The Before Time, Where There was Weeping and Wailing, and Gnashing of Teeth
One aspect of my career transition consists of writing a lot more.
And I found that I had truly missed it.
Sure, I had typed tons and tons of stuff before. But a lot of it covered such thrilling topics as documenting queries, or making lists of terms used by public service officers. It very rarely encompassed topics with wit, or style. And I certainly did not have permission to make up any of it.
NaNoWriMo, I Love You
I had known about NaNoWriMo for a while, but hadn’t thought I had anything to offer.
In 2013, I woke up with an idea during the last week of October. I created a wiki and an outline for it, and signed up.
And I wrote. And wrote.
Then about halfway through the month, I had finished. By the end of the month, the story was edited.
It was and is the right thing to do, and the right path.
In addition, it feels fun. And it feels exciting. It feels like it’s a fit.
Furthermore, it does not feel like something where I’m stretching to fit into someone else’s idea, or parallel someone else’s vision. And I certainly don’t feel like I was going through the motions. In addition, it does not feel like ho-hum, same old-same old.
Furthermore, it releases a pent-up inner artist who was shouted down by pretty much everyone I knew for way, way too long in my life. And that is exceptionally freeing.
It feels right. And it feels honest. So it feels free. It feels good.
While names have meanings, you can even get inspiration simply from how they sound. What’s Gertrude like? How about Lakeisha? Or maybe Stefan or Juan?
The popularity of what people call their children changes over time. This can depend upon movie stars, politicians, or even religious figures. When I was born in 1962, my first name, Janet, was already past its peak. However, it was popular in the 1930s and 1940s. Why?
Because in 1937, Janet Gaynor starred in A Star is Born. However, Janet Leigh did not star in Psycho until 1960. And Janet Jackson doesn’t seem to be having too much of an effect on baby naming. For a lot of little girls who would have have the name Janet in the past, now often have the name Jennifer or Jessica.
Another factor? Ethnicity. Maria has probably made the crossover to non-Spanish and non-Italian families, but not Juan and Vito. How many non-Russians have the name Boris (the British politician Boris Johnson notwithstanding)? And do you know any non-Irish women named Siobhan? So when you create your characters, see if you can match ethnicity. Of course there are Jewish kids named Sean and British people named Dominic. So this isn’t a hard and fast rule or anything.
For my own work, Ceilidh O’Malley in The Real Hub of the Universe has the most ethnic name of all of my main characters. But Noah Braverman and Mei-Lin Quan from Mettle are up there, too, as is Mercedes Pérez in Time Addicts.
For westerners, traditional names generally come from both the Old and New Testament, or from the saints. Hence you see Margaret and Mary, but also James and David. Other related names can be similar or with alternate spellings or derivatives. Marynel and Maryellen of course derive from Mary, and Stefan is just the German version of Stephen (or Steven).
In my own work, the most traditional names mainly come from The Real Hub of the Universe. This is because that trilogy takes place in the 1870s and 1880s.
People also, sometimes, invent new names. Actress Alyssa Milano’s daughter is named Elizabella. So of course the name comes from clipping the Beth part off Elizabeth and instead inserting the similar name, Bella. While it might or might not catch on more widely, it’s a fairly harmless alteration. Plus it allows for a number of shortenings.
Because all of the characters in Untrustworthy are aliens, I had to come up with names. Hence I came up with Tathrelle, Ixalla, Adger, and Velexio.
Takeaways For Names
Name your characters whatever you wish, but do keep them consistent within your universe. And while there’s technically nothing wrong with having two similarly-named characters, if they spend too much time together and are otherwise too similar, that can lead to some . Hence you might occasionally want to change Tim and Tom to Tim and Dan.
And keep in mind, names can come into and go out of fashion. These days, very old-fashioned names are often popular again. Hence, your futuristic science fiction novel might have people named Hiram, Dorcas, or Ethel.
Hesitation Generation. So as I travel around the ‘net, I also take note of what is happening in my own backyard. What I have seen is an odd and somewhat disturbing trend.
I am the Project Manager for Able2know and in some ways it’s got its finger on the pulse. But, a caveat, the pulse is rather limited. This is a mere fraction of the web and therefore, by extension, an even tinier fraction of the world. Yet this is the world I know, and so I will report on it.
