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nationElectric
06 March 2011 @ 04:15 pm
I've begun tumblelogging over at http://nationelectric.tumblr.com/. I'll still be posting here about as much as I ever do, but if you want to see random links, video clips, etc., they're over there.
 
 
nationElectric
10 February 2011 @ 07:07 pm
Oh!  
I just dawned on me that when I come up with an idea for something neat I could do -- whether it's a bit of writing or coding or taking up a hobby or going to a party or whatever -- that that's all it is. It's not something I have to do, it's just something I could do.

This seems pretty basic, I suppose, but I guess that many of the deep cognitive errors tend be pretty basic.

This happens to me all the time: I come up with an idea, decide to pursue it, and then almost immediately dig in my heels and start resisting. I've been aware of that pattern for a long time, but I guess I hadn't clearly seen the underlying dynamic. I try to force myself to do things, even things I might otherwise want to do.

Huh.
 
 
 
nationElectric
27 January 2011 @ 09:56 am
Since the beginning, I've allowed anonymous comments. It just felt right, somehow.

The spambots have been hitting me lately, though, and captcha doesn't seem to be cutting it, so that's gotta change. Sorry about that.

But hey, at least accounts are free!
 
 
nationElectric
27 January 2011 @ 03:18 am
I've noticed that I tend to post here lately when I'm kind of mopey. When I'm feeling aimless or unfulfilled or frustrated or whatever.

I was kind of feeling like that tonight, all weird and twitchy and aimless and sort of climbing the walls. I sat down and randomly browsed the web a bit, checked my email. A friend of mine had emailed me asking for book recommendations. I replied, thinking I'd just mention an item or two, but the list grew a little, and grew some more, and before I knew it, I was feeling pretty good.

It wasn't anything terribly brilliant, but MAN, I'd forgotten that writing makes me feel GOOD. There really is something almost... soothing about it. I think that's one of the reasons I used to post so much here, especially late at night. I'd be sitting around, feeling like I needed to do something, ANYthing. Sometimes I'd try to do stuff -- go out for a walk, go out for a drive, go somewhere -- but few things felt as good as just sitting down and writing about something. Writing about anything at all.

My brain is sort of a messy place. Left to its own devices, it just sort of tends to degenerate into this electrical cloud of fuzz and chaos and despair. But writing forces everything to sort of snap into place, things have to start working together, and things feel healthy and tasty and functional. It just feels GOOD.

So anyway, that's this evening's personal revelation.

Oh, and for your illumination, I present some book recommendations below...


---------------


First off, a disclaimer: I don't spend nearly as much time reading as I'd like. Consequently, a few of these I haven't finished, typically because I put them down and other things came up. In such cases, however, I would be happy to pick them back up and continue where I left off, and in fact intend to at some point.[1]

Moving on, then...

Kobo Abe, _The Box Man_. Freaky stuff about identity and society. Very Japanese.

Philip K Dick, _A Scanner Darkly_. My favorite book of PKD's. PKD is pretty hit-or-miss, but this is probably his most autobiographical work, and that really kind of comes through, at least for me. The film adaptation (by Austinite Richard Linklater) is also pretty good, IMO.

Kurt Vonnegut, _Breakfast of Champions_. Probably my favorite of Vonnegut's, though I like a lot of his stuff.

_Machine of Death_. Anthology put together by a lot of smart, funny web cartoonists (http://machineofdeath.net/)

Martin Amis, _London Fields_. Keef and his darts.

Thomas Pynchon, _Gravity's Rainbow_. I haven't read this, but if you do, you'll sound more intelligent at parties![6]

China Mieville, _Perdido Street Station_. Victorian steam-punk fantasy, but good. No, seriously, read it. If you like that, get _The Scar_.

Ken Ichigawa, _Do You Suck As Well As Fuck? Totally Sexed Up Tales of J. Edgar Hoover's America_. If the title hasn't sold you already, there's nothing more I can do.

