March 2nd, 2010


[links] Link salad becomes necessary

Math of Publishing Meets the E-BookThe New York Times takes a whack at ebook costs. Hmm. (Thanks to my Dad.)

The Many Faces of 'Alice'WaPo with a slide show of pop culture visualizations of Alice in Wonderland.

Golden Gate: Sunset in Yellowstone ParkVintagraph with an 1897 travel poster. I'm fascinated by the bicycle-mounted rifle in the poster, which was apparently unremarable in its day.

Last Chance Texaco: 1937Shorpy with a haunting image from North Dakota.

The Power of Plant Clock Computing — The headline alone is cool, but the story also carries some cool science geekery.

Ice deposits found at Moon's pole — Ice and hydrocarbons. Excellent.

Another Victory For Labour? — Larison on British politics, with some contrasting observations on the US.

Department of Inmates, Asylums... — The GOP wants to clean up its extremists. Unfortunately, a lot of them hold national office. Fascinating. You brung 'em to the dance, boys. Now they're shitting up all the beds. Thanks a lot.

?otD: When in the course of human events?

Writing time yesterday: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Body movement: 30 minute stationary bike ride
Hours slept: 6.0 (slept well, but short)
This morning's weigh-in: 229.0
Yesterday's chemo stress index: 6/10
Currently reading: [between books]


[process] Rules of Writing (meme)

Because all the cool kids are doing it.

I only have one rule of writing. Everything else is a guideline. Sort of like the Pirate Code.
  1. Write more.

Which is to say, whatever you're doing, do more of it.

I do have several strong guidelines.
  • Write something every week. (A story, a chapter, something discrete and measurable.)

  • Finish everything you start. (I suspect more nascent careers fail here than anywhere else. How many unfinished stories and novels do you have? If you don't finish it, you can't revise, market and sell it. Period.)

  • Don't self-critique while you're writing. (For a lot of folks, this may be the root cause of the previous issue. It doesn't matter if the piece is crap. You're probably wrong, as the writer is the worst judge of their own work. And besides, you can always revise.)

  • Work on one thing at a time. (In my case, a novel, a short story, a collab and a nonfiction project can all run in parallel. But if I work on two of the same thing, the voice bleeds over and I lose track of continuity.)

That's all I got. What would you add?


[cancer] Brief updatery on mouth and hair and other stuff

Hair is coming off at 3 pm today. There will be photos.

Mouth still hurts, but is down from burning to aching. Should be picking up Magic Mouthwash today. We shall see.

Lower GI has decided to remind me that's going for frequent flyer points on Air Porcelain (departures every half hour!). If the current trend keeps up, I may have a record setting day. Sigh.

The headache I've been living with for several days (very rare thing for me, even on chemo) is finally gone.

Also, weighed in at 229.0. This is up about four pounds in the last few days, despite eating two full meals in two days and copious crapping besides. I really don't understand my body sometimes.


[politics] Common sense and government

"Let's bring common sense to Washington" is such a common piece of electoral rhetoric that it might as well be printed on napkins and handed out in bars. I believe it's more widely used by Republican candidates than Democratic candidates, but the phrase is a universal meme that seems to strongly appeal to voters. "Common sense government" speaks to our archetype of the citizen-legislator, our (sad) national distrust of authority and expertise, and the life experience of individual citizens.

I also find it a frankly baffling idea.

I don't want my plumber to use common sense. I have common sense, and I can't fix a leaky dishwasher. I want my plumber to use Special Plumbing Knowledge, experience and the right tools. Which amounts to common sense for plumbers, but has nothing to do with me, no matter how many pipe wrenches I own and how many faucet washers I've changed over the years.

I don't want my cancer surgeon to use common sense. I have common sense, and I couldn't find a tumor if you julienne sliced my body open for ease of search. I want my cancer surgeon to use Special Surgical Oncology Knowledge, experience, and the right diagnostics and medical imaging. Which amounts to common sense for cancer surgeons, but has nothing to do with me, no matter how many times I keep going under the knife before this shit finally kills me.

I don't want my airline pilot to use common sense. I have common sense, and I couldn't land a plane with a scorecard and a map. I want my pilot to use Special Pilot Knowledge, experience, and a strong understanding of her well-maintained aircraft to bring me safely back to ground. Which amounts to common sense for pilots, but has nothing to do with me, no matter that I've flown something like two million air miles in my life as a passenger.

Need I go on? And I'll bet none of the politicians calling for "common sense government", and none of the voters eager for their message, want "common sense plumbing" or "common sense cancer surgery" or "common sense airline piloting." Yet the machinery of government is every bit as complex and intricate and baffling as plumbing, tumors or heavier-than-air flight. Frankly, a lot bigger and more complex.

I want government by people smarter than me, not government by folk wisdom and simple aphorism. Thoughtful analysts, policy wonks, subject matter experts, budget mavens, and all their ilk. There may have been a time and place for the citizen-legislator, but I'm not sure that wasn't ever a myth, at least in this democracy. If common sense could run government, then every cab driver who knows how it should be would be sitting in Congress.

Give me expertise over common sense, every single time.