Saturday, March 31, 2007
This month's Wired Magazine centers around the theme of Radical Transparency. This is the notion that companies need to be open about their inner workings in order to build trust among their customers and vendors. Radical Transparency is also about managing a company's image on the web, because if the company isn't going to talk about itself in an honest way, warts and all, someone else on the internet will be talking about the company and it likely won't be nice at all.
Now, if we're all trying to achieve Radical Transparency, how far do we go with it? Wired says to let it all hang out, yet doing so may lead to results that are unintended, like those experienced by Kathy Sierra. I would love to see Wired do an issue on ways we can protect ourselves in this era of Radical Transparency.
Labels: business, internet, kathy sierra, radical transparency, safety, wired
Friday, March 30, 2007
I finished reading a book by Jake Halpern called Fame Junkies. The book discusses the psychological underpinnings of why we are so attracted to celebrities. Jake researched ideas about para-social relationships (relationships held from afar) as well as looking at how primates behave in hierarchies. Turns out that male monkeys (rhesus macaques) are more interested in watching dominant males and the back sides of female monkeys than in looking at non-dominant males and the front sides of females. What does THAT say about the men in our species and their tendency to focus on the physical attributes of women? Should we bother worrying about what our butts look like? As for watching the dominant male monkeys, those who could keep track of the Big Cahuna could get in his good graces, thus ensuring survival - or they could avoid his bad moods, thus ensuring survival. Here we are, all a bunch of monkeys, acting out some biological imperative with celebrity worship. Only Jake indicates that our fascination with celebrities has gotten much worse, more out of hand. I was especially saddened by the chapter devoted to young people who attend talent schools in hopes of becoming famous. What a treadmill.
I'm interested in fame, as is evidenced by my Manifesto of Fame and my Squidoo lens on the topic, yet it feels like more of an academic interest. (I think that there will be more people taking an academic interest in fame as celebrity worship is on the rise.) Jake is quite forthcoming about the fact that when one studies fame, one is in danger of succumbing to the attention and glory of it all. What I'm wondering, that the book didn't discuss, is how does one get enough renown (fame is too strong here) to be able to survive on one's creative work? We don't all want to be Vincent VanGogh and die penniless and mad. How does one get a solid respect for her work, yet still maintain a sense of privacy and a solid personal life? How does one remain connected to those who support the work, are fans of the work, but avoid the overboard fan behavior?
Labels: books, creative, fame, fame junkies, jake halpern, manifesto, monkeys, reading, squidoo
Thursday, March 29, 2007
I'm beaming. A dear friend of mine just gave me feedback on one of my short stories and her comments were so positive, so thrilling, so wonderful, that I was grinning from ear to ear as I read them. A couple of days ago, I asked how you defined success. Well, for me, it's as simple as this. Pleasing a reader. Woohoo. Double woohoo!
Labels: happy happy joy joy, readers, story, success, writing
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
I was reading through my blog feeds last night and happened to find a post on Seth Godin's blog about Kathy Sierra, who has the Creating Passionate Users blog. His post linked to hers and gave readers fair warning that what they would find would not be pleasant. Not only was it not pleasant, it was downright scary. Kathy has been receiving death threats through her blog. Her post, which is not for the faint-hearted, makes me shudder at the thought that there are people out there who are so vile that they would do such things. Not only are these miscreants vile, they are cowardly too, as they do this under the veil of anonymity. The whole incident has been so upsetting to Kathy that she is hiding out at home and is not sure she will ever blog again.
Here's where I have to take a deep breath. You see, the handful of evil ones inhabiting the internet are mucking things up for the rest of us and it's making me afraid. As a writer, I want to take credit for my words, using my own name, not an avatar. I want to be able to write openly, without pussy-footing around things. Yet, if I do so, I may become a target for sickos. On some level I've always been conscious of this. I won't name my husband or children or pinpoint my exact location. I was thinking about posting a photo, but at this point, I'm not going to be using a head shot. (Most likely it'll be a shot of my feet.) The internet may feel like a vaporous world, but what happens here is as real as anything else.
