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18th May 2013
theferrett @ : How To Handle The Despair That Comes With Writing
Eventually, if you’re trying to make it as a writer, you’re going to despair. You can’t write well enough. This story will never sell. If you do sell it, it’ll never be popular.
This terrible feeling like you’re just wasting your time and nobody cares happens, absurdly enough, to very popular writers. It happens to nobodys. It happens to writers, period. If you’re putting words down and trying to get people to read them, there will be times you’ll want to take everything you wrote, set it on fire, and then fling yourself in to burn with it.
Here is what you do when those down days come: you write more.
Took a nasty rejection straight to the sternum? Write more.
Had a confidence-shredding bad review? Write more.
This grand story in your head is completely beyond your ability to commit it to the page? Write more.
This terrible book you’re reading made millions, and your better work can’t find a home? Write more.
Feel like you’re a fraud who’s somehow lucked out when better writers languish behind you? Write more.
Your favorite author just told you he abhorred what you wrote? Write more.
The thing about writing is that so much of it comes down to tenacity. The most popular writers in the world can all tell you about this fellow they knew when they were starting out, a colleague who could write stories that would charm the petals from a rose… and yet these natural geniuses didn’t stick with it. They either let life swamp them, or couldn’t stand the rejections, or didn’t feel like it. And these magnificently talented people never became Writers, because for whatever reason they never pushed through.
It’s not that they weren’t very good. It’s just that they stopped knocking on doors. While the writer you’ve heard of kept ringing doorbells until she got an answer.
So pushing through is what you need to do. Write when you’re sad. Write when you’re busy. Write when you’re uninspired. Write when you’re utterly consumed with the idea that you cannot do this. Learn to take all of that despondence and to transform it into beauty, for writing in the throes of despair will do two things: when you are writing sad scenes, you will have so many more emotions to cram into it, and when you are writing happy scenes, you will be forced to emulate joy. One will make for better writing, the other will elevate your mood.
The truth is, though I’ve written in both despair and elation, I can’t really tell which mood I was in when I go back to revise. You must learn to write without hope. Keep creating through those dry spells, keep sending out stories during the rejections; decouple your personal contentment from your creative muse and make that bitch dance for you. She’ll be clumsy at first, foolish… but with time, you can make her do the most elaborate pirouettes when you’re barely able to move off the couch.
In fiction, there’s often a plot sequence: Try/fail, try/fail, try/succeed. In real life, there may be a hundred try/fails before you get to that succeed. But you’ll never know unless you stay in that execution loop.
And then write more still.
(Inspired by Catherine Schaff-Stump’s Writers and Despair.)
Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.
This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/303034.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.
fub @ : Legal implications of using magic
This past week, I pondered the legal implications of using magic
in my Streamdales campaign.
theferrett @ : Minor, Rampant Cruelty
Just discovered: I could pretty much ruin any woman’s day when she’s about to leave the house by asking, “Oh, you’re going out like that?” and then muttering that it’s fine, it’s fine.
I just said that to Erin hypothetically, and she knows I didn’t even mean it, and she’s still itching to change her clothes.
(Cue tides of women saying that they’re above that. You may thank me for making you feel superior.)
Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.
This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/302666.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.
dvarin @ :
Recently I was in a local shopping street. "A Whole New World" was playing over the speakers. Except that it had been rearranged for two violins and a very energetic bassoon.
This is, of course, not the first time that I've heard a completely weird arrangement of some (formerly) popular song playing as background music, as that seems to be endemic in Japan. Rumor has it that there's some law mandating that all songs must be licensable at some fixed fee.
17th May 2013
siderea @ : [in memoriam] merle_ has died
I just learned
I only knew him through LJ and email. He followed me back to my journal from intj
, IIRC; his first comment in my journal was in 2005. I've known him -- insofar as he let himself be known -- for almost eight years. In the last year, he revealed more of himself, and I knew the nature of his problem -- but not how close to the end he was. Maybe he didn't know; maybe he didn't let himself know.
I am stunned and I am heartbroken. I will miss him. I wish he'd gotten more of life than he did; I'm glad he got what he did.
kensan_oni @ : I don't know...
Why is it when you love someone, or you miss someone, or you lose someone, you feel the hallowness or fullness in your chest (our heart)? I mean, if you discount the soul, which I do not, is there a reason that the pain or joy would be there?
jeffpalmatier @ : Fred Thompson was at the Watergate Hearings? Wow.
Thompson sure has had a unique career path in terms of going back and forth between politics and acting . . . although one could argue that the two require some of same skills! In any case, I didn't realize he was one of the people questioning about Watergate. I was a bit surprised to see footage of him at the hearings.
jeffpalmatier @ : I was just talking to the guitar tech from Elderly Music in Lansing, MI.
I sent my guitar to them because my guitar had considerable fret buzz and I didn't know how to fix it myself. I ordered this guitar in part because it supposedly had Gibson 57 pick ups installed into this Epiphone version of the Les Paul. He checked and told me that it did *not* have those pick ups, but rather stock Epiphone pick ups. Nice, huh? The guy I ordered it from seemed like a nice person. I'd like to think that somebody ripped him off rather than him knowingly doing it to me.
fub @ : Final pin
The 'end boss' of pins: my pin of Gundam Front Tokyo. They're only available from two gashapon (capsule toy) machines that stand behind the life-sized Gundam statue in front of Diver City Odaiba in Tokyo. This being a gashapon machine, you never know which one you're going to get -- and of course the numbers of the pins vary... I got lucky: I got the rare pin on my first (and only) try!
This is easily the most nerdy, specialised pin I have (along with the NERV-pin I got three years ago). And so I chose it as the 'end boss' of my pin week!
