Do or Do Not.

Archive for April, 2005

Forty-Six Years Left

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I don’t frequently take the goofy tests that proliferate online…and even when I do take them, I certainly don’t put much stock in them since most were more likely written by bored 20-year-olds–there’s not a lot of scientific data to back up the findings that the Muppet to which I’m most akin is Scooter. (SCOOTER!! Please.) But scientifically accurate or no, this one on OKCupid caught me off guard in the effect it had on my always-delicate psyche.

(And no, I’m not out trollin’ for strange on the ‘net dating scene; my good buddy -b passed the link along because, I believe, it had much the same effect on him.)

According to this particular test, I’m going to die in September, 2050, aged 80, most likely of cancer. “Wow, 80,” I thought to myself; “That’s pretty good, especially for a guy what’s got the diabetes.” I felt that little satisfaction at knowing that all my attempts to live a somewhat healthy life–trying to control the urge to eat pre-processed crap, cutting out alcohol and coffee, running three times a week–could, if this online test were to be believed, going to pay off with a nice long life. (I hope it will be nice, anyway; it sure has been thus far.) Considering the average male life expectancy is 72-and-a-half, that’s good news for me indeed.

But then I got to this last little statistic at the bottom:

You’ve already lived 43% of your life.

And that kind of hit home to me.

We know the test itself is ludicrous, of course; some silly web script can’t tell me how long I’m going to live. But the principle of the results is the same whether the science is valid or not: even if I do indeed live a long life, I’m getting on up toward halfway done. I still have plenty of years left in front of me, barring freak accidents or hideous diseases, but it drove home the point that (and this is where we tie into the previous post) I should stop wasting time and get serious about the things I want to accomplish.

Don’t get me wrong, my life is not all about my accomplishments or the lack thereof; even if I never succeed in becoming a professional writer, I have the love of an amazing woman and two (maybe more at some point) spectacular children. Those things are far, far, far more important to me than any career goals. But regardless, I think that I’ll be happier with myself, more personally fulfilled, if I can reach the goals I’ve set for myself, and if I’m happier with myself I’ll be better for my family. (Also, I want my children to see me reach said goals to show them they can accomplish whatever it is they want to do.)

And I have more than just career goals to achieve, too–there’s so much of this world I haven’t seen yet, both in the United States and outside of it, and I would dearly love to show as much of it as possible to my family. I still can’t speak any foreign language fluently (since my three years of Spanish have atrophied horribly; my one year of Russian was barely enough to let me order vodka were I ever stranded in Moscow). I want to play the piano better. Guitar, too. I want to run a marathon at some point (some point far in the future–I’m still a long way from this one).

Forty-six years left. That’s really not much time, if you think about it.

Written by Allen

April 29th, 2005 at 3:02 pm

Posted in General

From Anarchy to Organization

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While I certainly don’t consider myself an anarchist–it’s entirely possible that I’m the least anarchic person I know–I found this Flash presentation (via BoingBoing) to have a number of good ideas I can apply to my life.

Jim Munroe knows that being liberated from your day job, whether by your choice or not, can offer an excellent opportunity to work for yourself on projects meaningful to you. But the problem for most people, or at least most people used to the regular 9-to-5 world, is that having no structure in which to work makes work itself difficult. When left to our own devices, we tend to lack direction and have difficult actually accomplishing anything without externally-mandated goals and deadlines. (And yes, you can read every instance of “we” in the last sentence as “I.”) The secret to working for yourself and actually getting stuff done? Organization.