For the above reasons, soon I'll be switching off the feature that allows readers to leave anonymous posts. I may also turn on comment moderation. Sorry about that for all of you faithful commenters. It very much feels like caving in, which I hate to do, but a girl's got to be careful.
As for Kathy Sierra, I very much hope the people who did this to her will be caught and that she'll get up the courage to blog again. I wonder if there are any support groups for those who've received death threats? How did Salman Rushdie and the Dixie Chicks get through this?
For my readers who have their own blogs, how do you decide how much personal information to reveal online?
Labels: blog, death threats, dixie chicks, evil, fear, internet, kathy sierra, salman rushdie, security, seth godin
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
I Can't Think of What to Write
I've had so much frustration waiting for web pages to load this evening that I don't know what to write. So, here's a fortune cookie fortune:
Your present question marks are going to succeed.
And a question:
How do you define success?
Maybe tomorrow my internet connection will behave.
Labels: fortune cookies, frustration, success, technology, writing
Monday, March 26, 2007
FtTP - John Waters & Quentin Tarantino - NOT!
I've not posted a Frankensteining the Talent Pool suggestion in some time, and today I'm doing an anti-FtTP. I saw the movie director John Waters on a commercial last night. He's going to be hosting a TV show. Waters is best known for his movie Pink Flamingos, which has to be seen to be believed. It is definitely not for children, and frankly, it's not a movie for most adults, either. After the Waters commercial, I saw a movie trailer for Quentin Tarantino, who is known for bizarre, psychotic violence in his movies. Seeing the two in such close proximity, I wondered what a movie directed by the both of them would look like. And then I really thought about it and decided that the world probably doesn't need two crazy creepo creatives teaming up to unleash their twisted ideas upon each other or the rest of us. Makes me shudder to think about it.
Labels: creative, frankensteining the talent pool, FtTP, john waters, movie, quentin tarantino
Perfect Minnesota Day
Let's just start this off by saying that there really isn't one particular sort of perfect Minnesota day. When you're a Minnesotan, you learn to enjoy the changeability of the weather and you stock up on different kinds of perfect days. Today is perfect because the sun is gazing kindly down upon us from a pale blue sky, the earth is warming and smells wet, the temperature is forecast to reach 70 degrees Fahrenheit, and there are no bugs - and, by bugs, I mean mosquitos. Only the barest traces of snow remain. The snowboard hill is no more than a Nike swoosh on the brown grass. The trees aren't budding yet, but it doesn't matter because it's warm enough to be outside and active. Ahhh! It's basking weather.
Labels: minnesota, mosquitos, nike, snow, spring, weather
Friday, March 23, 2007
The World's Fastest Indian
The hubby, Young Son Number Two and I just finished watching the movie The World's Fastest Indian. All I can say is that Anthony Hopkins is one of the best actors of all time. Dang! It was all I could do to keep from bawling. Fabulous.
Labels: acting, anthony hopkins, husband, indian, motorcycle, movie, son
Are We Meant To . . .
I'm still thinking about this whole photograph thing, but in a more philosophical bent today. Are we meant to see ourselves the way others see us? In a similar vein, are we meant to hear ourselves as others hear us? I've been self-conscious about my voice, more so in the past than now, and often wondered why we evolved so that we hear a different voice echoing around in our heads than other people hear coming out of our mouths. Other than clear pools of water, there is not much in nature that reflects us back to ourselves. We've invented mirrors and cameras in order to see ourselves. Perhaps it's unnerving to see photos of ourselves and hear our voices in recordings because we weren't necessarily intended to experience ourselves the way other experience us.
Part of the reason I'm messing with the camera and taking a bunch of photos of myself is to lose that oogy, disembodied feeling that comes from seeing myself. A desensitizing exercise. It's working a bit. And the photos are getting better. A few secrets I've learned for decent photos: 1) Seek kind lighting. 2) Profiles work well. 3) If you've got to do a full-face-forward shot, smile, but don't force it. Have someone make you laugh.
