Related Schemes and Literature

Archive for the category “books”

Live Forever!

With a few provisions. First and foremost is of course that the contract option of eternal afterlife remains in force, subject to the usual conditions. In addition, the choice does not preclude the ability at some future point to learn or discover how to read minds either directly or indirectly, or to profit from either choice. The assumption is that the two options are mutually exclusive only at the time the offer is made and accepted. Re-licensing issues would need to be agreed upon as well.

However, before taking that leap, and signing on, we must pause, ever so briefly, to contemplate the conditions and consequences of each choice in the light of history. Having watched just about every episode of the Twilight Zone (and that includes the hour long ones) growing up, I am instinctively, almost neurotically paranoid when it comes to accepting offers of supernatural powers. Sure, I would like to assume the best of others, but in these cases, the odds are stacked significantly against it. Look at literature throughout the ages as well. In almost every case, you know, just know, who is backing the deal and even if by some miracle the person thus granted such abilities does not lose his or her eternal soul, involved in that process of repentance is a heavy dose of contrition and pain. No thanks! Most of the time, though, the signee loses big. Remember that episode of the Twilight Zone where the guy signed over his soul so that he couldn’t be killed. How long was it until he wound up in jail for murder? And guess what, he got a life sentence (this was back in the day when it really was more of a life sentence than what is meant by the term as used today). Not Good. Game Over. Dr. Faustus, though refusing to drag his love down with him, did not make it himself, but was only to be consoled that she, in her death had gained heaven.

Now, in the past few decades, there has been a trend toward adapting this deal with the devil in order to downplay the impending doom. It is a dead cert in these modern stories that the main character is going to have a change of heart and be given an out at the last gasp so that everything works out OK, and everyone gets to remain alive and in improved circumstances! In Bedazzled, for example, at the end God and the devil are sitting down  together and discussing how things worked out with the implication that they were both on the same side just helping this guy grow into a more successful and well-adjusted person. Theological implications aside, I am getting tired of the ‘nothing bad ever really happens, and everything can be made just like it was’ genre. That isn’t to say that we don’t grow through adversity, or that God can’t use the poor and/or evil choices of others for good–far from it. But these “negative” consequences don’t just go away.

So what is to be done? I mean, if we are going to choose the live forever option, we certainly do not wish to be subjected to an infinitude of sappy movies and books, right? Just look what happened to those poor crew members in “Mystery Science Theatre 3000.” No! We shall not have it! Go back and read the old stories, find the new movies or remakes that pull no punches. As one wit recalled, in Shakespeare it is easy to differentiate his comedies and tragedies–in the comedies, not as many people die. And what kind of blogger would I be, were I not to offer some starting points upon this grand adventure? N.B. the mind reading option, though usually not in the eternally-damned category of Bad Things that Happen, still turn out pretty bad.

Sucker Punch. Live Action. Not for the young, nor the faint of heart, those easily confused by the blurring of realities or the squeamish. Lots of action, great choreography, some great lines and loads of symbolism–most of which I am sure sped by me. There is a lot of humor for those acquainted with a large genre of movies and literature. It is not, not, not, a comedy. But it is well done. A more in-depth review is in the works, but I will need to watch it again. There is also a Kindle version for significantly less, and a blu-ray extended edition.

The Three Musketeers. Dumas trans. Pevear. Excellent book, but you must get Pevear’s translation. I have an in-depth review of the Three Musketeers elsewhere with reasons for preferring this translation. This is no sappy-movie remake with airships, this is the original. And while events fall on the for-the-better side of things by the end of the story, it is certainly not of the happily ever after variety.

The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus. Marlowe. Christopher Marlowe was a contemporary of Shakespeare. No punches pulled in this play. Suffering, bad choices and the corruption of morals abound. It is all the more poignant and ironic, in that Faustus was truly more aware of the enormity of the consequences, but thought he could handle it on his own, make the deal, get the power and remain unaffected by it.  Excellent play and not very long, and Marlowe isn’t much given to judging the characters for his audience and injecting “here’s the moral of the story”–he has a much higher opinion of his audience. The edition I read it from was an excellent, older paperback borrowed from the university library. The book pictured is I believe the same, but looks like a decent edition in any event (check out the book images), has several other plays as well, and the necessary end notes to render the plays comprehensible. There is also a free edition of the play for Kindle owners and another print version, too.

Enjoy, and share in the comments any other movies or books that pull no punches, and why you think they are great.


Machiavelli’s Means to and End

Today’s daily writing challenge concerns the end and the means and the possibility of justification for said means before, during or after the fact. The Stick of Justification swings both ways, depending upon who is in charge, and it can look pretty mean at times.