A2K is a generalized Q & A website where people can post all manner of questions. The availability and quality of the answers varies greatly. Keep in mind: no one is paid to answer questions on Able2know.
Hence inquiries about voltage are generally answered with an admonition to hire a licensed electrician. Requests for medical advice are answered vaguely, and nearly always involve telling the poster to follow up with their personal physician. Inquiries about the law receive a nearly identical treatment, save for the advice to contact an attorney.
You don’t need a degree in psychology to be able to dispense advice. Anyone who appears to be clinically depressed is told to seek treatment. Anyone who appears to be abused is advised to leave, and to contact their local authorities.
But it’s the people in the middle who I’m talking about.
What does it mean when someone stares at you? What is a good idea for a first date? How do I ask someone out? How do I get someone to ask me out? And the saddest – how do I get over a heartache?
And it’s amazing to me (and it really should not be anymore) how many people are paralyzed at the thought of actually speaking to the object of their desire. They wait and think they are seeing signals, and then they ask what those supposed signals mean. It’s like reviewing the Zapruder film, frame by agonizing frame.
My advice is usually – ask.
How do you feel about me?
Do you want to go out for coffee?
Are you seeing anyone right now?
What would you like to do together?
So many of them thank me and promise they will ask (I have heard back from some, and they tend to report either success or relief that they finally know).
But why the heck couldn’t these people have figured that out from the get-go?!?!?!
Back to Ike
It can be a little bit like the 1950s, where girls preen and sit by the telephone, waiting for Prince Charming to deign to call – and heaven forfend he should take more than 20 minutes to get on the stick and call! And guys hem and haw about the most letter-perfect thing to say, when the reality is that the perfect thing to say is something, as that beats the pants off saying and doing absolutely nothing. The same is true in non-cis relationships, of course.
I’m not so sure who that dynamic favors, except for the phone companies. Because minute numbers go sky high, and Facebook’s advertisers benefit as people check each other’s statuses and relationship statuses obsessively. And then they get to serve yet more ads.
It seems as if everyone wants to fast-forward through the movie, and cut the suspense. Instead, all they seem to want is the sunset and the fateful kiss. Dorothy clicks her heels together before she ever leaves Kansas. And nobody seems to miss the Munchkins and the Wicked Witch and the Tin Man and the rest of the middle part. All that matters is the destination, and never the journey.
Something is missing here, and what’s missing is the taking of chances. I get that these are generally rather young people. The vast, vast majority of them are between the ages of 13 and 28. That 15-year span is the worst – it’s a combination of raging hormones and self-absorption. But nowadays that’s spiked with a seemingly inbred inability to take a chance. Plus it’s all fueled by the artificial immediacy of far too much social media.
Instead of risk-taking, everyone seems to want the risks scrubbed out of their lives. They want the endgame handed to them on a silver platter yet refuse to do even a smidgen of the legwork required in order to get there.
A second caveat – this is, to be sure, a small group of people. Furthermore, they are self-selecting. Very confident folk are far less likely to request advice in any endeavor. Plus there is the age issue, as I have already mentioned.
People in their forties ask relationship questions, too, but those tend to be different. They are less about an initiation of connections and more about either reentering the dating pool or the dynamic of being a parent (or dating one) while in the game.
Upshot, Kinda, for the Hesitation Generation
So, where does that leave the Hesitation Generation and the rest of us?
An inability to take risks does not bode well. It clouds decisions on everything from trying a new brand of fabric softener to consenting to an experimental drug trial. It colors employment and investment choices, and keeps people out of new business ventures and away from new books, films and music.
The upside, naturally, is that it may be preventing sexually risky behaviors. That’s a good thing, of course.
However, risks are often good, and a life without them is rather dull indeed. It can be mindless consumerism as people give themselves the same personal rewards over and over again.
The trick, as in all things, is to find a balance.
And now, a bonus.
How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?
One last thing – here, for free, for Hesitation Generation, is my standard heartache cure. Your mileage, of course, will vary.
Expect to feel lousy for a while, and understand that that is a natural reaction. Congratulate yourself – you were affected enough to really feel something.
