We Are Not Alone

The questions of whether or not other animals are sentient, and what
“sentience” really means, have been with us for a long time.

I spent a lot of time reading studying animal behavior, via independent reading, online courses, and classes. Most of this information doesn’t cross over into what consciousness is. When you focus on behavior, then you pretty much stick with inputs, outputs, and consequences. This constraint is a best practice; a critical technique when it comes to solving problems. Focus on what is right in front of you and what you need to know.

Dog pulls on leash. Dog gets where she wants to go. Stop letting her get where she wants unless she doesn’t pull.

Moreover, many respected behaviorists and ethologists will argue not just that we shouldn’t concern ourselves with whether or not animals are sentient and that we should assume not because we have no evidence.

They’ll argue this vigorously. Passionately. Vociferously.

Even though I have cut back my dog training to one or two classes a week (and am considering stopping that to focus on writing), I’m still a bit of a behavior geek. So this article on Ars Technica about training bees captured my attention.

I’ll embed the video here.

Is this evidence of sentience? Not necessarily. It’s a very sophisticated set of problem-solving skills. Bees seem to be able to model other bee’s behavior, and they appear to be able to take what they’ve learned and then adapt it to new situations.

These skills make sense in a creature whose primary task is to find stuff and bring it back.

What’s fascinating, to me at least, is how much sophistication is packed into a bee’s brain. I’ve been reading about brain-to-body size ratios (Corvids are a good example of that one), encephalization quotients, and a host of other measures in mammals and even cetaceans, but never any mention of insects before.

And, of course, there’s the whole question of what is consciousness? Does it exist, or is it just an artifact of a sophisticated input/output system? We already know that people can be “fooled” with a complex piece of code, are we just fooling ourselves about our selves?

For a long time, sentient animals and robots were the stuff of fantasy. More than a handful of religions need humans to be unique. If they’re not, then a lot of their built-in assumptions start to fall apart. These assumptions restrained research for a long time. A willingness to set them aside, as well as more sophisticated technology, is starting to show us that we’re not as unique as we think.

Lovecraft in Anime

I enjoy Lovecraft. “The Dunwich Horror” was the one of first written story that ever really scared me. I think “The Witches of Worm” may have been the actual first, but I read them pretty close together in elementary school.

The Cthulhu Mythos shows up in a lot of places. My favorite Robert E. Howard stories have always been about King Kull, rather than Conan because Kull tended to run into “foul necromancer” that were mucking about with Cthulhu and the gang more than Conan ever did. Mike Mignola makes brilliant use of the mythos in his Hellboy and BPRD comics.

This trailer looks very promising. The movie seems to be due out in 2018, but it’s tough to tell. The Facebook page is full of ads for other films. I’ll be keeping my eye out for it.

World’s Oldest Piano (and an update)

Even with having posted a story yesterday, I would like to get back to posting something every Wednesday.

First, have a listen to the world’s oldest piano:

I came across this video on Open Culture, still one of my favorite sites.

And then, for good measure, check this out:

I saw it on Twisted Sifter.

I’ve been taking the IAABC writing mentorship with Eileen Anderson. I’ve learned a great deal from it, and it is at least partially responsible for the stories I published here this week and last, as well as some other material that I will be submitting to websites and/or journals soon.

See you next week.

Sincerely, Your Mortician

Another writing prompt from Mr. Wendig!

Pour yourself a cup of coffee and enjoy!


Dear Mrs. Quackenbush,

I want to start by saying how sorry I am for your loss. Highland Falls was indeed fortunate to have Mayor Quackenbush lead our community for past 25 years. Personally, I’ll never forget how he was responsible for getting our small town its museum, and I don’t care what anyone says, Pez Dispensers are fascinating.

Like everyone else, I was shocked when we lost the Mayor. I hope your lawsuit against the washing machine company is successful and you will be compensated for your loss, however insufficient money might be.

I suppose you’re surprised to be getting a letter from me, so I should explain. I usually don’t drink coffee in the office. I have a bit of a pet peeve about people drinking on the job, even if it is non-alcoholic beverages. It always makes a mess, and the paper cups that always end up littering the work area are a major distraction.

But I was pretty tired yesterday, and I knew I would be taking care of your husband and needed to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. It’s not often that I stay up that late, but Alf marathons only come around so often.

