I was flattered to receive the nomination for this award.
I am not exactly sure what this award is or what it means but I’m gratified nonetheless. In answer of your Seven Questions here are my answers:
1. Where do most visits to your blog come from? From the US but I have a significant number of followers and visits from Europe (about evenly split between East and West) and Australia and Canada and a few from Africa.
2. What is your favourite sport? To play soccer – to watch boxing. But I am not a big pro-sports fan. I prefer amateur and singular athletics such as hiking and climbing and running.
3. What has been a special moment for you so far in 2016? An old case well resolved, and a trip to Charleston with the wife.
4. What is your favourite quote? I have many from many sources. One of my favorites is, “Jesus wept.”
5. What is/was your favourite class when still at school? Unfortunately I am a bit of a polymath with many interests. So I had not a single interest or favorite in school, primary or college. Some of my favorites included physics, philosophy, psychology, subnormal and criminal psychology, Greek, history, literature, religion, chemistry, cryptology, biology, and genetics. Just depended upon my mood and the day as to which was my favorite.
6. Anything you had wished to have learned earlier? Many, many things. Far too many to count or name.
7. What musical instrument have you tried to play? I play (well enough) to compose upon the piano. I wish I had also learned to play the guitar and violin, or that I had the time to do so now. I do not.
Last night my wife, youngest daughter and I went by my parent’s house. My old man wasn’t there as he was at his Masonic lodge meeting but my mother had recently had my parent’s genetic ancestry typed (both my father and my mother’s genetic backgrounds) and wanted to tell me and my daughter what our ancestral backgrounds were.
(I had been thinking of doing the same for me and my wife but with all of the other work I’ve had to do recently have not yet proceeded on the project.)
Anyway the results of my parent’s typing were quite fascinating to me.
If Jung’s basic postulate that people “inherit” ancestral, ethnic, or racial memories (though the last two ideas are really somewhat a stretch of his theory) is true then my ancestral background certainly seems to have had some interesting and even dramatic effects upon the manner in which my life had developed thus far.
Now to be honest I am not at all sure of the idea of “ancestral memory” as Jung conjectured, it seems far more likely to me that ancestral effects would have been carried through to descendants via epigenetic and genetic mechanisms, rather than as actual inherited “memories” (though lacking genetic and epigenetic information current to our time he might have meant basically the same thing just lacked a mechanism for describing the likely cause). I am not wholly discounting more mystical effects and affects via “inherited memory” upon a person through their ancestral background; indeed I have a few somewhat metaphysical formulations and speculations of my own when it comes to genetics. I am however not really a big believer in what might be more commonly and popularly termed “Fate” and more a proponent of Wyrd. That is to say I think Wyrd more in line (as a working and workable metaphysical formulation) corresponding to epigenetics as a viable and valid mechanism for the future influence of genetic changes upon a descendant population than I am comfortable with the idea of some type of mystical and unavoidable fate as a metaphysical conception of ancestral influences or “memories.” Though I do not wholly discount the possibility of some type of ancestral “memory” being written into a person’s genetic code either through recombinant experiences or through epigenetic influences. It’s just that the scientist in me thinks there is a far better method implied in epigenetic processes and that rather than memories being passed along from our ancestors that instead both weak (recessive and passive) and even strong (pronounced and active) tendencies and traits may be written into future genetic expressions via genetic recombination or through epigenetic processes. Or through the actions of both.
That all being said, however, and with that viewpoint in mind, I found the following typing results to be of especial interest to me.
I knew I had a great deal of Anglo-Saxon and British (Celtic) ancestry through my father’s side of the family. That proved out true and I’ve often wondered if that is why I learned Old English (Anglo-Saxon) and for my long standing (since I was a young boy) interest in all things Anglo-Saxon and Celtic. Including the language, the myths, the lifestyle, the history, warfare practices, and the conditions of that period of history.
I also have a great deal of Irish in my background (which I’ll return to later) and Western European in my blood, probably Germanic and Bohemian. I was also aware of Eastern European lineage, though that turned out to be much less than I had anticipated with one exception which rather fascinated me. That being Northern Russian and Finnish.
Now, much like Tolkien, I have had a near lifelong interest in three things from that area of the world and that basic timeframe/era of history: the stories involving Baba Yaga, the Eastern Vikings (the Rus, and their river explorations of Russia and Eastern Europe), and the Kalavala (I first read the Kalavala as a kid). But it never occurred to me that I would have either Russian or (especially not) Finnish ancestry. As a matter of fact despite my interest in all of these things I would have bet before these results that I had no Russian or Finnish ancestors at all. But I do.
I also knew that I had Greek ancestors and again I have had a lifelong interest in Greek and Latin (Greek being the first foreign language I ever studied in college, because of my pursuit at that time of the priesthood, and German being the second), and that proved out true as well. I do have Greek ancestors. But to my amazement and shock I also discovered I have Italian ancestors. Which again, I’ll return to in a moment. Which could account for my long time interest in Roman military matters and Latin. (Both Latin and Greek seem “familiar and comfortable languages” to me. Natural to me. The ideas and terms used in both languages seem so natural and familiar that when reading them it often seems to me more like a process of “rediscovery” than the study of foreign concepts or terminologies.)
Finally, and to my greatest shock and surprise my Scandinavian ancestry is quite high. Somewhere between 15 and 21%. Again, as with the Russian and Finnish, which is a much lower percentage, I would have never guessed I had any Scandinavian heritage or ancestors at all. (Though, logically, this only makes real sense, since anyone with high concentrations of British and English ancestors is bound to have at least some Scandinavian ancestors due to the invasions of England by the Vikings.) But again, it was unexpected to me and I was particularly shocked by the high concentrations of Scandinavian heritage in my blood. But again that might go a very long way to explaining my interest in the Vikings and my intense lifelong interest in Vadding and exploration and my keen concern with the Navy, sailing, and in nautical matters in general. But now that I know both about the Scandinavian ancestry and the Russian and Finnish links it is entirely possible that I had both Western and Eastern Vikings in my ancestral background.
All of these things were entirely fascinating to me, to say the least, but now we enter fields of an almost bizarre and uncanny nature, some of which I had previously suspected, some which were entirely new to me, and some of which might prove that Jung was even right in his assumptions and theories, at least to some degree.
For I also discovered three very odd facts regarding my ancestors. For of all that at least some of my Irish ancestors were Black Irish (as I had long suspected from my family’s jet back hair and dark eyes) though I had assumed that was possibly Spanish Black Irish. That may or may not be true but through my mother’s side of the family, at least, it appears that they were Italian Black Irish. Through family and genealogical research it was discovered that the Irish family name was actually a modified Italian place name. It turns out that a distant Italian ancestor once fought a duel and killed a man. Fearing being hunted down and killed as a result he fled Italy and eventually made his way (perhaps through Iberia – more on that momentarily) to Ireland where he dropped the Da (denoting place) and modified his (last name or place name apparently) to adopt the eventual Irish family name of Adair. (Originally his last name was probably Da Dare.) Black Irish, no doubt but from a totally unexpected source to me, from Italy. Though I have no idea as to the particulars of the duel, what it involved, or whom, it occurs to me now that this might be at least one source for my hot (and at times in my life violent) temper that I have had to work so long to master. For again, though I know not the details I can become almost instantly furious and even dangerously angry when I see injustice and evil perpetrate upon another. So although I do not know the details of this duel, or if my ancestor was in the right or in the wrong, I do now know I apparently have at least one hot-blooded, violent ancestor who was willing to kill a man in a one on one stand up man-fight. On my mother’s side of the family. As for how many of my ancestors also killed men on my father’s side of the family given their likely martial and military history, well, I imagine it was certainly enough.
Which brings me to the second ancestral odd point (from my point of view and given the course of my own life) of correlation. The Iberian Peninsula. My father’s side of the family has ancestors from Iberia but so did my mother, possibly from the Italian fleeing the duel. I have often suspected, with no real evidence at all, that at least one of my ancestors was a Sephardic Jew. Due to my intense interest in Judaism and the Kabbalah and the Sephardim in particular. Going back to when I was a teenager and later in college when I read all of the Sephardic literature and works (such as the writings of Moses ben Maimon – Maimonides) that I could lay my hands on. Which eventually became quite a lot. Now that I know that both sides of my family had ancestors from the Iberian Peninsula, and that the percentages are rather high relatively speaking – from 5 to 7% – it seems indeed logical that I might very well have at least one Sephardic Jew in my ancestry. If not more. This has been, at least, a long and very strong suspicion of mine, and indeed I have often wondered if it were not at least one genesis point for my investigative and research and scientific prowess.
And this brings me to the last truly curious and peculiar possible connection between my ancestors and myself. My father has North African ancestors. At about the same level (percentage wise) as my Russian and Finnish ancestors.
Now anyone of my family or friends who knows me well knows that going back to my early childhood (and this became prominent in my teenage years) I used to have recurring dreams about being a priest somewhere in North Africa (perhaps a Coptic priest, perhaps Byzantine, likely in the vicinity of Egypt but maybe also in Libya) in ancient times (late antiquity or early Medieval ages) and that in these recurring dreams I was almost always abandoning a young women with whom I was involved. Dark skinned, dark eyes, long hair, possibly Egyptian. I was almost always riding away on a horse because I was either already a priest and felt our involvement somehow interfered with my duties to God, or because I felt that my obligations to God and to her would somehow interfere with each other. Indeed I would often recount and talk about these dreams to various friends of mine. Sometimes also to my mother.
When in college the first time I was indeed once again contemplating being a priest and again I wrestled in my own mind and soul long and hard could I be a priest and serve God and God alone, or would I be a priest who could also be married, or would I seek only marriage and not the priesthood? It was a personal struggle of priorities for about ten years for me. Eventually I abandoned my studies for the priesthood but have maintained lifelong friendships with priests and nuns and monks and I still intend to become a Greek Orthodox priest late in life, before I die. If my wife pre-deceases me, and I actually hope and sometimes pray I die before her, I will retire to a monastery or possibly a hermitage.
Now I have long suspected that I had North African heritage and at least one ancestor who was a priest but I could not account for this suspicion nor could I find prove of it in my family history or genealogy. And I would have never suspected that if indeed I had North African ancestors it would be on my father’s side of the family. Rather I suspected if any such ancestor existed it would have been on my mother’s side of the family. But there it was, North African heritage and from my father’s side of the family.
Coincidentally, if you believe in that kind of thing, I have always preferred dark skinned women with long dark hair and dark to black eyes. Spanish, Egyptian, Italian, Greek, Indian (India Indian) – those types of females. As far as physical appearance goes. And I dated Greek and Italian and Spanish and Egyptian women when younger. Eventually though I married an American black woman. And I am happily married.
However, and perhaps due to these experiences and impressions I even named my daughters after famous Italian and Greek women.
But I have often wondered if these dreams I had so often as a kid and if my preferences for a certain type of physical appearance might have not have indeed stemmed from some ancestral experience that became deeply lodged in my genetic code through some epigenetic event that was profound to my ancestor. (After one such dream as a teenager I wrote a thirty page long poem about the dream and everything I could recall connected with it. I still have that poem.) This idea seems likely to me because even though I have much higher percentages of Scandinavian lineage in my background yet I have only very rarely ever been attracted to fair haired or blue eyed women. Though I do find such women physically attractive on occasion, I am more instinctively drawn to darker women, and prefer them.
