Randomness for 6/21

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1) An end to showering Apparently, the problem with smelly guys at cons is not that they don’t shower enough. It’s that they shower at all.

2) Drug or Tolkien elf? A quiz. I scored 23 out of 30, which is better than I expected.

3) 17 completed webcomics you can read from beginning to end.

4) AMC threatens to sue fansite over posted spoilers.

5) The defeat of the Confederacy should be a national holiday.

6) Funeral business dissolves the dead, pours them into town sewers.

7) The second-most-useful site on the internet.

Repeal The Second Amendment

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A few days ago, I tweeted this:

Followed by:

Note: repealing the second amendment doesn’t necessarily mean confiscating everyone’s guns. Other nations have guns in private hands without having an undeniable right to them. The only effect of the second amendment, as least as the most recent Supreme Court decision would have it, is to prevent us from regulating them. As the last few years have proven, regulation is desperately needed. If the second amendment is in the way of that, it needs to go.

I also tweeted out this:

Because I keep seeing people get caught up in counterproductive arguements. WHAT ABOUT THE TERRORIST WATCH LIST or BAN [SPECIFIC GUN] are easy to type on the internet, but it’s a bullshit way to conduct public pressure for legislative change. The Terrorist Watch List should be no one’s go-to policy choice, at least until the government is willing to be clear about how people get on it, and until they work out a system that will let people get their names taken off.

And arguing about this or that specific gun/type of gun is a mug’s game. People who oppose gun control love this argument, because it becomes all about semantics and petty details. What counts as an “assault” rifle? What about this or that type of gun? And then, every tiny error about terminology or technical specs becomes evidence that no one but the most avid gun fans can’t be trusted to speak knowledgeably about gun control.

Frankly, we already have the evidence we need to show that lots of guns lead to lots of tragic death–all we have to do is look at the rest of the world–but turning the CDC loose on the problem seems to be a necessary prerequisite to getting sensible legislation.

It’s time.

Randomness for 6/14

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1) This is strangely affecting.

2) Should you fuck this rock? Science says no.

3) Cinema audiences reproducibly vary the chemical composition of air during films, by broadcasting scene specific emissions on breath. Another reason for social animals to see movies in a crowded theater.

4) The Trailers for Ghostbusters (2016) and the Art of Editing Comedy by the creator of Every Frame a Painting.

5) The 35-Year-Long Hunt to Find a Fantasy Author’s Hidden Treasure.

6) Traffic-weary homeowners and Waze are at war, again. Guess who’s winning? Filed under: The Future Is Stranger Than We Expected

7) An amazing infographic.

Randomness for 3/28

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1) The weird physiological trait that suggests a young person is prone to violence.

2) The influential and well-established psychological theory of Ego Depletion may be bunk, and scientists should be worried.

3) Volleyball or fire extinguisher?

4) An oral history of the Justice League.

5) Classical art, now available gluten-free.

6) How Alfred Hitchcock blocks a scene. Video. I’m really loving this genre of short documentaries about filmmaking techniques.

7) “The Worst Game I’ve Every Played.” Video. Bought off of Steam, this game is amazingly shoddy work.

Randomness for 2/20

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1) The Author Who Cyberstalked Me.

2) “Trust me. I’m an engineer.” Video.

3) You have already missed your chance to enter the first beauty contest judged by robots.

4) A small 2009 car demolishes a 1959 Chevy. Oh, what 50 years of safety regulation can do!

5) Surprising applications of the Magnus Effect. Video. This is cool.

6) Highway font Clearview being ditched in favor of older Highway Gothic.

7) Welcome to the future: Hackers hijack CA hospital computers and demand $3.6 million ransom to release them.

Authorial Self Sabotage: first in an informal series

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The common wisdom is: if you publish in the genre, go to conventions. Here:

Now, to clarify (because this has bitten me in the ass before) I’m quoting Kameron Hurley to talk about her assertion, not to blindly agree with it.

I’m going to relink the article she’s linking above because it’s worth reading, and I’m going to quote it, too.

Check this part out:

Here’s another wrinkle: at least in SFF writerdom, there is really no meaningful distinction between friends and colleagues. Which, sure, is true of a lot of fields. But these relationships are particularly close, and the professional utility of these friendships can be very high. There are costs to missing out, to not being at the right place at the right time to meet the right person. Missed connections are a real thing. Because here’s another wrinkle: it’s not just about being talented. It’s about being noticed.

Which calls back to some other, previous posts of mine about luck. (Don’t roll your eyes, people, I’m going to be brief this time.) If you maximize your interactions with other people and with new experiences, and you remain open to new opportunities, you increase your chances of a “lucky” break. That’s why people who say you can’t control luck are wrong. You can’t control luck in any specific situation, but you can increase the chances that something lucky will happen over the long term.

Therefore: conventions, where you meet colleagues who become friends. The benefits of that are unpredictable but they’re there. The costs are there, too.

See this post by Chuck Wendig listing the upside and downside of attending. As Chuck says, the point is to meet people you like and be liked in return. It’s a professional opportunity to make pals, not to cynically acquire names and resumes who will give your career a lift. Chuck also makes an extensive list of the downsides, one of which is cost. Marko Kloos broke down the cost of attending Confusion, an event he really enjoyed and which is apparently the cool new thing.

Clearly, $1,888 isn’t chump change, and it’s clear that no one is going to make back that money on the weekend itself. The money I just paid to Bookbub was not tiny, but the extra sales more than made up for the cost. But that’s short-term thinking. That almost-nineteen hundred dollar ConFusion expenditure will pay off, if it pays off at all, in the long-term benefits that come from the friendships formed at the event.

