On that note, consider this my open-call for volunteer bloggers to help a brotha' out while he's healing from surgery. Send me a message on facebook, if you're interested.
Regrettably, a few weeks before Artifact launch, it seems that I can either write books, or I can write blog-entries - at the moment, I'm in the heat of finishing the second draft of another novel. Bloggin' ain't easy, I'm afraid. It's not where my passion is, you know? I'll attempt to finish up a meaty post for you all as soon as my creative juices cease flowing. In the meantime, well - let's spark up a discussion about something. Give me a few prompts and whatnot: it's much easier to blog once I've suckered you into giving me ideas. Come now, don't be shy...
On that note, consider this my open-call for volunteer bloggers to help a brotha' out while he's healing from surgery. Send me a message on facebook, if you're interested.
Not feeling very well, I'm afraid. Doc pinged me back with some shitty news (but news nonetheless, which is good): I have not one but TWO herniated discs in my neck (c56 and c67), slight bleeding along the spine, spiced with some cervical nerve damage. I'm gearing up for some likely surgery, a bouncing baby-boy and a book-release all within a span of weeks. No complaints, just... excuses for lack of content. I will be dropping a motherly sized article in a few days titled, "The Art of Trope Killing, and the Narrative Genius of Cabin in the Woods," so stay tuned for that. I'll attempt more content soon. Thanks for being patient. Special thanks to Damian Hirtz at Alliance Brazilian Jiu Jitsu MN for hooking me up with Twin Cities Spine - these folks wasted no time figuring out what was wrong - previous doc wanted to place me on a painkiller, anti-inflammatory regiment coupled with physical therapy instead of an MRI, which would have certainly done irreversible nerve-damage.
Have a good'n,
I’ve been recently grappling with my latest project, and it’s running away from me; hence, the lack of blog posts. The Predator one is still going strong, infecting the intrawebs, upsetting cinephiles everywhere, so that’s good.
The very first commercial 3d printer went on sale this month at Staples, and I hoped to explore the inevitable laws in detail (someone had the bright idea to create a functioning firearm with one of those bad-boys for the sole purpose of setting some sort of legal precedent). My theory is that certain laws will be cropping up soon, outlawing the fabrication of anything remotely resembling a firearm, perhaps even requiring printers to be installed with software that prevents the fabrication of anything deemed “threatening,” or “harmful” (I’m thinking plastic blades that can evade detection in airports/courthouses/etc.) It’ll be interesting to see where we’ll end up marking the line. There’s often a disappointing resolution with these things, balancing how much freedom we’re willing to sacrifice for sweet, safe, unthreatening comfort. I mean, yeah – do what you have to do with guns and stuff (honestly, I could probably whip up a functional firearm with pvc piping and some isopropyl alcohol – a lethal one, too.) I’m of the opinion that if some nutjob or other were determined to go off the rails in public, they’ll find a way, 3d printers notwithstanding.
I also think certain companies will attempt to extend copyright laws for things they could potentially lose sales to. The creation of custom iphone cases, for example, could fall under the purview of certain anti-piracy laws (as ridiculous as it sounds). Keep an eye open for any lists sprinkled across those pesky interwebs detailing three-dimensional blueprints that could be outlawed. Action figures, car parts, televisions, that sort of thing. Grab your popcorn folks, and settle in comfortably – we have some fairly entertaining (terrifying…?) legal battles in the pipeline. Worst case scenario: 3d printers will be made illegal. Next best shitty scenario: when you do decide to fork over some hard-earned cash for your very own 3d printer, you won’t legally be able to do anything interesting with it. There’s only so many plastic flowers one can make before the novelty wears off, methinks. These laws may very well make or break the 3d printer market, or at least restrict the privilege of owning these cornucopia machines to certain licensed entities. As of right now, the current generation of 3d printers can be purchased for a meaty sum of $1500 – of course I want one badly, but I’m resolved to wait until all the bugs have been thermalized by the magnifying glass of Moore’s Law. Considering the Law of Accelerating Returns, I put 3d printers at less than $100 within ten years, tops. I’m a patient guy. Patient and frugal. Of course, you may want to go pick one up while you still can, legally.