Labels: camera, how others see us, how we see ourselves, mirrors, photos, recordings, self-image, voice
Thursday, March 22, 2007
I've been practicing with my camera, being a real narcissist, taking pictures of myself. I've gotta tell you, I'm not photogenic in the least - me with the closed eyes or goofy expression when the shutter trips. Ugh! Most of the time, I hate seeing myself in pictures. I look all wrong, not the way I see myself in the mirror. Every once in a blue moon, someone catches me unawares with a natural smile on my face and I like the way I look. So my practice is about posing in a natural way in order to get a decent photo for my blog. Some of the photos I've taken aren't bad. The beauty of a digital camera is that I can delete the yucky ones. However, concentrating on how I look is also giving me a complex. I'm picking apart my features (okay, one particular feature) as though I was a teenager. Not fun! I saw a Christina Aguilera video this morning, and boy is that girl a looker! Gorgeous in her air-brushed beauty. As a grown woman pushing the big four-oh, I thought I was over this comparison. It's not healthy, no sir. I know better than to let myself spiral into self-loathing, so I gave myself a stern talking-to. I said, "Look, self, no one runs screaming from the room over your hideousness when you walk in. In fact, most people rather like you, so you can't be a total woofer. Besides, your husband thinks your gorgeous and he has excellent taste, so just knock it off already, won't you?" All better.
Labels: beauty, blog, camera, christina aguilera, husband, looks, photos, ugly
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
I found this post by Josh Clark on the blog Global Moxie via another blog called Creating Passionate Users. In short, Josh discusses the use of totems, magic boxes, and rituals by artists as a means to get into their work, to tap the muse. When I first read it, I thought, hmm . . . I don't have any totems that pull me into my creative flow. No stones do I rub, no Buddha statue do I pray to, no pillow do I turn around on three times before settling in. I don't have much in the way of rituals, either, unless you count turning on the computer and getting out my dictionary and thesaurus. I guess those are rituals. Probably the closest I have to a totem or ritual is turning on some music. Dave Matthews Band is my favorite (in case you hadn't noticed by now), because there's enough fuzzy writerly stuff in the music and lyrics that it jump-starts my imagination. When I'm sick of DMB, which happens occasionally, I'll put in other disks . . . The Killers, Enya, U2, Depeche Mode, Michael Buble, Queen. The secret is that the music has to be something I've already listened to so much that it's been ingrained in the fibers of my being. It has to melt away into the background so that it doesn't disrupt my writing.
Labels: blog, creative, dave matthews band, depeche mode, enya, global moxie, killers, michael buble, music, queen, rituals, superstition, totems, u2
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
65 - 67 Percent Disapproval
Have you noticed the ad nauseum posting of the President's approval rating? I swear every two days that thing is flashed on the screen and we are reminded that somewhere between 33 and 35 percent of Americans approve of what the President is doing. What I'm wondering is who are these people? Either they are folks who simply aren't paying any attention, or they're folks who are getting something out of the party in power. Another option is that they actually like corruption. That's one third of the country just going along with some really vile government activities.
Instead of concentrating on those who agree with the President and his cronies, how about we report the President's disapproval rating? Between 65 and 67 percent of Americans have had enough of this administration. By George, that's a majority! Why can't we get this administration out of office, or at the very least, hold them accountable for their actions? I, for one, would like to see not only Karl Rove and Harriet Myers subpoenaed, but the President and Vice President, too.
Labels: america, approval, disapproval, president
Monday, March 19, 2007
Kim, over at the Knit Whimsies blog, posted this cute, quirky website called Visual DNA - or, rather, she posted her results from it. I decided to give it a try. Here are my results:
Labels: kim, knit whimsies, visual dna
It Could Go Either Way
Here I sit at the computer, periodically looking out the window facing our backyard. The snow is melting rapidly and I can see the hole my children dug last summer. They've arranged some old bricks and pieces of cement at one end of the hole in a strangely Stonehenge fashion. Further back in the yard, almost to the alley, they've constructed a snowboarding ramp of snow (what else?). It's a sizeable pile, the most sizeable in the yard, but no longer any good for snowboarding. Our compost heap is exposed and almost looks larger than the snowboarding pile. Spring and winter are mixed in the wind. It could go either way.
