spiraling towards contentless content
Glutton for punishment?
Posted: 2007-10-25 20:59
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Author: Phil Gengler
Section: NaNoWriMo

Well, I signed up to do NaNoWriMo again this year, after failing pretty miserably in 2005 and skipping 2006.

I'm hoping to do a better job of sticking with it this year, and even though I haven't the slightest clue about the plot (or even the genre, for that matter), I remain hopeful that I'll reach at least some of my targets, even if I don't make it to 50,000 words by the end of the month.

Judge, jury, and puppets
Posted: 2007-10-18 11:17
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Author: Phil Gengler
Section: Politics

It's been a while since I've written anything about politics, largely because everything is fucked up and after a while it just gets hard to write about while watching it all get worse. But something just happened that I simply can't let go.

The NY Times has reported that the Senate Intelligence Committee has given the green light to a new wiretapping bill that also retroactively gives telecoms immunity for illegally giving the government access to its systems, and the phones calls and data on millions of Americans.

This is hardly unexpected, but it doesn't make it right, especially given the rationale cited for this. Senators "came away from that early review convinced that the companies had 'acted in good faith' in cooperating with what they believed was a legal and presidentially authorized program and that they should not be punished through civil litigation for their roles," according to the Times story.

This is bullshit, and the Senate should have no place deciding whether a case is or is not suitable for consideration by the courts. For one thing, merely getting the issue to trial is by no means a guarantee of the outcome; if the pending cases do get to trial, it's quite possible that the telecoms could come away clean. (I don't think they should, but one's opinion of that issue should have no bearing on whether or not the case can actually be tried.)

The Constitution is pretty clear on who gets to hold trials: "The judicial power shall extend to all cases, in law and equity, arising under this Constitution, the laws of the United States, and treaties made, or which shall be made, under their authority;" (US Constitution, Article III, Section 2). Note the phrase "judicial power", not "legislative power" or "executive power". The courts have the power to try cases, where they can be decided impartially, not in secret by the legislative body, where impartiality is a sadly lacking ideal. (Check out the largest contributors to Senator Jay Rockefeller, who just happens to be the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

What has become pretty clear lately (by which I mean recent decades, not just recent years, but it seems that it's become much more overt of late) is that the US government is quickly ceasing to become a government "of the people, by the people, for the people", as President Abraham Lincoln described in in the Gettysburg Address, and one sold to the highest bidder, the people and the Constitution be damned.

The Declaration of Independence, a document which, while it has no legal weight, is nonetheless a document of importance on a level approaching the Constitution, says this: "But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security." I think it's fair to say that the American people have been subject to "a long train of abuses and usurpations", both by the executive and legislative branches of government, and I think you can certainly make the case that these abuses and usurpations are invariably for such an object: the economic and social status of the ruling few at the expense of the very people and rights they are ostensibly sworn to protect.

We must, as a people, stand up for our rights, and stand up to our elected representatives to force them to uphold their sworn responsibilities to the Constitution. If we fail to do this, then we have abandoned the ideals of freedom that our forefathers fought to establish and protect.

Things I'd done and where I've been
Posted: 2007-03-29 23:05
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Author: Phil Gengler
Section: Stuff

"I really ought to start writing again." It's something I've said many a time, and each time nothing ever really seems to come of it. For whatever reason, I seem to have mostly lost my motivation to write.

I think there are a couple of reasons for this. First, now that I'm out of college, I'm no longer really having active conversations about politics or anything like that. I still follow the news, and I'll occasionally make a comment or two, but for the most part I've become passive on that front, and it did seem to have been most of my writing. Another factor, also related to being out of college, is that I don't have to write anything. There are no essays to be done, no columns to write for The Stute, so writing is no longer a natural part of my routine.

I can't say I'm really too happy with it though. I like to write, and there have been plenty of times that I've sat down with time allocated for nothing but writing, and come away with nothing. It's more than a little disappointing to read back through some of my older entries, especially things that took about five minutes to write, with no prompting, and find yourself unable to get back into that same mode.

