Nerd or Normal?

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You know the stereotype – the computer nerd. He’s (it’s always a “he,” right?), writes the computer code that enables the digital devices that we now can’t live without.

But we don’t want to meet him. He’s a young guy with no social skills who’s a loner who doesn’t want to have contact with others.

That’s pretty much the opinion that I had, and that’s why I was so intrigued by a recent New York Times article, “Tech’s Damaging Myth of the Loner Genius Nerd.” Here’s part of what the writer had to say:

Interpersonal skills like collaboration, communication, empathy and emotional intelligence are essential to the job. The myth that programming is done by loner men who think only rationally and communicate only with their computers harms the tech industry in ways that cut straight to the bottom line.

The loner stereotype can deter talented people from the industry — not just women, but anyone who thinks that sounds like an unattractive job description. It can also result in dysfunctional teams and poorly performing products. Empathy, after all, is crucial to understanding consumers’ desires, and its absence leads to product mistakes.

Take digital assistants, like Google Home or Amazon Echo. Their programmers need to be able to imagine a huge variety of home situations, whether households with roommates or abusive spouses or children — as made clear when a child ordered a $160 dollhouse and four pounds of sugar cookies on the Echo.

“Basically every step is very collaborative,” said Tracy Chou, who was an engineer at Pinterest and Quora and is now working on start-ups. “Building a big software system, you could have dozens or hundreds or thousands of engineers working on the same code base, and everything still has to work together.” She added, “But not everyone is the same, and that’s where empathy and broader diversity really help.”

Want more? You can read the full article here.

Why Write?

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Philip Roth is one of the most celebrated writers of our generation. Like many of us, I gobble up each one of his new books as soon as it is published.

That’s why I was intrigued by James Campbell’s review of Roth’s latest book, Why Write? And what writer among us wouldn’t want to read it. I did, and it was well worth the time.

Here is part of what Campbell said in his review:

Why write? In an interview with the Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet in 2014, four years after the publication of what he claimed would be his final novel, Philip Roth offered an oblique answer to the question that gives the title to this collection. “Writing for me was a feat of self-preservation. . . . It was also my good luck that happiness didn’t matter to me and I had no compassion for myself. Though why such a task should have fallen to me I have no idea. Maybe writing protected me against even worse menace.”

If Mr. Roth’s basic subject is me and my novels, the former is protective of the latter. An amusing 14-page letter to Wikipedia, titled “Errata,” sets out to correct the misrepresentations of his work that he found on the website. The first concerns the novel “The Human Stain” (2000), described in the Wikipedia entry at the time of writing (2012) as “allegedly inspired by the life of the writer Anatole Broyard. ” Broyard was a book critic for the New York Times, who, although African-American by heritage, passed in literary society for white (there is debate about how much of a secret his passing was). When Mr. Roth contacted Wikipedia to correct the misstatement that his novel was based on Broyard’s experience, he was told (through his “official interlocutor”) “that I, Roth, was not a credible source. ‘I understand your point that the author is the greatest authority on their own work,’ writes the Wikipedia Administrator—‘but we require secondary sources.’ ”

Want more? You can read the full article here.

Aging and Rewards

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Quick: Think of a benefit of getting older. Are you stuck? I was, until something happened to me. I knew what it was, but couldn’t articulate it. Then veteran CBS correspondent came to the rescue with her article: “Grandbabies: The Great Reward.” Here is part of what she said:

Happy Mother’s Day to all us grandmothers [and grandfathers] we band of lovesick indulgers whose ability to say no seems to be disabled the day our grandbabies are born. We sneak them candy when Mom says no, we let them play on iPads, read them “Fancy Nancy” over and over … and over. We get out our wallets whenever they point to something and say, “I want dat.” Yup, that’s us. And it’s Grampa, too. Someone wise said, “If God had asked Abraham to sacrifice his grandson, he’d have said, ‘No way!’ ”

As a demographic, we have swelled into a giant bulge in the population. There are more than 27,000 new grandparents in the United States every week. Many are the “revolutionaries” of the 1960s and ’70s — the pioneer women who entered the white-collar work force. Well, now, 40, 50 years later, these same women are pioneers again, this time reinventing grandparenting.

One way is that we’re in our grandchildren’s lives more than ever before, whether from across the country thanks to Skype and FaceTime or as “granny nannies” — in some cases full time.

And my generation is spending more money on our grandchildren, 64 percent more than grandparents did just 10 years ago, doling out, for instance, roughly $4.3 billion a year on primary and secondary school tuition. We’re also spending on everyday needs like baby food, clothes and tricycles as well as big-ticket items like the crib, the stroller, a piano (that was me). We’re straightening their teeth when they get a little older.

Want more? You can read the full article here.