Relationships often keep us from doing other things, such as seeing other friends. So spend some time with your friends.
Explore things to do on your own. Some are inward, such as making art or even baking cookies. Others are more outward, like taking a class.
More You Can Do
Fill up your time. Being busy gives you few opportunities to wallow in misery. Your boss is likely not without sympathy, but you still need to write the reports, etc. or do whatever it is that you do. Treat your leisure time a little bit more like a job, in the sense that you should make some commitments and stick by them. If your leisure time is to paddle a canoe, then paddle the damned canoe. Don’t back out of that.
Do something physical. Exercise can not only fill up your time, it can also help with depression.
Do something for someone less fortunate than you. Read to a blind person. Serve at a soup kitchen. Visit people in a nursing home. Volunteer at a group home. These actions don’t just help the community, they can also help you gain some sorely needed perspective.
Don’t jump into a new relationship right away. Being single does not have to automatically mean being lonely. This is a time to cultivate your inner resources.
If you think you need it – and in particular, if you are experiencing suicidal ideation – please seek out the care of a professional. There is no shame whatsoever in getting the help that you need. If you need medical help to mend a broken heart, it should be no different from seeking medical help to mend a broken arm.
So at the time I wrote the story, I had no idea what had happened to Rich. As it turned out, a mutual friend did some sleuthing. And so, I learned the truth. It was what I had been afraid of; he was dead.
Rich was the first gay man who ever came out to me. And I consider that to be one hell of an honor.
The Plot for The Boy in the Band
So the story is more or less accurate. Hence it wrote itself. And I was merely there to take mental dictation. And the title, of course, comes from the film.
In 1981 or 1982, my friend Rich asked me to the movies. And I had a crush on him and thought – this is great! He chose the films: Cabaret and The Boys in the Band. So I had no idea what I was in for. My innocent nineteen or twenty year old soul thought we were going to see a pair of musicals.
I swear to God this is true.
The characters are the narrator, Rich, and Paul. He was Rich’s boyfriend at the time. But unfortunately, I have no idea if they stayed together. Since I do not know Paul’s last name, I can’t even look him up.
I gamely watched with Richard. Maybe he meant for it to be artsy? I had no idea, but then the Cowboy character showed up – a male prostitute. And so Richard asked, “What do you think of him?”
I replied, “He reminds me a bit of Rocky from The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”
“Which do you think is cuter?”
“So we will agree to disagree.”
And then I knew.
The story has a K rating.
Upshot for The Boy in the Band
So this one was highly emotional for me. And then when I learned, later, that I had been right, it all hit me rather hard. See, because of when we knew each other, it was the dawn of the age of AIDS. And I knew he was, let’s just say, a bit loose. Since no one really had any idea what was in store, and AIDS was a 100% painful death sentence at the time, being ‘loose’ was being foolish.
Yet it apparently did not kill him. At least, I can tell myself this. I think I’m right. I hope I’m right. But there is only so much the internet can tell me.
He did not even live long enough to see 9/11, President Obama, or even the Red Sox win the World Series (:)). So he is frozen in time, at age 39. And before I knew this much, he was frozen at age 21. Forever young.
Sharing Less can help you out in dozens of ways. Because there is something to be said for mystery.
For a fan dancer’s artfully concealing fans, if you will. For a dark corner where the camera does not go, and where we do not allow others to see. Perhaps not even our lovers, our mothers, our children and, most assuredly, not our government.
Wait a second, oops! I just told you where I went to college. Better cover that up, and sweep it out of the way.
Oh no, wait! I just told you it was undergrad. Good thing I didn’t tell you one of my professors studied under Wittgenstein.
D’oh! I probably just gave away that I majored in Philosophy! Wait, I’ll come in again.
We Keep on Sharing
It is like this, over and over and over again online. We share. And we share again. And then we overshare. While the above few tidbits probably don’t tell you too much about me, there is plenty of additional information out there. There are plenty of minefields. So I might accidentally drop something whereby someone could steal a password, stalk me, take my identity, burgle my house while I’m away, etc.
Stephen Baker, the author of The Numerati, talks about what essentially amounts to digital nosiness – too much information out there, and we’re all inviting it in. And we do so in the name of greater security, or peace of mind. We want to make sure our teenagers are driving safely so we agree to put a black box in the car.
