There’s a lot to learn before a young man enters the world of dating. Here are the top 10 movies that have lessons that will educate him, help him, and get him ready to navigate the difficult world of dating. Let’s start with number 10:
What? Did you expect The Notebook? This movie about an alien invasion and battles between humans and bugs is nominally based on Robert A. Heinlein’s classic of the same name.
Why it’s important: The main character, Johnny Rico, is oblivious to Dizzy Flores, his fellow high school student. She has a huge crush on him and eventually lands him by the oldest play in the book: proximity. She sticks with him. She’s at his side in the mud and blood of battle and when it comes time for him to decide between her and the gorgeous Carmen, his original love interest is far away and way out of the picture. This is a movie with many flaws, but the singleminded pursuit of Rico by Dizzy Flores is worth examination. Plus, of course, the battle scenes are epic.
January 27, 2013: What Near-Death Experiences Tell Us
Among the nine lines of evidence that Long reviews: People who were blind from birth experience clear vision during NDEs and accurately report things they saw, usually in the operating room but sometimes even outside of it. NDEs sometimes occur during general anesthesia “when no form of consciousness should be taking place.” Virtually all people encountered during NDEs are deceased, usually relatives; skeptics who insist NDEs are a dream or hallucination-like event cannot explain why, unlike in dreams or hallucinations, that should be the case. NDEs often change people’s lives permanently, leading to enhanced spirituality or religiosity; in Long’s survey, 95 percent said subsequent to their NDEs that they were “definitely real” and 5 percent “probably real.”
And NDEs show remarkably similar features all over the world, transcending religious and cultural backgrounds. One of those constantly reported features is the encounter with the deity. Strongly religious people usually perceive the deity (and sometimes other mythological beings) in terms of their own religion; but people of little or no religion also have the encounter and speak more generally of a “being of light.”
Most dramatically of all, the phrase “unconditional love” occurs repeatedly in these descriptions. The deity is reported to be what we would call nonjudgmental; entirely accepting; and a source of overwhelming love. Yes, the news is rather good.
A Russian NDEr named Victor reported: “The light was extraordinary. In it were love and peace. I was completely enveloped by love and I felt totally secure.” Miller notes that “the descriptions of [the light’s] personality and abilities and effects are remarkably similar.” Moody called the encounter “the most incredible common element” of NDEs and affirmed that “not one person has expressed any doubt whatsoever that it was a being, a being of light.”
The being of light is always singular; there is only one, never multiple beings. Van Lommel wrote: “This encounter is always accompanied by an overwhelming sense of unconditional love and acceptance.” The light knows and cares about the NDEr’s whole life and personal choices, and is always experienced as just, not capricious or errant.
February 16, 2014: Near-Death Experiences—A New Take on Life, Part 1: Sam Parnia Explains Where the Field Is Leading
To all that must be added the numerous reports of people in NDEs accurately recalling specific conversations and events that occurred—in and sometimes out of their operating rooms—while they had no brain function. Parnia recounts one case where a new doctor, dealing with a patient in a prolonged cardiac arrest, ate the patient’s lunch. After recovery, the patient described to the doctor a detailed NDE, and finished with: “And you ate my lunch!”
No, the skeptics may not like it, but doctors and their staff are hearing more and more accounts from revived patients like this one, told by a patient to a nurse in Parnia’s AWARE study:
His journey commenced by travelling through a tunnel towards a very strong light, which didn’t dazzle him or hurt his eyes. Interestingly, he said that there were other people in the tunnel, whom he did not recognize. When he emerged he described a very beautiful crystal city and I quote “I have seen nothing more beautiful.” He said there was a river that ran through. There were many people, without faces, who were washing in the waters….
What’s going on? Some scientists are suggesting, Parnia notes, that “human consciousness or the soul may in fact be an irreducible scientific entity in its own right, similar to many of the concepts in physics, such as mass and gravity, which are also irreducible entities.” If so, then consciousness is not just an epiphenomenon of the brain; it has an independent existence and could survive death. The exhaustive, multiauthored book Irreducible Mind, well-known in the field of mind-brain studies, argues just such positions based on abundant evidence.
image illustrations courtesy shutterstock / Bruce Rolff /
Hi, everyone. My name is Charlie, and I’m not a workaholic. Honest. I mean, I do tend to get up at 6AM and find myself sitting in bed at 10PM thinking I should be writing something more before I go to sleep, and I have been known to get stubborn about a programming problem and work 30 hours straight, but I can give it up anytime, really.
Okay, yes, I am being a little facetious and before anyone gets their drawers in a monkey’s-fist with six inches of square chain sinnet, I’m not making fun of alcoholics or addicts or anyone else who’s been helped by 12 Step programs; I’m making fun of myself. But with a point: I do tend to overwork.
What I am is a creative. I am continually assailed by ideas, things I want to write, build, paint, or create. My observation of creatives is that they live in one of two states: they are either driven, or they’re blocked. Being blocked is horrible (and a topic for another time, but let me say if you are blocked, go out right now and read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, and Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande.) Being driven is fun — you’re doing something you love and you’re excited and you don’t want to stop.
A running complaint that Sarah and I share is that while it’s great doing this, it also has its limits. Sarah knows she’s hit her limit when she gets some horrible respiratory bug or sinus infection. I know it when I get depressed, irascible (yes, even more irascible) and end up spending two days in bed, sleeping or playing computer solitaire.
I have a second issue with this. I tend to be what Barbara Sher calls a scanner — not my favorite word for it, since I’m a Cordwainer Smith fan, so maybe you could say “hummingbird” or “butterfly”. (Where does a 6′ 3″ 265 pound butterfly land? Anywhere he damn wants.) In any case, in a lot of ways I’m motivated by learning new things and rewarded by that first skin-prickling hit of a cool new idea, but tend to go “lookit, a squirrel” off after the next idea when it hits.
