Writing Practice – 6/20/2020

Why do I write?

Just as well, why do I keep asking the question? I have thoughts in my head, surely I have ideas that, if I did not release them to the pages, would build up and build up and build up, until I had no other recourse but to explode my brain in a disorganized, jumbled mess of a release, and then I would have no way of controlling the output.

But that could be okay, wouldn’t it? But, no, it wouldn’t, because I would have no more organized state, no friendly status, no more attractor to future ideas.

Because ideas come to join other ideas. They herd together, they band together, they like to travel in packs like wolves (or, maybe better, elephants, who are less territorial and defensive and more collaborative and cooperative).

My ideas like to be around other ideas and if the destructive release happens (if the reservoir disappears, evaporating into the ether when the head blows up, then there’s really no thing to attract more ideas, and they’ll go off and implant themselves in someone else’s head. Somewhere else that has a more fertile repository, a better breeding ground for the spawn of those ideas in the future.

Would it be too strange to say that such ideas are alive? That they have intentionality, that they have goals, that they choose one thing or another based on a weighing of potential costs and benefits?

Perhaps they do not “move” like flagella, maybe they do not wriggle like the worm or pace like the lion, but I know that ideas do not simply pop into my head spontaneously ex nihilo. They come from their own breeding ground, out there in the non-physical realms, and they are searching for a place to land. They wander the sixth dimension, seeking, seeking, seeking that place that will be welcoming to them. That will invite them in, offer them warmth, comfort, succor, companionship, a place to rest, to remain, to flourish.

My brain offers that when it not only has enough ideas that the newcomer is not scared, but also not so many that it is too crowded to adequately take hold.

Thus my need for continual offloading of ideas into the page. I must make these ideas feel welcome, while, too, allowing for them to explore themselves, to be comfortable, to be real and to understand that they have a larger part to play in this world. They are part of something. We do not know just what that is. But we – my ideas and I and all my other ideas I have had – and will again have in the future – we join together in this symbiosis, this equal-but-not partnership, and we wait.

We wait for our time to shine. We wait for our purpose to be revealed. And while we wait, we enjoy one another, in a wonderfully trans-materialistic orgy of experience and ideation and substantiation and metaphor and causal chain and letting go and simply wondering in amazement at it all.

Writing Practice 1/12/2020 – Budget

Prompt: “budget”

Good lord, don’t speak to me of budgets. How often must we talk of accounts, and income, and expenses, and allocations? Let us live our lives! Let us run free! Let us roam, let us expand let us explore! No more artificial, arbitrary constraints of a dollar here or a dollar there. No more abstract concepts of balancing from one ledger line to another. No more wondering whether we’ll be off and over by a penny, thus incurring the same warmth as if we had gone over by ten dollars or a thousand.

Why such absolutes? Be more fluid, more flexible, and see where life takes you. Fly! Fly free and enjoy the wind of life in your hair.

Ignore the boundaries of capitalism and embrace the freedom of poverty. Release yourself from the shackles of limitations and discover just how much you can accomplish with nothing, nothing at all.

Ignore the voices at the back of your head saying “worry” and “fear” and “save”. What do they know of life, anyway? What good is saving now for another day, when that other day, you are too feeble to use what you have saved?

No, tomorrow is not guaranteed. And, likewise, neither is a year from now not guaranteed. So, live your life. Love your life. Appreciate your boundaries, and run free within them.

When you find, as you absolutely will, eventually, that those boundaries no longer offer the stimulation you once received – when your cavorting within the confines of your budget no longer satisfy your curiosity for adventure, for exploration, and experience – then, then my friend, it is time.

You shall know it by the warning signs: when you are antsy with your routine – when you are bored of your friends – when your lover does not – when you see these, be aware, and be prepared, that the change is coming.

It will be difficult, no doubt. It may be violent, how strongly your subconscious rebels against the freedom you are exposing it to. But push on, continue, fight this good fight, for in doing, you dissolve the last barriers to true experience – those limitations on mind, on body, and, truly, on happiness usually called a “budget”.

How to draft a book

If you’ve ever wondered how to write the first draft of a book, here’s what I did. I don’t recommend this process.

  1. Be in your mid-life crisis.
  2. Recognize that writing is one of your stress releases.
  3. Be talking with your writer’s group, and get the idea for a book title called “In Too Deep”.
  4. Imagine that In Too Deep would be an awesome name for an erotic book.
  5. Decided to write that.
  6. Notice that NaNoWriMo is coming up.
  7. Start NaNoWriMo without any characters, plot, setting, or anything, knowing only that you’re going to take some of your recent experience and try to write >50,000 words in 30 days.
  8. Finish NaNoWriMo with ~50,500 words (thus WINNING!), but realize that the story is only half-finished.
  9. Write another 10,000 words in the next month, and run out of steam.
    • Because you’ve generally used writing to figure out what the story is, not try to sell it.
    • And now that you know where the story is going, you don’t need to write any more. It’s not that interesting, and you’ve got some other stuff going on, so, meh.
  10. Wait 3 years.
  11. Pick it up again and add another 3,000 words.
  12. Put it down for another 3 months.
  13. Pick it up again and re-read it, and think, “Hey, you know what? I could do this.”
  14. Commit to finishing the draft by December 31, 2019.
  15. Get encouragement from your writer’s group.
  16. Get 3,000 words from the end and keep getting sidetracked by new ideas that come into your head.
    • Realize these are self-sabotaging your completion, because if you actually finish the damn thing, then you’re done and you don’t have something to do.
    • Say “Fuck that shit” to self-sabotage, and decide to write the last 2 scenes without adding anything extra.
  17. Write the next-to-last scene with 3 days left in the year.
  18. Think, Maybe?
  19. Write the last scene.
  20. Basically go, Wait, what did I just do?

