Friday, December 31, 2010

Reflections


Well, it is the appropriate day for it. Although I only started this blog a few months ago, I’m amazed at how far it’s come. No, it’s not the go to website for writing information. But I’ve made a lot of new friends on Blogger and expanded myself as a writer. I’m no longer writing just for writing; I’m writing for all the people reading my words right now. It gives me a lot of motivation.

The rest of the year pales in comparison to the last few months. I didn’t realize how much I would learn from social networking, not only about writing but about being a good online friend. It’s a lot of work! You can’t just post every day and expect people to visit (i.e. “If you build it, they will come” is incorrect). If you want people to visit you, you have to first, post something interesting; second, post regularly (I think I’m okay here); third, return the favors.

As for the months before I met all of you, I did a lot then, mostly writing stories. I wrote a record five books this year, of approximately 70,000 words each. That is quite a lot, but four of those books are nowhere near ready for readers, let alone consideration by an agent/publisher (another lesson learned the hard way). The fifth, which I’ve been pouring my focus into the past few months, is edging its way towards “ready.” In writing these books, I’ve learned what it means to go from draft one material to draft two, and it isn’t just removing the uses of adverbs and that. It’s the most valuable lesson any writer can learn, and also one impossible to teach or qualify with mere words.

Yes, there are times when words are not enough. A well placed sentence can fell empires, but not on its own.

Happy New Year.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Language of Confusion: ‘flicted


One of the interesting things about prefixes is that they can change an otherwise meaningless word into something with substance. Flict is not a word, but you put an in- in front of it and suddenly we have something. And let’s not forget con- or a-, other common prefixes.

It’s easy to see the ‘flict’ words are related. One is forcing something on a subject (inflict). One is the physical damage of the subject (afflict). And finally, we have the word that is used when one is torn between opposing actions (conflict). But what, I ask, is this flict?

Captain Etymology to the rescue! [insert catchy theme music]

I enjoy this way too much.

All three of these words are derived from Latin, but they all showed up as we know them at different times. The first was afflict, which showed up in the late fourteenth century as a word for “to cast down.” In Old French it is aflicter, in Latin, afflictare, to damage, harass, torment.
Remember the word frequentative? It means making a verb continuous, like wrestle (an ongoing struggle) from wrest (taking from). And afflictare is the frequentative of affligere, to overthrow or strike down. Instead of one overthrow, it’s a constant challenge. Interesting considering it now means to strike down with illness, which I suppose is a torment. : )

Later, in the early fifteenth century, conflict showed up as a verb (to be in a conflict) and at about the same time, a noun. It comes from the Latin conflictus or confligere, to be in conflict with. Inflict came about a century later, in the 1560s, from similar Latin words: inflictus and infligere, to strike against. So what about the flict?

All three words have the same root: fligere (flictus), to strike. It comes from the Proto-Indo-European word for to strike, bhlig, which is seen in several other languages, in Greek as phlibein (to crush), in Czech as blizna (scar), in Welsh as blif (catapult). In all cases, it is a word for doing damage to something. How interesting that we have no direct translation in English.

The difference is in the prefixes. The in- in the on sense (a strike on one’s home for example), the con- in the with sense (strike/battle with), the a-, from the prefix ad-, in the to sense (a strike directly to someone, which is probably why it is now associated with bodily harm).

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night. Wait. That was last week, wasn't it?

Sources: As always, the Online Etymology Dictionary.
            Dictionary.com
            Google Translate

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

When An Idea Strikes

I think I've mentioned that my chief source of ideas is dreams. In particular, the dreams I have after I've woken up very early, tossed and turned for an hour, and then fallen back asleep provide great inspiration (these dreams tend to be of the lucid variety and have a clear story to them). And yes, I had another good one last night : )

I really like this idea although I only had a clear dream of a couple of scenes. It's relative briefness means I don't know much about the plot other than it centers around the murder of a girl. I know who the main character is and thought up a few others while ruminating on the dream, but there's still a lot missing.

Because I am a pantser by nature, I'm not going to let this hold me back. I'm going to start typing and find out what happens as it comes. This book definitely will have a mystery quality to it, but I'm not sure it will be a whodunit, so to speak. No, I'm not going to blurt who did it right away (I'm not even sure!), but a lot of it will be about  how terrible events can haunt you (the bulk of the story will take place ten years after the murder--it's the inciting event, but not necessarily the main plot).