The weather perfectly mirrors my writing mood today. I've finished a story and am ready to start a new one for the series I'm working on and I realized yesterday that while I've got a character, I've got no plot yet. So, I've done a little online research and am mentally messing around. No sense in forcing these things. I'm tempted to take a little detour. I've always got several story ideas brewing, but have been setting some of them aside while working on my series. One of them has been poking at me to write it out. We'll see . . . .
Labels: backyard, characters, children, hole, idea, minnesota, mood, research, snow, spring, story, winter, writing
Sunday, March 18, 2007
I'm still making my way through Julia Cameron's "Letters to a Young Artist." I ran across a couple of lovely sentiments while reading last night.
From page 107: "It's a gread deal like the question of love. Either we can worry about being loved "enough" or we can focus on being more loving. Only one of those choices will make us happy."
From page 113: "I do believe that we encounter the consciousness of an artist through his or her work. Sometimes some of my liveliest relationships are with people whom I may never meet at all except on the page."
The first is self-explanatory. The second makes me wonder if this is why we become so enamored with famous people. Their work precedes them and we get this lovely snippet of the best of them - the nugget of gold inside upon which we build our ideas of them. If / when we meet these famous people or continue to watch their antics through the media, our ideas of them evaporate because we eventually discover their human qualities. The gold is still there, but it's been sullied. Meeting them on the page, or through a song, or in a movie and building our ideas of them through the prism of our hearts and minds creates the ideal relationship, one that cannot be fulfilled in real life, unless our imaginations are willing to accept their humanity.
Labels: artist, books, fame, humanity, idea, julia cameron, love, reading
Saturday, March 17, 2007
Get Ready for Pictures
I don't want to get your hopes up, but I got a digital camera and scanner today. What this means is that soon I'll be able to post pictures to my blog. Whoopee! Now, I mustn't get too excited. There's still that learning curve to deal with. Gotta figure out how to operate both and then find a way to store the photos online so they'll upload to Blogger. When the first photo appears, you'll know that I've succeeded in the tasks that lay before me. Wish me luck.
Labels: blog, blogger, camera, pictures, scanner
Friday, March 16, 2007
Wearing o' the Green
I rather envy those people who can keep holy the minor holidays. Of course, we are on the cusp of St. Patty's Day, when the wearing o' the green is the scene of the day and the beer flows in rivers - it's got to be green, too. By no stretch of the imagination does the holiday belong to me. I'm not Irish. I don't have red hair or a bad temper and, sin o' all sins, I don't drink. I can't even manage a passable Irish brogue. I'm not much for minor holidays, period, no matter what ethnicity they celebrate. What I'll probably do with the day is start another story, clean the bathrooms (Eyew!), and do some laundry - including washing the sheets. Oh, Happy Clean Sheet Day! Now, there's a holiday worth celebrating.
Labels: beer, clean sheet day, cleaning, green, holidays, irish, st. patrick's day
Thursday, March 15, 2007
Someone Else's Convenience
How often in life do we do things for the convenience of other people? I was thinking about this in relation to my youngest son. He has a scattered organizational sense and teachers are forever trying to get him to remember to bring things home for us to sign. Ostensibly, they are trying to teach him how to be responsible and organized, but really, it's more for their convenience in that this is the organization that they prefer. My son has one teacher whose organizational style matches his. This teacher requires that all handouts stay in a folder in the science room; nothing goes home with the kids. This works extremely well for our son. No bothersome papers to remember.
Thinking about this topic reminds me of a phrase I've heard many times the last few days - "U.S. Attorneys serve at the pleasure of the President." Barring the vaguely sexual connotations of this phrase, in essence what the White House is saying - and most often they are saying it in order to convince us that they did nothing wrong in firing U.S. Attorneys for political reasons - is that U.S. Attorneys are there for the President's convenience. Frankly, I didn't give U.S. Attorneys much thought until this, but it seems to me that they are actually supposed to be serving for the convenience of the U.S. public. I guess it's my bad for making the assumption that our government should be serving us.
So, given those two examples, whose convenience do you serve? Is a service you chose? Is it a service you enjoy?