So Sarah and I have decided to collaborate on a new 13 week experiment in managing two competing desires:
- being optimally productive
- without sacrificing health and sanity. Or at least health.
We’ll be writing about this weekly (he said, typing carefully) in the form of a colloquy or conversation.
Let’s look at the issue again. I have, at last count, about 27 bazillion projects I’d like to do — fiction, nonfiction, computer programs, spec scripts for TV and movies, and I’m tied into a startup company — plus I’d like to make time for painting and drawing and I’m intent on getting a little more exercise and at least occasionally actually leaving the house.
I’ve experimented with David Allen’s Getting Things Done method, and while I see a lot of appeal in it, it’s directed more toward people who want to get things done in a limited time. When I do GTD, I end up with unlimited things. The GTD books seem mostly directed to people with limited time to want to do more; I see my problem as seeing things through to “done” and limiting my time.
I am a regular guy. I have zero resemblance to the guys you see on the countless weight loss commercials currently running on television. I still have work to do to become more healthy. But I did something last year that I’ve never been able to do in a lifetime of weight struggles. I lost a significant amount of weight in a relatively short amount of time. Moreover, I did it in a healthy way, and I was able to keep it off.
How did I do it? Well, first let me tell you the basics. On January 1 of 2013 I weighed in at 283 pounds. I was significantly overweight. I was unhealthy, ate poorly, was very inactive, and took blood pressure medicine that I desperately needed. By May 1, 2013, I dropped 40 pounds, was eating much better, exercised 5-6 days a week, and was off blood pressure medicine. And most importantly, I felt great doing it. Well, what did I do? I could probably list 20 things, but I narrowed it down to five. And these are five things that I think can help anyone get healthier if they are ready for a change.
5. Make water your friend.
Have I lost you already? Is this too boring for you? Is this too simple? I don’t care. Do it! Drinking a ton of water was a key to my weight loss and I guarantee it’ll be a key to anyone else’s weight loss. Get yourself a big bottle that you don’t mind making your friend. Take it to work, drive with it, work out with it, and have it with you always. And then take sips all day, every day.
What’s the big deal about water? It has too many benefits for me to list them all, but here are a few: water suppresses your appetite, has zero bad stuff in it (drink filtered), increases metabolism, helps your body retain nutrients, is what your body is made of, helps maintain normal digestion, and energizes muscles. There are more, but those are enough reasons for any of us to start diving into some H2O.
Water is your new friend. Save money by drinking water instead of other beverages. That’ll free up some income to buy healthier foods. Drink a full glass of water before a meal and it’ll both speed up your metabolism and make you eat less. Get at least 64 ounces a day. And if you think that’s a lot, then check out your biggie cup of soda. I bet it’s at least 32 ounces. Put down the soda and pick up a big bottle of water.
You’re going to need to be well-hydrated if you are going to do number 4.
Selling your Writing in 13 Weeks, Week 10
Yes, I know, it sounds like I’m always saying more or less the same thing: “you have to give the impression that you are traditionally published if you want to really sell.”
Unfortunately, this is true. The public still views traditionally published books as better. Though there is an interesting effect happening, maybe because I’ve talked so much about indie publishing, in that some of my fans are contacting me about typos and issues with my traditionally published books, forcing me to say “well, there’s nothing I can do about it now.”
But in general, you want to look like the traditionally published books in your sub-genre. (Minus the typos – which frankly happen in any publishing, and, yes, will happen to you too.)
Only you don’t want to look like just any books in that subgenre.
Look, in the bad old days the publishing houses had to limit their resources. This meant that most of the books got thrown out into that big, cold world with barely enough work put into it to look decent and professional.
For instance, at a panel at a con, a friend and I were discussing her just-accepted book with the two editors who, supposedly at least, worked on it, and it became obvious to us they’d only read the proposal and never the completed manuscript.
This is because my friend’s book was a second novel, and had been slated to be released with as little support and fanfare as possible.
Now, you’ve gone out and got yourself a publishing house name, and you have a publishing house webpage (don’t do what I do, and forget to update it/not settle on a theme for months on end) and you – frankly – look professional.
So… are you going to just release your book out there, with minimal work/support, like any other mid-list book?
I can hear you protesting now. “But Sarah, you say, I am a shoe-string operation with exactly one editor and one writer.”
Yes, of course, and we will talk about compromises you can and have to make, but there are also things you can do to make it look like the book is “high list” and important to the house.
“But I can’t make all my books look high list!” you say.
Um… why not?
Who has two thumbs and loves Back to the Future? This guy! Replete with such cornball humor, and stimulating the imagination to ponder mysteries of the universe like temporal displacement and women, the ’80s popcorn adventures hold up to this day.
As 2015 nears, boasting a movie release schedule packed with blockbuster franchises – everything from the next Star Wars to Avengers: Age of Ultron and Jurassic World – it saddens me to realize we won’t also see a revisiting of the Back to the Future universe. You may recall that 2015 was the year that Doc Brown and Marty McFly traveled to in the second film. That year will also mark the 30th anniversary of the franchise. A second volume of films centering around the disparity between 2015 as we will know it and the one encountered by Marty as a teenager carries a lot of potential. If only screenwriter Bob Gale and director Robert Zemeckis were reading.
Much of the fun in Back to the Future emerges from a clash of generations, how things change over time — and how they stay the same. The second film in the series addresses what might happen if you went back in time and told your younger self how to be successful. Marty McFly plots to take a sports almanac from 2015 back to 1985 so he can place bets on foreseen outcomes. When the book falls into the hands of an elderly and villainous Biff Tannen, he executes the same plan to disastrous effect.
Sure, sending your younger self stock tips or sports scores may be an underhanded way to achieve your best life now. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t less scandalous messages you could send which might produce a better result. Here are 6 warnings I would send my younger self.
