Friday, October 21, 2016

A Little Red Flag for Gamers

A comment I left for a YouTube video demonstrating GTA5 with very realistic, detailed graphics.

Um, the closer the graphics get to real life, the closer you come to murder. [Shrugs] You don't like hearing that, but now that the NPCs aren't cartoon characters anymore, you can't really use the defense "Nobody dies in a video game." It's creepy to the rest of us that you find bystanders being popped like water balloons funny. No, you're right, video games don't make people violent. They already are.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Apples and Orangutans

A comment I left after reading Survey Finds High Support for Communism Among Millenials by Nicole Russell:

Nicole, what we usually refer to as communism and socialism are actually totalitarianism pretending to be communism or socialism. In its fundamental form, socialism doesn't have anything to do with murder. The mass murders and imposed poverty of these societies result from the totalitarian regimes controlling these societies, and those regimes, living in luxury, are hardly socialistic or given to sharing everything in common. Differentiate between ideologies. Lumping everything non-capitalistic under "mass-murder-enabling ideologies" is too simple and easy. It's lazy writing. I'm not a big fan of socialism, since hundreds of years of people attempting it and failing indicate that humans are too self-oriented for it to work, but I have to object to your lumping Bernie Sanders socialism with the former Soviet Union and similar totalitarian societies. Completely different animals.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Ol' Rockin' Chair'll Get Me

The self-description I submitted on my application for membership to the Creative Talent Network, an online group based in Burbank for artists in the animation industry:

My reel of LightWave models is at and includes two of the models I built for Dan Dare and Max Steel when I worked briefly at Netter Digital just before it closed. I abandoned 3D modeling in 2004 because it was a crowded field in a lousy economy, and I went into web and print graphics. But my head never completely left 3D. Even though I'm not overly interested in the animation on the screen now (why all the bathroom humor?), I nonetheless would love to work on the beautiful interior and exterior environments in which some of those scenes take place. Game environments can be beautiful too (like GTA5), but I'm disgusted by the violence in games.

Talented, but I don't know what to do with it or how to use it. All I've gotten since college is "Thanks, but we were looking for someone with a little more experience." I thought becoming involved in a group like this might help me move forward. But here I expect I'll get "We're sorry, but you need to have a few more production credits under your belt." What to do, especially now that I've turned 60? I suppose find a rocking chair and daydream wistfully about what could've been.

Saturday, October 08, 2016

My ongoing argument with Zazzle

A message I submitted on their Contact Us page:

The problem with fonts being displayed differently on different tees still hasn't been addressed after existing for several years. Please address this issue.

In the attached image of a tee design, which is found at, it's obvious that the design on the first two tees has been corrupted compared to the identical design on the remaining tees. There is only one design, composed of parentheses from the Typo Upright and French fonts at different point sizes, and the design on each of the tees should be identical. If you'll click on See All Styles and scroll down through the styles, you'll see that the problem appears on some of the tees but not all.

The tees which display a corrupted design seem to have a zone around the edges of the printable area that will change the point size of any text object that extends into it. The tees which don't corrupt the design don't have this zone, and image files are unaffected by this zone. I believe that an effort was made to keep designers' texts from extending outside the printable area some time ago, but the project wasn't completed and so some of the tees don't display this function. It may be that the project was abandoned because it was seen not to work, but it was left in place on the tees that had been altered.

It seems that it would be a simple matter to go into the code that controls how, for example, the Women's Basic T-Shirt and the Women's American Apparel Fine Jersey T-Shirt, treats text, and remove that function. This should be done for the sake of the customer shopping for tees. The customer could find a design they like but see that the design is corrupted on the tee they're interested in, and so they don't purchase the item. One wonders how many lost sales have resulted from this glitch over the years.

The design tool is pretty awesome otherwise, and I'm surprised that other POD sites haven't implemented something like it.


Saturday, October 01, 2016

Of Soft Colons and Hard Commas

I couldn't help being a grammar cop when I found on Steam an item titled STEINS;GATE and I posted the comment below on a related forum.

Oh no, I'm two years late to the discussion. While browsing on Steam, I came across STEINS;GATE and wondered why the semicolon was used in the title. I started reading reviews of the game but didn't find anything and so I Googled it and came to this page. From the reviews, STEINS;GATE sounds like an excellent visual novel, and so my comments here shouldn't reflect on the creators of the game; they are quite talented.