Right when I got into the elevator from the parking deck to the reception, I got asked by a random worker what I was wearing. I started to explain, but then she realised I was not a colleague, and she was a bit embarassed by her surprised reaction. ;)
This week, I learned that if you have a reputation for being a bit eccentric, you can get away with wearing weird pins and everyone will see them and politely ignore them. I think I'll make use of that later on!
theferrett @ : Star Trek Into Darkness: The Review
I was very leery of the second Star Trek movie, simply because I felt the first one had violated the Prime Directive of Star Trek: Kirk was dumb.
Which is not to say that Kirk was a sack of suet in the JJ Abrams-inspired reboot, but the fact is that the entire last act of the film involved Kirk lucking out through most of it. And while everyone has their own take on what Star Trek is or is not, to me a large part of Star Trek is that you don't ever bet against Kirk. He's not educated (even if times he aspires to be), but his low cunning has literally placed him up against gods on multiple occasions... and he triumphed. So to have the new Kirk hand most of the plotting duties over to Spock was a bit disappointing... and I was afraid that it would only get worse in the sequel.
It didn't, I'm glad to say.
The main theme of this Star Trek movie is unpredictability
. In most Star Trek movies - hell, most movies
- the captain has a job to do, and the course of action is pretty clear. But in this one, you're walking with Kirk as his crew and commanders disagree with each other, and most of them seem to have pretty good points. As the Captain, it's his job to make the calls... but it's pretty hard to second-guess Kirk's actions when you're not sure what the right call is.
And Kirk is still green; talented, but green. (Okay, this is Star Trek, so I must clarify: not literally
green.) He makes mistakes, and then - to his credit - backtracks. This is a Kirk who is still very much learning what it means to be a Kirk, and to see a man flip-flopping as new data comes into play warms my Democratic little heart.
But still: uncertainty
. There's a lot of sections that leave you feeling off-kilter, as in, "Are they really going to do this?" and that only gets worse if you know the old canon.
And now, I must venture not Into Darkness, but into spoilers - for like Iron Man 3, the less you know about the film the more you'll appreciate it.( Can you believe that Scotty was a Cylon? Who saw that coming?!?!?Collapse )
In the end, this Star Trek is... not that Star Trekky. The old Star Trek wrestled mightily with matters of theme and morality: the reason Star Trek II was so popular was because it asked, "What happens when you can't win the Kobayashi Maru? What happens when you're old?" This new Star Trek asks, "What happens when a violent terrorist - oh, wait, PLOT TWIST! Oh, look at that! Boom! Cool! And... hey, duty, isn't it great?" It just moves too fast to really actually ask or answer any questions. It is, like The Avengers, utilizing clever one-liners in lieu of actual characterization, which is witty and fun and does not lend itself to anything more than cartoon characters.
Which isn't a big ding. I mean, it's a big-ass summer movie. But the Star Trek concept has been watered down to fit in our popcorn, and it's satisfying enough. This may actually be a better thing on the whole, as the failure mode of Star Trek is BLAH BLAH MORALITY, and when Star Trek fails it becomes sludgy and preachy. This new Star Trek may fail at some point, at which point it'll basically degrade to Transformers... which, from a Hollywood perspective, is actually preferable.
(Fun Fact: Damon Lindehoff actually wanted to call it Star Trek: Transformers 4, which as he noted "Was technically available." He was joking, but I think there's more than a little acknowledgement that this new Star Trek is intended to be a blockbuster first, Star Trek second.)
I'm not saying that Into Darkness is bad. It's a notch below Iron Man 3, which I loved. It's a fun movie, and I'd encourage you to go see it. If you're a Star Trek fan, well, it's Star Trek Lite, and that's still a big hoopla, and they even throw in old references to make it work.
In short: it works. You'll probably be happy if you go see it. Benedict Cumberbatch is very Benedict Cumberbatchy, and Chris Pine does an excellent job channeling Kirk. And there's no need to stay through the credits, as there is no Shwarma.
This is all you need to know. Now go buy your tickets.
theferrett @ : Hear My Ad-Faerie Story “Dead Merchandise” At Escape Pod!
I fricking love getting my stories read at Escape Pod – the narrators there are so good, the forums so full of awesome feedback, and there’s just something beautiful about hearing words I wrote become part of an old-time radio show. So my singularity-as-horror tale “Dead Merchandise” is up – and the people at Escape Pod seem to be digging it, thus far.
In case you need a sample, it follows:
The ad-faeries danced around Sheryl, flickering cartoon holograms with fluoride-white smiles. They told her the gasoline that sloshed in the red plastic canister she held was high-octane, perfect for any vehicle, did she want to go for a drive?
She did not. That gasoline was for burning. Sheryl patted her pockets to make sure the matches were still there and kept moving forward, blinking away the videostreams. Her legs ached.
She squinted past a flurry of hair-coloring ads (“Sheryl, wash your gray away today!”), scanning the neon roads to find the breast-shaped marble dome of River Edge’s central collation unit. River’s Edge had been a sleepy Midwestern town when she was a girl, a place just big enough for a diner and a department store. Now River’s Edge had been given a mall-over like every other town — every wall lit up with billboards, colorful buildings topped with projectors to burn logos into the clouds. She was grateful for the dark patches that marked where garish shop-fronts had been bombed into ash-streaked metal tangles.
The smoke gave her hope. Others were trying to bring it all down — and if they were succeeding, maybe no one was left to stop her.
Anyway, you can listen to it here. It’s about thirty-five minutes. And another great production, but I’d expect no less from the ‘Pods.
Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.
This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/302367.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.
16th May 2013
merle_ @ : Sad news: merle_ has passed away.