One of the cool things about writing these columns is that I’m always learning something new. Sometimes it’s reading new things — I’ve been reading a lot about Buddhist yogacara recently — sometimes it’s that I find new ideas as a result of trying to explain something in a column, and sometimes, like today, it’s that I’ve run into something I’d never seen before.
Regular readers know that I’ve suffered for most of my life from depression. In fact, “double depression”, chronic dysthymia with occasional acute episodes of depression. Chronic dysthymia is basically chronic low-level depression, what Shirley Maclaine is talking about in Steel Magnolias when she says “I”m not crazy, I’ve just been in a very bad mood for forty years!”
One of the characteristics of depression is obsessive thoughts: you find yourself obsessively thinking that there’s no hope, that you have failed and will always fail, that you’re unworthy of happiness, worthless, and a burden to yourself, your friends, and your family. For me, one of the striking things about antidepressants, especially Prozac, fluoxetine, the one that has worked best for me, is that my thinking about these things became clearer. I was more able to recognize when I was really unhappy above something, and when it was just depression “thinking me” that way.
So, as I’ve written about suffering and the end of suffering in the last couple of weeks, I’ve realized that there’s a sort of obsessiveness there too. Sitting zazen, meditating, gives you a look at your mental processes. You get yourself settled, you start watching your breath or counting or repeating a mantra, and you find yourself dragged away by other thoughts. You catch yourself dwelling on those thoughts, anticipating or remembering pleasures, worrying about things to come or remembering with embarrassment things that have happened, fantasizing about what you should have said, or what you are going to say.
Those are all examples of the roots of suffering: trishna, “thirst” or “desire”, for pleasant things, desire to avoid unpleasant things, desire to make or control things or simply be something else. I, for example, want to be a dragon.
Check out the previous installments in the evolutions of my 2013 Self-Improvement Experiment:
December 31, 2012: 7 New Year’s Resolutions I Invite Others to Steal
February 2, 2013: The Plan So I Don’t Waste the Last Year of My 20s
April 10: The 13 Weeks Radical Reading Regimen
September 28: The 20 Books in My New To-Blog-About-and-Review Pile
Well, the past few weeks I’ve fallen off the wagon with my 13 Weeks Radical Reading Regimen. I tried to blend my daily reading/blogging series with my book reviews and favorite author promotions. But my challenge as an editor has remained the same: it can be real rough to try and balance editing and writing. Each day will be different and new challenges will emerge that need attention. So the focused time to try and integrate a serious analysis of an author’s book with the news of the day often did not materialize.
But I think I’ve figured out a solution. To define and implement it I’m doing what I mentioned in last week’s preview of the new 13 Weeks Season – stopping the last experiment early and starting new to align with Rhonda, Sarah, and the turn of the seasons. For your own 13 Weeks experiment I recommend trying to start with the seasons and shift your goals according to each season’s opportunities. 13×4=52, BTW.
So for this new attempt to organize my book research, I’m emphasizing a few new components of the strategy. Most important: I’m going to schedule some writing time into the mix — so-called “wild man” writing time. This is when one tells the internal editors and proofreaders to take a coffee break while you focus on writing as much as possible, as quickly as possible, legibility and spelling be damned. Just get the raw, uncensored version of yourself out there and you can rein yourself in and edit when typing later.
One of the ideas that I’ve gradually come to accept and now will attempt to institutionalize is that reading, writing, editing, and publishing are four very different tasks. With the rise of New Media now all four have been squished together. Many writers and bloggers today have grown accustomed to creating media in a perpetual rush to keep up with the gushing news flow and the demands to maximize web traffic for hot stories. These four tasks have been blended together and in today’s tech world one must learn to shift from one incoming task to another every few minutes.
I’ve decided that in order to increase both the quality and quantity of my writing I have to divide up these four tasks so I can intensely focus on each. I’m influenced in this by both Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin and their adoption of the Pomodoro technique. They’ve found success in focusing on single tasks for 25 minutes at a time, then taking a 5-minute break, and then after 4 cycles taking a 20 minute break.
In pursuit of this method I base my 10 revised rules from the foundation Charle established with his original 4 13 Weeks Principles:
By accident, however, I’d noticed a process, or pattern.
Decide there’s something you want to change.
Find ways to measure your progress.
Decide on some small unthreatening things you can do that should affect those measures.
Track the results for 13 weeks and see what happens. It helps to pick appropriate tools and techniques for that tracking, but something as simple as a Seinfeld calendar, where you just draw an X on a calendar for every day you do something can be very powerful.
So for me, in revising my 10 rules (amended last in July here) I’ll keep in mind Charlie’s mold. My answers to the four points:
- I want to change both the quantity and quality of my reading research and daily writing.
- I will blog 5-7 days a week and rather than doing a round-up 5 days a week, I’m just going to do a daily reading journal of the day’s PJM content and other links around the web that jump out.
- I’m hoping that the Pomodoro approach will be the small change that can improve the results.
- In addition to my daily blogging about progress, I’m formalizing a practice I’ve experimented with for a few weeks now. The Wife recommended a new journal — this 600 page whopper. I’ve kept it open throughout the work day and tried to notate more how I spend my time. Some days are more detailed than others…
Well folks its been fun.
This is the final installment of our 13 Weeks to Family Financial Freedom After a Crisis series. Although I can’t honestly say, after just 13 weeks of effort, we are now flying high; I can say we are not in a financial free fall. We are gliding to freedom on the wings of God’s grace–and frankly, the view has been both frightening and exhilarating.
In “5 Rules for Lifting Your Family Out of Economic Hardship” I rolled out my “13 weeks” goals: Track daily my progress on a Seinfeld calendar, write a new budget, assess our lifestyle, cut living expenses by 40 percent and increase our income by at least that much.