The problem has been more general than just writing, though; for quite some time, I hadn't really done any coding either, which is another thing I like to do. I'd have a day or two where I'd take a little bit of time and fix a couple of bugs in some of my projects, but it was rare for me to spend any time on new development and rarer still for me to show any progress in it. Lately, though, I've been a lot more productive. I finished a major upgrade to my bookmarks script (which also provided my first exposure to developing something to use AJAX) and I'm just now finishing up an entirely new image gallery to replace the current poorly-designed and written solution. I've got a couple of other things in the pipeline, like a redesign (or perhaps a first design) for this site. I'm hesitant to schedule anything, though, because I seem to get most of my coding done while at work, and it's unpredictable how much free time I'll have at any point in the future.

As far as writing goes, I'm definitely going to lay off politics for a while. I've definitely got an acute case of "outrage fatigue", and really, there aren't any points that I can make that thousands of other people aren't also making, with about the same significance. Considering that my life is fairly boring, I'm not sure that I'll be able to provide anything of interest from that, so I'm not exactly sure what future content may be. I am hoping to start writing about photography (which some might say is like "dancing about architecture"), primarily because that's what I'm most captivated with at the moment, and I think that being openly critical of myself (as opposed to just deleting the not-good-enough photos without too much reflection) will do some good.

EXIF data, no comments
Posted: 2007-03-01 16:15
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Author: Phil Gengler
Section: Site news

Two changes of late: one, I've finally gotten around to displaying EXIF data along with photos in the gallery. Second, I've temporarily disabled commenting, as the comment script was being hit by spammers and I haven't yet had a chance to come up with a good countermeasure.

I've also been working on a feature list for a completely new image gallery system, since I've come to experience better ones and have realized that there are a bunch of things I don't like about the current one. Look for something like this to be rolled out in the next month or two, possibly earlier if things go well.

"It's not my fault!", redux
Posted: 2007-01-07 22:24
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Author: Phil Gengler
Section: Rants

I've written about the complete lack of personal responsibility evident in today's society before. It's a subject I feel very strongly about; I think it's crucial to the continued survival of a society that it is able to properly put responsibility and blame where it belongs. As a result, I get worked up when things like this happen:

The family of a New York teen hit by a train while spraying graffiti plans to sue the Metropolitan Transit Authority, claiming the accident was preventable.

"Boy killed on New York train tracks", United Press International (2007-01-07), accessed 2007-01-07

The story is this: the kid was trespassing along the busy LIRR mainline during the height of rush hour, apparently after vandalizing some other nearby tracks, and was killed when he was hit by a passing train. Yet, somehow the kid's parents are trying to blame the railroad for his death, since there was a hole in a fence along the tracks.

That's bullshit, to put it simply. The fence didn't get the kid killed. His choice to ignore the warning of the fence, regardless of whether or not it had a hole in it, is what got him killed. He chose to go through the fence; neither fence nor railroad made him do that. You could certainly argue that the hole in the fence made it possible for him to get through, but that doesn't make the railroad culpable for his death. You could just as easily blame the manufacturer of the spray paint for giving the kid a reason to be out, or the friends he was with for encouraging the behavior (and you'd still be wrong to blame them). The hole in the fence may have provided easy access, but it's hardly a guarantee that it would have prevented him from getting to the tracks; it's not that much harder to go over the fence.

In this case, the blame falls squarely on the kid, not on anyone else. The parents have apparently decided that this isn't the case, and that it must somehow be the fault of someone else (conveniently with deep pockets), and ultimately, they'll probably end up with a nice settlement from the MTA, which is only going to encourage more people to do the same thing in the future. While I don't mean to imply that the next step is the total collapse of civilization, it certainly isn't conducive to a well-organized society that a person can levy baseless accusations against another and be rewarded for it.

There's another thing in many of the news reports that's also been irrating: the kid is referring to as a "graffiti artist", and not the vandal that he was. The very term "graffiti artist" lends legitimacy to the illegal activity of vandalism, as though it's somehow completely forgivable that the kid was vandalizing in this case because he was creating "art". While you can certainly call graffiti "art" (the term is vague enough), doing it without permission on private property is vandalism, pure and simple.

Performancing-enhancing features
Posted: 2006-06-06 10:26
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Author: Phil Gengler
Section: Site news

I've just rolled out a change to the image gallery section that's really sped things up a bit. Caching can be a wonderful thing, especially when it removed the need to iterate through over a hundred directories, parsing an XML file in each of them.

