Quote of the Moment

"It's never wrong to hope, Byx," said my mother. "Unless the truth says otherwise."
- from Endling #1: The Last, by Katherine Applegate

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Lament of the Last Literate Lurker

I'm writing this as I watch minutes tick by toward midnight (or somewhere close to midnight somewhere.) At this time, I will be banning all image hotlinking from my domain. Why? Why, indeed...

Twice this month, I have caught visitors to Skyhaven Adoptions remote-linking their images. The problem is not that it's tripping my bandwidth allowance (yet.) The problem is that I very specifically and repeatedly state that remote-linking is against the rules, the rules through which all visitors must pass before they even see the critters. Logic tells me that there are other hotlinkers out there; these two were just dumb/naive enough (potayto, potahto) to let me know about it. Usually, I content myself with changing file names once in a while. This breaks links, leaving bandwidth thieves with a lovely collection of red X's. In fact, that's how I tried to deal with the first offender. I even went the extra mile and informed her that her links may well go bad in a short time, so she ought to save them and upload them properly to her own site. So, a few days later, I checked to see if she got the hint (I had been keeping tabs on her via guestbook entries, warning her that she'd better stop stealing bandwidth pronto, and that her little song-and-dance routine about how she didn't realize it was breaking the rules and how it shouldn't matter because she's special in some way, blah, blah, blah), and what did I find? She had diligently gone back through Skyhaven and updated all her links to the new addresses. What really toasted my tailfeathers, the thing that really got my dander up, was that some of these images were from the "Megahunt," the hardest part of the hunt... the part she had the audacity to tell me was "too hard" because she had to get her mommy to help her! Steal from the Main Adoption Lairs? Not good, but not infuriating. Steal from the general Skyhaven Hunt, where people theoretically have to work to earn their critters? Even worse. Steal from the Megahunt, on top of telling me (in a poorly-spelled and grammatically infuriating way) my puzzles are too hard? Such fools deserve to be chased barefoot across hot lava by wild boars. Lacking the lava or the boars, I managed to get things straightened out for the time being. I even managed to tell her basic information about her Megahunt "earned" creatures which it was impossible to solve the Megahunt without learning; no wonder she had to have her mother do it for her. (Double-shame on Mom for actually doing it - if the thief had to struggle through on her own for a while, she might actually learn some reading comprehension.)

The second problem literally dropped into my Inbox. I won't go into detail, but again it all boiled down to reading Rules and not understanding or caring about them. I sent an e-mail explaining how to properly host images, but since it involved more than ten consecutive words I'm not holding my breath on the lesson taking. I have a sneaking suspicion that the first and second offenders are at the very least friends, if not dual personalities of the same physical entity. It was this, and the realization that for every "dumb crook" who falls into my lap like these two there must be dozens more bandwidth thieves smart enough not to draw attention to themselves, that prompted me to follow through with my original threat to block all image hotlinking from Skyhaven, even though this seriously inconvenienced me. One of the perks of paying for my own domain space was that I could host my own avatar images and other pictures. I enjoyed it. Now I have to rely on Photobucket, and while I've never had a problem with them, it rankles that I cannot use my own domain space because of generally clueless people.

Through this, I came to a very sad realization. I am apparently the last literate internet user on the planet. See, both of these offenders (and countless more I don't know about) claim to have read my Rules. I consider myself a relatively clear, of occasionally verbose, writer. My Rules at Skyhaven expressly forbid remote linking. They explain what remote linking is. They explain how to save images. They even explain how to obtain an account with Photobucket and Imageshack if they need an image host (though why they would I don't know, as I haven't heard of a site host yet that couldn't upload image files.) In short, I bent over backwards when writing my Rules to accomodate visitors of all skill and maturity levels. And yet, through e-mails and guestbook entry exchanges, I must conclude that it isn't enough, because nobody's actually reading anything I write. If they are, they sure as Hades aren't comprehending a word of it.

I've known that the state of modern education is pathetic, but this is beyond pathetic. This is morbidly depressing. Even worse is the sense of shock (real or feigned) that these offenders expressed when caught red-handed and hotlinked. What? they say when confronted. Those Rules, that tangle of letters and spaces I clicked through, actually carried meaning? That meaning applied to me? Me? But I... I'm special! I shouldn't have to follow your Rules! Those are for the other guy, like common courtesy and red lights! I shouldn't have to know how to actually make a website if I have a website, and I shouldn't have to pay attention to anyone's wishes but my own! Now, I understand that these are probably minors, but I wasn't that clueless as a kid, and I've had plenty of underage Skyhaven visitors who not only had no problem with basic cyberpet netiquette, but who could design rings around my sites with their eyes closed and both hands tied behind their backs. Somewhere along the way, they are learning that if they don't understand something, or don't care to take the time to read and understand something, they don't have to pay attention to it.

It's 10:oo. I reckon it's midnight somewhere...

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Chirolupes and Classifieds

In honor of how I spent today...