I want to go write it now : ). Like lightning, this idea has struck and it's catching fire. I can't wait to see where it goes.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Horrifying

I think that horror, true, frightening horror, is hard to find these days, whether it be in movies, television or books. There are things that gross me out (the movie genre known as "violence porn"), but they don't truly frighten me. As I mentioned yesterday on Twitter, there is a certain movie--which I shall not name lest one of you gets it in your head to go watch it--that makes me want to stick a hot poker through my eye and scramblefy my own brain just to get the images out of my head. But it doesn't actually scare me.

I don't know why people today must watch such things to be scared or if, like me, they're just disgusted to the point of horror. I find real horror is slow, deep, quiet, subtle. It doesn't jump out at the screen at you and splatter you with guts. Instead, it's all around you, creeping in the shadows, occasionally swatting you to remind you you are being hunted.

Perhaps today, people don't have the patience for slow building horror. It wouldn't surprise me in this age of instant internet access that people don't enjoy puzzling through House of Leaves or reading the heavy language of Lovecraft. In those types of work, the horror is usually not overt. I mean, what's so scary about a house that breaks the rules of reality? There are no ghosts or serial killers. It's just a weird house written about by weird men. Who cares that it contains materials that are older than our solar system?

Sigh. Horror, where art thou?

What are your favorite scary stories? And what do you think is "scary"? I'm curious to know.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Kind of a lot of Snow

It's about a foot deep, which isn't the worst it's been. It was called "the worst snowstorm of 2010," but considering the piddling storms we got last winter, that isn't saying much. There is usually a big storm at about this time of year (a little earlier actually) so I don't know why everyone treats it like we're in Florida and only see snow once a decade and have no idea how to handle this much. This probably isn't going to be the last one, and everyone's going to be just as surprised then, too.

I read once that there is a hormone that makes woman forget the pain of childbirth (which makes sense or no one would want to do it more than once) and I have to wonder if there's some sort of "disaster" hormone that makes people forget the bad storms and allow that low hanging tree to keep standing because surely there won't be another storm and even if there was, it will weather it like it did the last. Perhaps there is some sort of hormone, not natural to humans but created after generations of prosperity led to a sense of invulnerability, even willful blindness to the dangerous at hand (I've already written about the power the human mind has over the body). Because it seems like too often, people build a home in a dangerous spot and refuse to leave when the weather tears down half the house, for it certainly can't happen again, can it?

I don't know. This is just me waxing philosophic after watching car after car drive by with no lights on in near-zero visibility, and seeing too many people slide around the corner because they are driving too fast for the conditions. Or, worst of all, driving in a blizzard while talking on a cell phone. Most likely, these people returned home safe and whole.

This time.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

WINNER

Now that I've got your attention...

Congratulations Su! You won my contest! Sorry you had to wait so long for the good news! Su's a good blog friend to have (her own blog is quite cheeky) and I'm thrilled she will now have a couple of new books to help her find those perfect words.

Anyway, I hope you all had a happy solstice holiday, whatever and whenever it was. I'll go back to being interesting tomorrow, if I'm not too tired from shoveling out the driveway. There's lots of snow out here. Perfect for watching cars slide around the busy corner in front of my parents house because they don't have enough sense to slow down while driving through a blizzard.

Have a great last week of the year!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Quotapalooza


See that rock community? I can make up words, too.

Anyway, for Christmas I’m giving you a little diversion. I’ve compiled a list of quotes from various books, comics, television shows and movies (because all media is equal in my eyes). How many sources can you name? [PS. Contest is closed. Winner will be announced Sunday]

       For there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.

       Don’t try to be a great man; just be a man.

       It’s not about being right…it’s about doing right.

      All animals are equal
      But some animals are more equal than others.

      Darkness isn’t the opposite of light, it is simply its absence.

      I don’t want to be a pirate!
 
      You’re not creating, you’re negating! Your peace is that of the grave.

      Because I do not hope to turn again
      Because I do not hope
      Because I do not hope to turn
      Desiring this man's gift and that man's scope
      I no longer strive to strive towards such things
     (Why should the ag├Ęd eagle stretch its wings?)
     Why should I mourn
     The vanished power of the usual reign?

     One time I rocked so hard I killed a man.

     Sometimes I think the surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us.

