Irrationality: a double bladed trick of the mind

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Next week is Spring Break and all campuses are closed.  I’m posting next week’s blog early since I won’t have access to a computer until the following week.

I made the first step in restoring communications with some people I wish I’d never lost touch with. It’s a rare day these past few years that I didn’t think about them and the impact they had on my life. At first it was a case of not noticing how communication was slipping. Then I realized that at some point, I had not written or called for nearly a year. At that point, my irrational side made itself known. The internal conversation went something like this:

“I haven’t written in a while. I should probably do that.”

“It has been a long time. They’re probably angry. You don’t want to make them angrier, do you?”

“Are you saying that getting in touch with them will make them angrier than they were when I stopped communicating?”

“Yes.”

“………”

At this point paralysis and inertia kick in and communication continued to lapse. Ladies and gentlemen, my irrational side. (no applause necessary)

As time went on, I felt worse about it. Then I started building walls around that part and tried to ignore it. As it happened, my irrational side got me into this, an irrational event broke the barrier. I got a piece of spam from one of the people I’d lost contact with. Spam is everywhere, so why was this an irrational event? First, he never initiates contact. Getting email from him before I sent one first is an unimaginable event. Second, it was spam. More specifically, someone had hacked into his system and started using his email list to send links to spoofed websites. Despite the email being spam, my irrational side’s little brother started jumping up and down with joy. “He emailed me first!”

I didn’t know if anyone else had let him know, so I emailed him back to tell him his account had been hacked. Then, I added a brief here’s-what-I’m-currently-up-to message and sent it off. The next day, I get a response with no text in the body, but the subject read: thanks for keeping in touch. Irony or sincerity? With him it could be either. Time will tell.

Blogging Will Recommence!

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Now that school has started, I have consistent access to a computer and the internet. Blogging will recommence.

This semester looks a bit tough: lots of labs, research, etc. In an attempt to consolidate time and effort, I will probably use my “Maunderings” blog as a study session. Looking ahead at possible topic categories in physiology, exercise program design, exercise prescription, and fitness in general, plus my usual potpourri of topics.

Despite the challenging course I’ve plotted, I’m looking forward to the semester. My high school self would be shocked to hear me say this, but I really enjoy school. I love learning. I love making connections. It’s a wonderful world of mental Legos. I can build random constructs that look beautiful but fall apart at a tap. I can build strong frameworks on which I can base entire libraries of ideas. I can build modules that themselves become building blocks for other structures. It’s an infinite Louvre of possibilities, of art, of design, of growth, of hope.

Word Counts: The Ultimate Procrastination Tool

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Setting a word count goal is a massively useful tool for chronic procrastinators. I set a word count goal and immediately accomplished several chores I’ve been putting off. There’s just something about having a concrete measure that encourages me to say “I can make it up after I (fill in the blank) .”

The writing program “Scrivener” has a couple of ways of tracking your word count. So if the session goal isn’t enough for you to finish your chores, you can go back and check your entire manuscript word count for that extra boost you need to clean the cat box.

Not only do you gain the benefit of having an extra-clean house, by setting a word count goal, you finally have proof that your inner negativity can point to to justify all your “I suck at the writing” urges. Why is this good? I’ll tell you. It allows you to later rebel against THE MAN by spending time creating bad writing.

Imagine! Just one tool can give you an extra-clean house, a way to satisfy those masochistic “I suck” urges, AND stick it to THE MAN. How cool is that?

All joking aside, though. Having a word count goal is an excellent way to concretely measure your productivity. It’s a great way to counter the “you can’t measure creativity” arguments. Aside from that, there’s always something satisfying about crossing a finish line. The Tour-de-France is not raced all at once, it’s a series of successive races. Writing a book, whether fiction or non-fiction, is much the same. It’s not written all at one sitting; it is written in a series of sessions.

Even if you consistently fail to meet your word count goal, just having it means you have something to reach for. Just as with weight lifting, you keep trying, building strength in increasing weights until you can lift your goal consistently. Consistently is the key, not ease of doing it. Once you have consistent success, then you increase your word count goal per session.

I have my word count goal as 2,000 words per day. Lately, I’ve barely been able to get 1,000. But I know there are times when those 1,000 words are all that’s necessary to say what needs to be said.