So, given the genetic percentages in my background it seems very likely to me that if my ancestors did influence my choices in women and their physical appearance then it must have been due to the intensity or profundity of the experience rather than to the percentages of the women available. Something about the interplay between the Priesthood and the “Dark Woman.”
Oddly enough, or perhaps not, these dreams completely ceased after I got married, and have thereafter never recurred. Not that I could ever recall anyhow.
In any event, having gathered this information from my parents regarding their background, and my own, certain things about my life now seem to make much more sense to me and many things I have often suspected now seem likely confirmed.
I have often had two separate natures. One very active in the world, physical, sensual, outgoing, entrepreneurial, logical, concrete, scientific, militaristic, risk-oriented, and even violent in nature (which I call the Detective and the Scientist and the Adventurer side of me), and the other part of me which is very much mystical and metaphysical and philosophical and peace-loving, withdraw from the world, otherworldly, Godly, and of an introverted nature (which I call the Priestly or Monkish side of me). And in truth I’m about 50% introvert and 50% extrovert. So often these two very different natures have sort of waged war against each other in my inner soul or inner man. I’m not gonna say for dominance, for that would be untrue and an exaggeration, more like for accommodation and peace with each other.
But now that I know more of my genealogy and more of my ancestral genetic background many of my lifelong interests and quests – my desires to explore and to Vad, my detective and investigative occupations, my inventive concerns, my historical pursuits, my artistic inclinations, the subject matters upon which I write, my poetic and songwriting abilities and capabilities, my linguistic fascinations, my scientific experimentation, my entrepreneurial occupations, my metaphysical, religious, and spiritual curiosities and pursuits, even such things as my avocational and personal interests and habits – all of these things now seem more and more logical to me in nature and scope. And many of my prior suspicions about myself and my ancestral background seem either confirmed or likely confirmed, though I am the first to admit in an often unanticipated and unlikely manner.
If, as is often said, “the child is the father of the man” then it is equally true that, “carpent tua poma nepotes.”
Now I need to have my wife and children so tested and typed to see what can be learned of them and for their future benefit.
I feel as if part of my function in establishing and running this blog (Wyrdwend) is to gather, promote, and share the good work of others (literary, artistic, poetic, lyrical, musical, fictional, non-fictional, etc.) as well as to post and promote my own Writings and Work.
I do not see this as competition but mutual advancement.
I started these two things, the first the beginning of a poem, the second part of a set of song lyrics, over the weekend. Don’t know what I’m gonna do with either in the end but since it is Monday this is my post for First Verse.
I FORGOT TO REMEMBER
I forgot to remember when nothing was right
How all that we tendered was twisted and trite
I begot a dismembered, ephemeral sight
When divided in terror, Theatron of Rites
The devices, the chorus, the Odeion of Scene
A tyrant all bloodied his thralldom most keen
Our vices within us a kingdom of dreams
Grown pregnant and studied, still starving and lean
A Opera of Staging, performed and preformed
Dispelled in the aging distempered and worn
Our union engaging our spectacle torn
Redundant, abundant, of meaning all shorn…
JUST A MAN
Gonna ditch my damned phone, then ditch my car
I’m gonna hitch my wagon to the brightest star
I’m gonna find the person that I’m looking for
Just gonna keep on walking til I reach the shore
Of somewhere I’ve never been before,
To see what lies beyond this land
To see what happens when a man
Is just a man…
If You Leave – I’m going to try again and link to the daily post. I have no idea if it will actually work.
These are things that I either like or love to do. I try to do many if not most of these things for at least a few minutes every week, depending upon my Work Schedule and other matters. Some I can only get around to about once a month or so. I like or love all of these things, some more than others, but I do not consider any of them contradictory to my Nature or Personality or in any way contradictory to each other. This is me as I am and in a nutshell:
Analyze and study Criminal cases and Terrorism (though I much prefer to prevent and thwart either if possible)
Attend and listen to a lecture
Clear and tend my land
Cruise the internet – see what I can find
Design and build things
Do something athletic (hit baseball, play ball, run, swim, etc.)
Do something for someone else – assistance, charity, etc.
Draw or sketch or map
Engage in science (study, conduct experiment, develop theorem, make observations, write papers)
Explore and if possible Vad, sneak around places
Geochache (though I don’t use GPS)
Get together/hang out with friends, drink ale, talk
Go see a movie (about once a month)
Have sex with my wife
Hike in the woods
If possible destroy or at least hamper or cripple evil
Invent and/or Innovate
Listen to a radio play (especially old ones)
Listen to music
Listen to my scanner or CB or HAM radio
Play and design games (board, chess, D&D, RPGs, etc.)
Play the piano or my harmonica
Play video games (although I only do this about once every three or four months)
Play with my dog Sam and my cats and explore with them
Play with my kids
Pray, meditate, etc.
Promote Right and Truth and the Good
Read a graphic novel
Read and Study the Bible (especially in Hebrew and Greek)
Read for pleasure (genre works and fiction)
Revolt against wrong and injustice
Shoot (my guns)
Sit naked under the stars (if not too hot or cold)
Star and moon watch with my telescope
Study a different/foreign language
Study and do research (on all kinds of things)
Sword and knife fight
Talk to God
Track and study animals
Visit an old church, historical building, site, monument
Visit a museum, see a play
Watch TV (though only on the weekends)
Write a book
Write a novel
Write a poem
Write a song
Write a story
If you are a young black male and you don’t understand that police are sometimes spooked by you, especially if you live in a high crime, urban area, then you aren’t thinking this out very far. Now as a black kid or man is that necessarily your fault? If you are law abiding and peaceful and doing the best you can, then no, it is not your fault. But at the moment anyway, it is the way it is. And no one can argue the way things actually are. You might not like it, and in this case you shouldn’t like it, but you can’t argue it’s not true.
If you are a police officer and you don’t understand that a lot of young black males (or others) are sometimes spooked by you, especially if you react to them with automatic suspicion or an assumption of guilt, then you aren’t thinking this out very far. Now as a cop is this your fault? If you are a good cop and doing the best you can, then no, it is not your fault. But at this moment, anyway, this is the way it is. And no one can argue the way things actually are. You might not like it, and in this case you shouldn’t like it, but you can’t argue it’s not true.
Everyone is spooked. Sometimes for entirely legitimate reasons and sometimes for assumptively dubious and entirely erroneous reasons. And when people are spooked, then rightly or wrongly, bad things tend to happen. People react instead of carefully observe, people are triggered by instinct rather than reason, people’s emotions become actively paramount rather than their common sense. The result of those habits are often very bad (certainly stupid and unnecessary), even murderous things.
But no one but criminals and terrorists and very bad men will benefit if young law abiding citizens and young men and the police are spooked of each other, and are reflexively hostile towards and automatically dubious of each other.
What’s the answer? Hell, I wish I could tell you the answer. The one that will work in every case. But no answer will work in every case. That’s just not real life. Not the way real people are. People are people. They will at times revert to their worst instincts or their most illogical and counter-productive habits. Or even to bad or incomplete or misguided training.
However I can tell you this much: When you are angry at each other, and vengeful towards each other, and automatically suspicious of each other, and spooked by each other then no real good can come of that. And no solutions either. Sometimes though, just really thinking and dwelling on the problem can give you an understanding of how to start.
However I can tell you what ought to be happening. What ought to be happening is that young black men, the law abiding and decent and good ones should be working with the police to take down criminals and thugs and terrorists in their own neighborhoods and to straighten out those neighborhoods for everyone else. (Including for the benefit and safety of their own children and women.) What ought to be happening is that cops should not to be automatically suspicious of all young black men who live in a dangerous area (and yes, they have every right to own personal firearms and maybe even more reason than most – because, well, think about it, they live in a bad or violent or high crime neighborhood) and instead the police ought to be conscripting the young, decent, good ones as allies and informants and friends to help clean up bad neighborhoods. (And good cops cannot stand beside or defend bad ones, or even wrong ones.) There should be an alliance and a true friendship and a partnership between citizen and police, but that has to run in both directions at once and respect and protection and cooperation and trust has to also run in both directions at once, and keep running in both directions at all times and as much as humanly possible.
Now I fully understand human beings and their true natures. I’m not fooled by how things will have to go or will go, or are even likely to go. And I’m not gonna try and deceive you with a bunch of feel good, talk-show, pop-psychology, fairy dust and glitterized bullshit. Mistakes will be made and will continue to be made. That’s human nature. Humans are imperfect. But no one should defend wrongdoing in either direction and over time the mistakes should become fewer and fewer, and even less and less egregious.
But this shit has got to stop people. My nation is already entirely fucked up enough as it is. Manslaughter and mass murder and unending suspicion and chaos and innocents being slaughtered and riots in cities and snipers on rooftops and kids shot dead out of suspicion is not the way. We’ve nowhere else to go from here but straight down to hell.
Being spooked all of the time will make spooks of far too many of us. Dead men in a dying land. It is a false hope to live as ghosts in a ghostland, to be half-men in a dead land, when we could be a Great Thing in a Great Land.
We should all be living and thriving and growing and developing, and at and about worthwhile, profitable enterprises.
What we’re doing right now ain’t working, and it can’t work. And, in the end, because it cannot hope to succeed, for anyone, it will have to be abandoned anyway. Or to stubborn self-ruin we go.
I hate even mentioning shit like this because I despise politics being interjected into life and death matters and matter of Right and Wrong. Right and Wrong should always stand on it’s own because, well hell, it’s fucking Right and Wrong. If you don’t get that then I can’t help you. Truth is you should never have to interject race or class or sex or any other far lesser considerations into Right and Wrong. But my wife is black, and my kids are half-black, and a lot of my good friends are black. And I grew up around cops and I’ve worked crime and tracked murders and rapists and thieves (and I know exactly how it works, I’m not in the least naïve or misguided about how criminals and terrorists are) and a lot of my good friends are cops and God-damnit it all to hell this ain’t fucking working.
I’m sitting here about to cry just thinking about all of the totally useless, murderous, violent shit I’ve seen over the years and I don’t fucking cry. And I keep thinking, Christ in Heaven, damn this mindless, habitual shit, don’t they ever, ever, ever fucking get it? How useless this shit is? How utterly unnecessary most of it is!!?
And if they don’t get it by now then what will it actually take?
Look, I’m under no illusion that most criminals are not gonna get what I’m saying. Nor are they gonna care. But by God, why can’t the rest of us? Get it?
So start now. For God’s sake. For your own sakes… Start doing things differently. Start treating each other differently. What in the fuck do any of us have to lose if we all do this differently?
Otherwise this shit is all you’re gonna have and this cycle of idiocy and death is all you’re going to have to hand down to your children and grandchildren.
You’ve already bankrupted them. Do you want to hand them down this useless shit too?
So man the fuck up already people, throw in together, and stop being so bucking spooked when you don’t need to be. And stop giving out reasons for others to be spooked by you too.
Because what we’re doing right now can’t possibly work over time.
And we’re running the hell out of it.
Pray for your nation folks. Pray for your own understanding. But just as importantly, if not more so, start doing things differently.
This shit is all on us. The solution will be on us too.
Or the doom and the fucking damnation will be.
And I for one have had a fucking nuff of the doom and the damnation.
I want to see things they way they ought to be. I want to see all men behaving as they should.
My wife arrived home from a trip to the beach on July the First. The next morning we had get home sex. She went to sleep afterwards but I got up and wrote the following poem.
I like the poem a lot but I am having difficulty naming it. I like these potential names/titles: Rich Everafter, Those Treasures Within, The Labors of Love, The Harvest of Human Labors, or Sweat of Our Love.