Repeat.


Yeah, I don’t recommend that process. But, it worked! I have a draft of a novel. And I’m going to decide by February 11 whether to try to get an agent and traditionally publish, or self-publish.

Any and all comments welcome.

A Bit Of Chatbot Humor

The other day I got involved in a discussion with what is either a really good chatbot or a really bad human. You decide! My text is in bold, the response is normal.

Annotations (my external comments now that I’m a few moments removed) are in italics.

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Photo by Owen Beard on Unsplash

***

Chat started on 12 Dec 2019, 03:31 PM (GMT+0)
(03:31:48) *** Ian joined the chat ***
(03:31:48) *** Visitor 44671434 joined the chat ***
(03:31:51) Ian: Hi there
(03:31:52) Ian: — Are you looking to get a website design & Developed ? I am Ian Sr Web Developer Allow me to assist you 🙂
(03:32:02) Visitor 44671434 (Stephan James): hi ian, what’s twelve minus nineteen?

I often pose a question like this to check and see if I’m chatting with a bot.

(03:32:23) Ian: -4 : D
(03:32:33) Ian: I am not a bot don’t worry
(03:32:55) Visitor 44671434: close. it’s actually -7. i hope your web design is better than your math.

Well, that was surprising. First time I’ve seen a bot actually try to answer.

(03:33:11) Ian: Ofcourse it is
(03:33:30) Ian: because that is our specialty and math is not
(03:33:44) Ian: So what is the nature of your business and what sort of a website you are looking for ?

At this point I wasn’t looking for anything. I don’t even remember what website it was on, so I don’t know what I was trying to do! I think it was some web design company. Hm… how can I really freak out this bot?

(03:34:34) Visitor 44671434: well, i’m a porn scammer. i want to create automated e-mails that spam inboxes of unsuspecting grandmothers and ask them for ransom so I don’t publish the pictures of their granddaughters banging boyfriends.

That ought to do it.

(03:34:45) Visitor 44671434: is that something you can help me with?
(03:35:47) Ian: I am sorry i cannot help you in such activity and i wish you also don’t do that ! However thanks

Surprising! Generally you don’t get much pushback. And I don’t understand the “thanks” either, so I’m going to poke this bear a little bit.

(03:36:12) Visitor 44671434: why are you saying “thanks” there?
(03:36:21) Ian: for wasting my t8ime
(03:36:23) Ian: time
(03:36:34) Visitor 44671434: hey, you waste my time, I”m gonna return the favor.
(03:36:53) Ian: Please do that ASAP !

see, now it seems like this isn’t a bot, because of the typo and the correction, but then it says it wants me to “return the favor” of “wasting my time”, which a human wouldn’t do.

(03:37:01) Visitor 44671434: Already on top of it!
(03:37:12) Ian: Don’t be on top its very sharp

Again sounds like an automated kind of response. No way this is a human. A human would be offended and pissed off.

(03:37:42) Visitor 44671434: sharp doesn’t please the ladies, Ian, you know that. you’ve got to be thick but with a gentle touch. sharp is only going to poke and possibly cut.
(03:38:10) Ian: lol

Does this thing understand innuendo? Maybe it’s not a bot after all.

(03:38:37) Ian: Well let’s be honest i really can’t help you in something like this as i really don’t know what kind of a web service will that be for
(03:38:59) Visitor 44671434: good bot. good job. I almost believe you are a human.
(03:39:09) Visitor 44671434: You’re like *this close* to passing that Turing test.

In case you don’t know, the Turing Test is named for Alan Turing, who said that artificial intelligence is achieved when an observer would not be able to tell that one of the parties to a conversation is actually a machine.

(03:39:57) Ian: Well i would suggest you to stop judging who i am and start telling what i can do for you so we could get this on track – as i really won’t get anything even if you pass me

See, now we’re back to the bot trying to sell me on its services. If it were a human, he would have been disgusted with my desire to create a scammy website, and would have ended the chat.

(03:40:53) Visitor 44671434: no “judgment” here. As I said, you can help me build a website for my business. Do you have a problem with profit? Do you have a policy against certain types of business? or is it your individual evaluation as to which are worthy of your help?
(03:41:10) Visitor 44671434: I need the website to attract investors. Mostly information.
(03:41:28) Ian: Well if it was really a business then i don’t have any problem in creating one for you tell me what things you want on it and have you secured a domain name yet ?

