Monthly Archives: March 2014

Twitter: A One in a Million Chance Happens Five Hundred Times a Day

With all of the new technologies available, I tend to enjoy “peeking behind the scenes” and learning more about how the companies function and the ways that they help users.

This is a presentation from TED by Del Harvey entitled “The Strangeness of Scale at Twitter.” Her job is to root out and protect users from activity on Twitter that might harm them. She discusses spammers, phishing, and the dangers of geodata. She discusses how she predicts disasters and the process she uses to design protections.

Harvey explains:

Given that I spend my days and nights imagining the worst that could happen, it wouldn’t be surprising if my worldview was gloomy. It’s not. The vast majority of interactions I see — and I see a lot, believe me — are positive, people reaching out to help or to connect or share information with each other. It’s just that for those of us dealing with scale, for those of us tasked with keeping people safe, we have to assume the worst will happen, because for us, a one-in-a-million chance is pretty good odds.

Reference:

Harvey, D. (2014). The strangeness of scale at Twitter. TED. Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/del_harvey_the_strangeness_of_scale_at_twitter/transcript#t-537353

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On Writing: What I Listen to When Writing

A friend of mine recently introduced me to Rachael Yamagata’s music. I like the imagery in her song, “Starlight:”

As always–I hope the music inspires you to write.

Enjoy!

Chris

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On Writing: Villains

writing

I like reading advice on writing from other authors. Many times I find really great ideas that help improve my own writing abilities. For example, in On Writing, Stephen King (2001)recommends listening to music to help a writer block out the world and focus on the work at hand. Readers of this blog will know how I took this advice to heart!

Certain advice, though, does not resonate with me. For example—certain writers suggest modeling villains after people in your own life that you dislike. I would find that difficult advice to implement in my writing.

First—there is the time factor. Writing a novel generally takes time. Even if a writer aims for a thousand words a day of good, solid prose, the writing stretches into months. Imagine this time actively thinking about people you do not like. This would not be an enjoyable activity in my perspective.

As a writer, I want to like my villains. Not everything that they do—many of their activities to me would be morally objectionable. But I need to understand them—to know why they are doing certain activities so that I can put this down on the page. I need to sympathize with their motivations and to realize that, in most instances, the villains do not see themselves as evil. These characters need the same depth as the heroes or, in my opinion, they will never be more than a caricature.

In Witches Abroad, Terry Pratchett (1991, p. 185) has the villain of the story, Lilith, makes the following comparison:

“She wondered whether there was such a thing as the opposite of a fairy godmother. Most things had their opposite, after all. If so, she wouldn’t be a bad fairy godmother, because that’s just a good fairy godmother seen from a different viewpoint.”

Later in the story, readers learn that Lilith firmly believes she is the good fairy godmother and is not the villain. It’s a matter of perspective, and in her viewpoint, those working against her are evil. She’s trying to improve people’s lives, and those working against her are trying to impede progress.

This is not the only type of villain in literature, but it is the type that I tend to find the most interesting. It is why I can sympathize with Khan in Star Trek (both in Into Darkness and in Space Seed) and Loki in The Avengers while at the same time being morally appalled by many of their actions.

There are obvious exceptions to this—Sauron in The Lord of the Rings trilogy does not generate sympathy for many readers, (although Tolkien does give him a fascinating history in The Silmarillion that explains his fall into darkness) but the Nazguls always had a touch of sympathy to their story for me because they were tricked by Sauron into becoming the Ring Wraiths. The detail and care that Tolkien invests into the story keeps these characters from being caricatures.

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Questionnaire of Threes for Writers

3Questions

I saw this questionnaire on H.M. Brooks’s blog http://wordpress.com/read/post/id/48049500/508/ and decided it would be fun to answer the questions. This was originally posted by Jodie Llewellyn on http://jodiellewellyn.wordpress.com/2014/03/17/the-three-questionnaire-for-writers/

Thanks to H.M., I am now following Jodi’s blog!

THREE THINGS ABOUT YOURSELF:
1. I love to write.
2. I love to garden.
3. I love to cook for my family and friends.

THREE THINGS THAT SCARE YOU:
1. Spiders. (This is also on both H.M. Brooks’s list and on Jodi Llewellyn’s list. Obviously many writers have this phobia.)
2. Really well-written, atmospheric, horror novels, television shows, and movies.
3. Writer’s Block.

