My Bad Chess Game

And how to push my own envelope.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2019/11/12 08:00

When I was growing up, my father, my brother, and I all played chess with each other. Dad beat everyone; my brother occasionally beat him; I always lost against both. Some of that was simply me being the youngest of the three; some of it was, even as I grew up, was impatience with the intricacies of chess. I'd think out the opening game as heavily as I could (which wasn't very), and then I'd get impatient and just go move move move move move and get it over with, which typically meant losing badly. I have never been good at chess in either the literal or metaphorical sense; people could tell I was lying long before I ever opened my mouth. Guile is not something I have ever been good at. (Poker is absolutely beyond me.)

Some of this has slopped over into my writing career. When it comes to stories about people who are devious, or at the very least more devious than I would be, I'm at a double handicap. It's hard enough coming up with what they would do at all, and it's even harder for me to make sure what they would do isn't actually just something stupid in disguise.

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Tags: Always Outnumbered Never Outgunned  chess  creativity  writing 

On The Just Doing Of It

It's hard to just do things, because our ideas about them always get in the way.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2019/11/09 17:00

Steve blogged recently about how he tries to adhere to a schedule of writing daily, and of focusing on a given project per day. Working on one thing for a couple of hours, then switching away for another thing for a while, then another, etc. tends to have a debilitating effect on him. Context switching, he found, ran contrary to the deep immersion that creative work demands. I think this is true of most anything, especially writing; "getting into the zone" is antithetical to the relentless chopping-up of the day into pomodoro-sized bites.

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Tags: creativity  productivity 

Something To Think About

On the use and abuse of thought experiments.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2019/11/08 17:00

Some thoughts on thought experiments:

The real world never behaves like the world of a thought experiment. In science, thought experiments are proposed. But no conclusions can be drawn until you actually do the experiment in the real world. The real world contains variables no thought experiment can ever account for. And no one is ever gonna try this one for real.

The thought experiment in question is pretty cruel (read the linked piece, see for yourself), and that made me think about how thought experiments are often used like this. Not as a way to spur thought, but instead as a way to attack someone, or to make them uncomfortable because it's fun to watch people squirm. (If you think it's fun to watch people squirm, kiss me goodbye.)

I am not reacting out of surprise, but dismay. I don't think there's anything in this world that can't be weaponized and used as a way to drive a wedge between people — although that's not a sign we should do nothing in life but hide under our beds and take shallow breaths.

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Tags: psychology  science 

The Best Of The Best Of The Best

The more I try to parse it, the more this business of best-of, of ranking things, seems a consumerist attitude.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2019/11/08 08:00

Why do we really care what the best books ever written are? Because that way we can avoid wasting our time on the bad ones? Because then we can spend our hard-earned money on the good ones? The more I try to parse it, the more this business of best-of, of ranking things, seems a consumerist attitude. Again, it's not because our hard-earned money doesn't deserve to be spent well; it's the conflation of aesthetics with consumerism in a way we barely notice that's the problem.

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Tags: books  canon  reading 

Makers Gonna Make

And should, even if they aren't great marketers.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2019/11/07 17:00

There’s So Much Stuff Out There - Steven Savage

In this age, we can create so many works. We can publish books physical and electronic. We can make podcasts that fly across the internet. As I’ve heard it put, so many ways, “there’s just so much stuff out there.” This then begs the question, “why create?” From giant conglomerates to people like ourselves, there’s so many people making things to read, watch, and so on. The chance of our works finding purchase in the world seems slim indeed, even if we pour heart and soul into marketing.

The conclusion Steve comes to in this post is "do it anyway" — do it because it's something worth doing for its own sake, not because of what happens afterwards. This is my own conclusion as well — why write unless you want to be in front of a keyboard making words literally every day? But some of what Steve touches on makes the picture more complex than that.

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Tags: creativity  creators 

Russell's Folly

Ken Russell's "The Devils": not quite bad enough to be funny. But still awful.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2019/11/07 08:00

The Criterion Channel recently added a movie of utter notoriety to its lineup: Ken Russell's The Devils. I knew going on that the movie's trouble with censors has left it in less-than-ideal shape, but I wanted to have some idea of why the movie commanded such furor then and now. One hour and forty-five minutes later, I'm wondering why I ever bothered.

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Tags: Ken Russell  Michael Cimino  movies  religion 

When The Gears Mesh, And When The Lightbulb Goes On

When tech works it's a wonderful thing. The rest of the time... (Self-written blog software edition.)

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2019/11/06 08:00

Some time back I switched to my own homegrown software package for running this site and a couple of others. For the most part it's been a success, although my own development of the software dropped off steeply once I hit a "good enough" level of features. Then, not long ago, my hosting company revised how scripts ran on my server, and my blog software ... well, it didn't break, exactly, but let's say it dropped from warp speed to impulse drive.

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Tags: blogging  software  technology 

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