“Common Sense”

This week I’m in the process of researching a nonfiction book; one that has some big ideas I it that I’m currently working on how to relate. It’s funny how when I do things like this I find seemingly unrelated stuff that is really significant…

We talk about the ‘five senses’ (though there are actually more) and we talk about ‘common sense’. Would you believe these ideas actually come from the same source?

And, common sense was the actual original sixth sense.

The ‘five senses’ come from the writings of Aristotle who discussed the senses of sight, hearing, smell, touch and taste as how we explore the world around us. He also talked about the common sense.

Aristotle’s common sense was an internal thing, a thing of the mind. Instead of the nebulous ‘don’t be stupid’ sense that is thought of today Aristotle’s common sense was (and is) a coordinating and interpreting function. The ‘common’ sense was that internal system that coordinated the data we got from our five external senses into something useful and meaningful. In Aristotle’s thinking (and mine) a lack of common sense meant not using the data you have in front of you.

If anything, the ‘common’ sense is more important now than it ever has been. Modern folk are bombarded with more information than at any time in history. We need to learn to evaluate, coordinate, and utilize that information correctly.

‘Common sense’ is truly the vital sense of the twenty first century.

Of course you and I both know that it is not that simple dear reader. ‘Common sense’ is a learned skill. Actually it is a learned skill set. What that means is that we are not automatically experts at using common sense. We are born with legs but have to learn to walk. The same logic applies.

The good news is that we can learn and improve in our skills. It is not always easy, but when we put forth the effort we will improve over time. If we consciously work on our skills for evaluating and using information we will actually get better at it faster.

I’m not trying to tell you everything about common sense today dear reader (this is a blog post not a book). For now know that we all have the capacity for common sense. We all have the need for common sense. And, we all have to accept that common sense comes to us “some assembly required”.

See you next week…

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Larger than life

The first place I ran into the term ‘larger than life’ was in the movie Top Gun (and I am not admitting to when or where that was…). I wanted to know what ‘larger than life’ meant…

The first definition I found was someone or something literally larger than normal; the eight foot tall guy, the double sized model or blown up picture that helped you see small details, that sort of thing. The problem was that this obviously wasn’t what was meant in the movie…

Not literal…? So, what is it?

The term larger than life couldn’t mean what I thought it meant. Neither Maverick nor Tom Cruise was that tall, or wide. So, maybe the term was one of those simile or metaphor things that were all the rage in my English class at the time. So, what was Mav’ doing that would fit the descriptor…?

I found other people that were described as ‘larger than life’. Most of them were stars (the media type) or fictional characters (the super hero type). So, for a time, ‘larger than life’ meant someone who did, or could do, things regular people couldn’t (this turns out to be sort of true in my own definition, but it’s not the definition I believe in).

This definition is false. If you operate on the TV star and superhero definition of larger than life, then ‘larger than life’ starts to mean the same thing as ‘made for TV’.  Under this definition whatever you choose to call ‘larger than life’ is fake. It’s something that doesn’t happen in real life. So, how could a character be described as larger than life in the context of his or her own reality?

The search continued.

Years went on.

I found the answer.

The truth is you can be larger than life.

But it isn’t easy.

The answer (at least as I have found it)

You can be larger than life, but it isn’t easy.

Over time pieces fell into place for me. I came to understand. I’m still trying to actually do and become…

Larger than life doesn’t just mean physically bigger, or something that normal folks can’t do (they can if they work at it). Being Larger than life is a real achievable thing that appears as a feature of heroes, those whose names and stories are written large in the world.

Being larger than life isn’t necessarily a physical thing. It isn’t entirely a symbolic thing. Being larger than life is a philosophical thing, it is a way of living. One might even call it a spiritual thing.

I don’t remember the precise moment I realized it. I think it’s something that develops in you over time. To be larger than life means to be aware of, and focused on, something larger than the day to day details of life. It doesn’t mean you don’t do the day to day details, but it means your purpose, the thing you focus on, is something larger, something more meaningful. You are larger than life when you get through the challenges of daily life and don’t get trapped or consumed by them. You become larger than life when you will endure the day to day frustrations to achieve a greater purpose.

The artist who skips meals to buy brushes and paint; the person who runs into harm’s way to save a life; the parent/spouse/brother/sister who puts aside his or her own fear, sadness, or frustration to comfort a family member; these are the real larger than life people. Being larger than life means looking past the now to something greater, something more important, and then actually doing something to get there.