It would be interesting if the use of the semicolon here is an example of how World English is evolving. If all through the continent of Asia, for example, the semicolon in English has come to mean "related to but not possessed by" then I'd understand its use here. If not, however, then this is just a typographical error. I've had English professors whose hair would stand on end if they saw the semicolon used this way. If a student submitted a paper with a proper noun styled like this, those professors would circle the semicolon vigorously in red and make a brief comment with a lot of exclamation marks. That would be an overreaction, of course, but you can see that the construction is so odd that even I'm motivated to comment on it, two years late even. [It looks to me like lint has gotten stuck on the monitor between the two words.]

FatalSleep provided a very clearly written answer, but in contemporary Standard English, the semicolon isn't used to connect nouns unless they are in a complex series. If you have a series of three or more elements, and one or more of those elements has three or more elements of its own, 1) a semicolon is used to separate the main elements in the series, to avoid confusion. The only other time a semicolon can be used correctly in Standard English is 2) to connect two independent clauses with no conjunction when they aren't serial clauses. The last sentence of my first paragraph is an example of that. These are the only two correct uses of the semicolon. The semicolon isn't a soft colon, even though that's what the name looks like; it's a hard comma, with only two uses. [It should probably be called a supercomma instead of a semicolon.]

In contemporary usage, STEINS:GATE is more familiar and would've been a better choice. The irony is that, because STEINS modifies the noun GATE, nothing is needed to show that they are connected. STEINS GATE is referring to only one gate, closely associated with STEINS but not possessed by them because there's no apostrophe. A variation of that would be SteinsGate, using camel caps, to indicate the same thing. [Or perhaps STEINS.GATE? How about STEINS|GATE? STEINS\GATE? STEINS_GATE?] Even STEINS-GATE would've been better than STEINS;GATE. But they've also created CHAOS;HEAD and ROBOTICS;NOTES. My professors would've burst a blood vessel over those. What were the designers thinking?

If lots of people start using a semicolon to connect words because they think it looks cool, then eventually it will become standard usage in World English and no one will complain. Eventually. Users of Standard English will wonder why, but they'll just shrug and say "Like, whatever."

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Yo Bezos, fix your website!


Merch by Amazon still has the bugs it launched with. Are you going to commit to it, or just let it hang semi-functional? You didn't budget much for it when you set it up; it's a surprisingly bare-bones service for Amazon. Now, given your reputation as an employer, you will probably give everyone associated with Merch by Amazon a hard time for not setting it up flawlessly, but I would ask that you not do that. It's not their fault. The problem is that you are such an unpleasant employer that those who had the skills to set it up flawlessly are working for someone else now. They know they don't have to put up with that much workplace stress, so they took their talents elsewhere. Apparently you are a lousy boss. The bugs in the service aren't the fault of those working on it; they are ultimately traceable to you, your budget, and your management style. Take responsibility. It really doesn't matter much that you're the third richest person on the planet—it's a very small planet. What matters is how you treat the other members of your team. They deserve much more respect than you give them.

My most recently discovered bug is that there is no delete option for a product while it is under review and also while it's at the draft stage. I have a T-shirt that has gotten stuck in the automated review process and I can't delete it. I tried starting another product to see if that would push the under-review product out of its stuck state, but the new one is now stuck in the draft stage and also can't be deleted. This should have been anticipated when setting up the software and a delete option should have been included for both stages.

As I mentioned in a recent message to Customer Service through the Contact Us form, I think it's very strange for the designer to decide whether a T-shirt should be slim-fit or regular-fit. The graphic image should be scaled properly to either style so that the customer can make that decision. I also find it odd how few color choices there are. I understand caution when starting up the service, but it should be clear now how things will go, and the color selection should be expanded and also left up to the customer. I think it's odd to have the designer make choices limiting the number of T-shirt colors for a design.