[not merle_ posting]merle_
passed away. He was found by the police on Monday May 13, 2013 after his wife called to say he was missing. He died at home, in his new apartment, apparently while sleeping peacefully.
He was 41 and is survived by his wife who loved him and many friends who are mourning his loss.
There is a memorial planned in Walnut Creek, CA on Saturday May 25, though some details are still being arranged.
kensan_oni @ :
Where the heck is my energy?
fub @ : Finally a comment on a pin
During lunch, finally someone commented on my pin. "Hey, is that a little devil?"
It turns out that the red Tokugawa pin had been noticed, but it looks kinda 'official' so everyone ignored it politely...
I wonder what they will make of thr pin I'll wear tomorrow!
theferrett @ : A Strange Gift, To Be Given
Sometimes, you get a rare gift, but don’t recognize it for what it is.
Kitchen Nightmares is a show that specializes in dysfunction. The pattern is standard: world-renowned chef Gordon Ramsay shows up to a failing restaurant, meets some owners who are in deep denial about some aspect of their business (usually the terribly food), and yells and cajoles them until they come around. (Most of the restaurants fail within three years after Gordon’s makeovers – but then again most restaurants period close within three years, and all of these guys would have been out of business within months without Gordon’s help, so I generally consider Gordon to be a good bet.)
Now, nobody cares about the food in the American Kitchen Nightmares – it’s all about the crazy people. The owners are each uniquely bollixed – overly-proud, self-taught chefs insisting that the customers love their octopus slides, sad sacks who’ve given up after discovering that the restaurant life isn’t the easy money they thought it was, chefs claiming that pub food is Steak Wellington and wondering why their customers keep asking for burgers. The array of people in denial on Kitchen Nightmares is a fascinating microcosm in all the ways that a personality can kill a business.
But this week? They found the mother lode.
Amy’s Baking Company Bakery, Boutique, and Bistro – yes, it has all those names – had one of the most magnificent Facebook meltdowns ever after appearing on Kitchen Nightmares, and being the only business ever who Gordon Ramsay – one of the most stubborn personalities on television – actually walked away from because he couldn’t get through to them.
Amy and Samy, the owners, greeting Chef Ramsay by imploring him to help them against the “lying bloggers” who were spreading bad reviews about their restaurant. The problem was not their food – it was that they didn’t have someone like Gordon Ramsay to vouch for them. And they routinely yelled at customers, telling people who complained to fuck off, we don’t want your business, a fact both shown on television and in their customer’s reviews. They’d literally scream at someone loud enough that everyone in the joint would turn to find them.
The problem was that their “real customers” loved their food. Anyone who complained was not a “real customer.” And they both became frenzied, like snapping chihuahuas, because how could so many people misunderstand them? If they just got the word out past these local yokels, got real chefs on their side, then the world would understand. The problem was not that they were being irrational, it was that they weren’t reaching the right people.
Which is a common dysfunction. You know, if the world could see what we did, people would agree with us! The problem is you!
And hence, Amy and Samy got a very rare gift: the world saw what they did.
Hundreds of thousands of people saw them act up on Kitchen Nightmares – where, yes, it’s a show that emphasizes conflict, but at the very least they still willingly hounded customers out to the street on camera – and then watched them argue on the Internet. And in fact, pretty much nobody agreed with them. We all thought that Samy and Amy were awful people for withholding tips from their waitresses, for firing a hundred people over the course of a year, for being brittle and awful human beings.
How many people get that opportunity, really? To have their reality tested so thoroughly? Sure, you can say that folks would agree with you if they only knew the truth, but how often does that happen? They have empirical evidence now that what they’re doing is childish, alienating, and unlikable!
Of course, that opportunity doesn’t actually work. They’ll find more excuses. That’s largely what humans are: excuse-hunting machines.
But honestly, it’s a strange and beautiful test of their delusions: they got exactly what they wanted. And now they’ll manufacture reasons why it wasn’t exactly what you wanted, if things had just gone a little different then Samy and Amy would be drowning in flowers and sympathy. They’ll show they have a truly world-class psychosis, one that can withstand all of America scorning them.
I feel a little sorry for them, as I do anyone who attracts the ire of the Internet. But in this case? It’s also a fascinating look at how darned intense denial can get.
Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.
This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/302091.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.
siderea @ : [lj, admin] Odd LJ Issues
I use reading filters heavily on LJ, and one of them -- and only one, AFAIK -- is returning an Error 500.
So some of you, I can't read your posts. I have no idea why.
15th May 2013
cellio @ : Shavuot morning: not what I expected
For the festivals my congregation does combined services with another congregation and today was their turn to host. I didn't want to walk that far (especially since the combined services are still, um, struggling to find their stride), so I had planned to go to either Young People's (been there before) or Beth Shalom (haven't
been there before for a morning service, so new experience). But on Tuesday I learned that the wife of my "mentor" in the weekday morning minyan had died, and I hadn't found out in time to go to the funeral, and a festival ends shiva (the mourning period during which the minyan goes to the mourner's house for extra support), so I decided at the last minute to go to their service today so I could at least express my condolences to him in person.
I wasn't sure how many people to expect there, but I wasn't
expecting to hear, upon walking in (half an hour late, it turned out; I didn't know the start time), "now we can do Hallel". Yup, I was the tenth person there. (We got more over the course of the morning, maybe twenty total.) This is comparable to the weekday-morning turnout.