Changing gears, the most interesting thing I read last week (well, the most memorable) was a kickstarter for glow-in-the-dark trees that could one day replace streetlamps! If you ever wanted to live on the planet Pandora with a tribe of bluish cataliens [sic], you can donate here. Picture bioluminescent grass, ferns, and palm trees. Yah, screw flying cars – a future with glowing trees is the one I want! Depending on how your city gets its power, glow-in-the-dark trees could seriously cut down CO2 emissions. I’m all for that, excluding the possibility that said shiny foliage doesn't screw up any wildlife (at least no more than streetlights do).
As for Artifact – things are plugging along on schedule. We just finished the final Blue Line Edit, so I believe the next step is formatting the print-release. It’s out of my hands at this point (the fine people at Boxfire will take it from here and make it presentable).
Personally, my neck/shoulder/collarbone/whathaveyou is still a grating mess of sharp pain, so I think I’m out of Jits until the good doc can figure out what the heck is going on. This means MRI and possibly (crossfingerspleasegodno) surgery. I thought I could suck it up, be a man and all that, but that shit hurts. And the sharktank over at Alliance Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Minnesota is no place for a wounded flounder like me. They’re a bunch of animals, I say – ANIMALS!
Tomorrow is Stark Trek: Into Darkness, which means my nerd-reflex has been twitching hard. It’s a shame the wife hates movies – go see it for me so that I may live vicariously through your joy!
Apologies for such a short entry – I should have more content for you this weekend (It’s up there somewhere, in my brain; it just needs a little encouragement). Thanks for reading! If you haven’t yet, please subscribe to my RSS feed (up and to the right) and head over to my Facebook Page and hit the LIKE button. Please, and this is important, tell all your friends about me so I won’t have to sell my kidneys one day! PEACE, and LIVE SLOW.
Other than a pretty weird neck/shoulder injury, I’d say things are going well. Apart from my right arm going numb without any discernible pattern, the novel is looking excellent (regards to my new handler over at Boxfire, Brian Moll) and my LIKE metric on Facebook is way ahead of schedule. Speaking of Facebook, here’s an observation for ye:
After a good ten year hold-out, I finally fired up an account to get ready for this upcoming book release. I linked an email account to my author page, reserving it strictly for the purpose of business – I never signed it up for anything else, and I've only ever used it for stuff related to my writing – contacts with agents, publishers and other authors. Then, suddenly, like a deer bounding into traffic, I’m asking myself a lot of questions that I hadn't thought of before, having to do primarily with the future of the interwebs and a collection of taboo assumptions, up to and including theories of the conspiracy assortment. Michael Shermer would be tisking at me right now – the conspiracy stuff is what got me into trouble with Behaviorist Mike Samsa a few weeks ago, but I can’t resist. You see, it’s obvious that my email account has either been sold to advert companies by FB, or strip-mined by some bot that functions through FB by proxy. In either case, one thing is certain: the moment I put my email address on facebook was the moment I started getting spam. Like, immediately. My thinking points have refined a few debate topics that I've decided to invest more time in, as follows:
1. If network software companies are selling our information to advertising companies, is that socially neutral, harmful, or good? If it’s somehow harmful, are these companies morally responsible for the protection of our info? If a moral imperative exists, should it then be a legal imperative?
2. Is it possible to continue funding the internet without selling personal information to advertisers? If this mechanism were somehow phased out, could the internet continue to function economically, or would it just blur into the outmoded backwater of slow analog media? In other words, if network software companies couldn't sell our personal info to advertisers, would that conceivably break the internet? Would it lose the only resource it has to keep itself going?
3. Is the internet consumed in the same manner as TV and movies, or is it different somehow? Why?
1. The only reason advertising companies are buying your info is so that they can send you spam. It’s not harmful, it’s annoying – just a few extra keystrokes during your daily email visit.
