Bertrand Russell, 100% genius

Make your interests gradually wider and more impersonal, until bit by bit the walls of the ego recede, and your life becomes increasingly merged in the universal life. An individual human existence should be like a river — small at first, narrowly contained within its banks, and rushing passionately past rocks and over waterfalls. Gradually the river grows wider, the banks recede, the waters flow more quietly, and in the end, without any visible break, they become merged in the sea, and painlessly lose their individual being.

I would only expand by adding that there are many ways to merge with the sea, and not all follow this description exactly — but damn, that's good.  As a human metaphor, as spiritual wisdom, that's 100% gold.  So glad we gave that dude a Nobel Prize.  :D

Posted in aesthetica, better thinking | Leave a comment

Another List of Five: Foods you can keep yourself (and others) alive with

Here's some dead useful knowledge I've accumulated, half-deliberately and without really realizing that's what I've been doing, but hey, useful!

Basic Foods to Keep You Alive AND Healthy

(When sick, when poor, when in an apocalypse, etc.)

1.  Congee.  Cook rice (in milk for protein; with added meat or veggies if available/digestible) until it falls apart and you're left with goo.  You can also make something-like-congee from most edible grains, and grains are one thing it's relatively easy to store in quantity.  If you're poor, congee can provide you a week's worth of hot, filling meals for a couple bucks; and if you're sick or infirm, it's incredibly easy for bodies to digest and use (note: use plain rice & milk, or rice & stock/water, for sick people).

2.  Stock.  Food will taste better and bear more nutrients if you can cook it in stock instead of, or in addition to, water.  Because stock is boiled the heck out of, it's also a safe source of water, and can be drank as a nutritive and electrolyte-providing lifesaver.  Take as much water as you can boil and fill it with all the food-scraps you can get:  bones, veggie trimmings, fat, you name it.  (In a crisis, you throw NONE of this away; you put it all in the freezer/stockpot.)   Boil for hours / until you wanna stop, strain and store/use.

3.  Picklekraut has its own post, but in general, knowing how to home-ferment vegetables (which takes two ingredients to do:  salt and water) can be a lifesaver for many reasons.  It's a way-easier way than canning to make veggies last much longer than simple pickling, and they're all marvelously probiotic (which gut-flora can be difficult to come by on a restricted diet, or if tubs of Chobani grow scarce where you live).  

4. Alcohol has a million good uses, one of which is simply that it can be sold and bartered like real money, and probably always will be — but unless you're really into it and/or have easy access to the ingredients, beer and whisky are pretty tricky to make under duress.  If you can get apples (specifically squished apples/cider), home-fermenting hard cider is easy (and can be done without having a source of yeast; it will lactoferment in the right conditions, albeit slowly and with low alcohol — but enough alcohol to keep it fresh.  Remember one of the first reasons we had beer was because it makes the water safe!) — and *wow* tasty; we love to do it in my house.  Another option is honey:  if you can make or get it in five-pound-or-so quantities, you can make mead.  Yeast is tricky sometimes, but then again so is distilling — basically, I'd advise picking which is easier for you — keeping a yeast-strain on hand in the freezer and knowing how to propagate it, or building a still.  (A still definitely has more apocalypse-power, but fermenting stuff is a great home skill.)  Even just knowing how to produce alcohol (and both fermenting and distilling take practice) is pretty valuable in some circumstances.

5.  Sprouted seeds can save your buuuuutt:  They're virtually free, fresh veggies that you can grow indoors and turn around into food in a matter of days.  The seeds can be stored a long, long time before sprouting, and once they're sprouted they can be everything from "just eaten by the handful" to "fried up extravagantly with butter and spices" to "made into flour".  *Sprouted* seeds (unlike non-sprouted ones) have protein, particularly bean and legume seeds, and don't need to be cooked, meaning they retain all the vitamins of raw veggie-food, which can be hard to get sometimes.  They're also ridiculously delicious, and if your diet is limited or your'e subsisting on rations, fresh greens can be amazing.  They require about $10 in equipment (plus seeds to sprout), a little reading and some counter-space, and everyone should know how to do them.

If you know of more foods (or related things) like this, I'd love to hear 'em!