I want to be a full-time writer, but that’s been largely a vague desire to this point–I know it’s something I want to do, but I haven’t really figured out how I want to get to that point. I’ve made some baby steps recently–this blog being one, actually –but those moves won’t get me anywhere without solid organization and planning. Three of the tricks Jim mentions in his presentation seem like they’d be particularly helpful to me:

  1. Write down everything. If you write it down, then you don’t have to spend processing cycles trying to remember it or worrying that you forgot something important.
  2. Break bigger, scarier tasks down into smaller, friendlier tasks. This one’s a big one. I tend to want to jump right into enormous tasks without truly being prepared for them. I want to write a novel, for instance, but don’t want to do any of the necessary prep work for it. Thinking about what needs to be done, writing down each of those tasks and breaking those down necessary as further into small, manageable tasks will make the entire project seem much more doable.
  3. Attach your self-imposed deadlines to coincide with external deadlines. I know that I’m a deadline-oriented person, but the deadlines I create for myself tend to be pretty meaningless and difficult to enforce. If I give myself a deadline that’s connected to something I want to do–for instance, I know that John Scalzi’s accepting submissions for the science fiction anthology he’s editing in October–then that gives me something meaningful to shoot for.

I’m going to try to start putting these ideas into effect and see if I can start making progress on the various projects rattling around inside my head. Too much to do and not as much time as I might like means I need to make the best of use I can of what time I have.

(Whaddayamean playing Knights of the Old Repbulic on my Xbox isn’t making productive use of my time?)

Written by Allen

April 29th, 2005 at 10:59 am

Batman Begins…to get me hyped for this movie.

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Hot on the heels of the grandeur of the Serenity trailer, Apple now has the final trailer for Batman Begins and it’s got me pretty geeked. While there are certainly a couple of goofy moments in it, the many, many bits of utter kewlness thoroughly trumped them.

What we can see of the overall look and feel of the movie is fantastic–far more what I’d expect from a Batman movie than the primary-color fetish-fests Joel Schumacher staged. The aesthetic follows the grounded look of Tim Burton’s first Batman but without Burton’s (pardon the pun) gothic sensibilities. (Of particular interest to me was the fact Gotham City looked like a real city, not a city conceived by a production designer strung out on amphetamines.) Most of the actors seemed to fit their roles well (I most enjoyed what little bit we saw of the always-excellent Morgan Freeman), though Katie Holmes didn’t much impress me as the requisite love interest. Still, it’s only a trailer and I’m certainly not going to judge too harshly based on seeing twenty seconds of her performance.

I don’t want to say too much more here because I don’t want to blow my bat-wad, so to speak, when the movie doesn’t come out for six more weeks. But Batman Begins definitely tops my list of most-anticipated films of the summer. “But Allen,” I hear you asking, “what other movies are you looking forward to during this blockbuster summer movie season?” Well, that smells like an upcoming column to me, so keep your eyes peeled!

(Not literally peeled, of course; I’d think that would damage your vision pretty terribly and make it impossible for you to watch the glory of Batman Begins. I wouldn’t wish that on you.)

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Written by Allen

April 28th, 2005 at 1:43 pm

Posted in General

You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.

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I’ve been in this world for a little over 34 years; I’ve only been really angry, and I mean really angry, maybe 15 or 20 times. Ever. I’m a pretty laid-back kind of guy; I’m just not the kind of person who’s quick to anger. Or even sluggish to anger. But on those occasion when I do finally lose my temper, it’s a fearsome thing to behold (or so I’m told). I’ve always described myself as having an incredibly long fuse attached to an enormously large bomb.

Because I’ve been truly angry so infrequently in my life, I have trouble dealing with it. I know that anger is supposed to have some constructive uses, mainly in a “spur to action” sense, but so far the only constructive use I’ve found for it has been to make people fear me. Since those people I end up striking fear into also usually happen to be the people I care most deeply about–and because being feared really isn’t something I desire–perhaps “constructive” isn’t really the right word. (During one of my more memorable rage-fueled rampages, I threw my roommate through a window. Well, OK, more “into” the window than “through,” really, but I did manage to use his ass to break the glass…sorry, Dave).

I don’t always take the fact that I’m not easily angered to be a positive; I’m afraid it’s symptomatic of something bigger. I know that I don’t feel deeply enough for current events or for human suffering in other parts of the world. I care, but I don’t, y’know, care. I know plenty of folks who do: people who want to fight for issues they believe in or who seem to feel as much for people they’ve never met as they do for the people in their day-to-day lives. One of my friends cares passionately about both local and national political issues–I’m reasonably sure he’s going to run for public office in the next ten to twenty years.