Being larger than life means living for things that you know are good and right; living for goals and ideals rather than praise and paychecks. That is what makes it so difficult to achieve.

I can’t say I’m perfect at it. I am not yet entirely larger than life, but I am trying dear reader. I am trying. I know that I can be larger than life, and so can you.

Being larger than life takes a lot of effort. It means putting aside vanity and foolishness in order to strive for something greater. Sometimes it means you stop worrying about ‘optics’, appearances, and ‘dignity’; but when you choose to rise above and strive for something greater who and what you are rises above the day to day as well. When you choose to rise above the day to day concerns and do something greater you become larger than life. Real dignity, satisfaction, all of the literal and spiritual things you need await and will come to you when you need them and you are ready for them.

It is scary dear reader, but it is worth it.

That’s it for this one. Until next time…

Try being a bit bigger, standing a bit taller. Trust me, it’s worth it.

Change and ‘normality’ (one round of many)

A few months ago two really important things happened at the same time: my wife graduated with a doctorate in instructional design and I released Johnson Farm: my first novel, my first nanowrimo win, and a book that I was forced to admit really did need a sequel (and after I promised myself I wouldn’t do that…).

We were done and life was going to get back to ‘normal’ (yes dad I can hear the laughter from here…). I jumped straight into the second book. After all, being a writer is what I do. Unfortunately it’s never that simple…

  1. In becoming a full time writer I decided to create my own publishing label and that needs regular attention, just like the writing part.
  2. As much as I hate to admit it I do have a life outside of books (gasp! It scares me too!)
  3. I went full time on the writer me and invented the publisher me while my wife was working on a doctorate.

When combined these facts mean that Farangian the full time writer, and Forever Mountain Publishing, had never known life without a grad student in the house. We have spent the last couple of years in a ‘make it work’ mode. And, while it’s good we can do that, it’s not really a healthy thing to do long term. So, about a month ago I gave myself the task of reanalyzing and making things work better in a ‘normal’ life (I know, there’s that word again…). That meant stopping the blog for a couple weeks, stopping the writing for a couple of weeks, thinking, reorienting, and then starting the whole thing up again with a new plan (it also meant my wife hiding the swords, axes, fire arms, plasma cannons, and so on until it was done…).

Going forward

Now we’re at the point where everything is moving forward again. I’m keeping semi-regular office hours (I still get book ideas at 5:00 AM on a Sunday morning, but I try not to be working on work stuff while I’m spending time with my wife in a non-work setting). I’ve reworked my weekly schedule so that things like website maintenance are less likely to be forgotten (I know I still have catching up to do, but at least it’s regularly on the plan and starting). And, I’m back to writing and putting out the blogs.

Things won’t change too much here. My blog at FMP is about writing: the mechanics of writing; life as a writer; the publishing process; and other things or interest to writing and publishing people. Words Mean Stuff is about words and ideas. That might sound like the writing blog, but from here on out it is about words and ideas about life: Making positive choices, finding meaning, and other “humany” stuff that words represent.

I will talk about books and projects that I am working on in both places, but I will try to talk about them in context appropriate ways. I will also talk about crafting stuff from time to time, in contextually appropriate ways. What I’m not going to be doing (well, I’ll try not to, but I’m not perfect) is ranting and spewing hurt feeler negativity. Those things happen in life, but I have no desire to speak of them here.

These blogs are about ideas and communication. You need a safe, open forum to talk about those things, and that’s what I’m going to make here. Speaking of talking… I love comments and discussion. So, dear reader, feel free to comment on the blogs, or share them if you find an opportunity and find the blog post worthy.

That’s it for this one dear reader, time to stop talking about and start doing! See you next week.

Lessons from ‘the great American eclipse’

Yep, on Monday of the week I’m coming back to the blogosphere we had an eclipse, a total eclipse of the sun that ran the entire length of the country. I happen to live in an area where the eclipse was 98.9% from my door step and full totality was only about 45 minutes north…

Naturally our area braced for the event and some of the ‘knowledgeable ones’ predicted lots of things, some of which happened and some of which didn’t. Here are a couple of things we learned and some thoughts going forward.