 

 

 

Posted in 'pocalypse, consumer warfare, ditch medicine for suburbia | Leave a comment

A lot of words about no words: Yang Silence

Wittgenstein's awesome quote, "Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent" is a really great example of the kind of tortured verbing that makes formal philosophy so damn hard to read for most people.  It should be noted, too, that Wittgenstein was himself a beautiful and shockingly clear writer.  (The fact that a big chunk of his work is in the philosophy of language probably helps with that.)  But I like him as an example, because if you've read him, you know that it's 100% not lack of his skill at wordsing that's making any of it difficult. 

That philosophy is hard reading is pretty much canon, inside and outside the field.  Some of it is translation and age, sure, but sometimes it feels like the material demands it, too.  Kant is brutally un-fun (unless you're a masochist like me), but a few hundred years of smart people still haven't figured out to say those exact things any better, really. 

Language just seems to fit some topics like department-store clothes fit your seven-foot-tall friend; it's doing the job, but hardly gracefully. 

And that's one reason I love Wittgenstein's words above, in particular:  I feel like they hide another layer of meaning beyond the philosophical, and that that other layer is a spiritual truth. 

WARNING:  ODD ABSTRACT THING I LOVE PONDERING AHEAD

I love silence, as a thing.  (It feels like a cousin to sleep somehow, doesn't it?)  It's also one of those concepts where, when we say the word to each other, we can be fairly certain of fuzzily hitting the same area of meaning; but as soon as we try to be any clearer, to bring into focus exactly what we mean, it falls apart — and quickly.  You and I could literally start now and argue for two dawns and not come close to agreeing on what "silence" "is". 

Not as unrelated as it it seems:  verbs matter a lot here.  (Wittgenstein also famously says something that basically tracks exactly with (while preceding a lot) a former President's hedge that "it depends on what your meaning of is, is".)

Did you notice that there's basically NO verb in the quote up top?  It's basically an equation:  [Whereof one cannot speak] = [thereof one must be silent].  It's two nouns, variables really, set to moral equality (not identity; I didn't use == on purpose).  All the actions are happening in the reader, who must choose what to do about these mysterious (but at the same time obvious) things about which I cannot speak.

…I don't know how relevant this is to you, but it's crazy relevant to me.   My life is FILLED with things about which I cannot speak, for one reason or another; and I mostly experience them as a burning urge to do something about them.  They are huge and powerful, some of those things; some of them seem like the secrets to Life, The Universe & Etc., or elsewise incredibly valuable.  And they don't fit into words, even worse than philosophy doesn't!

Well, here Wittgenstein agrees with the sages and plenty of religions, mystic and not.  From christian and buddhist vows of silence to the occult "to know, to dare, to will, to keep silent" — the general idea, at least, seems to be in agreement on both sides of spiritual/philosophical fence.  (Yes, I'm being broad in taking just Wittgenstein to represent Philosophy.  No actual claim is intended there; I'm just not exploring other views for space reasons.)  Now, Wittgenstein was working in analytic philosophy, and his quote there (which is the last line of his one book-length work, wowz) is probably (? I mean I'm guessing, but being that it's high-end academic philosophy…) not intended to be spiritually poignant. 

But it is.  Because when you project Wittgenstein's artfully precision-machined language onto the deep, fuzzy, ancient feelings that cause spiritual people to turn to silence, you get, I think, a new view.

What do I DO, about the $thingswhereofIcannotspeak?  I feel I must do something.  To try and speak, or write, or think, or express or communicate; to at least point to the Big Huge Wait A Fucking Minute stuff.  I feel like we're swimming in the ocean and a freaking whale just brushed my leg and I can't even conceive of how big it is or what hand-signals to wave to people to describe it, but damn I urgently need to try.  (LOL I just accidentally stated my whole life pretty well, right there.)

But this isn't a whale; a whale is a type of animal, just like me.  This is stuff that doesn't fit in philosophy, or even in language, because its reality, its nature, is simply in a dimension in which verbalization doesn't work.  Our emotions, our body and senses, some of us can interface with this stuff, be aware of it, experience it and be changed by it — but we can't get our minds around it, for definitional, physics-ish* reasons.  These $thingswhereofIcannotspeak are packets of truth about the nature of me; understanding them means shifting to a perspective, a dimension if you want, where words don't work.  Or think of it this way:  The "filters" that are employed in producing words, or even wordless thoughts, also filter out the spectrum in which we can experience $thingswhereofIcannotspeak.  If we want to "see" them, we have to stop using one of our most essential and normal filters; and once we turn it back on, the thing evaporates, like something amazing that can only be seen in the dark.

