Posts Tagged ‘books’

I absolutely love the New Year; always have, always will.  If this didn’t happen, we’d be stuck in the same… (what?), forever.  Wouldn’t be a year, but the psychological ramifications of NOT measuring time on a cyclical basis would be uber-depressing.  Hey friends, happy new… nothing?  Day?  OK – I’ll take whatever I can get.  Happy Same Year, Happy Old Year, Happy Furthering of the Dredge and the Drudgery, with no good drunken blowouts to shake off the cobwebs and kick the minor negatives permanently into the past.  This is a powerful thing man, for me it is at least!

I always make resolutions, albeit lightheartedly.  I know this is not dead serious, and I enjoy thinking about a brand new slate.  But thankfully, we have no shortage of the cranky and cynical to keep us in line and remind us that “It’s just another day, sheeple – no different than yesterday or tomorrow”.  THANK YOU – because here was I, watching for unicorns and expecting the Rapture.  Sir Dickimus of Headicus, maybe you should go tell your 3-year-old now that Santa is bullshit and Grandma is “actually” decomposing in the mud!  Go have a beer and get o’er yersel, fer the sake of Auld Lang Syne.

2013 was momentous in many ways, and 2014 will be epic.  A Few Notables:

Both my beautiful and amazing kid sisters had babies.  The youngest sis has very severe diabetes, and was told by medics her whole life that this could never happen, her body couldn’t support a pregnancy.  Fuck you, doc – both are alive and well and as radiant as ever, and our clan is 2-stronger because of it.  Go Defiance!

554043_586423754736893_1503031208_n  Dylan Tigger

My Sis-in-Law DIDN’T get blown up in the Boston Marathon.  Then after she didn’t get blown up, she got married to a wonderful man and they built a gorgeous new house to start their life together.

My Uncle-in-Law (who ALSO didn’t get blown up) turned 70, and we partied like Hobbitses into the small hours of the summer.

We met a few new friends, musicians  & art afficionados, and bade adieu to a few more moving on to new adventures and pastures.  Those friends that moved on, we sent them off like Vikings, and feasted like Klingons in their honor.  Very memorable days.

I began working on the writing for a SICK jazz album, and have never been happier with the sounds coming out of my guitar. On top of my game indeed, and loving it up Big Willy Style.

Apologies to the notables I have missed – this bears no reflection on your noteworthiness.  Oh, and I didn’t die.

And for 2014?

Planning a trip to England to see the fam, and meet the clan members born since my departure.

I have 2 big anniversaries late in 2014:  10 years living in the USA, and 10 years married to the most amazing woman I have ever had the privilege of knowing.  AJ, I love you soooooooo much, you make me want to retire early, so I can just hang out with you all day every day.  Screw you, proponents of marital combat – try wedding your best friend in the world, and then you’ll see that men and women aren’t enemies.

Happy New Year!!!

Dylan and Dad

I try my hardest never to judge anyone for anything, but in one specific area I sometimes fail:  I can’t stand half-arsed attempts at anything.  I just can’t bring myself to read crap writing, listen to crap music, or summon anything but indifference towards crap art, and it bugs me that people release things before they are ready for release.  If you’re going to do something, then you have to do it to the absolute best of your ability, otherwise why bother?  Why would I write, unless I can learn to do it in a way that makes my soul bleed and my heart explode?  Why create music that wouldn’t even stir a cup of coffee?  That’s not to say don’t go for it – actually, I’m saying the opposite.  If you’re going to create anything, then do it as though it were the most important thing in your life, because really it is, or should be.  Strive to change the world, or get the hell off my planet.  Nobody is born good at stuff – this takes tears and frustration and dragging your self-esteem through the shitter.  But if you want it, then how else can you get it but to challenge yourself to be better, with every note or sentence or brush stroke you put down?  And if you find yourself dissatisfied with something you’ve done, then go back to it.  Stay up all night with it.  Take it to the basement, and fight to the death until it’s either excellent / great / powerful, or ditch it entirely and keep on trucking.  You can’t ever, ever let the product dictate your limitations – it’s the other way around, and with that mindset, you really don’t have any limits.  This is key.

A plain fact is that writers have to research – we’re all very familiar with that.  I couldn’t write cold about an FBI agent or a safari guide, because I don’t know anything about being either.  If I wanted to attempt that, then I’d need to do a whole lot of learning before I began.  So that being said, something I see over and over in fiction writing is when people use the musical term “octave” incorrectly, and it goes up my arse.