A few minutes later the rabbi told me he was giving me an aliya (one of the several torah blessings). A few minutes after that he came back and said "can you lead musaf?" I said I don't know musaf -- specifically, the middle part of the amidah that's specific to that service. (Reform doesn't do musaf.) He said no problem; we don't do a chazan's repetition, where the service leader chants the entire multi-page amidah by himself, preferably with nice melodies that I probably don't know. Instead, as with other instances of the amidah I've seen there, we would do everything together through the kedusha and then continue individually. That text is common, so I said sure, I can do that.
Boy am I glad I looked. A few minutes later I approached him and said "this text for kedusha -- it is not the text I'm used to and I don't know how to make it scan to any melody I know". (Well, I once sang one part of a choral setting of it, but...) He said no problem; we'll help you out. Feeling somewhat uncertain about the whole proposition, but noting that the whole service seemed to be lay-led by a variety of people, I figured that if he was ok with it, so was I.
So in the end I led part of the service, from the chatzi kaddish at the end of the torah service through musaf, Ein Keloheinu, and aleinu, with the torah reader propping me up during that kedusha, and it was fine. I hadn't expected
to do more than sit in the congregation. Neat.
This was, it turns out, the first time I've been to a Conservative festival service. (I've been to Conservative Rosh Hashana, once, but that's different. Also, it was a long time ago.) I've been to Orthodox
festival services, where all this content is standard too, but somehow they've never asked me to lead, so it hasn't come up. :-)
docbrite @ : Black Skulls & Roses Cross Necklace
NOLA Jewels Black Skulls & Roses Cross Necklace, $40.
Stone skulls, heirloom black glass beads and handmade glass lampwork beads embellished with tiny roses, ornate jeweled black cross.
16th May 2013
sly_girl @ : To hell with the Mercedes Benz
Oh Lord, won't you let it be the weekend.
I haven't been doing so well this week, what with one thing and another. The days are dragging and I am moping. It's only Thursday. It feels like Tuesday fortnight.
I think I have something or other booked on the weekend. Don't know if I want faces and music and jollity. I want pub and drinks and talking cod shit. I want news, good or bad - although bad is the only option. I want sleep and sunshine and escape and getting the hell away from my desk for days and days on end.
Current Mood: goddam shite
15th May 2013
fub @ : Second PIN day
Today was the second day I wore one of my pins to the client where I was on Monday. I'm sure they saw it, but no-one commented on it.
Tomorrow, we'll up the ante!
sly_girl @ : Vnnn
Godsdamn mothering frick I'm bored.
Admin isn't a job, it's a life sentence. I need to get the hell OUT. Because the problem with admin is every piece of professional development you get to do is essentially about How To Do The Job You're Already Doing. I'm not the greatest admin/PA in the world - for a start I don't have anything even approaching any respect for authority - but I'm bloody good at keeping an office oiled. The processes work, even when other people decide to stick their oar in and screw them up. The bills get paid, the useful files get filed, the fridge and stationery cupboard get stocked, the suppliers keep supplying. And it's fucking BORING. I don't want to learn how to resolve in-office issues, or to anticipate the CEO's wishes or to manage competing priorities. I want to learn how to get into one of those jobs where you don't have to do these things. Where people have a project and sit and work at that project, instead of being the one who makes sure there's a desk to sit at, a computer on the desk, electricity to power it and a cup of fucking coffee next to it.
Studying counselling, studying counselling, studying counselling.
Been studying counselling for years and getting nowhere. 'Coz it turns that studying casually while holding down a full-time job is hard
. And even if I do get qualifications, it'll be years before I can quit office work. I want the hell out! Let me learn some accounts, or project management, or anything
14th May 2013
fub @ : Kickstarter RPGs
I've backed two RPG projects on Kickstarter today.
One is OVA, the Anime Roleplaying Game
. It's been around for quite a few years, and this kickstarter will see a new and revised edition produced. Apparently nikogeyer
(who drew our wedding card, part of which is my default user pic on LJ!) is doing/updating the artwork, and it's going to be a full-color book. The reviews of the system are interesting.
The other is Golden Sky Stories
, by nekoewen
. I'd love to see more Japanese RPGs translated, and for $10 I'm getting a PDF of the game (along with the many, many stretch goal rewards) which I'll gladly bind into a handsome book. And this is an interesting one, where you play an animal spirit with magical powers that lives in a rural Japanese town.
theferrett @ : “Poor Brad” (or, Thoughts on Angelina Jolie’s Breasts)
In case you haven’t heard yet, after discovering she had a gene that made it 87% likely she would get breast cancer, Angelina Jolie had a preventative double-mastectomy. And I’ve been thinking about two words that have been enraging me:
See, because, Angelina Jolie’s tits were for Brad’s entertainment, and he had ownership of the best tits in the world, and now they’re gone. This is a loss to Brad, you see. As men, we should feel sympathy for him, as expressed in a very common comment left across many news sites.
At which point I try to imagine the pain of being so certain I had testicular cancer that I literally thought, “Well, it’s them or me.” I envision the anguish of wrestling with that decision to literally neuter myself, of thinking “What if I’m in that 13%? What if I don’t need to do this?” All of the medical issues, the pain, that fluttering of identity when a large part what you consider Your Body gets chopped off and you have to come to terms with the fact that maybe all of you could go away. The realization that my body would be altered in ways I might find aesthetically horrible. The knowledge that everyone would know about this once I blogged about it.
And then I imagine seeing that comment sprayed everwhere: “Poor Gini.”
Because, you know, I’d be less useful to her without balls. My whole goal in life is to satisfy her sexually, and if I fail at that, it’s a tragedy for my wife. In fact, her biggest concern would doubtlessly be my lack of balls, because I had one job, and now I couldn’t do that for her.
Everything I wanted? Fuck that. I’m a support role for my partner’s sexual needs. She’s the one grieving the loss, really.