For example: we’ve all seen writers pushing their books on social media, and most of us know that, while it works once in a while, it’s not an effective way to sell. You reach your core followers, they buy the book, and the positive effects of future promotion nosedives.

But being promoted by other writers to their followers, with a personal recommendation? That’s gold. Meeting an editor who remembers you as smart, funny, and sensible the next time your agent submits your work? Making a good impression on a handful of fans who decide to try your books, then love them so much that they evangelize for them? Also gold.

And it can’t be predicted or forced. It’s like the old saying: “If you want to find someone to love, be someone worth loving.” Authors just have to go, spend the money, the energy, and the time, and hope good comes of it.

For those who have found benefit that way, great. I’m glad Kameron Hurley’s career is doing well and I hope she becomes a best-seller (or whatever her goal is). But it’s important to be wary of Survivor Bias. My own experience at big meetups is not all that positive. Usually I leave feeling that I should have spent that time writing.

And then there’s this:

No conventions. Hear that? They don't attend many conventions

Excerpt from ‘The Career Novelist’ by Donald Maass

That advice is more than 20 years old and it’s the exact opposite of what authors are told now. Conventions may have been around for a long time, but could things have changed so much?

I’m open to the possibility that social media magnifies the effects of creating a F2F friendship with your colleagues; it’s possible that folks who witness fun and funny online exchanges between pros would be willing to sample the work of a whole clique. I also suspect that’s where “cool kids” rhetoric comes from (as in “I’ll never be one of the cool kids”). In social media, casual expressions of camaraderie are a public act and it’s easy to feel excluded when it looks like everyone but you gets to take part in the fun (Not to mention getting the reviews, the blurbs, the nominations…)

Then again, what looks widespread and pervasive on social media is usually neither. The ongoing drama in one person’s circles goes completely unnoticed by the world at large. And those people that look like they’re among the “cool kids” are struggling with their books and their insecurities just like any other writer. The only difference is that their circle of friends has a high(ish) profile.

Still, the idea that long-lasting sales comes to those who don’t waste time on the social stuff is very very tempting.

Back and forth. Back and forth. Is it worth the time and money? How many cons does it take to start making friends? Is it even worth it for me, a guy who hates to be jostled, who can’t hear in noisy environments, and is terrible at recognizing faces? (also names?)

Maybe it would be worth it, but feh. I’m terrible at that stuff. We only get 52 weekends a year, and I don’t want to use one of mine on socializing when I could be working on a book.

I could be shooting myself in the foot with that decision, but it wouldn’t be the first time.

Our Immortality Lies In The Effect We Have On Others: RIP David Bowie

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I just recently wrote about fearing obscurity, but of course death is out there, too. Death is the end of all our contributions to the world. It’s the end of our opportunities to experience joy and delight, and to make an impact. It’s the end of us.

But we all get to have a kind of immortality, too. When any of us show kindness to someone else, we brighten their day. If we’re lucky, they feel happier than they did, and they get a chance to pass that kindness to someone else. In that way, a good deed can circle the world, just as long as recipients give away what they have received.

That’s our immortality, and it isn’t about us as individuals. The effects of our kindness can touch people who have never heard of us, and it can last long past the life span of those who knew our names or laughed at our jokes. It’s immortality as life force, the soul defined by the effect we have on others, and the way those effects ripple outward.

Maybe one particular good deed was prompted by a kindness someone else showed to us, which would mean that good deed sustains someone else’s immortality, mixing it with our own. Maybe the good deed is something we created ourselves, as an antidote for being mistreated. Either way, every kindness becomes part of the heaven that we ourselves create.

Because heaven isn’t a place we go at the end of things; it’s something we construct with our words and our deeds. It’s found inside generosity, joy, and connection like little pinpricks of light, and it’s something we make for other people, not for ourselves.

The way we raise our children, and the way we treat our neighbors and our friends over the long term… those things have an even larger impact on the world, for good or ill.

And then there’s the art we make.

David Bowie reached a great many people with his art. I’m not going to try to summarize his career; others will do that better than I ever could. But I don’t think it’s out of line to estimate that there are millions of people out there who feel that his music saved them in one way or another. That’s a powerful legacy–any artist would dream of having that kind of effect before their time on this world comes to an end, myself included.

He may not be with us any longer, but his impact remains. If David Bowie ever brought you joy or comfort, please try to pass that on to others. In that way, you help to make him immortal, and you become immortal with him.

Randomness for 12/24

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1) Why you don’t want to wear metal inside an MRI. Video.

2) 15 things I learnt about Islam and British values being a gay boy living opposite a mosque. h/t James Nicoll

3) MRA Dilbert. Combining Scott Adam’s own words with Scott Adam’s art.

4) Poll results: The best video essays of 2015

5) Get rich or die vlogging: The sad economics of internet fame.

6) DIY Netflix socks will automatically pause your show when you fall asleep.

7) The Ten Best Articles Wikipedia Deleted This Week.

Randomness for 12/3

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1) Skimp or Spend, an Illustrated Mens’ Style Buying Guide

2) Seven Things I Learned Reading ISIS’s Magazine.

3) She can write like a man, they said, by which they meant, She can write.

4) Piecaken

5) I dressed like Cookie (from EMPIRE) for a week to get over my Impostor Syndrome.

6) Purple Rain, remade in a language without a word for “purple”.

7) That history of the Mork and Mindy show you didn’t know you wanted.