Whenever I hear this phrase, “the ends justify the means,” there always since very young has been the idea of Machiavelli along with that. And with Machiavelli comes the pallor of evil. Where did I get these impressions? They came from just about everybody’s reaction to his name. There was a certain grimace of discomfort, and I always had the distinct feeling, that though one might mention his name in hushed tones, saying it out loud, or asking as I was wont, what the big deal was (I was quite young, and no one would ever tell me), was Frowned Upon and a Bad Deal all round.

It was not until college, and my junior year, that I sat down and read the beast. All the years of mystery surrounding this man and his work “The Prince” came to an end. Actually it was quite a good read, and interesting. Now, I’m not saying these impressions that had been inlaid into my psyche were baseless. There are a number of, shall we say, dicey moral decisions he is advocating. But there are two points that stood out in stark contrast to all that I had heard about “The Prince.”

The first is its hypotheticality. The second is the specificity of the situation discussed and the generally overlooked good council as regards the subjects of a prince and his interactions with the military. Plus, Machiavelli’s recommendations are backed by illustrations from classical battles as well as internal fights of the organized gang leaders. Organized crime in 15th Century Europe! Great stuff and written, unlike much history, not to bore but to involve. More specific points are in order, but it is late. Till then.

Return of the Native (Coder)

After much tramping around, virtually of course, I have come to the conclusion that in order to develop programs for the web, I will have to learn everything. Yes, I mean everything. Should’ve only taken a couple weeks, but here we are and sadly I am no where near to knowing it all. (I will be retaining the title of Know-it-all, in case you were curious).

In the mean time and to help keep me sane, I chose two tracks. The first is php, and the web frameworks that go with it. Drupal and Symfony2 have both caught my eye. My desire would be to continue to track my progress on this blog. I am not holding my breath, so neither should you, but I will try. I have also missed a few daily post challenges that would have been fun to write about. Anyway, if I can find a decent way to keep track of my workflow that I will actually use, this desire might become a reality. Any suggestions are welcome.

The second track, and where a lot of my time has been spent the last two weeks is in setting up another website. Every Thursday, or sooner, there will be a new review of something. That something as of now is most likely going to be books or programming. It is still in the hatching stages. It is also a place for me to test out affiliate marketing, so that I can offer coherent thoughts and opinions of how it works, what works, things to avoid and so on. Again, any thoughts on affiliate marketing, what you like or what could be done better is appreciated. Personally I don’t like the rotating, moving, flash ads with products only tangentially related to the article topic or my interests. We’ll see how it goes.

Later, I would like to follow in the venerable tradition of bloggers, and have some guest reviews and content. If there is anything you think would make a for a good review, or information piece, let me know in the comments here or on my new site. It is still a work in progress while I learn to get everything the way I want it, and not the way WordPress thinks I want it, so you will have to bear with me.

If you do decide at some point that you would like your own hosting plan, hostgator seems to be good. I used them once before, and host my new site with them now. It’s not that difficult to set up, and they are cheap. I will put my affiliate link on this site as well, if you are interested. It doesn’t cost you any more to use my link, and in fact it will cost you less. I added a 25% off coupon code. You have to enter the coupon discount to get it. The savings come out of any commission I might make. (25% was the most I was allowed to make it). After I have hosted with them for a while, I’ll put up a review of their service. I thought I might also do some webcasts on setting things up and using cpanel.


Odds ‘N’ Ends

Short(er) post today. Did not care too much for today’s postaday prompt so, rebel that I am, I am going to write about stuff of interest from today. The presentation will be in the form of a list in honor of much of today being centered around lisp.

(defun describe (item)
 (cond ((eq item "humorous article")
         (web-open-stream this-post-gender-normative-guy-walks-into-a-bar))
        ((eq item "kierkegaard")
         (download-ebook Provocations))
        ((eq item "lisp gui tools")
        ((eq item "norvig")
         (grok peter-norvig-site))
        (t (format t "Whew!~%"))))

(This assumes some non-standard functions have been implemented)
Most of the day, aside from looking for work, was spent trying to find out how to use lisp to program a graphical user interface. At this point I only have a few leads. Many of the ‘projects’ out there haven’t seen the light of day for some years now. I am also not sure why I would want to do this. This morning there was a definite reason, but I’m having trouble recalling exactly what that reason was. It would be nice to know, if only to rationalize the time spent in searching.
On the other hand, I did find some funny articles, another book to put onto my wish list and a new (and poorly formatted) website to explore that has a lot to do with lisp. Also, if you google ‘The Lisp Curse’ you will find a well-written article that attempts to explain the current state of lisp development and the lisp community. Food for thought, certainly. And so I push on.


