tagryn: Owl icon (Default)
2017-05-13 09:17 am

Thoughts on long-form critique essays, maximization self-help, etc.

(modified comment originally written to https://siderea.dreamwidth.org/1333601.html)

Typically long-form critique essays have a bad tendency to devolve quickly into strawman arguments and misrepresenting the side they're criticizing; contributions on Medium seem notorious for this. Its also one of the weaknesses of the unedited author that they typically can't see when they're going off the rails, or don't care, as long as they find what they're writing to be satisfying and cathartic.

So, based on past experience, that's pretty much my expectation I open an essay or blog entry and see something of any substantial length. The worst offenders are what I call "the wall of text," where it seems like the author believes that flooding the reader with words will bludgeon them over the head enough that anyone reading it will be forced to come around to their way of thinking...and are apparently oblivious that it has the opposite effect, and that parsimony is by far the better method. I sometimes wonder if the WoT writer is using it as a kind of freeform therapy, because it doesn't seem like these excessively long contributions are being written to persuade anyone else.

Even for the decent long ones that are out there, I still think that fairly representing a side or view that one thinks is wrong is very hard, and frankly beyond the capabilities of most writers; that's why I tend to learn more in a back-and-forth between two persons who genuinely hold opposing viewpoints, as opposed to having a single writer try and summarize what they think another person *might* say.

I also would like to have seen a lot more in the essay Siderea cites on how the version of pop-Stoicism that it mentions (Holiday, Ferriss, etc.) is using a generally solid philosophical viewpoint to promote the contemporary self-help underlying mantra that one must MAXIMIZE at all times: MAXIMIZE productivity, MAXIMIZE happiness, MAXIMIZE potential, etc...which helps sell books, seminars, and so on, and so seems at its heart just a way to maximize profit and promotion, a symptom of the gig economy.

A more philosophical asking of >why< and >whether< this hunger for maximizing in all ways is a good or worthwhile pursuit (or who it truly profits) probably wouldn't sell nearly as well. I also think the recent interest in mindfulness and meditation-light that seems much more prevalent today than pop-Stoicism suffers from the same limitation of focusing more on technique and usefulness, rather than asking the deeper "why" questions that philosophy is supposedly there to address.
tagryn: Owl icon (Default)
2017-04-08 08:01 am

Thoughts on the Syrian air strike

The narrative the opposition seems to have settled on for why the Syria strike was wrong is that it cost too much (each Tomahawk costs $~1 million), and that that money should be used at home instead. Thing is, there's been a universal principle in place since WWI that chemical weapons were out of bounds in any conflict, and allowing their use to go without anything except a stern talking-to - which was our reaction the first time they were used in Syria - risks that boundary/"red line" getting erased, with terrible consequences for future conflicts.

What this does is to signal that further use of WMD runs the risk of waking the dragon, i.e. drawing the U.S. into the conflict. Being the "dragon" may make a lot of folks uncomfortable, since it goes against the USA's vision of itself as a city on the hill and a step removed from everything beyond its coasts...but a lesson from history is, never be the side with the weaker military. We're #1 there by a considerable margin, which for better or worse means that we're the dragon that no one wants to face, and will continue to be...and can say, which is how Jerry Pournelle put it: "The message is clear: You had six air bases, Now you have five. Do you care to try for four? Or fewer?."

I note that Pournelle and others on the further right are of the opinion that it made no sense for Assad to use chemical weapons when his star is on the ascendant in the civil war, and what is more likely is this was a "false flag" by ISIS or the opposition to try and draw outside powers into a fight they're losing. At this point, I think that's supposition without any hard facts to back it up, and I'm willing to give the NSA/CIA/etc. the benefit of the doubt that the evidence indicated that the chemicals came from an attack out of that airbase until otherwise indicated.
tagryn: Owl icon (Default)
2016-10-02 08:51 pm

Depression in three drawings

Three drawings which I think do a good job showing some of the inner workings of depression.
Drawings below the cut )
tagryn: Owl icon (Default)
2015-12-27 08:57 pm

Star Wars: The Force Awakens - initial thoughts (with spoilers)

Overall, I liked the movie, and plan to see it at least one more time. I didn't have the sinking "oh, no, they messed this one up" feeling I did with the prequels, and it was fun to watch.