Grisham’s Rules

Writing Techniques

Few novelists have been as wildly successful as John Grisham. And unlike some writers, Grisham shares his secrets! Here are his first two suggestions:

  1. DO — WRITE A PAGE EVERY DAY

That’s about 200 words, or 1,000 words a week. Do that for two years and you’ll have a novel that’s long enough.

Nothing will happen until you are producing at least one page per day.

  1. DON’T — WRITE THE FIRST SCENE UNTIL YOU KNOW THE LAST

This necessitates the use of a dreaded device commonly called an outline. Virtually all writers hate that word. I have yet to meet one
who admits to using an outline.

Want the other six? You can read them here.

Writing Update

Books George Galdorisi

It has been a busy year from a writing perspective, embarking on a number of fiction and non-fiction projects. One thing that has made the work joyful, rather than drudgery, has been a super-supportive family, as well as a community that has embraced the arts in a positive way. Read more about the City of Coronado Cultural Arts Commission here: http://coronadoarts.com/

Probably the most exciting writing adventure this year has been joining Braveship Books. A creation of writers and entrepreneurs Matt Cook and Jeff Edwards, this new publishing imprint leverages emerging technologies in printing, distribution and communications to produce books in the action adventure, thriller and sci-fi and fantasy genres. You can read more about Braveship Books here: http://braveshipbooks.com/index.php.

Braveship Books has just published my first Rick Holden Thriller, the Coronado Conspiracy in both print and e-book versions.

Last month, Coronado Eagle-Journal reporter, David Axelson, caught up with me and captured my recent writing adventures. Want more? You can read the full article here.

Love

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Not everyone is comfortable with telling others, even family members, “I love you.” For those of us who are proud baby-boomers, it’s not something our parents were comfortable with.

I always wondered why this was. That’s why I was so taken by a New York Times article entitled: “My Dad’s Change of Heart.” Here is part of what the writer said:

“I love you.”

Those three simple words messed me up for an entire week. I asked my wife if she heard them, too, or if I was hallucinating. I couldn’t believe the man in front of me said them. It wasn’t the message, but the messenger: my father.

Who was this impostor? Could it be that this Pakistani-American immigrant, who grills halal lamb chops in boxers and sandals while listening to Sabri Brothers qawwali, had just said this to his almost-3-year-old grandson, Ibrahim?

I understand how fatherhood, and grandfatherhood, can profoundly change a man. The joyous burden forces some of us to adjust our career priorities, creates excessive anxiety for tiny people who don’t pay rent and inspires a lifelong goal of trying to become the only man in existence who looks cool driving a Toyota Sienna.

But this sentiment from my father was a drastic disruption of a life I had always known.

In my 36 years of existence, my parents have never said “I love you” to me or vice versa. We are not an “I love you” family. Years ago, my mother told me “I love you” was for “Amreekans” and “goras” (white people), which at the time were synonymous, until they realized South Asians and other immigrants had every right to claim the American label as well.

Want more? You can read the full article here.

Working 9 to 5

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Silicon Valley. What a great place. Happy people…going to work in jeans every day…foosball tables…free food…and all the rest. We all are jealous of the happy few who work there.

Not so fast. My son and his wife work in “The Valley,” so I have first-person insights into this lifestyle. It’s a grind.

That’s why I read – with great interest – a recent article in the New York Times entitled: “In Silicon Valley, 9 to 5 is For Losers.” Here is part of what the writer says:

Silicon Valley prides itself on “thinking different.” So maybe it makes sense that just as a lot of industries have begun paying more attention to work-life balance, Silicon Valley is taking the opposite approach — and branding workaholism as a desirable lifestyle choice. An entire cottage industry has sprung up there, selling an internet-centric prosperity gospel that says that there is no higher calling than to start your own company, and that to succeed you must be willing to give up everything.

“Hustle” is the word that tech people use to describe this nerd-commando lifestyle. You hear it everywhere. You can buy hustle-themed T-shirts and coffee mugs, with slogans like “Dream, hustle, profit, repeat” and “Outgrind, outhustle, outwork everyone.” You can go to an eight-week “start-up hustle” boot camp. (Boot camp!) You can also attend Hustle Con, a one-day conference where successful “hustlers” share their secrets. Tickets cost around $300 — or you can pay $2,000 to be a “V.I.P. hustler.” This year’s conference, in June, drew 2,800 people, including two dozen who ponied up for V.I.P. passes.

Want more? You can read the full article here.

Genius?

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Last week, I posted a technology blog post that talked about the grinding lifestyle in Silicon Valley. Frightening stuff.

Another thing that Silicon Valley brings to mind is the idea of the “Lone Genius.” Their names pop right to mind: Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and many others.