…except people wouldn’t write that. I’m a guy. Oh, there’d be a lot of sympathy for the sex I couldn’t have, but the underlying premise is that as a male, my body serves my needs. If I want to wear a comfortable shirt that hides my pecs or makes my belly look big, then that’s my decision; I don’t have to deal with a societal pressure to display myself appropriately for the needs of others. If I have to change my body, then that’s what I need to do. I don’t have to consider, or sympathize with, the feelings of all the women fantasizing about me when I feel like doing what’s medically necessary.
I’m not an object for someone else’s pleasure.
Look, it’s well known that I like big breasts, and I literally cannot lie: I’ve never been shy about blogging my love of sex, or of porn. And on those occasions women have felt generous enough to allow me the usage of their breasts for my pleasure, it’s inevitably been a wondrous occasion.
Yet I never once thought the breasts were there for me. They were a part of my partner’s body, and she carried all of the downsides of having them – needing bras, enduring back pain, the difficulties while jogging. When some of my lovers opted for breast reduction surgery I was supportive, because they weren’t just a pair of tits to me – they were a human being, and an unhappy one. If reducing their breasts would make the rest of their lives better, then I wanted their lives better.
As Damien W. Grintalis said, “My guess is Brad would rather have her alive and breastless than possibly dead.” Because a real relationship is multilayered, complex, full of all sorts of supports that go beyond HI YOU ARE SEXY FUNTIEMS NAO. Gini and I had some difficulties getting back into the swing of sex after my triple-bypass, but I don’t think Gini once thought, “If he doesn’t get better in bed, I’m gonna have to leave him.”
Angelina Jolie was, and doubtlessly still is, a beautiful woman. But Brad Pitt had his choice of beautiful women, and as such I assume he picked Angelina for reasons that go far beyond prettiness. I hope he and Angelina are doing all right as they weather today’s storm of media coverage, bracing themselves for the first round of tabloid photos that are sure to arrive. It’s gotta be a tough day for both of them.
Poor Brad? Fuck that. Poor Brad and Angelina. And I hope, I hope, it gets better for the both of them.
Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.
This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/301949.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.
sly_girl @ : Top Tips
Are you a lonely spinster whose phone hardly ever rings? Well, there's an easy way to solve that! Just email your number to your mother who is caring for your father in his last days on earth and ask her to ring you if there's any news and bam! Every single person you've ever met will phone you constantly, making your heart leap into your mouth every time you hear it.
13th May 2013
fub @ : Pin
Today I went to a client that I have done quite a few things for. I have a really good (working-)relationship with my contact there, and we know quite a bit about each other's private lives. He had expressed interest in visiting Japan before, so when we went again, I asked him if he wanted to be on the mailing list for the travel reports. He did, so he got the mails every day.
I try to get a pin from every (remotely) touristy thing we visit, so they featured quite a lot in my reports. So today I wore my Lee Ufan pin on my lapel.
No-one saw it. Or, if they noticed, they didn't comment on it. True, the pin is
a bit understated. Let's see them ignore the 400th anniversairy pin for the Tokugawa Shrine on Wednesday, when I visit them again!
fub @ :
Happy birthday, isabelgou
theferrett @ : Mindful Practice For Writers: Five Tips To Get Your 10,000 Hours In
To master a skill, you must devote 10,000 hours to it – or so the theory goes. But that 10,000 hours must consist of mindful practice, or else every fryolater slapping burgers at McDonald’s would be a master chef. No, you have to concentrate purposefully on improving your skills, flexing different muscles to install new muscle memories.
So how do you practice mindfully as a writer?
Look, I believe in the 10,000 hours, because I’ve experienced both sides of it. I wrote fiction for twenty years and failed at it, sinking a lot of my time into writing but without making much headway. And then, after Clarion removed some much-needed blinders from me, I wrote purposefully and I started to sell lots of stories. So while every writer is different (the trick to “writer’s tips” is understanding that they’re all about unlocking your inner efficiency, and so you should ruthlessly discard whatever sounds silly to you), I think I can tell many writers how to get those 10,000 hours in so they work.
1) Write Short Stories, And Finish Them.
…at least for purposes of practicing. Novels are wonderful beasts, but they’re sprawling things with hundreds of moving parts – and it’s difficult to get friends to read your 120,000-word saga and offer useful advice. Whereas short stories can be finished in a week or two, they’re usually about simpler scenes, and it’s easy to get people to spend the forty minutes it’ll take to get through them: all things you’ll need. You can write fifteen short stories in the time it takes you to write a novel, and get better feedback as to how the internals of it worked (because with a short story, people are more thorough about critiquing).
Also obvious, but some people never get this: finish those stories. From a practice perspective, five half-written tales aren’t nearly as effective as one completed story. You learn the full arc of a tale when you complete them – and more importantly, you can go to Step #2:
2) Get Each Of Those Stories Critiqued By People Who Like What You’re Trying To Do.
Particularly when you’re in the early part of your journey, there’s going to be a gap between “What you intended to do” and “What you actually evoked in the reader.” For most people, it’s impossible to tell where those gaps are without actually bouncing them off of other readers, and getting their feedback.
You need good readers, though. Usually your Mom and your buddies are just happy to see you writing, and they aren’t overly critical in the way that they analyze it. You need people who are willing to tell you, kindly but firmly, that this story totally didn’t work for them – and then break down what, exactly, what in your prose stopped them from reading the story you wanted to write. (People who complain because you didn’t write the story they would have written? You can dispense with them post-haste. And you can’t rely on rejections, which are too often a mere “no” and hence offer nothing of use for you to go on.)
