Fishing For Possibilities

This is not an announcement that I’ve gone fishing.  (Ah!  You guys know how cold it is on the rump end of the Rocky Mountains, right now?  Some people might be dedicated enough fishermen to go out in this but I – while fully appreciative of what one could call the contemplative aspects of fishing; or what I can sitting near the water with a nice book – have issues with the part of fishing in which you grasp a squirming, slimy creature and try to remove it from the hook without dropping it and/or spearing my finger on the hook.)

Rather it is a post on how things happen.  Individual things – like how you end up doing the things you do in life – but also societal things: what really moves and shakes the world, the limits of government power, and what is ultimately and always in our own hands.

When I was in ninth grade, the person I admired most in the world had her entire life planned to her retirement age: what degree she was going to take; where she was going to live; what she was going to work in.

I saw no reason to doubt she’d do exactly as she planned.  To begin with – if one believes in talent.  We were fourteen, and she might have done a lot of learning before I met her – she was talented at everything from sports, to art to academics.  And second, even though we’d just gone through a revolution, there was a certain feeling of rockbottomsolidness to the way of life in Portugal, possibly coming from each person not only being able to name several ancestors, but being able to tell you they’d all lived here and there, and their general life histories.  Governments and revolutions passed, but people ended up in a similar position to that of their ancestors, and, tech notwithstanding, the way of life didn’t change that much.

I looked her up – I think five? – years ago.  Let’s say her life didn’t go exactly as planned.  I had some indication of that already, because I knew she’d switched majors halfway through her second year in college and also, concurrently, was admitted to the conservatory for a music degree that was no part of her plans.

In fact the last time I talked to my best friend from childhood, the girl who shared my desk (it’s a two-person thing, in Portugal) in first grade, and from whom I’ve diverged and with whom I lost contact (It wasn’t my fault.  Not guilty yer ‘onor!  She married a Frenchman!)  she said I was the only one of us who could even vaguely claim to be doing exactly what I meant to.  Since at the time I thought my career was pretty much over (2003, the Annus Horriblis – and if you think that means the year of the horrible ass, it’s also not far off, considering how editors were behaving.  And agents, too) I thought that was a fairly sad statement.

But I am still doing more or less what I intended to do in Elementary.  I was going to grow up, live in Denver (hey, I’m STILL working on that) and write books for a living.)  Later on, in middle school, I decided I was going to be a journalist (and if you squint sideways you could say I’ve made some forays in that direction.)  And later still, in High School, I aspired to being a political gadfly and having every vile prog in the world get indigestion at the sound of my name.  (Working on it.  Like Denver, it’s a long term project.)

When you consider that at the time I formed this brilliant idea I had no idea where Denver was – I think I had it confused with Dover, since I thought it was by the sea – spoke no English (and had less idea how to publish in Portuguese than in English.  Still do.  It’s a problem, because daddy would like to read my mysteries, and he doesn’t read English), had no contacts in North America, and the internet as we know it, (which is allowing me to make strides towards those last two goals) was only a glimmer in its daddies eyes… it’s not bad.

So… How did I get here?  Well…  Not any way that made sense.

Last summer, at Liberty Con, Glenn Reynolds attended the Baen authors’ party.  Someone (I think Dr. Les Johnson) asked him how he’d got to where he was.  “How did you become the blogfather?” or something to that general intent.

The answer – like Pratchett’s answer on how he wrote, which gave me permission to pantse books – was a relief to me.  “Like everything in my life,” Glenn said.  “More or less by accident.”

And that is how I ended up here, and as close to my childhood dream as makes no difference, when you consider the dream came from an eight year old Portuguese girl, in a village of no consequence, writing out her letters with a quill pen in a one-room school house.  At the time I’d come up with that plan, neither of my parents (or my brother) had ever flown in an airplane.  Those of my family who had immigrated had gone as workers, and often illegal (sorry, it’s a fact of life.  No, I don’t agree with our laws being violated.  We just can’t stop it.  We need to get rid of perverse incentives, to get rid of illegal immigration.  Well, the current REVERSE incentives might do it too.)  My chances of coming over and living here, let alone being a professional author were pretty close to zero.  Maybe less.

So… how did I get here?  More or less by accident.  If I hadn’t run into a poster for an exchange student organization in a location that was not one of my usual; if I hadn’t been intrigued enough to try to figure out what the organization was; if I hadn’t been selected; if I hadn’t been placed in the states; if I hadn’t then met my husband…

Being a science fiction writer, I can very well imagine a hundred parallel futures, none of which ends with me here.  In most of them, I suspect, I’m now retiring as a public school teacher somewhere in Portugal.  This was the path of high improbability.  That it also more or less fit what I wanted to do is… not exactly a coincidence.

How could I have planned for this?  Back in elementary, how could I have sat down with a pad of paper – like my friend did in high school – and put dates to my dreams: 1984, fall in love with an American.  Ensure he falls in love with you.  Sending him Heinlein books might help.  1985, marry said American.  1986…  How could I?  What sense does that make?  And that even without taking in account the more improbable steps on the way to where I am now: 2001, make sure that literary fantasy series flops, so you can go on to write what you really want to, and actually have a career.  Trust me on this, literary fantasy will never be enough to life from.  Or 2008, make friends with guys at PJM so you can publish the occasional non fiction article.

