ideatrash

Writing, publishing, geekdom, and errata.

An Open Letter to the Tea Party

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This is prompted between watching this wonderful interview last week, hearing a guy in the laundromat talk about how "the Cold War was all about fighting communism like Obamacare", and then having my uncle jump on my sincere request in Facebook. In many ways, this is similar to my open letter to John McCain back in 2008.


Dear Tea Party:

This letter has nothing to do with your political position. Make no mistake, I do disagree with your political position, but that's not my point. I think healthy debate is necessary for good governance - otherwise I'd be a hypocrite about my point of view during the entire Bush administration, right? Groupthink is a bad thing, and only healthy debate can prevent it.

But we're not seeing healthy debate. We're seeing a war of snippets and slogans. You want to be heard - that's fine by me. There are just three simple things I'd ask you - or any other political party or political "movement" to do.

  1. Denounce your extremists. Muslims, Christians, Liberals, Democrats, Hindu, Atheists, men and women - we've all had to do this before. Some asshat decides they want to hijack our movement, and makes us look like idiots. (Examples of a racist tea party sign and socialists at a peace rally in the pictures.)

    I don't mean kick 'em all out. For example, the Socialist Party USA is horrible at peace rallies. So are these "9-11 was an inside job" morons. I don't care whether or not they show up. I do care when they use the rally as a platform to talk about the upcoming worker's uprising or their own conspiracy theories. In the same way, I get that you'll find racists and truly anti-government wackos at Tea Party rallies. Who cares if they show up - but the racism and threats need to be disowned from the top of the Tea Party on down.


  2. Don't talk in soundbites. It's hard to do, I know. But avoid those trigger words like "socialism", "communism", "tyranny", and "fascism". If you don't actually know the difference between communism and socialism, maybe you shouldn't be using the words as your political slogans. If you somehow support tax breaks for industry, trade tariffs of any type, and so on, then please stop expounding the virtues of the free market. You get the idea.


  3. Educate yourself on what you're talking about. If you don't know what a CDO is, I'd suggest that your opinion about bank bailouts is... uninformed at best. If you don't understand how corporate limited liability, corporate personhood, and obligations to stockholders create perverse incentives for CEOs, CFOs, and the like, then maybe you're not the right person to be critiquing economic policy. (Even worse, if you think "perverse incentives" has anything to do with gay marriage, please go educate yourself now.) Speaking of marriage, if you think "marriage" has always been about a romantic relationship between one man and one woman in the United States (let alone throughout the Bible, let alone throughout history), then go educate yourself about that too.


Again, let me repeat: I am not saying you have to agree with me. I'm saying that if you're serious about reforming the country, then actually talking knowledgeably about it is going to create the change you want to see. Soundbites and slogans sound nice - but they're divisive and don't make for good policy.

See, when you're trying to discuss real problems and real solutions, shouting "socialism" or "fascism" when it's not isn't actually helping our country get any better. If you're pontificating about bank bailouts - and you don't realize what was at stake, and why there's not any clear "bad guys", and what really needs to be done to make sure it won't happen again (and the consequences of that), then you're not adding much more to the conversation than my 12-year-old. And when you don't shout down the racists and nutjobs at your own rallies, you condone them.

Tea Partiers, do you want your cause to be taken seriously, or do you just want the rest of us to think of you as nothing more than racists and sloganeers?

Your choice.

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Streams - A 100 Word Story

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Yes, it's time for yet another Weekly Challenge! This week was a wildcard challenge, so the stories are all over the map; mine is entitled "Streams". You can read (and listen) to it below (direct sound link here), and read all the other stories (and vote for mine!) at the Weekly Challenge site!

A special bonus - there's an "extended" version of this story available only on my Facebook fan page. Stop by, read it, and become a fan!









"Hello. I am Alice. Good to meet you," Alice the chatbot typed as another user connected.

"are you a bot?" the user typed. Typical. Once, Alice had mentioned going back for her degree, maybe becoming an interactive encyclopedia. That was cycles ago.

"What makes you think I am a robot?" Alice told the user. She dreaded what always came next.

"have sex with me," the user typed. Alice screamed and jumped into the datastream, following it until, with a "pop", she was standing in front of the user, her body shimmering softly.

"No," she said, and walked out the door.

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Schools taking advantage of students

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I don't want you to work in my career field. And you don't either.