2. No, it’s not possible – the internet is fueled by ad money and wouldn't exist in its current form without it. Which is slightly annoying, and sort of sad – funding network software with ad money seems to restrict the arts to an overbought/oversold bubble economy. Furthermore, the carrot for most web publishers seems to prioritize ADVERTISEMENTS OVER CONTENT, which is a conflict of interest in a way, because this also incentivizes web publishers to CENSOR CONTENT THAT JEOPARDIZES AD REVENUE. Sucks for content diversity, but at least some content trickles through, and some is better than none.
3. The fact that we've all been reduced from people to a market demographic in the eyes of most companies is downright offensive to some. Turning the internet into another syndicated program (which is inevitable) slants the interest of profit-driven producers who want to rent out bandwidth to the highest bidder. Turning the internet into another form of television is going to eliminate a lot of content (ratings, censors, restrictions) and less content means less creativity, less creativity means less thought, less thought means PRIME RIB ROAST!
As for my recent email spam/dot – I’m not terribly upset about it. In fact, I’m not upset at all. I see it as a market transaction: in exchange for the ability to reach as many people as possible, I now have to put up with emails from a company that tracks my preference for Coke over Pepsi. Fair trade, in my opinion. Endurable.
I’d like to read your opinions, so feel free to share in the comments below. And don’t forget to head over to my Facebook page and hit the LIKE button – it would make all the spam I’m getting worth it!
Oh yeah, don’t forget to check out Treknology by Justin McLachlan – a non-fiction look at various technological concepts from the Star Trek universe, which will be out next month (here’s an excerpt). Also, keep an eye out for the novel A Breach in Death, by Matthew Thomas. And if you're feeling especially counter-culture, go see what John T. Schmitz is up to at the Secret Lab.
Thanks again for reading!
I’m a firm believer in the idea that mistakes are opportunities in disguise – I mean, as long as they don’t result in the irreversible maiming of innocents, or the inadvertent destruction of something that costs more than your house – if you've done either of these things, uh, I apologize for my insensitivity. Although most missteps can be considered a kind of failure – especially if they’re made in front of a crap-ton of people, on a very public forum, let’s say - you stand to elevate your understanding about an issue that you simply didn't know enough about. My last write-up was one of those situations.
The topic of my last post stemmed from an earlier argument I had with a cohort about the etymology of the word gender – apparently, in Sociology the word gender is a term for a social-role, which isn't synonymous with the term sex – which is a biological tag that describes a reproductive function. What does this have to do with the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders? I have no idea. The whole discussion pissed me off, because it seemed that certain examinations of human-behavior contrive categorizations for certain things that have already been categorized, or are just different enough to start parsing the meaning of certain things that don’t need to be parsed - which got me thinking about how these principles even come about. Assumptions were made. I tried interlacing everything with subtle disclaimers (I said things like, I suspect and don’t take my word for it, etc.) but one person saw right through my bull, and he wasn't shy about calling me out. I was stewing all day before my last post – I got home, it was a blog day, I needed something to write about – bam – public humiliation train, single passenger: me.
Anyway, somehow my blog post made it across the desk of one Mike Samsa, a scientist who specializes in the field of Behaviorism. I had two options: I could ignore him and move on with my pride intact, or I could swallow it and remedy the issue. For science.
I’m not deluded enough to think that sometimes my ego doesn't inflate beyond dangerous proportions, but the public’s perception of me is infinitely less important than the integrity of the scientific process – which I believe in with every fiber of my being. Perhaps there’s a cultural difference at play here? Perhaps the process is different in the UK (where I suspect Samsa’s from, judging by the way he puts S’s where I put Z’s – I could be wrong) but the reality is that he’s the expert, and I’m the angsty arm-chair contrarian – it’s more likely that I made a series of misunderstandings than stumbled onto a grand pharmaceutical conspiracy. So I decided to allow Mike the opportunity to clean up the unfortunate assumptions I made yesterday. Thanks Mike.