Labels: convenience, organization, president, school, service, son, u.s. attorneys, white house
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
The Songs in My Head
So, then . . .
Is it considered copyright infringement when a song plays in my head?
What if I were partially bionic?
Labels: bionic, copyright, songs
Letters to a Young Artist
I was at the library the other day and replenished my reading supply. The book I'm reading now is Julia Cameron's Letters to a Young Artist: Building a Life in Art. Ever since Rainer Maria Rilke wrote his Letters to a Young Poet, there's been an explosion of Letters to a Young So-and-So (insert what you like to replace So-and-So). Letters to a Young Lawyer, Letters to a Young Catholic, Letters to a Young Mathematician, Letters to a Young Contrarian. Google "Letters to a Young" and you'll see what I mean. In fact, there's even another Letters to a Young Artist, this one written by Anna Deavere Smith.
I've never read Letters to a Young Poet as I've never considered myself a poet. I attempted Letters to a Young Contrarian by Christopher Hitchens, as I am something of a contrarian (Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary), but can't recall whether I got through it. I am flying through Letters to a Young Artist, however. Julia's writing is a breeze, so conversational and easy. If you've read her book The Artist's Way, the information she imparts in Letters to a Young Artist will be familiar, however the change in format is a pleasure. (Not that there was anything wrong with The Artist's Way - I loved the book . . . it sits on my shelf . . . but the difference between the two books might make them appealing to different audiences.) It's definitely inspirational and worth a read if you've reached a creative slump.
Labels: anna deavere smith, artist, books, christopher hitchens, contrary, creativity, julia cameron, library, poet, rainer maria rilke, reading
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
Puddles, puddles, everywhere! It's been almost 60 degrees Fahrenheit in Minnesota these past two days. The snow that recently dumped upon us is rapidly disappearing. I write a lot about Minnesota's weather. That's because Minnesotan's live and die by their weather. It's so drastic that it affects everything we do. Spring is fun here because the cold weather gives way to warm. There can be a 40 or 50 degree range from one day to the next. When it reaches 50 degrees, you'll see Minnesotans stripping off the layers - many are out and about in shirt sleeves as though it was 90 degrees. The walkers are out, the kids are out, everyone who can be is out. We take advantage of our nice weather because we know it's not always so. It'll be cold again by the end of the week. 'Til then, we'll enjoy.
Labels: minnesota, puddles, weather
Monday, March 12, 2007
What Does This Mean?
Now that I've finished a story, I'm sorting through my writing stuff, making copies, filing & etc. I came across the following in one of my writing notebooks:
If gas is your bread & butter,
Then you live & breathe
The price of wheat & cream.
Underneath this little ditty, I've scribbled "What does this mean?" I almost know, but the full meaning escapes me. If someone could explain it, I'd be most grateful.
Labels: bread, butter, cream, gas, meaning, story, wheat, writing
It's a writing day and I'm happy to report that I've finished a story, one that I've been working on for a couple of months. It is a nice feeling, especially because I went through a couple of periods where I thought I'd gone off mark. The story made me cry as I was writing today. This has happened before . . . me, bawling my head off in front of the computer because a character reaches an understanding, or another one acts in an unexpected, yet sympathetic way. It's a good sign when one of my stories moves me. At least I'm having a reaction to it, which makes me hopeful that other readers will too. Although, maybe I'm not the best test subject for my writing because I can make myself cry pretty easily. Whatever the case, I'm done. Four more to go.
Labels: characters, emotion, readers, story, writing
Saturday, March 10, 2007
When you have children, you try your darndest not to screw them up too badly in raising them. (For example, you'd like them not to leave cracker crumbs all over the computer keyboard, which is the current state of my keyboard, thank you very much.) I think one of the ways we subconsciously mess with our kids is by pigeon-holing them, placing expectations on them based on what they show us. Our oldest son showed a particular artistic genius early on, creating realistic drawings replete with foreshortening and correct perspective when he was five or six years old. He has so consistently shown this ability that he's been pegged as an artist and, of course, we brag about it. Our daughter is gifted with money managing abilities that would put most adults to shame. She's sensible and responsible, not only with money, but with many other things. Our youngest son is energetic and physical and has a sparkling personality that acts as a magnet and attracts people to him. He started talking when he was seven months old and has a magnificient gift of the gab. Innocently enough, and by following their original leads, we've come to expect these things of our children. We don't want to lock them into these molds, but it has happened without our quite realizing it. When I attended my youngest son's conferences and his art teacher said that he was really creative, I was pleased as punch, and thought, why, of course he is, but, honestly, I hadn't really attributed artistic creativity to him as much as I had to his older brother. This is silly. Traits can be mixed and matched between children and our kids can share qualities such as creativity. Sharing is good. I have noticed that all are good writers and interested in science and history. All are creative, but each expresses it differently.