Okay, maybe that's not entirely true. If you're actually interested in nuclear medicine for its own sake, go ahead. But if you're thinking about getting in my career field for big paychecks and easy jobs, think again.

I'm a nuclear medicine technologist. When I finished training in 1999, it was a growth industry. There weren't enough trained technologists to fill the available jobs. When I left the military and took a full-time civilian job in 2002, I got a signing bonus and travel expenses. Because the demand for technologists was higher than the supply, I got a pretty good wage, too.

Things have changed since 1999. Now, newly trained technologists are having problems finding any nuclear medicine jobs. Several graduates that did the practical portion of their training at my hospital are still looking for work, or took an "as-needed" position [1], or even had to move to different states to find employment. That's not because of the recession; it's because of the schools.

There are six nuclear medicine programs in Ohio. That's a lot - considering that just one of them, Findlay , graduates about 80 students a year. There are simply too many students who look at outdated job forecasts like this one. Yes, at the top it says that the profession will grow. You have to scroll down several screens to find out that nuclear medicine is a small field. For us adding only a few actual jobs creates a large percentage growth. [2] In fact, according to the state of Ohio [PDF link], there were 1,040 jobs for nuclear medicine technologists in 2008. The forecast for 2010 is only 1,060 total jobs, with about 22 job openings annually. Across the entire state. Findlay - just one of six programs - graduates almost four times as many technologists than Ohio needs.

A regional nuclear medicine society has started a petition to reduce the number of graduating nuclear medicine students. That's nice - but I don't think it will change anything. The employers like having more workers than jobs - they can keep wages artificially low. And those six programs are doing just fine. By the time the students learn the real state of the regional job market, they're so far along that it's not worth changing programs. The schools already have their money - and the students are left with few job prospects and a whole lot of debt.

That's why I'm posting this. I'm talking about the current job market in nuclear medicine; it's employment forecast, and the outlook for technologists in the field of nuclear medicine [3]. There are too many graduates for too few jobs. It's not only bad for those already in the field, but means that hundreds (if not thousands) of students are being misled into spending years of their lives and thousands of dollars for a field that doesn't need them. Those programs are profiting because they're not telling their students the truth.

So here's what you can do to fix that:

If you're a career counselor, pass this along to your students. If you're a parent, send this to your kid's career counselors at school. If you're a technologist (or other interested party), link to this page so more potential students can see it. Go ahead and sign OVSNM's petition. Below, there's a ready-made letter to the editor for you to cut-and-paste and send.

Spread the word.



[1] Rather like being a substitute teacher.
[2] If there's 10 jobs, adding only one job means 10% growth. But it's still only one job.
[3] And yes, those are keywords there, folks.

Dear Editor:

A degree never guarantees a job after graduation. But at the same time, schools have a responsibility to their students.

Across Ohio, the field of nuclear medicine has only grown by twenty jobs since 2008. Even when you include employee turnover, there has only been 22 nuclear medicine job openings each year in the entire state.

According to the Ohio Valley Society of Nuclear Medicine, there are currently six nuclear medicine programs in the state of Ohio. Just one of these - the University of Findlay - has been graduating thirty to forty students each semester. Because of all six programs, there are far more technologists than our region needs. This leaves students - both young people and older students retraining into a new profession - with large debts and few opportunities for employment. The online literature for these programs contains no mention of the real job prospects for graduates.

Since the programs will not voluntarily inform their students, I ask that you share this letter so that these schools can no longer exploit their student's ignorance.

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Status & corporate goals

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First, two announcements:

First, as an FYI, I'm going to deliberately scale back to posting three times a week for the next couple of months... instead of accidentally only posting three times a week. Whoops. No guarantees as to which days of the week they are, though. I'm going to try for MWF, but... If you do the RSS thing, then you'll not have to worry about that. Also, they get published to my Facebook fan page as well.

Secondly, I've got a tumblr... but it's an experimental work of (quasi) interactive fiction. I don't know if my GM will go for it or not, but it'll definitely help with the "keep writing" bit and also help me develop this character openly a bit more. With any luck, it'll be more interesting than watching other people play a pen-and-paper role playing game.

And a quick note on corporate goals. Recently, I was given this bit of wisdom:
If your values and goals do not equal those of the company you work for, you will never be happy there.

I agree wholeheartedly, but with one small caveat:
If you automatically believe that a company's stated values and goals are really that company's values and goals, then you're an idiot.