      It's not pining, it's passed on! This parrot is no more! It has ceased to be! It's expired and gone to meet its maker! This is a late parrot! It's a stiff! Bereft of life, it rests in peace! If you hadn't nailed it to the perch, it would be pushing up the daisies! It's rung down the curtain and joined the choir invisible. This is an ex-parrot!

     Self-improvement is masturbation. Now, self-destruction…

     The doll’s trying to kill me and the toaster’s been laughing at me!

     Here is my secret. It is very simple: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.

     How wonderful is Death,
     Death and his brother Sleep!

     The Road goes ever on and on
     Down from the door where it began,
     Now far ahead the Road has gone,
     And I must follow if I can,
     Pursuing it with eager feet,
     Until it joins some larger way
     Where many paths and errands meet.
     And whither then? I cannot say

    . . . it is true of the spirit as it is true of battles—only the winners are remembered.

     This is not for you.

     And now I give it to you. What you do with it will be of more than passing interest to us all.

     We are all born mad. Some remain so.

     Just once I’d like to have dinner with a celebrity who isn’t bound and gagged.

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Day Before

There's a website called Typealyzer that analyzes your blog and determines what kind of writer you are. Both Christopher at The Oracle and the Muse and Anastasia at Labotomy of a Writer called it accurate, so I tried it out. It said:

The analysis indicates that the author of http://jefritz.blogspot.com/ is of the type:

ISTP - The Mechanics

The independent and problem-solving type. They are especially attuned to the demands of the moment and are highly skilled at seeing and fixing what needs to be fixed. They generally prefer to think things out for themselves and often avoid inter-personal conflicts.

The Mechanics enjoy working together with other independent and highly skilled people and often like seek fun and action both in their work and personal life. They enjoy adventure and risk such as in driving race cars or working as policemen and firefighters.






Except for the "enjoy adventure and risk" I would call it correct. I would actually say being a policeman or firefighter is the exact opposite of what I want to do. It seems a little strange to me that those things are connected with being a "mechanic."


That's all for this post since, like before Thanksgiving, the Christmas post is going up just after midnight because I’m probably not going to be near my computer all day tomorrow. I warn you, it’s not as awesome as the Thanksgiving post. But then again, how could it be?

As for the day after and beyond, there will be word nerdery afoot. I have tons of words I want to look at the origin of. And maybe the letter C. That should be a fun one. Then…well, I’m a pantser, so we’ll just have to wait and see.

Hope your holiday (or the day if you’re another religion) goes great. And remember: it’s wrong to kill your family members when they piss you off. But only on Christmas.

And the contest ends tonight at midnight. Because I'm sure you were wondering.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Because I said I would

It's my 100th post! Now I can start slacking off and forgetting to update.

Just kidding. But I did say I was going to post cute cat pictures. Basically, I'm celebrating my blogging feat by not doing it. Kind of like Labor Day.

Sign up for my contest (ends tomorrow night, I mean it this time, find it at the bottom of the blog). And don't forget to stand up your aluminum pole and have a happy Festivus. Now, before the Airing of Grievances and Feats of Strength, it's time to revel in cuteness!

This is my mom's cat. She looks cute, but don't ever pat her without her permission. She will rip your arm off.


I never get tired of looking at that baby. The book is Needful Things by Stephen King, which probably weighed more than the kitten.


He is always walking across computers, especially when people are using them. Because if they're in use, it means he's not the center of attention and that just isn't acceptable.


There's Blinky, named because I happened to mention the three-eyed fish from the Simpsons. You can make out most of the orange circle on her left shoulder. The wild-eyed expression on her face is there whenever she's not sleeping.

I just love cute cat pictures. If you don't, I must assume you're missing the piece of your brain that governs awe. Hope you guys have a great day! Thanks for reading! If it weren't for you, it'd just be me writing about cats and that's kind of sad.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Spiders 3: The Terrifying Conclusion!

So, did you like this diversion into the realm of physiology? I sure did. If you want to write emotion, you have to understand it. And now I know more about fear.

The human mind, when you really take the time to think about it, is an amazing thing. It evolved, from a few cells whose purpose was to use past experiences to anticipate future problems to an organ capable of controlling vital functions without its creating even being aware of it. One malfunctioning piece, though increasing vulnerability, does not necessarily bring about its end.