So find a good writers’ group (or just a group of writers) and have them break down your stories in depth. Otherwise, you’re like a pitcher who can’t see where your ball is landing. You need some feedback to work on your aim.
3) Focus On A Different Technique With Every New Short Story.
If you’re reading a lot of fiction – and you should – you’ll notice the strengths of other writers. As your crit group savages your tales, you’ll notice weaknesses in your own fiction. So to practice mindfully, write stories that focus exclusively on those techniques. Think, “I’m not very good at writing stories without action sequences,” and then set out to write an effective story with no explosions. Think “I usually white-room my stories, not putting much effort into setting,” and then write an evocative prose-piece that’s as much about the exotic bazaar it’s set in as it is about the people in it.
I can tell you what new technique I was trying to master in any story I’ve written. For example:
- “‘Run,’ Bakri Says” was me saying, “I don’t write action stories, so I should write a story that’s nothing but action from start to finish.”
- “Sauerkraut Station” was me saying, “I really liked the way Little House on the Prairie made a bunch of mundane activities like farming and house-building seem riveting. Can I write a story in space that does the same thing?”
- “A Window, Clear As A Mirror” was me saying, “I usually have at least a little plot planned out when I begin writing. What happens if I write a story with no ending point whatsoever, and just wander?”
- “My Father’s Wounds” was me, absolutely loving the way Steven Brust made magic seem mundane, and asking whether I could write a story that had totally human elements with a bit of magic in the way that he did.
- “Dead Merchandise” was me saying, “Wow, Cat Valente writes really dense prose that’s elaborately descriptive, and I’m so bare-bones. What happens when I write something really visual with poetic imagery?”
Now, if you read those stories, you may note that they might seem totally different from the intent I started out with. That’s what happens when you make a story your own: it drifts away from the original influences, and becomes this wonderful melding of new techniques and old strengths. (Or it turns out to be a glorious failure – I have a couple of stories dead at first draft that expanded my skills, but weren’t good stories on their own. That’s okay; the techniques I learned there came in handy in later stories.)
The point is, by experimenting with each of those stories, I practiced. Some of them sold, and got good reviews. Some of them got shelved. All of them sharpened bits that were previously dull. All of them made me a better writer – and quickly, because instead of spending months writing a novel that utilized some (or all) of these ideas, I wrote an easily-critted tale that could tell me whether I’d succeeded or failed.
4) Do Not Write Scratch Pads.
Note that the “test” stories I wrote above were all published: one was nominated for the Nebula, two got “Recommended” reviews from Locus, the toughest reviewers in sci-fi. That’s because even though I was trying new things, I still wrote these stories as though I intended to sell them.
Even if you’re doofing around with something that seems insanely out of your element, even if this seems absurdly stupid to try this crazy new technique, treat the tale as though you had a deadline and an interested editor. Approach every story you write as though this is the big one – because it might be. Who would have guessed that my 18,000-word Laura Ingalls Wilder rip-off would become my most beloved piece of fiction? Hell, I thought it was unpublishable.
5) Practice By Not Writing.
Some of the best mindful practice I got came from not writing, but analyzing. It’s a lot easier to see how fiction works when your own ego’s out of the way – and looking at how tales work (and, just as critically, how they don’t work) expands the brain. So a lot of your practice can, and should, be things like:
- Critiquing other people’s stories. (As a bonus, it helps you stay in that crit group.)
- Being a slush reader. (Breaking down out why six stories a day aren’t publishable makes you realize just how high the bar is in fiction.)
- Reading with intent, which is to say reading your favorite author to go, “Why do I like this so much? What really works here?”
You can’t write for four hours a day every day, but you can usually get a story read on a lunch break. That’ll nudge you closer to your 10k goal.
Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.
This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/301817.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.
12th May 2013
cellio @ : design failure
Dear First Data (online payment system):
If, on the first page of the transaction, you asked me for the credit-card type, and then on the second page you gave me a text-entry box for the card number that allowed enough characters for me to type the spaces between the groups of numbers on the card, do not get all snippy at me about "wrong format". First, you should have told
me "no spaces" up front; second, you shouldn't have let me type more than 16 characters there for my Visa card. You had enough information to present a correct-for-my-card-type input box and remove all doubt. It's not 1995 any more; we have web technologies that can handle this. Actually, given your multi-page setup, we could totally have done that in 1995 too. I think I did, actually.
Also, after clicking the "pay" button I should not be presented with a blank page that takes nearly two minutes
to show a receipt, leaving me wondering what happened. A simple "working, please wait" could do wonders.
I would be happy to refer you to someone who could fix your user-experience problems for a reasonable fee.
sly_girl @ : Nnngghhh
Dammit, I want a cigarette. Fortunately I don't have any around and no simple way of getting any. But I could really go sitting outside with a glass of wine and a cigarette and my reading right now. Part of it is to spend some time somewhere that isn't the couch. I haven't got out this weekend. I've chilled out and done a little housework but mainly I've spent two days in the same spot on the couch. Not so good, I know, but I needed the break.
I've smoked three times this year: new year's day, the day the last boss quit, a few weeks ago at a party. That's somewhere between just fine and too many.
I'm trying to do some reading for my course and having trouble concentrating. It's too comfortable and warm here, which is why I want to sit outside and smoke. I'm halfway through the introductory unit - again. I've completed this unit before then let everything lapse and they've changed the course. Don't want to do that again.
Work. Life. Home. Money. It doesn't change much.
jeffpalmatier @ : The future is now, I guess.