Wittgenstein, in his wonderfully gruff way, wants philosophers to stfu about some things.

Buddha stares at you and shrugs, smiling apologetically.

The Witch laughs off your question.

And I'm over here, pondering the verb for some reason, tied up in what "is" is.  Or specifically, what "be" is.  One must be silent.

What is it, to be silent?  Is it simply not speaking (like a philosopher choosing to ignore or not answer a question)?  Or speaking of other things instead (like a witch refusing to give up their secrets)?  Or refusing to speak, as a spiritual practice (like nuns)? 

I'm getting used to mulling things like this over with the Chinese ideas I know "on deck", as it were, and that's been helpful here.  Because I'm learning that for every verb, there's a yang way and a yin way to do it.  A lot of our fuzziness comes from missing this — but I think especially when it comes to silence, and here's why.  Most verbs, or most that I've noticed, everybody assumes they mean the yang thing when in fact the yin way may be a) more appropriate and b) completely different.  (I did a writeup on yin punch-throwing that explicates this nicely I think; will have to dig for it.  Might be on www.yieldandovercome.com?) 

But when it comes to silence, I think we assume we mean the yin, and ignore/forget/don't realize that there's also a yang way to be silent.  There's being silent, and there's being silent.  Or being silent, and being Silent.  Draw it how you want.  But it occurs to me that when Buddha looks at you with that deep, still, holy-shit stare and says nothing, he's not just sitting there.  His silence is doing a thing.  (You may not have experienced this directly, btw, but I have, both from an enlightened person and a few others who were being so in that moment.)  Yang silence isn't just a spiritual thing — people do it automatically in some cases, though it's a sign of a higher-functioning person to use it this way, I think.  (Smarter action heroes use silence as an effective quip, etc.) 

So now, tying together that whole BS bocquet, I feel like I kind of have an answer to a question that, maybe until I read Wittgenstein, I wasn't quite sure how to frame:  "What do I do about these things whereof I can not speak?"

And maybe the answer, "be silent", changes in meaning with the question, with the type of $thingwhereofIcannotspeak I'm dealing with.  Maybe in some circumstances you shut up; others you laugh it off or change the subject; and others, you practice active silence

I think that's plenty for now, and it's Sunday morning so it's meditation and study time (yay!), but I'll probably hop back on this train later — and am excited to hear your thoughts, if you have any.

Peace!

*sorry about that :P 

Posted in 3D, better thinking, philosophy | 1 Comment

Travails of tech & tits: the good ones are out there

A recentlyish-previous tech job hired me for a management position because, as they told me, their computerized test labeled me as "100% assertive". 

I giggled, even though I had serious reservations about a company that uses computerized tests to get to know people; but on balance I thought, "Ok so, yay, a place that wants me to have ideas and be proactive about doing my job well!" 

This is what "making it" as a woman in tech looks like, my brain said, smugly.  A good salary, recognition of your skills, consideration of your ideas.  Being treated as a smart and experienced professional, not just a mouthpiece or cogwheel.

Wellll, it turns out that the reason that company wanted an "assertive" manager is so that it could be my job to yell at the engineers, and to force/manipulate them into working long hours and making technical tradeoffs they knew were stupid, in order to appease aggressive, arbitrary (or sometimes outright predatory) top-down policies.

I wasn't just disappointed when I quit that job, only a few weeks after I got it, rather than threaten to fire techs if they refused to work unpaid weekend overtime, as my boss informed me I should do; I was outraged.  …I didn't even say no; I just gave my notice.  I'm not only not doing that; I'm not working for anybody who'd ask me to.  And I was partly outraged with my vagina. 

(I just got tired of typing "as a woman".  ;)) 

Here's why:   they didn't give me a chance at that job because they thought I'd be good at management (which I am, thankyouverymuch), but rather because they thought I'd make a good scary puppet with which to deliver shitty mandates to their employees.  I honestly felt more insulted by that, by my "assertiveness" being recognized and twisted, than I was by jobs as waitress etc. where I was literally expected to just be nice all the time no matter what.  It was cruel-feeling to have "made it" professionally, to have won a job on what felt like a level playing-field, and then to be put in a position where my job was literally to be an object of hatred to the people I was supposedly advocating for.  (Yes, as a manager, I advocate for my team.  If you don't, you suck at business, because the people doing the actual work are pretty freaking critical to the process of getting it done well*, duh.)

