Matrix as Maelstrom: Introduction

(DISCLAIMER- this is the first of many chapters of a philosophical treatise I have been working on. It is titled, "Matrix as Maelstrom: How becoming ghosts in the machine will save us all." It is meant to explore the ideas behind Mind Uploading, both philosophical and logistical, from every angle I can think of. I really have no idea how it is going to turn out, but it should be an enlightening and entertaining ride. Many of you have not heard of this technology, but if you are willing to listen with an open mind, I will explain it, and attempt to explore the considerations and benefits of it as exhaustively as I can. It is posted here as a first draft, needing heavy revision, proper references, and revision. It is also a reference of sorts for my d.o.mai.n fiction series, though I assure you that the technology is very real and this treatise will in no way reference the stories in my novels.)


Matrix as Maelstrom: How becoming ghosts in the machine will save us all.

Introduction



I'd like to start off by asking a question. I like to think that the intelligence of an individual can be directly traced from the quality of the questions they pose, so I will start with one. There will be others, of course, because the scope of my topic is broad and far reaching, but I hope that this one question will breed questions of your own.

What would you do if the only limits placed on you were those of your own imagination?

By only, I do mean only. Even the limitations of your own body, long accepted as fact, are no longer a consideration. Are you no longer as young as you once were? Do you have bad knees? Thinning hair? A chronic condition that limits your mobility and weighs on you every moment of every day?

What if you could choose to have those obstacles removed from your path, as well as any other potential limitation? What would you do?

It's not a question that most of us even entertain, at least not once we reach adulthood and the physics we accept as reality are cemented in our minds. We are grilled from late childhood to "grow up" and "Stop thinking with your head in the clouds", when in reality what we need is more of that line of thought.

Nobody ever solved a problem without considering new ideas. The fact that problems exist imply that there are limits to conventional thought. So let your mind free, allow yourself to dream for a minute, and try to imagine what your surroundings might look like without any impediments.

The concept I will explore in this treatise, if such a thing can be said to fall within the definition, is that in the next 30-50 years most of us will have to begin entertaining this question in a serious nature. I am referring, of course, to Mind Uploading, the downloading of a human consciousness (or mind) into a computerized processing unit.

The technology behind Mind Uploading is still in it's infancy, but there are promising breakthroughs made all the time. To date, the progress has been relegated to decoding electrical impulses from the brain, and through brain computer interfaces, using those signals to drive physical hardware either directly connected to the person connected to the interface, or over great distances via the internet.

This book is not meant to be an exhaustive compilation of the technology to date, since such a snapshot would be quickly outdated, limiting the shelf life of the endeavor. Instead, I intend to explore the philosophical reasons for and against such technology, because I want anyone reading this to expand on my work by asking questions of their own. Better questions, hopefully, than the ones I manage to formulate here.

Woudl the world of your imagination have purple trees, rivers of gold, cool to the touch but still liquid? Would it involve you having the ability to jump from body to body, some of which were purpose built for the task you were undertaking? Or would it involve the magic of unassisted human flight, the ability to run and leap into the air like a superhero? It will all one day become possible, and very likely in our lifetimes.

No great thing comes without consequences, or potential pitfalls. I will explore these as well, since any pragmatic take on the concept will require that we examine contradictory aspects as well as those that reinforce our position, as well as potential ways to overcome them.

Make no mistake, it is my position that Mind Uploading will become a real thing, and in many ways it will be bother the greatest invention in the history of man, and also the way many of us will wave goodbye to the essential qualities that make us human.

It is not, as I have stated before, without consequence, and I am sure that there will be consequences and difficulties along the way that I have been unable to forsee. I expect that some of the more pressing questions, such as if a consciousness uploaded into a computer is in fact the person at all, or just a crude, digital copy? If it is a copy of that person, what happens to the body left behind, or what becomes of the original consciousness still in the body? What rights would such an entity have? What might a human mind behave like if it's limitations are removed?

These are just a fraction of the questions that I have thought to explore, and as I've also said before, it is my sincere wish that you have questions of your own, questions that I have not even thought to ask. I do not want this exploration to be a reference,I want it to be the beginning of a discussion that will start people thinking along the lines they will need to in order to be ready when the technology is. When a technology is ready before the people who are to use it, tragedy often results, but if we've prepared ourselves philosophically, as far as something can be done with such a paradigm shift, then I think our chances of handling it in a mature way increase greatly.

Having gone over the salient points of my theory, I will explore the different aspects of Mind Uploading in the following chapters. It is of course all science fiction at this point, but like all great science fiction, it is only fiction by it's preceding chronologically of the truth. So if you must approach it as science fiction, you have my permission to do so. Listening to the point of view of others has never required accepting it, and I would assume that a large portion of any potential audience of this work would be here, grain of salt firmly grasped in their hand.

If you are hearing me out, I can ask for nothing more.
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Gender bias, domestic violence, and writing women of equality.

Reporter: So, why do you write these strong female characters?

Joss Whedon: Because you’re still asking me that question.