Tracking my daily progress on a calendar didn’t work out as planned. Turns out, my inconsistency is the most consistent thing about me. My failure could be attributed to my personality type or the fact that my stated goals for marking-off days needed to be more concrete (low-tech operator error). Did you do it? Yes is an X, no is a blank spot or a “broken chain.” Which is, of course, its original purpose.
It did serve as sort of an invisible timer constantly running in the background of my mind. The designated days combined with weekly progress posts certainly kept me focused. In that, I’m declaring it a success.
The new budget is still in flex, as 13 weeks is only three months of budgeting with an inconsistent and unreliable monthly income. However, it is in place and we are growing more comfortable living within its bounds. I found a combination of using the YNAB, and good old fashion pen and paper works the best for us. We already owned YNAB. I added the phone apps so my husband and I have equal access and responsibility in maintaining the budget.
The only downfall to using YNAB, is that it does not allow you to project income or plan for next month’s bills, that’s where pen and paper comes in handy.
Gone are the days of dining out regularly, recreational shopping and living comfortably under a mortgage. In assessing our lifestyle, I’ve realized the best safety net we can have is a mortgage free home.
In retrospect, the goal of cutting our cost of living by 40 percent is unattainable–expenses fluctuate and there’s no way to cut unexpected expenditures by any percentage. I held a misconceived presupposition that I could control living expenses. Control is almost always an illusion. A more accurate and obtainable goal– remove all unnecessary spending and reassess. Repeat as needed.
The real success of our 13 weeks together didn’t come in achieving my stated goals.
Instead, it was in the lessons I didn’t know I needed to learn.
Organizing Your Creative Life In 13 weeks, week 11
Prolific science fiction novelist Sarah Hoyt follows up her “Your Novel in 13 Weeks” PJ Lifestyle series with a new weekly experiment each Saturday to figure out the best way for all creative types working from home to better organize their efforts.
Week Zero, Introduction: Organizing Your Creative Life In 13 Weeks
Week 1/2, Preparation: The Case For Making Lots of Lists
Week One: How to Make Your Mind Like Water
Week Three: The Lone Writer Against The Time Masters
Week Four: How to Tame Your Subconscious
Week Seven: 4 Tips So You Don’t Organize Yourself to Death
Week Eight: Organizing your Writing Life When Words Fail You
Sometimes I think I suffer from very specialized kinds of memory issues that relate only to symptoms and to how my body works.
At least I hope they’re very specialized memory issues, because if this starts affecting all my memory I’m in serious trouble.
As I’m working on organizing my creative life, which in my case is also my professional life by using Getting Things Done, a penguin timer and a bunch of note cards, I hit a mid-size snag. It’s a snag I’ve hit before, when working on other projects, and yet somehow it took me a few days to figure out what it was.
The week started very well on Monday, with me feeling energized and full of concentration. I figured out what I’d been doing wrong with Through Fire and edited the first chapter. Then I got some stuff edited to go up and listed to the lecture on publicity by Dean Wesley Smith.
It looked like the week was going to go very well.
And then I woke up on Tuesday feeling exhausted. One of those mornings when you go “can I sleep another day or ten?”
I attributed it to the approach of nine eleven and our truly bizarrely tangled national politics. I tried to slug through the day, but all I got done was the piece for PJ Media.
Wednesday was bad, but again I thought “oh, this is just the result of its being 9/11. I’m allowed some grief and depression.”
But on Thursday it felt pretty much the same, only with a curious new symptom. I had the ideas in my head, I knew exactly what I should be doing, but I couldn’t somehow muster enough strength to take the words in my head and put them on paper. I was also having trouble concentrating on such demanding tasks as emptying the dishwasher or folding clothes.
At which point from the dim depths of my memory I got the feeling “I’ve been in this place before.”
It’s already week 10 in our 13 weeks series of financial recovery. This week revealed a side of me that I would prefer to keep covered — my financial underbelly. I got a good look and it’s not pretty. It is solid yellow.
I’ve never really thought of myself as a coward until now. In my first installment, “5 Rules for Lifting Your Family Out of Economic Hardship,” I explained that several years ago, we experienced our first real financial setback. A pulmonary embolism ended my husband’s career in law enforcement. Apparently those two years without income left some emotional scars that went deeper than I realized.
Last week I wrote “Financial Miracles or Happenstance? You Decide,” about the unseen hand that has held us in a firm grip of grace and provision. It’s good to remember the miracles in our lives, an exercise I try to do daily. It reminds me that our Heavenly Father really does care for our needs. However, I’m old enough to know, He cares more about my character and the state of my spiritual health than my bank account.
He also tends to reveal the parts of us that need transformation, as He did this week.
Instead of facing truth head on and setting up my budget before the first dime was spent, as I know to do — instead I hid behind an illusion of a “big pot” of money.
Let me explain.
Real change in life is hard. In fact, it’s so hard it seldom happens without a major paradigm shift.
Life changing events can range from a death in the family to a health crisis to a job loss. However, too often, we don’t realize that we do have some say in how our circumstances change us.
We can’t stop tragedy. What we can do is use the force of it to generate the power needed to alter our circumstances for the better. There are some things that are so entrenched in our lives that it takes the energy of a crisis to give us the strength to correct it.
Health issues easily fall into that category. For example, a treadmill doesn’t look so much like an instrument of torture after a heart attack scare.
The good news is that we don’t have to wait for a crisis to change our lives. As human beings we hold the unique power to shape our future. We alone have the ability to envision a life beyond our current reality.
What’s even more amazing– we can create that vision.
Pick an area of your life you want to change. Is it your health? What about your career? Or your relationship with your spouse or children. All of these seemingly fixed areas of life are subject to change at any given moment.
Why not be your own catalyst for change?