Two people are engaged in adult playtime, and when a particularly stimulating thing just happened, “their voice went up an octave”.  NO IT DIDN’T!!!  They’d sound like Mickey Mouse!  An octave is the same note, raised to the next stave in the musical spectrum; that would sound ridiculous in this context, and send the love interest into fits of laughter or fear!  I’m sure it went up in pitch, maybe even volume (decibels), had a tremolo effect in there, the intonation changed, but if I was ever playing round with someone whose voice went up eight whole notes for any reason, I’d either call a doctor, an exorcist or Simon Cowell.  An octave is a very precise measure, so it would sound perfectly harmoniously musical – they would literally be singing.

To that same note – pun intended – look at the roots of words, and use them accordingly.  Octave – eight notes.  Octopus – eight tentacles.  Octet – eight people.  Octagon – eight sides.  Octapeptide – a protein fragment comprised of eight amino acids linked in a polypeptide sequence.  (OK – that last one I didn’t know without referring to my old beloved Merriam Webster).  Octogenarian, an eighty year old, octcetera octcetera octcetera.

I don’t really care what anyone writes – it is certainly none of my business.  But from a reader’s perspective, these small transgressions can have massive ramifications in how you are perceived as an author.  If you choose to write, then words are your notes, and using the wrong one is akin to Beethoven hitting a bum chord halfway through Moonlight Sonata.  One second you’re half asleep floating on a raft at midnight, and the next you’re arse-deep in cold water, thrown out and coughing up seaweed.  Words are critically important, especially if words and language are your business, and you’re asking other people to give you money in exchange for those sentences.  The worst response you can get to any creative endeavor is apathy.  It’s hard enough to shine in this overcrowded world, without giving the world a perfectly valid reason to bury you in obscurity.

I have two distinct opinions about Dan Brown’s work:

A)    I love it, because he writes about very important things.  (Such as, why women are ostracized, feared, despised and denied rights within the “holiest” institution in the world.)

B)     I hate it, because Dan Brown talks to me like I’m STUPID, and he writes like all his characters are stupid too.  Dan Brown makes a point, or a joke, or has an observation, but then beats you over the head with it for the next three pages, just in case you missed that really, really clever thing he said.  Via the platform of his writing, Dan Brown is a condescending, patronizing bastard.   This can only lead me to conclude that Dan Brown doesn’t have a very flattering opinion of other people’s intelligence.  He assumes people (other than himself) are stupid, and so he talks to us like this is a foregone conclusion.  I find this very ill-mannered, and it makes me want to abuse him.  He has never met me, and yet he is talking to me like I’m dumb.  He is explaining things to me like I am a child.  Why would he do such a thing?

For example, in The DaVinci Code, he spent four or five pages with Harvard’s top codebreaker Robert Langdon scratching his head, agonizing over what the Orb could be around Isaac Newton’s grave.  In Deception Point, he spent six pages with the world’s leading astrophysicist getting pissed off, because he couldn’t figure out why the world’s top oceanographer kept claiming we had our very own “low gravity environment RIGHT HERE ON EARTH.”  When Dan Superbrain Brown finally graced us with the revelation we predicted nine boring pages earlier, (ooh, the ocean is low-gravity, never saw THAT coming), he then spent another paragraph congratulating himself (via his characters shitty dialogue) on his own tricky brilliance.  “Woo, holy cow TOLLUND, you really fooled us there, if we were only one tenth as bright as you, our world would be a much better place.  Shit Rachel, could you imagine having a brain the size of his?”

In another DaVinci Code Freudian Slip, in order for Brown to explain his point to we the simpletons, (quote):  Most recently Langdon had shared the Mona Lisa’s secret with a rather unlikely group–a dozen inmates at the Essex County Penitentiary. Langdon’s jail seminar was part of a Harvard outreach program attempting to bring education into the prison system–Culture for Convicts, as Langdon’s colleagues liked to call it.

(To which I responded out loud, “Yeah – obviously, uneducated & uncultured folks were BORN in prison, and didn’t end up there because of their actions, you dumb fucking wannabe highbrow classist elitist asshole.”)

It is very unflattering when people assume you are unintelligent and/or uncultured, especially when you have never given them any reason to make that assumption.  And the consequences of this can be pretty sad at best.  When someone treats us like we are dumb, we often concede to this, & conduct ourselves in accordance with their sub-par expectations.  This is easier and more polite than to take umbrage and speak out; after all, their opinion of you doesn’t matter that much anyway, so why act like a dick and risk offending someone who just implicitly and accidentally offended you? It all seems pretty trivial and not worth it when you break it down to this level of detail.  So we let it go, and by proxy, accidentally confirm their idea that we are in fact as slack-jawed as they thought.  From that point forth, we dumb ourselves down, and our relationship & interactions with that person tend to be based on this incorrect assessment of our IQ.   Alternatively we refute the error, point out the flaw and get sucked into a fight which should be entirely beneath our dignity.