I normally don't chase current events in this blog, there are plenty of other writers that do it better than I ever could, and that is not the purpose of this site. I had been toying around with the idea of writing a post about writing genders other than your own, in a way to open a discussion about the many difficulties that can spring up in doing so, and how popular opinion can sometimes make it so no matter what you do, you're wrong. I would find myself with an open window, a blank white page and a blinking cursor in the upper left hand corner of the screen, and realize I didn't know how to begin. 
It's a common enough problem for writers, the most common one of all, in fact, but current events involving Christy Mack, Rhianna, and most recently Ray Rice and his wife (undoubtedly there are others as well that I am missing) gave me the starting point I was lacking. 
This is not going to be another "The men of the world are 100% of the problem" posts, nor is it going to be a "she was asking for it" post. Anyone looking for either of those points of view here are going to be disappointed. This is going to be a post about responsibility in regards to abuse of any gender. This is actually going to be a post about modern day feminism, and before any men reading this post groan and close the window, you should remember that I said this is about responsibility. Not just the responsibility of men, or women, or parents, or the courts/police. I see this as everyone's problem, and everyone needs to be pulling their own weight. The first part of that is cutting through the bullshit of what people are really looking for when they say the word "equality" nowadays. 
I suppose I should get this out of the way up front. If someone physically beats the shit out of someone, it is assault and they should be prosecuted for it. Notice how I didn't start that sentence out with, "When a man". That's because the law, outside of public perception, does not specify genders. Yet that is what I am seeing a lot of in the comments of people online, and the overwhelming message in the media is one that makes pains to specify that this is strictly a men beating on women problem. I see a lot of "A man should not hit a woman!" Of course a man should not hit a woman. There are laws against anyone hitting anyone, like I said, it's called assault. 
Again, Ray Rice is clearly guilty, and he should be prosecuted even though his now wife is refusing to press charges. There is never an excuse to hit someone like that, and he should pay for his crime. His wife should have charges brought up on her as well, because she clearly instigated the fight and struck him as well. If this was a scene between two women, a jury would likely consider it a case of self defense. Since he's a 200lb+ running back, and able to drop her with a single punch, it is seen differently. Even putting aside all questions of equality, men are taught their entire life that it is wrong to hit women. Personally, I was brought up to never hit a woman. Never. If they are coming after you with a knife, you are expected to wrestle the knife free from them and throw it away, then call the cops while you restrain her (without causing physical damage) until the cops arrive. This is the correct way to handle the situation, but not because she's a woman. Because she's a human being. So there's no defense for Ray Rice. He will get what the courts decide he is due. It won't be enough for some, and the rest will think it's too harsh, there is no pleasing everyone. 
I'm sure the data says that men are the worst offenders, but I think it's dangerous for anyone seeking equality to look at it that way. Check out this video, which is at least six years old. A major news organization actually conducted research to see how society views a man abusing a woman versus how they view a woman abusing a man. I'll leave it here for everyone to watch, and I want you to really think about it as you're saying to yourself, "yeah, well......" because they actually ask the people walking by what they thought when they were walking by and seeing the abuse. 


It's not equality if one gender can attack another with impunity and the other is instantly demonized. If we really want equality, then people need to stand up and make sure that the rules are enforced for everyone, not just those you consider to be in a position of being weker physically. If men aren't able to defend themselves against someone who knows that they can do whatever they want short of pulling out a knife or a gun and it will be socially acceptable, then who is the weaker gender?

Again, I'm not suggesting that men should be allowed to hit women, I'm suggesting that neither gender should be allowed to hit the other one. Assault is assault, and if a specific demographic wants their demands of equality to be taken seriously, then they need to be ready to accept the responsibility that comes with that equality. Equality isn't just making more money, or gaining power over other people, it's pulling your weight when it comes to the less glamorous portions of life as well, if needed. 

Am I suggesting that all women be able to open pickle jars on their own, or kill spiders as well as the men, or defend their man if a robber pulls a gun? Not necessarily. But the assumption that a man unwilling to do these things is less a man is just as sexist as implying that Ray Rices wife never would have been hit if she was in the kitchen where she belonged. 

I think most people in this country have no fucking clue what true equality is. Excuse my vulgarity, but they wouldn't know it if it bit them in the ass. I think it's a convenient point to whip out when they aren't getting something they want, and easily stowed when the status quo benefits them. Gender roles are being redefined every day, which is fine, such is the pace of progress. The assumption that anyone is "owed" anything usually causes hate and discontent.

Men get tired of expecting to be a chivalrous gentleman one minute, then being told they are worthless because women "don't need a man" with the next breath. I get it, women are stretching their wings after being oppressed for far too long, but that has never been an excuse for being an asshole. How many women cheered that Blu Cantrell song "Hit 'Em up Style"? What would the public outcry have been had a man that had been cheated on lit the girls collection of Louboutin's on fire, or wrote some derogatory epithet with a paint marker on their designer handbag, or blew up their convertible Mustang? 

Yeah, you might not want to think about it that way, but these are the current stakes of equality, things that women concerned about equality should no longer tolerate out of other women (let alone celebrate), just as men are expected to intervene in a fight that involves a larger man beating up someone smaller than them, be they man or woman.

