Sunday, December 22, 2013

"Rules" of War

    In the online game I am currently spending most of my time on (Runescape), there is a war going on between two of the game's gods (Bandos and Armadyl). It's a temporary event lasting six weeks. You can pick whichever side you want, and in my case, I'll be spending time on both sides to get all the rewards, because I'm a bit of a mercenary like that. Gods may come and gods may go, but cool-looking emotes are only obtainable for a short amount of time.
     As in any number of things where you have more than one side, both sides accuse the other of not playing fair. 
     One of the major bones of contention has been "line hopping." One thing about this event is that there are various zones where players can kill each other. The "line-hopping" technique involves running in and out of these zones. You run in, wait for the six-second delay for your player-killing timer to activate, fire a shot or two, then run back over the line, where you can't be attacked and your player-killer timer turns off. 
     This tends to be annoying for the people who are not doing the line-hopping.
     The game's forums are peppered with threads by both sides accusing the other side of being cowardly and that line-hopping should be a reportable offense. There's also talk of "honor" and what "honorable" tactics are, which apparently extends to not using potions or food for some people. In my opinion, if the game allows you to do it, it's a perfectly legitimate tactic.
     Anyways, all this blather put me in mind of earlier thoughts I've had concerning the nature of war.
     I find it still surprising, that, in a world post-nuclear weapons, war is still fought by countries chucking people at each other.
     And people talk about what's allowed or not allowed.
     According to Wikipedia's article on the Geneva Convention (or, as I think of them, the Rules of the Game), torture is bad, hostage-taking is bad, willfully depriving someone of their right to a fair trial is bad, etc. etc. etc.. All well and good. If we're going to conduct our international affairs like savages, we ought to have rules so we can pretend we're civilized.
     What's the point?
     It seems like we've concocted rules to distance ourselves from what war actually is. Make up rules, pretend it's a game so we can cry and point fingers when the other side breaks them. Even if we'd break the same rules if we thought we could get away with it. Wars tend to happen for stakes slightly higher than pixelated armor. Losing is a bad thing.
     Why pretend?
     "It's all fun and games until someone loses an eye." Games have rules.  Games are not real. Games have rules so we can have fun with them.
     Who is having fun in war?
     Why pretend that war is anything other than cavemen hurling rocks at each other until one or the other runs out of people or rocks?
     Isn't that what rules allow us to do? Pretend it's a game?

Friday, December 13, 2013

Growth vs. Fixed Mindsets

   Recently, I finished reading a book called "Mindset: the New Psychology of Success" by Carol Dweck. It talks about two different mindsets (Fixed and Growth) and how they affect people. The major difference between the two is how they answer the question, "Is talent innate and unchanging over a person's life?"
     A Fixed mindset will say yes. A Fixed mindset is a strong believer in "talent." People are born talented, and you cannot acquire a talent you were not born with. You can hone said talent, though. IQ is more or less immutable. You're born as smart as you're ever going to be.
     A Growth mindset says no. A Growth mindset is a strong believer of the "99% perspiration" line. Good things don't always comes easily, and everything must be worked for if you want to learn or improve it, but it is possible.. If at first you don't succeed, keep trying. You can learn. IQ is more like a pulse in a doctor's chart: a picture of your health at the time, but not the whole picture, and certainly doesn't cast your future in iron.
     I think I've spent most of my life in a pseudo-spot between the two minds when it comes to learning. I phrase it as, "Most brick walls will crumble if you bang your head against them long enough." Or, "you can substitute a lot of work for actual talent."  Because, at the end of the day (and into the early morning hours a lot of the time), I suspect I'm not a writer, just a scribbler with a day job (no, it doesn't keep me up at night). I learned from Calculus that most problems have a brute force method of solving, where you plug in the numbers, work through a hundred steps, and out pops the result. I like brute force options. 
     I'm not sure my concept of a brick wall is compatible with the Growth mindset. I guess that my assumption has been once I've penetrated the brick wall it would all be much easier afterwards, and I could coast on general talent. It appears, however, that it's all brick wall.
     Or I'm just a slow learner, and I should accept that learning will always be difficult for me on some subjects.
     A peril of the fixed mindset is if you try something and you don't do well at it, you'll assume you'll never be any good at it and throw in the shovel, when the reality is that you can become a lot better. Best in the world, maybe not, but you can learn. 
     There's also an effort vs. time ratio. I could conceivably learn how to sing. I don't feel inclined to spend the effort or the time to do so at this point in my life. If you want to do something, you have to beg, borrow, steal, or barge out time in your day to do it. Time won't materialize for you. 
     It's not about finding the limits of your talent, it's about learning the thing you want to learn. 