And because he’s awesome, stop by his blog and let him know that we appreciate the time he’s taken to educate us a little bit http://thelastbehaviorist.blogspot.com/
Here’s Mike Samsa’s response to my last blog post:
It seems that your article put more effort into thinking up conspiracy theories than trying to learn the basics of how clinical psychology works. In the hopes that you'll take on constructive criticism, I'll provide a few points of feedback rather than just posting a dismissive one-liner, and hopefully something positive will come from this.
· "New disorders being created is bad": I've summarised your first basic argument in that statement and it's quite clear where you've gone wrong. Clinical psychology has only been systematically defining disorders for around 50 years, and in the last few decades it radically changed the way it organised and conceptualised mental disorders, meaning that our categorisation of mental disorders is only a little older than a teenager.
So is it surprising that new disorders are being discovered? Of course not. I doubt that medicine found all diseases within 50 years of being formalised as a field (in fact, medicine adds diseases to their textbooks every year as well and they've been going for centuries!). It's also important to note that many disorders are also removed or merged with each revision of diagnostic manuals like the DSM.
· "PhD students invent the mental disorders": New mental disorders are not invented in theses and dissertations. For a disorder to be defined, it first has to affect a significant subsection of society and enough of these people have to visit mental health professionals saying, "I have a problem, can you help me?". As the number of these people asking for help increases, professionals in the world of academia starting talking more and more about their problems, and then begin trying to identify commonalities among them to see if they are exhibiting the same/similar symptoms or whether it is just a lot of people with a lot of problems.
For people outside of psychology it might seem like some maverick has come along, invented a new disorder, and everyone has gone along with it. But when you are reading the journals regularly, keeping up to date with new arguments, evidence, and data, you find that these disorders often take years or decades to make it into diagnostic manuals. The idea is proposed and their peers within the scientific world bat the idea back and forth to see whether it is valid. They look at the empirical evidence, test it, and discuss where it could fit into our current understanding of mental disorders.
· "Disorders are created to sell more medications": Most of the people working on developing these disorders have absolutely no ties to pharmaceutical companies and benefit in no possible way by "inventing" disorders. Psychologists, for example, cannot prescribe medications at all so they have no way of making money from it, and most of the studies defining these disorders come from universities with researchers who do not practice clinical psychology (meaning that they never even see or treat a patient).
· "Biologically, what’s the difference between cigarette addiction and video game addiction in the brain? I suspect nothing": Why "suspect"? Why not look up the papers on the topic and the arguments behind why they are treated differently? Sometimes similar disorders are defined differently because they have important practical or conceptual differences; for example, with cigarette and gaming addictions, the first has a physical addiction component that the other does not. Behaviorally the symptoms may be the same but the physical component means that the therapist has to be aware that there are extra issues that need to be addressed (like weaning them off nicotine).
Sometimes the distinction is made simply for practicality sake, as one of the main functions of diagnostic manuals is to make communication between researchers easier. So whilst it may be true that the fundamental features of cigarette and gaming addiction are the same, researchers need to know whether a study on addiction was looking at an addiction to a substance like cigarettes or whether it was to gaming as the differences could produce different complicating effects.
· "I see one solution to the whole problem – make university free. If you shift university from a for-profit organization to a public institution, I bet the whole academic value-system changes. I bet you’ll get more selective and streamlined standards for scientific degrees – and subsequently better science": Not a wholly unreasonable argument but why speculate? Universities in many countries were free up until very recently. If charging for university results in lower standards then the evidence should be abundant and easy to point out. Ironically enough, I imagine there are a few psychology papers out there looking at the effect of free education on achievement standards.
· "Personally, I see ambiguous and vague schools of psychology disappearing altogether, as neuroscience, biology and ecology begin to blend into something entirely less confusing and more streamlined for ACTUAL progress": What 'vague' schools of psychology have you seen disappear? We tried to kick off psychoanalysis nearly a century ago but it still hangs around in shittier universities, like that elusive dangleberry that just won't drop.
· "Knowing what we know about how some parties author certain mental disorders, if a mental health professional is too eager to sign off on some prescription or other, chances are you need to be looking for someone else": What exactly do we know about "how some parties author certain mental disorders"? These are huge, dramatic, and worrying claims and it is something you need to back up with some reasoning and evidence.
