Monthly Archives: September 2012

Close Encounter of the Luddite Kind


A special thanks to author Richard Daybell of “Tis Pity He’s a Writer”  (http://richarddaybell.wordpress.com/) for inspiring this musing with his September 24 post. Daybell points out that, as we age, we cast a wary eye on all things unfamiliar. He made me giggle as I recalled my first encounter with my husband’s new work phone.

In the middle of the night, I peel myself from a warm bed to take two dogs to the back door to let them outside for a potty break. I am staggering in the dark, uncoordinated because I am half-asleep and blinded by the darkness. There is little ambient light to help me navigate furniture, walls, and door jambs. Finally, the dogs flee the autumn night cold for the warmth of the house. I wobble toward the bedroom.

My husband’s new iPhone-type device is plugged into a wall socket to recharge when I pass by. Suddenly I am bathed in light from a lighted screen. Like a skunk caught in the beam of a flashlight, I freeze in the darkness, snagged by an all-seeing eye. The Luddite in me abhors the damnable nightlight.

As I climb into bed, my groggy brain wonders, did that phone really light up when I passed it, or was I sleep walking when I walked by it earlier?

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Song Prompt for a Manly Friend


Today’s song prompt goes out to a regular reader who adores classical music. The first link is for his benefit. The second link is for those who like pop music. The second link shows the lyrics. Happy imagining! May the writing the song inspires be prodigious!

Classical version by Sissel and Josh Groban:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oJDQ6ckZ_gk&feature=related

Television version by Christina Aguilera and Chris Mann:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GcPR-riWs_M

 

Will Creative Humans Be Replaced by Machines in the Future?


The intelligence and military agencies of the United States are working on automated systems to replace human  analysts in intelligence work. The human brain is a masterful “sensemaking” device, but it is subject to the human weaknesses of fatigue, bias or stress. Therefore, the government is going all in to find a machine that can do the work as well as an human, and maybe better.

Until now, the agency points out, the human brain has remained “the only known  example of a general-purpose sensemaking system.” Not for long:  Iarpa wants a  computer that would mimic human strengths, like analytic reasoning or learning  from mistakes, but do it without the accompanying weaknesses. The ideal Iarpa  system would first process and explain human sensemaking: why an analyst opted  for one hypothesis over another. Then, the computer would improve upon it, by  determining whether a decision-maker was affected by ambiguous data, deception,  or even denial. Finally, the system would offer its own sensemaking hypothesis – without any extenuating influence – instead.

Iarpa suggests that the  system would help out “overburdened analysts with routine, low-level analytic  tasks.” But a 2001 report from the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense  points out that sensemaking is most often compromised in high-stress situations,  and, for that reason, humans are usually the weakest link.

Read more: http://www.disclose.tv/forum/spytech-agency-wants-software-brains-to-connect-the-dots-t13503.html#ixzz27ISZRsVk

All this gets me wondering, will there come a day when machines are used to write books, create poetry, works of art and music? Will a computer frame a photograph as well as Ansel Adams? Will 3-D copiers create art to rival Michelangelo’s masterpieces using flesh and blood models or mere mathematical formulas derived from analysis of 2-D items? And, if that day comes, who will the audience be?

How to Begin a Novel: The Myth of the Great American Opening Sentence


How to Begin a Novel: The Myth of the Great American Opening Sentence.

I want to thank mgirouxstories.wordpress.com for enhancing information I shared earlier in a post called “The Importance of Beginning Well.” My post discussed the importance of the first sentence in any story.

Mgirouxstories brings more advice to the table. I recommend reading the post linked above.

Writing Prompt Especially for Lean


This song prompt is dedicated to Lean, a regular reader and lover of all things Southern:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N5grgB-dV2o

Song: Oh, Shenandoah Vocalist: Sissel

A hauntingly beautiful rendition by an extraordinary soprano in the classical style–enjoy!

Positioning Yourself in Your Market


A few days ago I read a great quote from a financial web site that has great relevance for writers who intend to sell their work in the open market. If you plan to be commercial, then spend a few minutes thinking how these words apply to you.

Rick Rule, founder and CEO of Global Resource Investments said:

The trick is not to be right all the time; it’s to be right more often than you’re wrong. And to position yourself ahead of trends that are unstoppable, then to wait for the market to come to you.

To me the perfect example of positioning is the Harry Potter series. The interest in things supernatural or fantastic started snowballing with author Anne Rice’s series about the vampire Lestat. The stories of Harry Potter and the associated witches and warlocks populating his adventures were positioned to surf the trend.

Positioning doesn’t discount the need for writing a good tale. Rather it suggests ways to determine which tales to tell to achieve commercial success.