Men are taking on more of the household duties as women are making strides in the workforce. I read an article just the other day that now that men are doing so, women are finding them less attractive and divorcing or leaving them for more "masculine" men. Is it a case of women not understanding yet what they want? They wanted men to help, and when they do, suddenly they aren't as desirable any more? My point is that there are going to be mistakes made, and this process will be as problematic and arduous as it is necessary. 

I think most people will agree that there is a ton of work to be done to end domestic violence. I think fewer people out there understand that confining our discussion to only stopping men from hitting women isn't equality. If you only look at one side of the issue, all that will happen is to provide legal protection for women to enact physical violence on men, and men will be expected to take it in much the same way that in the 50's a man could strike his wife and the general assumption would be that she deserved it. Oh wait, we've already seen in the video above that this is sometimes the case now. Neglecting to hold everyone to the same standard won't bring about equality, it will simply reverse the ancient gender roles women have fought so hard to overcome.

Is it going to be an easy transition all the time? No. For a long time, there will be men who are unwilling to see women as anything but vapid eyecandy, and while I am sure many of you are going to disagree with me when you read this, you may later understand this next paragraph as devoutly feminist. 

Women are earning their place in the workforce, because they have to. They can complain about equal pay and equal rights, expecting to be handed promotions and raises because they feel that they have earned it, and perhaps they have, but it's going to be a long climb to true equality, and they will have to prove that they belong every day to the very same misogynistic assholes that they feel are holding them back. There is no shortcut, and it's not fair, but it is the way it is. It will also mean that when you do get it, you will be able to be proud of it, because no one gave it to you. You earned it because of your work ethic and your talent, and you probably earned it five times over. Nobody will ever be able to take it from you, the pride of accomplishment. I'm sure that there must be a world out there where the most deserving person for each job gets it, but it isn't this one, at least not yet. 

When it happens, it's a good thing for everyone involved, because good people in positions of power make everyone around them better. My immediate supervisor at my day job is female, and I can't think of another person that would handle that job as well as she has. That has nothing to do with the fact that she's a woman, it has to do with who she is as a person, how hard she works and how much effort she has put in learning how to handle the different personalities of her workforce. It wasn't something she was great at on her first day in the new job, but any person on their first day in a management position is going to have to feel their way into the role. 

We need to start treating everyone equally, and while that means that we give everyone the benefit of the doubt, and adjust our opinions as we get to know them, it also means that we need to hold everyone to the same standard. Men don't get an out for physical abuse, and women don't get to play damsel in distress to get out of unsavory parts of being an adult. Neither of the above is as common as the news media would make it seem, but their both more common than they should be. 

All of that excessive amount of elaboration above really boils down to treating people equally. Right now, women have cultivated certain socially acceptable loopholes that they will need to stop exploiting in order to be truly equal with men. Men will need to stop being misogynistic pigs and recognize when a woman is capable of doing the job better. And both sides need to understand that hitting is not acceptable. It is assault and should be prosecuted as such. And both genders just need to leave someone if the relationship is not healthy, for whatever reason. There's a difference between unhealthy and the typical relationship issues that people go through, however. Knowing the difference is part of being in an adult relationship. We all still have a lot of growing up to do. 

This all dovetails nicely into what I wanted to say about writing. The reason I included the above quote from Joss Whedon is because it can be taken more than one way. The concept of the "Strong Woman" is to me a laughable one. The concept of a "Strong Man" is equally laughable, yet our social gender bias made only one of those sentences acceptable.

I came up with a simple system for writing believable characters. want to hear it? 

Motivations + Resources = Character

That's it. As far as I'm concerned, each character is comprised of their motivations, what they want out of life, and their resources, what they have to use in order to reach their goals. It really doesn't need to be much more complicated at first than that. Oh, they will need description, gender, hair/eye color, nationality, personal history, etc. But really, it all boils down to Motivations and Resources. Beauty can be a resource to a small town girl trying to make it big in the city. It can also be a resource to a male dancer trying to put food on the table for his kids. People use what means they have available to them.

Their motivations need to be justifiable, and that helps you as a writer escape the "well, they're evil because they're evil" pitfall. There has to be a reason for their motivation, but it's pretty easy to come up with a justification for almost anything if you operate under the expectation that there must be one. 

In my novel pre://d.o.mai.n, the main character Miles Torvalds attempts to steal $1.5 million dollars from the federal treasury. Greed was too obvious a motivation, and a worn out trope as far as I was concerned. Additionally, I wanted you to be on his side, and I didn't have a George Clooney playing the part like he did in the movie Out of Sight to help me build that rapport. I needed a more believable motivation, and that is how his mother developed cancer and how the cure came with an astronomical price tag. 

Once I had that, I knew WHY Miles would attempt to steal the money. I had given him a believable reason for risking his freedom, something worthwhile to fight for. I also went to the effort of removing the legal options by having him exhaust them prior to the beginning of the novel. 

That left me with resources, which, as a poor kid, recently dropped out of college, would have to come in the form of the charity of others. He receives his sideARM from his cousin as a birthday present, and is introduced to ATLAS by an x-girlfriend. 

And then he was off an running.