And we want to know that our elderly parents are all right (but we are not committed enough to move them home with us, or move to their homes or cities, even briefly), so we install sensors in their beds to make sure they get out of them every day. So then, as privacy erodes, we accept more and more of these intrusions until they are no longer seen as intrusive. And a privacy (and shame!) tradition that harkens back to biblical times is canned in favor of The Age of TMI.
Stop Volunteering Information
Is it possible to shut the barn door, when the horse has hightailed it for the next county? Sadly, probably not. But this oversharing is nothing new. I well recall, when I was practicing law (uh oh, another identifier!), prepping witnesses for depositions. E. g. if the opposing counsel asks, “Were you driving?”, the answer is yes, no or I don’t remember. It is not, yes, and the car is blue. If the lawyer wants to know the color of the car, she’ll ask. Don’t volunteer anything.
Yet, inevitably, people would do just that – they would volunteer all sorts of stuff. The vast majority of it was completely harmless. However, every now and then, it opened up different things, and drew others into question. Or it got the whole thing onto some wacky tangent and it then became hard to throw a lasso over the proceedings and get them back to the matter at hand.
And a deposition, once, which was going to take maybe 45 minutes took the better part of a week as a witness and opposing counsel kept feeding one another more digressions – even after I repeatedly told the witness to just stick with getting the actual questions answered and nothing more. This tactic, by the way, did not, ultimately, harm my client or help the opponent. All it did was make the matter stretch out that much longer. And, I am sure, it nicely increased my opponent’s bill (I was salaried – a deposition could take three years and I would not be paid any extra. Dang, there I go again, oversharing!).
Wiping Away Shame
Some sharing, particularly in the face of things that have been taboo for too long, seems to be, to me, to be a very good thing. Take, for example, the physical demands and changes that go along with weight loss. In the interests of full disclosure, this is a subject rather near and dear to my heart. So I put it out there – the fact that stretch marks don’t really go away and what post-weight loss plastic surgery is really like and how sometimes, no matter how much you want to convince yourself otherwise, the oatmeal just does not taste one bit like fried chicken.
I think that this kind of oversharing can have a true benefit. Give hope, or at least some amusement and information. And trample away shame until it’s gone.
But there is plenty more out there where that came from, and it is often all too much, and it can be damaging. Give away too much and you are the naked fan dancer, all out of fans.
How to Strike a Balance
So my suggestion is: tread lightly, and as wisely as you can, and ask yourself: will this information do more harm than good? Will it hurt me or my family? So even if the answer to both questions is no, my advice is: consider it and weigh it anyway. And decide, one way or the other. Do this based upon reasoned understanding and not on expediency, or going along to get along, or trying to be cooler than everyone else in school. Above all, do not sleepwalk and step backward into these kinds of giveaways. If you are going to toss aside that last fan, at least look your audience in the eye when you do so.
I was uninspired, and didn’t want to just subject all two of my readers to my ramblings. Plus, I was looking for an actual day job.
Well, I found one. It’s a temping gig for a large financial services company which shall remain nameless. I am a Financial Analyst, preparing and running database reports. The job is rather similar to several other gigs I’ve held. And then I will be back in Social Media full time.
In the meantime, the Bot Boys are not forgotten, and I actually blog more for them that I had been. The need for Social Media exposure does not diminish just because I’ve got a new gig.
But I wanted to reach out, on this blog, for the first time in quite a while, to offer up some of the things I’ve learned along the way. So gather ’round, and hopefully I can help someone else to navigate the wild world of startups.
The best gift that anyone can offer startups is money. Advice and expertise are great, and they are helpful, but it all pales in the face of do-re-mi. And while startup competitions may not want (or, truly, be able) to part with too much of it, it is money that is most needed because, to truly succeed, someone has to quit their day job. You know, the thing I just got a few weeks ago? Yeah. Someone has to take a flying leap into outer space – but that person still needs to be able to afford ramen and a futon.
