined by a set of rules that show what the cell’s state will be based upon the conditions of the neighboring cells. These types of models, called cellular automata, show how simple rules lead to much more complex patterns over a large number of iterations. Except my current model isn’t showing a pattern, and I am concerned now that I’ve made a mistake somewhere, but I can’t see it.
Leaning on the wall across from me, my algebra professor is amused by the mess of notepads and pencil shavings spilling out into the hall. “You know,†he says as he heads back to his office, “MATLAB would make those iterations so much easier on you.†He grins as he walks off.
“You’re not helping.†I’m being teased, and I know it. It’s well known how much I hate having to do things in the lab. I need to see how each line, each step of the process works to be able to visualize and understand how things work. The programs don’t show their work, and if I get an unexpected result, I have no way of figuring out exactly why. It also doesn’t help that any time I touch a machine in our lab, it immediately freezes, and if I try to reboot it makes the problem worse. I just looked at one of the machines earlier - didn’t even touch it - and immediately got the spinny beach ball of death. If that weren’t frustrating enough, the previous day we also had our group meeting with our supervising professor for our teaching experience, which had gone so amazingly awful that I’d immediately gone to my faculty advisor to talk about switching majors... four years into my program. This in turn led to a screaming fit with my then-fiancee, which led to my not sleeping, which segued into a decision to drive to campus early with the aforementioned colored pencils and graph paper to work on my models in peace.