Some general thoughts:
spoilers-included review below the cut )
tagryn: Owl icon (Default)
2015-09-28 10:17 am

Panarama of lunar eclipse

Here's a series of pictures I took of the lunar eclipse last night. These were taken using a basic digital camera, nothing extravagant. Click on picture for full size @ Flickr.

tagryn: Owl icon (Default)
2015-08-10 08:38 am

Mid-august garden update





Garden harvest
Our vegetable garden (in southern Maryland) is doing its usual August thing of putting out cherry and Roma tomatoes on an almost production-line level, plus one or two peppers every week. We have a couple of raised beds, which is good enough for our 2-person family size. I've lost a lot of the Roma and most of the full-sized tomatoes so far to cracking, which I suspect is because we had a long stretch where it rained or thunderstormed every day, then the last few weeks has had barely any rain at all, and AFAIK that combo is a big contributor to cracking even with the timed irrigation watering system we use.

The lettuce was coming up gangbusters when we were getting a lot of rain, but then just started to tail off and bolt when a groundhog visited and decimated it; we have a couple of old apple trees which are having good years, so we think it was attracted by fallen apples and decided to diversify its diet while it was at it. My squash was also heavily chewed sometime in the past week, I'm suspecting the same fellow. But, on the plus side the leeks are doing very well, and there's a rogue watermelon that sprang up from my experiment last year at growing a small globe variety (but too seedy for my tastes), so we may get an unintentional watermelon or two this year as well.

I'm also trying South African gem squash in three different places, so far so good (they're still too small to make good. I'm hoping I'll get something off of those before the first freeze.


Cosmos
Finally, this is a Cosmos bipinnatus, its the first flower to come up in a new butterfly garden that I seeded in the spring. I'd worried that the whole bed had been taken over by weeds without any flowers coming up, but this is a hopeful sign.
tagryn: Owl icon (Default)
2015-08-05 09:23 pm

The need to write

From an interview with playwright Michel Tremblay, circa 1982.
This resonated with me, in both good and bad ways:
"The need to write? You can say what you want, you write to be loved.
It's very silly, and it's very basic. But for myself, I know that I write to be loved.
When you do something creative, even when you are insulting everyone, it
comes from a need in you to be loved. Even with the most insulting poetry,
the lowest form of theatre or the craziest novels! Just trying to attract
attention shows a need to be loved. Especially when you live in a sterile
society like ours. Writers can't deny that they have that somewhere in them.
Unless you are Fernande from L'Improptu d'Outremont and you never publish
your work. There are certainly geniuses who have written for themselves
without ever publishing. But that is something else. And if you publish, it
is for people to read you, to be read, to be loved."

I've had an internal belief for a while that the primary purpose of art is to communicate; that may be with oneself, but if it stops there, is it really art, is it really self-expression in any meaningful way? I think that's been contributing to my reluctance to write, though, as well. It can be a problem, because whether one's expression ever finds an audience is to a large part out of your hands. That's not to say one shouldn't do one's best, I think one always should for its own sake because one is able to, but expecting to reap what is sown in any measure is a sure way to a broken heart. In a way, I suppose its like love, in that how well you love is no guarantee that you will be loved back; that's the tragedy of unrequited love (and the Wizard of Oz has it completely wrong, in my opinion, when he says "A heart is not judged by how much you love, but by how much you are loved by others"). But laying aside the expectations is hard, since a lot of motivation tends to be tied up with those expectations, at least for me.
tagryn: Owl icon (Default)
2015-02-18 05:56 pm

Notes from a trip to New York City

Just some random notes I took while on a trip to New York City for a two-day conference at the United Nations, followed by an overnight stay at my parent’s place on the way back.
Read more... )
tagryn: Owl icon (Default)
2015-01-31 09:11 pm

Super Bowl V: what was lost, now is found...