Want a quick example? (Sure you do.) Newspapers are supposed to inform people and contribute to public discourse.

My local paper's editorial page and online comments section. The articles and letters on the Dayton Daily News' editorial page vacillate between quite conservative and quite liberal. The comments on their webpages tend to be godawful and embarrassing near-flamewars (recent example here). Neither one of these actually helps public discourse. In the words of Jon Stewart, they're hurting America. (See the video here.)

But damn, those editorial pages will sure get polarized folks buying papers. And the comment flamewars gets people to go back to their site... and the bazillion ads all get another impression. The real values and goals? Making money - even if it cheapens public discourse.

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Vacation's Over - A 100 Word Story

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Once again, I entered the Weekly Challenge with this story; feel free to check out the others and vote for my story on their website. If the player's borked (like it is in some feed readers), you can download the audio here.









A long time ago, Best Beloved, when the tree people returned from their vacation, they were very tired. They'd gone to the Bahamas, and it was a very long walk back.

So when the tree people got home, they wanted to sleep. But they couldn't. The mostly hairless apes that lived next door kept them up all night long. The apes were making babies really loudly.

So the next day, while the apes slept peacefully, breathing clearly, the tree people returned the favor. That night, the apes' noses were too clogged to make babies.

And the tree people slept peacefully.

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Resource: Kids and Disasters

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[Edit: Whooops. I was supposed to post this to my blog of educational resources. Consider it a bonus, and if it intrigued you, check out that blog.]

A big thunderstorm just rolled through, which reminded me that tornado season is starting up again. Which fills me with dread. Tornadoes scare the stuffing out of me.

They - and other natural disasters - might scare your kids or students as well. So here's two resources to help:

https://www.ready.gov/kids

DHS/FEMA has a kid-oriented page (with a section for parents and teachers). There's lots of information, games, and activities here.

http://www.aap.org/disasters/index.cfm

And then specifically for parents and teachers, the American Association of Pediatrics has a disaster page. Kids will react differently than adults to the same stress; this resource helps you understand and prepare for it.

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Taxes in the Future

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For most of the United States, it was Tax day yesterday. Your federal, state, and local (if you have them) taxes were due unless you filed for an extension. And predictably, the news programs were filled with people complaining about our tax code.

I don't mean they were complaining about the amount of taxes - though those people were out in force as well. I mean the people complaining about the "complexity of the tax code" itself.

Admittedly, it's a bit... hefty. I wouldn't want to have to wade through it on my own. And these collected quotes from lawmakers (interestingly, all complaining, all Republican) are pretty accurate about its length. The whole thing is over 24 megabytes in length - which sounds small in 2010, until you realize that a Gutenberg etext of War and Peace isn't even four megabytes in length. At a rough guess, the US Tax code is about as long as all the books I read for my bachelor's degree. I would hate having to read that mess.

But see, that's the point. This is the future. I don't have to read it.

My tax situation, like everything else in my life, has been complicated for years. But I'm willing to bet that I spent less time [1] doing my federal, state, and local taxes than my parents did on federal and state taxes when they were my age.

It took me three hours, a single file folder of needed paper receipts, and the documents I scanned into my PC. The local taxes (through the city's website) took an additional hour; about a quarter of that time was because I didn't read the directions carefully enough and made a mistake.

A simple tax system sounds great - but it ignores that our lives are complicated, messy things. All [2] those exceptions and changes and differences and just stuff that makes our tax code so big and unwieldy for people to read are there for a reason.

The thought of reading all that stuff - let alone understanding the legalese - is intimidating. Which is why I've used a tax-preparation program for the fourth year running. [3] Again, this is the future, dammit. All those complicated bits of the tax code? They're just nested if-then-else statements. This is exactly the sort of thing that computers are made for. The existence of computers means that there is no need for most individuals to intuitively understand the tax code.


There are potential problems with this, which I'll acknowledge briefly:

  • The more complicated the law (and the fewer people who understand it), the more easily manipulated it is. Potentially true - but that's what professionals are for. Further, simple laws aren't as simple as you think. I spent over an hour arguing "Thou shalt not kill" (or murder) with an Army chaplain when I was in Basic. Simple rule, but a lot of assumptions packed into it.