A once in a life time experience:

Everyone and I mean everyone was saying that a total eclipse (not just a continent spanning one but any total eclipse) was a once in a life time experience. And, it is… If you just sit in one spot and you don’t live long enough!

I’ve been through at least two total solar eclipses, several partials (they were total eclipses for somebody!), and more lunar eclipses than I can remember. But, I’ve moved around just a little bit…

Lesson: opportunities do happen, but you need to figure out where they are and what you are willing to do to get them. If you sit and do nothing they don’t come around very often.

Bracing for the horde:

Government officials, media types and professional prognosticators warned us to be ready for 100,000, then 500,000, then 1,000,000 people to who were supposed to be descending on our area. Gas was sure to run out. The phone lines and internet connections would be overloaded. The state transit department was going to have to make I15 a one way street to deal with all the traffic. Stores and restaurants would be swamped and run out of food and supplies. I believe there were even warnings about witches, zombies and ninjas (Wiccan ninja zombies?).

Well, in the end there were difficulties. After the eclipse a forty five minute trip away from the zone of totality became a four hour trip (on the one side of the I15… Traffic in the opposite direction (toward the zone of totality) was just fine…). Several hotels and gas stations artificially raised prices. And… Several stores and restaurants ended up ordering too many supplies, and didn’t sell them all.

The main problem was a problem of hype over thought. Yes, there were lots of people who came up for the eclipse. A lot of them came from relatively nearby and made a day trip of it (or tried to at least…). A lot of them brought food and water with them. The ones that weren’t making a day trip of it filtered in a day or two ahead. It was only when everyone tried to leave at the same time that there were big traffic problems. Some store shelves got barren, but new shipments were getting in on a daily basis and to my knowledge nobody starved.

If you were looking for roving gangs, there weren’t any. Roving gangs don’t’ usually travel long distances for astronomical events. If you were looking for zombies, apocalyptic horsemen, or other such oddities, there weren’t any of those either (that I’m aware of…). If you’re still looking for them I’ve got some nice fiction books in production that you might like…

Generally if you thought ahead and made reasonable preparations you were fine. If you didn’t prepare ahead of time, or it you went straight to the worst case scenario, then things were less satisfactory (but still not a total disaster in most cases!).

Lesson: Be prepared, but make reasonable preparations. A one day event like the eclipse isn’t the same thing as WW3. Yes, people are going to go see something like the eclipse, but it’s unlikely that the whole state of California is going to take a day or three off work and end up on your doorstep.

People are people and that includes both locals and tourists…

One of the problems that did come up was relatively normal people conflicts.

Several national news reports claimed that the locals weren’t friendly. Several local news reports included pictures of tourists driving their vehicles and setting up camp in local farmers fields, the ones the farmers were growing crops in…

Sorry folks… I know ‘farmer John’ may be “just a farmer”, but if you drive through his field and set up camp on top of the crops you are damaging his lively hood. You are also cutting down your own food supplies. Tourists you need to use some sense.

On the other hand… Locals, please have the courtesy to wait until the tourists actually do something offensive before you get all offended. And remember, they’re new here… Some of them have never have gotten out of the city before… Maybe put up a few signs to mark the active wheat and ‘tater fields?

Again this is one of those things that’s kind of predictable… When you get large groups of people together somebody’s going to be less than intelligent. The goal is for you to be intelligent and do what you can to prevent problems in the first place.

Trust me folks, when it comes to my home I’m as territorial as anyone. I’ve also been the one who’s traveling. I know what it’s like to not understand what’s around me. It is much better to do some thinking, planning and considering about what’s around you than it is to go immediately to harsh words and blaming the other person. (By the way… To the ones who were offended when the farmer decided to call the sheriff: be grateful… I know folks who were stocking up on ammo along with the food and toilet paper! Think first!)

Summing up

The name of this blog is Words Mean Stuff. I named it that because words do mean something; they are symbols for ideas. The biggest lesson from this week’s events is to have and use ideas, good ideas. A lot of problems can be avoided and a lot of truly majestic moments can be witnessed (or even participated in!) if you just gather some good data and think first.

That’s it for this one dear reader. Next week I’m going to talk a little about what I’m doing with the blogs. And then after that… Well, that’s next week’s post isn’t it. See you next post dear reader.