Robert Stikmanz, _Sleeper Awakes_. The author is actually a coworker of mine and an all-around nice guy, so he gets an obligatory plug for that. But he also writes some fantastical, psychedelic, reality-as-perception stuff that is just kinda quirky and odd and interesting.

Douglas Hofstader, _Godel, Escher, Bach_. I keep picking this up, and then keep putting it down, and then keep picking it back up again. I suspect that I will eventually get through it. Hard to describe concisely, but pretty interesting, pretty cool.

Christopher Ryan & Cacilda Jetha, _Sex at Dawn_. If you want a book that's going to challenge absolutely every notion you have ever had about relationships, sex, monogamy, parenting, and society, man, this is IT. I mean, I'm not the most conservative guy when it comes to this sort of stuff, but... DAMN.

Carl Sagan, _The Demon Haunted World_. Sagan lays out the case for scientific skepticism in the way that only he can. Fun, friendly, a quick read, but no-nonsense, and does not at all underplay the importance of the subject. He's like the Mister Rogers of rational thought. This should be required reading in all high schools.

Seth Godin, _Linchpin_. One of the very, very few businessy books I'd recommend. If you feel like your corporate job is boring and pointless, you need to read this. If you feel like that kind of corporate culture is either important or inevitable, you need to read this.

Jane Jacobs, _The Death and Life of Great American Cities_. Part love letter to great cities, part revolutionary (at the time) urban planning and sociology. Jane Jacobs is also just a fascinating person, one of the great autodidacts of the last century, and a really cool, strong woman (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jane_Jacobs).

Roger Penrose, _The Road to Reality_. A book that follows the evolution of the western understanding of the physical world literally from Hellenic Greece up through quantum physics. Includes much more math than many other popular science books. If you're looking for a project, here it is.

Bill Bryson, _A Short History of Nearly Everything_. A book that follows the social and cultural evolution of humanity since early agriculture. Much less math.

Phil Plait, _Death from the Skies!_. If you like disaster movies like Armageddon or 2012, you'll love this book. Phil is a professional astronomer (formerly at NASA) and science blogger (badastronomy.com) with a dark sense of humor. This books envisions all of the many ways in which the universe could very well kill us, from comets to asteroids to supernovae to a poisonous atmosphere. Really well put together: for each scenario, you get a really vivid first-person description of what it would be like and how it would kill you, and then an exploration into what it is, what the damage would likely be, and the ways in which we might (or might not) be able to prevent it.

Brad Warner has a number of really down-to-earth, no-bullshit books on Zen. In fact, Brad Warner is the only living western writer about Zen who I can bear to read.

Alan Watts, similarly, has written some really good, accessible, funny stuff on eastern thought, though he focuses a little more on Taoism. Also, he's dead.

I'm a little troubled that Koontz and King count as "visual candy" ;) That said, if you like them, you might like Clive Cussler.[4]


... Speaking of visual, here are a couple of recommended graphic novels:

Warren Ellis, _Transmetropolitan_. A series of graphic novels which revolve around a character who's sort of a crotchety, ranty Hunter S. Thompson character in the far-flung future. Well written, often funny or outrageous, with a really creative (and more than a bit cynical) view of the future and of humanity. If you like Ellis's writing, I'd also recommend _Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E._. Nothing heavy, just a short, two-volume series that's pretty frickin' hilarious.

_Logicomix_. A graphic novel about the foundational quest in mathematics, told from the (mostly biographical) perspective of Bertrand Russell. This sounded dry to me, but man, I burned through it in two sittings. I would have gone through it in the first sitting, but I had to get *some* sleep for work the next day. The math & philosophy are related in a very accessible way, and it's often shown how their abstractness does (or does not) mesh with the realities of day-to-day life and two world wars. The human characters are also really interesting and really compelling.