If you have a preference among those or would like to make your own suggestion then feel free to do so. I look forward to reading your ideas.
Here is the poem. Let me know what you think, and what you would call it.
My wife’s body is naked and soft like broken ground
My wife’s body smells rich like fertile soil
My wife’s body is dark and moist like morning loam the restless Meander has watered at sunrise
I think that I shall plow her deeply again when she wakes and see what treasures within us both lie hid
Like the open fields of tended Pharos or the silty banks of the flooded Nile we shall suddenly sprout silver and salt and bare fecund Earth overflowing with milk and honey and blood dark wine and rampant wild oats and thus shall we feed ourselves a lifetime on the harvest of our human labors and the sweat of our love
My wife’s body is naked
My body is naked
Now shall we again labor in earnest, produce in abundance, and be rich everafter…
Because some people have been asking to know a little bit more about me. So here I am with the wife on Hitching Day. A long, long time ago… and yeah the quality of the shot isn’t very good. The shot has aged over the years.
1. The inability to grasp or take into your own custody that which you only partially perceive or understand. Your ability to apprehend is suspended until you can understand or know more.
2. The failure to understand the Code or Message or Language or Evidence being presented to you. A coded obscuring of the obvious and the resulting apprehensive feeling that one is failing to both apprehend and comprehend some vitally important matter. Often leads to an almost mystical, uncanny, disturbing, and creepy feeling of being choked off from or hung just out of reach of the Truth.
I call this/these state(s) apprespension. The inability to grasp what is patently in front of you (even though you plainly see or hear it) because it does not fit what you assume to be true or real, because it contradicts normality or the available evidence, or because you have not yet put all the pieces of the puzzle together in your own mind. I’ve felt it a near infinite number of times working on cases, for even when you know the Truth there are still details missing or “ungrasped”
(Unapprehended, unconfirmed, your full understanding is suspended. Your grasp “hangs in the air” unable to be retrieved. And to tell you the truth most of the time, at most things in life, you will never know the full account and all of the Truth, just some basic part of it, substantial or not. Your apprehension therefore is “suspended” and incomplete.)
When it comes to mystical and supernatural and preternatural matters, matters such as noted in the link here to Chesterton and Browning, that the world is speaking a Secret Code, or that God is speaking a through other things in a language you can only partially understand, that things are being said you cannot quite make-out, or can make out only in part, I also call that Apprespension, but I define it a little differently. It is that weird, uncanny, creepy, unnatural feeling that you are apprehensive that you cannot comprehend what you are sure you are sensing or seeing or hearing. That you are apprehensive that your comprehension is fully capable of knowing what you can only partially discern, and therefore your understanding is suspended and unrealized. Or choked off, if you like the hanging metaphor better.
In any case that is the term I use, Apprespension. (You could also use comprespension, but that to me seems even less accurate.) Though when it comes to describing states like this all words are wind, and all words are at best, only partially accurate and only incompletely descriptive.
“ONE of the deepest and strangest of all human moods is the mood which will suddenly strike us perhaps in a garden at night, or deep in sloping meadows, the feeling that every flower and leaf has just uttered something stupendously direct and important, and that we have by a prodigy of imbecility not heard or understood it. There is a certain poetic value, and that a genuine one, in this sense of having missed the full meaning of things. There is beauty, not only in wisdom, but in this dazed and dramatic ignorance.”
~G.K. Chesterton: “Robert Browning,” Chap VI.─Browning as a Literary Artist. (1903) http://bit.ly/28Tx4o8
My very first remembered dream, from when I was a young child was of a giant, bright-red, fire-breathing dragon raging from the sky down upon my grandfather’s house (my paternal father’s father) and burning and razing his house to the ground. At the time we lived underneath my grandfather’s house. I was very, very young at the time, barely past being a babe and probably still in diapers (though I was walking) and I do not at that time recall ever even having heard tale of a dragon. Yet I have recalled that dream for my entire life. The dragon both terrified me (at first) and infuriated me (after I saw what it had done). Though in the dream I was very young and had no way to combat it.
“FAIRY TALES, then, are not responsible for producing in children fear, or any of the shapes of fear; fairy tales do not give the child the idea of the evil or the ugly; that is in the child already, because it is in the world already. Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon.
“Exactly what the fairy tale does is this: it accustoms him for a series of clear pictures to the idea that these limitless terrors had a limit, that these shapeless enemies have enemies in the knights of God, that there is something in the universe more mystical than darkness, and stronger than strong fear.”
I began this poem around noon as a response to today’s Daily Postprompt on Voyage. I got two stanzas in and then my daughters needed my help and then someone working with me on one of my start-ups demanded my attention and so therefore I have had to leave it at this point. I apologize but that kinda thing happens in life.
I intend to finish it but cannot do so at the moment. I hope you enjoy it nonetheless, and have a good day folks…
TO PORT OUR HOME, TO STARBOARD STILL UNKNOWN
To port was home, to starboard unknown foreign seas, and
Lands bespoken of in dream, where endless roam great beasts
Not seen since man was in the cradle of his mother’s shore
The stars still young and uncertain in their unfixed course
Across the skies of night still bright with constellated myth
Prodigious like the unseen figures which grappled in the dark
Around the moon’s white lantern in desperate search of a world
So new, so full of wonder, that no other home would do,
Not, at least, to the Daring
To port is home but on every other course the waves break
Upon a soil unsown with the tares and tears that common habit
Bestrew along the Earth we know so well by mundane states
Unchallenged in their broad decay and rush to ruin
Across the fields of ancient countries whose ground is salted
With the misery of crawling empires and rotting kingdoms
Made of man beneath the shadow of what is most foul within him
So old, so full of apathy, that no such home can seem true
Not, at least, to the Wise…
I was working on a short story when I happened across the Daily Post whose prompt-subject matter was Empty. Now I’ve had a lot of personal experience with Empty over the course of my life, both the good kind, and the bad kind. So I thought I’d make a post about that and turned out this poem at lunch. Hope you enjoy it.
Have a good day folks.
I once was empty, full of naught
By calculation, mind and thought
I once was empty, hollowed out
Melancholy, heart in doubt
I once was empty, fearless, cold
My fury made me endless bold
I once was empty, cast alone
It sharpened me so I was honed
I once was empty, bleak despair
My atmosphere a poisoned air
I once was empty, of myself
That was joy I could regale
I once was empty, God was gone
Why had He left me all alone?
I know of empty, made and true
I know of empty, me and you
I know of empty, blessed, good
I know of empty, as I should
For Empty is a Friend of mine
That gives me all, and then sometimes
Relieves me of all I have known
So I am ever forced to roam
This morning, right after waking, I began this poem.
I wrote the first two stanzas in bed, in my bedside notebook, went downstairs, fed the animals, made breakfast for the wife and kids, and then sat down at my desk and hammered out the third stanza. It wasn’t hard. It flowed as if I had taken no break in between.
I started in on the fourth stanza which to me was absolutely brilliant (the best part of the entire work) and right as I got to the third line of the fourth stanza the power went out at the house, and for some reason my backup power fluctuated as well so that my computer shut down. By the time I rebooted I had lost the entire fourth stanza.
I tried reconstructing the stanza from memory but I was so pissed off and taken off guard by the unexpected power failure (why should that happen at the start of summer with not a cloud in the sky I ask you?) and by the delay in reboot time that I ended up producing a mere shadow of my original effort.
I’m still satisfied by the stanza, and the poem overall so far, and it is far from finished, but just to be honest the fourth stanza isn’t nearly what I produced the first time around. So I apologize for that. This is yet another valuable lesson in why I should never compose at my computer, but only in my notebooks.
Nevertheless I am pleased with the poem and when it is finally finished I suspect I will name it, Things Long Unseen.
That is, at least, the place-holder name I am giving it for now. Enjoy and have an excellent and productive and profitable week my friends.
THINGS LONG UNSEEN
I shall exceed all things, and having so excelled all things
Shall bow to me, not as brutish, mindless slaves but as one man
Instinctively declines his head to yet another in whom he recognizes
The loss of me is not the less of me, and the lending of me
To another is no lack of either thing made true in itself,
For pushed on by High Labour where can I go but where
I am, and where I Am dwells a still fairer land than I may truly
Ever know, though God knows, how much I wish for such
Things long unseen
I shall excel all things, and having thus exceeded nothing
Shall bow to me, nor find an alien compass with which to navigate
That Long Frontier that I so long ago remembered in myself
The less of me is what is left of me, for the debt of me
To another is both the loss and gain in ourselves untrue,
Subsumed in Reckless Profits, destined where I know not that
We are, or when, or how, or why it is that we know these things
Improper in themselves, though we all know how much we wish for
Things Long unforeseen…
Damn. The finale of Penny Dreadful was incredibly good. Like a Greek Tragedy.
And once again Dorian Gray was declaimed, by himself, the most depraved and degenerate character of them all (and he always has been), and John Clare (Frankenstein’s Monster) proven the most humane and human of them all. By far.
Though finally Frankenstein himself, and Chandler, both came close…
I hope this is not the end of that show (the world needs more of that kind of thing), but if it is, it could have concluded no better.
So goodnight my friends, and I leave you with Wordsworth, and with an ode on the Imitations of Immortality.
(By the way, we also need more poetry of this calibre. Far more.)
Our world is far too much with modern and superficial self-indulgence.
There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,
The earth, and every common sight,
To me did seem
Apparell’d in celestial light,
The glory and the freshness of a dream. 5
It is not now as it hath been of yore;—
Turn wheresoe’er I may,
By night or day,
The things which I have seen I now can see no more.
The rainbow comes and goes, 10
And lovely is the rose;
The moon doth with delight
Look round her when the heavens are bare;
Waters on a starry night
Are beautiful and fair; 15
The sunshine is a glorious birth;
But yet I know, where’er I go,
That there hath pass’d away a glory from the earth.
Now, while the birds thus sing a joyous song,
And while the young lambs bound 20
As to the tabor’s sound,
To me alone there came a thought of grief:
A timely utterance gave that thought relief,
And I again am strong:
The cataracts blow their trumpets from the steep; 25
No more shall grief of mine the season wrong;
I hear the echoes through the mountains throng,
The winds come to me from the fields of sleep,
And all the earth is gay;
Land and sea 30
Give themselves up to jollity,
And with the heart of May
Doth every beast keep holiday;—
Thou Child of Joy,
Shout round me, let me hear thy shouts, thou happy 35
Ye blessèd creatures, I have heard the call
Ye to each other make; I see
The heavens laugh with you in your jubilee;
My heart is at your festival, 40
My head hath its coronal,
The fulness of your bliss, I feel—I feel it all.
O evil day! if I were sullen
While Earth herself is adorning,
This sweet May-morning, 45
And the children are culling
On every side,
In a thousand valleys far and wide,
Fresh flowers; while the sun shines warm,
And the babe leaps up on his mother’s arm:— 50
I hear, I hear, with joy I hear!
—But there’s a tree, of many, one,
A single field which I have look’d upon,
Both of them speak of something that is gone:
The pansy at my feet 55
Doth the same tale repeat:
Whither is fled the visionary gleam?
Where is it now, the glory and the dream?
Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star, 60
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come 65
From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!
Shades of the prison-house begin to close
Upon the growing Boy,
But he beholds the light, and whence it flows, 70
He sees it in his joy;
The Youth, who daily farther from the east
Must travel, still is Nature’s priest,
And by the vision splendid
Is on his way attended; 75
At length the Man perceives it die away,
And fade into the light of common day.
