ideatrash

Writing, publishing, geekdom, and errata.

The one way educators still don't use digital submissions to help themselves

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Digital homework submissions are a beautiful, but underutilized tool for educators.

While some aspects (such as TurnItIn) have been somewhat embraced, there's one other big way that having essays and papers turned in digitally will make things easier for educators and make it harder for students to slack off and cheat.

Word counts.

Don't give out assignments with page lengths, give out assignments with word counts.

For example, these two syllabi could, instead of listing the requirement of eight pages and fifteen pages, state that the papers must be 2,000 words and 3,800 words.  The calculation is approximately 250 words per double-spaced page.

Word count is an easy thing to check in a word processor, and it makes complaining about font sizes and margins and spacing all a moot point.  The point, after all, is to get the students able to write content about the topic; why waste your time (and theirs) with a very subjective and fudgeable metric?

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Anyone can use mental aikido in thier relationships

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It's possible - and sometimes necessary - to do a bit of mental aikido in order to facilitate the better options that are your ideals .

I use aikido as an analogy purposefully; it is a constructed martial art, can be translated as "the way of harmonious spirit", and is all about redirecting energy. In this case, you're redirecting your own mental energy, purposefully, and it requires mindfulness to do properly.

A simple example:  You find it easy to commit to taking care of someone else, but have a hard time taking care of your own needs. Upon reflection, you realize that in order to care for another, you must yourself be in good working order. You cannot take care of someone else without tending to your own needs. From there, you can use the mental motivation "taking care of another" in order to do self-care without it seeming greedy or self-indulgent.

This is the same strategy used with learning compersion (a skill you really want to have in a relationship). And like compersion, it sounds easy, but can be quite challenging in practice.

Framing it as mental aikido, though, reinforces that while this can be quite challenging, it's a learned skill. A skill you can learn. A skill that you will sometimes fail at while practicing, but a skill you can always improve at.

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A Failure of WorldBuilding: How *The Conjuring* Doesn't Make Sense

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It only took me three years to realize The Conjuring doesn't make sense.  I mean, I don't think it fulfills a fundamental role of genre, but the film's internal logic doesn't hold up.

Or, for that matter, any theologically-based story where the forces from Hell try to tempt and subvert (and take over) those who aren't Christian.

Think about this for a second.

Let's go with the idea that "spiritual warfare" exists, and that the forces of Hell are actively trying to recruit souls.

In the plot of The Conjuring, the "fault" of the Perron family (those attacked by the evil spirit) is that they're not religious enough, and that God is the answer.  I mean, the film writers confirmed this Christian message in an interview for the sequel.

But that doesn't make sense. Why would the forces of Hell mess with non-believers?   

It's wasting time.

In this movie-default idea of Christianity, literally the only people worth messing with are those who are "good" or "saved". The heathens, the people who aren't "saved" or believe the right kind of way are already screwed.  As the Hills said themselves:
"Conjuring 2" is a story told through the eyes of believers, whose strongest weapon is their faith in God. Our film allows believers and non-believers to travel their journey with them, and in some ways, maybe affect someone who is on the edge of faith, and somehow give them the strength they need.
The actions of the forces of evil in these stories literally lose them souls all the time.  Sure, some heathens die (they would eventually anyway), but the actions depicted in these stories (or in the IRL stories they're loosely based upon) would drive people towards the one way they could get out of evil's grasp.

The old bet between JHVH and a satan in the Book of Job is the only way this makes any kind of sense (though we're never told whether Job's wives or children are religious and good before they're summarily slaughtered for a celestial bet)... but again, that makes the random shenanigans in all these films simply counterproductive. Even in The Exorcist, even with the priest's questioning of their faith, the demon's actions seem to do little but provide moments for people to die for their faith (automatic sainthood!) or give them a proof of theology not seen since Thomas placed his fingers in a resurrected Yeshua's side.

But maybe that's the point. Maybe I'm seeing these films all wrong.  They're meant as a kind of theatrical "hell house"1 meant only to be scary to the non-believer and nothing but self-righteous back-patting for the believer.


1 If you wish to torment yourself with the live-action Jack Chick tract that is a "hell house", you can find some video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5esn1jHOCuI

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The One Big Difference A Lot Of People Are Missing - Are You?

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Something to think about.

If the Nazis and their ilk go away, antifa goes back to whatever they do in their normal lives.

*poof!*

If the antifa and their like go away, the Nazis and white supremacists continue to push an agenda that cannot succeed without mass murder and the imposition of a full-blown police state.

You cannot claim that the two are morally equivalent without embracing, or at least tolerating, the Nazi agenda.

