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Fun with Numbers: Publication Odds September 10, 2010

Posted by nrhatch in Humor, Life Balance, Word Play, Writing & Writers.
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Wikipedia ~ Klondike Gold Rush (in Public Domain)

Let’s be quite frank . . . there are more wannabe authors writing books than publishers willing to publish their words.

That discrepancy has led to the advent of creative publishing alternatives, such as virtual publishing on blogs and writing sites, digital publication via e-Books, and publishing houses that straddle the fence between the print world and the virtual world.

Since writers tend to be a rather insecure lot (when they look up from their writing long enough to consider the publication odds stacked against them), let’s offer them some support and encouragement  by putting publication odds into perspective.

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On WEbook, during a vote ostensibly aimed at allowing “readers” to select books for potential publication, writers submitted 500+ works for “peer review.”  Of those submissions, approximately 50 projects made it into the top 10% for publication consideration by the editors.

In other words, 90% of the submissions ended in the virtual slush pile.

A fellow writer, not generally known for insecurity, asked whether anyone could work out the odds in a way that didn’t look so dismal and foreboding.

Not knowing how to respond, I pretended not to see his question.  In other words, I took a lesson from Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, and kept “mum” on the subject.  See Fantasy Dinner Party Challenge.

Wikipedia ~ Klondike Gold Rush (in Public Domain)

A few days later, watching an IMAX movie on Alaska, the response came to me in a brilliant flash:  “Thar’s gold in them thar’ hills!”

During the Gold Rush, 250,000  prospectors headed into the Alaskan wilderness to strike it rich.

Fifty percent (50%) died ~ talk about ending in a Slush Pile!

In contrast, none of the votes held on WEbook have resulted in any fatalities ~ no suicides, no homicides.

The only casualties . . . a few bruised egos from rather childish “back-stabbing” and  “dive bombing” (awarding low ratings unrelated to the quality of the work).

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Wikipedia ~ Klondike Gold Rush (in Public Domain)

Back to Alaska.  Of the 125,000 survivors who managed to eke out an existence during the vigorous 8-month-long winter, approximately 400 struck it rich:

* After gambling with their very survival, only 400 miners out of 250,000 hit the jackpot.

* After climbing over the frozen landscape, wrestling with Grizzlies, and risking frost-bite, the survivors’ success rate was a disheartening  0.16% ~ or about 1/6 of 1%.  Crappy odds, indeed.

If the success rate (1 in 625) is counter-balanced with the corresponding death rate (312.5 in 625), we find that prospectors were 300 times more likely to die than they were to strike it rich!

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Now, let’s return to the much safer world of peer review publishing. After the first vote, WEbook selected 3 projects out of 225 for publication ~ or about 1%.

Of course, many submissions were out of the running before the race even started, due to failure to comply with basic eligibility requirements (like starting the story, or writing more than 3 poems for a personal anthology).

Once the non-conforming projects are dropped from the equation, WEbook published 3 projects out of 100 eligible entries from the first vote ~ a 3% success rate (i.e., 18.75 times the success rate of the Alaskan miners).

Moral of this Morale Boost:  Writers going for the gold face long odds, but landing in a slush pile is better than dying in a pile of slush!

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Note:  After the third vote, WEbook elected not to publish any of the 500+ projects submitted, effectively transforming the promise of “peer review publishing” into nothing more than a futile popularity contest with no “brass ring” awarded to any of the authors who reached the summit.

Life: A Balancing Act September 10, 2010

Posted by nrhatch in Happiness, Humor, Life Balance.
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Wikipedia ~ Animal House (Fair Use)

As we glimpsed in The Grasshopper & The Ant, lasting happiness is rarely achieved by living only for the moment.

Remember that iconic movie, National Lampoon’s Animal House?   The frat brothers in Delta Tau Chi House (the worst fraternity on campus) lived only for the moment. 

As a result, they experienced frequent hangovers; their grades suffered; automobiles  entrusted to them became Deathmobiles; and girls dumped them to date pot-smoking, smooth-talking, bare-assed professors.