Well, it's been a few jobs, and I'll be damned, but I finally got one that does what I thought the last one was going to do.  (I've been there six months now.)

This one didn't use a computerized test.  …Because that's ridiculous, bringing someone in to get to know them and then sitting them alone in a room to talk for two hours to a proprietary program you bought from some salesguy, instead of talking to them yourselves.  Future generations are gonna laugh at us for that one, seriously.

And this one values the hell out of my opinion, and appreciates the shit out of my advocating for the engineering team.  As in, I've been told those things in words, multiple times, since I started. 

It's great — but it's also an unexpected boatoad of pressure!  Turns out my personal boundary for "doing a great job at this" has, like, rarely been tested, because I've spent almost my entire professional career fighting outward impediments to having and enacting good ideas.  There's a huge amount of stuff I haven't learned yet, that I probably would have chewed through long ago, if I wasn't busy fighting my managers and my coworkers to just stop treating me like Resident Tits and let me do my job. 

I am, to put it mildly, daunted.

I have every opportunity here to educate myself:  My company (I'm proud to call it that) will pay a generous stipend towards any relevant education I pursue, including paid time off and travel for conferences and the like.  They're openly thrilled when I mention a thing I'm working to learn.  For my one-year anniversary, they're talking about getting me an underling of my own, which will give me, hopefully, time to pursue these things, because given the breadth and depth of my responsibilities, I'm already pretty strapped!

Oh, AND.  That shit job I quit after a couple weeks?  I almost got fired once before that happened, and here's why:  I had open engineering positions to fill, on a team that was 100% composed of white males, and I refused to consider the resumes I was given by the recruiters (the same ones that used computerized tests…) until they were more than 25% female.  At this job, I'm the one who reads our wonderfully aggressive code-of-conduct at every customer kickoff, and springs (not alone, but by agreement first, because the white male leadership doesn't want to stand in the spotlight for it, because they're awesome) the uncomfortable are-you-down-with-diversity questions at interviews.  If I decide to spin off my education into becoming a diversity-in-tech activist or leader, my job will gleefully support me in it.

So I guess this is a post about blessings, and how they're often curses in disguise, just like the vice-versa — this is why Buddha and Christ both caution against judgment I guess, lol.  "'However you think about this, you're wrong.' –The Universe"  I found a gig in tech that isn't a gender shitshow, and it's also with a seriously respectable company business-wise, so yay, that's possible!  And it happened to me!  …Now, uh, I have to get good enough for it.  ::gulp::

 

 

*Someone's gonna say, "But what about when there aren't people doing the 'actual work' anymore?" to which I'll say the job of managing stays the same; if you happen to be managing a bank of robots, then you're advocating for them or shit doesn't get done.  Other jobs, like executive management, don't directly involve advocating for essential engineers, but that's why I love the tier of management I'm in, and have no desire to "go higher" — I like directly helping the people directly doing the work, overseeing "where the rubber meets the road".  When I was a kid I wanted to lead a team of pit mechanics, if that gives you an idea where my brain feels it belongs in the professional order.  :)

Posted in consumer warfare, ethics, technical-ity, the root of all wealth | Leave a comment

Further notes on the “Bloody Nine” exercise thingy

Any three exercises, three sets to failure.

My goal with the Bloody Nine (or B9 as my friend now has me calling it) was to inculcate a basic, progressive / training-level fitness routine that could fit into any day, no matter what. 

A few weeks in, my biggest problem is motivation, but I'm working on that — I've made at least 3x week, usually 4-5, and I'm on a four-day stretch now, so that's hopeful.  But I feel like its full potential is lying in the daily application, so my goal for the next chunk of time will be to stick that landing.

Even so, I'm really pleased with it.  I'm not good at planned/regular practice; my nature is to just kind of shuffle through things all the time, practicing what I can when I can.  This means it's really easy to throw me off of streaks, though (especially since life tosses me many curveballs).  The B9 has several important benefits that count for maintaining it, and account for why I've been doing as well as I have with it, slip-ups aside:

*  It's fast — 20m or less, depending on how fast your exercise is (see below for slow exercise note).  That means it can get done in those little "oh hey I'm ready a little early" slices of time, or before bed after you've already given up on getting anything else done for the day — it's just, like, 10-15m, yo.  Even on some otherwise terrible days, I've managed to make it happen because of that.