The chirolupe, for all none of you who don't know about my website (I'm guessing here, but I don't think I've got much of a readership going), is a creature I created for my cyberpet adoption site, Skyhaven. As part of my neverending efforts to make Skyhaven a bigger, better, and less dreadfully boring and incoherent a place, I've been redoing my older adoptable critters, as inspiration hits. This time up, it's the chirolupes. They're getting a rather interesting new look, if I do say so myself. They were originally intended to be a sort of nocturnal griffin knockoff, combining a bat and a wolf instead of an eagle and lion. The new chirolupes seem closer to what I had in mind, something you wouldn't necessarily run away from, but nevertheless wouldn't want to see coming up behind you in the middle of the night. Or perhaps I'm delusional again...

The point of this (as much as there is a point to it) is that I've put quite a lot of time and effort into recreating something that probably nobody else cares about but me. After all, I've never had a complaint. (Well, I did have one person sign the guestbook a few years back saying that nobody would ever visit a site as verbose as mine. My hit counter proved them quite wrong, thank you very much.) I've never had anyone e-mail me saying,"Your site is great, but your chirolupes could sure use a more dynamic pose." The only impetus to improve them - to improve anything at any of my websites - is my own dissatisfaction with what I've created, and/or the need to continually polish and hone and improve my work. That, as mentioned, takes a lot of time and effort. It takes time and effort to look at what I've created, to think about what I like or dislike about it, and think of how it could be improved and how I could go about improving it. It takes time and effort actually sitting down in front of the keyboard or my sketchbook and scribbling, rambling, doodling, and editing my way to a finished product which may, in the end, bear little resemblance to the original product, or may have all of five words or half an inch worth of line changed. It takes time and effort to root out the old material and insert the new stuff, making all necessary updates and changes throughout my sites so that the internal consistency (what there is of it) remains relatively sound. And it takes time and effort to mull over and/or implement the ideas for further improvements and additions that always come with poking through my websites. That is time and effort that could've been going into... oh, say getting a job, or teaching myself another marketable job skill, or cleaning out my room so I knew what was going in the trash and what could be potentially hawked on eBay.

I've been working on getting myself employed again, believe it or not. I've been hitting every job listing site I can get bookmarked. I read the classifieds every day. I've also been trying, against major internal criticism and general slothful habits, to finish the second draft of that story I posted earlier, and to make something at my workbench specifically with the intent of selling it. I even had an application in my virtual hands this weekend. It never got turned in. (Technically speaking, that wasn't just a matter of me hemming and hawing, but a matter of fine print that wasn't made clear, deadlines that couldn't be met without access to my car - Mom and Dad had commandeered it, since theirs was in the shop -, and downloads that fought me, but the principle's the same.) I know that if I applied half the effort I put towards Skyhaven into the application process, I might have had a job offer by now. If I put a quarter of that effort into the armatures at my workbench, I might have something I liked enough to try selling. If I put an eighth of it into teaching myself how to feign enthusiasm in interviews... well, you get the idea.

They say ("they" being those people who make money telling other people how great it is that they're happily making money) that, when identifying what job to focus on, you're supposed to look at what you do when you have no other obligations. They neglect to mention that simply doing something, and doing something for money, are two totally different mindsets requiring two totally different skill sets, with two totally different motivations. Not that they can't be intergrated - I've seen it happen in others - but it's not as simple as deciding that you're going to make money and then opening the mailbox to find the paycheck. At least, for me it's not, because what I do in my free time isn't just draw and plot and create. It's staying out of the way and avoiding the Dread Demon Reality. It's what I'm best at, when all's said and done. I've been looking at the want ads for quite some time, and I have never once seen listed as a job qualification "Must be capable of staying out of the way" or "Reluctance to deal with other human beings a plus." So what I'm really doing with my free time isn't just potential Art or Graphic Design or Webmaster or Writer training. It's my own personal study course for a masters degree in getting nothing done.

Do I intend to give it all up? Wouldn't it be better just to bid adieu to my websites, flush my pointless little daydreams and all the effort I've wasted sharing them with the virtual world away, and redirect my efforts completely? Not on your life. Let's face it; my imagination's all I've got going for me at the moment, and I know me well enough to know that if I didn't have any creative outlet, I'd go nuts. I've been daydreaming all my life. I honestly feel sorry for people incapable of it, or of imagination on any scale. It boggles my warped little brain, how scared many people are of their own imaginations, what lengths they go to to supress it in themselves and others. So I have no intention of letting mine wither away as so many others have. I won't let the chirolupes die while it's in my power to keep them alive. Does that mean I'll never get a job and I'll be stuck in this hole for the remainder of my pathetic little life? I sincerely hope not. Other people manage to balance reality and fantasy. It must be possible. Determined as I am to hang on to my dreams (or daydreams, rather), however, that doesn't alter the basic facts of life. One of those facts is that unemployment ultimately leads to more problems than its worth, and it's exceptionally hard to be creative when one cannot afford the tools and materials to be creative with.

So tomorrow, it's back to the classifieds. Tonight, however, the chirolupes are calling...