100% right, the bot doesn’t care about what kind of business it is, so long as it can close the sale.

(03:42:12) Visitor 44671434: I want someone else to front the $50k that the guy on the dark web told me he needed in order to build the scammy email automation. I’m just the middleman.
(03:42:35) Visitor 44671434: I don’t have a domain secured. Do you have any recommendations?
(03:43:11) Ian: Well you can let me know what domain you would like to secure and i can see if that can be done

Ooh! Options! Mind spinning… What would be something that might not yet exist in the real world?

(03:43:56) Visitor 44671434: I’d like “shadyinvestments.com“.
(03:44:13) Ian: First of all it would be a website which needs to be created so as far the content is concern tell me what pages you would like to have and how soon do you want this to be completed ?

And now that you ask, I am absolutely loving this “create on the fly” aspect that we’re getting in to.

(03:45:42) Visitor 44671434: I need one front page with a “welcome to this crappy website” type of stuff. Then I need 3 pages each with a profile of a grandmother that we’re going to scam. Finally I need a contact page, and I need a separate web forum where we can have private conversations.
(03:45:56) Visitor 44671434: Listen Ian, I’ve got another call in about 15 minutes. Think we can wrap this up before then?
(03:46:07) Ian: Yes we can do that before that –
(03:46:15) Ian: now as far the profiles are concern you have all that data ?
(03:46:22) Visitor 44671434: I can make something up.
(03:46:34) Ian: Okay let me see the domain if it is available
(03:46:41) Ian: how soon do you want this site to be up in running ?
(03:47:15) Visitor 44671434: i’m not in a hurry, i’ve got until like Christmas.
(03:47:52) Ian: We can make it up before christmas

I bet you say that to all the warm leads, Ian.

(03:47:57) Visitor 44671434: Yay!
(03:48:21) Visitor 44671434: Now, I’m a little fuzzy on whether or not you’re a reputable business. can you give me some links to prior customers of yours?

This was a true request. I’m now invested(ish) in this thing, and I just might create a fake website.

(03:49:22) Ian: Also the domain is available and it is for $4000 but i do have other options in the same name available for you Shadyinvestments.co Shadyinvestments.org Shadyinvestments.Us

shady-investments.com

(03:50:31) Visitor 44671434: whoa, $4,000 is too much.
(03:50:45) Visitor 44671434: What can I get for tree fiddy?
(03:51:15) Ian: shady-investments.com < We can secure this one for $500 – for 5 Years
(03:51:27) Visitor 44671434: only $500? that’s more like it!
(03:51:58) Ian: and let me share you some of the sites which we have done www.sammydress.com https://limnia.com/ http://www.lillypulitzer.com https://dogstudio.co/ https://rocka.co/ https://travelshift.com/ https://www.penarosawatches.com/
(03:52:21) Ian: yes $500 for 5 years Domain Name will be www.shady-investments.com
(03:53:00) Visitor 44671434: Hold on, I’m working on something on this end… give me a minute.

I was; I decided to register shady-investments.com for myself, rather than paying them for it. Not sure I’m dropping $500 just yet.

(03:53:04) Ian: Sure
(03:54:12) Visitor 44671434: so, quick question – I just registered shady-investments.com myself, and it only cost $8 for a whole year. Why are you charging $500 for 5 years?

I used namecheap.com. I like using a domain registrar for searching whether or not a website is already active, because in the off case that it’s not, there are other trawlers out there that will note what you searched for, note that there’s no website, and go register that one automatically. Then when you want that one, boom, it’s taken, too, so performing searches as clandestinely as possible is better. 

(03:54:34) Ian: Because that include the hosting Server for 5 years as well on which your website will be hsoted
(03:54:35) Ian: hosted

Oh, that makes sense.

And look, another intentional typo.

I wonder if I could get a data scientist to analyze this type to see whether there is any regularity to the typos?

(03:54:49) Ian: With the Dedicated connection including SSL (Secuirty for the website )
(03:55:00) Visitor 44671434: oh, well why didn’t you explain that before?
(03:55:35) Ian: We send invoice mentioning everything or when confirming the domain name you heavn’t confirmed yet which is why the information was not shared
(03:55:58) Visitor 44671434: see, you’re going to have to go slow with me here. I’m a little new to this whole scamming everyone thing. Most of the businesses I’ve run before have been legit.

Trying to bring it back to “shady investments”.

(03:56:34) Ian: Even i am thinking that you are about to scam me as well with the offer so it would be better to talk over the phone so we could wrap this up shortly
(03:56:39) Ian: May i have your number to call you ?

No way this would be “Ian” calling me, if I actually gave a number it would be some other sales schmuck. Not interested.

(03:57:01) Visitor 44671434: sorry, as I said, I’m going to be on a call in about 3 more minutes.
(03:57:26) Ian: You said 15 minutes and according to my watch you still have 9 minutes left

We had about 3 minutes left. The bot is as bad at math as I was.

