real time web stats

Monday, January 31, 2011

Intellectual Frustration

This is one of those blog entries you will just have to suffer through. I was sitting here musing just thinking about my latest frustration and for some perverted reason, I decided to start making a list of things that truly frustrate me.

1. First of all, there is the "I don't care frustration." This can occur in several contexts. For example, you are watching some technologically sophisticated show. Like tonight, I was watching Disney's World of Color show. I sitting there looking at beautiful colors being projected through lighted water streams. I don't know, just call it my weirdness, I find myself just sitting there checking the color purity so I could try and determine if they were using some kind of high intensity LED technology. I knew better than to try and discuss this aloud with adjacent people because I knew I would get the response, "Who cares, it's enough it works and looks cool." Another version of this is when someone says, "I just use it, I don't care how it works."

2. I step outside and I am immediately struck by the beauty of the day. The colors of the leaves are intoxicating they are so vivid. All around me, in the life scurrying around and in the weather, there are patterns I can see. It is one of those rare times the outdoors has become a symphony. The numerous patterns all seem to dance in a coordinated rhythm. Because I can see the trees over a large distance, I suddenly see pressure waves as patterns form in the way the leaves are blowing. It's so weird that no matter happens with a fluid such as air, that sound waves are generated in it as a result of any action. I wonder if I could listen to the waves being generated and their pattern, if, for example, could I be told a tale of how a certain weather pattern was generated and where it is going. I know if I tell someone my weird idea that they are not going to think about it anyway. Likely, if they don't tag me as a total nut job, they will just throw at me some equations (those impossible to understand fluid equations) and just walk away.

3. I don't know why, but ever since I was little, the first thing I ever do when I meet a person is that I map the person's mind. It's fascinating how different people think. I think I really started doing this in my over crowded third grade classroom. There was a box in the teacher's mind. If you went outside that box you got smacked. So it was good to know where the bounds of that box was. I learned from that, that if I ever accidentally crossed that box's boundary, the fastest way to quell an aggressive response is to give a person a path to humiliate me. If I did that, it stopped them in their tracks. And I secretly win, because I controlled their mind.

Anyway, that's a digression. I sat down the other day and tried to map the profoundly gifted mind based on the knowledge I've acquired so far. I sat there and thought, "Gee, this kind of person probably thinks on a mathematical level 10 times greater than I do (Yes, my mind frequently wanders like that, its one of its more amusing properties). When I think that way, it always makes me feel like even more of an idiot in math (I have a love/hate relationship with the subject). It's times like that that my perversity really shows. A math problem pops into my head. I have a burning desire to know the answer to this problem. Probably a stupid misunderstanding on my part. I wondered if such problems ever pop into their minds, even at a young age. I am going to be obnoxious and write out the problem. I know you didn't want to hear the problem, but the beauty of a blog is I can write it anyway. I was thinking about the number pi. It's irrational. So that means that as you compute it, it approaches asymptotically some real number. So I take a compass, set it to an integer length, and then draw a circle. Then I compute the circumference, you know the old formula drilled into your head early in your educational life, 2 times pi times the radius. Hmm. I don't understand. The circumference is an irrational number. That means that as I calculate the circumference, the ends of the arc that is just about to become a circle approach each other, asymptotically. But they can never touch because it is an asymptote. Yet I know they do. I just drew it. As far as I know, if I were to measure the circumference around the circle, a physical measurement can't come up to be an irrational number.

4. Oh well, now I feel truly stupid for not knowing the answer to the paradox. So now I will stop musing and go back to thinking about mundane things where I belong.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Some Feedback from a Highly/Profoundly Gifted Student on Installment #1

This feedback is from a highly/profoundly gifted kid and their program administrator. My impression of gifted verses highly gifted kids is that highly gifted kids tend to have an emphasis on cognitive thinking and less emphasis than gifted kids on the emotional perception of things. This is just my impression based on very limited experience.
I base this on the fact that the emotion impact of the storyline seems to have no impact here but in other gifted kids seemed to have a much stronger impact.

Feedback #1:
Kid1 overall impression is that the premise of the story was interesting but he felt like it was written for a little kid because of the "Mommy" and "Daddy" stuff, simple sentence structure and lack of depth in the discussion of topics like DNA, atomic structure, war and death. He felt like it sounded like someone trying to explain these topics to a preschooler. Kid1 asked if he was going to be required to read more of it. This is from a kid with about 50 linear feet of double stacked sci-fi fantasy in his room and who finished your book in under one hour.