Earth fills her lap with pleasures of her own;
Yearnings she hath in her own natural kind,
And, even with something of a mother’s mind, 80
And no unworthy aim,
The homely nurse doth all she can
To make her foster-child, her Inmate Man,
Forget the glories he hath known,
And that imperial palace whence he came. 85
Behold the Child among his new-born blisses,
A six years’ darling of a pigmy size!
See, where ‘mid work of his own hand he lies,
Fretted by sallies of his mother’s kisses,
With light upon him from his father’s eyes! 90
See, at his feet, some little plan or chart,
Some fragment from his dream of human life,
Shaped by himself with newly-learnèd art;
A wedding or a festival,
A mourning or a funeral; 95
And this hath now his heart,
And unto this he frames his song:
Then will he fit his tongue
To dialogues of business, love, or strife;
But it will not be long 100
Ere this be thrown aside,
And with new joy and pride
The little actor cons another part;
Filling from time to time his ‘humorous stage’
With all the Persons, down to palsied Age, 105
That Life brings with her in her equipage;
As if his whole vocation
Were endless imitation.
Thou, whose exterior semblance doth belie
Thy soul’s immensity; 110
Thou best philosopher, who yet dost keep
Thy heritage, thou eye among the blind,
That, deaf and silent, read’st the eternal deep,
Haunted for ever by the eternal mind,—
Mighty prophet! Seer blest! 115
On whom those truths do rest,
Which we are toiling all our lives to find,
In darkness lost, the darkness of the grave;
Thou, over whom thy Immortality
Broods like the Day, a master o’er a slave, 120
A presence which is not to be put by;
To whom the grave
Is but a lonely bed without the sense or sight
Of day or the warm light,
A place of thought where we in waiting lie; 125
Thou little Child, yet glorious in the might
Of heaven-born freedom on thy being’s height,
Why with such earnest pains dost thou provoke
The years to bring the inevitable yoke,
Thus blindly with thy blessedness at strife? 130
Full soon thy soul shall have her earthly freight,
And custom lie upon thee with a weight,
Heavy as frost, and deep almost as life!
O joy! that in our embers
Is something that doth live, 135
That nature yet remembers
What was so fugitive!
The thought of our past years in me doth breed
Perpetual benediction: not indeed
For that which is most worthy to be blest— 140
Delight and liberty, the simple creed
Of childhood, whether busy or at rest,
With new-fledged hope still fluttering in his breast:—
Not for these I raise
The song of thanks and praise; 145
But for those obstinate questionings
Of sense and outward things,
Fallings from us, vanishings;
Blank misgivings of a Creature
Moving about in worlds not realized, 150
High instincts before which our mortal Nature
Did tremble like a guilty thing surprised:
But for those first affections,
Those shadowy recollections,
Which, be they what they may, 155
Are yet the fountain-light of all our day,
Are yet a master-light of all our seeing;
Uphold us, cherish, and have power to make
Our noisy years seem moments in the being
Of the eternal Silence: truths that wake, 160
To perish never:
Which neither listlessness, nor mad endeavour,
Nor Man nor Boy,
Nor all that is at enmity with joy,
Can utterly abolish or destroy! 165
Hence in a season of calm weather
Though inland far we be,
Our souls have sight of that immortal sea
Which brought us hither,
Can in a moment travel thither, 170
And see the children sport upon the shore,
And hear the mighty waters rolling evermore.
Then sing, ye birds, sing, sing a joyous song!
And let the young lambs bound
As to the tabor’s sound! 175
We in thought will join your throng,
Ye that pipe and ye that play,
Ye that through your hearts to-day
Feel the gladness of the May!
What though the radiance which was once so bright 180
Be now for ever taken from my sight,
Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind; 185
In the primal sympathy
Which having been must ever be;
In the soothing thoughts that spring
Out of human suffering;
In the faith that looks through death, 190
In years that bring the philosophic mind.
And O ye Fountains, Meadows, Hills, and Groves,
Forebode not any severing of our loves!
Yet in my heart of hearts I feel your might;
I only have relinquish’d one delight 195
To live beneath your more habitual sway.
I love the brooks which down their channels fret,
Even more than when I tripp’d lightly as they;
The innocent brightness of a new-born Day
Is lovely yet; 200
The clouds that gather round the setting sun
Do take a sober colouring from an eye
That hath kept watch o’er man’s mortality;
Another race hath been, and other palms are won.
Thanks to the human heart by which we live, 205
Thanks to its tenderness, its joys, and fears,
To me the meanest flower that blows can give
Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.
A lot of my buddies have military and law enforcement backgrounds.
Because of that one of my friends brought this article to my attention and a few of us discussed it since it is of more than passing interest to many of us.
It gave me an idea for a new science fiction short story about the same subject matter which I’m going to call Jihadology. (For the Jihad of Technology.)
I going to completely avoid the whole Terminator and tech gone rogue approach though of modern sci-fi and rather take a particular variation on the Keith Laumer BOLO theme, though there will be nothing about BOLOs or other such machines in the story. Those stories though were as under-rated and prophetic as was Laumer himself.
Anyway I want to avoid the whole world ending, unrealistic bullcrap kind of story (both from the scientific and military standpoints) and focus more on a very tight interpretation of what might actually happen if technologies such as those listed or projected in the article below were employed against an alien species in the future.
What would be both the operational and eventual ramifications, good and bad, of such technologies,and how could such technologies get out of hand or evolve beyond specified tasks and design parameters to become something completely new in function and focus?
I’ve already got the first few paragraphs to a page written which is based loosely upon this observation I made about what the article implied:
“I’m not saying there are any easy answers, there aren’t when it comes to technology, but technology can at least potentially do two related and diametrically opposed things at once: make a task so easy and efficient and risk-free for the operator that he is never truly in danger for himself, and secondly make a task so easy and efficient and risk-free for the operator that he is never truly in danger of understanding the danger others are in.
And if you can just remove the operator altogether, and just set the tech free to do as it is programmed, well then, there ya go…”
If the stories work well then I’ll add them to my overall science fiction universe of The Curae and The Frontiersmen.
By the way, as a sort of pop-culture primer on the very early stages of these developments (though they are at least a decade old now as far as wide-scale operations go) I recommend the film, Good Kill.
Anyway here is the very interesting and good article that spurred all of this. Any ideas of your own about these subjects? Feel free to comment. If your ideas and observations are good and interesting I might even adapt them in some way and incorporate them into the short story series.
Czech writer Karel Čapek’s1920 play R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots), which famously introduced the word robot to the world, begins with synthetic humans—the robots from the title—toiling in factories to produce low-cost goods. It ends with those same robots killing off the human race. Thus was born an enduring plot line in science fiction: robots spiraling out of control and turning into unstoppable killing machines. Twentieth-century literature and film would go on to bring us many more examples of robots wreaking havoc on the world, with Hollywood notably turning the theme into blockbuster franchises like The Matrix, Transformers, and The Terminator.
Lately, fears of fiction turning to fact have been stoked by a confluence of developments, including important advances in artificial intelligence and robotics, along with the widespread use of combat drones and ground robotsin Iraq and Afghanistan. The world’s most powerful militaries are now developing ever more intelligent weapons, with varying degrees of autonomy and lethality. The vast majority will, in the near term, be remotely controlled by human operators, who will be “in the loop” to pull the trigger. But it’s likely, and some say inevitable, that future AI-powered weapons will eventually be able to operate with complete autonomy, leading to a watershed moment in the history of warfare: For the first time, a collection of microchips and software will decide whether a human being lives or dies.
Not surprisingly, the threat of “killer robots,” as they’ve been dubbed, has triggered an impassioned debate. The poles of the debate are represented by those who fear that robotic weapons could start a world war and destroy civilization and others who argue that these weapons are essentially a new class of precision-guided munitions that will reduce, not increase, casualties. In December, more than a hundred countries are expected to discuss the issue as part of a United Nations disarmament meeting in Geneva.
Last year, the debate made news after a group of leading researchers in artificial intelligence called for a ban on “offensive autonomous weapons beyond meaningful human control.” In an open letter presented at a major AI conference, the group argued that these weapons would lead to a “global AI arms race” and be used for “assassinations, destabilizing nations, subduing populations and selectively killing a particular ethnic group.”
The three added that “autonomous weapons are potentially weapons of mass destruction. While some nations might not choose to use them for such purposes, other nations and certainly terrorists might find them irresistible.”
It’s hard to argue that a new arms race culminating in the creation of intelligent, autonomous, and highly mobile killing machines would well serve humanity’s best interests. And yet, regardless of the argument, the AI arms race is already under way.
Autonomous weapons have existed for decades, though the relatively few that are out there have been used almost exclusively for defensive purposes. One example is the Phalanx, a computer-controlled, radar-guided gun system installed on many U.S. Navy ships that can automatically detect, track, evaluate, and fire at incoming missiles and aircraft that it judges to be a threat. When it’s in fully autonomous mode, no human intervention is necessary.
More recently, military suppliers have developed what may be considered the first offensive autonomous weapons.Israel Aerospace Industries’ Harpy andHarop drones are designed to home in on the radio emissions of enemy air-defense systems and destroy them by crashing into them. The companysays the drones “have been sold extensively worldwide.”
In South Korea, DoDAAM Systems, a defense contractor, has developed a sentry robot called theSuper aEgis II. Equipped with a machine gun, it uses computer vision to autonomously detect and fire at human targets out to a range of 3 kilometers. South Korea’s military has reportedly conducted tests with these armed robots in the demilitarized zone along its border with North Korea. DoDAAM says it has sold more than 30 units to other governments, including several in the Middle East.
Today, such highly autonomous systems are vastly outnumbered by robotic weapons such as drones, which are under the control of human operators almost all of the time, especially when firing at targets. But some analysts believe that as warfare evolves in coming years, weapons will have higher and higher degrees of autonomy.
“War will be very different, and automation will play a role where speed is key,” says Peter W. Singer, a robotic warfare expert at New America, a nonpartisan research group in Washington, D.C. He predicts that in future combat scenarios—like a dogfight between drones or an encounter between a robotic boat and an enemy submarine—weapons that offer a split-second advantage will make all the difference. “It might be a high-intensity straight-on conflict when there’s no time for humans to be in the loop, because it’s going to play out in a matter of seconds.”
The U.S. military has detailed some of its plans for this new kind of war in aroad map [pdf] for unmanned systems, but its intentions on weaponizing such systems are vague. During a Washington Post forum this past March, U.S. deputy secretary of defense Robert Work, whose job is in part making sure that the Pentagon is keeping up with the latest technologies, stressed the need to invest in AI and robotics. The increasing presence of autonomous systems on the battlefield “is inexorable,” he declared.
Asked about autonomous weapons, Work insisted that the U.S. military “will not delegate lethal authority to a machine to make a decision.” But when pressed on the issue, he added that if confronted by a “competitor that is more willing to delegate authority to machines than we are…we’ll have to make decisions on how we can best compete. It’s not something that we’ve fully figured out, but we spend a lot of time thinking about it.”