Slightly less recent are a couple of other features. Also in the image gallery, I changed the layout somewhat and added fields for location data. It's only filled it for a few sections, but eventually I hope to have it all populated. The other change is the addition of pullquotes to text items, as seen in this recent update. It's still a bit rough, and I'm likely to play around with the appearance, but who knows how long that could take.

One year outside the ivory tower
Posted: 2006-05-25 22:28
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Author: Phil Gengler
Section: Journal

It is with a great sadness that I now look back on my childhood and everything that went along with it. I can remember so clearly having the feeling that, once I grew up, everything was going to be great. I can remember some of the things I promised myself; when I was about 12, I was fascinated with airplanes, and I couldn't wait until I could drive and had a car, so that I could drive to an airport and spend a whole day watching the planes coming and going.

I can also remember some of the foolish plans I used to have; at several points, by best friend and I thought we had it all figured out. One plan was to create a completely new video game console that would be blown the socks of anything on the market at the time (which was systems like Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis). We had fantastic visions for how it would have "totally real" graphics, and we'd even picked out a name, the "Dream Machine". Another of the plans, this one with a couple of other kids from the neighborhood, was that we'd start a business building excessively extravagant and elaborate pools for people. When we were younger, we all thought that we'd make it big playing baseball in the majors.

Jump ahead a few years; I've long since lost touch with the friends I used to have, got through four years of high school, and a year in at college. I'm not the most social person in the world, and I was having trouble making any friends at school. (This was perhaps the biggest reason I joined Alpha Sig — to get to know more people.) The classes for the first year were basically just a waste of time, but it didn't matter, because I was on my own for the first time.

By this point in time, I was completely set on going into programming as a career. (Given how much time I'd spent with computers and computer books up to that point, this was hardly surprising.) Now, the outrageous plans were gone, replaced with the more grounded idea that in a few years, I'd finally be finished with school forever, would settle into a nice software development job, and start to reap the benefits that went along with having a steady source of income and without the tether of school responsibilities.

Jump forward again to right now, just over a year after graduation. It's quite illuminating to see how many of my school-year ambitions have been shattered by cold reality.

For one thing, simply having a degree from a school with a good reputation isn't a ticket to a great job. It wasn't until I started interviewing for a "real" job that I started to realize that there were lots of other people just as qualified or more than I was, and that I wasn't simply going to slide into a great job. I went through interview after interview, until I started to consider the possibility that, come graduation, I wasn't going to have a job lined up. Where I ended up is nothing like what I had come to expect, and not in the good way. So now I'm feeling stuck in a not-as-interesting-as-I-expected job, dealing with a sometimes hellish commute, and making just enough money to cover all my expenses with little left over for savings.

This was probably the first serious disappointment I've had in my life. Through nearly all of school, I can't recall anything that I really wanted but couldn't get. I had no problem taking AP courses in high school, and even when it came to getting into college, I was never really worried about it. I was confident that I was going to be accepted to nearly everywhere I applied (and I was, the unsurprising exception being M.I.T.). I'd always managed to do well enough without having to put in too much effort, and I'd come to expect that this was going to continue.

Another thing I've come to realize is the truth of the adage "the grass is always greener on the other side." Since at least middle school I had felt that school was just a waste of my time, and I was chomping at the bit to get through it all and get out into the working world. I particularly liked the idea that, once five o'clock rolled around, work was over, and once I got home, I wouldn't have to worry about homework, or studying, or turning around and working at a part-time job. I expected that I'd have a lot more free time and the resources to finally start doing all those things I'd wanted but never had the chance.

Now that I'm finally out of school and part of the workforce, I've come face to face with all the downsides of work that I'd either been unaware of or had ignored before. Sure, work ends at 5, and even with the commute, from 6 on I'm free of any other responsibilities, but spending eight hours in the same chair, doing the same thing (or the same nothing) five days a week for nearly a year gets to be quite tedious after a while. With school, while there would be an assignment, project, or test looming that needed work outside of class time, there were nice, refreshing breaks between classes, which is something work doesn't include. With college, there was also a lot more flexibility in whether or not to attend class. For the most part, I could skip a lecture without any negative effects, and I could do this over and over. Try doing that with work, and see how long it is before you're fired. I do miss being able to blow off class to sleep in, or work on some of my personal stuff, or just do nothing at all.