(03:57:40) Visitor 44671434: I’m bad at estimating time. I gotta be honest, Ian, I did not expect this to go so well! thank you for everything.
(03:58:33) Ian: Not a problem hopefully will wait for you to come back after the call 🙂 as i found this business very interesting which is why will get you extra discount on it to catch more granny’s !

Again with the sales pitch! I don’t believe that was a real person (like, who would find this business “interesting”), but I’m not kidding. I totally enjoyed the chat, and I now have another website I might develop.

(03:58:57) Visitor 44671434: Awesome!
(04:30:01) *** Visitor 44671434 left the chat ***

***

So, what comes out of this? If you’ll notice, “shadyinvestments.com” is actually registered, as well as “shady-investments.com”. That’s not a problem.

In the next couple of days I put in a request on “shadyinvestements.com” for a quote to buy that domain name. It was something ridiculous like $4,000, and I ended up getting a call from a dude on the phone. He wanted to scare me into buying the name, because people wouldn’t remember the ‘-‘, and then someone would develop the site shadyinvestments.com and scam off all my members, but, remember, I don’t actually have a product.

All I have is an idea.

So I didn’t buy his crappy $4k domain name. I’m gonna make my own crappy domain and get rich!

Let’s make Shady-Investments.com into an entertainment website, where each month we’ll create a questionable, but perhaps plausible, business idea and post about it. The first one is that grandma-scam website. The “shady” part is not that we’re going to scam grandmothers, but that we’re investing $50k to build the website. Will solicit ideas from readers, maybe make it interactive. I bet there’s more that could go up there, and we could gin up some Excel spreadsheets to make it look legit. Do it right, we’ll get some of those “investors” hooked. And then?

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Photo by Alexander Mils on Unsplash

Totally worth it.

Be on the lookout for a launch announcement in Q1 2020!

Writing Practice 11/23/2019

Write without purpose. Let the words flow freely. Do not impede their progress, from Muse to brain to pen to paper, but let them allow them encourage them to express themselves in your presence.

Become their conduit, rather than their dam. Become a gate through which they flow, rather than a barrier blocking their passage from the universe to your audience. See yourself not so much as a writer, or artist, or sculptor, as if you have the power, as if you have agency over the final form. But, rather, see ourself as the liberator, the catalyst, the accelerator of the birth and emergence of ideas, which once were clouded in the obscurity of the quantum foam, and which, through you, have been able finally to find their true expression, their fullness of being, their own transcendence of the chains holding them back from their truest, fullest, most complete and satisfying existence.

For is that not truly what all things, beings, even ideas, want? To achieve their potential? To make as large an impact on this universe as they are called to achieve?

To be anything less, then, is to laugh at the judgment of those who designed these spaces, these worlds, these modes of expression, and to say to them, “Bah, forget you, I know better than you do how high I can rise, how complete I can be, how fully my heart can be, and, contrary to your exalted expectations, honestly, I must say, you were quite mistaken. Would that I could reach so high! Alas, it is your error in judgment, then, that we expose here today. You aimed too high for me. I, on the other hand, have achieved exactly what I believed, and, truly, know could be done, at the limits of my performance.

This is, let me remind you, absolutely not my failure to achieve the plans you have set in place for me and my benefit and my success and my happiness. Could I have more? Oh, if it were only so easy! But the fault, then, is clearly yours. Do you not see that in fact I have truly reached my limit? Fret yourself not over my ‘failings.’ It is not I who have missed the mark, but instead it is you, you power, you divinity, with your overestimation, with your naïveté to the reality of the situation, with your foolhardy expectation of a life that, clearly, I am not bound or able to live. Shall we all agree in that, everyone would be much better off.”

Do you see, then, how your arrogance plays out in limiting you? Turn not to your own small [illegible], therefore. Believe not the small, limiting voice in your head. Listen, instead to the wide, grand, aspirational call from afar, and seek and strive and achieve the great heights to which you are truly destined.

A Philosophy of Life (unrefined essay)

Writing Practice 7/25/2019

My philosophy of life is…

My philosophy of life is still evolving. It’s never going to be completely static and arrived. That would be a naive way to view the world, as if you had arrived and had all the answers. We’re not Budhha over here. Which means we will constantly need to adapt our philosophy of life to new situations, new experiences, new people, who come into our lives. We need to recognize this dynamic nature, so that we don’t consider ourselves stuck, or stable, or solid, and get so entrenched in those ways, and so enamored with our own selves, that we cannot do any kind of modification at all when the time necessary for adaptation emerges.

Not to say we adjust according to every whim, every new fad in society. But we do recognize that there may be times when what we previously thought becomes insufficient to comport with the whole of the world presented to us, around us, beside and above us. We must, therefore, continually test and evolve to and refine our philosophies of life, even if those refinements are no more than to say, “yes, this philosophy also works well in that new situation.”

For us to wholesale, grand scale, top-to-bottom and soup to nuts try to remake our philosophies, though, is too large an undertaking. We shall be in a state of constant adjustment, whipsawing back and forth between extremes, with no real progress ever made towards the goal. And, since each philosophy of life shall have a different goal, one will hardly ever have the chance of Obtaining it, and either finding it a worthy goal or finding it wanting, should we continuously choose to bounce, to alternate back and forth between such options.