But if they had entered that conversation & relationship assuming you were highly intelligent, wouldn’t everything be better?  The conversations would be more meaningful, because they wouldn’t feel a need to explain what the big words meant.  The subject matter would be more involved, because we don’t tend to talk about engineering with 5-year-olds.  Two intelligent people bounce ideas back and forth, whereas in a conversation between a brainiac and a buffoon, the problem may not even be on the table – it is already assumed to exceed your level of cognition.  When Sergey Brin and Larry Page talk, Google happens.  But when Larry Page and his little daughter talk, Spaghetti-Os happen.

The moral of this story is:  Enter every conversation assuming the person to whom you are speaking is highly intelligent, enlightened & cultured. The worst thing that can happen is that they will prove you wrong.  But they will also appreciate that you didn’t talk down to them, and this may be the one deciding factor in whether they think you are either a decent person or a douchebag.   When unintelligent people believe you are a douche, they tend to share this analysis with others, and then it becomes an empirical fact, supported by anecdotal evidence, backed up by all those peons you talked down to over the last few years.

 

Assume the worst and you will get the worst.  Assume the best and you will get the best.

CC

Something I’ve been pondering lately is how our species love puzzles of all kinds, (from crosswords to Sudoku, Connect 4, jigsaws, chess, cryptograms, you name it.) But so many of the general populous of puzzle solvers are terrified or oblivious to the fact that learning to write computer programs comes from the exact same place & passion. If you hunger for mental challenges, putting pieces together, figuring your way through a maze or connecting dots for fun, then you could apply this pastime & hunger to something that will have so much leverage in your life, it’s phenomenal. Learning how computers work, and then how to expand this understanding to make them do more, was by far the most powerful thing I ever directed my hunger towards. I went from being terrified of touching Excel (because it did things I didn’t understand) to learning how to get under the hood, break down the walls and limits and make that one program do virtually whatever I wanted it to do. But getting there was just another puzzle and series of basic steps, to which I applied my crossword-brain.

I took some classes and have a ton of books about everything and anything; I learned several languages from C to php to VB to VBA to whatever. But to this day, the most important 2 things in my entire learning arsenal were:

1. A basic class on how computers work, which essentially said: “they are dumb”. They follow steps, and only when told to do so. They don’t make assumptions, and they need explicit instructions, or they can’t do anything.

2. A language-independent class on the fundamentals of programming. It taught me how to drop my assumptions, think in smaller and smaller terms about how things come to be, how to forget what I thought I knew, and then how to reconstruct my knowledge whilst paying attention to the things we tend to overlook, due to their simplicity. “Otto the Robot” was the most important puzzle I ever solved, and this was before I allowed myself to even consider what a development environment was.

When you make a program which automates and simplifies someone’s life, they look at you like you’re an alchemist. You just turned lead into gold, you just wove magic out of thin air. The inevitable next question is: “How can I learn to do THAT?”

The unfortunate answer is, “by becoming obsessed, dedicated, single-minded and applying hundreds and thousands of hours into wanting to do it, never accepting no for an answer, never accepting that something is beyond you, and by so much patience and self-forgiveness that nothing will beat you into submission, no matter how hard it tries.” (We make it look easy so folks often assume it is.)

For the first time in my life, my twisted obsessive personality worked in my favor, because I HATE not knowing things, I hate when something won’t work when it should, and I especially can’t accept this when I know that every single thing is made of a system of steps and checks.

Bottom line: If you like puzzles, then learn how computers work, and apply that passion towards making the world a better and more efficient place. Contrary to popular belief, there is no magic involved.

CC

George Orwell is (was) a freaking genius.  I had a hard time continuing through to the end, because the main character Gordon Comstock is SUCH a despicably infuriating idiot.  Using reverse psych to make several critical social statements, Orwell managed to cover not only our enslavement to the green god of money, but more importantly, the ridiculousness of Sexism and gender discrimination.  Unfortunately, he had to do it in a way that made me so crazy, angry and pained, he almost lost me.  Absolute genius. I wish I could force certain ignorant people to read this, and then reflect on how dumb the idea is that men and women have different brains due to their gender.  It is going to take quite a long time for me to shake this one off, and I now need to take a shower after reading it.  This is the original Fight Club.