I've also realized that, in spite of my preference for things to be neat, orderly, and arranged, I need to be able to "start over" with things different to keep myself motivated. A semester at school is just a few months long, and when it's over and you come back, the schedule is different. You're doing to different places at different times on different days for different things. Even within a semester, it was never really the case that two consecutive days were exactly the same. Work is roughly equivalent to a long lecture at school; the only thing is that work is every day, and it lasts for eight hours, when in school, in the worst case, the longest lecture was three hours a day, twice a week, during a summer session.

Having a new start is more than just refreshing, though; it gave me a very definite end to look forward to. I could start off a semester with little more than the resentment at still being in school, but by the time the end rolled around, I would be complaining about nearly everything. If I had to go in to each day not knowing when or if things would change, I think I would have gone insane. But again, that's the case with work. It isn't practical to pack up and start a new job every six months or so; even if it was, there's no assurance that I would be able to find a new job at that point. While I'm absolutely certain that I am not going to spend the rest of my life working at my current job, I also don't have any fixed end point to look forward or count down to. It's analogous to a running in a race; after a while, you'll start to get tired, and if you have no idea how far you are from the finish line, you'll want to stop and take a break. If you know that the finish is only a mile away, though, you can find the strength to keep doing, and to push yourself even harder, but it isn't sustainable.

I've also been surprised to discover just how much I came to depend on having friends around. I think of myself as a very independent person (and to some extent, an anti-social one, too) and quite often I'm content to do my own thing instead of going out or hanging around with people. Sometimes, though, I get sick and tired of sitting at my desk doing nothing on the computer, and it was always a nice break to take a trip to get something to eat, or just to sit around playing games or just talking about whatever. There's something about it that isn't captured by doing any of that alone.

So, as you might have gathered, one year on the outside hasn't exactly been good to me, mentally speaking. The bit of stubborn optimism in me can only hope that things turn around in the second.

Where does it stop?
Posted: 2006-05-16 11:50
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Author: Phil Gengler
Section: Politics

Of late, the "war on terror" increasingly seems to be morphing into a war on American principles. Recently, USA Today reported that, since the September 11 attacks, the NSA has been compiling a database of millions of phone calls made in the United States. This is in addition to prior revelations that the NSA has also been recording, without court approval, many calls in which one party was overseas.

Unsurprisingly, the administration tried to downplay the whole thing, with official comments ranging from basic 'no comment' to Bush's own insistence that "we're not mining or trolling through the personal lives of millions of innocent Americans."

Bush also managed to completely miss the point again with some of his comments. His statement that "as a general matter every time sensitive intelligence is leaked it hurts our ability to defeat this enemy" seems to indicate that either he is ignorant of the civil liberties issues at stake, or that he doesn't care (which I personally feel is the case). This sentiment was echoed by Rep. Peter Hoekstra, the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, who said that revealing such programs "threatens to undermine our nation's safety."

The whole thing has the feeling of a great, creeping incrementalism, at least in the way it's been revealed, if not the implementation. First came the admission that, yes, the government has been listening to some phone calls, but only when one party was outside the U.S., and of course, only when one or both of the two parties was suspected of having links to al Qaeda. Now, we find out that that government is additionally keeping records, though not recordings, of many domestic calls. Again, the claim is that only those suspected of terrorist connections are being targeted.

Sen. Patrick Leahy really nails my feelings about that. "Are you telling me that tens of millions of Americans are involved with al Qaeda? These are tens of millions of Americans who are not suspected of anything ... Where does it stop?"

Where, indeed. This is the same administration that apparently believes that, since the 9/11 attacks, the rules no longer apply. Until recently, the government was keeping secret the names of those it was holding captive in Guantanamo Bay; this release came only after being sued by the Associated Press. Many of these people were held without any channel of recourse available to them.

Through all of this, Bush insists that what he has authorized is all legal. I strongly disagree, and I am not the only one, but even if these things do not defy the letter of the law, and of the Constitution, they certainly go against the spirit of it, and of those principles by which we call this nation free.

A still tongue makes for a happy life
Posted: 2005-12-21 00:22
1 comment(s)
Author: Phil Gengler
Section: Politics

To say that America is free is quickly coming closer and closer to being a complete lie. Last week, President Bush faced charges that he authorized wiretaps against Americans without obtaining warrants. He addressed the issue at a press conference Monday, defending the program and saying that a "shameful act" has been committed by whoever leaked the program to the New York Times.