It is for this reason, much like the coxswain in the scull, that I advocate smaller and smaller steps of change each time, moving approximately half of your deficit each time. So, for example, suppose you’re starting out at the origin of a plane. You have two axes, the X and the Y. You decide that your best philosophy of life is designed to send you as far along the Y axis as possible. As much “UP” as you could go, as it were. Suppose, then, that you stat out living life, and find yourself traveling, or even just pointing, “EAST”, along that X- axis. Do you, immediately, slam on the brakes, and try to come to a full and complete stop?

Well, you could. Or, you could take the same energy you would use to stop, and you could simply apply pressure in the “UP” direction. Yes, you’d still going east, somewhat, but you would also be now heading more towards the UP than you were before.

Suppose it works. As it should. Eventually you may find that you have overshot your Y-axis, and are now headed a bit WEST-UP, UP-WEST, UP-LEFT, whatever. At this point, do you once again apply so much UP-RIGHT pressure as to continue to go back and forth across the axis?

No, if you are smart you will, after the first overcorrection, go less-right and more-up; if as, to be expected, you overshoot once more, your error will likely be less than it was originally. Continue to aim for your target, but with smaller and smaller corrective actions, and you will eventually eliminate your overshoots, and you will start to simply approach your goal, to be lived however and whatever and wherever it becomes you.

 

 

How To Write A Book Review

I recently finished reading 12 Rules for Life by Jordan Petersen. If you’re not familiar with the man, his book does provide a little history of his rise to recent prominence. I only found out about him in the last 6 months, from seeing some YouTube lectures on the nature of humanity, psychology, and various other subjects. Millions of others are like me in that they didn’t know about this former Harvard professor and clinical psychologist until he garnered quite a bit of attention for a political position about compelled speech, for the fact that the alt-right has commandeered some of his arguments to bolster their position, and for the fact that he’s quite solidly against some of the feel-good trends of the day.

Not getting into those here.

Instead, I’m going to write a little rant about book reviews.

It’s weird. Many book reviews are often not reviews, but summaries. I blame 11th Grade English teachers.

In their insistence that we answer exactly the question they’ve asked, with exactly the facts they wish to hear, but written “in your own words”, they’ve trained us less to think critically and more to paraphrase. This comes out when you look at the multitude of reviews on Amazon.com (or any other review platform). Most of the time, these are simply restatements of fact about the book, rather than their own impressions of the book’s content, how it made them feel, or what they take away from it.

And let’s not confuse a “rating” (1 star, 2 stars, etc.) with a “review”. A rating is an objective ranking. This is better than that. Those over there are worse than these here. A review is a subjective evaluation. This spoke to me. I appreciated parts here and there. Generally they’re correlated, but not equal. That is, most of the time you have a positive rating you also have a positive review. But sometimes not. I think it is entirely possible to have a 1-star rating with a “positive” review. That is, someone could find the format absolutely terrible (1-star) and disagree with the conclusions, yet still respect the arguments laid out within(“positive” review).

Which is why we need to have more critical reviews out in the public sector. But, ironically, not too many. Currently, Amazon.com has 4,878 reviews of 12 Rules for Life. I imagine B&N.com has thousands more, not to mention Goodreads and an uncountable number of independent opinions hosted on blogs or other smaller sites. If I read even a small fraction of all of those, I would easily spend longer on that task than the 15 or 16 hours I spent reading the text. Would that be worth my time? Probably not. I’d do much better to read a few and make a decision based on that information and spend the majority of my time with the actual book.

But where to start?

I’m sure that’s why Amazon introduce the [HELPFUL] button. This allows me to see whether other readers of this review have found value from the review. A meta-review, as it were. But doesn’t this also contribute to the problem of social conditioning and trending and social signaling? As more people find a particular review “helpful”, Amazon drives that review upward in the feed, creating a feedback loop in which I as a user don’t get the chance to experience the whole range of reviews, only the lucky leaders which came in to the process early, and have been promoted not necessarily because of quality, but simply because of quantity (of “helpful” ratings earlier than those which came later and are, unfortunately, buried too far back in the queue to ever get a chance at visibility).

Back to the review vs. summary discussion, what ends up happening is that many of those summaries are not helpful. They are not rated as such by readers. Good reviews, though, as actual reviews which provide insights, now take prominence because we, as readers, don’t want to waste our time reading unhelpful summaries. So we want to read the most helpful reviews, often of the value which we believe we’ll end up holding after we read the text! That is, if I think I’ll like it, I’m mostly going to spend time reading 5-star reviews. If I think I’ll hate it, I’m probably going to be waist-deep in 1-stars.

Ironically, and unfortunately, this confirmation bias problem drives a narrowing of the perspectives we are likely to see when considering a book. How many people read the 5 “most helpful” of each of the 5-star reviews, 4-star reviews, 3-star reviews, 2-star reviews, and 1-star reviews? Not many. We often read a couple of 5-stars, and validate our own internal prejudiced decisions we’ve already emotionally made with reference to these “independent” observers.