Geometry and Reality

I’d like to start with a thought I had while doing some book research:

In geometry terms a line is a theoretical, it has no ends. A line segment is the thing with two end points. For our purposes we can have as many line segments as we need, in any direction we need, as long as the overall line from us to our goal is followed.  When we stray from that (mental) line we are in trouble.

When we actually try something we want to do the result can be pretty ugly. We will make mistakes. We will have missteps…

But, if we learn from our mistakes and missteps we can progress toward the thing we really desire, even though the line segments in reality don’t line up as perfectly straight and true as the mental/theoretical line we wanted.

How this has applied in my life:

As of this Saturday (20 May 2017) the novel Johnson Farm is finally on sale. It’s been a long time in coming. It would have been quicker to arrive if I could have held closer to that mental/theoretical line between where I was and me being an author. It would have been a much longer process if I had continued to listen to those who told me I couldn’t do it, or pushed me in other directions.

I will admit that my first attempt at writing a novel wasn’t very good. It was a first attempt; I was going through a lot at the time; and I was about twelve… Just because I didn’t knock it out of the park on the first one doesn’t mean I should have given up!

That first attempt still exists as a file on my computer. Elements of that story also exist here and there in other stories I’ve written (and some I’m writing right now…). I keep that story around because it helps me see where I was when I started down the path to being an author and novelist. It helps me measure my progress.

What it actually means:

Sometimes the real life line isn’t as straight as the mental/theoretical one. But those shifts aren’t necessarily mistakes, unless you give up. That’s an important distinction. The time I said “that person is right, I can’t succeed as an author, I should be a computer programmer” was a mistake. It was me shifting from the true line. The times I set a story down to get a little distance and perspective before I picked it up again were not.

Ultimately it is that mental line from where you are to where you’re going that matters. If you have to side step to get around (or over, or under) an obstacle that’s OK. If you’re beating your head against a cement wall, you’re not getting anywhere. If you shift slightly to walk through a doorway you’re making progress.

The sidesteps and diversions that come from giving up on a goal are the ones that can kill you. The ones that you can explain in terms of how they get you closer to your goal (including making it possible to get to your goal…) are the ones that save you.

The biggest threat to your success is the same thing as your biggest asset in becoming successful. It’s  you, dear reader, ultimately it all comes down to you, and your active choice to do the things that will get you where you want to go;  even when it doesn’t look to others like that’s what’s happening.

That’s it for this one dear reader, see you next post.

“Facts”, “Truth”, and Constructs

There is a lot of noise made today about ‘facts’ and fact checking. There are a lot of voices out there willing to give you ‘facts’ that directly contradict the ‘facts’ that other voices are screaming at you. You can quickly find yourself in a world of ‘facts’ that seemingly can’t coexist, and yet all sides claim to be telling the truth.

How do we know what’s ‘true’?

Well, this kind of demands a definition of truth doesn’t it…

Sometimes ‘truth’ is used to mean a fact that is correct. That is an ok and valid use of the word, but often those who wish to argue for a particular position will use that meaning of truth, i.e. that a ‘fact’ is correct, to imply another meaning of ‘truth’; truths that are world spanning principles.

A world spanning principle ‘truth’ is what all sides of a debate would like to claim they have. The problem is that real truths in this sense are a very small set of very large items. This sort of ‘truth’ runs into the realm of universal truths, things that are larger than any of us really. This sort of ‘truth’ drags us into discussions of religion, deity, universality, and other things that manage to be dead simple in a massively complex way.

And yet it would be wrong to just say that because it is a religion it is true (it is also just as bad to say “because it’s a religion it’s false”!).

The problem is that much of what we mistake for ‘truth’ is actually a construct. Constructs are quite simply ideas, things that the human mind fabricates out of ‘facts’ correct or not. We build constructs to try to explain our lives and our world. We build constructs to try to find eternal truths.

The problem becomes that our tool, constructs, is almost as good at hiding truth as it is in finding truths. So, how do you tell the difference?

Truth, both kinds we’ve talked about, are detectable. A correct ‘fact’ truth is a binary switch. An event, the fact, happened or it didn’t. As I wrote these words initially I was sitting in my chair in my living room. That is a correct fact truth. It happened and I can provide evidence of it (if I were to have had someone stand over my shoulder and take a picture while I was writing for instance).