I was just look at various Gibson electric guitars with fitted with the automatic tuning technology. It used to be that if you were a guitarist who used various alternate tunings, you had to carry around a number of guitars already tuned to whatever turning you were using. Or even worse, there was how Nick Drake coped with this problem. Apparently he would tune his acoustic guitar to whatever tuning he needed between songs since he used a lot of tuning variations. So now if you want to rip into Rolling Stones song that Keith Richards used open G tuning on, you can tune your guitar in seconds. Pretty cool.
11th May 2013
siderea @ : [anthro, tech] Two Followups: Tumblr's Killer Feature & The Taxonomy of Posts
I mentioned on a previous post
about Tumblr that it had a killer feature, but didn't say what it was. I recently has occasion to actually get around to explaining it in a comment in someone else's journal, so I thought I'd repost it here for the curious.
From the OP: Some people do use Tumblr for writing thoughtful, blog-style essays, and apparently get some benefit from the fact that there are no comments and the only way people can respond to your stuff is by reblogging and adding their own commentary. I don't comprehend how that works, but it certainly exists. It may be because the negativity generated by the entire internet falling on your head when you post something controversial is far greater, for some people, than the positivity of getting lots of comments and feedback.
Tumblr's killer feature is its lack of comments.
So, it turns out that for most bloggers on most blogs, comments are the problem, not the reward. Moderating one's comment space turns the free and joyful sharing of squee into a grinding chore and a source of anxiety. It's not just responses to controversial topics. It's two socialpsych phenomena:
1) We experience negative stimuli more strongly than positive ones. One trollish comment -- heck, one slight -- can be more conditioning than 10 positive ones. If one out of every twenty comments is in any sense experienced negatively -- not just insults or argument, but also correction, mansplaining, spam, etc. -- and one gets on average 20 comments per post, I promise, one will come to associate clicking "post" with the thought "and now someone's going to say something unwelcome to me".
2) What possible responses to a post are there, if the post consists of sharing an image, sound, video, or text, simply because one likes it? The range of positive comments are forms of "I like this too". Meanwhile, the range of negative or aversive comments is potentially unlimited: "I don't like this." "You're wrong for liking it." "I am going to take this opportunity to explain what is wrong with you/what you said." "Would you like larger genitals?" etc. If all positive comments boil down to "+1", then reducing all feedback to either "+1" or NULL is a net win.
But the awful wrinkle is the social norm that says one is supposed to like comments, and that welcoming comments demonstrates an openness which all supposedly virtuous people are to aspire to. People actually get snitty on LJ (and presumably on DW) when someone posts with comments off.
Tumblr came in and -- quite deliberately! I'm not making this up, this was all their conscious design -- liberated users from the social expectation of allowing comments on their posts.
If you want free comment areas on your tumblr, you can turn on Disqus. But the default is no comments, except the equivalent of pingbacks: people can't write on your tumblr, they can only reblog your content to and comment about it on their tumblrs.
Tumblr exploded because getting comments had become the most aversive part of participating in social media for people whose primary mode was sharing things. Tumblr provides a (much closer to) stressless posting environment for sharing media.
I think the whole thing is brilliant, and I am in awe of the folks behind tumblr from a social engineering standpoint.
ETA: I keep having this conversation with therapists about blogging. They're all "BUT I HAVE TO HAVE COMMENTS ON MY BLOG" and I'm all "Do you realize you just signed up for a job full of drudgery that will make you hate blogging and possibly life itself?"
When I wrote The Seven Kinds of Journal Post Topic
I was asked what use the taxonomy had.
Turns out, different platform support different sorts of content topic differently well
From one angle, that doesn't sound so controversial. From another, it's huge.
I wrote in a comment at that post, in response to someone noting that on review of his own last 20 posts, he only used four of the types, "Yeah, part of what got me thinking about this is noticing how few categories most people seemed to use, and how characterizing
their choice was, of their journal. That's part of what fascinated me into the topic, so to speak."
This is something that came up back at techjob, in the discussions about the affordances of LMSs: developers are terrible at acting as if this were true.
I mean, sure, developers are vaguely aware that if they make it easy to upload video, people will upload video. But they have no awareness of "what sorts of topics are likely to be served by being able to upload video?" Or put another way, "if we want to attract certain types of topic
" (whether because we think we could totally monetize it or because we think it would be easier and cheaper than other sorts of discussion or any other reason) "what behaviors do we need to support?"
Following the above comment, I wrote to someone this reply on what is happening with the migrations to various platforms:
Different people want different things out of their social media experience, so we wind up with different social media. I'm minded of coin sorters, where you dump a sack of heterogeneous coins in the hopper at the top, and it uses a series of holes of different size to sort them into shoots. Do you remember my post proposing a taxonomy of posts? The people who went to tumblr are those who want primarily to make (or want a forum optimized for making) "What I found" posts. Turns out there are a lot of those folks, and they used to all be on LJ. Other people want social networking mostly to have a sense of presence from their network, and make brief "what I feel" and coordinative posts; so they go to FB. People who want to optimize for "what I think" post on blogs (WP, Blogger, etc). LJ and DW have historically been, overwhelmingly, about "what I did" and "what I feel" posts, and DW has gotten pretty serious about supporting "what I made" in the verbal arts (visual artists head over to Deviantart, Flickr, YouTube, etc.)
Both you and I make posts that expressly solicit participation, though we have different ways of doing that. You come to journaling for the conversation (among a number of things), so you (often) approach posting with an eye to eliciting discussion. I'm less into eliciting conversation precisely because of the drag of moderation; it might not be so bad, but that my non-virtual professional lifestyle makes it hard-to-impossible to keep up with the task of moderation. So, I engage in conversation in other people's journals where I don't have to moderate (QED :). While I love to know that people are reading and getting things out of my essays, I don't generally expect to get any comment on them which will be much of a contribution to me (though it does happen once in a while); what I do enjoy is getting assistance with questions and problems I have, so I post blegs, "what I want to know" posts, and those are the ones which get huge numbers of comments.