At the risk of sounding like I’m channeling George Carlin, this week I’ve thought a lot about grocery shopping.
Have you ever thought about just how phenomenal grocery shopping in America really is? We walk into a large (and climate-controlled) building and push huge metal baskets on wheels down aisle after aisle lined with food. We can even fill that basket with produce that’s in season and out of season, from countries all around the world.
Not so long ago, grocery shopping for me meant pushing one overflowing shopping cart while dragging another behind. Then I would hit the local Sam’s Club and buy what would be, for most people, a lifetime supply of peanut butter and several restaurant-size cans of tomato sauce, not to mention the industrial-size package of toilet paper. I would repeat the process just two weeks later.
I prided myself on the fact that I could feed ten of us on less money than did the average hypothetical American family with only 2.6 children. When you throw in the homeschooling factor, you realize I made three meals a day plus snacks because my children were home all day — eating.
Feeding everyone well, for as little as possible, was my primary goal. Nutrition (and saving money) meant cooking mostly from scratch. However, things have changed — our family has changed.
Now nutrition not only means cooking from scratch, but, due to my husband’s health, it also means gluten-free, MSG-free, and primarily organic.
Pondering the fact that we do live in abundance, that we have access to all the healing herbs and nutrient-dense foods from around the world, makes me so thankful for God’s blessings. However, I’m also keenly aware of how expensive it is.
So the challenge this week is to maintain a high standard of nutrition, while slashing our grocery budget by $250.00 a month.
Here’s the plan…
Is the above quote true? Should you do more than you get paid for, hoping that you will eventually be paid for more than you do?
While it may at first sound like an expression of good work ethic, this quote proves not only incorrect, but dangerous. People who take it to heart could find themselves stuck on a path to nowhere.
Certainly, we make all manner of investments which do not produce immediate or guaranteed returns. Education and advertisement come to mind. Internships and apprenticeships involve work for little if any pay while students develop their skills in a practical environment. But none of that really amounts to doing more than you get paid for in hopes of getting paid for more than you do.
To truly do more than you get paid for is to sacrifice, trading a greater value for a lesser one. Investments in education, marketing, or the capital requirements of a business do not amount to sacrifices. Time spent studying for a big test or money spent trolling for new customers serves a valuable interest. Likewise, interning without monetary compensation provides an opportunity to develop both skills and a professional network. That has value. That value substitutes for a paycheck. Otherwise, if the value received was not perceived as greater than that expended, no one would agree to intern. Certainly, work done to produce a long-term value has virtue. But long-term value is still value, not “more than you’re paid for.”
The belief that you ought to provide a greater value than you receive in hopes of one day receiving a greater value than you provide stands on no principle. If doing more than you get paid to proves virtuous, then seeking to get paid for more than you do would prove wicked. Given that paradox, why would you do either? More to the point, why would anyone ever pay you more to do less?
Like a lot of writers, I really like having written, and I suspect like a lot of writers, I love the feeling of writing when it’s going well. But I hate trying to write, or starting to write.
Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead. — Gene Fowler
So, I’ll tell you one of the keys to writing: you have to give yourself permission to write badly. Then go ahead and write, because you simply can’t write something you like until you have at least written something.
- You decide you need to do something.
- You get a kitchen timer and set it for 25 minutes.
- For that 25 minutes, you do the task you started, and refuse to do anything else. (There will be inevitable distractions and I’ll talk about those momentarily.)
- At the end of 25 minutes, if you’re not done, you take a five minute break.
In a sense, this is the same pattern as a 13 Weeks Experiment, although much quicker: pick something you want to do, pick how to do it, do it for a short interval, then stop and re-evaluate (“pivot or persevere”).
It’s called the Pomodoro technique — Italian for “tomato” — because Francesco Cirillo, the inventor of the method, happened to have a tomato-shaped kitchen timer, and is Italian.
So, here’s how it works. I’m working on my first pomodoro on this article, which I figure will, as usual, take me about 2 pomodori. I set a timer, and start it ticking. Now I look at the blank page.
This is a “drops of blood on the forehead stage” and it’s by far the hardest thing for me. I’ve learned, however, that I can always write something badly, and with only 25 minutes, I can start and if I still hate it at the end of 25 minutes, I can toss it, or mine it for anything I do like. The ticking noise keeps me aware that I’m working on a time limit, and when I get distracted, I just say “I can do that in a few minutes.” After 25 minutes, I’ve accumulated some number of words — I type at about 60 words a minute, so with luck I’ve got 1500 words. A lot of times, though, by that time I’m feeling like I’m rolling, and will keep going until I feel a lagging in my energy; I often will set the timer back to 25 minutes again at that point, basically skipping the break. I never skip two breaks though.
At the break, I get up and do something — get more coffee, go to the bathroom, walk around a little — and go back to work for another 25 minute tomato. Or, more recently, I get up and do a 4 minute Tabata workout, something I’ve talked about in my 13 Weeks column before. I now have a collection of Tabata timing songs on my digital music, so I’ll play one song and do some kind of workout. At the end of the song, I’ve had a break and gotten away a little bit; I come back able to go to work again.
Organizing Your Creative Life in 13 Weeks: Week 5
Prolific science fiction novelist Sarah Hoyt follows up her “Your Novel in 13 Weeks” PJ Lifestyle series with a new weekly experiment each Saturday to figure out the best way for all creative types working from home to better organize their efforts.
Week Zero, Introduction: Organizing Your Creative Life In 13 Weeks
Week 1/2, Preparation: The Case For Making Lots of Lists
Week One: How to Make Your Mind Like Water
Week Two: What Are the Best Apps For Artists and Writers Desperate To Get Work Done?