This thought process makes me wonder if siblings from other families that appear to be diametrically opposed to each other in interests and personalities were shunted along these lines by the parents' placed expectations. It makes me want to try harder not to do this.
Labels: artist, children, creativity, daughter, expectations, money, parents, personality traits, son
Friday, March 09, 2007
House of Cards
I was thinking more about magical thinking and selective belief, specifically in relation to The Lost Tomb of Jesus and the Christians who don't believe that the bones discovered could possibly belong to Jesus, as he ascended into heaven body and all. Whether these particular bones belong to Jesus or not, what would happen if his bones were found and they were proven to be his bones beyond any shadow of doubt? Would Christians believe then? Is the ascension the basis of their faith to such an extent that if Jesus' bones were found, their faith would fall like a house of cards? What if the Virgin birth was found not to be a virgin birth? What if he didn't divide the fishes and loaves or cure everyone he is supposed to have cured? How much of Christian faith is based on these things and how much is based on the fact that Jesus was obviously an incredible person? Are the miracles surrounding Jesus the reason he was an incredible person, or was he deep down just a good person? Would Jesus still have been Jesus without the miracles? Hmmm.
Labels: faith, jesus, magical thinking, miracles, selective belief, virgin mary
Thursday, March 08, 2007
Say hello to Mrs. Grass
I'm going to try not to breathe on anyone here. Illness has descended upon the household. Some cold-y, flu-y thing. Cough, cough, we've got the consumption - argh! Hubby and Young Son #2 caught it first. Now it's my turn. We're drowning ourselves in tea - Yogi Tea, Cold Season is the favorite, along with ginger ale, and we're taking Vitamin C. We've become best friends with Mrs. Grass soup. Mmm, mmm. Gotta love that Mrs. Grass. Not sure where the name comes from, but the little, straight noodles could, if you peer cross-eyed at them, look like yellow grass. Oh, and there's the Golden Nugget, which I think is no more than a globette of fat fancied up. When I open a box of Mrs. Grass and see the Golden Nugget, I want to run around shouting, "I found the Golden Nugget!" much like Charlie and friends do with the Golden Ticket in Willie Wonka.
I stayed home from work today and lounged around in bed, alternating between reading Neil Gaiman's Anansi Boys (woohoo! magical thinking!) and napping. The day simply flew by in our convalescence. I'm hoping this doesn't last long.
What sorts of things make you feel better when you're suffering from illness?
Labels: husband, illness, magical thinking, mrs. grass, neil gaiman, son, soup, tea, willie wonka
Wednesday, March 07, 2007
Surely the blogs are all a'twitter about Dave Matthews' appearance on Fox Network's TV show House last night. I have to admit that last night was the first night I watched the show and I was drawn to seeing how Matthews would do as an actor, rather than as a singer. He played a savant with the mental age of a little kid, but had an outstanding musical ability. He did a fine job of being guileless and properly vacant. If I'd had the part, I would have been lucky to affect a vague distractedness, rather than all out blankness. I found I was wishing they'd given Matthews more lines, just to see how he'd deliver, but then realized that it's got to be harder to act through facial action without the veil of words to hide behind. If Matthews continues his acting career, which seems likely, I hope he picks a character that requires a lot, and I mean A LOT, of makeup and prosthetics. The trouble with a person switching from a music career to an acting career is that he is so recognizable that the audience can't help but think, Why, I know everything there is to know about this fellow, and this familiarity makes it difficult to give him a fair shake.