I understand that it’s illegal to pass school buses when they are loading, but like I said, I was sleepy and distracted by the prospect of preparing our venerated Mayor for his final resting place, so it was an honest mistake. It wasn’t necessary for everyone to yell at me like that, and I’m not one to shirk my responsibilities, and I deserved that ticket, but I hope the judge understands why I was so distracted.

After that, I decided to stop at Alice’s for breakfast on my way to work. This was the second mistake in a long line of them yesterday. Who could have known that a cup of coffee and a ham and egg sandwich could cause such trouble?

You probably don’t think that parking at a small company like Sanford’s Final Rest would be an issue, but it is. As the senior embalming engineer, I am entitled to the coveted spot closest to the bus shelter and walkway. But one of our junior engineers, who shall remain nameless, seems to think she is entitled to the privileged parking spot, either because her father is Mr. Sanford or because of her precious new red Lexus. I’m not sure why, exactly, and I don’t care. I’ve done my time at Sanford, and that spot is mine.

So when I found my spot taken, again, I decided that it was time to resolve this once and for all. I went and found Little Miss So-and-So and made her move her car.

Hindsight being 20/20, I picked the wrong day, and I apologize for that. In all the confusion I left my breakfast and my coffee in the car, which was another mistake.

It was only after the Mayor was on the slab ready to be prepared for his final rest that I remembered my breakfast and my coffee. As I mentioned before, I was exhausted and needed something to wake me up, so I went to the car and got them. I normally don’t like leaving a client on the table, but it seemed important at the time.

When I returned to my place, I found Mr. Sanford waiting for me. He was angry about the parking situation. I don’t want to go into specifics, but he seemed to think I overreacted — as if that was his completely unbiased opinion. In retrospect, calling his daughter a spoiled little tart may have set the tone for Mr. Sanford’s reaction later in the day, but what can I say? When you’re right you have to stick to your guns.

I was very upset when he finally left, but I persisted. Things were going well until I spilled my coffee. But let me explain why.

I am convinced that Flo knows I never want cheese on my ham and egg sandwich! What was she thinking? Rest assured that when I finish this letter I am going to head straight over to Alice’s and let her know how this frankly inexcusable mistake was the beginning of what has been the worst day in my life.

I think I should reiterate my customary disinclination to having food and drink in my work area. It’s a terrible habit, to be honest, and when I find a new position, I promise I will not do it again.

Anyway, I took a bite of my sandwich, which was cold by this point, and discovered the cheese. This led to me spilling my coffee, which was still hot.

There seems to have been a trend in the packaging of cleaning supplies that has led to everything looking alike. Why a corporation would decide to package bleach in something that looks like a package for ordinary soap, I have no idea.

It was obviously at this point in time where everything went horribly wrong, and I cannot apologize strongly enough. Initially I believed the only damage was to the Mayor’s very tasteful seersucker suit, but obviously, I was mistaken and attempting to rectify matters with baking soda only made things worse.

My parents raised me Lutheran, so you can only imagine my surprise when I learned that some religions forbid cremation. In retrospect, going in that direction may have been the worst decision I made all day. Even more so than buying the coffee!

If it’s any consolation to you, Mr. Sanford deducted the cremation expenses from my severance pay, along with the cost of the original preparation services and casket. By the time it was all settled, it cost me nearly $2000 just to get out of the building yesterday, and I had to sell my personal tools to one of the junior embalming engineers. Maybe it’s a sign that I should look for a new career in a town somewhere else like Mr. Sanford said.

There’s no way that an apology like this can make up for the trouble I caused for you and the Mayor yesterday, but I am truly sorry. If it is any consolation to you, the Mayor looked great in that suit, even after I spilled the coffee on him.

I’m sorry for your loss.

Don’t Play Their Game

Two weeks ago I wrote about how being blinded by hate can keep you from achieving your goals and help your opponent.

Last week I wrote about the folly of extreme ideology.

And then a few hours after I hit publish on the second post, I came across this. It’s about a successful outrage-driven publicity campaign for Tucker Max that’s been reused several times, including for liberal media punching bag (and asshole), Milo Yiannopoulos.

There’s no such thing as bad publicity!