Speaking of ramen and futons, the startup game is, often, played by the young. This is not to say that those of us who were born during the Kennedy Administration have naught to offer. Rather, it is that we have mortgages. We may have children. We have lives that often require more than minimal Connector-style health insurance. We may have aging parents, credit card debt or any number of things that make living off ramen, on a futon, nigh impossible.
However, this does not mean that the not-so-young do not have a place in the land of startups. But that place is often a different one. The enthusiastic feel of Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney
(now I’m really dating myself) yelling, “Hey, kids! Let’s put on a show! We can get the barn!” is replaced with “Let’s see if we can get this thing to work before defaulting on the mortgage/Junior needs braces/gall bladder surgery is required/etc.” Our needs are different, and we may be more patient with setbacks. This does not necessarily spell being less hungry but, perhaps, less able to truly go for broke. The not-so-young person’s role in a startup is often more advisory. We are the ones who can’t quit day jobs until the salaries are decent. And that day may never come.
Startup events are best when they have a focus. Mass Innovation Nights, I feel, is something of a Gold Standard. There is a coherent beginning, middle and end to each event. It’s not just a lot of business card trading. The participants and the audience get good conversational hooks. Making contacts is vital – I hooked up with the Bot Boys at an event like that – but it can’t just be “Hey, let’s get a bunch of startups together, eat pizza and trade business cards!” The startups that are succeeding are too busy for such activities. And those that aren’t ….
Cloud computing, apps and software companies are everywhere in the startup space. With the Bot Boys, we can stand out a bit as we are a hardware company. Having a product that people can see and feel is valuable amidst a sea of virtual stuff.
The downside to that is that hardware companies have spinup problems that cloud computing companies just don’t have – app companies do not have to worry about shipping and packaging. They do not have to perform quality control checks on shipments. They do not have to work on product safety.
No one wants to talk to the job seeker, but everyone wants to talk to the entrepreneur – and those are often the same person! Human nature is a bit odd in this area, but I have seen people who are barely past the “I’ve got this great idea I’ve sketched on the back of a napkin” stage where there is a flock of interested people swarming around, whereas a person honest about looking for work is often overlooked.
Charisma counts. While one founder is going to be the inventor or the developer (the idea person), the other pretty much must be the socializer. Otherwise, even the best ideas are all too often buried. Someone must be willing and able to do public speaking, elevator pitching and sales. This need not be an experienced sales person, but that person has got to be a lot friendlier and a lot more fearless than most.
Most startups and most entrepreneur groupings will fail, morph, coalesce or break apart before succeeding. And perhaps that is as it should be, for being nimble is one of the characteristics of a successful startup. If the product sells when it’s colored blue, but not when it’s colored green, dip it in dye, fer chrissakes!
We all work for startups, or former startups. Even the large financial services firm was, once, a gleam in someone’s eye. Every invention started off as an idea. Even day jobs were, at one time, in places where the founders were living off that generation’s equivalent of ramen and sleeping in that era’s analogue to a futon. Yet somehow, against the odds, they made it.
Quinnipiac Assignment #6 (Social Media Platforms) was all about social listening. So, what better thing to listen to than a rock band looking to hit it big?
Social listening is, essentially, the act of getting onto various social media platforms and just getting the lay of the land, as it were. I think that most people are inclined to just jump into the deep end. The problem with that sort of behavior is that it has no strategy behind it whatsoever. Furthermore, it is a way to commit all sorts of social (media) gaffes.
The truth is, when I first got into Twitter, Facebook, and blogging, I jumped in completely and utterly without thinking. In retrospect, that was rather foolish and impulsive. These days, I spend some time in the attempt to correct and repair some of the damage that that sort of non-strategy did to my online social media reputation.
This is not to say that things are so awful online. Not by any stretch of the imagination – the real problem is that I cannot seem to be able to take things to the next level. Hence, beyond attaining Social Media Certification (and possibly getting my Masters’ Degree in Communications with a Social Media concentration), I also want to learn how to handle myself better on social media. I probably have forums covered. But I could certainly use some help with Twitter and the like.
I had also never really gotten the hang of Google+. Like a lot of people, the idea of dealing with yet another social network not only mystified me, it downright annoyed me. But social listening helped to get me to realize that there is a purpose to Google+ and that it is a different one from Facebook.
