Writing Pro-Tip: Have an Idea File

So, new writer pro-tip for you and for me. If you’re interested in capturing new ideas when they arrive, here’s a suggestion: have an idea file. Write it down on paper, as a Word doc, in an email – doesn’t matter. Just be in the habit of writing those ideas down when they arrive. Here’s why:

I see tweets like this all the time from other authors:

I can’t imagine whose purpose it serves to admit that you might not be a non-stop idea factory, but that’s another topic. Like a lot of other creative people, I want to do this for a living and so I have to be in the habit of capturing ideas when they happen. A lot of them happen in – surprise, surprise – my dreams. Yeah, I have some pretty intense dreams. Are they story-worthy? Well, that’s a longer question.

Fact is, I don’t dream in a coherent narrative. I had a pretty big one this morning before I woke up, something freakish and terrifying based on every alien movie I’ve ever seen. Usually, I decide that they aren’t worth keeping because I can’t make them into a story but today I decided to do something different.

As soon as I got up, I wrote down everything I could remember about the dream. What I saw, what I heard, how it felt. Then I saved it in my ‘Idea.File’ folder. Maybe the dream can be something that prompts a short story. Maybe it will be something to help me describe a later scene. Either way, now I’ve got a productive way to mine those subconscious sensations that would otherwise be lost to the fog of memory.

Sound familiar? It should – it’s similar to what Salvador Dali used to do. According to this Fast Company article, Dali would hold a key in his hand as he fell into a deep sleep. Once he was asleep, his hand would relax and drop the key onto a plate. The resulting ‘clang’ would wake Dali up again, ready to get back to work with fresh ideas brought up by his subconscious.

‘Does it matter if I write this stuff down?’ I have no idea, this is simply an exercise, learning to write down ideas and thoughts that may turn into something later. Jerry Seinfeld keeps a notepad next to his bed in case he thinks of something funny during the night, so who am I to argue with that?

To wrap up, this sounds like an idea that might work for me and also for you. Passing it along so that we can all make our stories that much better. Write on!

Your Emotional Crisis Plan for The Rise of Skywalker

Your Emotional Crisis Plan for The Rise of SkywalkerWhoa, I did not expect that. Advanced reviews are trickling in and the critics sound as though Rise of Skywalker is more like the Ruse of Skywalker. According to at least one review, TRoS is ‘completely manic,’  and according to another this last installment of the franchise is “a sterling, shiny example of what Martin Scorsese would call ‘not cinema.'” When critics, who typically fall over themselves to faun over Star Wars, are lining up to stick knives into the movie, it’s a sign that we should plan for some type of Internet-wide emotional crisis. Star Wars outrage can spawn crazy, worldwide meltdowns.

How do we deal with the anger, the anxiety, and the disappointment?

First, let’s take a step back. TRoS is supposed to be, on some level, a response to the fan backlash in ‘The Last Jedi.’ The given understanding is that ‘The Last Jedi’ was a polarizing film that challenged what you believed about Star Wars. To that I say yeah, that’s what art is supposed to do. Rian Johnson got in our face and said “What do you really think this is about?” ‘The Last Jedi’ was about the story we needed to hear, not the story we wanted to hear. It made us feel something, it made us think, and it made us appreciate Star Wars on a new level. To that, I said, ‘bravo.’ That is what art is supposed to do.

Maybe the world wasn’t ready for that. That’s cool. Maybe we can look at this as a teachable moment for science fiction. You might take the opportunity to examine your artistic aspirations for this, and future scifi stories. To put it another way, when you go to a gallery, do you want to see Kandinksy and Monet, or do you want Thomas Kinkade? You can’t have both, you can’t have a ‘Kandinksy with the appeal of a Kinkade.’ That’s not how art works.

But to get us past this moment, the emotional surge of either love, bitterness, or outrage, mental health professionals will tell you that it’s valuable to have an emotional crisis plan. ECPs are designed to guide you through low moments and struggles. They help us respond effectively to stress, disappointment, and anxiety. How can we use this strategy to get us through the opening weekend of The Rise of Skywalker?

I have a few suggestions, and maybe you have others you’d like to share. First, let’s learn to manage ourselves or our tightly-wound friends:

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The Falcon Explains Why Movies Suck

If you can’t listen to me, listen to a superhero. Movies are products, and products have to sell to succeed.

The line between art and commerce has always been hotly contested. However, the truth is it’s more blurred than ever before. As you go into the theater, listen to this guy and keep your expectations realistic.

 

Mesh Networking: How It Works

So yes, Mesh takes its name from ‘mesh networking.’ Non-nerdy types might immediately wonder after finishing the book, ‘is this real? Can a mesh work?’ The answer to both questions is yes – mesh networking is totally real and can totally work. Let’s talk about the why’s and how’s in a handy little format for future reference.