The fact that the government monitors phone conversations is not new; the NSA is alleged to have been recording and listening to international phone conversations for years. After it was revealed that the NSA has been spying on American citizens during the 1960s and 1970s, however, its authority was limited to exclusively international calls. Down the road, FISA was passed, which spelled out the requirements for legally obtaining a warrant to tap into conversations with an American citizen as one party. One of these provisions is for warrants to be approved retroactively up to three days after the conversation is recorded. The FISA process is also extremely likely to lean in favor of the government's request; since its inception, the FISA court has only rejected four warrant requests, out of tens of thousands.

In spite of this, Bush is claiming that he has the "constitutional responsibility and the constitutional authority to protect our country" against "the continuing threat of an enemy that wants to kill our American citizens." Furthermore, he claims that such spying is "consistent with U.S. law and the Constitution" and that "it has been effective in disrupting the enemy while safeguarding our civil liberties."

There is simply no way to correlate this gross violation of the Constitution and FISA with any safeguarding of our civil liberties; in fact, this goes to further erode them.

As angry as that makes me, it's nothing compared to what came later in the press conference. As reporters continued to question Bush's expansion of presidential power, one brought up calls by Democrats and Republicans alike for an investigation into whether the program ran afoul of current law. When asked if he would be willing to explain the program to Congress, and support an independent investigation into it, Bush replied with something I still cannot believe. In his reply, Bush said that, "any public hearings on programs will say to the enemy, 'Here's what they do. Adjust.'"

In effect, Bush is saying that to even discuss programs that appear to be blatant infringements on the civil liberties of Americans is to help the enemy. Certain sections of the law make it illegal to provide "material support" to terrorists; to apply this to what Bush said means that anyone who discusses certain actions by the government could be imprisoned as a terrorist supporter.

This bears repeating: the possibility exists that, by trying to ensure a discussion of governmental programs and our civil liberties, we could be labeled and imprisoned as terrorist supporters.

The idea is not limited to just one remark by the president in a press conference; over the weekend, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice said on Fox News that "[t]he more we get the exposure of these very sensitive programs, the more it undermines our ability to follow terrorists, to know about their activities." To talk about these programs is to make it easier for terrorists to strike.

This is wrong on so many levels; it cuts right to the heart of what America is and what it stands for. This country has survived, and flourished, for over 200 years, in part because of the great freedom afforded its citizens to criticize the government. It should never be considered a "shameful act" to discuss the government; instead, it should be encouraged, for "democracy dies behind closed doors," as the saying goes.

The more our government operates in secret, the less accountable it needs to be. We must not allow fear of terrorism to let those in power steamroll our rights, for without those, this would not be America.

Day Eight: 7,560 words
Posted: 2005-11-09 11:56
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Author: Phil Gengler
Section: NaNoWriMo

Still behind. Falling further behind. Still not surprised.

What is surprising to me is that I'm getting almost all of the writing done while at work, and virtually none of it done while at home. I blame this mostly on the variety of distractions available to me at home that are not available to me at work.

I'm hoping to change that, though, and so I'm setting a personal target of 20,000 words by midnight Friday. Yes, I'm aware that to meet that, I'll have to write over 4,000 words per day between now and them. Yes, I do believe I can do that, as long as I can stop fooling around with other stuff when I'm home.

As for developments in the story, I've closed out chapter 2 and started chapter 3, which so far is another (comparatively) dull build-up chapter. I intend to have a major plot advancing moment in here, and I even have some idea of what it is, but I'm still not sure how I want to go about doing it, and I need to write some of the boring stuff to be able to get to a point where I can do it. Hopefully today's writing will take me up to (and possibly beyond) that.

Day Seven: 6,248 words
Posted: 2005-11-08 11:50
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Author: Phil Gengler
Section: NaNoWriMo

Unsurprisingly, I'm still behind. 5,421 words behind, as a matter of fact. I do take solace in the fact that I'm more than halfway to where I ought to be; it's something, at least.