Russia and China are following a similar strategyof developing unmanned combat systems for land, sea, and air that are weaponized but, at least for now, rely on human operators. Russia’sPlatform-M is a small remote-controlled robot equipped with a Kalashnikov rifle and grenade launchers, a type of system similar to the United States’ Talon SWORDS, a ground robot that can carry an M16 and other weapons (it was tested by the U.S. Army in Iraq). Russia has also built a larger unmanned vehicle, the Uran-9, armed with a 30-millimeter cannon and antitank guided missiles. And last year, the Russians demonstrated a humanoid military robot to a seemingly nonplussed Vladimir Putin. (In video released after the demonstration, the robot is shown riding an ATV at a speed only slightly faster than a child on a tricycle.)
China’s growing robotic arsenal includes numerous attack and reconnaissance drones. The CH-4 is a long-endurance unmanned aircraft that resembles the Predator used by the U.S. military. The Divine Eagle is a high-altitude drone designed to hunt stealth bombers. China has also publicly displayed a few machine-gun-equipped robots, similar to Platform-M and Talon SWORDS, at military trade shows.
The three countries’ approaches to robotic weapons, introducing increasing automation while emphasizing a continuing role for humans, suggest a major challenge to the banning of fully autonomous weapons: A ban on fully autonomous weapons would not necessarily apply to weapons that are nearly autonomous. So militaries could conceivably develop robotic weapons that have a human in the loop, with the option of enabling full autonomy at a moment’s notice in software. “It’s going to be hard to put an arms-control agreement in place for robotics,” concludes Wendell Wallach, an expert on ethics and technology at Yale University. “The difference between an autonomous weapons system and nonautonomous may be just a difference of a line of code,” he said at a recent conference.
In motion pictures, robots often gain extraordinary levels of autonomy, even sentience, seemingly out of nowhere, and humans are caught by surprise. Here in the real world, though, and despite the recent excitement about advances in machine learning, progress in robot autonomy has been gradual. Autonomous weapons would be expected to evolve in a similar way.
“A lot of times when people hear ‘autonomous weapons,’ they envision the Terminator and they are, like, ‘What have we done?,’ ” says Paul Scharre, who directs a future-of-warfare program at the Center for a New American Security, a policy research group in Washington, D.C. “But that seems like probably the last way that militaries want to employ autonomous weapons.” Much more likely, he adds, will be robotic weapons that target not people but military objects like radars, tanks, ships, submarines, or aircraft.
The challenge of target identification—determining whether or not what you’re looking at is a hostile enemy target—is one of the most critical for AI weapons. Moving targets like aircraft and missiles have a trajectory that can be tracked and used to help decide whether to shoot them down. That’s how the Phalanx autonomous gun on board U.S. Navy ships operates, and also how Israel’s “Iron Dome” antirocket interceptor system works. But when you’re targeting people, the indicators are much more subtle. Even under ideal conditions, object- and scene-recognition tasks that are routine for people can be extremely difficult for robots.
A computer can identify a human figure without much trouble, even if that human is moving furtively. But it’s very hard for an algorithm to understand what people are doing, and what their body language and facial expressions suggest about their intent. Is that person lifting a rifle or a rake? Is that person carrying a bomb or an infant?
Scharre argues that robotic weapons attempting to do their own targeting would wither in the face of too many challenges. He says that devising war-fighting tactics and technologies in which humans and robots collaborate [pdf] will remain the best approach for safety, legal, and ethical reasons. “Militaries could invest in very advanced robotics and automation and still keep a person in the loop for targeting decisions, as a fail-safe,” he says. “Because humans are better at being flexible and adaptable to new situations that maybe we didn’t program for, especially in war when there’s an adversary trying to defeat your systems and trick them and hack them.”
It’s not surprising, then, that DoDAAM, the South Korean maker of sentry robots, imposed restrictions on their lethal autonomy. As currently configured, the robots will not fire until a human confirms the target and commands the turret to shoot. “Our original version had an auto-firing system,” a DoDAAM engineer told the BBC last year. “But all of our customers asked for safeguards to be implemented…. They were concerned the gun might make a mistake.”
For other experts, the only way to ensure that autonomous weapons won’t make deadly mistakes, especially involving civilians, is to deliberately program these weapons accordingly. “If we are foolish enough to continue to kill each other in the battlefield, and if more and more authority is going to be turned over to these machines, can we at least ensure that they are doing it ethically?” says Ronald C. Arkin, a computer scientist at Georgia Tech.
Arkin argues that autonomous weapons, just like human soldiers, should have to follow the rules of engagement as well as the laws of war, includinginternational humanitarian laws that seek to protect civilians and limit the amount of force and types of weapons that are allowed. That means we should program them with some kind of moral reasoning to help them navigate different situations and fundamentally distinguish right from wrong. They will need to have, embodied deep in their software, some sort of ethical compass.
For the past decade, Arkin has been working on such a compass. Using mathematical and logic tools from the field of machine ethics, he began translating the highly conceptual laws of war and rules of engagement into variables and operations that computers can understand. For example, one variable specified how confident the ethical controller was that a target was an enemy. Another was a Boolean variable that was either true or false: lethal force was either permitted or prohibited. Eventually, Arkin arrived at a set of algorithms, and using computer simulations and very simplified combat scenarios—an unmanned aircraft engaging a group of people in an open field, for example—he was able to test his methodology.
Arkin acknowledges that the project, which was funded by the U.S. military, was a proof of concept, not an actual control-system implementation. Nevertheless, he believes the results showed that combat robots not only could follow the same rules that humans have to follow but also that they could do better. For example, the robots could use lethal force with more restraint than could human fighters, returning fire only when shot at first. Or, if civilians are nearby, they could completely hold their fire, even if that means being destroyed. Robots also don’t suffer from stress, frustration, anger, or fear, all of which can lead to impaired judgment in humans. So in theory, at least, robot soldiers could outperform human ones, who often and sometimes unavoidably make mistakes in the heat of battle.
“And the net effect of that could be a saving of human lives, especially the innocent that are trapped in the battle space,” Arkin says. “And if these robots can do that, to me there’s a driving moral imperative to use them.”
The U.N. has been holdingdiscussions on lethal autonomous robots for close to five years, but its member countries have been unable to draw up an agreement. In 2013,Christof Heyns, a U.N. special rapporteur for human rights, wrote an influential report noting that the world’s nations had a rare opportunity to discuss the risks of autonomous weapons before such weapons were already fully developed. Today, after participating in several U.N. meetings, Heyns says that “if I look back, to some extent I’m encouraged, but if I look forward, then I think we’re going to have a problem unless we start acting much faster.”
This coming December, the U.N.’s Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons will hold a five-year review conference, and the topic of lethal autonomous robots will be on the agenda. However, it’s unlikely that a ban will be approved at that meeting. Such a decision would require the consensus of all participating countries, and these still have fundamental disagreements on how to deal with the broad spectrum of autonomous weapons expected to emerge in the future.
In the end, the “killer robots” debate seems to be more about us humans than about robots. Autonomous weapons will be like any technology, at least at first: They could be deployed carefully and judiciously, or chaotically and disastrously. Human beings will have to take the credit or the blame. So the question, “Are autonomous combat robots a good idea?” probably isn’t the best one. A better one is, “Do we trust ourselves enough to trust robots with our lives?”
This article appears in the June 2016 print issue as “When Robots Decide to Kill.”
Well, they might very well convince me anyway. Since I was a kid I’ve wanted to be an astronaut and I’m more than ready to blow this rock. Too many damned backwards, insane, and evil people populating Earth at the moment.
Of course I reckon to some extent it’s always been that way, and maybe we’d just take our twisted bullshit with us. But at least it’d be a chance at a fresh start…
Okay, poster. You make a compelling argument—sign us up!
True, there will be obstacles: For one, the Martian corps that these recruitment posters from Kennedy Space Center are attempting to enlist us in does not exist. Also, as of yet, no human has ever stepped foot on the surface of the red planet, much less worked some kind of shadowy night-watch position, that (rather terrifyingly) appears to require the constant use of a space harpoon.
But, no matter! The can-do spirit of these WWI- and WWII-influenced posters has already inspired us. We will be teachers, and welders, and farmers, and satellite technicians, and guards against the Martian night-octopuses that presumably overrun its lunar plains. Just let us know when those enlistment rolls open up.
Full resolutions, suitable for printing on your own, are also publicly availableright here.
I wrote an excellent set of lyrics to a Blues song today I’m calling I Done Paid (In Full).
Started a second Blues song (though I may make it a rock or even a pop song) called Stop Dis Missing Me.
Which I’m pleased with thus far but it is far from finished and I got two or three different ways I can go with it, and just haven’t decided yet.
I also have a backlog of about 150 to 200 songs (the lyrics that is) completed now which I have been unable to compose the music for. Unfortunately I have had no time to compose in the past year. Between my wrist surgery and working on my novel, my book of poetry, my start-up, helping my wife with her new career, and my inventions I have had no time to compose music at all. (I’m a slow composer anyway.) All I’ve had time to do is write the lyrics.
So, if you are a composer looking for a lyricist, or even a band looking for a song-writer then I’d like to talk to you. We can enter into a joint songwriting agreement.
But I’m only looking for serious and ambitious people who want to produce and sell finished, entirely completed songs. I write in a variety of musical styles and genres, everything from Blues to Rock, from Bluegrass to Opera, Pop, and even Religious music. I have a wide range of musical interests, plus I have some unfinished compositions that I’d be willing for others to take a look at right now and finish if they wish. Splitting the Work and the Profits evenly, of course.
I would prefer working with people in South Carolina, North Carolina, and Georgia, so that we can meet and even work some in each other’s company but I’m not necessarily limiting myself to those in SC, NC, or GA. With the right composer or people, and if we can establish a good and productive working relationship, then I could work with anyone in the United States, or even in other parts of the world.
I’m not gonna set artificial limits on this, the important thing is that we are good at what we do and can produce excellent Work together.
If you are interested then leave a message here or contact me by email.
P.S.: you can see some prior examples of my song lyrics in this archive category: My Writings and Work
You’ll have to look for them though. All of my work is listed in that archive, not just my songs.
The other day someone asked my advice on how to conduct myself as a writer. Or actually, to be more accurate, my advice on how they might better conduct themselves as a writer based on my prior experiences. Since writing is basically a “lonesome occupation” requiring a great deal of commitment, isolation (to a degree I’ll explain momentarily), focus, determination, self-discipline, and real work. They were having trouble dealing with the “lonesome” part of the occupation.
I repeat my advice to them here in the case this assists anyone else. Of course this advice could just as easily apply to artists, inventors, poets, songwriters, and even (to some extent) entrepreneurs of all kinds (all of which I am) with but a few minor modifications. So this is my Highmoot for this Wednesday.
THIS IS MY ADVICE
This is my advice after having worked for myself for decades. I’m about evenly matched between being an introvert and being an extrovert. I too do my very best work alone. However I prime myself by going out and observing people. Going to places that are active, like labs, industrial complexes, malls, museums, libraries, city streets, performances, college campuses, Vadding, to shops, exploring other towns, theaters, etc.
I do this for a day or two about once every two to three weeks. Although depending on my work schedule I may not be able to do it but once a month. Nevertheless I do this as much as I can and regularly schedule such things.
(Aside:One place though I never go to is coffee shops. Everyone there is on their computers or cell phones and the interactions are limited and about all you see anyone doing is staring at a screen. Coffee shops are, for the most part, horrible and pretentious work environments, with people tending to merely congregate together in order to appear to be working, when in fact they are not truly working – they are seeking to socially escape real work by the public appearance of a displayed but primarily unreal act of “business.” On this point I entirely agree with Hemingway, coffee shops and cafes are the very worst places to do any actual and real work, though they give the plastic social facade of appearing to be busy.