My point is that if you start your character creation with motivation and resources, you aren't as likely to have to worry about sexism in your novels, because motivations and resources don't have to be gender specific. You see where your characters are exploitable (basically, what they need), and that's where you twist the knife. Sometimes that answer is companionship, and Miles has his issues with love/lust and loss in the book, but the female characters he comes across are more a slave to their motivations than they ever are to his needs. There are three main female characters in the novel. One is his mother (whose only real motivations are survival and the health of her family), the other wants him (but the prospect of them being together is problematic), and another that he thinks he wants but that doesn't want him (because she wants someone else, but there's a slight ambiguity as to why she wants him).

If you treat everyone the same, meaning that the equation above has to balance, then there are not one dimensional women that just want to be loved to the point where they will put up with anything, or the bad ass warrior chick who is bad ass because you want to write a "Powerful Female Role Model". That's YOUR motivation, not your characters. If you keep their motivations in mind, you will get women that have resources to achieve their goals, and whether they achieve their goals will be determined on how they use whatever resources are available to them. Be it looks, money, power, etc, they will have to make their way through your world just like the men. That's true equality. Not just that they are protected from men, that they are able to take care of themselves one way or another. That they don't need kid gloves or training wheels because their reach cannot exceed their grasp. Just like in real life. Should you choose to put obstacles in their way such as misogyny, an abusive partner, etc, how they escape that will come down to their resources at hand. 

Are they smart and independent enough to traverse those obstacles, or not? Again, resources. Resources need to be justified as well. They can't just be smart once they have a need to be. Deus Ex Machina in the form of an IQ jump from a concussion at the hands of another character? That's a quick way to devolve in to a loop like that of Walker, Texas Ranger, where Chuck Norris continued to uncover talents that nobody knew anything about (and even latent native american heritage) in order to overcome his obstacles. Resources need to be understood up front, and then any deviation from that set needs to be explained believably. 

Reduce your characters to their bases elements, and you stand a good chance of being able to write them from a perspective that is less tainted by whatever latent prejudices you may have (even if you try hard to overcome them).

And the rest of us, men AND women, need to remember one other quote:

"Be the change you would see."
-Mahatma Ghandi

"If you want equality, treat everyone equally. Don't be equal by dragging those around you down, be equal by rising up to meet them, and in those rare instances when you are able to rise above those around you, lift them up with you."
-That one's mine ;-)






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The last post I wanted to write today.

Before I start, let me start off by saying there is going to be quite a bit of vulgarity in this post, but I promise that all of it will be 100% justified. I'm writing this for me, to help me vent my feelings in the only way that seems to really work anymore, as well as for anyone that loved my sister in law Kim, so if you're offended by the awkward, angry emotions of others, feel free to skip this one.

My sister in law was taken from us today, and I really don't know how I'm supposed to feel about it right now. I'm writing this piece for two reasons. One, because I want to make some completely inadequate attempt to tell the few people that might know me but not her how incredibly awesome she was-the kind of awesome that nobody ever seems to fully recognize until it's gone, and two, I need to work through some pretty strong emotions, and I'm not someone prone to speaking about my emotions out loud. I feel like a rock star that can't be what everyone expects of them unless they're three sheets to the wind, except my keyboard is my alcohol.

Have you ever met one of those people that always seemed to have a smile on their face, even when they were in the middle of complaining about someone or something? Those people that seem to be having the time of their lives, no matter what might be going on at that very moment? My sister in law was a lot like that.

I'm not even sure as I write this if I am going to publish it. This is the third post that I've written about losing someone in my family over the past year or so, and I fucking HATE that I feel the need to write it. I feel like I'm using their passing as fuel to write, and that makes me feel like the worst kind of sub-human piece of shit, even though I've used their happiness as fuel from time to time as well. So maybe I'm more of a parasite than a piece of shit. Who knows.

I'm sure there will be people that will think that, there are always a few. I don't give a fuck what they think. I hate that every time I turn around lately, my family is shrinking. Maybe it's a natural part of being an adult, if it is, where is Peter Pan when you need his fruity ass? I know it's probably just that it feels that way, but you can't always help what you feel. I hate that the better I get at putting my feelings on paper, the worse I get at sharing them in any other way. I hate that a woman that would have been an amazing grandmother now will never get the chance.

I am sure there are people in this world that deserve to die, but Kim was not one of those people. She made the world better, in a thousand small ways that we won't even fully realize until the next time we come across them. That's the first part of this that bothers me-how it's not just today that we're going to miss her. It's going to be a little here, a little there, drawn out and hurtful in the way only this kind of loss knows how to hurt us.

Today, my brother repeatedly said, "You just don't know," and he's right, you don't. Any given heartbeat could be our last. We aren't promised another, but more often than not, we get one. That we continue to beat the odds, one heartbeat after another, can lull us into a false sense of security. We believe we will all live full, happy lives because most people do, to one extent or another. To believe anything other than that is madness. Believing that tomorrow will always look a lot like today allows us to function.

