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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Why Tan?

This is kind of a lame article, comparatively, but still kind of caught my attention: Tanning Beds as deadly as arsenic.

First of all, it's kind of shocking that cancer rates increase 75% when you use ultraviolet tanning beds. Shocking and kind of scary. But that isn't really what made me pause when I read this article, so much as the question of Why and When looking tan became so imperative? And is it really worth the risk? I mean, for years we've been hearing about how tanning is bad for us, how it may or may not cause cancer (apparently people who were banking on May Not picked the wrong side). So why are we still doing it? For that matter, why do we do any of these things that are potentially hazardous to ourselves to look "attractive." And if it is something that's cancer causing, shouldn't that, evolutionarily speaking, be LESS attractive to us? Shouldn't the evolutionary imperative be AWAY from things that are harmful, and toward things that are healthy?

I'm just not sure what to make of the things we do to our bodies in the name of beauty. Shaving legs, plucking hairs, painting our skin with chemical compounds, poisoning our bodies with false tans from false sunlight-- or even poisoning our bodies with TRUE sunlight. We need sun, yes, for Vitamin D. That's true. But does that mean we have to darken our skin to get it? For that matter, what is the evolutionary purpose of a tan? Is it a defense mechanism? Sunburns aren't healthy. We know that. And for someone like me, the only way I tan is to burn first (curse my pale skin!). If a Tan is a self defense mechanism to sunlight-- allowing us to absorb UV radiation more effectively, then what happens to the radiation once it's absorbed? does it build up inside us? does it just pass through? If it builds up, doesn't it make sense that it would be unhealthy to be too tan too often because that means we're absorbing more of the unhealthy UV stuff? But not being tan, and spending too much time in the sun is a recipe for a sunburn, which is worse?

I don't understand the process. Maybe I don't need to. But if tanning is that bad for us-- Carcinogenic in the same class as cigarettes or arsenic, why are we doing it? What makes that behavior, that appearance, attractive? Why do we pay people to increase our chance of contracting a terrible disease? Ever?

Of course, all of that being said, I have to admit that after the years of chemistry labs, there are so many carcinogenic things in this world that we play with daily, it would be totally impossible to avoid them all.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

This is going to sound stupid...

One of my beta readers just told me they loved my MC as much as they loved Edward and Jacob from Twilight.

I'm kind of excited.

...if only it were an agent and not my beta reader... oh well. All in good time.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

books!

I'm purchasing The Time Traveler's Wife today, along with Norse Code.

Then I'm going to DEVOUR read them both and see what happens on the other side.

I'll keep you informed.

Edit:

The Time Traveler's Wife is already full of beautiful moments I wish I had thought of first. And I'm only on chapter two.

Revision, Revision, Revision of the Revision, and final drafts

This is another non-articled post, for which I am not going to apologize, but will acknowledge. The quality of my commentary relates directly to what news and articles catch my eye, and nothing has really captured my attention lately (outside of things I don't want to touch with a ten foot pole in this venue), so this is what you get.

I've been doing a lot of writing, and I've been doing a lot of workshopping, and I've been doing a lot of revision work. Obviously workshopping lends itself to revision and rewriting, so that shouldn't really be much of a surprise. But my system is kind of ... Well, I don't know if it's odd or not, because I'm not sure I've ever really discussed it with any other writers. Basically, what I've noticed in the last couple of days, is that my turnover time for revisions is super fast. I send out my work to my workshop partners and beta readers, and the minute that I get their feedback and comments, I sit down and take a look at the piece again and accept or reject changes. I'm also exceedingly lucky to have really quick response time from a few key readers, so that helps a lot, but the evolution of my writing from first draft to revision x(^y) is really fast.

But how many times can you send the same piece [draft x(^y)] to the same people? You can't. Maybe a really sharp critique partner will be able to catch all the differences and see what you're doing, but sooner or later you're going to hit a point where their "new" eyes are not new enough anymore and you have to branch out to a different set of people in order to get appropriate and helpful feedback. Not to mention that they're probably sick of seeing the same thing over and over again.

So that brings me to my last point-- Final drafts.
Oh, Final Draft, my nemesis.
I don't have Final Drafts. Sorry. I just don't. Maybe I think I have a final draft, and I'm all excited, and I put it away, but because I genuinely adore and love my characters, I can't help myself from going back and revisiting them, rereading their stories for my pleasure. (Totally geeky, I know, but geez! if I don't love them enough to read their story repeatedly, I sure can't ask anyone else to read it a first time!) And a week, two weeks, three months, a year later, I'm looking at the "final" draft and seeing little things that should be changed. Maybe I have an extra sentence here, or a phrase I'm just not happy with there (and mostly it is cutting, more than anything else. refinement.) but the fact of the matter is I just turned my "final" into draft x(^y)+1 and have a new "final" draft to look at next time I just HAVE to reread my favorite chapter.