From the "yet another Internet subcommunity you didn't know was out there" file...

So, tomorrow is Super Bowl XLIX (or for non-football fans, "the day all the cool new commercials come out."). Well, way back in 1971, Super Bowl V was played, between the Colts and Cowboys...
Video and notes behind the cut )
tagryn: Owl icon (Default)
2015-01-23 05:56 pm

Four notes

* It may be my Philly-area roots coming out, but nothing quite hits the spot when you're driving home and hungry than a soft pretzel, still soft and salty but not too salty, preferably warm but still OK if not. Yum. Mustard optional. I also reflect on the parallelism of going to a WaWa for random sundries growing up, and now living in an area where I do the same thing going home from work.
* I need to be a more aware re: monitoring how my joints react to bad weather coming in. My body was noticeably achy and uncomfortable all day, perhaps in anticipation of the storm system we're supposed to get smacked around by later tonight. Would be helpful to know if there's actually a correlation, rather than it just being "one of those days" at random.
* I think adding an electric blanket at night has been a big quality-of-life boost for me. Granted, it makes getting *out* of bed more grumpily difficult in the morning, but I don't miss waking up in the middle of the night with cold joints in pain, not one bit. (the cats like the auto-warmed blanket perhaps even more than I do, to be fair).
* A thing I take its absence for granted now, but also don't miss one bit? Cockroaches. My family lived in an apartment that had them until I was about 6, then I experienced them again in the summer apartment I had in Bowling Green while finishing my MA, and *all* the apartments I had while at Ohio State had them, also (to various degrees of crawlingness). You do learn to stop thinking about things creeping around at all times while living with it, in my experience, but really, its too easy to take a pest-less house for granted. Sidebar: also don't miss sleeping in places where one wakes up to a series of spider bites inflicted overnight, either.
tagryn: Owl icon (Default)
2015-01-09 02:29 pm

VIA personality assessment results

I took the VIA personality assessment at http://www.viacharacter.org/www/Character-Strengths/Personality-Assessment . For a free test, it was fairly comprehensive (over 100 questions) and the results correlated fairly well with other tests I've taken.

Results behind the cut )
tagryn: Owl icon (Default)
2014-12-14 12:49 pm

Mirror test

Tap, tap. Is this thing on?
I live?

(mostly a post to check whether the mirror from Dreamwidth.org to LJ is working for my account...it appears I may need to post at DW first, then hopefully it gets echoed over at Livejournal. Still figuring how this works...)
tagryn: (Tomananaapur_WDW)
2014-09-27 06:04 pm

I Am Not I

I am not I.
                                   I am this one
walking beside me whom I do not see,
whom at times I manage to visit,
and whom at other times I forget;
who remains calm and silent while I talk,
and forgives, gently, when I hate,
who walks where I am not,
who will remain standing when I die.

                           - Juan Ramón Jiménez


possible interpretation + graphic )
tagryn: (Tomananaapur_WDW)
2014-08-10 07:31 pm

Guardians of the Galaxy

We saw "Guardians of the Galaxy" today. Great fun - we both really enjoyed the humor as well as the music (mix tapes!). I didn't read much of the GoG comic as a kid - the only character I was acquainted with was Drax the Destroyer, and that from his appearances in "The Avengers." The Kree I remember from "Captain Marvel." I find it interesting that the Skrull haven't appeared in any Marvel movie yet (apparently for legal reasons) considering what a catalyst the ongoing Kree-Skrull war was in so many Marvel storylines. Bonus: the trailer for the next Hobbit film is in the previews.
tagryn: (Tomananaapur_WDW)
2014-07-27 05:20 pm
Entry tags:

Books I'm currently reading

"The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity" (Julia Cameron and Mark Bryan, 1992) - I'm only a little ways through Chapter 1 so far, but I can tell this could be a transformative book. I've been having troubles with doing the work in my writing, and these have been growing for a long time. "The Artist's Way" is about unblocking the creative process, and while the "spiritual" part in the title might be offputting for some people, the author explains why that part is there but in a way that most people can probably work with. For me, I can only go through at most a half-chapter at a time before setting it down for the day, which is usually a sign that I'm being challenged and am starting to fight it and gettting defensive. When I sense that, I just set it aside and let my subconscious process the ideas for a while, then come back to it again. Thanks to Liralen for the suggestion to try this book.

"Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness" (Peggy Noonan, 1994) - This is a reread for me, I think I first read it a few years after it came out. Noonan came to prominence as a speechwriter for the Reagan White House; this book deals mainly with the period around the '92 election when G.H.W. Bush was running for reelection against Bill Clinton. Its interesting from a retrospective stance, in that the author makes a fair number of observations as to why Bush's campaign was headed towards failure, what kind of president Clinton would be, and so on, but it is told largely in stories and talks between other people and herself rather than as bare prose, which makes it much easier to read. To me, there's also a lot of wisdom in what Noonan writes here, and some of that may have to do with our sharing similar backgrounds of coming from traditionally Catholic households, going through the standard Catholic education system (albeit 20 years apart), and so on. While she was living in New York City at the time, she was also spending a lot of her time commuting down to DC, and her observations about the life here are also interesting to me after having lived in the general DC area for the past 8 years now. Noonan was also in the midst of a spiritual reconsideration during the period she writes about, which I also find easily relatable: doing the math, she was age 43 when the book came out, and I'm age 44 now, so its not surprising I'm finding myself nodding and drawing a number of parallels to many things she mentions that I wasn't doing to nearly the same extent when I read it in my 20s. I hope some of her later works have a similar personal/observational touch to them, but I haven't had a chance to explore them yet.

"Pearl Harbor: Warning and Decision" (Roberta Wohlstetter, 1962) - I'm only just into Chapter 1 in this one as well, but I already have a sense of "the scales falling from my eyes." This book is universally regarded as the definitive analysis of the intelligence failures that led to the attack on Pearl Harbor. In some ways its unbelievable, yet at the same time entirely believable, that the work of pulling together all the different sources of material to put together a coherent picture of 'who knew what, when did they know it, and how did it all fit together?' was done not by the Navy, but by an analyst at the RAND corporation. As a study of military history, its interesting; as a study of human nature, its deeply fascinating. There was an immensely complex lattice of 'this person knew this piece of information, but because they were in position A reporting from country B with perspective C, this other person in position X in country Y with perspective Z who could have acted on it wasn't disposed to think it that important.' And so catastrophes happen.
tagryn: (Tomananaapur_WDW)
2014-07-21 09:36 pm
Entry tags:

Super Bowl XV - a retrospective

crossposted from http://www.wingheads.com/index.php?showtopic=75340

For a slow week before camp opens, found this on YouTube, the highlights of Super Bowl XV:
Read more... )
In any case, the 1980 team will always be "my" team, probably to the end of my days. Coach Dick Vermeil remained a positive role model for me during the rest of my time growing up, both as an example of the value of hard work and preparation, and then as an example of how a lack of balance in one's life can lead to burnout.
tagryn: (Tomananaapur_WDW)
2014-07-06 08:49 pm
Entry tags:
tagryn: (Tomananaapur_WDW)
2014-06-29 12:32 pm

Motivation

Philosophy of motivation, from "Secret Society of Super Villains #1":

Also reflects the Lazarus Long quote about "Never appeal to a man’s “better nature.” He may not have one. Invoking his “self—interest” gives you more leverage."