‘Eternal truth’ truths can also be detected, but it is often more challenging. ‘Eternal truth’ truths exist in the information we take in. They are there in the same way a vein of ore (and sometimes pure metal) exists in a mountain, a mountain made of our constructs. So how do we tell the difference?

Eternal Truths are constants, though they may be hard to see (and even hard to test for). You can spot them for what they are by seeing what they do not do, change.

Constructs change and evolve. They change with thought, desire, need, and the ongoing shifts in what ‘facts’ are deemed correct and ‘true’. Trying to support an idea on constructs can be as maddening as trying to support yourself while walking through soft sand or mud.

The constructs shift, but the eternal truths stay the same. The truths are the things that always are, and are always true. When I say God loves you that is an eternal truth (which we can see if we are honest with ourselves and really try to look). How we describe God, whether God is a man, a woman, both, neither, or a committee is a construct that will change depending on our ‘facts’.

That is our big thought for today dear reader. Truth, real eternal truth, is out there and we can find it. We just have to sift through all the constructs we’ve built to try to understand ourselves and the world around us.

Until next time…

Good luck, good hunting, and God be with you.

The road goes on…

I’m a writer with a graduate degree in Psychology. It’s pretty safe to say I spend a fair amount of time watching people. One of the things I’ve been watching lately is people freezing up and stopping. They stop because it doesn’t seem like they’re getting where they want to go. Sometimes they really aren’t. Sometimes they are getting where they want to go, but don’t realize it. Sometimes they didn’t really know where they wanted to go in the first place.

The thing is we humans are a bit like sharks. If we stop moving we die. In our case it’s not a literal physical ‘if you stop moving you die’; we humans need a purpose and if we lose our sense of purpose we wander. And that’s the part that gets us….

We need to know what we want. We need to know what our purpose is.

It’s a simple truth, if you don’t know where you’re trying to go you probably won’t get there.

If we’re going to keep moving and live, it would really be helpful to know where we’re going. It would also be helpful if we knew why we’re going there and doing what we’re doing.

If you’ve started your trip already, and you’re not sure about where you’re going (or why), it might be a good idea to stop and figure things out before you go on.

Remember if you don’t know where you’re going it’s really hard to get there. So, stopping to figure things out probably isn’t hurting much! The thing to remember is that you are stopping purposefully. You are actually still moving toward your goals because you’re figuring out what our goals are. We are not just wandering.

We need to move toward it.

Just having a purpose, just having a goal, won’t really get you anywhere. Once you know where you’re trying to go, the next step is to figure out how to get there.

When you start, you probably won’t entirely know the road. You may have to change things on the way. Even though you might not know all the challenges, you’ll be more prepared, more able to overcome the challenges, if you spend some time thinking and preparing before you get to them.

The straight and narrow path may not look straight…

The path that leads where we want to go might not look like the right path. That’s because our perception isn’t perfect. Sometimes we encounter obstacles we hadn’t planned on. Sometimes we lose track of our actual desire/purpose. We need to be able to keep one eye on the immediate obstacle while we keep the other eye on the overall goal. That way, we can figure out not just how to overcome the problems of right now, but how to get to where we really want to be.

That’s the take home for today dear reader… Figure out where you’re trying to go, and then keep moving. Keep your eye on what you’re trying to do, and not just the immediate problem.

I know that there are more questions. How do we actually do these things? How do we keep an eye on the goal and one on the road? How do we get where we’re going?

I will help where I can dear reader, and other parts you will find on your own. I have confidence in you.

Until next time …

Figure out where you want to go then start moving.

What do assumptions really make?

There is an old saying about what assumptions make you and me, but what do assumptions really make?

Assumptions can be powerful. They can make thinking and planning easier. They can also help us get things wrong and make things worse than they already are.

Assumptions make things easier

Assumptions allow you to set bounds on things, on what is happening and what you should do about it. They make things easier because you can say “as long as this assumption (assumption) is true we can do this (technique or action)”.

Assumptions save you time in that you don’t have to filter through all the possibilities and all the situations that might be going on. That works great as long as the assumption is actually true…

Assumptions are based on a lot of things. Many assumptions are based on surface details. Many assumptions are made on what usually happens, and what things usually mean. They may be made on the basis of empirical tests and research, or anecdotal evidence and personal experience/opinion. Often they are rational. Sometimes they aren’t.

Assumptions make things worse

Maybe it would be more correct to say: not verifying your assumptions makes things worse.