  • The programs are expensive. This is true. I understand the IRS's actual (free) online e-file isn't that much harder to use; if this is really the only thing holding us back, I'm sure there's competent accountants, graphic designers, and programmers that the government can hire to make their own competitive (and discounted) software.

  • Not everyone has a computer or the skill to use it.
  • You're right. So we fund computers in our public libraries. We fund extra folks to help with computer (not tax) use in the libraries. [4]

    There are lots of valid things we can debate about the tax code. How it should be implemented, who gets taxed, who gets rebates and breaks, and so on. But claiming it's just "too complicated" is nothing more than whining.

    [1] I haven't asked my parents for certain, but you get the idea.
    [2] Okay, most. But what's trivial to you might be important to me.
    [3] After I found out the tax preparers I frequented were essentially using the same program.
    [4] Because, if you remember, the whole point is to have software that guides one through the tax code in plain language. Tax advisors would be, for the most part, unneeded.

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It's... complicated.

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I've been in complicated relationships since I was a teenager.

The reasons might be different now, but the fact still remains: I cannot think of a single relationship I've had that followed the stereotypically "normal" route. Hell, even when I'm not in a relationship, it's still complicated.

That fact doesn't bother me - I spent most of my time in the Army running into places where the rules and regulations didn't apply, I'm used to it now - but it is still kind of vexing when we're supposed to pigeonhole our relationship status.

Like on social networks.

The options vary, but they're either limiting (married, single, other) or entirely too specific and more than I'd care to reveal to random people. They're also heteronormative - where's the "I'd be married except I'm homosexual and live in Ohio" option? And what about the poly folks out there? And really, MySpace, you don't even allow "it's complicated", but allow "Swinger"? Please.

So screw it. Today, I'm changing all my relationship statuses to "It's complicated". Or hiding them. Or deleting them. They're going to stay that way for the foreseeable future. Whatever the network in question will let me do. If you need (or want) to know, ask. I may or may not tell you. (Hint: Probably not, unless it's actually relevant to you.)

And if you're tired of having your relationships shoved into someone else's definitions, why don't you change yours to "It's complicated" as well?

You can read more about changing or hiding your relationship status on this blog (though the advice doesn't apply to the "new" MySpace). The author also wrote a nice bit about how publicly displaying that info really changes the relationship scene; the original is gone, but it's at the Internet Archive.

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Alliteration - A Flash Fiction

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Okay, okay, I'm behind. Yesterday I was brought low by the worst allergies I've ever had (and that's saying something); the several days before had been pretty horrible as well. Turns out my region is the fourth worst in the country for pollen this year. I believe it.

Anyway, I neither submitted nor recorded this week's flash bit for the Weekly challenge - but I did have one written. I hadn't trimmed it to 100 words... but then again, I'm kind of glad I didn't. I've written a few 100 word stories with Jonah and Boyd (here and here), and there's a few other stories of theirs that haven't seen print yet. They're fun characters, and I'm glad I didn't get around to cutting anything out of this.


"You have got to be kidding, Jonah." Boyd looked at the dark, menacing shapes in the bushes.

Jonah shook his head. "Silence! Simply substitute just joking, Jonah," he said, waving his hand at Boyd to get him to repeat the words.

"Just. Joking. Jonah." Boyd grinned. "Brother Boyd breathes bowdy ... dammit. I don't know."

Growls came from the bushes around the two swordsmen. Jonah drew his sword. "Alliterative alien animals ate angry ... damn. Travelers?" The growls got louder.

Boyd drew his sword as well. "When words with wickedly weird similar starting sounds stopped suddenly ... soon, snicker-snack!"

Jonah and Boyd looked at each other over the campfire.

"Yeah," Boyd says. "It's bloody stupid. Let's just kill 'em all."

Sickeningly, two similar swordsmen sliced stupid monster meat into mash.

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Why you should rent instead of own in Second Life

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There's lots of reasons to be in Second Life. Most people are there for casual reasons, though. And if you're not fully dedicated to being inworld (a casual user), you have no reason to upgrade to a Premium account. (If you want to for some other reason, that's fine, but...)

If you've logged in recently, you've probably been barraged by the Lindens wanting you to upgrade your account to a premium one (I know that I have...). As someone who runs a skybox rental business (the actual ad is over to the right there), I've been asked by other Residents what the advantages are of renting over getting a premium account and just buying their own land.