Any press is good press!

These beliefs are a hell of a lot older than the Internet, and if you have no pride or shame, they’re true. Tucker Max’s brand is “asshole.” For real. He even calls himself that.

Those beliefs are also true if making people angry is a key part of your brand, and you can get those angry people to act as your publicists. Tucker Max did it, and his marketing talks about how Yiannopoulos’ people are using his marketing plan. To the letter.

Yiannopoulos is no one without the protests that follow him around. He’s just another overgrown child who says the things that overgrown children say to get attention and sell books.

But because of those protests, he’s famous and a hero. There’s a whole bunch of people who love anyone that can get “libtards” and “snowflakes” angry. And he’s done it. He did it so well that, as the author of the article pointed out, they went and handed him the moral high ground when the protests became violent. (Before you comment: it doesn’t matter who was violent.)

Let’s try a thought experiment.

A hateful bigot is invited to speak at the campus of the most liberal university in the country which is, logically, in the most liberal city in the country. Rather than freaking the fuck out, the people who disagree with him ignore it and write him off as a representative of a fringe group.

  1. How many people show up to hear him speak?
  2. Of the people that do go, how many of them walk out feeling differently than they did when they entered?

Hate makes you stupid.

 

Photo credit: Neeta

 

 

Not Today, Satan

This piece started out as an experiment in writing in the second person, and then sat in virtual mothballs until Chick Wendig posted his latest Flash Fiction contest. One of the titles seemed to fit after I edited it down a bit. It’s rough, but it helped me get back into fiction. I hope you enjoy!


Not Today, Satan

What was that sound?

It sounded like someone in the kitchen. You lie still, afraid to move.

There it is again. Definitely the kitchen. A cabinet door.

You wish you had a gun under your pillow. That’s crazy. Only crazy people sleep with guns under their pillows. But they’re not this terrified when they hear people in the kitchen.

You sit up as quietly as you can. 3:13 AM. You look for something to use as a weapon. Your iPad. Does Applecare cover self-defense?

You creep as silently as you can down the hall, wielding your iPad in both hands. Is creep the right word? Can you cower and walk at the same time?

“You can stop creeping,” says a voice from the kitchen. Warm honey poured over cold steel.

You enter, and see a man. The shape of a man. A shape darker than the rest of the kitchen. You want to turn on the light, but you are afraid to move.

“Let’s leave the light off for now.”

“Can you read my mind?”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” he laughs. It’s not a pleasant laugh.

“What are you doing here?”

“I’m looking for tea. Don’t you have any tea?”

You get tea, fill the kettle, and put it on the stove.

“But that’s not what you meant. Why I am in your apartment?”

You nod.

“To collect.”

Your brow furrows.

“Your soul.”

You look over to where you put the iPad.

“You think I’m crazy. You’ve forgotten.”

Your brow furrows again. Does it look as stupid as it feels?

“Prom night?” He asks.

Prom night? What the hell is he talking about? Oh. Not that.

How could he know? He said he couldn’t read your mind. It wouldn’t matter if he could; you weren’t thinking about prom night until he brought it up. The likelihood of a guy offering his soul for something on prom night is pretty good. Lucky guess? Yes, a lucky guess. This guy is full of crap.

“You’re full of crap.”

“What was the name of that place? Belle Vista? On Route 9.”

If you survive this, you’re going to practice brow un-furrowing in the mirror.

“You promised your soul for a night of pleasure. We made it happen, and now we’re here to collect.”

You think about how “night of pleasure” is a very generous description of that encounter.

“Why collect now?”

“We reserve the right to collect whenever we wish.”

The kettle starts to whistle. You turn off the burner quickly, so your neighbors don’t hear. Would that be so bad? They wouldn’t complain, they would just hate you for the noise. You pour the tea and ask the crazy soul collector if he needs milk or sugar. No. He drinks his tea as hot as hell. Ha.

“Let’s sit.” He says. You take seats across from each other.

“You don’t have a choice here.” He tells you. “It just goes so much…easier…if you cooperate.”

You humor him and ask how your teenage self was supposed to understand the gravity of the situation.

“You made the offer in the bathroom of that motel room. Don’t you remember? You agreed to the terms and conditions when you unwrapped the package.”