Remember the late 90s? It seemed like a new world was taking shape with e-commerce providing new ways of doing almost everything. Amazon seemed so green and egalitarian and socially concerned then. As it turns out, you were, at heart, just another Flagler, just another Rockefeller, wanting to grab as much as absolutely possible before they started hitting you with antitrust litigation. Old-school with a coat of green paint. Why do you want to own the world? A little perspective never hurt anybody: In astronomical terms, our hearing that you're the third richest person on the planet is like hearing someone in a town in the middle of nowhere with a population of 500 say "I'm the third richest person in this town!" Those of us with a broader view just chuckle at that sort of thinking.

Your shareholders love you for the money you make for them, of course. The real test is whether your employees love you.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Probably, but who knows?

My email to an author, requesting a foreword or review of a novel examining the alien abduction phenomenon:

Would you consider writing a foreword or review for my novel? It’s entitled Probably, and its focus is the fictionalization of some of the experiences of abductees as presented in the current literature on the subject. The novel fits into the genre of New Age science fiction because of its view of the nature of reality and the effect of multiple dimensions and multiple universes on the human experience of everyday life. The novel also explores the role quantum physics may play in the way humans experience reality.

A brief summary of the story: Trevor frequently wakes up from dorky abduction dreams, but when the ufo he’s dreaming he’s in is actually shot down by the military, he learns that he’s been an abductee since childhood and that government agencies will not tolerate crash survivors or escapees from deep underground bases.

At the heart of the story is the relationship between Trevor and a beautiful young woman, about whom, naturally, he doesn’t know very much. It’s eventually revealed that his love interest is a shape-shifting grey alien who had chosen as her disguise a musical/TV celebrity lookalike drawn from among the dozens of women in Trevor’s head. The question then becomes whether their relationship can continue in spite of this knowledge, as when a Nazi learns his lover is Jewish or vice versa, or royalty learns of commoner status or straight/gay or human/vampire or any number of mismatches. The reason for the deception is an experiment the greys conduct into the viability of a human-alien relationship in a human environment, rather than aboard ship as is usually the case. A subplot explores the human main characters’ puzzlement over learning that they have been destined from long ago to perform certain tasks and finding out that the activation of transhuman abilities embedded in their DNA is linked to the approach of Earth’s Ascension to a higher vibrational frequency.

Just so you know, my narrative style employs the present tense, and some readers find this awkward. One of my favorite authors is John Updike, whose four Harry Angstrom novels were written in that style, and my writing style simply emerged from my admiration for his literary talent. Another favorite author is Umberto Eco, who took an unapologetically literary approach to exploring dubious conspiracy theories in Foucault’s Pendulum. From these references you could consider the possibility that I may not be just another Dan Brown wannabe who’s written an Angels & Aliens-type thing. My book is a bit meatier than that.

The novel presents some opposing points of view on ET-related issues and makes no firm statements regarding their truth or non-truth. The story is mainly structured as if some New Age beliefs are true and then explores the implications. My own feeling, after substantial reading on the subject, leans toward the probability that the extraterrestrial hypothesis, at least in some form, may be the right one. But if it turned out that every phenomenon can be explained in scientific terms, that wouldn’t surprise me either because there are strong arguments on both sides. One thing for which we do have convincing evidence is that governments have been studying the ufo phenomenon even while claiming they have no interest in it. The novel also wades into the current scientific discussion of whether the universe is only a simulation, and it picks up on the current popularity of VR.

Thanks very much for considering writing a foreword for my novel. Please let me know if you would like to see a sample of the novel.

John Evan Garvey

Sunday, July 03, 2016

Merch by Amazon, some observations

This is an email I sent to Merch by Amazon after creating the first 20 of my T-shirt designs:

I'm really glad you've made this outlet available for designers. Thanks very much.

In the Analyze section, I would like to see how many views each product has had, not just the number of sales. That would tell me which designs potential buyers find more eye-catching. It would also indicate to me whether or not my designs are appearing in search results. If there are never any views, that would indicate that potential customers aren't seeing my designs. Partly that would be the result of my not having enough appropriate keywords in my description of a product. But it would also partly be because of Amazon's policies regarding search results. Amazon is absorbing the cost of hosting these designs on their servers; it would be in Amazon's best interests for these products to sell to compensate for the cost of their hosting. The higher they appear in search results, the more likely they are to sell.