I think that’s a bad way to go about it. I don’t think this gives us a broad base of knowledge on which to base a conclusion. Instead, it feeds the brain’s energy-saving decision shortcuts

So. I there a way to fix this? I don’t know. Limit the # of reviews? Create an algorithm within Amazon’s display that forces a random review to be shown, rather than the “most helpful”? Cycle through on a first-written-first-shown basis so that each has a chance to be seen in equal measure? I don’t know the right answer.

Right now we’re getting the same sort of ineffective (destructive?) virtue-signaling and trend-whoring that we all complain about in social media. For the information industry (book publishing, lectures, blogging, etc.), which is so critical to the healthy function of a society, we may be running dangerously low on healthy debate, dissent, and critical thinking. Because we all want “the best” (again for a multitude of reasons), yet we’re not willing to go through the difficult process of evaluating for ourselves what the best might be.

Perhaps having a conversation around what it is we seek to accomplish through reviews, ratings, and the entire feedback process is warranted. I’ll leave that to someone else to organize.

SJ

P.S. I realize this essay doesn’t make much sense. Probably because I’m thinking as I write. I reserve the right to review and revise later.

P.P.S. I guess the least I could do is give you my review. Link here:

See below for text. You’re welcome.

P.P.P.S. I gave the book a 5-star rating and a positive review. It’s unlikely anyone will ever see that review and make a decision because of it, because now this review is buried a hundred pages back.

I don’t write many reviews on Amazon. They’re often overwhelmed by the sheer volume of everything else, so it feels as if I’m simply shouting into the void. Because…

This book needs no additional 5-star review. There are plenty of them already. This book needs no additional commentary – there is plenty of that already. This book, this author, needs no additional puffing up of his reputation – there’s plenty of that done by the Patreon subscribers and the purchasers of his other books. And yet…

In keeping with the rules that say “Tell the truth – or at least, don’t lie” and “Be precise in your speech,” I offer this rating and review in order to be consistent with the pull in my innermost Being, to respond to what I have just read and to share my thoughts, regardless of their receipt.

Thank you, Mr. Peterson. Thank you for saying, eloquently, what many of us have felt within our own spirit for years now. That this life is not easy. That there are hard things to do, and hard ways of doing them. That we’re not all badasses, that we’re not all going to win. That we must work, because of reasons outside our control, but despite that work and those obstacles we can still create within ourselves a life that is meaningful, that reaches for higher values. A life that represents better, a better Being, and strives agains the Chaos around us.

All should read this book. Not all will. And even of those who do, some shall be put off by the many references to God and Christianity and the Bible as authoritative. That’s a disappointment. For, even if one does not hold that same philosophy (as I do not), one should admit that, in accord with one of the rules, that this other person, this author (who has striven to bring your life additional Order) has something to say. Not just something for the sake of saying something, just to be heard and followed mindlessly in order to inflate an ego out of selfish desires, but something important and, ultimately, valuable as you strive to create a life you can be proud to leave behind.

Writing Practice – 4/16/2019

chaos

Chaos abounds in the darkness. In the light, even if there is motion, or disorganization, or interaction, or conflict, these are all seen, are all understood, are all mapped inside our consciousness and prepared for, planned for, contemplated by those lovely lumps of brains atop our spinal cord, and we have no fear. We do not stress. We do not wonder. Seeing is believing? No, seeing is truth, and acceptability, and regularity, and pattern, even if it is wild, incoherent, and random-ish.

But in the dark, in the absence of light, in the places where you sense with infrared and ultraviolet in the realm of navigating the world through our other nine senses (smell, taste, touch, hearing, balance, time, ESP), these are still not enough for us, for humans, to feel as if we have control of the situation. For is that not what chaos really is, but lack of control? We may not have authority over the teeming mass of wandering hordes out for destruction, yet if we see them we fear them much, much less than when they come under cover of darkness.

No other sense, no other attribute, contributes as much to our fear as our lack of vision. Were we to see but not hear, their terror in us would, paradoxically, be lessened, for that is one which, by its absence, reduces th threat. We don’t believe silent things can hurt us. For, what do we fear more, the snake’s rattle or the owl’s quiet wingbeats? precisely.

We fear those things which are loud, and unseen, and so adding a chorus of clanging boots and rattling armor to the darkest night is a combination fit to turn even the most self-professed brave soul into a withering baby. This combination takes away the one sense which adds assurance, sight, and adds another element which increases terror in its own right, sound.

The others – smell, taste, touch, we are too undeveloped in yet to have a way to know whether these will increase or decrease our fear. At long distance, that is. In the immediate presence, if you can smell the putrid, rotting flesh of the zombie horde, you may as well give up, because if they’re close enough for you to smell, they’ll be on top of you soon enough. And at the same time, touch, taste, require a physical intimacy which beggars belief of fear. So, then, this fear of the unknown, this fear of change, of the “other” out there, is heightened, and is birthed out of, chaos, disorder, unreality, irrationality, and the way the world works is far, far beyond our own mortal capacity to understand. WE have limited scope of using our brains, and we have devoted much of that to sensing in the visible spectrum. When a creepy-crawling comes approaching outside of that spectrum, then is when our distrust kicks in, our fear of chaos (destruction, impermanence, intransigence, ending, power, power to finalize, power to transform, power to erode) takes over, and we turn away as soon as possible, as strongly as possible, and we seek out that alternative, of places of light, and order, and permanence, and connectivity.