Really?  How could I plan that back in 1970?  Unless I were psychic.  (Something I’ve never been accused of.)

And this – you knew I had a point, right, other than the one on top of my head? – is why I object strenuously to all forms of government planning, from monetary supply to the more abstruse forms of involvement with professional training (like the US limiting the number of doctors who can graduate every year.)

Because politicians and economists and all the people who are supposed to be the great panjandrums of planning are no more psychic than I am.  Worst, like everyone who is trained in a narrow specialty, they are often worse than the average Joe  at knowing what is coming down the pipe.  They get tunnel vision.  My husband, for instance, is brilliant at developments in his field and even secondary impacts – he told me eighteen years ago that the long distance telecom business was as good as gone, and had maybe another two or three years before the implosion started – but he spent years telling me that my spending my days on the blogs was a waste of time, because it wouldn’t last.

My friend who planned her whole life failed to take in account that at fourteen she wasn’t even done growing: she had no idea what her mind would become, or what would interest her later.  She couldn’t have enough information.

The government planning it for her, wouldn’t have done any better.

Let’s imagine the benevolent statism of some of Heinlein’s juveniles.  Say, an Earth authority, who really wants to keep things running the best they can, to provide for a swelling (eh.  Even the best predictors fail!) population.  Ten years ago, the planners would still have been going “We need x number of journalists.”

Technology changes, the world changes, plans change.  Some of the plans and tech and the world change in response to laws which think they’re going to control some portion of the world but which, instead, just make it go a different direction.  (No?  Obamacare – the end of full time employment as we know it.)

If an individual who is most concerned in it can’t plan his own individual life, because of the way it intersects with everyone else, what kind of being can plan the life of a nation or a world?  You’d have to be sort of a god, standing above it all, wouldn’t you.  As we know, and some other people are finding out, no such beings exist in the world of Earthly politics.

Oh, don’t misunderstand me – governments can and do change the course of things, only rarely the way they anticipate.  Think of the left’s long crawl through journalism, entertainment media, government and education, all with the purpose of establishing full control and full narrative control, so people could be living in 1984 and think it was paradise and that the people keeping boots on their necks were liberators…  All undone by a tech that for the beginning of its popularity was mostly used for disseminating porn and which is now still a haven for kitten pics and Heinlein flamewars.  (And if you think it’s not been undone, imagine what we’d know, and what we’d think without the net.  At least now we have a fighting chance.)

The individualists fail to organize.  The collectivists are fond of planning.  At least our side is aware our penchant is a shortcoming.  Their side… hoist on their planned petard comes to mind.  Couldn’t have happened to nicer statists.

Not that they don’t have power.  They still have power.  Mostly, they can cause most of us to die in horrible ways through revolution, war, famine or targeted mass killings.  Governments throughout history have excelled at all of those.  I doubt they’ve lost the knack.  (Though the sheer organization of the industrial age might be passing from this world – thank G-d.)

BUT if we survive, they can’t do much for planning how we live – and certainly not for helping us get where we want to go.  It’s not what it’s meant for.  Even if the people in government were saints, and motivated by the best possible wishes, it wouldn’t work.  They mostly are motivated by self interest and a will to power, and it definitely won’t work.

The law of unintended consequences is like the law of gravity.  You can’t avoid it while on Earth and dealing with corporeal humans.  The idea of control is an illusion.  Humanity organizes in a chaotic system.  Step on a butterfly and you might start up squid farms in Asia, or kill Martian colonies in the twenty second century.

So – supposing you want to get somewhere – if planning doesn’t work, how do you get where you want to go?

Why… by accident.  Or not.  It’s more like Zen archery.  You don’t aim, but you know where the target is, and you stay lose, and you intend to reach it. And then, instead of planning how to get there, you stay alert for possible opportunities to get where you want to go.  See an opportunity to work at something you always wanted to?  Give it a chance.  See something that needs doing and doesn’t pay?  Try it.  Who knows?  It might start to pay suddenly.  Stay open to chaos and make use of it.

Or maybe it’s like fishing.  You can stake out the perfect cove, put the right bait in the water, wait.  But if the fish slept late that day, you might come home empty handed.  On the other hand, start a bunch of rods going, with different bait, and you might have to dine on frog’s legs, but you probably won’t go hungry.  Or even better, get a boat, a net and trawl that lake.  Throw back what you’re not interested in.

As the man said, the game is rigged, but if you don’t bet you can’t win.  And, as with the lottery, the more bets you place, the greater the chance you’ll win SOMETHING.

It is the secret to surviving in times of catastrophic technological change, the secret to surviving the unintended consequences our “planners” throw at us, the secret to staying alive and getting (more or less) where they want to go.

Keep moving.  The terrain changes constantly and there are rodents of unusual size (we call them politicians!) Keep a buddy at your back to tell you what’s going on there.  Pick up your fallen comrades and  carry them along as you move towards your destination.

