Randomness for 4/8

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1) What is NeoRealism? Video. Extraordinarily interesting contrast between neorealist and Hollywood movie techniques. h/t @RodneyRamsey

2) The Uncomfortable, a collection of deliberately uncomfortable everyday objects.

3) Sony gets Blender-made animated short pulled from YouTube even though they have no copyright claim to it. You can still watch it on Vimeo, though.

4) Vatican to digitize 41 million pages of ancient manuscripts. Of course, the manuscript pages themselves will outlast whatever file type the Vatican chooses to put them in.

5) Workouts inspired by your favorite fandoms. Heh.

6) What if the moon was a disco ball? Video. A question we’ve all asked at one point or another.

7) The Love Me Letters, Open Letters to Random People.

Randomness for 7/25

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1) Weird Ways To Burn 200 Calories. Video.

2) Excaliber, the world’s tallest (121 feet) free-standing climbing wall.

3) First of all, how do the astronauts was their hair in zero G? Awesome! Second of all, female astronaut. Awesome! Last, hair care tips from the woman on board? Hmph. I hope she gets to play guitar or something next time. Video. (Still, zero g hair-washing.)

4) The terrible and wonderful reasons I run long distances, by The Oatmeal.

5) Favorite movies laid out as vintage treasure maps.

6) Ryan Gosling Won’t Eat His Cereal. This is so simple and absurd. I love it.

7) This is what happens when you try to take video of police in Sweden. Video. (h/t to James Nicoll).

This week sucks

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It was just Monday that I blogged about how grateful I am that folks are supporting me in the Clarion West writeathon and that I was taking those pledges seriously and hoping to get a lot done.

Then, later that day, I broke a tooth in a big way.

Tuesday, I discovered that I could not get in with my dentist that day.

Wednesday, I learned that I will probably need a root canal that I can’t afford.

Today, my wife found out that a very old friend of hers passed away. She’s processing it as best she can and I’m trying to stay close in case she needs support.

Guys, this week sucks. As soon as we can put this one in our rear-view mirror, lets.

On top of that, I realized too late that progress on the book had grown sluggish because my subconscious was telling me that I’d made a structural mistake. The book felt flat and I couldn’t keep pushing through it any more. This realization felt almost Strossian.

So, it’s late in the day but I’m going to go back and redo those pages in the proper way, and hopefully they will help to build the climax the way it’s meant to be done.

Week’s not over! It’s possible that tomorrow will be non-shitty. Let’s hope so.

Things “everyone knows” about obesity that aren’t supported by the evidence

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“Everyone knows” the best ways to fight obesity, but how much of that information is supported by evidence? And how much of it is flatly contradicted by the evidence.

The Washington Post highlighted a paper in the New England Journal of Medicine that examined common beliefs about weight loss and compared them with the relevant research. It’s amazing how much is simple presumption without any basis in evidence, and also how much is straight up wrong.

I wish I had access to the full paper.

Added later: Don’t read the comments.

In which I have opinions on recent publishing news

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First, as per James Nicoll and Making Light, Games Workshop, the game company that makes Warhammer 40K, is asserting a trademark claim to the term “Space Marines.” They have the trademark on the term in the gaming world, supposedly, but now that they’ve started publishing ebook tie-ins they’re claiming a common law trademark over the term and filing DMCA notices to make Amazon pull books from the shelves.

Of course, the writer they’re doing this to doesn’t have the money to fight back because deep pockets uber alles. If you’re a fan and customer of the company’s games, maybe you should stop buying from them until they clean up their act, and let them know about it.

Second, yet another article about the slow-motion collapse of Barnes & Noble written for The Atlantic this time. Is there any surprise, really, that our slow-motion recovery from a nasty economic collapse is still taking a toll on out-sized companies? Or that the agency-price collusion lawsuit filed in Amazon’s favor would be another cinderblock in B&N’s rowboat?

I’m not what you’d call a fan of B&N, although I will say that I’m less-likely to be given the side-eye when I shop for SF/F in a big chain than in an indie store. Also, I love seeing huge sections of a store devoted to genres, something you rarely see in indie corner shops.

What would be lost if the last of the big chains go under? We would lose a physical space designed to sell according to readers’ tastes rather than the tastes of the bookstore owner.

Third, Chuck Wendig wants to make today International Don’t Pirate My Book Day. His thoughts about treating art as a thing of value are worthwhile, but here’s where he and I differ: when you read my work without paying for it, it doesn’t hurt my feelings.

It’s pernicious, yes. It’s harmful in the long term. If I am giving something away for free, read for free. Enjoy. If not, I would prefer you pay. However, it doesn’t hurt my feelings because my feelings don’t enter into it.