The Promotions section of the website should include setting up promotions on Amazon, not just offering tools for creating promotions on my own website. I know that promotional space on Amazon's product pages and landing pages is prime real estate and sellers compete for impressions there, but if Amazon is interested in deriving revenue from the servers hosting Merch by Amazon, they would benefit by allocating some of that real estate to items hosted on those servers.

A while ago I looked into the cost of ads on Amazon and found that the fees were out of my price range. I don't know what the fees are now, but the problem I have with the business model of paying for clicks on ads is that once there is a click, the responsibility of the company selling the ads is completed. Customers can click on ads for any number of reasons—curiosity with no intention of buying, accidental clicking, sabotage, or any other reason besides intention to buy—and the buyer of the ad pays for the click regardless of whether there is a purchase or not. There really is no incentive for the seller of the ad to precisely target the impressions of the ad, and so the product can end up being promoted to the wrong demographics. When I tried Google Ads a while ago to promote my book, written in English, and clicked on "show only on English-language sites," I still found my book's ads appearing on websites that were in Asian languages. I anticipate the same thing happening on Amazon. I'm willing to spend money on promoting my products on Amazon, but only if Amazon waits until there is a purchase before collecting the fee for the click. Amazon would benefit from that by collecting their percentage of the item's selling price as well as the fee for the click. It's possible that the lost revenue from the no-sale clicks would be compensated for by the revenue from the purchase. Accounting would argue that offering free clicks until a purchase is made would produce too little revenue, but that argument ignores the revenue from the purchase, which could be more than that from the clicks. It would also motivate Amazon to promote an item efficiently since their revenue would only come from an actual sale.

Limiting the number of T-shirt colors available to both the designer and the customer is a little odd. I understand the conservatism of wanting there to be fewer colors for designs to look lousy on so that there are fewer returns, but it seems that more customer interest would be generated with a wider range of colors and, with the previews as clear as they are, the customer should be able to see which colors wouldn't work with a design.

The customer should be able to decide between regular-fit and slim-fit. That choice shouldn't be made by the designer. The printing areas of both types of shirts should be coordinated to allow for the design to be scaled to appear appropriately on either style.

Please consider expanding the line of products available. On Zazzle, I have had some success with clock designs. And of course mugs. Stamps and greeting cards have also been good sellers. Even ties do pretty well.

When a design is printed only on the back, the default view of the shirt should be the back. The view currently defaults to the front view, which would be blank in this case, and a customer wouldn't see any design until they clicked on the back-view thumbnail.

The designer would like to choose which color and style T-shirt is the default because s/he knows which color/style displays the design to its best advantage. Basing the default color and style on the currently most popular choice is haphazard and can result in almost all the shirts displayed in the same color. More customer interest is generated when a line of shirts is displayed in a variety of colors. Having a shirt displayed with a women's style as the default would indicate to most men that it's a feminine design, and they would overlook it, even if it's targeted for both men and women. The opposite seems not to be true. But it is the same with children's styles; if the default is a child's style, adults would assume it's a design for kids and would overlook it.

Thanks again for creating Merch by Amazon.

John Garvey

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Paying It Forward

My email to an author from whom I requested a review of my latest novel:

Michael... I actually wish my first request to you for a review had resulted in a non-response. Y'know? It's what I'm used to. I sent the same request to George Takei and didn't hear back from him. Receiving a glowing review [for my novel Secreta Corporis] from you was a wonderful experience, but since then I've sprouted question marks around my head. Anyone else receiving affirmation like that from someone credible like you would be able to move forward to the next step and then the next step and so on. Me? I receive a glowing review from an established writer and— [Insert long pause and shrug.] I'm just baffled by my life experiences. Anyone getting a "rich and detailed landscape" and a "highly recommend it" could look forward to interest in a subsequent novel. Or interest from a publisher like Cleis. Couldn't they? I don't know, it just seems logical. Is it the men in black warning people not to associate with me? They can be quite intimidating...

A similar instance: Back when I was learning to build 3D models, Geoff Campbell, the head of the modeling department at Industrial Light+Magic, came up to me after he saw my reel and just started chatting with me. At one point, he said something like "They could get you started in the architecture department," because of a cathedral model he saw on my reel. Anyone else hearing something like that would end up as an employee at ILM soon thereafter, wouldn't they? If that had been you, I know you would've ended up working there. It seemed like an open door. Me? [Insert long pause and shrug.] After contacting them several times to follow up, I finally gave up. I'm just baffled by my life experiences.