It’s a chaotic world.  The non-planners have the advantage.

There’s a different post on over at Mad Genius Club.

116 responses to “Fishing For Possibilities

  1. When I graduated highschool, I had a plan. Sixteen years later, I am actually working on part of that plan again. Of course, there has been a long detour and it’s more difficult now, and my motivations are completely different. The future is an adventure, and I have bad days, but I keep looking forward to what’s coming next. Sure, this society is having issues. But I can’t believe that in a world with the internet, and the commentors on this blog, there isn’t hope. Keep writing, Sarah, and we’ll keep reading.

    • Wayne Blackburn

      My high school plan has had a 26-year hiatus so far, and if certain things come together in the relatively near future, I might give up on that particular plan entirely, but only because I will have overstepped it completely.

      • That sounds like good news, Wayne 🙂 Part of the plan I had way back I can no longer do – I’m too old. But I’m a different person now, to go back and try to fit into the head of who I was then would hobble me.

        On Wed, Mar 27, 2013 at 12:17 PM, According To Hoyt wrote:

        > ** > Wayne Blackburn commented: “My high school plan has had a 26-year > hiatus so far, and if certain things come together in the relatively near > future, I might give up on that particular plan entirely, but only because > I will have overstepped it completely.” >

      • As soon as the supermodel drops the restraining order, my high school plan can get back on track too!

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      I had a five year plan for college. Half cause of scholarship limits, half to parody Stalin. Long story as to how well it worked, if it worked.

  2. It’s a curious fact of life and statistics, but the probability of occurrence of any single event is vanishingly small until it in fact occurs. At that point the bit flips and that slight possibility becomes certainty.
    That said, life does not exist as a random wave front of isolated events alone, but as a multitude of chains of events leading to that instant we call “now” at which point each event is frozen in place for all time.
    The secret is of course to glom on to as many positive chains as you can while remaining nimble enough to take advantage of the inevitable unanticipated opportunities. And the better one is at looking at the many event chains that form their local reality and anticipating their likely outcome the better one may carve their existence out of chaos.
    Or as gamblers and surfers are wont to say, “ride the wave, don’t let it ride you!”

  3. Life is what happens when you look the other way. Wish I’d said that originally, but it’s still true

  4. Sarah–first, let me just say how happy I am that I found your blog. Your articles, and excellent commenters, are a joy to read and think about.

    Now for the actual comment: I often think about what it is that makes me who I am, what happened in my life to get me where I am (which is to say, not that big, not that important, very cynical, and alternately pissed off at the news or bemused by it). The most defining moments always seem to be the things completely out of my control. I used to want to “change the world” (who doesn’t?), but it turns out, working as little as I can, growing things in the garden, making beer, watching weird youtube videos, basically just living life one day at a time, is the more satisfying, less stressful way to go, especially in this day and age where you never know what cunning plans our “betters” in the capitol buildings are going to come up with next. Your last two paragraphs really sum it up.

    Plus, Princess Bride references!

  5. When I was in elementary school, I discovered a talent for science – in particular, biology – and decided I was going to be a doctor. Seemed like an obvious choice, as I was already reading Mom’s Merck Manual and UNDERSTANDING some of the medical terminology.

    HA!

    Years later, I developed a crippling chronic disease, and my intention to go into medicine no longer seemed realistic. I am now a teacher at a local tutoring center, where I use all the science and math knowledge I gathered through college to help kids with their grades and their test prep. Am I unhappy? No. I actually really like the job. (Indeed, this turn of events has convinced me that I am called to homeschool my future kids and perhaps open my own tutoring business on the side.)

    Of course, all of the above illustrates the point of your post perfectly. No one has a clue in heck how things are going to turn out. I certainly didn’t when I was eight.

  6. There is an aphorism about Life being what happens to you while you were making other plans. My own experience has caused me to observe that Life is a series of unpleasant contingencies that come up while you were trying to get something done (sort of like my typing too often proves.)

    As the Metaphor Machine(TM, pat.pending*) seems to be running hard this morning, I will suggest Life is like crossing an ice floe. You have to stay alert, jump when opportunity presents but be careful about where you land. To stand still is to start sinking and nobody makes it all the way across.

    *some day I would rather like a cat or perhaps an appropriate dog, to be named “Pending” just so I can invite people to pat Pending.

  7. I was going to be an archaeologist. Then a fighter pilot. Then an intelligence officer in the Navy. Then an interpreter with the State Department or work for CNN (hey, it was 1992. They weren’t that bad yet.). Then a corporate pilot with S.C. Johnson or Koch Industries. Then a college professor. Now I just want to start making a modest sum from book sales and find a pair of decent part-time teaching jobs. Oh, and somewhere along the line I was going to marry Harrison Ford or Sean Connery.

    If you want to hear G-d laugh, tell Him your plans for the day (week, year, life).

  8. Ummm, I was going to go fishing on Sunday …

    Heck, you’ve seen my resume, you know what an odd path I’ve taken.