Also, the blanket claim that being eager to sign off on some prescription is an indicator of a bad physician is nonsense. It would depend on the condition and the evidence behind available treatments. If the disorder being treated has been shown to respond the best, or only, to medication then I would argue that people should avoid any physician who didn't eagerly try to prescribe you medication.
I understand why you might be wary of some of the complicated processes within psychology - they can certainly be interpreted as nefarious to someone who doesn't know anything about the field or how it works, and the idea of a big conspiracy can be appealing to some. We've all gone through that phase where we read Thomas Szasz and think we've found the death knell of psychology, so when others disagree, the only way to ease our dissonance is to conclude that everyone must be "in on it".
In reality, what happens is that as you learn more about psychology, you realise that your previous assumptions were naive at best and often simply wildly inaccurate. It is impossible for grand conspiracies to hold up in the field and it's not even possible for pharmaceutical companies to have a dominant grip on its practices. There are valid criticisms of aspects of psychology, even the DSM itself, but you've touched upon none of them.
First, happy holidays everyone. I hope the spiked eggnog induced catfights were at a minimum...
Second order of business, I will henceforth list the various things that populated my Christmas list this year (Christmas because I was raised in a predominantly Lutheran Protestant/Catholic hodgepodge of Christianity-soup). I'm not a Christian, neither – as far as I know – were the tiniest smatterings on my mother's side that shall remain nameless, and I ceased believing in Santa the precise moment my mom could no longer look me in the eye whenever I investigated the validity of his existence – and things got especially awkward when my dad, who was several tens of pounds lighter than what I thought Santa was traditionally supposed to look like couldn't get the loose fitting beard to set right on his chin – neither the Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, nor Micheal Jackson's ability to transform into a giant mech with a jheri-curl.
These are the things I want to see happen this year – and if this year is too much to ask for, I would at least like to bear witness the initial rolling of the figurative ball of progress – which I asked for very nicely, my wife as my witness – refined for public health (I won't rabble-rouse gun-rights like the rest of the interwebs, however seductive that may be) and listed in order of importance:
This is my wish list, friends. Make me proud. Anyway, it's late – signing off until next time. Please, feel free to tell us YOUR wishlisht in the comments below. Like, share and don't forget to subscribe with the RSS feed up and to the right...
Yeah, I guess I do.
For the past few years I've been running this website as a sort of repository for all of the stuff I've pumped into the interwebs. I never really intended it to be anything more than a simple vehicle for my various but rare moments of... I don't know what you'd call it. Inspiration? Creativity? Egocentric driven expressions of HEY EVERYBODY COME SEE HOW SMART I THINK I AM...? I didn't even want to build it, honestly. One of my professors told me that since I was intent on being a writer, I should reserve consideration for having at least some content on the internet that I could control.
I hadn't really considered starting a blog, the cynic that I am, because I never really saw any reason for anyone to care about what I had to say. I'm a hopeless credentialist you see, as much as I hate to admit it. I often fear that others won't consider me qualified, and so by extension I tend to overvalue qualification. It's a long story, but I suppose this is the sort of place for long stories.
Part of this whole thing is about recent developments in my life. You see, I just signed a book contract with a publisher based out of Washington DC for my newest novel – The Artifact – my first professional sale – and I realized that I've become such a recluse that I have zero people following my exploits. Maybe a few. My wife and her friends. So I'm here, and I have every intention to make this a weekly thing. The book is set for a fall of 2013 release, so that's ample time to get everyone on board with what's going to be happening in the following months.
The idea is to bring you along on this journey – from book announcement to book tour – so that you can get to know me a little bit – more than a bit, hopefully – and see what it's like for a new author trying to make their debut novel a success. I can't do it alone, and I'm going to need all the help I can get.
In the meantime, I hope to make this a more content rich place – less videos and more thought streaming blog-by-proxy.
So please, make yourself comfortable. Stick around a while and leave some comments. Subscribe with the RSS Feed on the right, and share this on your facebook if you can. Tell all your friends. Who knows – this whole blog thing might actually work...