On Understanding Other People

He wouldn’t stop talking.

He was average height, with a gray beard and hair. He wore glasses and a Bluetooth device over his right ear. When I teach a class, I’m normally the only man in the room wearing a jacket and tie, but he was the exception. He arrived at quarter to eight for a class scheduled to start at 8:30, and he started talking.

In addition to teaching the class that morning in Albany, I also had to monitor it. For those who have never attended an insurance agent continuing education class in New York (I’m guessing that’s most of you), there are normally two people in charge – an instructor and a monitor. The monitor makes sure everyone signs in, presents photo I.D., makes the announcements, distributes completion certificates at the end, and basically deals with any issues that arise (the temperature in the classroom being the most common.) I very much dislike having to act as both the instructor and the monitor. As the person who has to deliver the content and answer questions on my feet for four hours, I already have plenty on my mind. I don’t like having to deal with all the logistical issues on top of that. Nevertheless, my employer could not find an available monitor in Albany for that class, so I pulled double duty. Continue reading

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For Your Late Summer Reading Pleasure

With just one week left until Labor Day, there’s still time to sneak in some good summer reading. Courtesy of EssayShark.com, here is a list of 10 summer books. Take a look and discuss in the comments what they got right and wrong and what you would add to the list.

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The Art of Juggling Writing Projects

Five Salty Balls

Photo by Gabriel Rojas Hruska. Used under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 license.

Tee Morris discusses a problem that most of us struggle with – too many projects going on:

You’ve got project upon project, and suddenly you are at the point where I find myself presently. It’s not what you want to work on but more about what you need to work on. This may seem like an easy call to make but if any of these projects-in-progress carry multiple deadlines, the decision process gets a little trickier.

And here’s the thing about us crazy, kooky creative types: we love to do a lot of things at once. It makes us feel productive. It makes us feel accomplished. It makes us feel alive. The problem comes in when you can’t make a deadline, and poor organization can lead to missed delivery dates which can lead to a reputation of commitment but not coming through on your promises. Falling back on “I am so poorly organized…” really is a lame-ass excuse, too. If you want to get organized, you’re going to have to nut up and take control of your projects before your projects take control of you; or start controlling you more than how they are currently.

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Science Made Fun by Mary Roach

Mary Roach

Mary Roach, sans plastic rectum and anus

One of the great things about living in Syracuse is the Rosamond Gifford Lecture Series. A fundraiser for the Friends of the Central Library, the series brings in six authors a year, spaced throughout the fall and spring, to give lectures. I attended my first one last year, when Neil Gaiman came to town. Judging from the size of the crowd, I can safely guess that it was a sellout. This year’s lineup featured Erik Larson, Scott Simon, Mark Bittman, Daniel Handler, and Julia Alvarez. And science writer Mary Roach. Continue reading

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On Our Devotion To Sports Teams

The axe fell on my beloved Syracuse University Orange men’s basketball team last Friday. After an investigation that commenced when my oldest son was a high school senior (he is now a practicing attorney,) the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s committee on infractions handed down penalties that, by any standard, are quite severe. The Orange loses three scholarships in each of the next four seasons; coach Jim Boeheim, who is an icon in Central New York, is suspended for the first half of the 2016 Atlantic Coast Conference schedule; a large number of wins (the exact number is in dispute) are stripped from the team’s record for the past 10 years; and the university must return revenues reported at more than $1 million. Continue reading

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Awards, and Why My Insecure Mind Wants Them







Chuck Wendig has a good take on the annual awards season in which we are now knee-deep:

Awards are not infallible.

The best book will not always win an award.

The best book sometimes won’t ever even be nominated.

Sometimes, it will be nominated, and it will win, and you’ll cheer — at the same time someone else boos that very same decision. The book you love isn’t a book everyone loves. And vice versa.

Awards are subjective, strange, and imperfect.

They’re not the whole elephant; they’re just a blood sample.

And at the same time: awards are awesome. The people who win them? Awesome for them. And deserved. Those who are nominated but lose? Awesome for them, too. And also deserved. Those who are never nominated? Hey, fuck it — awesome for you, because you’re out there writing books and reaching an audience and doing what you fucking love to do. You didn’t win an award? Most people didn’t. A hundred other amazing authors and books and pieces of art failed to win awards. Most failed to even score nominations. You’re in good company. Continue reading

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The Kindness of Strangers

I think this is a wonderful story from The Moth. A celebrity reaches out to a stranger and does a very nice thing just when the stranger needs it most. This particular celebrity had a reputation for being a prickly personality. Just goes to show that we are all complex people with our bad sides and our good.

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Too Many Main Characters?

I have a problem with the novel I’m writing, and I think David Farland put his finger on it in his blog post yesterday:

The important thing here is to keep a limit on the number of viewpoint characters. Two or three main characters is plenty for an average novel of 80,000 to 90,000 words. If you try to handle six or seven, you’ll find that your novel expands to a couple hundred thousand words very quickly.

So keep the number of viewpoint characters down to a manageable level.

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10 Things I’ve Learned From My Latest D&D Campaign

Photo by Alan Alfaro. Used under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 2.0 license.

My game group has been involved in a pretty good campaign for several sessions now. My character is a third-level dwarf barbarian  glory-seeker. Given that my character hasn’t been killed yet (despite the best efforts of my dice), it’s time to reflect on some of the life lessons the little brute has taught me so far. Continue reading

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I Can’t Complain, But Sometimes I Still Do (or, My Pet Peeves)

I realize the big holiday has come and gone for another year, but I say, “Let’s keep the spirit of Festivus alive all year long! Let the airing of grievances commence!” Herewith, some of my pet peeves: Continue reading

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