***

Commentary: So, this isn’t a great essay. It doesn’t hold any special revelations. I didn’t find any unique turns of phrase. I didn’t really “lose control” at the end. I felt like I sort of stopped a couple of times along the way, and just sort of plodded through it all. I could go back and edit, to make it flow better, to make it more impactful. It doesn’t even really end well. So why do I post it? Why do I let you see it? Why do I expose my soft underbelly of semi-incompetence?

Trust me, it’s not to fish for compliments. If that were so, I’d be ultra-negative on myself and expect someone, anyone, any reader, to correct me and tell me it’s fine, it’s great, it’s still inspiring. No, I don’t do this to garner sympathy or comments or feel-good-ness.

I post this in its mediocrity as it is because that’s what writing is about.

Writing is about doing the writing. Writing is about doing it even when it doesn’t feel great, even when it’s kind of boring at the end and you’re like, “yeah, nobody’s ever going to read that.” And you know what? They’re probably not. But you do it anyway. Because that’s how you get through the really low periods to the points where it’s great, where your pen is just banging, where you’re in the flow and you’ve got it all good and things just couldn’t get any better. Those things don’t just happen because you decided to show up once or twice or even ten times. Those things come when you’ve put in the work, when you’ve been steady and faithful to the muse, and when hit happens… damn. There’s nothing like it. So that’s why you write the crap pieces, the drudgery, the stuff about chaos and leadership and boring descriptions of shoes and conversations. So that you’re there and ready to strike when called. If you’re skipping out, you’re missing out.

Extremely Bad Advice – Losing A Limb, Gaining A Life

Okay, I’m stealing this one from Reddit. Apparently these people don’t know I’m available, or they wouldn’t be wasting their time with piddling “it’ll get better, just wait” pablum.

Hi Reddit, So as the title says, my Step-Dad, whom I’m very close to, had an accident at home on the weekend. We have all been left quite traumatised by the events. He was cutting thru mortar to remove limestone blocks, and the blade got stuck and kicked back, into his lower arm.

It severed his artery and he was bleeding out. My mum was at home but couldn’t hear him yelling (very big house). He shoved his other fist into his wound and walked to their door. He couldn’t take his hand out to open door or bang on door, so he banged on it with his head. When that failed he walked down to the driveway because, as he explained, he was bleeding out and all he could think was he was going to die alone and didn’t say goodbye to anyone.

He lay on the driveway yelling for help and luckily a neighbour drove past and saw him. Other people came and got my mum. There was a nurse there too, thank God. Ambulance was called and my mum called me, screaming to get my step-sisters and I to him because he was losing too much blood. I was with 1 of my sisters at the time and 6 of our kids. The kids (between 5 and 10 years of age) saw the fallout of that, us crying and panicking etc. They seem to be ok.

He got to hospital where they gave him ketamine to knock him out. Surgery followed to reattach his arm and nerves etc and he is currently undergoing more surgery right now. They say he lost so much muscle, he may never regain feeling. He can move his fingers though. He is a very physical man, a builder by trade, and is always building and fixing things. This will destroy him. He is 63 years old and now needs years of rehab.

My mum and Step-Dad have enough savings to survive for a few years. My mum works too. It was his left arm affected and he is right-handed, small mercies. We are all deeply affected by nearly losing him. He does so much for everyone and the thought that he nearly died alone is awful. My mum has major guilt about not hearing him. I know we are blessed he is still with us, but the trauma in that moment is still lingering.

What can we do now to make his life/their lives easier?

**

Okay, sounds like a bad situation. First part of my answer is, don’t listen to my advice. It’s extremely bad. Nobody should listen to this advice. Got that, those of you reading at home? Don’t listen to this advice! Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way…

Second part, of three, is that you’re going to have to put some money out of your pocket for a few months. At least until your dad gets moderate use of his hand back. Let me explain.

Judging by your use of the word “mum” and misspelling of “neighbor” as “neighbour”, I conclude that you are located somewhere in England. This means your procedures and operations and therapy will be covered by the National Health Service. I have two thoughts on that.

One, you will get what you need, but not all of what you need. Oh, you’ll get the surgeries and the physical therapy and the emotional counseling and all that, but that’s only half the picture. My other mind tells me that since your father is now hideously deformed, much is going to change between him and your mum. Due to not only the physical change, but her feeling like she must be “delicate” with him while he recovers, and that she feels she must care for him during his convalescence, she will no longer find him sexually attractive. Instead, she will see him as a “project”, a work to be completed, and she will therefore pull away physically out of fear of hurting him, as well as due to the time constraints and the stress.

At the same time, he will begin to feel like less of a man, less of a provider, hell, less of a human being, because he can no longer do the things he had previously done. This will drain his libido and lead to a downward spiral in which he does not improve because he doesn’t see any benefit to it, and because his wife, your mum, is acting aloof and “strange” to him.