The very same can be said to be true about coffee shops as “observation posts” on true human behavior. The types of human behavior evidenced in most coffee shops is unnatural, artificial, pretentious, deceptive, and rehearsed. People in coffee shops and cafes are extremely aware that they are being observed, indeed this is one reason so many go there, to observe and be observed (in a sort of pre-approved, socially accepted and promoted play-act), in the place of actually working. I almost never trust the close observations of human behavior I make of people in such environments. Such behaviors tend to be no more “real” than the work supposedly occurring in such places, and just as artificial as the plastic illuminated screens they seem so utterly devoted to, and the technological implements they are eagerly seen to be worshiping. My advice is to skip such places entirely if you can and go rather to where real work can be done and you can make true observations about actual behaviors, be those human or animal. Places like I mentioned above. End Aside.)
Then I come home and my mind and soul are primed with observations and ideas and stories and poetry and songs and invention concepts and business proposals.
When I’m at home and working, and tire, or am bored, then I go outside and clear land, hike in the woods, explore the nearby lands (I live out in the country), go fishing, track and observe animals, climb trees, cut down trees, cut the grass, etc. I said I do my best work alone, but actually I do my best work alone while doing something physical, and then I work in my head as I labor. Both because it is excellent practice to work in your head as you labor (the bodily labor frees the mind to wander and work) and because working while you labor is an excellent Mnemonics Technique. Sometimes I’ll write entire poems, songs, scenes from my novels, sections of business plans, create prototype inventions in my head, etc., then memorize the same and store them in Agapolis, my Memory City as I am physically laboring and only after I quit and go back into the house will I write down what I created.
I know modern people are not big on memory or Mnemonic Techniques (so much the shame for them), but I learned such things from the Ancients and the Medievals and if you ask me a superb memory and good control over your own memory is a far better set of skills and capabilities for a writer (or most anyone) to possess than a thousand cell phones or a hundred laptops or tablets or even a dozen internets. A good memory increases not only your overall intelligence but is fundamental to establishing, developing, and properly employing an excellent vocabulary. So practice writing or creating first in your head (after all you can do such things even when you have no access to even pen and paper), then fully memorize what you do, and only then write it down. Such exercises are not only important to do (because of what I mentioned above), but will pay many dividends in any of your creative endeavours and enterprises. Rely not just upon mere technology for your best creations and for your most important works, but rather upon what you most deeply impress upon your own mind and soul. That is both where creation begins and where it will be properly shaped and forged and worked into worthwhile and well-crafted final products.
I don’t know if this helps you any in your own creative enterprises but my advice is go out at least once a month, or as often as you need it, and do nothing but observe and generate new ideas. Then let them ruminate and percolate through you and within you.
If you thereafter feel all cramped up and unable to work smoothly then do something strenuous and physical outside. The labor will do you good and also set our mind free to wander. Then when you are primed and relaxed go to work.
To simplify to a very basic formula: Prime + Observe + Labor + Work + Memorize = High End and Valuable End Product.
After the necessary revisions for proper refinement, of course.
But just because you work alone doesn’t mean you are a prisoner of your environment and just because you work alone doesn’t mean you always have to be alone.
Go wander, go labor, go explore, go meet new people, go people watch, memorize, and then actually Work. Don’t just wade into crowds and pretend to work.
Be extremely good for ya. And it will probably make you a helluvah lot better writer than you’ve ever been before. No matter what you’re writing. And it is awful hard to be lonely, or a slack-ass, when you are actually doing Good Work.
I went to your graves to speak with you dead
You answered with nary a sound, but
The echoes of stone, and the blood and the bones
Still in the air they redound
Someone must live, and someone must die
I’ve seen my share of those things, yet
You know them all well in your marrow and flesh
For the shroud is the shield that still clings
To the toil that you wore, to the deeds that you bore
To the future and past you present
When I see countrymen free, and the grass
Green overseas that otherwise death would have spent
If you could arise, recall how you died
Who then could discharge the debt?
That we owe in our souls, but don’t really know
In the war and the wound that beset
About you in harm, the wrong, the alarm
As you struggled the catch your last breath
Yet it fled far away, like your soul on that day
By demand, or command, or request,
What can I say, much less best relay
Of what your great efforts have earned?
You’ve written in blood, in anguish, in mud
We’ll honor, and then we’ll adjourn, oh
The tombs that we’ll build, of marble and steel
Carved with your names and your stars
Will pass with the times as the ages unwind
As you fade into memories afar, yet
The world that you built, the anger, the guilt
Of your blood on the altar of Mars
These will live on, and not just in song, but
In the hope and the home of my heart…
So today after my walk through the woods with Sam I came home and started work on a new short story. It will be historical fiction and a supplement to my Westerns and it will be about a half-Indian, half-white Advanced Scout for the US Cavalry.
He is rejected by everyone, as was the custom of the day, by his white society and by his Indian tribe. Later he goes on to wander much farther West and to form his own settlement of former Chinese rail workers, other outcast Indians, runaway slaves, Mexicans fleeing the wars in Texas and California, and poor whites and others wishing to start over from the Civil War.
Eventually he becomes town marshal and then county sheriff until he is hunted down by US Marshals looking to take him in for desertion from his former scout position.
Got three pages written just about an hour ago and I’ll post those once my daughter types up the manuscript (still having trouble typing with my broken wrist), but only the intro because I plan to publish the story. Like I said I want it to be a supplementary story to my Western, The Lettermen. Still not sure about the title though, iffin I wanna call it The Lonely Scout or simply The Outcast.
My wife and youngest daughter read it and really liked it, and my wife gave me a coupla good ideas for further plot development. My oldest daughter read it and gave it a 9 out of 10 (so far anyway) and then she said, “Writing Westerns and frontier and adventure and detective stories are your favorites.”
I like writing a lot of different kinda things, but she may be right. Those hold particular and personal appeal to me…
Manhood is a lost art if you ask me. I hope to preserve it in my writings so future generations can take it up again. Wholesale and unimpeded by whatever we got nowadays.
Some people think that I am primarily a mental man, or a “man of the mind” because I spend a lot of time studying, reading, attending and listening to lectures, mastering languages, writing stories and poetry and songs, conducting scientific experiments, etc. Some people think I am primarily a man of the spirit because I spend a lot of time talking about God and to God, examining scriptures, praying, meditating, etc. Some people think I am primarily a man of the psyche (of the soul) because I closely observe my own behavior and the behavior of others, because I watch and take note of other people and am very aware of how they actually behave versus just what they say or proclaim or pretend.
And all of those things are partially true. Not primarily, but partially true. I am in some respects a man of the mind, in other respects a spiritual man, in part a man of the soul and the human psyche.
But there is another part of me that is very, very earthy and physical.
Because I love, and am highly attracted to, and have always been highly attracted to, physical activity and things physical. (Except for eating, I could take or leave eating and if something better than eating existed I’d never eat again. Waste of time to me, and extremely inefficient and wasteful.)
Actually I often do my very best work when hiking, running, clearing land, having sex with the wife, exercising, exploring, climbing, etc. I am attracted to and have always enjoyed physical activity – strain, pain, pleasure, sex, exhaustion, etc. and to me all of those things are drivers and motivators. I have had to learn to correctly control them all and use them wisely and properly but they are all very dear and useful to me. They make me feel alive and invigorated. They are also both stimulants and inspirations to me. Doesn’t matter what I am doing, inventing, working on a business project, writing, composing, drawing, investigating, doing science, etc. physical activity is a stimulant to me.
For instance this morning I took Sam (my American Superior) for a run in the woods (rather than a hike, he’s getting a little fat and I want to work him back into shape with me) and while doing so I developed in my mind six good scenes for my Kithariune novel, a science fiction short story, a Real World invention based around the subject matter of the sci-fi short story (actually the real world invention came first), and had an interesting idea for a scientific experiment. (Physical activity is also an excellent mnemonic technique to me.)
Had I done nothing but sit on my ass this morning and tried to just “Think” (I have nothing against thinking by the way, I highly recommend it to everyone, it’s just I’m not much of a sedentary thinker, I’m an “active thinker” – physical activity stimulates my thinking) I doubt that a single one of those ideas would have occurred to me.
Yes, I am partially a man of the mind, and the spirit, and the soul, but also of the body. My body stimulates the other parts of me. In many ways my body is perhaps my single most important tool of creative expression, either directly or indirectly (as it feeds my mind, soul, and spirit).
I might not have the most excellent body but my body has done me the most excellent service. And just to give him his due, considering what I’ve put him through, he’s been tough as hell and I admire and respect him for that.
Is the body or physical activity a stimulant to you as well? Do you also rebel against the idea of “thinking” as being a sedentary pursuit, or the “thinking man” as a sedentary creature?
Last night while in bed I decided to write up some new lines for my Western, the Lettered Men.
I’ll do that sometimes right before I go to bed. Got some good stuff done but had to rework some of em this morning. Many of these lines are spoken by Jerimiah Jereds, also known as “Wordy”(the only name his friends call him)because he will either invent words (neologisms) or will twist around old phrases and common sayings in new ways. Wordy sometimes acts as the comic-relief of the novel, which is pretty rough in parts, and sometimes acts as the de-facto Bard of the novel, being a sort of frontier’s poet and cowboy wordsmith.
Now not all of these snippets are by Wordy. But many are.
Anywho I gave my notes to my wife and daughter this morning (before the final rewrites) so that they could look over em and give me their opinion. I heard a lot of loud laughing coming from the kitchen table downstairs as I worked from my office so I reckon I did something right. They both seemed to like what they read.
Also I should not neglect that my mother came down to the house yesterday after lunch and she also reminded me of many of the old sayings and euphemisms of my grandparents and great-grandparents, which were in many ways the inspiration for Wordy.
So here are the final write ups for the Wordy Way. All from my novel The Lettered Men.
“Oh yeah?” said Wordy. “Well half of not really worth mentioning still beats ever bit a nothing all day long. Specially in the middle a nowhere. So let’s just work around with what we got awhile and see where it leads us. Maybe tomorrow it still won’t be worth mentioning, but maybe in a week or two it will be. When we’re sitting our asses by the fire back home.”
All the boys laughed when they saw him come out of the barbers. All except Wordy. He just stared at Beau for awhile and then he stood up and circled him like a corvus round a scarecrow. “Hmmm-mmm,” he kept humming to himself as he circled.
“Well now, that’s a two bit shave and a haircut iffin I ever seen one,” he finally said. “Way I see it though she still owes ya a dollar in change just to make it even.”
“Dammit!” Beau said testily slapping his hat against his thigh. Dust and hair swirled everywhere. “I told her it didn’t look right to me.”
“Be alright Beau,” Wordy said. “You’re both new at this. She ain’t much of a judge a jug-heads and you ain’t much of a judge a women.”
“Oh, and you is you Wordy sumbitch!” Beau practically yelled.
“I didn’t say that,” said Wordy. “I just seen enough scalpings in my day to know the difference between a brave and a squaw cut.”
I had a weird and kinda sad dream right before waking this morning. In it I was attending a military event in which at the end a group of soldiers were singing as part of the event.
There were two guys standing on a platform above most of the others and these two guys were carrying the song. Suddenly the taller guy stepped down and a much shorter and far younger guy (Audie Murphy type guy but with jet back hair and dark eyes) started singing alone. His voice was, well, let me be honest, incredible. Far deeper than you would expect from such a little guy and clear and resonant and so loud he almost shook the building. It started softly but it became a truly rousing extremely powerful song.