(BTW: The word count for this blog, including this message is: 385)

Vahlencei Origins Pt. 1

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I’m really excited about this new book I’m working on. I already have a decent beginning and a really poignant ending. I definitely think this book is better than my first…and I haven’t even finished it. Since I can’t put anything on the blog that’s actually part of the book, here’s some background stuff I wrote to justify what I’ve done to vampire mythology (i.e. completely re-wrote it).

—-

God, Allah, Chronos, Vishnu—whatever the name used, it always refers to The Origin. That is what we, the Valencei, know Him as. At the risk of sounding elitist, it must be realized that we were created directly by The Origin. Life on Earth propagates itself, and everything living today is hundreds, thousands, millions, billions of generations descended from those initially created, depending on the species. Through the generations, life on Earth became more abundant.

But this Earth is not the first created by The Origin—only the most recent. At first, The Origin put limits on life. Earth was simply a project The Origin worked on as he took time off from more cosmic duties. As time went by, however, it became apparent that life had stagnated. With the limits in place, The Origin realized an artificial environment had been created. An entire world had become, in essence, a zoo. Its inhabitants were safe. No disease thinned the populations; no mating increased the populations. Nothing died to violence or age. What had started as a project to amuse and be enjoyed had become static and dull.

The Origin could not simply remove the limits. Nothing had been created with the ability to cope with life in its raw form. Reluctantly, The Origin decided the world had to be abandoned. Yet annihilation was not truly in The Origin’s nature, so the world was renamed Oedain, and left in place as a lesson in the dangers of a world whose only flaw was perfection.

The new Earth was created using the framework of Oedain; however, when it came to the creation of life, The Origin paused. Oedain had failed due to the simplicity of its inhabitants, and the system in which they lived. Yet introducing randomness would cause increasing complexity, and that complexity would inevitably lead to self-destruction.

All-knowing though The Origin might be, yet His view is too large. The big picture and the entire sweep of time was available to Him. Yet the fine details of maintaining a balanced system of extreme complexity eluded Him. He realized his view was too large, so he created beings of thought and energy. These, He called ‘angels’, and into each angel He put a piece of himself, duplicated from the original. In the spiritual plane of existence, and only on the spiritual plane, these angels had corporeal bodies.

Once the Host of angels had been completed, The Origin instructed them to discuss and investigate all the details He could not see. In the course of their discussion, the Host split. In one faction, the angels believed that all living beings should have absolute free will. The angels in the other faction believed all living beings should be guided individually.

The first faction, the Angels of Free Will, proposed that only creatures with the freedom to make mistakes and learn from them could create and maintain a system as complicated as Earth. Only the adaptability learned from generations of mistakes and corrections, they believed, would allow the creatures to overcome the inevitable complications that would arise as time progressed.

The Angels of Guidance, as the members of the second faction were called, suggested divine guidance was necessary to overcome difficulties. Such guidance was required because onlyThe Origin could see the vast sweep of time and progress. As such, only The Origin could choose the correct path.

(to be continued…)

Cat Wars: The Beast Pt. 2

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The Mighty Huntress sprawled in the center of her Home Territory. The enemy hadn’t come sniffing at the crack under the Great Barrier in a while. All was well with the world. If she was lucky, Two-Legged Alpha would bring a sample of the extra-tasty treats he occasionally found–or caught, she could never figure out which.

In the midst of this very pleasing contemplation, the Great Barrier opened–and stayed open! It wasn’t yet prowl time, and this development confused and worried her. She jumped to the top of Soft Plateau and asked for reassurance. Two-Legged Alpha rubbed his fore-paw over her, but the distracted feel to his touch failed to entirely comfort.

After only a couple of strokes, Two-Legged Alpha rummaged around on the floor, clearing out a lot of clear space. The Mighty Huntress was slightly reassured. He’d done this periodically. It wouldn’t take long, and peace was quickly restored. But not this time.

Two-Legged Alpha rummaged around on the Tiny Plain outside the Great Barrier. Taht was odd. The only times he’d done that, he’d awakend….

VROOOM!

The Beast was invading!

As the Beast crossed into her territory, the Mighty Huntress vanished and reappeared in the caves under Soft Plateau. Onward came the Beast! But Two-Legged Alpha was stalking it. He’d managed to grab it!