In fact, we humans can alter our brains if we want. We can learn new information to use, we can communicate with others, we can teach ourselves ways around the mental road blocks we are all built with. From our brains we have created beauty, learned about the quantum foam of the universe, carved out cities that outlast their inhabitants by centuries. All this from a few cells, from a unicelled organism, from some amino acids, from random proteins, from primordial ooze, from high energy, self-replicating molecules, from molecular gas collapsing into a star, from gravity constantly pulling things and making them interact with each other.

Amazing.

Sources

Speigel, Lee. “Scientists Study Woman With No Fears.”
Dec 19, 2010. http://www.aolnews.com/2010/12/19/scientists-study-woman-with-no-fears/?icid=main|aim|dl1|sec3_lnk1|190886

Batra, Kadambari; Safaya, Anil; Aggarwal, Kiran. “Lipoid proteinosis (Urbach-Wiethe disease): a case report from India.” Ear, Nose and Throat Journal. Sep 1, 2008. http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Lipoid+proteinosis+%28Urbach-Wiethe+disease%29%3A+a+case+report+from+India.-a0186320446

Medterms.com definition: Basement membrane. http://www.medterms.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=39157

“Lipoid Proteinosis (Urbach-Wiethe Disease).” [http://staff.aub.edu.lb/~webderm/downloads/cases/15.pdf]

Siebert, Michaela; Markowitsch, Hans J.; Bartel, Peter. “Amygdala, affect and cognition: evidence from 10 patients with Urbach–Wiethe disease.” Brain. August 22, 2003. http://brain.oxfordjournals.org/content/126/12/2627.abstract

Samiullah, Javeria; Neelofar, Marium; Samad, Fatima; Nabi, Ghulam; Ghazal, Saadia.
 “Urbach-Wiethe Disease: Experience at a Tertiary Care Hospital in Abbottabad, Pakistan.” J Ayub Med Coll Abbottabad. 2008. http://www.ayubmed.edu.pk/JAMC/PAST/20-4/Javeria.pdf

Prasad, P. V. S.; Sahoo, G.C. “Lipoid Proteinosis (Urbach Wiethe Disease)—A Case Report.” Indian Journal of Otolaryngology and Head & Neck Surgery. Volume 52, Number 2, 172-173. http://www.springerlink.com/content/lht6u307267q2409/

Part 2
Black, Harvey. “Amygdala's Inner Workings.” The Scientist. Volume 15, Number 19, 20. October. 1, 2001.

H. Kluver, P.C. Bucy, "Preliminary analysis of the temporal lobes in monkeys," Archives of Neurological Psychiatry, 42:979-1000, 1939.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Spiders 2: The Physiology of Fear


Anxious? Then, most likely, the amygdala is to blame. People with damaged amygdalas (like SM mentioned yesterday) have abnormal emotional responses. SM doesn’t feel fear, and scans of her brain show an amygdala full of lesions. Scientists (H. Kluver and P.C. Bucy in the thirties and N.H. Kalin in 2001) damaged the amygdalas in monkeys (poor things) and noted that they became completely tame—they lost their fear responses.

The amygdala is the part of the brain that remembers when something bad happens and tells us how to react. Anxiety, fear, and aggression are all controlled by it, meaning a malfunctioning one can create anxiety disorders, depression, phobias, and even autism and schizophrenia. That isn’t to say it’s all physiological; post-traumatic stress disorder is also related the amygdala, but it is an acquired condition, not a preexisting one. And since cognitive behavioral therapy also helps with the above disorders, a “broken” amygdala can sometimes be “fixed.”

Psycheducation.org has some nice pictures of the amygdala’s location. If you go back to the fear article about SM, you can see that the pictures of her brain are missing an amygdala. Growing up with no fear (or anger, if Wisegeek is correct), she can’t discern the emotion on anyone or associate danger with situations. She might remember being attacked, but she has no instinctual response, i.e. if someone grabs her, she won’t reflexively fight back. There is no “fight or flight” with her. Just “huh; this is happening.”

While not knowing fear or anxiety might sound like a good thing, in reality, it’s pretty dangerous. SM walks down a dark street and fear doesn’t make her tighten her hand on her purse or listen for following footsteps. If a bomb goes off, she won’t duck unless she actually thinks “Oh, I should duck before a piece of shrapnel hits me.” And the amount of time it takes her to think that might take one second longer than she has before a shard of metal embeds itself in her skull.

Tune in tomorrow for concluding thoughts and credits. I know. I'm really drawing this out, aren't I? I'll post some cute cat pictures on Thursday. Hey. It'll be my hundredth post. I can do what I want. Peace!