Wow, this paragraph packs a lot of information, even more than meets the eye. Mommy and Daddy is used by a first grade character. Almost all the characters are seventh grade and younger. If they are older than first grade when they use those terms, it is to represent extreme endearment to their parents or adoptive parents.
One characteristic of gifted students that this targeted toward is that they feel emotion strongly.

Simple sentence structure: There are two different reasons for that. Stretches of simple sentence structure is meant to convey extreme emotion or rapid action. This akin to a person pumped up on adrenaline and not being able to string long sentences together. In the remainder of the text, I by choice did not use complicated sentence structure. I wanted the Lexile for the text to place it at mid-fifth grade level to mid-sixth grade level. Most middle school books target that level. There is no drawback to using that level. Philosophical, emotional, and social ideas can be conveyed very well at that level. Gifted students are all over the map in terms of reading ability. Having a reading disability myself, I feel that the simplest language that fully conveys those ideas is the best. My focus is on conveyance of the ideas.

Though for some other people, the book is science heavy, this is not meant to be in the slightest breaking ground on basic DNA or atomic structure. There is a section in there where I talk about simple chemical repair of DNA. There are some references on emerging techniques for that. But those are very scientific papers and what I considered beyond the range of gifted middle school students unless that is their particular area of talent. The story mentions that the repair compound is a methylated compound. You might want to research the references and see if a methylated compound could be used for this purpose and if not, what are the classes of compounds that perform this function. Since this is a fantasy book, I am not sure much of what is discussed there is even possible according to physics. So I'm not sure what the point of going into nonexistent science would be.

As far as life and death, I offer no opinions whatsoever. What you have there is a bunch a questions. For example, if you disintegrate a person resulting in a complete mathematical description of them, and then used that description to bring them back exactly as they were, would they be the same person or one that thinks they are. Is it okay to kill a person if you can bring them back to exactly the same state as before with no memory of them being killed (even though they suffered in the process of dying)? Is it possible to produce a deterministic result when all brains evolved in a randomness driven process? You see, this is really a book of philosophy with a nice little story wrapped around it. It presses the emotional limits of the reader. It's designed to make the reader to want to consider the nature of life and their purpose for living. Do the character's emotional needs resemble yours in any way? The book is a gateway to interesting ideas and topics, not a treatise on them.

I guess one of the most disturbing things about the feedback is that I wrote the book to take the reader down a particular path and instead the reader chose to go down a different path. I will have to think about how to put in a bigger hint about what the true argument of the book really is. I'm also sad that it may not be realistic for me to reach this demographic, given what this highly gifted kid thinks is important.

There is more feedback but this was getting long so I am cutting it off for now.

Friday, January 28, 2011

A Little More Feedback From 6th Grade Boy

Demographic: 6th grade boy, Northern CA.

This feedback is for Installment #3.

My favorite character has changed from Paul7 to Elof2. My favorite chapter is chapter 14, Paradise Lost because the whole 3rd part has been building up to it and in that chapter all "explodes."

[That was a very intense chapter. I'm glad you liked it and it didn't scare you. I was worried when I originally wrote it that it was too scary.]

Monday, January 24, 2011

Random Short Feedbacks

Feedback from a Northern California Private School On Installment #3
Demographic: 6th grade boy.

A fabulous book. Once again have you exceeded greatness. Such epic stories are riveting and interesting. I only have one request that you make this a series with more than 4 books.

[Don't worry, although The Saeshell Book of Time ends on the 4th installment, the series does not. The same characters continue on into a new story line. In fact, there are some hooks even in installment #1 that point to the next book (set of installments) in the series. It's too early to nail thing down totally yet, but at this moment in time I'm thinking the title for the next serial or novel on the series will be: "The Owl in the Forest". ]

Each installment gets more and more intense. I was beginning to get worried that maybe the intensity was getting too intense. So I asked the librarian to check with the kid and see what he thought.

He said it was not too intense or scary and that he’s enjoying each installment more and more.

Feedback on Installment #1 from a Minneapolis, MN Public Middle School: Demographic noted by teacher taking feedback.

6th grade girl: "It's not my kind of book." I asked her to explain. She reports, "I don't like books where they have to explain a whole world that doesn't really exist."

[Sounds like you might like biographies or historical fiction better.]

6th grade boy: "It is really jumping around a lot in the beginning. I am not sure what's going on."