And these people that exhibit that capacity for such caring intimidate me, in a way; when confronted with this great compassion for the human condition, I begin to think that something’s wrong with me for not caring enough. Makes me feel shallow, honestly, and I don’t like feeling shallow…even though it’s quite likely that to some degree, I am.

When Terri Schiavo gets used as a sound bit by politicians lookking to gain public approval, that annoys me.

When 200,000 people lose their lives because a freak tsunami slams into the coast of Indonesia, I realize the magnitude of the loss and truly feel bad and wish it hadn’t happened, but it doesn’t intensely affect me.

When I read about American soldiers losing their lives in Iraq…OK, that starts to push my hot buttons a little bit more because I so vehemently believe those soliders have no business being there in harm’s way in the first place.

But when someone insults or purposefully mistreats people close to my heart…well, that pisses me off royally. And I mean gets my heart slamming in my chest and makes me hands tremble–and usually makes me want to break something. Or, y’know, throw someone through a window.

I’m curious as to exactly why I am the way I am in this respect; I honestly don’t know if this particular trait of mine is nature or nurture. Certainly neither of my parents were ever ones to rally around a political cause; I don’t recall ever discussing much in the way of politics or issues with either of them growing up, so environment could definitely be a factor. But my father, whom I take after in temperament more than I do my mother, is also slow to anger–I’ve rarely in my life seen him well and truly mad. (One of the few times was when I refused to cut my long hair when I was a teenager; I think that probably says something, though I’m not exactly sure what.)

The part of me that doesn’t like to think of myself as shallow would like to say that this inadequacy of feeling (as opposed to my usual feelings of inadequacy) is something I’m going to change, but I don’t see how I can…and I’m not sure I want to. I can’t purposefully make myself amp up my feelings about anything–if I do that, then the feeling’s dishonest and therefore invalid. And honestly, I don’t know that it’s a bad thing that I care more about the people that are actively part of my life than I do about those half a world away. Maybe the best I can do is to care enough to support the people who care enough to make the world a better place; maybe all I can do is try to make my world a better place.

Written by Allen

April 27th, 2005 at 10:29 pm

Posted in General

So what’s the point here, huh?

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Welcome one and all to Do or Do Not, my stab at having somewhere to put those ideas that sprout into my brain and don’t fit into of my other repositories for pop culture spewage (Movie-, Comic- and Sportsgeekz; see links at left). I’m still not 100% sure what you will and won’t be seeing on this site, but I’ve got some vague ideas:

  • You might see anything I think I have to say about politics, technology, spirituality or generally heady topics of that sort.
  • You might see some navel-gazing; I have a lot of thinking I need to do about a large number of topics, and that thinking tends to work better and crystallize more clearly when I write it down. Knowing that I’m going to publish my thoughts out to the Webbernet and expose them to mass ridicule makes me more inclined to put actual work into those thoughts.
  • While you might see some insight into the inner workings of my mind, such as they are, you won’t see any personal attacks on anyone or spilling of secrets or anything of the like here; not even any gossip, sorry. This is a journal intended to make me write more frequently and with more effort, not a LiveJournal intended to stir up drama.
  • You might see some short fiction pieces. I really need to get back to working on my fiction, and the whole bit about publishing from above applies here, too. You get to laugh at my comical attempts to recapture my fiction voice, which I apparently allowed to escape sometime during the last two or three years.
  • You will get to see occasional bits of news I find interesting and occasional nuggets of wisdom I find inspirational or amusing.
  • You won’t get to see anything about sports, movies or comic books, since I cover those topics elsewhere (again, see left), but you might get discussion of music, TV, books or other forms of pop culture I don’t have specific sites set up to dissect.
  • You might get satire. If you’re good.

So that’s what we have to look forward to together. I hope I can provide you with something reasonably interesting and/or entertaining to read, and I hope you can provide me with feedback–don’t be afraid of the “Comments” link below each post.

Written by Allen

April 27th, 2005 at 8:37 pm

Posted in General