Posts filed under 'Observation & Musing'

The end of sin?

I thought this was interesting, given my interest in all things genetic. A court has reduced a murderer’s sentence because he tested positive for genes believed linked to agression.

Is this yet another potential change in society that genetic knowledge will foist on us? Will we no longer be responsible for our actions, but merely considered slaves to our genes? A society built on lesser personal responsibility does not bode well.

If science has killed God … now sin is shortly to follow. Broken evolution indeed.

Add comment November 5th, 2009

Snake Oil and Salesmen

I’ve been searching reviews for a natural dietary supplement to see what it does and if it’s any good. The process brings me face-to-face with the real nature of the internet, and a lesson in marketing, during the very week I’ve been planning my own internet marketing strategy.

Snake Oil Remedies
Image by inky

Upon searching for this particular supplement, I find that the reviews on the first couple of Google pages of links were all very positive. Nothing is so perfect. Perfection makes me suspicious. The reviews were similar in their wording. My guess is the marketing man (who shall remain nameless) from the company who make the supplement has entered into as many blog and review sites as he could find. SEO at its best … and worst. Manipulating search engines and saturating the bandwidth for those searching on the efficacy of a product is very shrewd marketing strategy, but I find it a little sad, because it erodes the internet’s usefulness as a resource for impartial, genuine, user reviews of a product.

Ah well, moral of the tale: if you want the genuine stuff, click straight to page 20 of the search results; if you want to sell stuff, get it into pages 1 and 2!

Add comment October 26th, 2009

Gunning in the Fog

I’m winding down to my long overdue vacation. Lately, I feel like I’ve been shooting into the fog, hoping to hit something. The final round of agent submissions felt like that. The attempts to heal my sciatica have felt like that. No targets hit so far, and worse … I can no longer see where the targets are, or what they are. Weariness from a year of constant pain has fogged it all over.

So I’m off for two weeks, to relax, recharge, and re-focus.

To keep myself going until that break, I decided to play around with the Gunning-Fog Index and the Flesch-Kincaid Test this week. You could be forgiven for mistaking them for obscure titles of gripping thrillers, but actually, they are metrics for grading the readability of text. It’s based around sentence and word length. I applied it to some chapters of my novel. The readability was quite good, but by adopting some of the change suggestions from Edit Central, I found I could improve every chapter by almost a further point, which brings it comfortably into my target audience range.

Readability Test Results

I might apply it to the whole novel when I return. Tighten it up even more. I wouldn’t recommend applying it blindly as an editing technique. It’s just interesting, that’s all. It makes me more aware of my style, and where it could trip up a reader. It made me think of even simpler, clearer ways to compose some sentences.

The most interesting thing of all, for me, is that readability was hardest in chapters where certain people were talking. This is mainly because those people would be having some technical conversations (with lots of multiple syllable words like ‘forensics’ or ‘genetics’). I could almost tell which chapter it is by the readability index alone. (I’m too damned close to this thing!) Is editing ever truly finished? Or am I just gilding the lily at this stage? Time to let go.

Ah well – holiday time too. Back in a couple of weeks.

Add comment September 4th, 2009

Is youth wasted on the young? Not if you work in marketing.

Back injuries got me thinking mortal thoughts lately. Contemplating a long-running ailment made me consider that my youth is at an end (physically at least). Early this morning I watched a discussion on breakfast TV about ageism – it is discrimination, but the guest was making the point that it is a very subtle form of it. There’s just an assumption that as we get older, we can do less. It has been said (by Dorothea Brande) that writing is something to be considered only after you reach the age of thirty. The quality of writing is one of those things that – arguably – improves with the age of the author. Which is probably just as well, since recent rejections have me thinking that if I want to be in this at all … it has to be for the long haul!

It makes me think too of our youth-centered culture. Marketing gurus love “yoof”. Reinvent and recast. Bring the most beautiful and appealing onto screen and stage. I’m thinking of the youngest actor ever cast to play Doctor Who. I’m thinking of a new young Star Trek film cast. I’m thinking of the rumour that Stargate: Atlantis was cancelled to make way for Stargate: Universe – a show which will, no doubt, be another pale Star Trek style rehash, but with a younger cast to appeal to a larger demographic. I’m thinking of the trend in recent years of announcing book deals with teenager authors, the kind whose pictures look pretty next to the byline. I’m not resentful – more luck to them I say. I’d have loved to be in that position when I was that young. But I held off, knowing that my work wouldn’t start to be of a quality I’m happy with until this stage of life.

Of course, there is another reason the marketeers like this youthful shim on our world – inexperience comes cheap. It is the beauty of the healthy balance sheet they like to ogle.

Add comment August 27th, 2009

The two-day working week

It’s Friday. I’ve spent this week coding screens and line-editing my revised manuscript. Hopping from one to the other breaks the monotony of both. But come Friday afternoon … I run out of steam … and don’t really want to do either. I just get that “break out and do something completely different” weekend vibe.

Is the working week just long enough so that it runs out when we get to that point? Or are we just accustomed to running out of steam at the end of a working week, no matter how long it is? I’m one of the lucky ones. I’m self-employed and can determine my own working hours, but in fact, for most workers the working week is now actually 6 days long, and getting longer every year. At the start of the industrial revolution, before labour laws, 7 day working was not uncommon. So maybe we have it good, you might think. Well, consider homo erectus.

On the radio this week, I heard an author discussing his book, and found it interesting to hear that in our hunter-gather days, the working week was only two days long. Spend two days making arrows, hunting some beasts, and you have enough to feed & clothe you and family for another five days. All that free time started humanity’s artistic journey, scratching out cave paintings. We sometimes look back in embarrassment at our unenlightened cavemen ancestors. But today, Friday, I look back at his two day week and think … boy, did he have it sussed … where the hell did we go wrong in the meantime?

Have a good weekend y’all!

1 comment May 22nd, 2009

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