Week Three: The Lone Writer Against The Time Masters
Week Four: How to Tame Your Subconscious
Before you ask, no, my marriage is not in trouble and no separation is contemplated, though the lessons of this week do have to do with my marriage. In fact they have to do with our 28th anniversary, which we celebrated last weekend by going away for three days together at a hotel.
Yes, I can see all of you wrinkling your noses and getting ready to scream TMI. But it’s not. It relates to both writing and organization.
Since both of us are writers, we decided to make this – besides some time together without our kids, cats and household duties – a writing weekend.
This is something we used to do way back when, by getting a joint babysitter for our children and our best friends’ children, collecting all the kids in their house and all the writers in ours, and spending three days in concentrated writing, broken only by dinner out. In the last one of those Rebecca and Alan Lickiss and Dan and I held, we each wrote an average of twenty thousand words after revision.
So I knew that worked when you had the synergy of several writers together and working. What I didn’t know was that it could also work when it was just the two of us. It seems particularly unlikely that it would have any real effect since at this point our children are 22 and 18 and so rarely require that we stop them drawing on walls or even taking apart our electronics to see how they work. The cats are a little more trouble, particularly the one who is going through an excessively clingy phase, but surely – surely – going away and just writing isn’t that much of an improvement?
Every Saturday morning at PJ Lifestyle, join parenting writer Rhonda Robinson as she documents her strategies for getting her family’s finances back into shape. Check out the previous installments in her ongoing series:
Week 3: Keeping Afloat With A Budget
This week was rough.
I had to remind myself of a conversation I had a couple years ago with a young man from Kenya.
He had a basketball scholarship at Vanderbilt University. His girlfriend was a good friend of my daughter. The couple came to our home to visit for the first time. He was extremely tall, a mild mannered guy with a huge smile. Teasingly I asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up.
He explained he was getting his degree in social work. “Not a lot of money in that,” I chuckled.
He just flashed a blindingly bright smile and looked down shaking his head. “That’s ok,” he said. “I’m not really in it for the money. I just really want to help people.”
At that moment I realized something and asked, “Poor in Kenya is a lot different than poor in America, isn’t it?”
He laughed, then said with a more somber tone, “Poor in Kenya means you have a dirt floor if you’re lucky enough to have a house.” He described the conditions that people in his home town live in.
It was then I realized that my idea of poor meant I don’t get to have what I want when I want it. I have to wait, maybe even save for it. That’s not really poor. I have a lot to be thankful for.
Even when we were our “poorest,” we still owned a home. I’ve never looked into my children’s eyes and saw hunger that I couldn’t feed. During that time, we also owned and maintained a vehicle. My family had everything we needed, but not everything we wanted.
By most standards around the world, I’m rich. In fact, I’m so rich that I can drive my car into a separate room of my house. Clean water is at my fingertips, and fresh food grows in my yard.
For most of us, being poor in America is more a frame of mind than real poverty.
Week One: Relaxing with the Regency
These last two weeks I’ve been trying to get over something weird that I picked up at a con, complicated by an asthma attack caused by stress.
You know those things you do when you’re feeling out of it and you want to boost your mood?
My very favorite thing is going for a walk, which is actually good for me, but which is impossible when I’m not taking in enough oxygen, or when it’s way too cold out, or when there’s too much smoke in the air.
For those days there are “guilty pleasures.” Particularly guilty pleasures that reduce my stress. So over the next ten weeks, I’m going to take some time off every weekend to enjoy one of my favorite “guilty pleasures.”
My number one guilty pleasure is the 1995 A & E mini-series of Pride and Prejudice.
First of all, Jane Austen has long been a favorite of mine, far before I found any of the dramatic representations of her work. In fact my (not so) secret shame is that I used to write Jane Austen Fanfic at Derbyshire Writers’ Guild before I was published. In fact one of the stories started there, with my friend Sofie Skapski, has been edited and published as A Touch Of Night – pride, prejudice, dragons and werewolves… oh my. (And that cover is slated to be replaced, because really, what we didn’t know about cover design back then could fill several specialty books.)
So why is Pride and Prejudice a guilty pleasure?
Because since 1995 I’ve watched it so many times that even my sons know the lines by heart (a facility that will stand them in good stead when they get married.) Because, the story is almost too girly for words and, in a way, the classical Cinderella story: Elizabethan Bennet the second of five daughter of an impoverished country squire, endowed with little more than her wit finds herself pursued by Mr. Darcy, who has ten thousand pounds a year and is as good as a lord!
Before this particular version of Pride And Prejudice was released, I enjoyed the BBC 1980 version which I watched with my mother the year I got married.
The BBC Pride and Prejudice is quite acceptable – but it fails in comparison to the sparkling dialogue and movement of the A&E version. And the actor playing Mr. Darcy has been blessed in our house with the cognomen R2DDarcy.
And, of course, no woman in possession of her full faculties approves of the movie version of Pride and Prejudice which bestowed on us an Elizabeth Bennet who would never need to tuck lace, (the manner of hiding a rather too ample bossom, which Jane Austen explicitly says Elizabeth used) and who walked barefoot in the mire, not to mention ending with the very Un-Austen line about everyone being fools in love. In fact, a group of us at Derbyshire Writers’ Guild declared an Austenite fatwah on anyone preferring the movie to one of the mini-series. A group of us will show up on your front lawn, carrying rock-hard muffins and bad tea! You’ve been warned.
For the full Pride and Prejudice guilty pleasure, I recommend the A & E mini-series, some fancy work to keep your hands occupied, and either your Austen-addicted best female friend or, if you should be so lucky (I am) your husband. Sit down. Turn on the TV and let your cares fly away as you immerse yourself in a timeless tale of love and misunderstanding which, like all good fairytales, ends happily ever after.
When I stepped off the plane, the air hit me like a slap with a wet towel. I hadn’t been in Texas for years, and coming from Erie Colorado’s 63 degrees, San Antonio was a bit of a shock.