So. Final Schminal.

maybe this post should have been titled "Why are you counting your drafts, punk?"
or: "Revise until it SHINES"

I really shouldn't be talking about my process.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The mystery of why women are attracted to Jerks

My husband and I were talking about evolution and instinct. How much of human behavior, and how much of individual, personal behavior, is driven by our DNA? I was reading somewhere, recently--and I don't remember for the life of me where it was--that the argument of Nature vs. Nurture is moot. That there is no VERSUS, because the two things are not mutually exclusive. It is ALWAYS both. And I was discussing this with my husband, and how, if it were true that it was always both, and if it was true that these behaviors were encoded in our DNA, we could effectively breed undesirable traits out of humanity by limiting who could have children and who is having children, much like we've done with dogs, cows, pigs, horses, et cetera. Obviously this is all theoretical, because there is no way in our current society that our culture and morality would allow this kind of selective breeding (although that does make me wonder why it's okay for us to do it to other animals?). There would be a huge public outcry and it would be one giant human rights violation on top of another. But the fact remains, if it is BOTH, and it is a question of genetics, the possibility of breeding out something like "evil" is totally possible, IN THEORY. But "evil" itself, he argued, is a confluence of traits-- not a trait all its own. The combination of aggression and self-involvement to the exclusion of all else. But, I said, if these things are bad, why on earth are women attracted to selfish and aggressive men STILL?

All of this threw us into a discussion about what women find attractive in men, and why.

I can only answer for myself in these debates, but the answer is always the same: Women are totally bizarre. What we find attractive in men is sometimes totally and completely at odds with anything rational. For instance: the character of Dr. House. The guy is a complete and total Dick. He's manipulative, mean, and downright awful. But even knowing that, part of me still finds him undeniably attractive (and I know I'm not alone)! So I asked my husband why the heck this is because I couldn't explain why I found myself attracted to someone who behaves like a jerk constantly, and he said "You know, I think it's instinct."

I thought about it for a minute, and he elaborated. Women find these jerks attractive, he thinks, because they're CONFIDENT and POWERFUL. It has nothing to do with how the man treats us, and everything to do with the fact that he's in charge and can provide the most protection and the best resources for our potential offspring. It doesn't matter if he's nice to me-- all that matters is that my kids will have the best chance of survival. Basically, our attraction to jerks like Dr. House (or Tony Stark) is evolutionary compulsion. Furthermore, this compulsion operates under the assumption that a woman will be parenting these children pretty much on her own-- because anyone can see that a man who is that kind of person isn't going to be any kind of father. But said woman will also have the biggest cave, with the best view, and the best shelter from storms, and plenty of guys for the husband to lead on the hunt so he can bring back the biggest hunks of meat.

Could it be? Is this, at last, the explanation for why women are inexplicably attracted to jerks? Because Jerk=Confidence and power? Are we overlooking these serious personality flaws because we think the man in question can beat the utter crap out of the next guy (or because the next guy will bend the knee to our guy instead of fighting) and provide our future children with protection from the wildlife? Do we like rich (money, power, leadership) men just because they can provide for our kids, no matter whether they're nice people or not? When it comes to perpetuating the species, does personality have ANYTHING to do with it?

Did I go against nature and nurture by marrying the nice guy? Is this a triumph of love over evolutionary imperative? AND, if it is my genes that compel me to behave the way I behave, even down to who I've chosen to marry, does it mean that my daughters will also feel compelled to pick the nice guy, even though they're still attracted to the jerks?

You know what I think?
I think the answer is ALWAYS yes.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Pet Dominance

I kind of chuckled at this article today: Cats Do Control Humans, Study Finds

I had a cat growing up, who was brought into our household before I was, and lived to nearly 20. She absolutely knew how to get what she wanted, whether it was as unsubtly as sitting herself down on top of my homework or my text book when she wanted to be pet and I was studying, or yowling at the top of her lungs to get me to find her and let her in.

The thing I think that we forget, is that every relationship is dependent upon communication. Cross species, this is a little bit more difficult because there is no common language. At least not as we recognize it. But in order for the relationship to be successful, no matter whether it's between two humans, or between a human and their cat, one has to be able to communicate their needs to the other. I would be more surprised if cats weren't learning to "control" their people. But again, I think this is an issue of semantics. I wouldn't call a cat learning what call elicits the most expedient response "Control" but rather effective communication.

also while we're on the topic of pets-- Pet vs petted, past tense. Is "petted" out? Is this a linguistic trend? or just poor grammar?

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

social networking

Has ego and self-absorption always been at the heart of socialization, or is this something we've fed and bloated into being, and named facebook, twitter, and myspace? Or even blogs for that matter. I mean, how self-important do we think that we are that the world wants to read what we have to write, or what we did two seconds ago that's 160 characters or less? Why do we think the internet, and every person we've friended, wants to know that we just did the dishes? or took the dog out? or sorted the laundry?

How much of our lives do we want to publicize? Is it just a bid for attention from a culture that's been starved? Are we all just suffering from the fact that we didn't get enough love as children?

I'm not sure if I even agree with everything I just wrote or that I have any idea what I'm talking about, but I had to ask the questions.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Novelty and Teeth!

I did manage to stop procrastinating and finish my book, though now that it's done I find myself resisting the compulsive urge to revise at once, which I refuse to do.