Shortly after, my father said, "We've had pretty good luck, no one in our family has really had problems with drugs, alcohol, or spent time in jail." And it's true. We're not a bunch of goody two-shoes. We don't go to church, we're not vegans or anything like that, but we try to be decent human beings. I think the underlying message in what he said was that bad things happen, and we've had less bad stuff happen to us than a lot of other families. Maybe it just feels like that looking back on it, but as I looked around, it sure felt like nobody really knew what to say. It was so unexpected, and it didn't really feel that it had sunk in yet for everyone. Sometimes you come to expect things to be good because they always have been, until something comes along to show you how little it takes to flip everything upside down.

We were all still able to find the some of the same things funny that we had the Sunday before, there was just one less cackling laugh in the mix. We all enjoyed sitting in the kitchen and eating as a family, even though there was one seat empty. We did these things, in part because we really didn't know what else to do, so we stuck with what we knew. It wasn't real just yet, though it's starting to feel so for me now that I'm home with my son, alone with my thoughts. I suspect it's a little more real for the rest of Kim's family and friends now as well.

She read my book, even though she doesn't normally read science fiction. She did it for me though, to give me her impressions before I went back to edit it. Just another day in a life full of her doing things for others. Everyone that gave her a fair chance got to know a truly great person. I don't throw around praise like that lightly. She always had a smile on her face, always. That's what I'll remember most about her.

As condolences roll in, I realize that so few of us know how loved we are until it's too late for us to hear. Her life was so much bigger than I ever knew, and I would see her at least every Sunday for our weekly family dinner, at every holiday and birthday, and even other times as well. She was working on a book, and we had spoken several times on that as well. In short, we hung out a lot. Every Super Bowl, the party was at her and my brother's house.

Before every Thanksgiving, she was there for "pie night", where the women would cook pies and make the things that needed to be made before the big day. She went through the Black Friday flyers with the rest of the family on Thanksgiving, circling things they liked and looking out for what everyone else circled for potential gift ideas. She was there on Christmas Eve, and again on Christmas morning. Now, she's not. Everything will feel different now, I'm sure, and there are at least four people in this world that are going to have a larger hole in their lives than I am.

Today, surrounded by family, I caught myself several times wondering where she was, because it hadn't really sunk in that she was gone. In that fraction of a second, I think she must have stepped outside to have a cigarette, before remembering that she had quit a while back because she knew they were bad for her, and she wanted to be around to see her kids grow up. It sounds like a cruel fucking joke to think about that now. I don't believe in a traditional heaven, but it's times like these that I wish I could convince myself otherwise. No thought would make me happier now than imagining her in kicking back on a cloud, wearing a white toga and chain smoking the menthols she enjoyed because they can't hurt her anymore.

I also feel guilty. Survivors guilt, I think they call it. I don't feel that my life brings enough to the table to justify her being gone and my still being here. I doubt I'm as good a person as she was. I also know I don't have a choice in the matter. I feel guilty that I'm even hurting at all, because I know her kids and husband have so much more right to be upset about than I ever will.

Then there's the guilt that I'm not crippled with sadness right now, because it feels like this isn't really happening. I feel that I should be inconsolable, but instead I feel like I will show up next Sunday to my parent's place for Sunday dinner, and she will be there wondering why everyone is so surprised to see her. But then my mind catches up to my heart, and I know that won't happen. I think that's the way these things work, they don't hurt all at once, they hurt a little bit every time you look for them and they're not there. Like I already said above, that's how this works-one little sadistic sliver at a time. It's dragged out for years, and for her kids, my nieces and nephews, it's going to last be like that for their entire life, and that's the part that is so indescribably unfair.

I know my brother loved her more than I have words to describe. During my divorce, I thought that kind of loss might have been worse than if my ex wife had died, because I had to watch her move on with someone else. I know now that I was a fucking idiot. My son gets to speak to his mom whenever he wants, even though they live on opposite ends of the country. I got to temper my loss of her against the anger of knowing that she didn't want me anymore. My brother and his children don't get that. They don't get an easy out. We have a close family, and we tend to circle the wagons well, even if there is not much we can do other than help make arrangements and provide distractions. We can't fill the hole they have now, not really. No matter how much we all wish we could scoop that poison out of their hearts and spread it over the entire family, it's still more metaphor than anything else. It's something they will have to face alone a thousand times over the next 30-40 years.

For a long time, they are going to look for her, to want to share something or ask for her advice, only to remember again that she's gone. Nobody ever leaves this world cleanly, but I almost wish I believed in a creator, so that I would have someone to direct my anger and hatred at for them. I can deal with my portion of her loss. I'm a grown up, but kids should never have to go through what they are going to have to now. I asked her youngest son today if he wanted to go outside and throw the football back and forth, just to do something different for a minute or two outside. I just wanted to try to take his mind off things for a few minutes. He didn't, but later on he asked his father to, which made me feel good. I know he didn't really fully understand what things will be like moving forward, because he's young. Conceptually, he understands, but in practice I think it's even more surreal for him than it is for the rest of us. When he came out and told his father, "She had a good run," I knew. He was just trying to put a smile on his fathers face, because that's what the rest of us were trying to do.

He was right, of course. She might not have had a run anywhere near as long enough as we would have wanted for her, but it was very, very good.