*  It can accommodate ANY terrain:  bedrooms, hotels, campsites; you could even do it bedridden.  (I did do it for a couple days when I was stuck on the couch with a pulled back-muscle.)  And working around any injury is not a problem.  (Though exercises that don't strain the lower back are…tricky to think of.  I did it, though!)  It's just a matter of which 3 exercises you pick that day.  …I was initially worried that having to make that many decisions every day would wear me out, btw, but it's actually easy and more of a fun logic puzzle than anything.  And the endless variety makes it a LOT easier to swallow, boredom-wise.

*  It succeeds as a training-level workout because of the lack of rep-counts, and I think this makes it a better stress-buster/mental-supportive workout, too.  Rather than boredly counting, I deliberately try to lose count [NOTE: I do this by reciting the Troll Counting from Discworld: “One, two, many, many, many…”] and just focus on doing perfect-form reps until my body tells me it's time to stop.  It's super relaxing, I don't have to write down *anything*, and I can feel myself getting better at things like squats, even with just the 3-4x/week version. 

*  It's also dirt simple to extend, if you wanna.  Pick four exercises.  Wham.  Probably takes 5 more minutes.  Or just keep doing sets-to-failure, after three — hell, maybe try to lose count of that too.  :)  I'm sure I'll be interested in adding more, once I get more used to the habit.

*  Last thing:  slow exercises are wonderful for use in the B9.  I initially reserved them for when I was injured or feeling shitty, but I was wrong, wrong, wrong to do so — especially as a student of taiji!  Sure, my sifu would make me silk-reel until my legs gave out during class, but somehow the thought of doing it in sets as like, part of a HIIT workout, never occurred to me.  But lord, it's brutal and amazing!  Silk-reeling three times to failure inside a quarter-hour is one *heckapants* workout. 

(A small taiji side-note, too:  When you ask about "conditioning exercises" at a traditional Chinese school, they look at you funny and tell you to keep working on your forms.  Until you drop.  And then doing them again.  "Kungfu makes you fit enough to do kungfu.  Nothing else will." is something I heard repeatedly.  I've latched onto this and now I often make "repeat this taiji move until you can't" part of my B9.  If you know some 'fu, incorporating it can be both fun and useful af!)

 

 

Posted in kungfu yay, mad exercise | Leave a comment

essential oil of existential crisis

This morning my brain was trying really hard to tell me a thing, so I wrung it out in the simplest language I could for myself.  I kinda liked the result, so, here!  ::throws apple & runs::

###

 

Today can still be a day you do better.  Today can be the beginning
of a better era for you.
You can start right now.

Whatever you’re doing, do it more mindfully.
Watch carefully as you do it.

If it’s something inferior, stop right now.
Just drop it.  You can.
If it’s good, do it fully, let your self flow in to your work.  This will make your work wonderful.

You have that power.  If you pay attention.

You can also relax — let go of what you can and still stay standing;
drop all of the shit you’re holding up that you don’t need to.
Give yourself back that strength.

With just those two things — relax,
and pay attention,
you can salvage any day.  Or any life. 

Try it.

Try it now.
 

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1. go out 2. go in 3. prophet

The first struggle of all lives is to go out.  Out there, we piece together the Questions.

Questions are tricky: intellectually demanding and complex.  It is not enough to ask a simple question most of the time — just the fact of your frame of reference makes so much more detail necessary, in order to have the slightest hope of an answer with meaning.  So you go out, you travel, you experience, you learn, and you grow the ability to ask better and better questions, until finally you start to narrow in on the very few, very perfect, Questions.  In a glittering blaze of clarity, when you piece them together they will point an arrow of light that you can follow, if you have the gumption, to their goal.  

Then it's time for the second phase of the struggle of all lives:  to go in.  Inside is where the Answers are all buried.

You think I'm being facetious, but for once I'm not:  I've found truths in my knee; realities in my left shoulder; cures for ennui in my lungs — and I know I'm not alone.  We don't say it this way very much, but I'm gonna go all out and say that this one is an undeniable truth:  The Answers live, in every literal sense, inside us

And while they're simpler than the Questions, Answers (you may know) are much harder.  First of all, the inner land is massive, as vast as the Universe, and there are few roads and signs to navigate it by (but really, if there are any, you'll have put them there yourself, so gauge their trustworthiness on that).  It's not empty like outer space, either:  Inside is a whole universe populated by the landscape of your whole self, complete with mountains and monsters.  The hobbits had an easy trek compared to the decades you may spend in hard travel here. 