Rational or not, an assumption allows you to say “this is what this means 99% of the time; therefore, 99 times out of a hundred this is how I should respond.” The problem is 99% isn’t 100% (and if you think your assumption is true 100% of the time you have either done something to cause it to be true 100% of the time, or your assumption is faulty). If your assumption isn’t true you can be headed for problems.

This happened to me last year when some hospital folk saw a fat guy walk in with what turned out to be a new diabetes diagnosis. Several people assumed it was an old diabetes diagnosis and I was just an idiot who wasn’t taking his meds or following his doctor’s instructions (wrong!). That led to several patient care and treatment issues… It happened to a cousin of mine when she and her family assumed they were talking about the same airport. She landed at LAX and they were waiting in San Diego. It happened to a whole boat load of people when the crew of the RMS Titanic assumed their ship was really unsinkable and plowed into an iceberg.

People sometimes cling to their assumptions even though there is evidence that warns them the situation is different, or that the assumption is wrong. I personally have watched people make major goofs because of an assumption, even though the person they were just talking to told them not to do it (I may have done this a time of two myself, but I try not to…).

So there is our answer. The old saying about what assumptions make you and me can be true. Our assumptions can make for big (and expensive) goofs. But, they can also make our lives easier and our decisions more efficient.

So, the next question is what do we do about it?

Check reality…

Our assumptions can be a useful tool. We just need to check that they reflect the reality we’re dealing with.

In the field of statistics we have a lot of tests that have basic assumptions. We also have tests to verify whether the assumptions are met or not, and research that demonstrates how far we can push the assumptions of our tests. We can and should check that our assumptions are accurate before we drag out the old ANOVA, MANOVA, EFA, CFA, SEM or whatever tool we’re going to use.

In life it gets a bit messier. The field of Statistics is meant to be rather objective and empirical. In life egos and other realities can get in the way, and there are a lot less well documented way to test our assumptions. The good news is there are a couple of things that we can do…

  • Listen: Actually listening to what people have to say rather than trying to jump ahead in the conversation; figure out your response; or waiting till the noise goes away, can have a big effect on our ability to get things right. Even my neighbors three year old can come up with something I’ve missed once in a while.
  • Look: Often we use assumptions to save time. That can be useful, but we shouldn’t try to save that time in the arena of actually looking at what’s in front of us (literally or metaphorically). Again this is a case of don’t be in such a hurry that you miss the information. Often warning signs will be there (like that iceberg or your check engine light…), but if we ignore them they can’t help us.
  • Be willing to be wrong: None of us like to be wrong (well most of us don’t). Unfortunately you sometimes have to be wrong before you can be right. There is a natural tendency called confirmation bias that can lead to cherry picking the information that supports what you’ve already assumed or decided, and leaving any other information out. We need to learn how to get past this problem. If you are willing to be wrong, and recognize when you’re wrong, you have the ability to fix mistakes and eventually be right (as opposed to the guy who swears he knows where he’s going right up to (and after) he drives off the cliff).

When we listen, look, and are willing to be wrong (and make changes) our assumptions really can help us be more efficient, and right more often. But, we have to learn to verify them and not just depend on them.

That’s it for this one dear reader. Until next time…

(This is a little out of my usual lingo but I like it…) “Check yourself, don’t wreck yourself!”

Walking lines and standing for truth

I’ve recently had a realization about this blog. I was shackling myself. I was setting myself up for failure, but no more.

As usual (in my world at least) it’s not a one factor model. Over the last year or so I’ve gotten a small body of likes and followers. A small body, but not a large one. I hate to admit it, but a bit of a starvation  mentality set in. I was afraid to speak up because I was afraid if I did I would loose the followers I had.

That’s a bad idea… Actually both sides are bad ideas… Loosing follows would be bad; less people would be reading what I have to say. At the same time being afraid to speak weakened what I did say. Weakening my words also results in less people reading what I have to say.

I was falling pray to the fear of offending anyone. You’re never going to make a strong statement if you’re afraid of offending people. And, if you want to make strong statements, but don’t because it might offend someone that undermines you as a writer/speaker and as a person. Reader/hearers can detect that and don’t respond well.

Then, I allowed myself to loose focus. I would give lip service to doing and writing good things here, but I never allowed myself the time to do that. The reality is that not taking the time to do things right is another loosing position.

