The Longevity Thesis Book Video

Friday, May 25, 2007

Mental Breakdowns

Pop psychology has been an interest of mine for about ten years, back when I was trying to figure myself out. Part of that analysis has been to pour strange behaviours into my characters, which I can then examine from different angles as I try to understand the causes and destructive effects of certain behavioural patterns.

Unconditional obedience is an interesting one. Traditionally, it is "pleasing" for a child to be obedient, and unquestioningly do whatever he or she is asked. "Honour thy Father" and all that. So at first, it seems irrational to suggest that this is actually a really, really bad thing to teach your child. However, rarely is the distinction made of exactly who the child should be obeying while discipline is being applied. If this distinction is not made, it seems to me, that the child may become cowed in the presence of any authority, and obey any person who is dominant in a given situation. In some cases, I think this behaviour persists into adulthood, where it annoys and confuses colleagues. What if a person is so conditioned to be obedient, that they obey any command, even if they know it will get them into trouble? What if the conditioning is so strong, that it overwhelms common sense? After the action is done, outsiders who do not understand pose idiotic questions like "If George jumped off a bridge, would you jump as well?" If George was adequately dominant, then, yes. Conditioning kicks in, and off you go. I wonder if this is how many "nice girls" end up pregnant, leaving their elders asking "How? Why?" Well, perhaps because these girls were never allowed to say "no" at home, it doesn't occur to them that they can say "no" outside of home. To some extent, this was built into the character of Alaindra, however in the end, she escapes it by stepping outside of her family. The desire to live for what she wanted, rather than what her family expected, was her catalyst to grow, since without that independence, her life was forfeit in more ways than one.

Another weird behaviour is the "silent treatment". I can see how this may work nicely on a very young person still looking for validation and approval, but why is it sometimes applied to adults? Think of the arrogance required to come to the conclusion that one's attention is so profoundly wonderful that the recipient of said "silent treatment" will be punished by not being spoken to. Wouldn't a healthy adult rejoice at not being spoken to by someone indulging in self-righteous brooding? Even though it is apparently a common enough problem with adults (office politics manuals list it as a type of bullying and recommend it not be tolerated in the workplace) I can't quite unravel this one. Whenever I try to see what effect this will have if one of my characters practices it, all the other characters just seem to say "Oh, well" and get on with other things. I can't quite capture the same dramatic effect, as when the Klingon council all turned their backs on Worf in the DS9 series. Although come to think of it, he didn't really care either. I suppose you could argue that Worf was conditioned to be honourable above all, and his refusal to dishonourably invade the Cardassian Empire was more important to him than to unquestioningly obey his peers. So either he was conditioned in a completely different way, or he had extremely healthy boundaries, or maybe he just thought Gowron was a dumbass, or maybe since he knew he had the support and therefore validation of Sisko he didn't need acceptance from Gowron . . .

Well now I'm just confusing myself.

Maybe I need to email Dr. Phil.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Judith's Reaction to Vernus and Jait

Last week when I was attending an out of town research workshop, I had a chance to visit with my former PhD supervisor, and finally told her about The Longevity Thesis. I figured it was as good a chance as any to really emphasize the point that the construction of the character Vernus was in no way based on my experience in her lab. Perhaps I'm belaboring this point, but I just keep getting asked, "So was your own grad supervisor really awful?". Judith has a pretty good sense of humour, so of course she immediately pinned me down on when the first draft of the manuscript had been written, satisfied herself that it was before I ever started in her lab, and then asked me, "So what was your Master's supervisor like?" Very funny. For the record, my MSc supervisor also did not contribute in any way to the character of Vernus, who was first construed when I was an undergrad. There, I'm done. I promise to never bring it up again. Unless I get asked again.

On reading the description of Jait as "weak-willed" on, Judith then teasingly asked me if I had based that character on her. What? The only similarities there are the first letter of their names. If I hadn't been thrown for a loop by that one, I would have teased her back that in my experience, she was anything but weak-willed, especially after all the intensity put into how our lab publications had to be worded just right. (She's a writer too -- birds of a feather, I guess.)

Yah. Jait. He's a weird one. Ultimately powerful, but trapped by his own disbelief. Supremely positioned to really take control of all things, but unable to overcome his own poor opinion of himself to even glimpse the possibilities of what he could do. He's quite the study in low self-esteem and how it can destroy a person, whereas Vernus just seems to be rather cookie-cutterish. Unapologetically evil, arrogant, completely self-assured and uncaring of whether or not people like him so long as they show an appropriate amount of respect. These two are distinct polar opposites, and before anyone asks, no, neither one is based on me. I just made them up.

Given a choice though, I'm not sure which one I'd rather be . . .

Friday, May 11, 2007

How odd . . .

I'm off to a workshop on translational research, and I haven't the brain power left to write something quasi-interesting this week. As I wrack the inside of my skull for said interesting things, this keeps coming up:

Japanese Bookweb Link

Seeing that really threw me for a loop, but I have to say I also find it extremely cool, even if I can't read it.

Speaking of strange things, I leave you with a cartoon I drew when I was in high school. It originally appeared in ETC Magazine, which was published by one of the school's English teachers. Yes, I was just learning French. That's why the grammar is most likely horrifying. Gives you an insight into my mental state as a teenager, doesn't it?

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Why Linux Programs are so COOL!!!

Well, perhaps against better judgment, I'm going to nerd out. I've been spending some time learning to use the Linux-based program, The GIMP. There are sooooo many good things about this program. First of all, it's free. Secondly, it packs a phenomenal punch. Thirdly, the online help is extensive. Fourthly, well, it's just so much fun! I first started using it to put together the promo bookmarks for The Longevity Thesis, which have been appearing randomly throughout my blog entries, and will continue to do so. I've also made some bookmarks for Nina Munteanu (on the left), and am in the process of doing the same for Connie Ward. (She hasn't approved hers yet, so I won't post any here.)

Anyway, as I go along, I'm finding out how to do more and more neat tricks with The GIMP. Check out this title thingy!

And this little longevity symbol that I've been playing around with:

It's amazing what this program lets me do. It's no slouch, that's for sure. The more I learn about Linux, the more tempted I am to make the leap over to Linux completely, instead of just toying with my Ubuntu live CD.

But . . . I'm still hopelessly addicted to Microsoft.

*Sigh*. Computers are almost as bad as anime. Just can't stop . . .