    “(It wasn’t my fault. Not guilty yer ‘onor! She married a Frenchman!) “
    Those are extenuating circumstances if any are.

    • resume?
      Grounds Keeper (summer jobs program out of high school in ’84) carpenter (worked 8 months out of 14 …), dish washer (bit over a month), Bicycle mechanic (3 times at 2 shops ’86 to ’92), a short part time stint at a junkyard in the middle of the shop work (’87 or so), auto parts (started as a delivery driver, was bought-out, change limited to shorter trip to work, then outside salesman, 1200 miles a week driving to cover that, then as a warehouse manager all in the span of ’92 to ’98 when I quit they needed 3 people to cover the job I complained I needed help on), Aircraft refueler (two places, all for SWA in N.O., quit after a buy-out made things GTHIAHB … still the favorite of my jobs. work 7 days, off 7 days ’98 to ’04), DirecTv installer (rates on par with Dishwashing … yet another buy-out, March of ’04 all the way to first sunday of August that same year … cost me my savings, took 2 months to find another job), Now making chemicals and went through my fourth buy-out, This is the largest company I’ve worked for (after being bought out by a multinational, corporate stupidity now takes over for the tightfisted nonsense of the previous single owner. The level of BS is the same for now, it’s just different BS), and so far the longest I’ve worked in one place.

  9. plans? plans? yeah, I’ve lived most all my life with absolutely NO plans what so ever. Even the high school Guidance Councilor gave up.
    Closest thing to planning I get is the 401(k) ( btw all you planners in the gov’t, gee, thanks for killing the worth of those). And that is mainly because of the matching the corp gives.
    For right now, I plan a Shower & Shave, a motorbike ride to work, and a somewhat miserable day of putting up with my co-workers. Even the plans I have for the weekend are set in fine powder. And I live in windy DFW. Looks like I won’t be heading to Lockhart for lunch at Smitty’s.

    • Rob Crawford

      “btw all you planners in the gov’t, gee, thanks for killing the worth of those”

      Oh, it gets better. Have you heard of the proposals to swap your 401k investments for “government-backed annuities”?

    • I’m no longer up on the rules for 401ks, but if you can redirect your holdings/value to tangibles you might want to look at that. Real estate (farms? Farmland is waaaay overpriced now – huge bubble – but it might beat the value of a letter telling you that your 401k is being confiscated to bail out your bank…), “coin collections”, ummm…. something that has real world value or that people need, and at the same time is not denominated in currency or held by a bank/financial institution… self-directed ???

      • I’m mostly in it for the company matching funds (“free money” if you do it yourself you get only the money you are paid to put in, but they match up to 5% of your pay, I forget if it is 1 to 1 or 1.5 to 1) my current one is mostly run by, and is about 75% based in stock in the company itself. Sort of an ESOP but run as a 401. If the company stock drops they shuffle to try and keep up the best returns. My old one, rolled over into this one was by The Standard, and I never lost “My” money, only that paid in as matching funds. Fidelity runs ours now (iirc), but the major part is only available to employees of Tyco owned companies. The rest are the standard offerings.
        Another thing the rat bastages don’t like is my Health Savings Account. I forget what buffoon suggested we should have those taxed, and another wanted them to be confiscated (though some pc lingo was used instead of Stolen … err …confiscated) and then pooled for a single payer system. That gets some matching from the company now as well, but it is a dollar amount. More of my money the gov’t wants to control for my own good.

    • Wayne Blackburn

      If you read Dilbert: That’s cow-irkers, not co-workers.

  10. In the beginning… God created time, the first of the 4 dimensions in which we live. (Then he created the heavens and the earth – metaphor words for the other 3). Just think how disorganized we’d all be without that first dimension! Even the word “plan” would not exist.

    This piece… simply mahvelolus, Dahling! the best writing I’ve read in a long time. Thank you for sharing your mind, and the thoughts in it.

    For me, I always plan, then since I forget things, I go do other stuff… tyranny of the urgent rules my life. Off to ignore the things that need done and to do the things that could be allowed to slide!
    Ta!

    • I’ve often idly wondered what would happen with more than 1 time dimension. 2 time and 2 space. Or 2 time and 3 space. The scalar wave equation in that sort of space would look like: $d^2/dx_1^2 + d^2/dx_2^2 – k^2*(d^2/dx3^2 + d^2/dx4^2 + d^2/dx5^2) = 0$; Along either time dimension, intuitively it seems like there would be a 1/r^2 falloff of the intensity of the green’s function. I’ll have to work it out formally sometime.

      • More than 1 time dimension??? Where the heck were you when we were inventing Time? I was part of the project that developed Time (we had to; all the music was piling up on top of itself without Time, and we lacked rhythm* as well) But we didn’t even think of multiple dimensions for Time! Of course, if we had allowed more than the one dimension Time might more easily get warped.

        *Had we anticipated drum solos we might have aborted the whole project.