The reality is that there must be opposition in all things. Often that opposition does not want me (or you to) talk about the things that we believe and stand for.

So, I will be making changes here at WMS. I am making a new commitment not to be afraid to talk about things that matter to me. And if you’d like to weigh in I’m happy to make it a conversation.

If you are interested in or concerned about things I choose to talk about here dear reader, please respond and comment. If not publicly send me an email…

I’m not going to waste my time on trolls, or people that just want to push their angle with no discussions (that’s not what this blog is for). I’m not going to deliberately offend anyone. But, I am going to say something when I have something to say.

And, I welcome comments, discussion, questions, and requests from people who want to discuss things in a civil manner. That is what this place is for dear reader, to talk about ideas and what the words mean.

Words do mean stuff dear reader. Now lets get talking…

Media, Star Wars and Human Behavior

As I mentioned in my last post, I spent a good deal of the last month dealing with a family reunion and some other business. That experience has helped heighten my understanding of parts of human behavior…

The trip, among other things, has really highlighted the fact that different people pick up on, and form their opinions based on, different features of an event. This leads to interesting confrontations and issues; like the family member who will argue that a person’s faith in god can be determined by whether or not he/she will willingly walk into a casino…

The Media…

This also factors into certain media behavior. There are psychological principles about how and when to present data that effect which features of a story will be picked up on. Persons in the media may choose to report on the race or profession of a crime victim while downplaying other details. This happens in both fiction media, and the ‘non-fiction’ media that we call news media (Note I’m not taking sides on which news media…).

Certain aspects of things will be picked up and noted. This depends on both what the people creating a program or story choose to emphasize and the interests and biases of the people watching/listening

The Star Wars…

A great example of all this happened on the trip when my stepfather, my wife, and I watched Star Wars Episode VII.

My  step father, who is a movie buff, described the movie as “OK”.

My wife, who’s been talking to me about writing way too much, immediately locked onto the character development. Maybe I should say she locked onto the lack of character development…

Myself, I never really got as far as character development. I was stuck on the level of counting references and beats borrowed from other movies.

Three reasonably intelligent people with experience in the genre came up with three different opinions based on three different sets of ‘facts’ from one data pool (the movie).

The situation deepened after we got home… For those who haven’t seen the movie yet there is a new ‘big bad’ in the film known as Snoke. There is also a whole legion of internet theories about who ‘Snoke’ actually is. Candidates include Darth Plagueis, Darth Sidious, Darth Vader, one of the younglings from the Jedi Academy, Luke Skywalker. Leia, Bobafett, and Jar Jar Binks (both as himself and as a reincarnation of one of the ‘Darths’).

All of the conclusions are drown from information in the movie (pictures and bits of sound) to which are added bits of background knowledge and the personal opinons of the individual.

My theory of ‘Snoke’…

Now… lets make this clear at the start; I am doing this as an example of behavior. This is not a genuine theory of who ‘Snoke’ is!

There is really one obvious ‘true’ answer to who Snoke is…

Snoke is Abraham Lincoln.

It’s all pretty obvious.

Snoke is tall (at least the projected image of him is). Lincoln was also tall.

Snoke is some kind of of dark side master (Sith or otherwise). Any time we talk about masters of The Force sooner or later somebody brings up temples. the Lincoln Memorial is somewhere people go when they have a crisis of faith. That is also a definition of a temple.

Snoke is shown sitting in a big, throne like, chair. The statue of Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial shows him sitting in a similar chair.

There it is: Tall, Temple, Chair… The answer is obvious: Snoke is Lincoln!

Actual Conclusions…

In reality I have no idea who ‘Snoke’ is (that’s another writers problem!). My point is that it is pretty easy to jump to conclusions based on a few details without really thinking and learning. We need to do better than that.

We need to avoid building an opinion based on a few details and then rejecting any contrary information. That’s called confirmation bias and it manages to get people into a lot of trouble.

It gets us in trouble when we have the actual experience and facts to go on. It really gets us into trouble if we rely on other people to ‘pre filter’ the facts for us.

Getting the wrong conclusion on who ‘Snoke’ is probably won’t cause any major harm. But doing the same thing with real people and real life can (especially in an election year).

That’s it for this one dear reader. Until next time…

Learn for yourself…

then decide!