I guess, on average, people are lucky to encounter one Answer per lifetime.  Though plenty of people make an epic of it, and find a bunch of them.  And some people, I suppose, don't care in the slightest about doing the Main Quest, but obviously I'm not writing for them.  :) 

And they're not just hard to find:  true Answers hurt to look at; their realization tears up mountains, collapses whole planets in your innermost galaxy.  And in return for their knowing, not consciously but inevitably, they make demands.  Answers are the voice of God replying, the artifact of blinding power: they make you bleed out the nose and never really be the same again.  

But finding them IS the quest.  It's a two-parter, and zillions of people never figure out or make it to the second part — simply going out and gathering the pieces of the treasure-map is as far as most of us ever get.  Maybe we'll pass on the notes we've made to someone else, and they'll get a little farther.  Only some of us ever figure out that the secret world the Answers hide in is inside our own physical bodies, and not all of them will brave the journey through that terrifying land. Fewer still will survive to find one of the buried treasures, beneath the furthest mountains, there.  Of the ones who do, some will run away in fear when they graze the Answer with their fingertips and feel its effects; others will grab it but die, having not been made strong enough by the rest of the quest to survive the final challenge.

 

 

Posted in better thinking, logos addict, philosophy | 2 Comments

A splattering of lately

Confronted with time and space to type (and yes, chores, but it’s early and it’s Saturday), I have a giant wad of scattered thoughts that need to go exactly here. I’ve met my word-count on the Big Wordsing pretty consistently and I will today too (see, that’s called neural programming ;)), so as a reward (to me, if not exactly to you!) I get to dump them in a post. Yay!

1. I’m done with / now against the idea of “overpopulation” as the cause of shittiness on Earth/possible extinction. I read up on it some, and I strongly dislike that to be alarmist about overpopulation is to claim that _humanity_, the existence of the human form as a social animal, is the reason everything is going / might go to shit. And I think that’s violently wrong, and a serious cop-out for the things that really _are_ making things shit. Like lack of birth control, and access to clean water — you know, the stuff Nestle is buying all of. And being serious about respecting our environment. And oh yeah, just to put a pin in it, Capitalism. Things going to shit was NOT a built-in outcome of the emergence of homo sapiens on the planet; nor is it an inevitable result of us having complex and social minds. People are poor and hungry and the climate is changing etc because our culture sucks and is self-destructive as practiced: If we go down in flames, it will be because WE, who can choose how our society works, did not change the self-destructive things about our Empire of Greedy Bullshit in time. *Nature is not on the hook for this.* There’s nothing that anyone can point to that’s _inherent_ in human beings that would destroy the planet — only things exherent; things we have a choice about. The more I think about it, this is such a fundamental, sneaky re-direct/re-framing of such deep-rooted problems and fears, it’s terrifying to think how much effect it might have had, and still be having, on people. And it was a huge, huge topic for a while, from a few hundred years to a few decades ago; there’ve been loads of books about it — and many more of them focused on Thanos-style elimination than, say, universal access to birth control. Terrifying. (Re: Thanos, I haven’t seen the movie, so don’t spoil it! I’ve read The Infinity Wars, which you should too if you haven’t. It’s great. :D)

2. I’m taking a course on Memory systems online — I’ve read a lot about them before, and I use a scattering of lesser tricks from the field regularly; but this time I actually intend to push myself to learn and get good at the Major System and maybe Journeys as well. Cool stuff!

3. On the topic of exercises, the Bloody Nine is working out pretty well! I’m a bastard to motivate and my track-record is far from perfect, but as a system it has everything (I think, so far) needed to keep me on track: It’s fast (except on days I’d prefer it be slow), it’s flexible, and it’s enough to say you’ve had some training for the day, while leaving plenty of energy to do more later if you want. It gets the blood going, stretches everything that needs it, and works around injuries or tender spots flawlessly. There’s only been one day I really couldn’t do it, and I had a nasty tension headache is why, so that’s a pretty great record so far. The Bloody Nine or B9, by the way, is three times [three sets of [any exercise] TO FAILURE — i.e. as many as you can do]. I write it 3x3F: three exercises, three sets to failure. Any exercises, any order. Try not to stop until you’re done (though sometimes I do stop, esp. to rest a knee). Done perfectly, that amounts to a ~15m optionally-HIIT workout targeting whatever’s best/possible for you today, with enough reps that you’ll probably feel it tomorrow :) I’m a fan!