“Are you comparing prom night sex to opening shrink-wrapped software?”

“Don’t be disgusting. The terms of service were on the condom.”

“What? I didn’t read the package!”

“That’s no excuse.”

“So I gave up my soul because I had prom night sex with the wrong condom?

“Or, the right one.”

You take a sip of tea. “So, are you who I think you are?”

“No, I’m not him. He doesn’t get out in the field much anymore. He’s been busy with all the baby boomers dying off now.”

“That makes sense.” You say. He nods between sips of tea.

“This is really good tea. Lemon Zinger. I might stay for another cup. But look, all you need to do is hold out your hand, and I’ll take the soul. It won’t hurt at all, and it’s not like you’re using it, am I right?”

“A lawyer joke? Isn’t that a little on the nose?”

He frowns.

“Why are you collecting now? That was fifteen years ago.”

“We use them for power. Each soul is worth like a zillion carbon credits. Keeping Hell warm ain’t cheap, and the solar panels just don’t work.”

There goes the brow-furrowing again.

“You’re surprised? The big guy is a true believer. You’d think he’d be all over fossil fuels, but he saw Inconvenient Truth and he’s a sucker.”

Your eyes widen.

“What? What could the old man possibly do to me? You remember where I work, right?” He empties his cup and holds it out, so you walk over to the stove and turn the kettle back on.

“What does losing a soul really mean?”

“Like I said, you won’t miss it. But when you die, you’ll be going south, not north.”

You pour tea as you ask if there’s anything he can do to help you get out of this situation. He frowns and shifts in his seat.

You grab a package of cookies.

“We’re not supposed to reopen negotiations.”

“Not supposed to, or can’t?”

“A deal is a deal, right? Surely a lawyer can understand. You got some tail and great memories, and now we want our soul.” He’s speaking quickly now. A bead of sweat runs down his forehead.

“You can’t force me to surrender my soul, can you?”

“There’s no reason to make this more difficult than it has to be.”

“No reason other than my soul, you mean.”

“People won’t be happy if you don’t cooperate.”

“People? You mean your boss? What’s he going to do? Send me to hell?”

He takes another sip of tea and spills a little when he sets the cup down too hard.

“If you can’t force me to give up my soul, how did you get me laid in the first place? Are you taking credit for something that would have happened anyway?”

“Goddamn lawyers.”

“Goddamn. That’s funny.” You smile and hold out the cookies after taking one for yourself.

“You can’t blame us for trying.” He takes one.

Hell no!” You say, and you both laugh.

“So what can you guys offer me?”

The collector looks back at you, mouth hanging open.

“Hey, you said it yourself. I am a lawyer.”

Black OR White

Ayn Rand’s name pops up in the political news at least a few times a year. Both Ron Paul and his son Rand have praised her philosophy and her books. House Speaker and Invertebrate-at-Large Paul Ryan has called Atlas Shrugged his favorite book, and it’s allegedly required reading for his staff. Swearing fealty to Ayn Rand is almost a prerequisite for elected office as a Republican.

Outside of these circles, Objectivism, Ayn Rand’s philosophy, has a reputation for being heartless and selfish. Because that’s exactly what it is.

My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute. — Ayn Rand

If your takeaway from that is a license to do whatever you want to make yourself happy, well done. Objectivism glorifies the individual, which is a reaction to communism’s glorification of the group (see: 1984.) But it ends up favoring one kind of individual: the one who already has the money and power to make what they want, happen.

Politically, Objectivists advocate laissez-faire capitalism. Under capitalism, a strictly limited government protects each person’s rights to life, liberty, and property and forbids that anyone initiate force against anyone else. The heroes of Objectivism are achievers who build businesses, invent technologies, and create art and ideas, depending on their own talents and on trade with other independent people to reach their goals. – Atlas Society

This definition sounds great until you dig a little more deeply and see that it calls for unfettered capitalism, no taxes, and no social safety net whatsoever. Objectivists feel that a right to property and a moratorium on “anyone initiating force on anyone else” means that the government taking tax money from you and using it to help someone else is not allowed. The model objectivist government exists for one purpose: to protect “producers” (they called them property owners back in the days of powdered wigs) and for national defense.