        • DO NOT GET MY HUSBAND AND OLDER SON STARTED ON THIS. IF I understand correctly, the gist of their complaints goes as follows: time is not a dimension, but something else, perhaps a force like gravity. Don’t make us come out there. Truly, DO NOT. And in last resort — from husband — “where did you receive your degree in theoretical mathematics?” (No, seriously, he asked a fan this at a con.) DO NOT WIND THE CRAZIES UP.

          • Can I bring Kent, my computational astrophysicist friend?

          • OF COURSE Time is not a dimension. Not until after you’ve killed* it, cured it, tanned its hide and stretched it out properly.

            *Trust me, it is devilishly hard to kill Time. Under all but the most favorable circumstances it is only stunned and will return with a vengeance. This is, in fact, the basis of hangovers. People trying to kill Time will often attempt soaking it in alcohol, which stretches it all out of shape, and the resulting rebound invariably hits them in the head.

            N.B., I received my degree in theoretical mathematics in the usual way, a box of Crackerjacks. Possibly not so fancy a box as your husband’s but I assure you it had the full complement of puffed up kernels and candy-a@@ nuts.

          • Wayne Blackburn

            Uh, more than one Time dimension? I know at least some of you have read The Number of the Beast.

            Time as a force kind of makes sense. We only call Time a dimension because that’s what Einstein used as a basis for Relativity. By expanding to 5 dimensions, they were able to unify the Electromagnetic Force and the Weak Nuclear Force. And the Grand Unification theories generally have 10 or 11 dimensions, but I think some of them have indefinite, or perhaps infinite dimensions.

            • Wayne Blackburn

              BTW, I enjoy winding up the crazies on something like that…

            • Einstein was fulla beans re relativity. I believe it’s accepted that light can be “bent” when acted on by gravity. We know that it can be stopped, then “let go”. ie we can manipulate it. Since light photons have momentum, they (are?) classified as “particles”, since momentum is a function of particles, even though photons have no mass. (No momentum – no push on the Motie’s light sail.)

              Fairly recent stuff indicates that light does NOT always travel in a straight line – but a corkscrew, and that its speed varies (because of the tightness of the spiral) depending on which direction it’s going in re to the Universe’s NS orientation. (yes – there is one.) So the idea that the speed of a moving object changes it’s dimensions is pure hogwash… especially if you (as I do) hold that dimensions are not variable. (and the usual illustration of the relativity effect – the guys on the train and the guy on the platform) is an optical illusion – not a proof.) (Oh… and geometry proofs are also hogwash – you start with what you think you know, then construct a formula and process that says what you think you know, and so with contrived formula in hand you think that you have proven something… I always hated doing “proofs” in geometry. PTHBBBBBBTHP!)

              As to traveling/moving through dimensions, moving through a dimension does not change either the dimension or the moving body unless you’re referring to the action of other forces such as friction through a media, etc. Moving through a dimension does not alter them. If it did, they wouldn’t be dimensions. They’d be something else.

              As we can move through the other 3 dimensions, we can also moving through time. Time travel exists – we are doing that right now.. We just haven’t figured out yet how to go in any direction but what we’d call “forward” and that at a specified rate. So going at the speed of light will not change the speed of time as physical motion does not alter the other three dimensions, neither will it alter dimensions due to speed. (motion through three dimensions over time, the 1st dimension.).

              That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. As to the math degree… I consider degrees in anything to be the certificate that says you went to someone who had one, gave them money and put up with their idiocy to get one and it means that they told you what THEY think. Whether what they think they know is true or not is subject to further evaluation. ie degrees are the ultimate stasis field for knowledge. I know CPAs with MAs who I wouldn’t trust to give me a correct answer to 2+2. (BTW – the CPAs lie. “CPA” does NOT mean “Certified Public Accountant.” A close examination of the field indicates that it really means “Charge People A lot.”

              • Wayne Blackburn

                Do you have any sources on the light speed variation?

                Regarding dimensional contraction – this was the determination based on the observed fact that Doppler shifting of EM radiation does not depend on which body is moving, as it does with other types of vibration, such as sound waves.

                On time dilation – this has been demonstrated in numerous fashions, from taking atomic clocks for plane rides to measuring the rate of decay of high-velocity elementary particles. I’m not sure how your statements can be reconciled with these observations.

                • Gosh… I forgot one – didn’t Einstein say that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light due to the energy requirements… or some such? How about tachyons? don’t remember where I read it, but whoever/wherever said that tachyons cannot go SLOWER than the speed (whatever that is at the moment) of light.

                  • Wayne Blackburn

                    On speed of light – I keep thinking that when people say nothing can go faster than light, it’s one interpretation of the results of the relativity equations, but it may be wrong. However, the only thing explicitly forbidden in those equations was a particle which has mass (photons don’t) moving AT the speed of light, because the energy, mass, and momentum numbers go to infinity. On the other side of the borderline, they become imaginary (or complex, if you prefer that term), and that’s where I think that interpretation of what that means has some possibility of variance.

        • DRUM SOLOS. Filk, dear man, filk.

          • Hey! I resemble that comment. I like filk and I’m not afraid to say it. At least I like the older stuff.