We all love you and miss you so much, Kim. I think you knew that all along, but it doesn't make it hurt any less to not be able to tell you to your face now. Try not to worry about the kids and Earl, if you can read this or read or hear the words of everyone that misses you, know that there are a lot of people here that love them and will do whatever they can to help.

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Book Cover Workshop Tutorial 02: Creating Paperback Spine Art for Createspace

Well, here we go again. I'm having alot of fun creating these videos, and I hope they will at some point prove useful for some of you out there. At this point, I'm just throwing them up, waiting to build a larger collection of them before I start trying to promote them or bring more attention to them. Right now I'm showing them to friends on here and social media, but I will make a more concerted effort to show them once I have more than a couple videos to show.

One thing I am toying around with is the idea of designing a fictional book cover once a month, from start to finish, and posting the video here. I know it's one thing to sit through 45 minutes worth of instruction on one aspect of book cover creation, and it's quite another to see something come together start to finish.

I might even take requests, if someone has a book cover that they are struggling with, so if they just want to do a limited edition of one of their stories but don't have the time to create a entirely new cover for it, let me know. If I use your idea for a video, I'll send you the finished cover in a format of your choosing, along with a release granting you ownership over it (giving you full legal rights to use it for whatever you want). If that sounds like something you might enjoy, drop me a message.

Alright, now on to this weeks tutorial. I wanted to tackle something a little simpler than the tattoo tutorial I did last week, so I decided to go with Spine Art. I'd go into more detail, but the video does a better job of explaining what I mean, and why it's important, so I'll just leave you to it. Oh, and if you watch it in HD, it's REALLY clear. Plus, it took hours to upload the 4.4 gigabyte video file, so if you're not watching it in 1080p, you're just wasting pixels, and a pixel is a terrible thing to waste. ;-)



So, as always, let me know what you think. I'm flying a bit blind here in regards to what everyone might find useful, so in the mean time I'm just going to continue to cover topics that I think are interesting, or that people might find useful.
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Introducing the Book Cover Workshop!


     After a few false starts, I've managed to finally get my YouTube tutorial channel off the ground. It's a chance for me to share the knowledge I've acquired working in computer graphics with the rest of the independent publishing community.

     For my first tutorial, I've chosen an intermediate difficulty technique to give you an idea of the kinds of videos that this channel will be filled with soon. Not all of them will require knowledge of 3D software, and I will always let you know which software is required in the thumbnail at the start of the video, so up front you will know which programs you will need to download to follow along.

     I will try to use as only Free and Open Source software in the tutorials, because there are great FOSS programs out there, and I didn't want to create tutorials meant to help indie authors save money by making their own covers, only to require them to buy software that might run over a thousand dollars.

     So, with no further adieu, here is the first tutorial, introducing a technique that will help you realistically wrap a 2D image around a simulated 3D space, and to combine them back together again into an image that you can then use in your covers.



     It runs quite a bit longer than I originally intended, but moving forward I will be including more introductory tutorials, and they will be in the 5-15 minute range. If there is anything you would like to learn, or if there is a aspect of book cover creation that you would like me to explore, feel free to drop me a message, either here, on facebook, or on the YouTube channel, which you can reach by clicking on the Book Cover Workshop logo at the upper left of this post.
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The importance of Fathers

Alright, this is going to be an unpopular view, but if I can ask everyone to read to the end of my comments before passing judgment, I think it will go a long way towards eliminating any offense that single mothers out there might feel, which is not my intent. There will be generalizations made, because what I have to say is a generalization, and constantly disclaiming every point I make is a waste of time. If you can't read something with the understanding that I'm not talking about 100% of a group, 100% of the time, stop reading now, and with the free time you will have gained by not reading it, grow up.

I believe we, as a population, are failing boys. I feel that we are not doing a good enough job of teaching them to be responsible people, and more importantly, I feel that we are doing a poor job of teaching them to be men. 82% of the male population is starting life off from a deficient position, and I'm tired of everyone patting each other on the back and telling each other how "strong" we are, and how great a job we are doing. If you think that a single mother can teach a boy everything they need to be a man, then you have never understood what it means to be a man. I assure you, it is more than a willingness to kill spiders and open pickle jars. When I say "be a man", I'm holding the ideal above being a decent person. Being a decent person is only a foundation towards becoming a good man, but there will be more on that below. A single mother is fully equipped to raise a decent person, and many of them do. But once the child reaches adulthood, and societal pressures are placed on their back, it's far too late to teach a boy the lessons that he will need to measure up and become successful.

I believe that it is important for all boys to have a father figure in their life. I believe that there are subtle, semantic things that only a man can teach a child, be they a boy or a girl. It doesn't have to be the biological father of that child, but they need to care enough to set a good example. As great as the millions of single mothers out there are, and as much as I respect what they sacrifice and give to their children, there are nuances to living as a man that they will never be able to teach, because at the simplest level, they are not a man. That doesn't mean they are inferior, it just means that society has not levied the same expectations on them as their son will encounter late in life.