I often wonder how familiar politicians who claim to admire Rand really are with her philosophy. She strikes me as the Camus of political philosophers: everyone claims to be familiar with her work, but no one has read it. That movie about the architect with Cary Grant was excellent, though. They sure don’t make ’em like they used to!

What I find even more fascinating about Objectivism, however, is the origin of the name:

Reality exists as an objective absolute—facts are facts, independent of man’s feelings, wishes, hopes or fears.

A core tenet of Rand’s philosophy was that reality is objective. It is what it is if you will. This hardly seems worth pointing out, unless you’re a philosophy major.

Who would argue with a reality based on fact?

No one, assuming that you agree to use their set of facts.

This core tenet gives Objectivism an uncompromising vision of what truth is. It’s here that the beliefs that make Objectivism unworkable resemble the situation that is currently making our government fall apart like a campaign promise.

In Atlas Shrugged, Rand’s brilliantly overrated magnum opus, John Galt, Rand’s hero who conquers the world by fleeing from it,  lays out the core principles of Objectivism in an interminably long speech.

“This is John Galt speaking. I’m the man who’s taken away your victims and thus destroyed your world. You’ve heard it said that this is an age of moral crisis and that Man’s sins are destroying the world. But your chief virtue has been sacrifice, and you’ve demanded more sacrifices at every disaster. You’ve sacrificed justice to mercy and happiness to duty.

The greatest of your philosophers (Aristotle) has stated the formula defining the concept of existence and the rule of all knowledge: A is A. A thing is itself … a leaf cannot be a stone at the same time , it cannot be all red and all green at the same time, it cannot freeze and burn at the same time. A is A. Or, if you wish it stated in simpler language: You cannot have your cake and eat it, too.

Note: reading Rand in an editor is hard, because of the interminable urge to edit it.

Objectivists love quoting the “you can’t have your cake and eat it too” part as if it is some deeply profound revelation,  handed down on a smoke-stained, excessively-wordy, tablet.

I’ve been going through our old bookcases and getting rid of books that I either already have in digital form or will never read again. Many of these books are comics. Last weekend I came across an independently produced book by Steve Ditko.

Spider-Man, everyone’s favorite web-slinger, was co-created with Stan Lee by writer-artist Ditko.  (Sorry fanboys, I am not revisiting the argument over who-did-how-much here.) Ditko left the book over creative differences relatively early in its history. According to some, these differences related to Ditko’s recent interest in Rand’s philosophy. The early days of Marvel Comics are the stuff of legend, and by “legend” I mean relentless gossip mainly recounted by people who weren’t there.

Ditko went on to create a few more characters, most of whom the casual comic fan wouldn’t recognize but that the serious fan probably knows and loves, like The Question, The Creeper, Shade, Mr. A (see “A is A” in the quote above) and others.

The Question, by the way, was the inspiration for Rorschach in the Watchmen graphic novel and film. His rigid ideology was a parody of Ditko’s work.

At some point Ditko found Objectivism, and it changed his work immensely, to the point that it looks like it made it difficult for him to work in the industry. Not because of the quality of his work (although some may have considered it “old-fashioned,”) but because his evolving creative vision made working on mainstream characters untenable.

Because of his objective reality.

The book I came across was Lazlo’s Hammer. (Yes, Laszlo is misspelled. I have a first edition, printed before Ditko caught his error.) The book weaves an Objectivist-fueled rant about creators and destroyers from the story of Laszlo Toth attacking Michaelangelo’s Pieta in the Basilica with a hammer.

It’s brilliantly done. Ditko will always be one of comics’ best visual storyteller’s, even if his prose is not always perfect, Laszlo’s hammer is a perfect metaphor for his point, and the artist creates a compelling parable from it.

But as I read it, I find myself comparing Ditko’s (and Rand’s) uncompromising philosophy to today’s polarized political climate, rather than exploring the philosophy itself.

Declaring reality “objective” isn’t merely stating a fact about what reality is, it’s defining two extreme boundaries upon which all of reality must lie. You can see it in the image above. Benevolent or Malevolent. Reason or Anti-Reason. And, inevitably, Producer or Parasite. Custom-written for opponents of that social safety net.

If it sounds to you like there’s no room for a grey area, I’ve got an image from the end of the book for you.