The storyline involving Matthews' character was a backdrop piece to what was going on with the main character, Dr. House, who is played by Hugh Laurie. I'm familiar with Laurie's work on the British comedy Blackadder, which also stars Rowan Atkinson. I especially liked Laurie's character in the Elizabethan episodes of Blackadder. His nickname was "Shorty Greasy Spot-Spot." In House, Laurie plays a complete smart-ass, which I loved. He reminds me of the Dr. Cox character on the TV show Scrubs, only House is darker. Definitely a show worth watching again, just to see what Laurie will do.
Say, does anyone more familiar with the show know whether the cane and limp are part of the House character? This limp is so convincing that it has me thinking Laurie has a long-term injury, but I don't remember him being this way in Blackadder.
Labels: acting, blackadder, dave matthews, house, hugh laurie, music, rowan atkinson, story, tv
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
I heard a report on MPR today about U.S. Attorneys who have lost their jobs due to political shenanigans. The Justice Department defends its position, saying that these attorneys are no more than disgruntled employees. Disgruntled? I'll say. Who wouldn't be disgruntled if they were fired for no reason related to job performance, but because they were an inconvenient cog in a political system?
Labels: attorneys, disgruntled, mpr, politics, problem
Monday, March 05, 2007
Selective Belief and Magical Thinking
I've started reading Neil Gaiman's "Anansi Boys." Neil's writing is so clear, so wonderous and magical, that when he writes that a character is a god, well, I simply can't not believe him. Human beings are extraordinarily adept at suspending disbelief and engaging in magical thinking. I know I've written about this before, but it's an idea that won't let go of me. I think it's because magical thinking makes life interesting (among the many other things that make life interesting). What I've noticed lately about magical thinking is that people make personal judgements about which things they'll suspend belief about and which they'll say are a bunch of bogus gobble-de-gook. For example, the Discovery Channel has a new program called The Lost Tomb of Jesus in which archaeologists claim to have found the tomb of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, complete with bones. Many Christians are freaking out about this because they believe in the ascension, that Jesus, body and all, ascended into heaven. Well, if Jesus went body and all, then there very well couldn't be bones left, could there? Magical thinking. Now, if you were to ask these same Christians about sacred pagan rites, they'd fall over themselves blustering on about how full of crap pagans are. They wouldn't believe in the pagan rites, although they might attribute them to devil worship. No magical thinking when it comes to the rites themselves, magical thinking galore in attributing them to the devil. Selective belief.
How do you practice selective belief or magical thinking?
Labels: devil, discovery channel, god, jesus, magical thinking, neil gaiman, pagan, selective belief
Saturday, March 03, 2007
I was reading the new Wired Magazine, which has an article devoted to our snack culture (serve our media up in little bits, along with our food, please), and ran across a mention of a deck of cards created by musician/artist Brian Eno. The deck, which Brian designed with friend Peter Schmidt, is called Oblique Strategies. As artists, Brian and Peter discovered that they had strategies for overcoming obstacles encountered in their work. As they developed these strategies, they wrote them as aphorisms and eventually bundled them together as a set of cards. The first edition was released in 1975, with two other editions following within the next few years. A fourth set was created in 1996 as a private project for the Peter Norton family. (Please don't ask me who Peter Norton is.) Even though the original decks were printed in limited quantities and are hard to come by, the aphorisms are listed on the web on the site devoted exclusively to them, as well as on several other sites. One site acts as a random generator, serving up oblique strategies as you need them.
For the list of aphorisms in each deck (they changed a bit over time), see the links below:
The Oblique Strategies site points people to Brian Eno's official store to purchase a copy of the deck (5th edition).