This cycle will continue to build, albeit beneath the surface, because nobody wants to admit their true feelings about the situation, until it blows up into a destructive case of anger and, paradoxically, depression, driving your mum into the arms of Trevor down the street, because at least he listens! When the truth comes out, the downfall continues: your step-dad feels even more humiliated, incompetent, impotent, deformed, and unworthy.

His depression deepens and eventually their split becomes permanent, and he’s on the dole while your mum and Trevor are snogging nightly, bemoaning the fact that if they’d just admitted their feelings years ago, they could be on the beaches in the south of France these days, taking it easy. Meanwhile your step-dad spirals downward into a whiskey-fueled haze combined with a fanatical obsession over Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s neckties. Now, nobody wants that; but you can avoid it by the following actions, and here’s where the money comes in, because the NHS doesn’t cover “emotional support concubines”:

Once a week, you hire a hooker to hit on your step-dad. [You’re in England, so, small mercies, this isn’t so frowned upon as here in the U.S. Good for you guys.] Prepare her, and pay her to be ready for, giving your father a handjob, though encourage her to allow him to stop her whenever he wishes. This will make him feel attractive, make him feel worthy, and, if he goes through with it, give him the sexual satisfaction neither he nor your mum is prepared to provide during his recovery. He’s busy thinking about staying alive, not about getting off, and she’s thinking about keeping him alive, not about getting him off. But this way, he still feels like a man, and he has options: accept the hooker’s advances and get his rocks off (lessening the stress), or reject her and have a great story to tell your mum in order to solidify their relationship.

This will probably need to last about eighteen months. After that time, his therapy will be done, and they’ll have figured out their “new normal”, which will likely include some kind of cosplay, generally around the “Captain Hook” theme. They’ll be good to go, although you won’t want to ask them for any stories after their anniversary nights out on the town. Good news is you can stop the hooker. Or you can give her my number and pre-pay for a little long-distance “talk therapy”, if you get my drift. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.

I mentioned that there were three parts to my answer. That was the second. The third is this, and while you may think that part 2 was bad, just wait.

I advise you to convince your step-dad to amputate his arm, preferably as quickly as possible. The physical and mental trauma and struggle he’ll have to go through over the next handful of years to overcome his disfigurement and disablement is just not going to be worth it. Prosthetics are fantastic these days! He’ll actually be vastly more functional in a dramatically shorter time frame if he replaces, rather than “saving”, his arm and rehab from there. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to pull the old switcheroo as he self-deludes more and more into the idea that he’ll be better off with half his original hand.

But, in reality, his “healing” will be a much, much longer process if he has to view daily reminders of how much he’s lost, and how insufficient his “recovery” will ever be.

Now, how do you convince him to do it? Well, you probably won’t. Which is where you’ll have to take matters into your own hand. Literally. Go back out to his driveway and find that angle-grinder or whatever it was, and finish the job. Use a torniquet (I bet that’s how you’d spell it) tied off at the elbow so he doesn’t bleed out, but just throw that leftover hunk to the stray dogs in the street and apply to the NHS for a prosthetic. The trauma will be over much quicker, and your step-dad will, in the end, thank you once he realizes you’ve actually shortened his grieving period and given him a far superior solution to having something that looks like, and is about as useful as, beef jerky dangling from his elbow.

Cheers!

When You Go And Do A Thing

So, yeah… A while ago, and pretty recently, I wrote stories, and this year I put them together, edited them, formatted them, got a cover, went through the rigamarole of signing up on Amazon, added things like bank account numbers for payment, ordered proof copies, marked them up, resubmitted texts for print and ebook, reordered proof copies, marked those up, re-resubmitted texts, ordered more proof copies, got e-mails from Amazon that my cover was wrong by 0.05 fucking inches!, stressed out, freaked out, ordered a new cover from my cover designer, got antsy, did it myself, reuploaded the cover and resubmitted the book, got antsy and called Customer Service to see if I could expedite processing and approval, got shot down, had to learn how to sit on my hands to wait, RECEIVED APPROVAL!!!, ordered 50 copies for the Book Launch party, freaked out that they wouldn’t arrive in time, calmed down once they’d been finally shipped and scheduled for delivery, FREAKED OUT AGAIN when the delivery was delayed due to “inclement weather” (pfft – natural disasters, who the fuck cares?), called Amazon already like seventeen times [yes, I exaggerate. It’s a coping mechanism] this morning to learn that indeed, the delivery is scheduled for today, FREAKED OUT YET AGAIN upon learning that the delivery window is anytime between 8 am and 9 PM {FFFFFffffffffffffffuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu………….}, took a deep breath, and said, “I believe it will all work out.”

And so, there you have it. That’s how you publish a book, my friends. Thirty-seven simple steps, and you only have to freak out like nineteen times! Why wouldn’t everyone want to do this?

 

PS: Never in my life have I been prouder to be ranked #6,846! (as of 8:35 am Central Standard Time, Monday, March 4).