The Grey man: corrupted, self-blinded, crippler, deformer, cheater, enslaver, etc.  There is no grey. It’s Black or White.

Compromise isn’t just wrong it’s immoral.

Sound familiar?

When one draws such stark lines, things fall apart. Not because it’s impossible to resolve conflicts between two or more parties, but because the parties themselves splinter.

Principles are important, but when they become dogma and ideologies, things go wrong. There certainly are principles that should never be compromised. However, there are also goals that are so important that compromise is worth it to reach them.

John Ashcroft is often quoted as saying “There are two things you find in the middle of the road a moderate and a dead skunk. I don’t want to be either one of them.”

The right and left sides of many roads are littered with dead animals too. They were dragged out of the way so that people could continue making progress.

Sixty Minutes Hate

In the opening of Nineteen Eighty-Four, we experience a “Two Minutes Hate” with Winston Smith.

Two Minutes Hate is a daily ritual in Oceania, the fictitious totalitarian state in Orwell’s novel. Citizens assemble in public places, are shown video of Oceania’s enemies, usually Emmanuel Goldstein—the enemy of the state, and must publicly display their hatred for two minutes.

Every time I read the book I find it a harrowing scene primarily because of one sentence:

The horrible thing about the Two Minutes Hate was not that one was obliged to act a part, but that it was impossible to avoid joining in.

This quote is highlighted 3,567 times in the Kindle version I am reading. When I read it this time, I thought of two things: Facebook and cable “news.”

Nineteen Eighty-Four shot to the bestseller list last week. (It may still be there.) I already had it on my to-read list, so I popped it to the top of my stack and started reading it in between chapters of Dan John’s Never Let Go: A Philosophy of Lifting, Living and Learning.

I’m pretty sure Orwell’s classic starting outselling the usual self-help twaddle and latest Harry Potter cash-grab because of something one of the new administration’s representatives said on one of the Sunday Morning bloviation shows.  Her statement was reminiscent of Orwell’s Doublespeak.  Like many people, I decided it was time to re-read the book and experience Doublespeak in situ.

But reading about the Two Minutes Hate for the first time since Facebook since the Fox and MSNBC “news channels” became a part of our landscape hit me like a gold brick with a couple of pounds of fake news wrapped around it.

The Two Minutes Hate is, of course, organized by Oceania’s totalitarian state. There are plenty of obvious reasons why getting your citizens together for a couple of minutes every day and telling them who to hate and how much. As Winston tells us, it works. He literally can’t keep himself from participating. He finds himself hating everyone he can think of during the two minutes, enemies of the state, friends of the state, and random people he sees during the event.

Hate, fear, and anger are powerful stuff.

Are you angry yet?

But we’re much more cooperative than the citizens of Oceania. We seek out hate minutes on our own, with no coercion required, and we usually hold them for hours, not just minutes. We tune into our favorite “news” readers and “comedians” (often the same thing) and cheer and jeer and snarl as they tell us about all of the horrible things that horrible people did all horrible week that we already know about because we already read, shared, and liked the headlines (and maybe even read the stories—but probably not) on Facebook or Twitter.

And then we gleefully share the video of our favorite newsmedian on Facebook and Twitter and watch, share, and like that story until a new horrible headline rolls in. If it’s a good day, we may even see two or three of new things to rage over. And we’ve had some really, really, good days lately.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been trying to focus on self-care. A big part of that is dealing with the fact that I have very little temper and I keep forgetting where I’ve left it. So I’m generally up for a few minutes hate at the drop of a hat or a headline.

Right after I finished the first chapter of Nineteen Eighty-Four I read a chapter in Never Let Go about Olympic Gold medalist and wrestling coach Dan Gable. Dan John summarizes Gable’s coaching philosophy thusly:

If it is important, do it every day. If it’s not important, don’t do it at all.

John is, as usual, talking about front squats, but maybe we should we apply this to Two Minutes Hate? Is it important? Do you need to do it every day?

I don’t think so. I’m working on stopping it.

Am I trying to be more empathetic? Is this a call for patience, love, and understanding?

Hell, no.

There’s plenty to be angry about. Hate may even be a valid response right now, but as rewarding as hate can be, wallowing in it does nothing but reduce clarity.