But it was not just how he was singing, but what he sang. He was singing an “autobiographical song” about his short life (he was probably only in his early twenties but had seen a lot, and I mean alot) and the lyrics were astounding. Truly astounding. I have tried to remember them all morning (although I remember the music clearly as will compose it later today), to no avail except for a few snippets. If I could only recall them it would be the best song I’ve ever written.
As he sang by the way you could actually see the scenes he was describing hovering in the air about him. He had truly suffered a lot.
Two lines I do recall clearly, from the chorus, were: Sorrow and Shame, Sorrow and Pain.
I’ve been absent from blogging for the past few months for a number of reasons. Including being very busy with my business, to attend to personal matters (homeschooling my youngest daughter, helping my wife advance in her public speaking career and new job, clearing land, rehabbing my wrist, etc.), and in order to write my novels and books. But I’m going to try and slowly return to blogging as I seek an agent for my writings and investors for my business ventures and inventions.
I’m a relatively solitary writer but I do have a few people who are always in my corner ( ❤ ) and I was lucky enough to befriend a fellow writer on Twitter just when I was starting to think of taking this on. I tweeted in conversation to her about what, to me, was a crazy idea …
I’ve mentioned a few times now how I wrote the final 10,000 words-ish of my rough draft over the course of a weekend, something heretofore unheard of for me. I’m still a little disbelieving that it actually happened, but it did! I have the printed pages to prove it. As I’m getting back into editing them this week, I want to share with you how I managed to do this, in hopes it’ll help you bust through that unbelievably obnoxious end bit that seems to drag on forever and ever.
It’s time to get it done; let’s do it!
STEP ONE: DECLARE YOUR INTENTIONS
If you tend to keep your writing a relatively private affair, you can take this step by writing it down on a bright flashcard or piece of paper and sticking it up somewhere you’ll see it constantly: “This weekend, I’m going to write ‘X’ words” or “This weekend, I’m going to barrel through my list of remaining scenes.”
And so I did! I declared my intentions on Twitter and to my steadfast cheerleaders, and off I went. Well, almost …
STEP TWO: PROACTIVELY REMOVE OBSTACLES
It’s one thing to create make-work for yourself and do the dishes as a form of procrastination, but there’s something to be said, for me at least, in having things in a wee bit of order before you take on something as momentous as a 10K writing marathon. While I love a bit of cozy clutter, there is a tipping point, especially when I know I’m going to be mussing up my writing area anew with mugs of rooibos tea and peanut butter cup wrappers and empty plates. Before you settle in for the weekend, spend half an hour cleaning up around your workspace. For bonus points, run to the store and ensure you have supplies (tea bags are a big one for me).
Oh, and if your computer is as insistent and persnickety as mine is about doing updates and doing them NOW or I’ll slow your computer down to a turtle in a swamp race, do the updates before you start. The less reasons we have to lose momentum, the better.
STEP THREE: MAKE A LIST (OR TWO)
I work best with music piped in through my headphones. It doesn’t need to be instrumental or lyric-less, either, though I’m fond of trance, dubstep and chillstep for keeping myself revved up and typing. If you know it won’t hinder you, songs with the right lyrics can be key to knocking out those pages. Queue up whatever music inspires you and have it ready to go. Just make sure you don’t get caught spending three hours making a YouTube playlist, needing to get it just right.
The second list that made a tremendous difference for me was one I’d started a week before, of scenes that still needed to be written. Depending on how much of a planner you are, you may already have something like this, or maybe you’re just going to wing it. I find it helps to have at least a line or two written to summarize each of the scenes beforehand.
And the satisfaction you get from crossing the scenes off your list as you go? Priceless.
STEP FOUR: WORK IN SPURTS
Tempting as it may be to motor through without pause or sleep or stretch, this does not necessarily a successful writing weekend make. We need the occasional break to rest and refuel, to do Downward Facing Dog or the Cobra, to make a fresh pot of tea or look out the window. It feels scary to step away from it, I know, but it will feel a lot scarier to be going, going, going, GOING and then THUMP to a halt when you’re only halfway there. Finish your thought, carry through your spurt, then walk away for a few minutes, or at the very least get out of your chair and stretch a little. Your story isn’t going anywhere. In fact, it might even have a little treasure waiting for you upon your return, just waiting to be unwrapped. Why deny it the pleasure?
STEP FIVE: DON’T THINK TOO HARD
Probably the biggest anvil to fall on your head and derail your writing will be your own self-doubt: what if the ending sucks? What if the whole thing stinks? I don’t know what I’m doing! I’ll never finish this properly. I’m tired. I’m a crap writer. I don’t know why I ever thought I should write a book.
Right here, right now, make a commitment to yourself to just keep moving until you feel yourself fading. When you fade, take a break. Do something else. When you’re writing in spurts, you don’t give yourself time to think, and that’s crucial. What’s even more crucial is doing something energizing and awesome in those mini-breaks so you don’t have the chance to go all cerebral.
It’s a rough draft. It’s not going to be perfect, unless you’re one of those writers. (I jest, I’m sure they’re lovely souls!) You just have to keep moving, past your self-doubt, past your self-limitations, past every roadblock you’d fling in your way. This is where that list of scenes to write comes in handy, because you can just focus on the one you’re writing until it’s done, cross it off (yay! celebrate! briefly!), and move on to the next one, and the next. One scene, one paragraph, one sentence, one moment at a time. This is how we write. This is what it takes.
STEP SIX: CELEBRATE YOUR AWESOMENESS
When you’ve crossed off the last scene, written your 9,967th word, do yourself a favour: before you do anything else, drop down a few lines and write “THE END” in big, bold letters. Let it sink in. You made it!
Seriously, if there was ever a time to feel proud of yourself and celebrate how awesome you are, this is it. Don’t you dare downplay it. Taking a rough draft from start to finish on anything, let alone a book, let alone finishing in a weekend, is a remarkable feat. Gather your cheerleaders, bake cupcakes, do a little dance; whatever you want to do, do it! You deserve it.
BONUS MISSION: BE READY FOR THE AFTERMATH
I’m not going to lie: like anything that you pour your heart and soul into, especially in such a concentrated period of time, it’s going to leave you both euphoric and ragged. Once you’ve set your book (you wrote a BOOK) aside for a week or two to let it, and yourself, rest, you might feel a bit of a letdown, like you’re not sure what to do with yourself. Your everyday routine is waiting for you, and you’re reluctant to go back to the status quo.
Chores, work, kids, Life, that has to happen, and it’s going to happen. But there is joy in that, not to mention fodder for our writing, and we owe it to ourselves to embrace it. We can also, though, start a new story, or write a poem, or work on a scrapbook. Something creative to sink our teeth into while that book rests and waits for us to return.
In the meantime, have a bit of rest yourself. You’ve earned it!
(Psst! If you’re antsy to get writing but are still a little unsure about this 10,000 words in a weekend stuff, check out Rachel Aaron’s post on how she went fromwriting 2,000 to 10,000 words a day – your productivity will soar! Janna Kaixer also has a brilliant post on writing 10,000 words in a day, with some great tips about setting yourself up for success.)
Do you want to virtually ensure your chances of being able to power through your next writing session? Build a solid character foundation first with my free email course. It’s a fun, inspiring process, and the results will see you through oodles of writing blocks. Click here or the image below to find out more!
I’m sitting here tonight (last night actually) working on the major characters that will be a part of my fictional book and novel series. I’ve spent much of the past week doing the same.
One invaluable thing I learned from James Patterson’s Master Class on commercial fiction is the importance of ongoing, serialized characters that others adore. I’ve known this intellectually for a long time based on my own reading history both as a youth and throughout my life (John Carter, Tarzan, Spock, Jesse Stone, Sherlock Holmes, Doc Savage, Batman, etc.) but looking back on my fiction writings I’ve realized that it hasn’t really sunken in until now. It had sunken into my mind long ago, but not into my soul. Not until now however. But now, finally, I am fully getting it.
I’ve always been a “Story-First” kind of guy and looking back upon it all I suspect I very much now know why. I was trained and self-trained to write stories through D&D (Dungeons and Dragons) and through game writing in general and D&D was indeed the very most excellent practice and training for story-development. But because I so rarely played and was almost always the DM or GM (Dungeon or Game Master) and was always the one creating worlds and writing the stories I never concentrated much at all upon “Character Development.”
That is to say I always let my players develop and run their characters with as little possible interference from me as I could ever get away with. Therefore almost all character development was in their hands and I become STORY AND PLOT AND WORLD FIRST and in many senses, I just habitually adopted the idea of STORY ONLY. Character-Work was for them, I was the World Man.
Not that I couldn’t write or develop characters, I did have several characters of my own I played and I developed some very complex Non-Player Characters (NPCs) but that kind of thing happened rather rarely compared to my World Building and plot and background elements development and so Character Development became a secondary and almost a background issue to me as a fiction writer and story teller. I realize now that I have for most of my life had this sort of subconscious psychological habit of developing stories in complex detail but sort of letting Character Development handle itself in a laissez-faire fashion when I did not outright ignore the issue.
But now that I realize this fault and oversight in my own writings, and the way I go about writing, I have decided that for me this will be the Year of the Characters. This year Characters and Serialized Characters become equally important to me as Story and Plot and World Building.
This is to be my Year of Character, and the genesis of the development of the Great Characters of my Fiction Writing Career.
This year I build Men and Characters and not just Worlds.
So in writing the Old Man for NaNoWriMo this year I had carefully planned how each section (since the novel is divided into four or possible five long short story sections) would go and how each event in each section would proceed. In a linear, chronological progression. That is how I actually intended to write the book. I’m at over 10,000 words so far and have not written anything in linear progression so far, even though that was my original intent.
In truth though I find that most all of the fiction I write – short stories, novellas, novels, etc. always end up being written scene-by-scene, as they occur to me, and then later have to be stitched together in chronological order. The one exception to that being children’s stories (for very young children, not YA – those I also tend to write scene by scene) which, like poems and songs or the music I compose I tend to write in chronological order or by linear progression.
If it’s a longer work however, like those I listed above, then I always end up writing it scene by scene as the scenes occur to me in my imagination. No matter how hard I try or what I plan or how carefully I outline the book in my imagination it always comes out being written scene-by-scene, or in the case of non-fiction, subject by subject.
Apparently this is simply the way my mind works in constructing long, complex stories. It used to bother me, that I found it so difficult to write a novel or long story chronologically, now it doesn’t, but it has always made me wonder, how many other people approach writing novels in this way?
So I ask you. How about you?
Do you tend to write novels and long stories in chronological sequence, or poco-a-poco, and scene-by-scene?
How does your mind work when writing such books?
Do you find any advantages in either method? Do you find either method nearly impossible because of the way your mind or imagination functions?
Or is there some other method or technique of construction you use other than the two I described above that I haven’t thought of?
I’ve cleared my entire calendar for November in order to write my novel for National Novel Writing Month. Aside from some type of emergency, and I don’t anticipate one (though you never really do, do ya?), writing my novel will be my chief priority this month.
So my blogging and other social media efforts will likely lag as a result. So will every other non-essential pursuit as the novel will be my Essential Activity for November. Fortunately I anticipate a very quiet month which will allow me the opportunity to write completely without distraction.
I’ve decided to go with THE OLD MAN as my chosen novel.