Eventually, they got kicked out of college . . .

As the Deltas learned, living for the moment may provide passing hedonistic pleasures, but it’s not a recipe for lasting happiness:

If, like the Grasshopper, we live only for the moment, eating bon-bons all day, while watching day time soaps on TV, our brains and other essential muscles will atrophy, leaving us fat, lazy, and stupid.

And, to quote Dean Vernon Wormer,  “fat, lazy, and stupid is no way to go through life.”

But all work and no play can be equally problematic:

If, like the Ant, we live with our nose perpetually attached to the grindstone, never taking a moment for pleasure, we’ll burn out and keel over on the golf course a week into retirement, wondering why we let ourselves live so little.

Instead of living for the moment, like Grasshopper, we are more apt to find lasting happiness by living in the moment . . . while striving for a balance between work  and pleasure that eluded our industrious Ant.

Whether at work or play, when we live in the moment, we can enjoy everything the moment has to offer ~ the sights, the smells, the sounds, the tastes, and the textures:

Instead of unconsciously inhaling an entire box of chocolate while worrying about a “tomorrow” that may never arrive, we savor each piece we choose to consume.

Since we haven’t “missed the moment,” we tend to be satisfied with less.  Less  chocolate provides greater satisfaction ~ i.e., less is more.

We soon discover that every job (even washing dishes or cleaning the garage) contains an element of fun when done in the right frame of mind:

By bringing our complete attention to the task at hand, and setting aside “yesterday’s junk,” we finish in record time and can move on to something more enjoyable.

Once again, less is more.  Less time, greater productivity . . . and more time to play at the end of the day.

Whether at work, or at play, the more we stay in the moment, the easier life’s balancing (and juggling) act becomes.

Fun with Words: Ackolade September 10, 2010

Posted by nrhatch in Humor, People, Word Play.
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Ackolade \ack-o-lade\ n.  1 :  an expression of praise dripping with sarcasm  2 :  loud derogatory applause

Consultant: Bill the Cat

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Related posts:  Fun with Words: Sarchasm * Absolute Balderdash * Fun with Words: Misfits * Fun with Words:  Acklimate * Fun with Words: Ackcessory

Graphic: Guy Berkeley “Berke” Breathed

More Food For Thought September 10, 2010

Posted by nrhatch in Food & Drink, Health & Wellness, Sustainable Living.
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In Food For Thought, we addressed the ripping up of lawns in public spaces to grow food for the hungry.

The idea is catching on in the private sector as well!

Companies are re-landscaping to include vegetable gardens for employees who want fresh, locally grown food but lack space to grow it:

* When machinist Glen Davis wants fresh tomatoes, he doesn’t have to buy them ~ he just picks them off the vine at his workplace, Quantum Controls.  Last spring, owners Pete Pemrick and Wendy Eggers decided to till a grassy area behind their building, haul in black dirt and turn it into a vegetable garden for their employees.

* Quantum Controls has lots of company this growing season. Business-sponsored edible gardens are sprouting all around the Twin Cities and nationwide ~ at mom-and-pop operations and corporate headquarters alike.

* While traditional manicured lawns are still the norm, many companies are now tearing up their water-guzzling turf grass and replacing it with food-producing plants ~ just as the White House in 2009 tore up part of the South Lawn to put in a vegetable garden, the first since FDR’s presidency.

Why the shift from inedible lawns to edible plants?

A number of factors have contributed to the trend:  concerns about food safety and the environment have increased enthusiasm for locally grown fruits and veggies; in a sluggish economy, edible gardening allows people to save money on groceries while eating healthier food; and companies concerned with the health and well-being of employees are encouraging them to reconnect with nature in a positive, life-affirming way.

Some companies take a slightly different approach.

Instead of growing food for employees, fresh fruits and vegetables grown on company soil are donated to local shelters and food banks . . . or used in their own kitchens!

To read the whole article:  Vegging Out At Work