Orwell’s fictional state enforced Two Minutes Hate because it made the populace easier to control.

I’m not giving up that control, not to the state and not to a newsmedian.

Photo credit:

The cartoon above was created by DonkeyHotey for WhoWhatWhy from these images: Anderson Cooper caricature (DonkeyHotey / Flickr – CC BY 2.0), Bill O’Reilly caricature (DonkeyHotey / Flickr – CC BY 2.0), Rachel Maddow caricature (DonkeyHotey / Flickr – CC BY-SA 2.0), TV (Dave Catchpole / Flickr – CC BY 2.0), sheep 1 (RAY / Flickr – CC BY 2.0), sheep 2 (Rivindu Weerasekera / Flickr – CC BY-SA 2.0), body 1 (Nan Palmero / Flickr – CC BY 2.0) and bodies 2 and 3 (Chairman of the Joint Chiefs / Flickr).

Ate My Homework

Ever lose a really critical document? If you’ve ever used Word, the answer is probably yes. Especially if you’ve used Word on the Mac.

I haven’t ever lost a document because I am pretty compulsive when it comes to backing documents up. My use of computers predates the availability of hard drives for home use, so a lack of trust in computers is pretty well-ingrained with me.

I still managed to lose an extensive collection of movies and scanned comic book collection to a thunderstorm once, when the power outage destroyed a system that had “mirrored” hard drives. So now I don’t trust them either.

Here is a story from one of my favorite sites, Brain Pickings, about John Steinbeck and how he lost the half-written (by hand!) manuscript to Of Mice and Men.

The dog ate it.

No. Really.

(I had a truly epic rant queued up for this week, but it seems that the act of writing it helped me get over my anger and in the cool light of day, the epic rant looks, well, lame. Sorry for the hasty replacement.)

Resolutions and Time Management Bullshit

922I’m not a New Year’s Resolution guy.  The beginnings and endings of years have always felt arbitrary to me, and the dead of Winter seems like an odd time to start new endeavors unless maybe they’re endeavors to wear thicker socks or take down the Christmas Decorations before MLK Day.

This year looks a little different, however. NaNoWriMo had me finishing my very first rough draft of a novel right at the start of December.  I learned a lot in that month, including that this whole writing thing might be a possibility for me.

So making my plans for what to write next, as well as editing the draft I wrote in November, fall right at the New Year. I started a second book while I let the other draft sit, and I need to start taking this blog more seriously so that if/when I publish something there might be a handful of people that want to read it.

This sounds like a lead-in to some resolutions, right? “Finish the draft I am currently working on!” “Edit the other one!” “Post on the blog at least once a week.”

Yeah, not so much.

Resolutions are like diets. They’re temporary transitions that tend to only last for a short period of time since they fail to address the real problem. What has to happen is much more simple and straightforward: I need to write.

I can set all kinds of goals, but if I don’t write, it doesn’t matter. Whether I fail to write 100 words a day or three books in 2017. I didn’t write. Same thing.

For a long time, the key seemed to be time management. More often than not I find myself saying “I didn’t have time to write.” How do I remove that excuse? By managing time better, right?

Fortunately, the Internet is here to save the day. If there’s one topic the ‘net has covered, it’s time management.  You can find millions of articles about how to manage your time.  Google rounded my results for “time management tips” at 61.7 million. The only how-to topics I can think of that might even be close to competitive would be “how to train a dog,” “how to write a novel,” and “how to manage software engineering.

But like the other three topics, most of what you’ll find about time management is bullshit. (I do feel obligated to point out that the amount of unvarnished horseshit shoveled in the name of managing developers is truly unparalleled, though.) As this article says, time management is killing us.

Much of the talk about time management is about avoiding doing the work. Peter Drucker famously said, “What gets measured, gets managed.” He didn’t follow his famous quote with  “and what gets managed gets done” I don’t think anyone ever said that. It might get done, or it might just get talked to death, have a few hundred books and a few thousand LinkedIn posts written about it, and be mentioned in a few Six Sigma courses.

It could go either way.

But I digress. Again.

Time management is not the solution. The solution is prioritization. Writing is important and I need to get it done. The day job will take priority. The family will, too.

But writing will happen.