However, the idea of the “lone genius” has become something of an urban legend especially as it involves innovation.

But Joshua Wolf Shenk challenges that in his new book, Powers of Two. Here is an excerpt from the New York Times review of his book:

The pair is a precious unit — private, generative, even holy. We can explore a couple’s inner workings if we have an invitation to do so. Otherwise, we must use any available external means: letters in archives, revealing anecdotes, loose-lipped quips in interviews. In order to understand creativity, we must learn from couples, Joshua Wolf Shenk argues in his new book, “Powers of Two.” Defying the myth of the lone genius, he makes the case that the chemistry of creative pairs — of people, of groups — forms the primary (albeit frequently hidden) structural basis of innovation.

Pairs don’t often let us pry them apart, looking to see who contributed what. John Lennon wrote what would become “Strawberry Fields Forever” and Paul McCartney came up with “Penny Lane” as a rejoinder, yet their music is credited to both of them, written “eyeball to eyeball,” as Lennon put it, or “like mirrors” in McCartney’s view. Neal Brennan and Dave Chappelle have long agreed to keep private who wrote what in their comic sketches.

“People always ask Ulay and me the same questions,” the artist Marina Abramovic told Shenk about her former partner. “ ‘Whose idea was it?’ or ‘How was this done?’ . . . But we never specify. Everything was interrelated and interdependent.” The daughter of Marie and Pierre Curie said that her parents’ work was a fused endeavor. It’s nearly impossible to distinguish their contributions by looking at their laboratory notebooks, where handwriting by each covers the pages. Shenk’s “Powers of Two” is a rare glimpse into the private realms of such duos. He writes with his face “pressed up against the glass” of paired figures from the present and the past — adding the likes of Steve Jobs and Steve ­Wozniak, ­Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. ­Tolkien to the pairs mentioned above.

Intrigued? You can read the entire article here.

Internet Demons

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The Internet is our helpmate. Right? It sure seemed that way as the Internet was initially introduced. There was great expectation that it would change our lives for the better and enrich us beyond measure. But there’s been, as Peter Falk used to say in his Columbo series, “That little voice in the back of my head,” telling me something might be amiss.

That said, I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what the issue was. That’s why I found a New York Times Op-Ed by Ross Douthat entitled “Resist the Internet” so intriguing. Here is part of what he shared:

Search your feelings, you know it to be true: You are enslaved to the internet. Definitely if you’re young, increasingly if you’re old, your day-to-day, minute-to-minute existence is dominated by a compulsion to check email and Twitter and Facebook and Instagram with a frequency that bears no relationship to any communicative need.

Compulsions are rarely harmless. The internet is not the opioid crisis; it is not likely to kill you (unless you’re hit by a distracted driver) or leave you ravaged and destitute. But it requires you to focus intensely, furiously, and constantly on the ephemera that fills a tiny little screen, and experience the traditional graces of existence — your spouse and friends and children, the natural world, good food and great art — in a state of perpetual distraction.

It certainly delivers some social benefits, some intellectual advantages, and contributes an important share to recent economic growth. But there are also excellent reasons to think that online life breeds narcissism, alienation and depression, that it’s an opiate for the lower classes and an insanity-inducing influence on the politically-engaged, and that it takes more than it gives from creativity and deep thought.

But what if we decided that what’s good for the Silicon Valley overlords who send their kids to a low-tech Waldorf school is also good for everyone else? Our devices we shall always have with us, but we can choose the terms. We just have to choose together, to embrace temperance and paternalism both. Only a movement can save you from the tyrant in your pocket.

Want more? You can read the full article here

Grisham’s Rules

Writing Techniques

We all have our favorite writers. As a guy who writes primary military techno-thrillers, I tend to gravitate to writers who excel in that genre: Clancy and his successor writers, Stephen Coonts, Dick Couch, Larry Bond, David Poyer, Rick Campbell, P.T. Deutermann and a few others.

But for all of us, there are writers who, while they write in a different genre, are so successful that we hold them up as examples regarding how we should write. John Grisham is one of those writers, and when he is generous with his advice, as he was in his New York Times piece, “John Grisham’s Do’s and Don’ts for Writing Popular Fiction,” We all listen.

Here’s just a taste to whet your appetite:

  1. DO — WRITE A PAGE EVERY DAY

That’s about 200 words, or 1,000 words a week. Do that for two years and you’ll have a novel that’s long enough.

Nothing will happen until you are producing at least one page per day.

  1. DON’T — WRITE THE FIRST SCENE UNTIL YOU KNOW THE LAST

This necessitates the use of a dreaded device commonly called an outline. Virtually all writers hate that word. I have yet to meet one
who admits to using an outline.

Intrigued? You can read the entire article here.