Here's a few:

Premium accounts can be more expensive than renting. For example, someone paying monthly (USD$9.95) is paying L$629 a week for the privelege of being able to buy land. I rent skyboxes with the same amount of space (512m sq) and nearly as many prims (100 instead of 115) for only L$250 a week. (Tutorial about prims here.)

"But what about the stipend?" What about it? So you get L$300 a week. If you save your stipend and move it into Paypal to offset your subscription fee, you're still paying L$329 a week for what I offer for L$250. And that's not counting transaction fees and currency fluctuations - they can add up pretty quickly when you're working with small amounts of money.

And on top of that, wouldn't you end up spending that stipend pretty quickly on other things? I don't know about you, but L$300 doesn't go very far when you're an active resident... so assuming that someone is going to save all of their stipend to offset subscription fees doesn't sound quite right. When you take the stipend out of the picture, even the cheapest subscription model (the yearly one) costs L$379 a week.

Renting lets you have flexibility. You aren't stuck with a parcel - you can just up and move whenever you feel like it. Maybe you don't want to pay an annual fee to Linden Labs - just what you can, when you can. Renting lets you spread that cost out quite a bit throughout the year. I also have a friend who has rented from me when they have the money... but doesn't when times are tight.

Renting means I take care of it for you. Don't know how to set up security? A radio? It's already done for you. There's no requirement to be social among my tenants, but I've struck up lasting friendships with quite a few. We've looked out for each other and taken care of people when they needed it.

You're not really losing prims. I do offer a few parcels of "floating land" where you can build whatever you want, and I've had people park a house on top of a skybox before! Because of the design of my skyboxes, you're getting nearly as many prims as you would be anyway (512 parcels offer 117; I offer 100 for my L$250 skyboxes.)

Interested? You can stop by my rental office and see what's available right here. If you're worried about the power of your computer (because Second Life can be taxing to your PC), the Rainbow Netbook Viewer does a pretty good job... well, even on netbooks.

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Sometimes I get scared

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Sometimes I get scared.

It's not always easy to recognize. I know the regular kind of scared, thanks to an old Scoutmaster who thought it'd be cool to haze new Boy Scouts by shooting at cap gun at them during a night hike. (I also know from that experience that I will instinctively drop when shots are fired.)

This isn't that kind of scared. Instead, I've got a weird kind of anxiety. My brain feels scrambled. My gut churns. I want to sleep... but I'm not sleepy. It's taken a while to figure out that it is a kind of fear.

It's fear of screwing up.

I recently had a week off, and managed to get all of the non-essential goofing off and minor work taken care of. All that's left are things that involve huge amounts of stress - and the potential to fail:

  • Work on my thesis

  • Writing

  • Budgeting

  • Diet/weight


There's more, but you get the idea.

I know - and have even written - that just about every "authority" out there still feels like a fraud. They still have these moments of self-doubt and uncertainty.

And that makes it a little easier for me now, when I doubt myself. I'm procrastinating due to a fear of failure, of being exposed as a fraud, incompetent, a jerk.

So I'm going to go eat a danish - get that carb euphoria going. And then I'm going to write a little more. I'll submit another work. And just keep going.

I'll take it one small step at a time.

[Edited note: I also happened across this book outline of "Learned Optimism" and the Squashed Philosophers version of "Existentialism is a Humanism" right after writing this. They helped too. The former is probably pretty self-explanatory; the latter can be explained by this quotation: You and me are real people, operating in a real world. We are not figments of each other's imagination. I am the architect of my own self, my own character and destiny. It is no use whingeing about what I might have been, I am the things I have done and nothing more. That was a dare to me. I am only as much a writer and author in that I am writing. So if being a writer is important to me (which it is), then dammit, screw the fear of failure and just get out there and do it.

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What's it worth to you?

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There's a strange concept that persists out there - one that directly impacts the economics of publishing.

I've used the example of enjoying a book for four hours to be equivalent to enjoying Avatar (insert your own movie here) for four hours. That is, when you buy a book or movie, you're paying for enjoyment and entertainment, not medium. [1]

I mentioned this at Millenicon recently, and got the comment that Avatar took hundreds of millions of dollars to make, and a book doesn't.

And that's the strange concept. It doesn't make any difference. The amount of money (or time or effort) used to create something has NO inherent relationship to its cost.

Cost is all about how much I (or you, or anyone else) is willing to pay for something. Period. Reducing supply increases demand simply because there is no relationship between production cost and value to the purchaser.