A mother can no more teach a son how to deal with those pressures and expectations than a single father teach a daughter what it means to be maternal. Either can teach to love, and either can do their best to encourage morality and the pursuit of becoming a decent person, but neither can be great at knowing what the other will have to be. I was lucky enough to have a great father, someone who taught me everything I would need to know about being a good man. I just hope I listened well enough to be the same for my son.

A good father to a son is at best an example. The best single mothers will never be able to give a first person account of how to be a man, just as fathers will never be able to do a great job at teaching a girl how to become a woman. That's why I feel it's important to have a positive influence in a child's life that can guide them through the expectations of what society will expect of their gender, to a certain degree. As I said, it doesn't have to be their biological father/mother, but perhaps a trusted friend or a grandparent that steps up and helps pass on those nuances of life that the parent might not be aware exists.

We have made great strides in gender equality, and we have made great strides in equality for all sexual orientations, but we are not where we need to be yet. Our children will be expected to navigate the world as adults when they become of age, not the world that we will one day craft.

Your job is not only to instill your morals and beliefs in your child, your job is to prepare them to become an adult, to survive a world that will not always have you there to act as training wheels. It's like the anti-vax movement going on in this country. Parents are skipping vaccinations because they are listening to people with no medical training tell them that vaccinating their child will put them at risk of diseases, and parents believe it because there is a void of information when it comes to the cause of Aspergers and Autism. 

Now, we are seeing a resurgence of many diseases that we had thought to be wiped out a generation or two ago. Even when presented with this, these people would choose their pride over the well-being of their child. This is my fear. I was lucky enough to have an outstanding father, as well as many other positive role models growing up, that taught me how to be responsible and to be a man, and many of them are still here to help reinforce the principles I am cultivating in my son. I am a single father, and while his mother is still in the picture his time with her will be greatly diminished moving forward. I know it's important for him to still see his mother, because there are aspects of life that try as I may, I won't be able to do the best job possible of teaching him. That will mean helping out with plane tickets to make sure they don't ask him to change planes in a busy airport, and that will mean continuing to make sure that he has time with his grandmother and aunts, because you can never have enough positive influences in a child's life.

He is all that is important, not my pride, not my vanity. In the below video, several single mothers on the show "The View" take immediate offense to Terry Crews' insistence that there are parts of the raising of a child they will be unable to provide for their sons. I agree with what he is saying, but perhaps the finer details of his message could be refined further. Everything he describes, from the identity, to the security, etc. comes from the example set by a good male role model. A boy cannot look at his mother and see an example of a man that embodies what is being asked of him. They can see a good person, a good role model, but it's a little like learning how to cook a restaurant quality steak by watching videos of people cooking restaurant quality seafood. Sure, you might be able to stumble through it after a few dry runs- it's still food, but it doesn't inspire confidence in your ability to cook a steak by watching someone cook lobster.



We all need to get over ourselves. We need to swallow our pride, and understand that we are not able to provide 100% of what our children will need to grow to adulthood ourselves. If you are a single mother raising a boy, it is your responsibility to provide a good male role model in their life to help them learn what the world will expect of them. If you are a single father of a daughter, the same applies. Find time for them to spend with an aunt/uncle that you trust, or a grandmother/father, or even with an adult friend. Suck it up, acknowledge that you are not the bee-all and end-all for them, and provide examples of good people of both genders to show your child what they can become if they work at it.

Now we have reached the part of the post that might piss off a few people (of both genders), but I'm going to say it because it needs to be said. Don't worry, I will back up what I have to say with numbers. Given that birth rates "gender ratios are still around 1:1", and that 82.2% of custodial parents are women (meaning the child lives with the mother more than the father), out of 21.8 million children only live with one parent. Only 18% of the population is married (I didn't remove female same sex couples from this figure, because same sex marriage numbers are still statistically a minority due to the low number of states that support marriage equality, and the fewer number of same sex couples in general.), that means that roughly 9 million boys are not living in the same household with their biological fathers. 

The problem has progressively gotten worse, with historical data showing "that from 1900 until around 1970 about a quarter of American sixteen year old's did not live with both of their own parents. By the 1990's the proportion had risen to almost half."

By itself, that's not necessarily to say they do not have a positive regular male influence in their lives, but I'll get to that. This is just to frame the argument. 9 MILLION of the men growing up today are not seeing their fathers more than half of the time, a figure that is likely to grow exponentially, because the problem is more prevalent within poor areas of the country, and the poor areas of the country are expanding exponentially themselves.

Let that sink in before we move on. 9 million boys spend the majority of their life away from their fathers.

The divorce rate is back on the rise, the population is growing every year, and the number of boys that are being pushed into the world every year are more and more, while most are still loved and cared for, are not being shown what a responsible man even looks like.

Now, I will agree that it is most likely close to a 50/50 split when it comes to blame in the cause of a divorce, where blame can be established. Many more children are fathered out of wedlock, and even more are abandoned by their fathers, at a much higher rate than they are by mothers. Men are certainly a major contributor to this issue. But women are not devoid of blame. Many women are choosing to reward men with their time that are more exciting, and less responsible. It's the unspoken responsibility of being a single mother. Most single mothers wear their sacrifices as a badge of honor, (and they should, being a single parent is hard) but many of them have a "I don't need a man, I can do anything a man can do, and better" attitude that is a severe disservice to any boys they happen to be raising. It's a holdover of the women's rights movement, and I understand it because by and large, women can do anything a man can do. Each gender has it's predispositions, but when a boy grows up hearing a steady stream of bile for men from his mother, about how insignificant men are, he will grown up thinking that's what is expected of him.