Labels: aphorisms, artist, brian eno, cards, creativity, musician, oblique strategies, peter norton, peter schmidt, wired
I've finished reading the book "User I.D." by Jenefer Shute. The plot revolves around identity theft. The author alternates chapters between Vera, who has had her identity stolen, and Charlene, the identity thief. There are lots of great details about identity theft and how to deal with it woven throughout the story. Jenefer Shute also covers the existential angst felt by both women in relation to the fluidity of identity in the digital age. She makes Charlene a sympathetic character, despite her illegal activities. I wish she had bolstered Vera's character more. By the end of the book, I felt like slapping Vera for her whiny, limp-wristed attitude. There was one other thing about the book that set me on edge. Periodically, it seemed that the author played a bit heavy with the description. It wasn't enough to make me stop reading, but it subtly hit me that some of the details were overdone. Because I picked up on this, I wondered if I do the same thing in my fiction writing. I'll have to check to be sure. Precision excision is the solution.
Labels: books, editing, identity, identity theft, jenefer shute, story, technology
Now It's Time to Have Some Fun
Here is the beauty of a snowfilled winter in Minnesota - we get to play in it, which we did today. The hubby and I took our oldest two children (the youngest is at a sleepover) to a sledding hill, while we did some snowshoeing. There's a rhythm to using snowshoes - rock and waddle, rock and waddle. We shooshed over vast, almost untouched crusts of white with rainbow glitter. The unmarred snow is so tempting to mess up, to leave a mark, but when one does so, it's not particularly satisfying. It's better just to contemplate walking over it or making a snow angel. (Besides, how does one make a snow angel with snowshoes on her feet?)
Hiking through snow is definitely a work-out. I'm out of shape and the first few minutes on snowshoes left me breathless and sore. I was ready to quit, but kept going and noticed something. If you push on to the point of sweating, suddenly the pain goes away and a trance-like state takes over. Must be endorphins. They sure feel good. After the exertion, I'll sleep well.
Labels: children, exercise, husband, minnesota, snow, snowshoes, winter
Friday, March 02, 2007
Well, we thought we had fixed the furnace by removing snow from the outdoor pipes, but we were mistaken, albeit that was part of the problem. Did you know that there is also a vent on the gas meter that has to be clear at all times? Yup, the things you learn when something goes wrong. So, everything outside was clear, but we were still having trouble. We could hear the furnace trying to start, the fan was going, but it wasn't igniting. Okay, it was igniting maybe once an hour, which is not often enough, and it wasn't staying on long enough to heat the house. We were down to 60 degrees F this morning. Another call to Dad. He said to check the drain hose on the furnace. A little bit of condensation forms inside the furnace, which is drained through a tube that comes through the furnace wall and down into a pump. If this is plugged, the furnace won't work. We messed with the hose and the pump and the furnace fired up. It's been operational since, but we still want someone to come look at it to be sure there isn't some other problem and to fuss with the drain hose a bit. The interior drain hose is pinched, so that might be causing the problem. More furnace tips of the week, and more shoveling. Ahh, it's Minnesota.
Labels: dad, drain, furnace, minnesota, problem, shoveling, snow, temperature
Thursday, March 01, 2007
We are making up for lost time in Minnesota. After a winter practically devoid of snow, within one week we've gained inches and inches. Last weekend we got fourteen inches. Between yesterday, today, and tomorrow, we're expecting another foot or so. My shoulders certainly feel it. I'm soft from not having to shovel before this, so lifting pounds and pounds of snow is giving me a workout I'm not used to. I swear I spent more time outside than inside today. I've been trying to shovel every so often so I don't have to try to move mountains of it all at once. 'Round about three o'clock this afternoon, I collapsed on the couch with my Wired magazine in a funk of white-hot exhaustion. I wasn't a happy camper for a couple of hours. My kids, on the other hand, were delighted. They were released early from school. Yippee!
In the midst of all the shoveling, our furnance decided to quit working. I put on my geek hat and tried turning the switch off and on a couple of times. I opened the front panels and checked to make sure the wires were all attached. Then, I called my dad. He asked if the ventilation pipes for the furnace were blocked. Sure enough, when I went outside to check, the air intake pipe was completely covered (with snow, what else?). When this happens, or when the balance between the intake and exhaust pipes is upset, the furnace has a safety switch that keeps the furnace from turning on. As soon as I cleared the pipes, she fired up. There you have it, your furnace maintenance tip of the week.
Labels: dad, exhaustion, furnace, geek, minnesota, school, shoveling, snow, winter, wired