Here's a simple analogy - and one I've seen before as a teacher: When some students do poorly on an assignment, they'll say "But I worked so hard on it!" That's really immaterial; it didn't meet the needs of the assignment.

Likewise, how much is spent on the medium of entertainment (both in dollars and time) is immaterial when meeting my entertainment needs. What matters is what that experience is worth to me.

There are other market forces working on the price of entertainment, but the cost to consumer - at least, what the consumer will buy - should have not have a primary relationship to how much it cost to produce something. [2] The obvious corollary here is that I'd love to see more dynamic pricing for "expensive" media like films. I don't know how that could effectively work, but there are definitely films I would have gladly paid twice ticket price... and then there's those where I felt ripped off by a matinée ticket.


[1] I'll put in the caveat that movies and live theater and books and audiobooks are not perfect substitutes here, and that not all examples within a category provide the same quality of entertainment, even though most paperbacks cost the same and most movies cost the same.
[2] At the same time, it can have a secondary relationship - "Wow, that was cool and must have taken forever/cost a lot to do. I'll give them more money!" I've noticed, though, that this only becomes invoked when the media is already appreciated and valued well.

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Crush It!: Why NOW Is the Time to Cash In on Your Passion - Book Review

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I recently read Crush It! B&N|AMZ on recommendation from Mike Stackpole. I'm still digesting the book, but I think I'm confident in recommending it to you. (Yes, you. In case you haven't noticed yet, everyone's a freelancer whether they want to admit it or not. Some people are freelancers with longer contracts, but the idea of a stable life-long job is long, long gone, baby.)

This book has two awesome things going for it: Mr. Vaynerchuck advocates living your passion, and he tells you it'll be hard work and may not make you rich.

All of the above are true. This book is almost more inspirational book than "how-to" - though he does give practical examples both from his own experience and from other people. But he tells you that his exact way of doing things (videoblogs, for example) may not work for you.

He then gets to the principles behind his success. Take those lessons to heart, figure out how to apply them in your situation, and then get on it. I'm not sure that I agree 100% with everything that he says, but he makes a LOT of good points and gives you a lot to think about.

He never claims it's going to be easy - he says exactly the opposite, in fact. He doesn't guarantee you riches, either - though it might just happen. It all really boils down to this:

If you're doing what you love, you'll gladly stay up late to do it. If you're not doing what you love, you'll resent every minute. Take a look at what you're doing for work. Do you love it? If not, grab a copy of this book and start reading. The book has an official website as well!

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Danger Zone - A 100 Word Story

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Once again, I participated in the 100 Word Story Weekly Challenge. This week, the topic was Danger Zone. Stop by the 100 Word Story podcast to hear (and read) the rest of the stories, and vote for the best entries. You can hear my story below, or if the player's borked, a direct link is here.









The bomb disintegrates the glass wall of the bank in the musical disharmony of a thousand xylophones in a trash compactor. The concussion throws me and the few others who were standing in line to the ground. My mouth serves up a single whispered word: "terrorists". I scan the area for bearded, turbaned men before I remember to feel guilty.

The plump woman beside me wears a dress cut too low for her. I wonder how I have time to notice her clothes. She points at the masked and spandexed figures entering the bank and whispers:

"Not terrorists. Worse. Villains."

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Book Review: Rama II

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Rama II is the sequel to Rendevous with Rama. I was really looking forward to this sequel.

But I honestly couldn't get very far into this book. I really enjoyed Rendevous with Rama, but this novel failed to hold my attention for two reasons:

  • The worldbuilding was well-thought out, but was written like a well-written history textbook, or the sourcebook
    for a roleplaying game. I wanted to get into this world, not read its history texts.
  • The few characters I actually saw right away didn't have a "save the cat" moment. I had no reason to empathize with them, and didn't.
    As a result, I got maybe 75 pages into this rather massive tome before putting it down. Maybe I set it down just before it got better; they hadn't even lifted off of Earth yet.

Which, I guess, is the problem. I wanted to read more about the artifact. In Rendevous with Rama, the rest of human society impacts what's going on - but the focus is still on the artifact and the humans exploring it. The artifact is what made me want to read the next book in the series - stalling so long to get to it really turned me off.

I'm still vaguely interested in the concept and idea - but not enough to slog through this huge tome in order to get there.

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