[Sorry, it is a bit tough to get used to the time line changing in a book. In my next draft, I'm going to try and make it a little clearer up front why things jump. Maybe that will help. ]

Monday, January 17, 2011

Q&A with Middle School Reader

A middle school boy near Houston, TX in the early reader program sent me some questions as he was reading this weekend. It's interesting because sometimes the questions tell you more than anything else. I certainly thought of some revisions to make the novel clearer while I was exchanging email with him. He seems to like the novel so far.

Boy: What are the numbers after the characters names for?

Answer: The numbers after the names indicates that they are a modified clone of the original. For example, Elof died. His mind was saved and put into a new body, Elof2.
Paul25 is the 25th clone of the original Paul. There are multiple clones of the Pauls
alive at the same time.

[This is actually explained indirectly when Elof2 says he could be brought back as Elof3. But since this information is pretty important to understanding the novel, I should make it more explicit.]

Boy: When the book changes to Stefan's mom reading him the book, is it a flash back or is it really happening?

Answer: If you are talking about the beginning and end of chapter 1, then it's a matter of perspective. The Book of Time has written in it all of the past, present, and future. So when Stefan's mom reads the book to him in the beginning, she is reading Stefan the story of his future. So outside of her explicitly reading to him, the story is either the story being read to Stefan, or it's the story really happening and Stefan knows the future from when the book was read to him. But there are two subtle things. To get the distant future to be correct, the book may lie about the near future. So people who have read it, will have read what they needed to to make them act in ways that will allow the distant future to come true.

[As you can see, time can be complex in a novel involving time travel and people/living books monkeying with the time line. I will have to explain time flow a bit better in the next draft.]

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Why I Am Writing the Children of Sophista Book Series

Your brain has different regions which perform different functions essential to you functioning as a human being. If one aspect of your brain fails to perform in some minor way, you cannot function as you were meant to. You slowly descend the rungs of human happiness and well being until you reach a place that is very unpleasant. You take some solstice in being able to still function in some way. You begin to itemize the things you can still do.

The mind of humanity functions in much the same way. There is not one kind of person, a "correct person", coming off the assembly line. Because the mind of humanity, like the human brain itself, needs different parts that process different kinds of information or perform different tasks. All these parts must work together or the brain of humanity loses cognitive function. In short, we start trying to figure out what we still can do because the brain of humanity is going senile.

One of the parts of the brain of humanity is a gifted person. There are not a lot of gifted people. It's not because they are a fluke or a mistake. The appropriate number required for the brain of humanity to function are created. Just like any other part in the brain of humanity, they take joy in performing their function and seek to enjoy their lives.

Imagine for a moment, that you were the person in say the movie Iron Man, flying around in a rocket propelled suit. It's an exhilarating ride. Who wouldn't want to go flying around in a rocket power suit that has a fancy computer display telling you all kinds of information about every thing you chose to look at. Imagine you were a kid flying around in that rocket suit. Cool huh?

Now imagine not being able to take that suit off ever in your entire life. You still have the need for friends. You still have the need to share what you have learned. You want to hear what your friends have learned. And even if you already know some bit knowledge or fact they have discovered, you listen patiently. Because they are your friend and you care about them. But you are wearing a rocket suit. They know it and you know it. It's a bit odd, everyone has differences, so we, who are part of the body humanity, are expected to deal with it.

Of course, some things are bit difficult to explain. Like the fact that the suit never shuts off. So although your friend can't see it, the computer display has just dissected him and is showing all his guts in detail. You and your friends look at cool things together. But that display keeps right on working. You both see the beauty or neat stuff. But the display has additionally dissected how whatever you have looked at works and how it relates to its surroundings. It is so interesting but it is so weird too. Sometimes you are not sure what to make of what the suit is telling you.

Like most other kids, you like to read books for fun. It helps if the book in some way relates to the trials you are facing growing up. You share many of the same trials as your friends. But the rocket suit also adds some of its own. It is very disconcerting to have your friends dissected on the display. They are your friends. You question why did you have to be born with a rocket suit. What is the meaning of life when you are confined to a rocket suit. So many questions, your mind never stops.

The Children of Sophista is a book series that tries to explore in an entertaining way what life in the rocket suit is like. It is a book series that encourages gifted kids to probe deeper into the meaning of their lives. It does not shy away from life's big questions but asks them. Gifted teens can finally have a book that talks about their issues. And non-gifted teens can not only achieve a greater understanding of the big questions about what is the nature of life itself, but can understand the true nature of living in the rocket suit.