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Desire to Create

I'm writing this post tonight because I'm simply not up for working on The Story (up to 35,000 words, by the way). Nothing like blogging to procrastinate on what you're actually "supposed" to be writing. Or housework to avoid doing homework. I suppose I could do housework to avoid working on The Story, but that won't fulfill my self-imposed goal of 500 words per day.

I've also wanted to talk about The Desire to Create. Obvious examples of creation include writing or painting, but that's hardly just it. I think of this desire as simply the desire to make something. For now, I'm going to leave it as something tangible, such as woodworking or music. It's entirely possible that the manipulations of people could count as art, but that seems like it could be more destructive than creative, and that's another thing altogether.

Most of my life I've been aware of this desire, although when I was really young I just did it. If I wanted to write, I would write. Now, I think about writing, and when I do get around to writing, the words I put out are different than the ones I've been thinking of all day. It's like light particles; the nature of it changes upon observation.

Now this desire is more like an itch that I want to scratch.

I'm not sure what sparks this desire to create, or even what percentage of the population has it. Probably more than is immediately apparent. It's probably a smaller percentage that indulges it, whether because of perfectionism or fear or laziness or a lack of time or inspiration. There are reasons.

I thought of myself as "a writer" first and foremost for a number of years, until I was well into college and realized that I couldn't bring myself to bang words together unless it was for a mandatory paper. It could have been living in Hawaii, as well. It's like living there sucked all the inspiration out of me. Or maybe it was because I was so busy with school. I admitted to myself that I wasn't really a writer, just a rock with dreams of being magma.

Then I moved to Wisconsin, and inspiration -- or the desire, at least -- came slithering back.

Although now that I think about it, one common factor pre- and post- Hawaii was being part of a writers' group.  I think the presence of a group that shares your interests in your brand of creation and encourages you to do so can't be underestimated. I can't say I wouldn't have started writing again without them, but I'm up to 35,000 words in a story I started in May. I feel they've been good for me. You might be able to drive for five thousand miles, but you need a little gas to get started.

Another thing I've had to get over is trying to perfect my writing as I write it. I've had to go, "the important thing is to get the words on the paper," and continue banging words out and ignoring the nagging voice that maybe they're not the right words, or they're inaccurate, or they don't describe what I want to say.

Sometimes, the key to creation is not to create the most glorious thing ever, but to create, period.


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

I'm Baaack....Maybe

It's been a long time since I've posted.

But due to some comments from family members, it may be time to remember how to do this blogging thing again.

I've set this goal of writing 500 words per day. I maybe actually do this 3-4 times a week. However, most of that has been novel writing.

Life has changed a bit since I last posted in August 2012 (wow...longer than I thought. Just looked it up). I've moved from Hawaii to Wisconsin for the sake of the only job I could actually get hired for. As an aside, job hunting sucks.Massively. I cannot accurately describe the amount of suckage that occurs when you're out trying to peddle your skills to a world full of massive indifference. I managed to get a few interviews, but never made it past the cursory phase. Apparently, in addition to being able to do a job you're supposed to have a high natural charisma score (And who doesn't have that? Me!).

In the middle of filling out hundred of applications, I posted a resume on Monster. I got contacted by my current company who noted my science major and GPA (apparently). Company has nothing to do with my major (Geology), but I was really up for anything that would pay me (Of course there's limits. Don't nitpick), I waded through a series of aptitude tests, and the company flew me out from Hawaii to Wisconsin for an onsite interview (more like "here's the job we'd like to hire you for, and our awesome campus") and some more tests. There weren't any of those stupid "what's your greatest weakness" questions involved.

Long story short, place was/is great, and the LOML and I packed up and moved shortly thereafter.

Wisconsin gets snow in winter. One thing I dislike about the place. On the other hand, it has cheese curds, which nearly makes up for it.

One thing about having a steady job, rather than being in school, is that my creativeness has slowly been sauntering back. I started story writing again. Then in July, I made three goals:

1). write 500 words per day.
2). finish a book by July 2015.
3). finish writing a great book in 2023.

Ten years ought to be long enough, right?

So yea, I've been banging words together, but not on this blog. I'm up to 33,000 words on my current story, and I'm aiming for 80-100,000 on it so there's room to maybe edit it down to 75,000. Brief' overview of the story (since I'm talking about my writing and that's what wanna-be writers do is talk about what they're doing): Main character gets murdered in the first chapter and is finding out that the afterlife is apparently one giant session of getting chased by your fears, scary monsters, and your past. But hey, at least the main character finally got a chainsaw.

Don't want to give away more details because if the damn thing sees print in some form I'd hate for everything to be known. But chainsaws and monsters are a winning combination. I think. Maybe there will even be some character development.

As usual with every blog post, I realize that there's a lot I was going to say that I didn't. But I will try posting here more often.For the two of you who will actually be reading this.

Anyways, chainsaws and monsters.