------

[1] - Except for Clive Cussler. That dude is the Michael Bay of the written word. Seriously, I've got nothing against brainless page-turners, but could he come up with ONE SINGLE SCENE that isn't a reheated, by-the-numbers cliche? One SINGLE action sequence that hasn't been done to death in literally dozens of bad children's cartoons?[2]

[2] - But still, a lot of people seem to like him. For some reason.[3]

[3] - Declining educational standards, probably.[4]

[4] - OH GOD WHY AM I RECOMMENDING CLIVE CUSSLER? TO ANYONE?[5]

[5] - FOR ANYTHING?[6]

[6] - It could be worse, I suppose. I could be recommending David Foster Wallace...
 
 
 
nationElectric
03 January 2011 @ 11:19 pm
2010 seemed pretty rough for people. Mine was actually pretty good. Not easy, but good. I really deepened my relationship with Julie, spent a lot of good time with friends and chosen family, and I've been getting to know a tiny little human, who is just frickin' awesome. A lot of people I care about have been having children actually, and that's beautiful. Put in a lot of hours at work, which sucked only in the sheer excessiveness of it, but I feel like it was reasonably worthwhile work, and I feel like I'm proving myself. I feel like my relationship with my blood family has improved. Hell, I even got a smoker, which I'd been wanting to do for over a decade. Did a few things I'd been intending to do for years, actually.

It was really stressful and painful at times, and deliriously exhausting at others, but it was worth it. Basically, this felt like the year at which I really sort of got my shit together. Or, rather, the year where I really, finally, felt like I had my shit together. It's a good feeling.

The one area that was lacking was creative output; I just didn't feel like I was all that creatively active. I feel like last year put me in a good position to do more, though, and I plan to take advantage of that.

I don't like the stigma associated with "resolutions," but I do have some plans. Excepting a few of a particularly personal nature, here they are:


  • Feel good: drink less, eat better, exercise more

  • Challenge myself more, technically: get more out of the programming opportunities available to me

  • Improve my budgeting

  • Hit the Playa

  • Improve my correspondence

  • Volunteer



Beyond that, I have a couple of ideas for projects that I'd like to get launched soon. I doubt I'll want to do them forever, but a year sounds about right, and I'd like to use them to build some kind of foundation or momentum to carry me into future projects. At some point -- relatively soon -- I'd like to come up with a site where they all can live. I guess I just need to come up with a name. Beyond that, I just want to live life in a loving, strong, upright, engaged manner, with a healthy balance of stress and peace.
 
 
 
nationElectric
20 November 2010 @ 06:53 pm
Today is the International Transgender Day of Remembrance.

Transgendered people face a staggering amount of social stigma, and this manifests in everything from self-destructive behavior, to depression, to sky-high rates of attempted suicide. Transgendered person are disproportionate victims of ridicule, discrimination, assault, and murder.

This is unacceptable. To be clear: I have several friends who are trans, and I will go to the wall for them. Even if I didn't know anyone personally, though, I would still have a moral responsibility to speak out against our society's treatment of transgendered persons. They're our sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, and friends and neighbors, and they deserve the same safety and basic respect that we would accord anyone else.

http://www.transgenderdor.org/?page_id=1194

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/40279043/ns/health-health_care/
 
 
 
nationElectric
10 November 2010 @ 10:19 am
"Actually, the essence of boredom is to be found in the obsessive search for novelty. Satisfaction lies in mindful repetition, the discovery of endless richness in subtle variations on familiar themes."

- George Leonard
 
 
nationElectric
09 November 2010 @ 12:24 am
I feel like a lot of pieces are at hand. Mindset, networking, rhythm. The question at this point is what to focus on. Or, absent some all-encompassing answer to that: how should I decide what to focus on for the foreseeable future?
 
 
 
nationElectric
06 October 2010 @ 01:22 pm
I've noticed that my creativity/productivity tends to go in cycles.

Summer tends to be a fairly fallow period. I mostly want to relax and hang out. That's cool -- I think I should let myself have that without stressing out about it.

Spring tends to be burn-related, which I'm sure comes as a surprise.

But fall and winter tend to be when I'm most enthusiastic about creating media or doing little one-off projects.

And, lo! Fall has arrived...
 
 
nationElectric
06 October 2010 @ 11:03 am
Why am I not creating? I feel like I haven't created anything, good or bad, since 2007.