4. Speaking of motivation, I’m in one of those places right now where there are a bunch of big changes I want to make, and the Universe is just stompin’ around kicking things over on me left and right. So I’m forced to wait, frustratedly, on things I’m all zingy and hopeful about, and try to just keep chugging along and going to work (omg work…I really like my job now! but it takes a CHUNK of energy, whew) and doing the B9 and getting my writing done every day, taking my vitamins, drinking enough water, napping — you know the drill. The drilllllll :/ I know it’s important to be good at the drill, and I do pretty well, really; but it’s the being able to start new ventures that keeps me going. Being stuck is a DISLIKE. …And so of course, the Universe in its wisdom often chooses to test my ability to wait for a beneficial (or possible) time to start things. Bah! :)

5. Last thing — do you remember that/why there are ALWAYS FIVE? I’ve made a point of lists of five as a general rule since the LJ days :) — I don’t have a five today, or rather if I did I wouldn’t get anything else done, so have a great day! (It’s finally, finally seeming not-shitty out here in Boston. Oh man the springs here are _brutally_ gross. So I’m giddy cuz the windows are open. :D)

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Morning, verse

Passion can’t draw
Pain can’t write
Love can’t sing
and Awe is shit with a chisel.

Joy is clumsy and steps on feet,
Nostalgia pens Vogon poetry
Anger throws the weakest punch
and as you know, Lust has no sense of humor.

 

 

(original BS by yours truly)

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A Roundup of the Best Writing Advice

Writing advice doesn't replace practice — but if you want to be good at a thing, it's idiotic not to listen to masters of it as a way of augmenting your education. 

I've read SO much how-to-write advice, most mediocre, some shitty — but all helpful, in their way.  However, you probably want to read the really good ones I imagine, so here are my TOP WRITING ADVICE pieces.  These are the game-changers, the masterpieces, the ones that really blew me away.

1.  For how to make language into art, from basic principles up to detailed analyses of what makes a good vs. a not-good strung together series of words, there is nothing like, or even approaching the quality of, Verlyn Klinkenborg's* Several Short Sentences About Writing.  This one's at the top because it's SO concise and SO correct that it may not be incorrect to refer to this as the Bible of the art.  You will not read a paragraph of this without learning something profound.  And it's so beautifully-written itself that it's kind of breathtaking.  It doesn't need to prove anything it says, because the proof is staring you in the face the whole time…studying this one is a really fun ride, and I come back to it constantly.

2.  For how to write a good story, everything Vonnegut says is gold, but IMO his simple eight-point advice (Brainpickings has it here) is nearly all you need.  It's also fun to look at movies and how they do and don't follow those tips.  Don't let the shortness of this paragraph fool you, though — Vonnegut studied and understood stories, what they are and how they work, in a way few humans have.  Ignore any of his advice at your peril.  :)

3.  For how to write realistic characters — definitely its own distinct skill! — I think it's ironic that the best work I know on the topic was written by kind of a shit human being…because isn't that so very human?  I have to think that maybe being an asshole, a bigot and an irrational zealot is part of what gave Orson Scott Card the ability to portray such human-feeling characters — characters so realistic that even when their actions made no sense, or the story they were in was so full of holes you could strain pasta with it, the stories wound up compelling and emotional.  His advice in Characters and Viewpoint is technical, work-based, and almost painfully detailed…you may find plenty of it ignorable, but it's got it where it counts:  These are tools, a huge spread of 'em, that a master of human nature uses to capture it in words.  It's preachy and less valuable as a commentary on the art (again, see #1 for that), but holy shizballs does it contain some useful tools, and I come back to it pretty regularly in spite of its flaws, and often find something to help me out of a tough spot.

I hope some of that was handy!  Sorry I haven't been posting much lately.  I am working on upping my writing game more now that other aspects of life have settled down to non-perfect-storm status — and if you're still reading my blog in spite of the spotty updates forever, then THANK YOU! 

<3

 

*You may not have heard of this writer–I hadn't, because they don't write the kind of stuff I like to read–but they're so unbelievably good that the fact that they don't use a pen-name, in spite of their real name being Verlyn freaking Klinkenborg, is utterly justified.  ;)

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