Today’s–well, technically yesterday’s–daily post was a very interesting topic, based around a quote by Kierkegaard. I got to thinking how little I knew of his work and philosophy. I decided to no longer put off wrestling with this man through his writings. Perhaps, like Isaac, I shall get my leg disjoint in the effort, but the time has come for me to work out with his Fear and Trembling. Perhaps Purity of Heart. It is shorter, and I wouldn’t mind that Either/Or I could start there. This indecision is really a kind of Sickness unto Death.

With such titles, why have I left his work, so long untouched! left mouldering on forgotten shelves, or more like to have left in buried boxes. No more!

But where I might best start may not be where any other may better, and having looked briefly at a few sites pretending to address this very idea, found one I think well worthy of inclusion here. There are a number of thoughtful reviews, that would be a help in making an informed decision. A number of suggestions are given, and many include the reasoning behind the choice. Read them all, though, because there are some opinions nearer the end that helped me to understand why so many people find his writings difficult or strange. The information about the different puppet voices he uses to be ‘the author’ of a work or line of reasoning gives me hope and excitement toward my somewhat hasty decision last morning to learn more of Kierkegaard through his writing.

Fessin’ Up

Blogs are conversations with those you may never meet, most likely will never meet in person. At least that’s how I see it. It is using a new and different medium, and broadening the scope of ‘conversation.’ We don’t go back and edit our spoken conversations unless it is really important to do so, nor do we stop in the middle to verify the information we think we know, again unless it is really important. Post A Day is an ice-breaker, or conversation starter. It’s supposed to get the ball rolling, and has certainly gotten this wallflower out onto the dance floor, though he has not mastered all the steps.
NaNoWriMo is different. I don’t see it so much as a conversation, but as a fun and challenging way to fulfill part of the necessary practice for the eventual mastery of the art of writing. A visual artist practices drawing lines over and over to learn how different motions and pressures affect the appearance and to build those nuances into the memory. Sketches are made, many times of the same subject, many times quite detailed over a long period of time. And most times these sketches never become anything polished or finished. That wasn’t the point–they were done out of love for the art by the artist.
Baseball players warm up with weights on the bat to make it heavier. They swing at more pitches during one practice than they would ever see during a real game. But I don’t see that as overproducing, and once they improve they don’t just stop practicing and only play ‘real’ games for the rest of the season. NaNoWriMo could be our “Spring Training” in the Fall.
As for too much crappy content on the web, I wholeheartedly agree, and that has held me back from writing and sharing for much too long. I came to a realization, though, recently. All that content out there doesn’t matter so much, because it isn’t your crappy content. Babies understand this completely and…um…produce a lot before they ever even speak, let alone communicate with eloquence. Not only will I ‘fess up’ to participating in NaNoWriMo, I will say that I’m a-jumpin’ in. Bring on those diapers and nose plugs, I about to produce!

Post-A-Day 2011

The gauntlet has been thrown. Actually it was thrown last January and due to the heavy rains ’tis a bit rusty of late.  But do I care! No! Therefore I lift up the gauntlet and accept the challenge and ’twill serve as training for the novel challenge which for me a novel thing who had not known of it before, a novel November. This arduous labor consists of writing a 50,000 word novel in only 2 days more than 2 fortnights.

Possible? Hardly.

Publishable? Not likely.

Well written? Never.

Fun? Definitely!

Defmacro in the house, yo!

O the joys of lisping around. Having made it (almost) through chapter 8 in PCL, I am jumping back to LoL. Perhaps I am too picky or my mind-set is just being obstinate, but I have to say that I am struggling with all these lisp tutorials. They start out easily enough and then all in one chapter, the kitchen sink comes flying out of nowhere. Two chapters about macros, well before much to do with lists. Macros are extremely important, but I think that there are other items that ought to come first in a budding lisper’s career.

Another thing that does get on my nerves, and this seems to be endemic to certain veins of books that Explain Hard Things, is the Look How Clever I Am moments, or when in a more jovially tolerant mood, the “Cutsy Effect.” As an example, and not to pick on PCL–it just happens to be handy and relevant: Why, O Why! would the first serious macro example be one wherein there is no body to the macro?

This is part of a larger pattern fueled in part, no doubt, by the need to impress, and includes other such terrors as: All the examples (and I have several elementary student math texts in mind here) show only one way to solve the problem, use the pattern or rule, &c., and then the very first and most of the rest of the exercises can’t be done the same way and/or need information that comes several lessons later!

Perhaps much of this is subconsciously done. This leads to self-reflection. Where is it that I *gasp* maybe, might, do (but oh no! never ever!) the same thing? When explaining, writing, speaking, showing, demonstrating “stuff” I know like the back of my hand? Especially the “stuff” it took me a long time to learn? Sigh.  Well, just wait till I write my book. . .

The Battle of the Books Rages on:

LoL:5 (preparing to outflank) PCL:8

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