"Yes," you might say, "I hate both." That is a rational and defensible position. But if you pretend they're the same level of evil, you are not someone I want to be associated with.

The Nazis, white supremacists, and white nationalists want to murder millions of people based on nothing but who their parents are or how dark their skin might be.

Antifa wants to stop them.

If you are too stupid to see the difference, please remove yourself from my friends list.

And, if we associate offline, please let me know so I can avoid you like the multi-cellular
plague that you are.

Get the hell out of my universe.

- Paul Myers
(countersigned by me)

(The above is quoted with permission from Paul Myer's Facebook post in response to Trump's re-insistance that "both sides" are to blame for Charlottesville. If you're interested in selling online, Paul has a lot of good information at his website; I recommend his work and have been a subscriber to his newsletter for a long time.)

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It's time to write with us again this weekend!

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It's rough finding the time to write. Life intervenes... a lot. 

Then take just an hour to write with us this weekend!
 
Several of us have started our own, self-hosted, flash fiction challenge over at a website we're calling Obsidian Flash.  It's on a forum behind a password, so that anything you write and submit is considered unpublished.  Registration is quick, free, and pretty painless.




Seriously, this thing is the perfect thing for you to do if you think writing is hard (or finding time for writing is hard), and especially if you haven't been writing for a while.  It's also great if you have problems with getting past ideas that "you suck" (every first draft sucks, face it) or self-doubt.  Here's why:

1. Challenges like this are great for stimulating creativity.
2. You're supposed to write for an hour (ish); you can make that time.
3. You don't have the time to critique yourself.
4. You'll get helpful feedback from published authors and editors like myself, Donna Munro, Anton Cancre, and more.
5. We are friendly, despite all appearances to the contrary.  :)




The next challenge is scheduled for THIS weekend.  The prompt will go up this Friday (THAT'S TODAY, FOLKS) at 8pm EST.  Donna is our flashmaster!

Go sign up now at http://obsidianflash.com/forum and we'll see you writing this weekend!

Here are the rules:

1. All stories should be complete, written and posted within 24 hours of the prompt being posted, and can be anywhere from one sentence to 1,000 words in length.  Typically the prompt is posted by 8pm EST on Friday, and stories are posted by 8pm EST on Saturday.

2. You may choose to write your story in any genre.

3. Your story must be built around the restrictions—words, themes, photo prompts, word limits, etc.—provided by the Flashmaster at the beginning of the challenge.

4. Once the participants’ work is posted, the voting and comment session begins and continues until all votes are in. Time limit for voting will be determined on the spot, depending on how many people finish the challenge.  Typically this is within 24 hours of the end of the writing portion, or 8pm EST on Sunday.

5. The winner becomes Flashmaster and chooses the prompt(s) for the next contest.  Also, you get all the Internet Bragging Points you think you can get away with.

Don't wait - get going and register at http://obsidianflash.com/forum right now and join us!

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Emotional Self-Medication: Good bids, Bad bids, and Canceling Out

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You can tell a lot about how a relationship is going (and how it's going to go) by the emotional bids in the relationship.  The better the ratio of positive:negative "bids" or interactions (even tiny ones), the better the relationship. The effect of these emotional bids is even demonstrated in subconscious physiological responses, where couples who routinely fought could be sent into flight/fight responses merely by proximity, but those who were doing well were more relaxed around each other.

I want to take this idea a little bit further.  I have a hypothesis based on anecdata:

The cumulative amount of positive bids in a person's life can help offset the negative bids in a relationship.

Here's a hypothetical example:   Jane is in a crappy relationship with her husband.  Their positive:negative interaction is somewhere around one good one to three bad ones ( +1:-3).  But she has a friend at work where the interactions are overwhelmingly positive ( +4:0).

While those two don't cancel out to +2:0, I suspect that the positive relationship makes the bad one not seem so bad.

Even if that's just a platonic relationship (and especially if it isn't), my suspicion is that the positive interactions elsewhere may mitigate the effects of the bad relationship.  That is, no number of good other relationships in your life are going to improve that bad one, but it may make it not seem as bad.  Good makes bad more tolerable, but not better.  It's emotional self-medication.

Maybe it's because the other relationships (platonic or otherwise) provide the appearance of an "escape". Maybe it's because you haven't hit rock bottom, or how women's close friends can pull them through a crappy relationship.

It's a hypothesis, and one I have a little bit of anecdata for.  What do you think?

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Given the easiest moral choice EVER, Trump hesitates, telling you everything you need to know.

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There are a lot of choices in life that are shades of grey. Moral dilemmas are built around that.

Then there are choices that are easy and clear.

For example, saying Nazis are bad.

Arguably, neo-Nazis are worse; unlike the average German in 1939, they're fully aware of the height of the Holocaust and all its horrors... and think that's okay.