Oh, and here’s Rock ‘n Roll Predator by J-Krak (with much better sound than what I played in my video) –
Quinnipiac Assignment #4 of my Social Media Platforms class was about communities. I chose to talk about Ad Astra, which is a Star Trek fan fiction writers’ community.
This video is about Ad Astra, of course, but it is more specifically about three separate personae. One is embodied by a member who goes by the user ID of trekfan. He is a writer and has a number of works on the site. He is an active Creator of content.
Another embodiment of the next persona is a member who goes by the user ID of Miranda Fave. He is a Critic. While he is also a writer (and, therefore, is also an active Creator of content), he is also the most prolific critic on this Star trek fan fiction writing site.
The third persona, an Inactive, was a member with the user ID of Hawku. I have seen this person elsewhere, and he is far more of a visual artist than a writer, hence he is more active elsewhere in the Star Trek fandom. Curiously enough, after I had posted this video, Hawku returned and added more content to Ad Astra. Was that because of my video? I do not think so. I suspect it was just a happy coincidence.
The third assignment that I turned in for Quinnipiac University‘s Social Media Platforms class (Quinnipiac Assignment #3) was a mapping out of my personal network, and for that I used Facebook as the initial jumping-off point. This network shows four quadrants and it also includes eight more or less generic sub communities within my overall online network. This was a rather detailed image, and it even included other platforms, such as LinkedIn, and forums, like Ad Astra and Able2Know, which is where I am already a volunteer community manager. However, for the purposes of Quinnipiac Assignment #3 in Social Media Platforms, I wanted to narrow my focus considerably, in order to make it all a lot clearer to the viewer. This, I decided, was going to just be an exploration of my Facebook Network.
Below is the video that I recorded for this particular assignment. I am also including the PowerPoint presentation I created to accompany this assignment. Clicking on the link will begin the downloading process.
Be aware, there are adult words in here, for very adult events. Turn back if four-letter words bother you more than terrorism. That makes no sense to me. Maybe it does to you.
For all who have been living under rocks, things here in Boston have been astounding over the course of the past week. If it were a film script, it would never be made. No one would believe it.
On Monday, April 15th, 2013, the unthinkable happened, when two bombs went off at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Three people died, and nearly 180 were wounded, many gravely.
Then, going from Thursday, April 18th at night, into about 24 hours later, Friday, April 19th, at about 8:40 PM, there was a lockdown and a manhunt here. To give you an idea of how close it all was, check out this map – I can scarcely fathom it. And I have friends, former colleagues, who were even closer, people who heard shots and explosions.
This is reality.
But I want to put in what, to me, is a bit of perspective, I hope.
Destruction and Despair
There are plenty of horrible images and I will, mainly, not focus on them.
But this image should tell the tale of Friday. We, like most people, did as requested and stayed in our home.
I took maybe 20 minutes at about lunchtime and sat on my front porch. I saw a guy walking his dog and another getting a smoke. Plus maybe three cars went by.
And that was it.
I firmly believe that staying out of law enforcement’s collective way was vital in not just keeping bystanders from being harmed but also in the swift conclusion to the manhunt. Also, I will not publicize the alleged (yes, alleged; I believe in the right to a fair trial) perp’s name.
Hope and Glory
There are a lot of images and words and I cannot possibly cover them all so I will cherry pick a few.
Neil Diamond and Sweet Caroline
So Neil Diamond hopped on a plane yesterday morning at 4:30 AM.
He just showed up, 40 minutes before the Red Sox game was to start, and asked if he could sing “Sweet Caroline“.
Sure thing, Neil.
David Ortiz (who never made more sense than at this very moment)
David Ortiz got on a microphone and dropped the f-bomb on live TV. The FCC shrugged and said the equivalent of, hey, no sweat.
So he is neighbor to a friend who lives in Stoneham. And this young roofer has already lost one leg, and there is shrapnel in his heart. There is a legitimate fund to help him, too.
I have loved Boston ever since I attended BU (I am from the Class of ’83) and am also a runner (but only 5K races – marathons are too long for me). Many of these directly affected people are second and third degree of separation from me. I cannot begin to describe just how personal it all feels, and I know that my feelings are rather small within the scope of this immense tragedy.