So far the actual developments in the story have been rather dull; this is one of those chapters that is only a building block for later things to come. The idea is that the main character (Sam) is going to be sent out to follow an orchestra around for two months, part of which would take him overseas. So he needs to get a passport, which means he needs to get a copy of his birth certificate. But the government is changing the rules for passports soon, and there's quite a crowd waiting to get copies of their birth certificates. Eventually, Sam gets to the front of the line and finds out that there's a "hold" on his records, for reasons so far unknown to him. I'm wrapping up his reaction (angry and frustrated, as you can imagine) and then I'll have to figure out the next chapter.

Days Four, Five, and Six: 5,149 words
Posted: 2005-11-07 10:01
No comment(s)
Author: Phil Gengler
Section: NaNoWriMo

As expected, I've fallen even more behind with the weekend. I managed to catch up to Thursday's target on Friday, so now I'm three days (and almost 5,000 words) behind. On the plus side, I won't be going as insane at work for today and tomorrow, which should definitely help things.

Day Three: 4,443 words
Posted: 2005-11-04 11:02
No comment(s)
Author: Phil Gengler
Section: NaNoWriMo

I'm still short of my target by about 600 words. I continue to blame this on having to deal with people at work, which puts me into a state of mind where I don't want to do anything except sleep and/or die.

Progress is being made, though, so at least I haven't become stagnant. I'm still only on the second chapter, but with short- and long-term ideas for where to go with the story, the act of writing is the only thing slowing me down right now.

I'm hoping to get a lot done (via my laptop) on the train tonight, assuming that the less-than-useless keyboard frustrates me to the point of leaving it on the tracks for the train to crush.

Day Two: 2,946 words
Posted: 2005-11-03 09:17
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Author: Phil Gengler
Section: NaNoWriMo

Well, it didn't take long for me to fall behind. It wasn't really unexpected, though; I don't get much done at work, because I'm too busy trying to not kill myself or those around me, and Wednesday nights I spend down at the model railroad club. So the first chance I had to do some decent writing yesterday started at 10:30pm.

Around midnight, I decided to take a quick nap, since I was tired and not being particularly productive. I ended up resetting the alarm and going for 7 hours of sleep instead of 2. Such is life, I suppose.

It wasn't a day without progress, though; I managed to finish out the first chapter. I'm quite surprised at how it come out; it's rather dialogue-heavy, and dialogue is something I've never really felt comfortable doing in a story, instead tending to provide detailed descriptions of scenes and actions from the third-person view. So now I have to figure out how to work in some intermediate stuff between the real meat of the plot.

Day One - 1,669 words down
Posted: 2005-11-02 09:10
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Author: Phil Gengler
Section: NaNoWriMo

Between some quiet time at work and some more writing back at home, I managed to beat the daily average (1,667 words) for my first day. More importantly, though, I've finally figured out some parts of a plot, which is something I didn't have even after I started writing yesterday.

What I have so far is the story of a journalist in a mid-sized fictional city. He's working on his weekly opinion column when the power goes out, trashing his work. At the same time, he gets an anonymous phone call promising a juicy lead if he meets the informant in a 'secure' location. I didn't really think about it until right now, but it very much resembles the scene from The Matrix where Neo gets in the car to go meet Morpheus (complete with the bridge and the rain).

At the appointed time, a homeless guy starts banging on the window. The main character (named Sam, for now), being a bit of an elitist with a dislike for the homeless, tries to tell the guy to get lost; the guy claims to be the source Sam was coming to meet, but it wasn't safe where they are. After some debate, they both get in the car, and a cop comes speeding by. Sam peels out, spurred on by the homeless guy, but stops when he realizes what he's done. As Sam waits for the cop to walk up to his car, the guy basically carjacks him.

That's as much as I got written, but after I finished writing I took some time to think about where I was going from there. My thoughts at the moment are to have the homeless guy be an ex-advisor/confidant for either the mayor or one of the city councilman (who all served in the same unit in the military). They received high commendations from the military, went into politics, and are well-respected members of their party, which wants them to eventually run for higher office to replace the used-car-salesman types currently in power (whom the people are increasingly distrustful of). However, they have some secret between them that they want to keep hidden (some atrocity committed during the war, most likely), and the military also wants to keep hidden (because it was quite common, but a well-kept secret).

I'm still not sure of the immediate next step, but at least I now have some idea of where the larger plot is to go, which will make it tremendously easier to keep writing. I'm hoping to pound out around 3,000 words today, because I'm not going to have the benefit of a full 30 days to write, and need a daily average of around 2,500 words to reach 50,000 by November 30.