Number one, let’s give out some technical terms in a very Explain Like I’m Five format. A node is a single device in a network, a link is the thing that connects two nodes, and a topology is the arrangement of nodes and links in a network. For example, the the picture on the right represents a topology’ of nodes and links. Nodes and links can take many forms, and a topology can take any form to represent how everything is connected together.

You’re used to seeing that in pictures of the Internet. Your computer or phone connects to a wireless router or network cable. From there, everything is routed and switched depending on what you want to do. This is all controlled, more or less, by specific organizations or companies with their own ideas of how a network is supposed to function (For example, AT&T, the FCC, or ICANN). With me so far? Okay.

Okay, now imagine that the Internet is broken. Or, you can’t use it, or you don’t want to use it. Does that mean your computer is useless? Of course not. It just means you can’t get to specific things that the Internet connects you to. You can still print, or transfer files back and forth between two computers on the sample simple network. Now imagine that everyone is in the same boat as you. They’ve got a small local network, but they can’t get to outside services like the Internet which means they’re disconnected from Twitter, Netflix or Google. What now?

This is where a mesh network comes in. A mesh can take advantage of the bluetooth or Wifi tech in your phone to broadcast info within a small range (100-200 meters). Each device then takes responsibility for being both the node, and the link at the same time. Put enough of these meshed devices together, and you’ve got a groovy little Internet of your own. No special tools, no crazy skills required.

People are already making use of mesh tech. Serval, and Firechat are both apps that exist to allow simple message and file transfer between anyone. Sonnet is working on their own mesh Wifi hot spots. We can expect more complex tools in the future.

In fact, Mesh networking can even work with old Ham radios. According to Offgridsurvival.com, ‘radio operators were using an internet of their own called Packet Radio. Packet Radio allows Hams to send files, update bulletin board systems, send text messages and even control remote systems and networks via their radios. Should some catastrophic event ever occur that takes out the internet, Packet Radio technology can still be used to link remote stations and form an ad hoc network — or emergency internet of sorts.’

So there you have it. Mesh is totally real, and totally do-able. The Internet has grown and changed over the years, with a view toward transparency and control. In Mesh, the kids decide find mesh networking to be a powerful weapon against the bad guys. It may be something you can find useful in your day-to-day life!

 

 

References

Star Trek – When Nerds Nerd Out

Star Trek - When Nerds Nerd OutThis /r/bestof post answered a question for me that I never knew I was asking: What *is* the Prime Directive? An anthropologist provides a detailed, nerdy answer and the results will totally blow your mind. No, I’m serious: prepare to have your melon bent. Here’s a quick preview:

“The problem here is that Star Trek, for as “enlightened” as it seems, essentially has adopted a 19th century perspective on social / cultural change, enhanced with some early 20th century Boasian concepts.

“The basic premise behind the Prime Directive is species have their own developmental trajectories, and that Starfleet / the Federation / other species shouldn’t interfere with that. So far so good. That’s moderately Boasian in its perspective.”

And then …

“[T]he idea of a society’s “natural development” is very much predicated on 19th century unilineal evolutionary ideas, that all societies develop along a single technological and social continuum. Even worse, the Federation and Starfleet enforce this by refusing planets’ admission to the organization if they don’t conform to certain criteria. And they use this as a bludgeon at times, as with the 3rd season episode, “The Hunted,” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Hunted_(Star_Trek:_The_Next_Generation)) in which a society seeking admission to the Federation is refused admission because, to human Captain Picard, their means of waging war (super soldiers who are not properly reintegrated into society after their usefulness is over) is not palatable. The implication is that societies must change if they want admission, which comes with huge economic and technological benefits.

“As one character remarked (in an episode I don’t recall, but I think it was DS9, and maybe Quark), “at least with the Borg, you know where you stand. The Federation does the same thing, but is far more insidious.”

“While we could argue that many of the Federation’s stipulations are reasonable, there’s a significant amount of ethnocentrism at play here. Earth / human morality and ethics are always treated as monolithic, and are also always (well, almost always) treated as the default.”

And believe me, this is the Cliff Notes version. Go finish reading this delightful, yet insightful discussion on alien contact. Your brain will dissolve into a chewy mouthful of scifi nerdery, and you’ll be a better person for it.

What Is the Prime Directive?

Story is All We Have Left

Well that’s it folks. A million cinematographers just cried out in terror. Took me a few to collect my thoughts, but here’s the bottom line: what you’re going to see in this video is the end of conventional film-making. After spending hundreds of hours on set, watching them build and light sets, I’m in total shock. This is a total game changer. This is what happens when you disrupt. This is means that in the near-future, story will be the only thing we have left. Watch the video, and then let me explain.

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