I'm sure that if you respond at all to this, your email will have an edge and will be on the order of "Life is tough. Don't expect things to be handed to you." Please don't send a response like that; your "Good luck" cut deeply enough, you don't need to cut any deeper. :-} I suspect that your glowing review was intended to help market The City of Palaces because you knew someone like me would display your author information on every webpage around the world to which he has access. I'm not convinced that's true, I just suspect. But that is how the real world works. It would explain why a friendship hasn't developed between us (a long-distance, lite friendship). It would explain why there was no mention of my book in your blog, even though you told me I'd written a good book. Alternately, I suspect that my atheo-agnosticism is something you want to distance yourself from because most of your readers are devout Catholics, or at least somewhat religious. In that case, it's possible that you actually did think it was a good book. Slim, but still a possibility.

One thing I feel is important to mention is how you would have reacted to me, everything about the book being exactly the same, if I looked like the models in the photo shoot. I'm not convinced that this is relevant, but examine your feelings. If it had turned out that I looked as edible as they look, would you have expressed more interest in the book, given everything about the book being identical? I can think of four people off the top of my head who refuse to be seen with me in public. Two will talk to me in private, but being seen with me in public would lower their social standing. If someone is as mentally deficient as that, their opinion really doesn't carry a lot of weight with me. But that kind of thinking does exist. If you actually would be more interested and helpful with me if I looked like one of the models, then that's a character flaw that needs your attention. You know what it's like to be considered inferior simply because of your Mexican heritage. Exhibiting that same kind of bigotry to someone else because of his looks and age isn't forgivable, especially as you're an established spokesman in the LGBT community. Do you associate only with cute young guys, or with homely older people only when they're already established writers? It's certainly possible. Be brutally honest with yourself. If it's true, then you're still at your own Little Rock H.S. prior to 1957 and you have work to do. If it's not true, which is quite possible, then this whole paragraph should be disregarded. Never mind.

If there was ever somebody to invest good karma into... You already know from my writing that my IQ is on par with the people in your social circle, and there are other talents I could mention like songwriting, painting, and writing computer code for websites. I don't know, I really don't think I'm all that dull. But my life experiences would suggest otherwise. If you were willing to be a sort of mentor for me, or at least to answer my infrequent emails, it would take very little of your time, but it would have a tremendous impact on me. You could at least give it some thought. Sometimes ugly ducklings... take a lot longer than usual!


Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Must have been a newbie

A comment I left after viewing a Disney video on YouTube promoting Disneyland Shanghai:

I'm amazed that the person in charge of this video needs help with editing. S/he got so many little things wrong, like cutting or dissolving too late, panning too quickly, changing camera-movement direction without easing, making the text banner too large, things like that. The video is from Disney Parks, but it looks like a fanvid. I wonder if the Disney Parks office that produced this video is here in Burbank. If so, I could stop by and help with polishing the editing. Let me know.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Quantum physics for the rest of us

The question I submitted to Ethan Siegel at Starts With a Bang!:

Dear Ethan,

I have more than one question, and it seems logical to package them into one note rather than to separate them into separate notes. But if that's against the law, I apologize.

1) I'm pretty skeptical about things, but fortunately I'm more skeptical regarding, say, faith healing than I am regarding quantum physics. However, when I read about the spooky action at a distance, the single particle going through one slot and causing waves to appear in another slot as if the particle had gone through both slots regardless of the distance between them, I can't help thinking "Oh right, they know they're emitting one particle at a time." I imagine the way they verify that a single particle is emitted is with a chain of technologies, with the more sophisticated technologies built on the results of the simpler, unless physicists have really, really good eyesight. I know that the results of this type of experiment are repeatable and that there's been extensive research into this phenomenon to try to understand quantum entanglement, but still. A single particle? Also, if I remember right, the particle can go through either slot, and I don't understand how that's possible. Is the emitter aimed between the slots or at one slot? Also, if there are more than two slots, do all of the slots exhibit the same phenomenon, or just one? And finally, isn't it possible that the phenomenon is produced by the slot itself? Like soundwaves bouncing around within a niche in a wall and producing a different wave pattern than would otherwise be produced by the soundwaves reacting to a plain wall. A weak analogy, yes, but it's the best I can do.