How many times have you read, seen, or been witness to a woman with children choosing a man that makes her feel young again, or that looks good, over a man that will be a good role model for her children? How many are unable to break the routine of choosing men for them, as opposed to men for their children? The men are responsible for their own actions, but we have the choice to throw up our hands and say, "Well, it's HIS fault.", or we can take it upon ourselves to make sure that our children don't grow up just like them. Demanding that a child show their mother respect goes a long way, but I give single mothers the benefit of the doubt when I think that most of them have already been doing that.

So why is the number of incarcerated males so far beyond the number of incarcerated females? Are women just inherently better people? I hope you don't really believe sexism of that magnitude. All people are created equal, and given similar moral instruction and demonstration, they will become equivalently moral. There is nothing "broken" in the male chromosome, it is we as a society that are "broken".

We are failing them. The men in this country (in general) are not providing enough positive male role models for children, and the women are ( in general ) either ignorant of the importance of a positive male influence on their sons life, or bitter or arrogant enough to think they can provide all that their child needs to become a productive, well rounded member of society.

Both genders need to stop being so damn selfish, and start putting their children first again. No, the world is not ideal, and being a single parent is hard. I know, I am one, and I have my son 100% of the time. I know your struggle, and I'm not trying to tell you that you are doing a poor job. I'm trying to tell you (in general) that we can do better.

Men need to do a better job of fighting for their children, and being there for them even if they live elsewhere. The problem has gone on long enough that the court system has begun to arbitrarily give any children in custody disputes to the mother, unless the father can produce documented evidence that the mother is unfit or a danger to the child. This happens almost automatically, and for every successive generation that we allow it to continue, the problem will snowball. Men are seen as the more likely one to run out on their family, and perhaps we've earned that. If we ever want this world to improve, crime rates to go down, and to turn this country around, we need to be more supportive and educational to our children. We are not going to fix this world, they are the ones that will have to do it, but we can give them all the help we can before they have to.

Women need to do a better job of not rewarding irresponsible, narcissistic men. See them for what they are, and understand that your first priority is your children. If you have children, be there for them more often than you are at the bar, and don't bring men home unless they have proven to be respectful and decent. Every time you bring home a man that ends up treating you poorly and then leaving, you are teaching your son that it's okay. Hold men responsible for their actions. Make them walk the walk, so to speak. There is no rush to shack up with anyone, though I can understand how you might be looking forward to the help another adult in house would provide. There is much more weight on your mistakes here than there is benefit to your success.

The fascinating thing about genetics and breeding is that whoever holds the power in the "partner selection process" dictates what traits are carried on to the next generation. In humans, that honor is usually the woman's. There are certain pockets of thought in this world that think that the rise of women's rights is signalling the downfall of our society, or is more likely than not the cause of it's downfall.

I don't agree with that. As I said above, we are ultimately judged in this life by the character of our actions, not the color of our skin or who we choose to marry. I do think that, in a general sense, women are still getting their legs under them in regards to the rights they have won, since historically they have not had them very long. They're still figuring out what they want the world to look like, and in some ways are making choices that women in another hundred or two years will not. They are overjoyed by the right to choose their own partners in life, which they have historically not been able to do, that as a society (yes, women have circled the wagons in their way to have developed a society among themselves) they haven't settled into a set of criteria to look for when presented with the choice of finding a partner.

If you're a woman reading this, that last sentence probably pissed you off. Don't worry, men are still learning to deal with the social changes of this as well, and by and large, we aren't handling it well. We aren't used to having to pull our own weight in a relationship. We're used to coming home to a well cooked meal, a kept house, and a wife that has spent all day keeping up the domestic side of things so that we don't have to. For every woman that hasn't figured out what she wants (how many times have you heard a woman say that, be honest), there's a man that "just doesn't understand women", and as a consequence doesn't know how to treat them well.

That chivalry is still appreciated tells me that parts of the old way of living will always remain, even as men and women meander their way to equality. People still appreciate being taken care of, and having nice things done for them. They also appreciate respect, though they don't always hold it in higher regard over celebrity and a toned body (don't even try to lie if you do this, your actions speak louder than whatever excuse you can come up with).

If human society is going to come back from the precipice of failure, it will start with teaching the young to be better than we are, because most of us are beyond the point of no return when it comes to our ability to change. If we concentrate our attention where it can do the most good, in teaching our children to be worthwhile adults, with a proper perspective on life, how to treat people, and to behave, then eventually all of the numbers I've thrown around above will start moving in the other direction.

That means recognizing that we are not the center of the universe. That means understanding that our children are what is most important, and that means providing positive role models for them to emulate, an ideal for them to shoot for or surpass. That means recognizing that in our push to provide equal rights for women, that we don't neglect a generation of boys that will be expected to be men when the only examples they have to go on are great women.




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