I intend to produce between 1500 and 5000 words per day, depending upon the day and the way the story proceeds and progresses. I already have much of the plot, all of the sections, and a few of the scenes sketched out.
Because of my broken wrist I will be writing the novel out in long hand on long notepads and my daughter will be typing it for me. I begin as soon as I’ve had breakfast and I walk Sam (my Great Dane) as it’s been raining this morning and prevented an earlier walk.
Congratulations to all of those pursuing writing their novel this month.
Part of me greatly adores and admires words, as they are man’s chief means of communication and the primary treasure of his High Word Hoard. Another part of me, an equal part, absolutely distrusts and detests words as they are the means by which far too many men habitually deceive themselves and the rest of the world, and mankind’s primary method of excuse making in order to avoid noble and just action.
(As a writer) I am like a man caught in the grinding maw of some bizarre and fantastic creature who is sometimes angelic, and sometimes demonic, yet always dangerous.
This year I have decided to participate in National Novel Writing Month. And this year I have several good ideas for a potential novel I’d like to write for NaNoWriMo.
However I am trying to solicit the opinions of others on which idea and novel they’d prefer to read. Of the three novel ideas/plots I’ve I’d like to write for this November and that I have personally shown to family and friends so far I have the following results:
13 votes for The Old Man
10 votes for The Cache of Saint Andrew, and
4 votes for The Wonder Webs (all have been kid votes)
So I’d like to ask you, as my readers and internet friends, which novel story would you prefer to read: The Old Man, The Cache of Saint Andrew, or The Wonder Webs?
Right now I’m leaning towards The Old Man but still have a couple of days or so to finally decide. So if you wish to voice your opinion then just let me know. If you want to tell me your reasons that would be appreciated as well.
The Old Man – The Old Man is a mixed genre novel/novella consisting of three or four related stories about the same character set in different eras and story genres. In the story the child or children of a deceased man discover some old and unknown recordings which reveal their father in a totally different light and engaged in a fantastic set of secret lives. One section of the book will involve the science fiction genre, another the fantasy genre, another the detective/espionage genre, and the fourth the horror/weird genre. Despite the complexity of the story and the various genres it should be very easy to research and plot.
The Cache of Saint Andrew – The Cache of Saint Andrew is a literary genre novel involving a white man who marries a black woman. Although I did eventually marry a black woman the book is not autobiographical because I first had the idea for the novel in college and began writing it in college and I didn’t marry until I turned thirty, and at the time I began the book didn’t ever expect to marry. The story involves an older established, fairly wealthy white man who marries a younger (college student aged) black woman. The book describes their courtship, marriage, and the things that eventually dissolve their marriage, such as the loss of their first child shortly after childbirth. The novel is called the Cache of Saint Andrew because of the fact that the man, for years, plants secret messages inside the cache of a grave marker at the Orthodox Church of Saint Andrew in North Carolina. The Cache of Saint Andrew is actually the third book I ever started writing and the first one I started writing as an adult, but I put it aside to start my first business. I have replotted it many times but never actually finished it. It will require fairly complex plotting although I already have the main story well sketched out.
Wonder Webs – The Wonder Webs is a young adult book I first started plotting out a couple of years ago in a writing class. It involves a fictional city, park, and zoo based upon Greenville, SC. It involves three main characters, two boys and a girl of late Middle School/early High School age. It also involves a secret “underground world” in which dwell three magical/supernatural spiders who are capable of building “Wonder Webs” or webs that help miracles occur. This book will be very complex to plot because of the characters involved but especially because of the complicated background/world involved, which is multi-faceted.
This is a little piece of flash fiction I wrote involving one of my detective characters, the chief one, Steinthal.
THE DETECTIVE STEINTHAL – COME THE HORIZON
“You know part of me really would like nothing better than to save everyone. But another part of me knows equally well that to habitually do so only makes people, especially some people, dependent, enslaved, useless, and weak.
It is entirely immoral and unacceptable to abandon the truly helpless and indigent. Yet it is also wholly wrong to save those who should be busy saving themselves.
So I won’t do either because both are evil and unwise. Even God understands that you cannot save those who refuse to change. That’s as true for individuals as it is for groups of men.
See, as much as I’d like to help you I’m just a detective, not a messiah. Therefore I can’t help your friend Sara. I can’t help anyone who won’t help themselves.
And all the evidence here points in just one direction. That boy doesn’t want help, he wants to be saved. From himself. There’s no real cure for that, and there never will be. I’ve got no trick to fix it. There is no such trick. Those are the actual facts I’m afraid, and I never argue with the actual facts. There’s just no future in it. For anyone.
If only he truly understood that. Or really cared. Because either one would probably do.
But he doesn’t and I can’t do those things for him. You know as well as I do he’d rather die before he tries either. I wish I could tell you different, my dear, but I’m far too used to the truth. It would just sound odd and unbelievable to the both of us. So I’m going to spare us both the pain and suffering of a futile effort.
He’s not here speaking to me because he doesn’t really give a damn. And you’re here speaking to me because you do.
As strange as that sounds let that be some consolation to you. Because the truth is he’s not worth you getting killed for, and there will be plenty of others to save. People who will let you help save them.
He’s not one of those people, and you shouldn’t be buried beside him because you’re too stubborn to admit that to yourself.
Live, my dear. That’s the very best help I can give to you. Because if you stay attached to him the way you are now, you won’t.”
I left it there because it was the truth and because it was as good a place as any to leave it.
She sat across from my desk staring at the floor for a long while. Then she raised her face to look at me and her eyes were watery and unfocused, as if she were looking through me and out at something on the horizon she didn’t expect to escape.
She stood up slowly, her breath uneven and shallow and short, like women breathe when they are both upset and resigned to their fate. Then she turned and walked for the door.
When she got to the door she turned the doorknob, pulled the door back slightly, paused, and wrestled with herself as to whether or not to look back at me.
Eventually, with a little shake of her head, she decided that she wouldn’t. Instead she opened the door just enough to slide out it and then pulled it quietly shut behind her.
1. Do you want to create an hyperlink in your post that references an older post? Rather than having to type out the URL or look for it in another window/window, use the search for other content arrow in the link box. Choose the link you’d like and click ADD LINK. There is no reason to check off the box “open in a new window” when you are referencing your own site. In fact, that can get super annoying for mobile readers. Only use that when you want to take someone to a webpage off of your site.
2. The screen options tab at the top right of the screen will give you more options on your post screen. Do you want to change the author or adjust the commenting ability? Enable all the options in the screen option tag. Then they will appear as options below your post to turn on/off or edit.
3. Your theme may support a format option on the right hand side. These options change the layout look of your post. The WordPress default themes use formats. Pick from the options to change the format of the page to match the type of media you want to display.
4. You can create “private” posts that are only available to a specified population of users. On WordPress.com, you can choose to make your entire blog private, but on self-hosted, the easiest way to hide content is to password protect it. In the publish box, click on visibility and change the setting. A box will pop up that allows you to write in a password. Click okay.
5. Pre schedule your posts if you think you will be away for a while. Just be sure your timestamp is accurate to the time zone you are in! To change the timezone, go to Settings > General.
6. Write an excerpt (activate it in the post screen option) to customize how your post appears around the web. If you are using an SEO plugin, it’s called the meta description. One difference between the two: The excerpt box will display if you have your blog posts set to an excerpt format, whereas the SEO meta description usually only shows up in Google search results or in places where you share the link (like on social). The excerpt will show up in RSS feeders (if your blog is set to only show excerpts).
7. Make sure only an excerpt of your post blasts out to email subscribers. If they are reading the whole post in the email, there’s no reason to click on the link and go to your blog. To change how your blog posts display, go to SETTINGS > READING and change the option to summary.
8. If you want to control how much of a post displays on the homepage, use a jump break. It’s also called a more tab and it cuts off the text and inserts a READ MORE link for people to click.
9. You can edit the permalink of the Post URL if you changed the title or want to rename it. Click edit next to the link that appears under the post title. There are several instances when you DO NOT want to do this – and that is:
When you’ve already published a post and shared it online
If you are on WP.com and think you may move to self-hosted. Why? Because when a blog imports and a redirect is done, custom permalinks can cause issues.
10. Download a WordPress app on your smart phone or tablet so you can blog and respond to readers on the go.
11. Use the little eraser button to undo pre-formatted text that looks wonky on the post screen. The eraser helps get rid of any extra formatting that may have happened if you wrote the post in a different application. You can also use the T on the clipboard button to paste text and remove extra spaces and tabs.
12. Use the quote button to accent certain parts of your text.
13. Change the name of your images to keyword friendly titles. That way ifpeople are searching in Google images, they are more likely to stumble upon your blog.
14. Use the toggle full screen mode if you are easily distracted when blogging. The fullscreen button is next to the jumpbreak.
15. Menus can be created using pages, categories, or external links. You can even use a combination of all three! When you first set up WordPress, it uses your pages as a default menu. For a full explanation of using categories on your menu bar, check out the post below.
16. Do you want an author bio to show on every post? Edit the description in your profile and it will show up! Go to USERS > EDIT and adjust your description and add your various links.
17. WordPress.ORG users can create an archive index page followingthese instructions. This acts as an index for your entire site and is a nice auto-populated list of your posts, ordered by date. To check out my archive page, you can click here.
18. You can blacklist cyber bullies using email addresses listed in the discussion settings of WP. You can also filter out any comments that use trigger words you define.
19. Do you want to change how many posts show up on the main page? Go to settings and then click on READ. You can change it there. If you like infinite scrolling (which is when posts just keep loading and loading), you can install Jetpack and activate the infinite scrolling module. Of course, not all themes cooperate well with it, so that’s something note.
20. Change the media image sizes (so that thumbnail, small, medium, and large are set to parameters you generate). Go to settings and media.
21. Get a breadcrumbs plugin that allows users to easily find their way back to the homepage with a trail like this Home > About Me > Personals. Get the plugin here. Several themes like Genesis and Weaver will automatically include breadcrumbs in their structure.
22. Did you know that you can share powerpoint, word docs, and pdfs on your blog too? Just click the image button to see all the file types available. You can upload them through the media library just like a photo. When you want to include them in your post, they will be inserted as a link that opens up a new tab.
23. Do you struggle with getting your numbered lists to format correctly?Simply type out each item in your list and hit enter. Don’t try to use indented spaces or tabs or anything fancy. Just type, return, type, return. When your list is finished, highlight all of it, and click on the either the bulleted or numbered list button in the toolbar. It will automatically adjust the spacing, indentation, and add either a bullet or a number!
24. Do you struggle trying to get two images to display side by side? I have an entire post on how to deal with images and image galleries on WordPress. Of course, there are a million plugins you can use as well, but I prefer to teach with the basics first, because installing something that could weigh down your site.
25. Do you feel confused about the difference between a Page and a Post? A page is a static piece of content. It’s like a webpage. It isn’t dated, nor does it show up in any sort of RSS feed. Great uses for pages are your ABOUT page, RESOURCES page, CONTACT page. A post is a dated piece of content that gets pushed out to your RSS feed. It’ll show up in readers. It also is categorized and tagged in your database differently than a page. Think of a post like a daily newspaper article and a page as a brochure for your business or blog.
Many of these work for both WP.com and WP.org users, but any mention of customizable plugins is for WP.org users only. For WP.com users, the edit screen is now a new light blue color with a different interface. You’ll have to revert to the classic editor in order to make sense of these tips. The option to revert to the classic editor is on the bottom right of the edit screen.