2) From what I know about quantum physics, which isn't much, the various models of, say, string theory are represented by whiteboards filled with equations that the average person finds incomprehensible. Whenever I encounter that, I can't help thinking "Can they write that out in longhand?" I don't know, it seems that the natural-language version of a model is as important as the mathematical version. The way we understand the universe is through language; we generally name things rather than assigning them numbers. I know that translating all of the symbols in a model, all the way down to the arithmetic operators, into natural language would produce text that would probably be book-length. But still, every mark on the whiteboard has a corresponding meaning in natural language. If a physicist doesn't want to translate the mathematical model into text, that would seem to be no more than his wanting to maintain the archetypal boy's club with its secret decoder rings and "No girls allowed" sign. How much is exclusivity for the sake of exclusivity prevalent in the profession? And then there's the quote about being able to explain something so a barmaid can understand it or one doesn't understand it well enough himself. So, can they write it out in longhand; if so, do they; if not, will they? We would really appreciate it. Some of us don't have enough life left to start at physics 101 and work all the way up to quantum mechanics.

John Garvey

Saturday, February 27, 2016

A Zazzle of a Headache

My email to the CTO of

Bobby Beaver,

It's time for you to hand off the management of the website to someone who will devote full time to it. The website exhibits some bugginess that has been there for years. Whenever I use the website, I roll my eyes in annoyance so often that I get a headache. Please don't be defensive about the website and your control over it. It's time for you to retire rich and proud of your accomplishments in building Zazzle into the huge company that it is. I'm sure your Dad has said that you can manage the website as long as you want, but you need to have the maturity to realize that it's time to let someone take over who has a better handle on giant websites. You're holding the company back, and it really is time for you to move on to your next phenomenal startup.

In the development cycle of every family-owned startup, there comes a point when the business becomes so successful and large that the family needs to relinquish control so that those who are better able to handle large businesses can continue running the company well. Families whose startups grow phenomenally, like Zazzle has, are good at growing startups; that's where their expertise lies. But after a startup reaches a certain level of success, those whose expertise is in running big companies should take over, and the family should allow that to happen and take pride in what they've accomplished. And do it again with another startup.

I don't know how many thousands of designers use Zazzle. But every one of those designers runs into the same bugs that I do. We would all be happy if those bugs were finally taken care of.


John Garvey

Dear Trump Supporters

One of my recent T-shirt designs.

In case the image isn't readable, the text on the shirt is: "The rest of us would like Trump supporters to go back to school, expand their vocabulary, have non-White friends, eat less fat and sodium, exercise every day, shower every day, stop spitting, not laugh so loud, read better books, go to museums, watch PBS, bike to work, question assumptions, argue less, listen more, and act like grownups."

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Proofreading is fun-damental

(Following is a comment I wanted to leave for this article by Joseph Friedlander at but wasn't permitted to because, as a new member, I didn't have enough points. That's actually a good policy.)

You're a messy genius, aren't you. Please develop the habit of proofreading. Habitually proofread. Learn to enjoy re-reading your writing; you'll find something to change every time you read through it. You actually typed its's. You know that when its is possessive, it doesn't need an apostrophe. You learned that long ago, you just forgot. When it's is a contraction, it needs an apostrophe before the s. You routinely type its' when you want to indicate the possessive form, but that doesn't exist in English. And its's just happens when you're thinking ahead of what you're typing and not paying attention. Also, you frequently begin paragraphs with a space. An indentation isn't only one space, and when paragraphs are separated by blank lines, they're never indented. Also, the lead sentence is probably the most important sentence in an article, and so it should be fussed over the most. The to do is the problem because thermonuclear power isn't something to do. It's something that is. The sentence should probably begin with "What if generating thermonuclear power..." Or it could be "What if thermonuclear power is so hard to generate in a controlled manner..." And maybe energy instead of power? But that's just quibbling. (BTW, sentence fragments can make for more interesting writing and are not typos in standard English, so don't nobody point out my "And maybe" sentence fragment.) It's good to be a messy genius because that type of thinking can be very innovative. But the messiness shouldn't extend to the writing; it diminishes the writer's credibility as an educated person. Desk yes, writing no.