Congress' resolution - that Trump has yet (as of me writing this) to sign says:

“[Congress] rejects White nationalism, White supremacy, and neo-Nazism as hateful expressions of intolerance that are contradictory to the values that define the people of the United States.” It says we and the president should “speak out against hate groups that espouse racism, extremism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, and White supremacy,” and use all of the executive branch's resources to “address the growing prevalence of those hate groups in the United States.”

It's bipartisan. It's unanimous in this horribly divided Congress.  IT CONDEMNS NAZIS.

And while Trump may eventually get around to signing this and condemning Nazis (and other white supremacists), it's already too late.



Hesitating to say "Nazis are bad" is a message in itself.


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I don't think IT is really a "horror" movie (but it is a good one)

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IT opened to the largest box office opening of any horror movie ever.

Which is kind of funny because I don't think it's really a "horror movie".

Despite having read and written a great deal of horror, I'm not been much of a horror movie fan. (Reading it is different, somehow.) I intensely dislike jump-scares and definitely loathe body horror, torture porn, and gross-out movies. Give me Army of Darkness over the original Evil Dead any day.

I do enjoy what I tend to "dark fantasy": movies on the other end of the horror spectrum that contain fantastical elements and dark themes. Movies like Pan's Labyrinth, Horns, and The Lady in Black. (I also like Daniel Radcliffe as an actor but that's a separate point.)

I'll admit, it's a blurry line: 28 Days Later, despite all the zombies, falls into "dark fantasy" for me, while Alien is definitely horror. 

Which brings us back to IT.

I think the 2017 version of IT falls into the dark fantasy side of genre for one simple reason: 

The movie isn't about the monster.

Instead this is a movie about people, mostly the kids, but also the adults in the town. This is a movie that does what genre is supposed to do: hold a dark mirror up to reflect society and allow us to see ourselves more clearly.


Yes, the monster appears, and does damage to the town, and is delightfully creepy (though almost over using every horror movie monster trope developed over the last few years).

But the threat of Pennywise is not just there for jump scares.  Pennywise's actions - and the actions Pennywise inspire - serve to reveal the core of the human characters and the relationships between them.

That exploration of character and relationships is the power of this movie, from the quiet brotherly love of the first scene to the quiet, slow separation of the group in the last, so reminiscent of the promises to always stay in touch after high school.

I greatly enjoyed the film, and suspect you will too.

Conservatives Ironically Get Angry At Science (That Isn't Really) Suggesting Conservatives Are Angry

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There's a thing that's pissing Conservatives off today from the University of Cincinnati:  an article entitled "People Become More Economically Conservative When Angered".

Let's just examine the irony here for a moment before moving on:  These conservative folks are getting more angry because of the results of a research study, and thus are bitching on Twitter to remove funding (e.g. become more "economically conservative"1) because they're angry.

Oh, damn, that's some delicious irony.

So let's move on to the thing itself:

(Note: I used a similar mechanism as this study in my own research for my Master's degree.)

This is a research study that involves over a thousand participants.  (That's good.)  It contained control groups (also good) and examined an apparent opposite effect while refining and duplicating the study (very good!).  And both the study and the author of the article were careful to note (including in the headline) that they were talking about economic conservatism, which is a very specific thing.

The reactions (see this Cincinnati.com article) are very disturbing, for one big shiny reason:

They're reacting to a tweet of a headline, but condemning the study and the article

Not enough?  How about this to send chills down your spine:

They're upset because the findings of a scientific study weren't pleasing for their ideology.

That should scare the ever-loving crap out of you.

Because if you actually read the article, there's several places where the reporting on this study leaves questions:

  • How big of a shift in attitudes was measured?  
  • Did the degree of the shift (or how statistically significant the shift was) change depending upon the person's baseline value?  
  • How did they test for, or control for, the participant's initial value for "economic conservatism"?   
  • Was that statistically significant shift meaningful in real life?

That's four big questions right off the top of my head.  It's quite possible - I haven't had a chance to read the study itself yet - that the study answers none of these questions.  It's even possible that the study has other issues, like the "hungry judges" study that I've been mentioning all week to people has some statistical problems I wasn't aware of.

Those are questions that need to be asked.  It's important that they're asked, and meaningfully answered.

That's questioning scientific methodology to ensure you get accurate results.

But instead, these "capital C" Conservatives1 would rather condemn science based on the (summary of a summary) of the results... simply because they don't like the results.

That's bloody terrifying.