THREE OF YOUR EVERYDAY ESSENTIALS:
1. Technology (My computer and iPad).
2. Music.
3. Faith.

THREE OF YOUR FAVORITE HOBBIES:
1. Writing.
2. Reading.
3. Creative Projects.

THREE CAREERS YOU’RE CONSIDERING/YOU’VE CONSIDERED:
1. An author.
2. An astrophysicist.
3. An archeologist.

THREE BOOKS YOU HAVE RECENTLY READ:
1. Seconds Before Sunrise by Shannon A. Thompson
2. How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big by Scott Adams
3. Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (re-read)

THREE THINGS YOU ARE WORKING ON, WRITING WISE:
1. A steampunk novel
2. A humorous short story with robots
3. A speculative short story influenced by Alice in Wonderland

THREE THINGS YOU WANT TO DO BEFORE YOU DIE:
1. Drive the entire length of Historic Route 66.
2. Learn to fly a plane.
3. Visit Alaska and Hawaii.

THREE THINGS YOU HAVE ALREADY ACCOMPLISHED:
1. Learned to juggle.
2. Learned to make the absolutely perfect apple pie.
3. Planted over 2,000 trees (and counting).

THREE CELEB IDOLS: (Mine are all authors I admire.)
1. Terry Pratchett
2. J.R.R. Tolkien
3. Agatha Christie

THREE QUOTES:
1. Live simply, love generously, care deeply, speak kindly, and leave the rest to God—Ronald Regan.
2. Have fun storming the castle—The Princess Bride
3. The whole of life is just like watching a film. Only it’s as though you always get in ten minutes after the big picture has started, and no-one will tell you the plot, so you have to work it out all yourself from the clues—Terry Pratchett

What are your answers fellow bloggers?

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Luck of the Irish

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March 17, 2014 · 7:10 pm

On Writing: What I Listen to When Writing

The BoDeans are a Milwaukee-based group that has been performing for more than 20 years. “Good Things” is a song I have always enjoyed–although I do find myself singing along with it! I usually listen to it when editing and not when I need to focus on my own creating writing. The lyrics “say I can say words only simple, say I can say words only clear” is a wonderful reminder of my task at hand–to find the simplest and clearest way to express myself for my readers:

As always–I hope the music inspires you to write.

Enjoy!

Chris

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Happy Pie Day!

Simpsons Pie Day

Enjoy!

Chris

(Disclaimer: The Simpsons are created by Matt Groening. I have no association with either him or the show on Fox.)

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On Writing: What I Listen to When Writing

I loved this song when Kings of Leon recorded it, but their version is “louder” with more instruments. Boyce Avenue covered this with just a piano and an acoustic guitar. The singers’ voices take the center stage:

As always–I hope that the music inspires you to write.

Enjoy!

Chris

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Old Theater

I attended a writing conference near Chicago. During the day I drove past an old theater and snapped this picture with my iPad.

DesPlaines Theater

DesPlaines Theater

I was intrigued by it and showed the picture to my family. My father mentioned that he had gone to this theater as a youngster with my Grandmother and Grandfather. They would go to DesPlaines for an all-day excursion in the summers and, as a special treat, see a movie. This occurred once or twice a year.

I like the fact that I found a “touchstone” of my family history by accident. This discovery also makes me marvel at the differences in the generations; I can literally watch any type of movie today with the click of a mouse and/or the swipe of my finger on a screen. My father literally saw one or two movies a year when he was a child.

I did some research and found out that the Theater had been built in the 1920′s for Vaudeville. It has undergone a lot of transformations since then in the interior of the theater. They are chronicled at http://www.desplainestheatre.com/content/spaces.

This is a photograph of the theater from 1925. The exterior really has not changed:

DesPlaines Theater 1925

It is nice to see that these old buildings have been preserved. I especially like the comedy and tragedy masks on the exterior that reflect the twin themes of joy and despair. This is a close up picture of a tragic mask:

theater

Cheers!

Chris

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On Writing: What I Listen to When Writing

Amy MacDonald’s “This is the Life,” deals with the life of a singer/songwriter, but the lyrics could apply to anyone who is attempting to earn a living through writing.

As always–I hope that the music inspires you to write.

Enjoy!

Chris

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