(I think it's lamentable more folks don't think to bleg. People love to be asked questions and for their opinions, and, well, my readership is amazingly smart, educated, informed, and interested. In my clinical life, people ask me all the time, "How do you know so much?" The answer is, "BECAUSE I ASK MY FRIENDS!")
siderea @ : [psych, anthro, soc, gaming, crim] Legendary Social Engineering
Thanks to alienor
for bringing this to my attention! The lead social systems designer for the
MOBA (h/t dianec42
) League of Legends, Jeffrey "Lyte" Lin, gave a talk at GDC13 about their research into modifying antisocial player behavior.
The talk is absolutely fascinating. Discusses a variety of experiments and interventions, including: default settings (a la Nudge), closing feedback loops, priming, and a social norms approach. Investigation into prevalence of antisocial behavior and locating the problems; a lot of attention to recidivism.
Highly recommended. You can watch it here: http://www.gdcvault.com/play/1017940/The-Science-Behind-Shaping-Player
theferrett @ : Why Calling Me “Cracker” Just Isn’t The Same.
A thought just a hair too long for Twitter:
A racial epithet only really works if it’s been used throughout your life to demonstrate how you’re second-class. And while I know there are terms like “cracker” and “ofay” that black people use to denigrate white people, as a white guy raised in largely white towns? I have no emotional connection to them. I’ve never had a black guy threatening to kick my cracker ass, nor have I had any girl call me some stupid ofay when she realized I was smarter than she was.
So I know what the intent is. But it just doesn’t hurt me, because, well, I’ve got this grand fucking life of privilege I’ve surfed on.
Which is why I try to eschew the N-word when I can, even in quoting its usage. It’s not just a word; it’s a hot button of bringing a tide of emotional reactions to the surface when I say it, because assholes who share my skin color have created an association between “white people saying that word” and “rubbing in just how insignificant all of your actions are and will ever be.”
Sure, the names exist. And I’m sure there’s a white guy somewhere in a black neighborhood who has those flush-faced reactions to “cracker,” because he was a minority in his neighborhood and pounded for it. But for most white people, the insult’s kind of like a, “Oh, you were trying to insult me? Why didn’t that hurt?”
Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.
This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/301424.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.
dryadgrl @ : Kiddo does not go on a date
Recently my son was feeling lonely (he's 15 now and in college part time so totally understandable). So we talked and I encouraged him to invite friends over. He asked one of his female classmates over and she said no because she'd just been through a bad break up. But he felt successful because he'd asked someone. (Great job!)
I looked at him and giggled. I couldn't help it. I nearly broke out in hysterical laughter. He of course asked me why and I said, "You do know she thinks you asked her on a date, don't you?"
He says, "Oh...." (Long pause.) (Longer pause.) "Huh?"
"Yeah, she thinks you want to go on a date with her."
"Weird." He says.
As much as I want and encourage my son to be sex and body positive some days having a late bloomer kid is more entertaining than internet cat videos.
siderea @ : [psych] Fwd: Diagnosing the Wrong Deficit
(I forget where I got this. Thanks!)
As many of you know, one of my clinical hobbyhorses is the role of sleep in mental health. This is a new one on me:
Many theories are thrown around to explain the rise in the diagnosis and treatment of A.D.H.D. in children and adults. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 11 percent of school-age children have now received a diagnosis of the condition. I dont doubt that many people do, in fact, have A.D.H.D.; I regularly diagnose and treat it in adults. But what if a substantial proportion of cases are really sleep disorders in disguise?
A number of studies have shown that a huge proportion of children with an A.D.H.D. diagnosis also have sleep-disordered breathing like apnea or snoring, restless leg syndrome or non-restorative sleep, in which delta sleep is frequently interrupted.
One study, published in 2004 in the journal Sleep, looked at 34 children with A.D.H.D. Every one of them showed a deficit of delta sleep, compared with only a handful of the 32 control subjects.
A 2006 study in the journal Pediatrics showed something similar, from the perspective of a surgery clinic. This study included 105 children between ages 5 and 12. Seventy-eight of them were scheduled to have their tonsils removed because they had problems breathing in their sleep, while 27 children scheduled for other operations served as a control group. Researchers measured the participants sleep patterns and tested for hyperactivity and inattentiveness, consistent with standard protocols for validating an A.D.H.D. diagnosis.
Of the 78 children getting the tonsillectomies, 28 percent were found to have A.D.H.D., compared with only 7 percent of the control group.
Even more stunning was what the studys authors found a year after the surgeries, when they followed up with the children. A full half of the original A.D.H.D. group who received tonsillectomies -- 11 of 22 children -- no longer met the criteria for the condition. In other words, what had appeared to be A.D.H.D. had been resolved by treating a sleeping problem.
Lots more. Read the rest at the NYT
10th May 2013
sly_girl @ : And in the crazy world of academia ...
Maybe the reason more men than women are in management roles is because they're better at the job.
Maybe. And maybe frickin' not. It's one of those arguments that's really difficult to counter. You know there's evidence out there somewhere
but you're not sure what it is. Well, I can't point to any but what I can
point to is evidence that the remuneration of CEOs (at the top end - earning greater than $1.5million) isn't related to their performance. It's related to how well they play golf
. The better the golf performance, the higher the salary. But there was no correlation between salary and performance. This is evidence that people aren't
selected based on their abilities, but instead on something entirely unrelated. Not specifically related to gender, but it does counter the idea that merit and only merit is the reason for the boys' club.
Current Mood: oo, political! and interesting