            • My older son says filk is demonic activity. Take it up with him! (I think it’s the result of a filker we used to know when he was tiny.)

              • I pretty much ignore filk… I might like it if I could figure out what they’re saying… but I have a hearing disability. (I’d say disabilities – but there’s only one, that one being I can’t hear very well, so it’s singular.

            • Wayne Blackburn

              You know, when I read that comment, it came through like the song, “I Like Big Butts”:

              “I like filk and I cannot lie,
              You other shifters can’t deny…”

              Fortunately, that’s all I got before my brain melted.

        • And if you doubled time, you’d run out of it sooner!!! And THEN what would you do? Nothing, that’s what because you wouldn’t have the time to do it!

        • More than one time? That was invented a loooong time ago. They call it “syncopated” rhythm.) :-E

  11. You’ve got it – it’s okay to make plans, but be prepared to change direction, and even change plans as priorities change. I don’t think anyone with real dreams would have made them happen if they hadn’t kept a long term goal in mind, but the journey to get there, yeah, that’s going to change a lot.

    I’ve kept my biggest goal – published writer – in mind all my life, since I was three, and that looks like that’s going to happen this year, thanks to ebooks. Heck, I’ve got a friend who made the short list for the astronaut program (talk about the impossible dream – she didn’t make the final cut, but if the shuttle explosions hadn’t happened, she very well might have). Was there a straight path there? Heck no, lots of turns and twists that looked like they were sending her in entirely different directions, but got her there eventually.

  12. H’m, planning… I do that. Sometimes. Well, quite a lot, actually, but only if “planning” to not plan and just make it up as I go counts.

    • As I used to tell my sailors as they went out on liberty: “Have a plan. Have a back-up plan. Have a good idea what you’re going to do when the backup plan goes pear-shaped.” If time is a factor you can skip the first two steps.

      • eh, it’s not like I go around completely oblivious 🙂 . I just find it simpler to adapt generic plans that I already have to the specifics of the situation at hand as I learn them, rather than try to make detailed plans for everything that might happen, ever. mh. that might actually count as planning, now that I think about it. I don’t spend a lot of time *worrying* about plans, let’s put it that way.

      • Nonsense. You just need a plan that survives contact with the enemy. Like Sam’s.

        • Exactly! Not that I’m *usually* in the habit of taking advice from a kleptomaniac space alien… But he has managed to survive so far, right? 🙂 (hasn’t he? I’m afraid I’m dreadfully behind on reading that one.)

  13. Life is chaos, and I’ve spent the last couple of years (most of my marriage, really, natch) learning to surf on the crest of it. I’m actually pretty good at that part. The trouble is enjoying it enough to keep my hair and what passes for sanity around these parts. Looking at history, peace is that odd state punctuating war in which people do a lot of the same things on an individual basis rather than corporately. And war is chaos. And life is war, is struggle, is conflict.

    Right now I’m pretty agile, but Mrs. Dave and I are looking to make little Daves and Davettes, Lord willing, this next duty station. I’ve watched, I’ve talked and I’ve grown up on the inside of it one side, but have no idea what parenting is going to be like from the other side, experientially speaking. And getting the writing off the ground –
    (working on the fourth short, for those keeping track. Digression: this last one is a pain, which might mean it sucks, and might mean it’ll end up the best one. I’m a terrible judge of my own work. I wanted to finish the [roughly, very roughly] planned cycle of ten or twelve by the move, but we’re down to a couple of weeks, and the stress is making me a bit shrewish, so I don’t know that I can pump out 50k words in that time. I did it for NaNoWriMo a couple of years ago, but I wasn’t staring a six time zone move in the face at the time) – which means getting the readers to give feedback, find an editor(s), pay for all that, put together cover art (I know a lot of the principles, but I haven’t actually done it. Also, let me plug a friend here: Sandra Tayler gives regular presentations at cons specifically on cover layout and design. She’s excellent, and very personable. If you have the chance, get to her presentation sometime.) So, in a couple weeks I’ll need to reassess where I am and what my goals are for this project. And the other ones I’ve set aside.

    Realizing that the security most people strive all their lives for is – at base – an illusion makes all of this both easier and harder. Worst case scenarios are unlikely to happen, and anything that is less bad and is more likely isn’t really that bad at all. At the same time, those safety nets we were conditioned to expect aren’t really there, and in fact haven’t been there for my generation ever. So Lovecraft was sorta correct: it’s a big scary universe out there that – generally – ranges from “I don’t care about you, little insect,” to “I’m actively trying to crush you for imposing yourself on my reality.” Not the most comforting, really.