It isn't that it doesn't need revision (what novel doesn't? especially the later half, which didn't get rewritten a dozen times already, like the first half did as I struggled to find a way to address the concepts and the characters in the proper order), but that I know that I need to put it away for a few weeks, maybe some months, and let it rest, and go back to it with fresh eyes so that I can read what I actually wrote on the page instead of what I think, or what I'm expecting to read.

So instead of working on revising my recently completed work (I am workshopping it, however, which since it doesn't require MY reading and commenting, but someone else doing so, I think is totally allowable), I'm going back to revise my previous manuscript, which is just as fun, because I've been wanting to reread it again anyway, and now it gives me an excuse to do so! (I feel totally dorky sitting around reading my own writing for pleasure. I mean, it just seems kind of egotistical. But I can't quite stop myself all the time because I love my characters and I love the stories I'm telling, maybe that's the way it's supposed to be. If I don't love it, how on earth will anyone else?)

I've also got some chapters to go over for said workshop by Friday, so I've still got some work on my plate this week. I got terribly behind last week, which was unfortunate, but I'm fairly well caught up now. I hope.

But I'm not caught up to this blog-- though my husband was telling me about how they're experimenting with using stem cells to create your own tooth fillings of real tooth to grow back into your teeth, which frankly makes me want to celebrate and I might have to find the article to post for all of you to see, because one of the things that frightens me most about living as long as we do now, as a people, is the idea of outliving my teeth. I don't know about the rest of you-- but I much prefer chewing with my own teeth than I do having metal surfaces to accomplish the same task.

Wow. That was an incredibly long and run on sentence. Recognizing it as such, I'm not going to fix it.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Self-Esteem and the Imprecision of Language

Sometimes I read these articles and I wonder why the research actually had to be done. This one in particular is about Self-Esteem, and how high Self-esteem doesn't always mean that you're psychologically in a healthy place. This right here is my favorite part of the article-- because it sums up the results pretty succinctly, and in such a way that I just stared at it for a moment with the thought "we didn't already know this?"

“These findings support the view that heightened defensiveness reflects insecurity, fragility and less-than-optimal functioning rather than a healthy psychological outlook,” said Kernis. “We aren’t suggesting there’s something wrong with people when they want to feel good about themselves. What we are saying is that when feeling good about themselves becomes a prime directive, for these people excessive defensiveness and self-promotion are likely to follow, the self-esteem is likely to be fragile rather than secure and any psychological benefits will be very limited.”

It just seems common sense to me. Secure people don't have any reason to lash out or get defensive. They can accept that other people have different opinions and not be threatened by those differences. I think the real issue of this article is the semantics between "Secure" and "Insecure" people, vs. "high self-esteem" and "low self-esteem." They're not the same thing. That's what this study proves-- semantics. It doesn't tell us anything we don't already know, it just tells us how to categorize it, linguistically.

But that in itself is kind of fascinating too-- here we are using science to define words that we already use. To redefine words, maybe. To find the right word to fit the scenario they've observed. How much time does science spend with research that serves the same function as a dictionary?

This also brings me back to the article a few weeks ago about simplifying science and physics by assuming there's only one universe, not a multiverse. Part of his argument, too, was semantics. How to label discoveries and laws and findings. He objected to the idea that we had to label things as true only for OUR universe, as opposed to multi-universally true. I didn't understand why this was an issue-- but now I'm getting a better idea, maybe, where he's coming from. Scientists, especially scientists operating in the math-based, hard science fields (chemistry, physics, etc) are notorious, in my experience, for being unable to communicate effectively with the world outside their specialties. These are people who are brilliant in their field, but unable to explain themselves to the common person in a classroom. They make fabulous researchers, and horrible teachers. Something just doesn't connect, there. Now I'm kind of wondering if it isn't just language-- and the imprecision with which we use it. The imprecision which is inherent in its use, just like how they needed to now do research to show that "high self-esteem" is not a word that is interchangeable with "secure" in psychology. We juggle these words and throw them around taking into account the variable meanings-- but in science, in MATH SCIENCES, precision is everything. Exact numbers, exact formulas, exact measurements. It has to be perfect. It has to be Exactly Correct. One wrong number or letter or function destroys the entire experiment.

Is the gulf between science and communication with general humanity really just a question of precision of language? Is it just semantics?

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

MIA

This is not going to be a post about an article. This is a post apologizing to my readership (such as it is) for my absence. There was some significant trauma within my family and some significant celebration, both of which required my absence from the internet because my grandfather lives in the dark ages without a computer, nevermind access to the world wide web, and I was unable to steal wireless from the surrounding areas due to the fact that he lives on 88 acres with no neighbors. Of course, if wireless had been available, I wouldn't have been utilizing it, since because of the trauma, my family flew in from across the country, and it was vital that I spend as much time with them as humanly possible in the short time we had together.

I am once again reminded how much I value my family.

Now I'm going to stop writing before I launch into a completely unprofessional post listing the reasons why I love Superman even though he's too perfect. I think I need to wait another couple of months before I go comic book hero again, since I only just went on about Thor. Besides which, I have three chapters to workshop for a friend, and two chapters to write to finish my novel in progress, and this is just one more way to procrastinate.