Yes, team, I have managed to put myself in San Antonio on the first day of the new experiment. A good friend from graduate school is marrying, and wanted me to dust off my old Universal Life Church ordination and perform a mildly Buddhist wedding. Right now, I’m in a pleasantly old-fashioned motor inn with knotty pine furniture and an air conditioner laboring diligently in the bedroom half of the room, and I’m reflecting on the old saying that life is what happens when you’re making other plans.
In my case, life is what happens when you’re trying to start an experiment. Still, unless I want to develop agoraphobia, I have to come out of my little circumscribed life every so often,
Although sometimes claiming agoraphobia is an interesting option.
So, I’m starting the next 13 week experiment anyway, and here’s my final offer of what I’m going to do. The hypothesis: a somewhat higher-carb diet, along with intermittent fasting, will result in more sustained weight loss without adversely affecting my blood sugar. The measure here, of course, is weight, and I’ll continue measuring that every morning, nude, within 30 minutes after getting up. Okay, I admit it, I care about the weight. I’ll also be taking at least daily blood glucose readings with the Bayer USB glucometer; that records everything.
Preparing for my third 13-week season, working to lose weight, control my Type 2 diabetes, and improve my health. You can follow me at my 13 Weeks Facebook page for daily updates, and you can join Fitocracy (free!) and follow my daily exercise, and maybe even start tracking your own. A new 13 week experiment starts June 1 2013. Join in!
Okay, this is a long one, just to warn you. Here’s the basics:
I’ve been rethinking these 13 week sessions and how to do them; I’ve written a new explanation.
I’m starting to see how the emotional part plays into the issue.
I’ve used the pattern as I now see it to start planning my next 13 weeks, and provided that as a “worked example” for other people who want to try it.
I’m looking for people to volunteer to try a 13 week experiment of their own, and possibly to try a web site meant to support 13 week experiments. Volunteers should mail me at email@example.com
Now on with today’s show.
As I said last week, I’m taking a little bit of a vacation from attempting to strictly follow some eating plan while I think about my results and what to do next.
The vacation has been interesting. I gave in to one of the things I’d been missing, and had a McDonald’s Double Quarter Pounder and large fries for lunch, the same day I was going to my niece’s daughter’s first birthday party. Then at the party, I had a nice piece of cake as well as a bunch of things that were actually low carb.
From this I learned two things: I don’t actually like McDonalds as much as I used to, and I really can manage to drive my blood sugar up to the 230′s with carrot cake. But this was a momentary indulgence, especially since I, sure enough, had some of my old stomach troubles for a couple days afterwards.
As they say in Shangri-La, “Everything in moderation — including moderation.”
In the mean time, though, I’ve been thinking a lot about the experiments, and about the emotional/psychological/spiritual aspects of what I’ve been learning. (Let me just say, I don’t really believe there is a difference between the emotional, the psychological, and the spiritual. We’re not made up of a lot of pieces; what we’re thinking is what we’re thinking, and what we’re feeling is what we’re feeling, all together.)
What I’ve realized is that when I started my first 13 week experiment, I was groping toward something that would let me make changes in a way that didn’t scare me with the prospect of endless and unproductive deprivation, didn’t shame me as so many diets had done in the past, didn’t blame me for the lifelong problems I’ve had with weight, and gave me some emotional support in the process.
For me, writing about it has been a good bit of that support — I learned from Twelve Step programs that sometimes the best support you can get is by honestly admitting to the problems and your feelings about them.
Another big part of the support has turned out to be the rooting you, my readers, have been doing for me, and the sense that by talking about this I’m actually helping other people.
I hope to help other people use the things I’ve learned, and that means I need to figure out how to explain them. I’ve made a couple of previous attempts, but in this week’s thought I have what I think is a better explanation.
The First Insight
This is really what got me started: my first insight was not to think of a diet, not to think of of a weight-loss goal, but just to think of performing an experiment. I now realize that this was a first step in insulating myself from the years of fear and shame that had accompanied Dieting.
Above the desk I work on every day there is a Culpeper Minutemen Flag, a Dream Board, a Ronald Reagan bumper sticker autographed by Ann Coulter, and 10 slogans. I spend hours of each day with those slogans in the corner of my eye, burning into my brain.
Because we’re constantly being hit with other people’s slogans. Advertising jingles, billboards, songs, TV shows, comments from friends, orders from the boss — all of those are being inputted into our subconscious each day.
Well, it’s important for us to control some of the information that goes into our brain as well. Here are the slogans I find so essential that I want to be exposed to them daily.
1) On attitude: “When a lion wants to go somewhere, he doesn’t worry about how many hyenas are in the way.”
2) A standard: “If every day was like today, would it be enough to achieve my goals for 2013?”
3) On dedication:
“7 months straight. No stopping, no maintenance weeks, no cheat meals. Why? Because if someone beat me, I didn’t want to look back at any cheat meals and ask ‘what if.’ I did what it took every single day, and THAT is why I looked the way I did. You either want it or you don’t. Just so you know, there wasn’t a day that went by in the last 8-10 weeks of that prep where I didn’t want just ONE extra yogurt, or 5 less intervals of cardio. But, I was not going to be outworked! I was NOT going to be denied! And you know what? It was all worth it.” – Tommy Jefferson
Week 13 of my second 13 week season: low-carb diet and more exercise, tracking my weight, blood glucose, and body fat. You can follow me at my 13 Weeks Facebook page for daily updates, and you can join Fitocracy (free!) and follow my daily exercise, and maybe even start tracking your own.
We’re now in the last week of my second 13-week experiment. I’m planning another 13 weeks and I want to talk about what I’m going to change and why, but first I think it might be useful to look back at when I started this, six months ago:
It struck me just a couple weeks ago. I’m 57, weigh 300 pounds, massively deconditioned, verging on type II diabetes if not actually there, and I don’t want to die.