    On the other hand, I keep meeting really cool people, freely associating with them, and opening myself to new opportunities, many of which could easily become somewhat to very lucrative. /braindump

    • I was body surfing off of Ocean Beach in San Diego one time and arrived at the point that three waves came together at the same time that the three waves came together… and got to eat sand… Had a tight chest for a week!!! Oh… you didn’t mean THAT kind of surfing… I’ll just tiptoe on outta here now… tickatickatickatickaticka

  14. Like the Man said, no plan survives contact with the enemy. In this case, the enemy is reality. I had plans — I was going to graduate from the Academy, become a fighter pilot, make Colonel, and retire to a life of leisure with a wife and three or four kids. A boxing accident in my doolie year ended most of those plans! What happened afterwards wasn’t really BAD, but it wasn’t necessarily what I’d PLANNED. Meeting Jean also changed a lot of my plans. So did messing up my back. Sure had a lot of fun, though. LOVED my job in the Air Force. Learned to work with/against computers, which gave me a decent job when I retired, one that didn’t mess with my back. Things have gotten enough worse that retiring to the back of beyond is no longer feasible for either of us. We now have our fourth child, but we COULD have had them a bit closer together…

    If anyone needs help with SCSI, or has a need for aerial photography to be interpreted, I’m your man! In the meantime, I’ll TRY to get the next four novels finished and uploaded to Amazon/B&N/etc.

    • “If anyone […] has a need for aerial photography to be interpreted”

      I’ve been trying to come up with applications for that since I learned that you had those skills. So far I haven’t found any that wouldn’t get me on another government watch list. 😀

      • Timber pre-cruises, stand and grove identification, road placement and drainage issues identification. Talk to timber companies and small woodlands associations.
        Preview sites for people that put in housing development and engineering companies that make industrial parks. Sell it that you can spot them stuff that might cause them regulatory issues.
        Talk to county assessors, county commissioners and any land use people that need another ID on things that can’t be seen well at ground level and they need to regulate.
        Talk to the Sheriff, tell ’em Uncle Sam taught you skills you interested in using, for example finding the pot plantations.
        Talk to the Forestry and forest industry people who need information on extent of forest fire burns or beetle kill. You may get to buy your own photo-drones.
        Just some thoughts.

        • Those are all perfectly cromulent applications of those skills, but they aren’t a) things I’m very interested in or b) funny. They are food for thought (more potential ventures), and thank you for that, but I was mostly just trying to be silly.

  15. When I was 8 years old I decided I wanted to design spaceships. I actully did that for one year, then everything changed. But I still am in the space business. Or to be more accurate presently looking for work in the space business.

  16. I guess I have a very different situation (just saw this blog and I’m diving in, even though I’m not a writer–lots of grace, please). In my case, things that happened before I was born had a huge impact on what options I had for life. Decisions made by my then-divorced parents affected where I lived, where I went to school, and what options for extra-curricular activities were available.

    I had a chance once to leave that environment and go to a top prep school, and I almost took it–but that change would have required that I leave a family member behind, alone and old in the world. And I didn’t like that one bit. I didn’t think a person should be left behind or thrown away like that when no one else in the family was going to be available to care for them.

    So I stayed put, took care of family, and still was able to go to college and graduate school. Was it a top-tier set of schools? No, but they were still good and respectable.

    The twists and turns of life came and went, and they are still passing through. I’ve raised two children, changed jobs a few times, worried over the bills more times than I care to count, but I still have days where I feel like I have gotten to play with great toys. So far, so good.

  17. Sure the game is rigged, but they need to at least be able to pretend it isn’t or no one will play, and knowledge is power. Know the odds before you put the chips on the table and you’ll have a lot better chances of winning. If you get dealt a flush, you know the probability is only 1 in 694 hands, and the probability someone else was dealt a higher value hand is only 1 in 590 hands. On the other hand you’ll get dealt a pair of aces in 1 in 31 hands, while a higher value hand will be dealt 1 in 13 hands. They can tweak the odds, but can’t throw them out the window, you just need to factor in the amount of tweaking before you bet. They might tweak them enough that your odds of winning go down signifigantly with a pair of aces, but a flush is still liable to rake in the pot. Play the odds.

    Oh and hedge your bets, don’t throw it all in the pot no matter how good the odds, unless you never figure on being able to walk away from the table alive anyways.

  18. Jeff Mauldin

    Somehow this makes me think of the OODA loop. What’s going on in your life and around you right now? What are the opportunities and directions you can take? Decide what to do. Do it. Repeat more quickly and often than you think you should have to. Probably helps to have some overarching goals in place, but those might not be able to be set in stone.

    I was fascinated with computers from the moment I first saw them in the 70’s. I mostly just wanted to be able to do stuff with computers. Lucky for me that turned out to be a desire with a lot of opportunity for fulfillment.

  19. It’s easy to marvel at the randomness of things that we have to deal with in life. I started dating my wife in high school. But the fact that I was an Army brat for the first 16 years makes my being at that specific high school not as much a “done deal” as it is for other people, especially when you factor in my father opting for a 100 mile round trip daily commute at his last duty station so he could live close to friends rather than closer to the base.

    I’ve found I do well with general goals, and try not to get wrapped up in what color my fancy car will be when I hit it rich. It’s easier to be able to hit those goals of what I want, and not get sad if the little things don’t work out. I decided in 8th grade I wanted to be a computer programmer / systems analyst. I worked at it in school and had those jobs as part of my career. I’ve also done other things as the economy and jobs have played with the roll of the dice. I also set goals for being a professional writer. I’ve done that through lots of short story sales, which I am fine with. I’d like to be a big name rich writer, but that isn’t happening right now. Then factor in health issues I’ve been dealing with the last 3 years, and if I was too detailed in my goals I’d likely be one really depressed guy.

