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Comment: Books and the successful life (Score 1) 700

by yoctology (#41639245) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: What Books Have Had a Significant Impact On Your Life?
"Best of" book lists are always popular, but they are answering the wrong question. I have read thousands of books over my life. And written a few. I started with science fiction such as Wasp, Foundation, Dune, Avram Davidson, City, Slan, the science fiction books club collections (Galaxy Readers), you name it. That was pretty much it until I reached college. I branched a little ways out to Herman Hesse and Kurt Vonnegut, but really, stayed right in my comfort zone of SF. The breakout for me was when I read Gravity's Rainbow. I kept mumbling to myself: "can a writer do that?" I struggled with the characters and the subplots. When I finished, my mind had been stretched. And it stayed stretched. I resolved to read outside of SF no matter how hard or how boring. I compiled best of lists of all kinds of literature. I collected university course lists in literature from places like Cal Tech, Berkeley, Yale, Harvard, MIT. BBC, Times Literary Supplement lists. I worked through them all. It didn't take too many years. I filled notebooks with thoughts that arose as I read. Then I was ready to start writing. I still enjoy my SF even though I understand its limitations; now I can enjoy comparing that experience to the experience of reading Maya Angelou or Mary Gaitskill. I can enjoy the quality writing in the New Yorker. I enjoy the reviews I used to find opaque in the Times Literary Supplement. And I can participate in looking at life around me and figuring out how to express it, even though never expressed before. And I know when an expression is likely fresh and because I have never read it before. So my advice is--rather than looking for the magic set of books that is like a literary vitamin supplement, instead constantly choose books outside of your comfort zone. Yes, don't forget to reread your favorites lest you begin to fear difficulty, but try to understand why other educated people consider books great that you do not understand now. My current reading list is Wolf Hall, Marquez, The Hydrogen Sonata, Ian Fleming, Gone Girl, Churchill's History, Redwall, Murakami, Eco, incest porn, Nabokov, Joyce... in other words, the gamut of human literature in English. As Tom Wolfe said "Let's not mince words: literary lists are basically an obscenity. Literature is the realm of the ineffable and the unquantifiable; lists are the realm of menus and laundry and rotisserie baseball. There's something unseemly and promiscuous about all those letters and numbers jumbled together. Take it from me, a critic who has committed this particular sin many times over." So, the best book to read next s the one just an epsilon out of your current reach. One that takes a little struggle to release all its pleasure.

Comment: Rich People do drive slowly (Score 1) 650

by yoctology (#40641509) Attached to: Will Speed Limits Inhibit Autonomous Car Adoption?
Who says rich people don't like to drive slowly? They enjoy driving that way because they can. No appointments. No worry. Just tool along enjoying the drive. They chuckle to think of all of you aspirants rushing to get to the investor's meeting, get to the office, rush home since you don't have a nanny or house manager or work assistant.

Comment: Re:Let's get these out of the way (Score 0) 161

by yoctology (#40282971) Attached to: Emacs 24.1 Released
Things that grow on me that long are tumors. But seriously, things that have breadth greater than some small number or depth greater than log of another small number are not well designed for human use. emacs is a shrine to RMS and his faithful apostles, but otherwise, I think I'll stick to notepad++ with a side of python and Mathematica

Comment: Re:As an indie author (Score 1) 125

The sales ranking of books at Amazon follows a roughly inverse power-law exponent of 1.1 [http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.physa.2010.02.021]. With about 2 million hard plus kindle books for sale, you can do the math: many books have zero sales or on the order of one or two per year. No matter how brilliantly executed, this is simply not enough exposure to reach the critical number needed to launch it so that a possible audience even becomes aware of its existence. Sort of like the critical initial viral or bacterial load to cause subsequent infection.

And even a successful book may only measure sales in thousands, thereby not justifying traditional mass advertising, as for a soap product that everyone might use. If it weren't for the possibility of a small trigger for tipping, then many, many high quality works would be utterly wasted: a fresh catastrophic fire at the virtual library of Alexandria.

Comment: Of course: if stars can be slungshot out (Score 3, Insightful) 135

by yoctology (#40226701) Attached to: Do Solo Black Holes Roam the Universe?
then black holes can be too. We have observed almost a score of so of stars with the 2 million MPH velocity required to escape from a galaxy, which they probably got from proximity to a black hole. There is no reason not to think that a black hole could have the same close orbit. Just much much, rarer.

Comment: Re:The trick is not just finding the seed set (Score 2) 125

I think you are misusing "hard." For an example, one of my books has a very minor incident in which a Glock 30 is used. I know an influential writer and reviewer is an enthusiastic 2nd Amendment champion. I send her a crafted blurb mentioning the Glock. bingo. We exchange friendly messages about pistols, she buys the book and is now reviewing it for her multi thousand followers.

It wasn't hard to influence her; just took a second of reflection and doing what people do socially all the time without thinking. The overall point is that even authors with extremely limited advertising funds can make up for it with luck and savvy. On the other hand I am unlikely to win a chess tournament no matter how clever or lucky I am.

Comment: William Sidis (Score 2) 303

by yoctology (#40210465) Attached to: The Real-Life Doogie Howser
Even Albert Einstein got a divorce. I think whatever gifts this young man has will be dogged and encumbered by being labeled a sideshow freak--even in the best possible way. Look at the biography of William Sidis. Even taking into account the myth-making of genius/madness, I see little benefit of being a prodigy, but I see a lot of attention addiction and other maladies that may choke out a fulfilled and happy life.

If I'd known computer science was going to be like this, I'd never have given up being a rock 'n' roll star. -- G. Hirst

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