1 The study isn't even about political Conservatives: UC Director of Public Relations M.B. Reilly said: "The item is using the word conservative with a lower-case 'c' so to speak, in other words in the classic meaning or sense of 'cautious,' 'orthodox' or 'marked by moderation.' (In fact, if you look at the body of the text, you will indeed find that the word conservative is lower cased in the second and tenth paragraphs.)

"It would seem that some are perhaps perceiving the term as a capital 'c,' in other words as signifying and/or limited in meaning to a specific political party vs. the term's broader definition and connotation.

"I hope this is helpful context to have."

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There's a Price of Admission to Dating A Parent

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Here is a simple thing that I never really thought I'd have to spell out:

If you start (non-casually) dating someone with kids, be aware that you will be a part of those kid's lives, and will have to take on familial responsibilities.  If you're not interested in that, don't start dating someone with kids (and definitely don't get so serious that you move in with them).

If you are the person with kids and are (more than casually) dating someone who actively refuses and avoids taking on or helping with familial responsibilities, it's time to DTMFA.  That person is not dating you, they are only interested in a part of the totality that is you.  Continuing to date them does a disservice to your kids.

To clarify:  I'm not advocating that you introduce someone to your kids/introduce yourself to their kids as "your new parent".  Dear FSM, no!  In this age of blended (and sometimes thoroughly run through the mixer) families, it's important to not try to be a "replacement"

When I say familial responsibilities I mean things like "helping pick the kids up from school/daycare if you have to work late" or "helping make sure the kids brush their teeth".  Things like that.  They're responsibilities that are usually taken on by parents, but aunts, uncles, grandparents, and even good friends of the family can do those things as well.  Hence, familial responsibilities.

Yeah, casual dating is a different story.  I'm not advocating that you should introduce children to everyone you're dating.  Some relationships only last a few dates.  Some last only a few weeks.  While there's nothing wrong with a short-term relationship, forming attachments to people who then just up and disappear can be really upsetting.

But again, if you're looking to step up on that escalator (or even have more than a casual relationship), all the people in that relationship have to be engaged with the kids and making sure they're taken care of.  The kids are a price of admission, and if it's not freely paid that speaks ill of both the parent and the person(s) dating that parent.

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Protest how you want to. They'll never be okay with it anyway.

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Complaining about how people protest - particularly when it's quiet, non-violent protest like football players kneeling during the national anthem - is so much tone policing.

Do not trust the admonitions of those who gain privilege and power from the status quo.

They want to be able to ignore you.

Fuck that.

Civil disobedience must shock and break norms.

Otherwise it's just obedience.

https://postimg.org/image/3mga3pxhh/
click to embiggen


Original photo by Vlad Tchompalov

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Having trouble finding time to write? Write for an hour with us tonight!

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It's rough finding the time to write. Life intervenes... a lot. 

Then take just an hour to write with us this weekend!
 
Several of us have started our own, self-hosted, flash fiction challenge over at a website we're calling Obsidian Flash.  It's on a forum behind a password, so that anything you write and submit is considered unpublished.  Registration is quick, free, and pretty painless.



Seriously, this thing is the perfect thing for you to do if you think writing is hard (or finding time for writing is hard), and especially if you haven't been writing for a while.  It's also great if you have problems with getting past ideas that "you suck" (every first draft sucks, face it) or self-doubt.  Here's why:

1. Challenges like this are great for stimulating creativity.
2. You're supposed to write for an hour (ish); you can make that time.
3. You don't have the time to critique yourself.
4. You'll get helpful feedback from published authors and editors like myself, Donna Munro, Anton Cancre, and more.
5. We are friendly, despite all appearances to the contrary.  :)




The next challenge is scheduled for THIS weekend.  The prompt will go up this Friday (THAT'S TODAY, FOLKS) at 8pm EST.  Donna is our flashmaster!

Go sign up now at http://obsidianflash.com/forum and we'll see you writing this weekend!

Here are the rules:

1. All stories should be complete, written and posted within 24 hours of the prompt being posted, and can be anywhere from one sentence to 1,000 words in length.  Typically the prompt is posted by 8pm EST on Friday, and stories are posted by 8pm EST on Saturday.

2. You may choose to write your story in any genre.

3. Your story must be built around the restrictions—words, themes, photo prompts, word limits, etc.—provided by the Flashmaster at the beginning of the challenge.

4. Once the participants’ work is posted, the voting and comment session begins and continues until all votes are in. Time limit for voting will be determined on the spot, depending on how many people finish the challenge.  Typically this is within 24 hours of the end of the writing portion, or 8pm EST on Sunday.

5. The winner becomes Flashmaster and chooses the prompt(s) for the next contest.  Also, you get all the Internet Bragging Points you think you can get away with.

Don't wait - get going and register at http://obsidianflash.com/forum right now and join us!

No comments :