It was a mighty struggle. Back and forth they surged, covering the entire cleared space. Finally Two-Legged Alpha managed to rake it with a hind claw and the Beast went silent. Two-Legged Alpha dragged the corpse back onto the Tiny Plain.

A significant clearing of space had occurred, and not just in the center of the room. Two-Legged Alpha paused to look at the hard outcropping next to one end of Soft Plateau. To her shock, Two-Legged Alpha picked up the outcropping! He not only picked it up, he moved it to the other end of Soft Plateau and placed in line with Soft Plateau’s length. Then he left, leaving the Great Barrier open.

The Mighty Huntress followed him out the door, but stopped at the top of the stairs and watched him turn the corner at the bottom. Then she went back to her Home Territory to investigate the changes in landscape. She sniffed the hole where the outcropping used to be, but could discover nothing.

Moments later she heard something outside the opened Great Barrier. A quick look over her shoulder showed the Mighty Huntress that Two-Legged Alpha was struggling with another outcropping! She returned to the caves under Soft Plateau. Two-Legged Alpha placed the new outcropping where the previous one used to be.

This new one was bigger, sturdier. It had more space and two levels of caves: one on the floor, one just under the top. Though the second level smelled strongly of The Mastermind. It definitely belonged to Two-Legged Alpha first and The Mastermind second. The Mighty Huntress would have to make do with the floor level. Nothing new with that. She settled in to make it her own.

ArmadilloCon

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ArmadilloCon is one of those conventions that seeps into your blood. It’s not a wild “PartyCon”, nor is it known for outstanding costumes. This is not to say there aren’t any parties, or there are no costumes. On the contrary, there are usually two or three public parties and several private ones. Likewise people do show up in costume. This year, the notable costumes were a Victorian woman (spoiled only by a modern stroller), and a steampunk warrior whose armor seemed to be made from a spray painted set of lacrosse pads. ArmadilloCon definitely falls into the category of “Relax-i-Con”.

Few parties, fewer costumes, and a very relaxed atmosphere; yet I find myself coming back year after year. It is a science fiction/fantasy convention, but unlike most such, the emphasis is on writing rather than visual media. The panels are intimate, and the great majority of panelists are easy to approach. As might be expected at a literature-based convention, there are plenty of readings by authors and book signings. There are also many panels on various aspects on the craft of writing. Some of the panels I attended I would consider my favorites from this year’s lineup include: “The Still Changing Definition of Urban Fantasy”, “Story Ideas I Hope to Never See Again”, “Stump the Panel”, and “Writing Erotic Fiction”.

I find it amusing, though not terribly surprising, that the “Writing Erotic Fiction” panel is always among the funniest, most productive, and most helpful in improving the craft of writing–even in other genres. Maybe it has to do with the types of personality that write such things. Maybe it’s that the panel is held late at night when inhibitions have dropped. Whatever the reason, at every convention I’ve attended that had such a panel, the erotic writing panel has always been among the best. I recommend going, even if you’re not interested in erotic writing per se.

In additionn to the panels, the attendees at ArmadilloCon are friendly and willing to talk about nearly anything. Making new friends is easy, even for rampant introverts. Even shy people might find it easier to approach people here. Ironically, despite me living locally, most of the friends I’ve made this year live a fair distance away–like Oklahoma.

The most memorable thing that happened to me at this year’s con was talking with Elizabeth Moon for half an hour. (Yes, that Elizabeth Moon.) We started off with shooting candy from her miniature replica crossbow and talked about stuff ranging from how she chooses her reading selections to autism to getting to wield the actual Lord of the Rings swords used on the set (i.e. not the backups).

The only thing I regret is the tendency of this Con to sneak up on me. Why do I regret it? There is a writing workshop I would love to participate in. Unfortunately, by the time I’m aware of the approaching Con, it’s long past the deadline for submitting to the workshop. I’d love to get feedback from published authors, editors, and agents.

If you want to attend a convention with wild costumes and wilder parties, go to DragonCon. If you want a relaxed atmosphere, or an introduction to genre literature, or you want to examine and improve your own writing, ArmadilloCon is truly an excellent convention.

Top Search

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I just want to thank all of you who made “creepy stalker”, and variations thereof, register on my top search list. For some reason I find this extremely amusing. It’s good to know that some of my more bizarre and ironic posts (or at least the titles) are being enjoyed by so many. Though I halfway expected “cat wars” to be a little more popular.

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