I’ve talked about this before: In the digital world, price is not constrained by supply and demand. Supply is/can be effectively infinite, so there’s no reason for people to pay extra to procure scarce goods. However, the constraint on price is actually “theft;” the balancing act has to be “How much will users pay for this?” vs “At what price point will people just steal it instead?”

Really this is an inevitable consequence of our advertising/consumer culture, in which you the consumer deserve whatever you want when you want and it ought to be cheap as possible. That’s the culture that vendors of every size, from mom and pop stores to massive corporations, have been pushing for generations. It’s thoroughly internalized in our outlook on the world, and now that machines in our homes allow us to cut the actual producers out of the equation, people do so with gusto.

It’s pernicious, yes. Also, I know people will respond with “Customers are willing to pay if you make it easy for them to do so and keep the price low enough.” Yes, that’s true. It’s also a calculation that occurs solely within the head of the consumer. What’s a fair price? How long should I have to wait for it?

There will always be people who think the smart thing to do is to take what they want and give nothing back, if you get my reference. The real issue becomes the size of that group of consumers and how the culture at large talks about them. In my opinion, the battle against book piracy will not be won in courts or legislative chambers, but in the culture at large; what behavior is normalized? That’s the question.

Fourth and last, I’m going to a reading tonight and my body is in full allergic freak-out mode. I don’t have anything life-threatening going on, but the patchy red marks on my face and (fading now, thankfully) hives on my arms turn me from ugly guy to full AVERT! AVERT! status. Oh well.

Randomness for 12/11

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1) A motorcycle with a track instead of wheels, from 1939.

2) Do people gain weight during the holidays? Science says no, not usually.

3) A six-year-old tries to guess the plots of classic novels by their covers.

4) How much we care about Star Wars, graphed over time.

5) Look at this Instagram (Nickelback parody) Video. Not only have I never knowingly heard Nickelback once, but I have never been to Instagram. I still laughed at this.

6) Why is ‘w’ pronounced ‘double u’ rather than ‘double v’?

7) Author Christopher Priest shares his opinion of Robert McCrum, an associate editor of the Observer.

Reuben Salad

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The boy didn’t like it, but my wife did. I’ll be updating the recipe for next time.

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It’s fancy potato chips at the bottom, then lettuce, then corned beef, then sauerkraut, then swiss cheese, then thousand island dressing. I may heat the cheese next time so it’s more melty–the residual heat from the meat and kraut didn’t do it–but overall it was pretty good. Not great, but pretty good.

Best in small doses, I think.

Tomorrow is my not-birthday

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For new or forgetful folks, the not-birthday concept is pretty straight-forward: my wife and I have the same birthday, which sucks, so I moved mine back a month.

What this means: omelet with oven-roasted potatoes for breakfast, pizza at some point, possibly a bottle of quality beer.

Then, on Monday, I’m starting an unjuice fast. Health-related stuff behind the cut. Continue reading

Willpower is not a virtue

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And by “not a virtue” I don’t mean that it’s a vice or it’s something awful. I mean, it’s not a wonderful thing that people have or don’t have.

Okay, so, I’m an NPR-listener. Yeah, I often hear this expert or that being interviewed… so many of them that they sometimes run together. Sometimes I’ll hear something that sticks with me and I have to go back to find it again. Like this interview with David Eagleman.

What Eagleman said, for those who don’t want to click through to the show, is that our brains aren’t this unified thing. We, ourselves, aren’t a unified identity. Different parts of our brain want us to do different things: Lose weight, exercise, sleep in, work hard, order the fries, watch that TV show… We’re full of conflicting impulses.

This is certainly true of me. I have long battled with myself over all sorts of indulgences, and different parts of me fight in different ways. When I get up early to work on my book, I feel a sense of accomplishment. When faced with the opportunity to eat something I shouldn’t, I feel a sense hopeless despair.

And in recent years, it’s been a tossup which part of my brain[1] would win, except for the despair. Hopeless despair has been a trump card in my life; I have a hard time beating it.

However! Lately I have stopped looking at myself as a complete whole. Lately I have tried to recognize that there are several different personalities living inside me, and that my brain plays dirty tricks on my to make me do things I shouldn’t. In essence, I’m accepting the fact that my own brain is often my enemy.

I’ve talked about this before: It can be hard to say no to food when the despair hits. It can be hard to get up early to work when I know I need sleep, too. But for the past few weeks, I have not been using willpower to win these internal battles. It might look like willpower, but it’s not. What I’ve been doing is keeping my goals in the forefront of my mind and treating all impulses that get in the way as an enemy attack. It’s not willpower to refuse to go over to my enemy camp.

It’s been working, too. For me, I mean. I don’t know how well this would work for anyone else.

[1] If you’re thinking of “parts of my brain” in an anatomical sense, you’re being too literal. I’m talking about competing impulses.