It’d been a hard year. A year ago this week, my mother had a heart attack, and over the ensuring months failed and died, passing away on 11 January, two days before her 77th birthday. Following that, I had a succession of illnesses that put me in the hospital for a day, four times between January and August. One of those times was with pneumonia, and as my friends all insisted on reminding me, “you can die from that!”
A sense of mortality struck me on my birthday, 57 this year; arithmetic started showing up for me. My father died in 1994, at 69. That’s only 12 years older than I am now. Mom at 77, only 20 years older than I am now.
Now, my Dad weighed in the neighborhood of 450 lbs when he died, and he smoked. My Mom, around 200 lbs and she’d smoked heavily, drunk heavily, and generally been rode hard and put up wet nearly her whole life. I’ve got some advantages, since I don’t drink or smoke; on the other hand, I’ve been struggling with my weight since I was literally 6 years old. You can hear a lot of bad diet advice in 50 years.
The long and short of it is that I want to change this and need to change this, and there’s relatively new science that suggests there are better, faster, more efficient ways to change this. So I’m doing an experiment: for 13 weeks, which I plan to start a week from today, 4 November 2012, I’m going to start an experiment where I’ll be keeping a very low carb, more or less “paleo” diet, and doing “high intensity interval training” and “high intensity strength training” two sessions a week. This scheme has good reasons behind it, biochemically and otherwise.
Then I’m writing about it, and I’m going very public with it, so, frankly, it’ll be too embarrassing to quit.
And I have changed my situation. I’ve lost 30 pounds, 10 percent of my bodyweight. My blood sugar is down, way down. (As we saw a couple weeks ago, maybe a little too far down.) I have been more successful with exercise, if not astoundingly successful. And my health is definitely better, both by objective medical measures and just in the way I feel. But I’d still like to lose maybe another 50 pounds, and I’d like to get completely off diabetes meds. And I’m bored with what I had been doing.
Here’s the basics of the next 13 week experiment:
- I’m going to change over to Tim Ferris’s Slow Carb Diet as defined by his 5 rules. Now, that’s kind of the Reader’s Digest Condensed version of his full diet plan, but I like simple things. Also, his full-fledged diet cuts out dairy and I like cheese. This is still low-carb, although not quite as low, but with the episodes of hypoglycemia I’m hoping to maybe level out by blood sugar some.
- I’m going to pick out two (gasp) goals: by the end of this 13 weeks I want to do 100 pushups in a row, and I want to do at least one unassisted pull up. I’m going to continue to track my Fitocracy points and plan to get 2000 points or more a week.
- I will continue to track weight and glucose, and I’ll make a full set of body measurements at the beginning and end of the 13 weeks. Measuring body fat is going overboard; I’ll talk more about it next week, but basically I don’t think any method I’ve got easily available is turning out to be either precise or accurate.
- I’m going to concentrate more on mental, or if you will spiritual, aspects. As part of that in a way I’ll explain in a minute, I’m going to ask those of you who are inclined to try to change something in your life to join in. We’ll talk a lot more about coaching and support; I’ll also want to know what tools you feel would help you perform a 13 week experiment of your own.
The mental/spiritual idea is, I suspect, a surprise. It sure as hell was to me: Dave Swindle, who edits the Lifestyle section, suggested it to me as an addition for the next experiment and — well, I replied “Hm. I’ll think about it.” but what I meant was “Don’t like it, no.” But there was a chain of events I didn’t know was happening. Dave had put the idea in my head. I recently became enamored of the Brazilian novelist Paulo Coehlo, and was reading his book Aleph. (I recommend Coelho, by the way, even if he did get noticed because Bill Clinton was reading his book The Alchemist.) Aleph is a sort of fictionalized (I think) biography; in a powerful scene, in a ritual in a church Coehlo asks a woman he wronged in the past for forgiveness. Then she continues by spontaneously saying essentially the same words, forgiving herself for past wrongs she had done to herself.
Reading that, I had one of those moments of visceral, pleasurable electricity, and I realized that there had been an emotional theme I’d been working on during the last 26 weeks. Part of it was seeing the ways I’d been hurt by things said about my weight and appearance, general lack of athletic motivation, extreme nerdiness and the emotional distance that comes with long-term depression. I’ve devoted a column on several occasions to various kinds of baggage, including that column about the car wreck, which I found hard to write because it felt like I was admitting to failings.
Reading Aleph, I realized there was a central theme: I needed to forgive myself for sometimes being imperfect.
1. Belief in God Is Logical. God’s Fingerprints Cover the Universe. It Is Irrational to Believe That the Universe Was Created Out of Nothingness.
Dear [Insert Name of Your Secularist Friend or Family Member Who Does Not Understand Why You No Longer Share Their Hatred of Traditional Religion Anymore],
It seems like our arguments on Facebook and over email have been increasing lately with all the horrific news stories. And again you continue to misunderstand why I approach the stories of the day from Kermit Gosnell to the Boston Bombers with a good and evil, Bible-based perspective.
One of the best places online you can go to better understand my approach to these issues is Prager University. Every month they release two five-minute courses designed to educate people in a quick, entertaining way about history, philosophy, religion, and politics. I discovered Prager University’s videos when I noticed that they decided to start featuring every new one at PJ Lifestyle, a publication that I enjoy reading which shares the same goals of reaching out and engaging with the culture at large instead of just preaching to the choir.
I’ve collected six of Prager University’s videos on God and religion, starting with their newest one above that they just released yesterday featuring Boston College philosophy professor Peter Kreeft answering the question “God or Atheism — Which is More Rational?” I hope if you want to understand better how it is that I’ve come to reject your ideology and returned to faith in the God of the Bible you would consider these videos along with these six points I’ve written in relation to them.