Category Archives: This Site

Things pertaining to this site’s philosophy

Preparing for ANNIHILATION – a book review

Annihilation

I read this book some months ago, with hesitation. The further I read, the more hesitant I was to proceed. In truth, this hesitation had nothing to do with the quality of Mr. Vandermeer’s prose or his prolific imagination. He creates an strange and intriguing world within a world, and sets his characters on a dangerous expedition into the unknown – all the exciting elements you could want in a science fiction story.

So what is my problem?

Probably, because when I’m reading I look for new revelations in each chapter. Stories of exploration usually offer not just new challenges at each turn, but new clues to the puzzle the author has created. Characters piece together the clues, bit by bit, until one reaches an Eureka moment, where the puzzle – or at least an important part of the puzzle – is explained.

The basic conceit of the story – which has been given away worldwide to anyone who’s seen the trailer for the movie – is that a  part of the country (by its native landscape, I’d assume Florida) has been overtaken  by a strange phenomena. No one who’s gone in has ever returned (no, they’re not retirees). Moreover, the boundary for this area is ever expanding, posing a threat to the entire country and perhaps the world.

No explanation is given (that I remember) why it is not being closely observed by satellite. So the government’s intrepid team enters with only rudimentary detail of the layout of the land around their entry point.  Here is where the story begins…and it is not too far from where the story ends. The abounding mysteries of the place overtake them very quickly, and the events almost as quickly dissolve their confidence in themselves and their teammates.

And the abounding mysteries pretty much remain mysteries through to the end.  Vandermeer presents his troupe with many questions, but with little by the way of answers – except, perhaps, about themselves and the human condition. Unfortunately, I wanted more. While I kept getting frustrated at not being offered some insight as to why this event was occurring, I kept up hope of being rewarded in each next chapter.  I kept hoping until it was too late. I’d finished the book.

My one final takeaway, reading the last page, was that this story was clearly intended to be continued. I seriously considered checking to see if a sequel had already been written,  but my discouragement at being left empty-handed won out. I never checked. I see now that two sequels have been written, and I’m seriously tempted to give them a shot. After all is said, the first did keep me reading and did raise questions I wanted answered. Who and why come immediately to mind. I’m very leery though whether I’ll find the answers I seek in these later books.

Maybe Hollywood will offer more answers in the movie version.  I know I’ll see it.  Vandermeer has created a rich, fascinating, visual world, so Hollywood’s version should at least look gorgeous even if it winds up a “gorgeous but dumb” blonde joke on theater-goers.

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Getting Back Into the Swing of Things

  Well, it has been a while.Scan 13

And I’ve clearly been neglecting my blogging duties, so here is my New Year’s Eve promise for 2018 – 

I will do – at least – one new post per week.

And here are a few personal resolutions we can re-examine during the course of the year. I’m as anxious as you to see how they work out.

  • I will lose weight (it’s the law, you have to include this one).
  • I will see my first novel scheduled for publication, by December 31st, 2018.
  • I will wean myself off wasteful political commentary on Facebook. The effort is criminally stupid.
  • I will finish the first draft of my next novel (this will be tough).
  • I will complete one chapter each month of my text book (time to stop putting that off, although I may be over-reaching here).
  • I will go to my high school re-union in July (if only to see who I can still recognize).
  • I will not clobber any of the idiots I have to endure during the year (this is easy, I’m really more verbal).
  • And, finally, I will try not to burp with my mouth open (very tough, but this one’s for you, babe)! I do truly love my wife.
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Learning Curve

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Having now experienced the slings and arrows of seeing this site buried in spam, I’m hoping my new filters will properly remedy the situation, so I and my two or three (?) followers can actually comment and participate.

In the process of learning, I had to remove several of my older posts (fastest way to get rid of blocks of spam messages that I knew). Some of these I’ll repost.

I’ll be more watchful in the future, but hopefully have found a reasonable solution to the problem. And, of course, I’ll try to make this site a little more interesting to watch.

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Protocols, Procedures, and Rules…Oh My!

Having already staked out a position on bad rules, it seems only appropriate that I should give equal time to the value of good rules – in general, at least.

OneTwoThree.

(Scene from MGM’s classic 1, 2, 3…with James Cagney)

The reason we constantly surround ourselves by “best” and “required” practices is to get through life in the least stressful, most efficient and productive manner.

Being human, we are, after all, toolmakers. Much like a computer, hammer, and test tube, these protocols, procedures, and (yes) rules are simply tools. Their purpose is to help us get the job – whatever that may be – done in the best way we can manage!

This brings up two questions. The first is “what is the right tool for the job”. If you have a box of screws and some wood to assemble, do you use a hammer? Obviously, a screwdriver would be better. But then there is that adage “when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail”. Remember that? Good! Now forget it. Go out and buy a damned screwdriver.

IMG_1180The second question is “are these the best tools for the job”. This is more subtle. If you have some hammering, sawing, screwing, and gluing to be done on your project, do you buy the ten-pound hammer, hand saw, long handled screw-driver, and Elmer’s Glue? Or do you buy the heavy-duty electric stapler, a saber saw,IMG_0055 an electric drill, and a water-proof epoxy? Now there are variables. Each must be taken into account to formulate your answer.

In fact, now you have multiple variables affecting your decision on each tool. How big is your project – i.e. how much repetitive action will be involved with each function? What type of materials will you be working on – thin, soft wood? thick, hard wood? And how many projects of this nature will you be participating in, in the future? Will it be just this once? Will this be one of a series of similar projects you’ll need to do? How much time can you allot to this project? Need it yesterday? Need it next week? Plus how precise must your work be? Impeccable quality? Rough, simple and functional? Some place in between?

I’ll assume you’ve got the idea. Answers to these questions will help determine what tools – protocols, procedures, or rules – will work. However, the one safe, albeit generic, takeaway you can get from this exercise, is that most tasks can be successfully accomplished in several ways. What practices are good, better, best, or awful will depend upon your individual situation. The difference, if any, will be in their relative efficiency.

Let’s look at your woodworking project. You have flexibility in the order of work, and the safeguards you choose. You might cut all the wood to size in advance of doing any assembly. You might instead begin assembly of some parts as you finish cutting each piece. Neither practice will be wrong, but their relative efficiencies will depend upon your allotment of time and your immediate objectives. Do you need to turn out a number of units quickly? Then the piecemeal approach might be more effective. Do you need to complete the entire batch quickly? Then doing the cutting, then assembly in stages might be better.

Either way, you get the job done, and get it done right. But the procedure – tool – you choose must fit your objectives and deadlines.

Note that the physical tools you have at your disposal, whether hammer and nail, or computer and software, still affect your final efficiencies. The more automated your tools are, the shorter, simpler your protocols, and the more efficient your overall operation can be.

Bottom line – no procedures, protocols, or rules are – or should be – carved in stone. There are only “best and latest” practices that fit your current situation. The truly “best practice” is to recognize best practice is a moving target, and that organizations should always review and strive to achieve better. The tools – protocols – you

Four friends accept responsibility
(Four teammates dedicated to established  procedures embrace exciting new conditions.)

 use today were developed over time through trial and failure,

In a changing world, when you stop reviewing and refining your procedures – stop updating your tools – you stagnate and set yourself up for failure.

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