    Keep it general at first, adding details the closer you get to implementation date, being flexible, and you’ll be happier. Trust me.

  20. I’ve always read voraciously, fiction, non-fiction, lots and lots of science . . . stuffing the brain with information is useful. Especially for a writer. And, I suspect, for other real world problems that call for agility. We’ll see.

  21. I have a plan to win the Powerball. This is not as attainable as it sounds, because I am sufficiently good at math that I refuse to buy a ticket.

    For some that would seem an insurmountable impediment, but the way I figure it, if the government can give tax rebates to people who don’t pay taxes it is an unreasonable restriction for them to require I buy a lottery ticket in order to claim the Powerball.

    • I figure the percentages of winning at powerball are so low I would be happier if I piled all my money in the back yard and set it on fire.
      I get a better return on planting potatoes, which is what I did on Friday.

      • We still have ground that is either mud, or frozen… got the potato sets and the sweet potatoes are in their water jars in the South window making slips… got a couple of new/replacement fruit trees and some new strawberries too… gotta transplant two other varieties of strawberries… weed the grape vines… start the peppers and tomatoes inside… etc etc etc got a LOTTA work to do!!!

        • Dorothy Grant

          I just keep asking a farmer if I can plant yet. She’s okayed onions and garlic, but nothing else yet. Seemed strange when it was sixty and sunny, and not at all strange when it was thirty and snowing two days later. So my seedlings keep growing, and growing, and I worry about them getting stunted into origami form by lack of root ball space. We’ll see if anything survives to go into the ground, or survives being in the ground.

        • I’ve got plants that I intended to set out last week. They spent three days in the garage. Now they will spend Mon and Tue in the garage again, if the weather is as forecast (hard freezes and snow). Gotta love Texas, where you get Spring, Summer, and Winter on the same day. Our date of last freeze is April 18, and latest recorded freeze (and snow) is May 7.

          • I walked around my neighborhood a couple of weeks ago while wearing sandals and studied all the snow spread over the ground with only a few patches here and there of grass showing.

  22. Did you ever notice that some powerball numbers come up regularly while others don’t at all? And by watching which ones come up more often, you can tell when they change the sets. There are two sets involved, the power ball set and the other number set… both have frequent flier numbers that change with the sets. (I figure it’s because there is absolutely NO way those balls can be made PRECISELY the same, same balance, same aerodynamics… so some will come up more often.) When I kept track of them on a spread sheet I would come pretty close to breaking even with the occasional small win… but I never went to the trouble of tracking the sets of non-powerballs…

    • Now I’m curious about your methodology, because I’ve had the same conceit about the lotto having recurrent numbers that fit some sort of pattern. I always wondered if you chucked the historical data for the powerball draws into an expert system (like the kind used in high frequency trading) and had it detect the patterns and weigh the probabilities, it could give you the winning numbers within a small probability of error.

      Though, if it were that easy, it’s hard to believe some quant hasn’t already up and done it.

      • Dan tried in the nineties. Doesn’t work. Well, unless you buy 400K tickets.

        • now, if you analyzed the pattern, and then got a decent amount of people to chip in… might not get it the first time, but there’d almost have to be a better chance of success than the same group just picking numbers out of a hat, right?

        • So if one follows the example set by the other unpredictable random walk value, the stock market, one would offer one’s analysis in a Powerball analysis newsletter, subscription only of course, and the higher priced the better.

          Isn’t there a subscription/periodical model in Amazon for the Kindle?

      • I did it the old fashioned way – with a spread sheet and time. Came up with a few powerballs that hit about 5 times in a cycle (when they changed the set)… then watched the new set to see what it did… and recorded all the frequencies… and then guessed.

  23. Forethought —> Self-Discipline —> Action —> Repeat

  24. I spent most of my childhood planning on being thoroughly Dead by age 40.

    I hit 40 last year. “You’re surprised? *God* lost $50.” [Dennis Miller]

    The way to ID the Truly Great is not by what he does when everything is going his way — it’s by what he does when everything drops in the shitter. I study the American Civil War — my go-to example is someone most folks have never heard of, as he never served along the DC-Richmond axis: Gen. George Thomas. Battle of Chickamauga, when Rosecrans accidentally opens a hole in his line, and Longstreet shoves his corps into it: Rosecrans flees; McCook flees; Crittenden flees; Thomas… is forever after known as “The Rock Of Chickamauga”. Most historians list this battle as a Union defeat — stunningly Wrong; not only did Thomas manage to keep a fighting force together until it could be withdrawn (under the noses of the Rebels, no less!), he also prevented the Rebels pulling off their intended battle-plan (which was to push the Union army south into a box canyon, where it could be destroyed or forced to surrender).

    Finally, an ode to people foolish enough to make grandiose plans for their lives 🙂 : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PfhCg2qPkXM .