Monday, October 31, 2011

My Town

I was in Pittsburgh over the weekend, and it was like finally coming home after a long trip. I expect most of you to not understand--as Erik said to me once, "But didn't you leave there when you were a kid?"

Yes, I moved away when I was four. But that's where I'm from, and that's where I belong. I don't know what's going to happen next year when I don't have to live in Virginia anymore, but I sure would like to end up in Pittsburgh.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Stereotypes

Floating around the Internet yesterday*, I stumbled upon a video for black women entitled "Is Cheating Grounds for Immediate Divorce?" Next to the video link was this picture:

A dark-skinned black man with a light-skinned wife is in bed with a white girl. Talk about playing to the viewer's stereotypes.

How did I end up at a video for black women? First I was on Fox News and clicked on an article listing "eight worst-case travel scenarios." At the end of that, there was a link to an article promising "10 things men find unattractive," and at the bottom of THAT was the cheating video's hilarious picture.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Vague Generalization

Just like how I think all people who enjoy acting have some sort of underlying psychological problems, I also think all people who sing in public are vain.

Sure, it probably can't be true about EVERYone, but I'd bet it is. Public singing is entirely a product of ego.

I'm sitting in a building on campus in an area that is more officey and not frequented by students, and there's some office worker going around here singing soulful R&B to herself out loud as she walks the halls. What is she after? Can it be anything but showing strangers that she can sing soulful R&B (and, by extension, we cannot)?

My experience with singers is that they look down at those who can't sing, which is weird, because I think singing is one of those "you either have it or you don't" talents. Maybe I'm wrong about this, but I believe singing lessons are more for honing a talent than for building one, right? Can singing lessons teach me to sing if I can't sing to start with? I don't think so.

I know someone might cite the case of Heber J. Grant, but that doesn't really sound like a success story to me: practice the same two hymns thousands of times over dozens of years to become marginally proficient in their singing. That sounds like a lot of time that could have been spent doing something else. Now, I'm sure President Grant knew his own utility function the best, and I'm not saying he shouldn't have persisted if that's what made him happy. But what I AM saying is that singing doesn't come naturally to everyone, and it shouldn't be a point of pride if you didn't have to work at it (like most public singers). That would be like a professional baseball player thinking I'm wasting everyone's time when I participate in a parks and rec softball league.

Foolish Virgin

So how prepared am I for the End of the World? Well, in A Commentary on the Doctrine and Covenants, Vol. 3 we read:

It was intended originally that "go[ing] up unto Zion" (D&C 72:24) from the East would be a privilege for those Saints who had prepared themselves both materially and spiritually and who would consecrate all their possessions to the bishop in Zion upon arriving there (see D&C 72:15). Those who went up to Zion were supposed to be debt-free and also were to have the means to purchase land in Missouri upon their arrival. Ideally, they were to bring with them enough food and clothing to last for a year. Most important, they were supposed to be called to go up and were to arrive in Missouri with recommends from the Church in Kirtland attesting to their worthiness and good standing (see D&C 72:3-6, 16-18, 24-26).

p. 72

So I have to live the law of consecration, be debt-free, be able to buy land, have a year's supply, and be a recommend holder? Yeah, you can consider me as good as already cannibalized by a post-apocalyptic biker gang.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Blog of the Future

I have something I want to blog, but I really don't want to talk about it with anyone. So I've decided to write a post that is scheduled for publication six months from now. So on 25 April 2012 you can check back and see what it was.

I'm so excited about this elegant solution that I think I'll start using it a lot.

What Does This Mean?

Google's continued roll-out of Google+ is now bringing changes to Google Reader, as summarized here. My question is: what do they mean when they say it will alter my subscriptions? Am I going to still read blogs in Google Reader? Or do I need to write down the links to all the blogs I'm following?

A knowledgeable reader should comment to let me know. Thanks.

A Lowering Tide Grounds All Boats

During the Great Depression, conventional wisdom said the problem was excessive supply*. This led to a nation in poverty that paid farmers to destroy their products. Conventional wisdom is an idiot.

Beware the return of conventional wisdom! Today on Truth on the Market, Hal Singer has a post entitled "The Bulldozer Solution to the Housing Crisis." And it's just as wrong of an idea as slaughtering our way back to prosperity in the 1930s.

When demand tanks, it is true that pulling in supply will boost the price. But it also further lowers the market quantity. Are we concerned about the drop in demand because it represents people being without, or just because the price is lower? Destroying supply makes MORE people be without. The only people who MIGHT support this would be suppliers, depending on how elastic the demand for their good is (which determines if a lower price leads to higher revenue).

This is "spreading the poverty" in its most complete sense. This takes a particular price as a goal to maintain, instead of viewing price as a signal which communicates information about relative scarcity. The point is, destroying empty homes will raise the price of remaining homes, but it will lead to more homelessness. The idea that our problem is an excessive supply is as wrong now as it was in the 1930s. We don't need to shift supply in, we need to shift demand (back) out.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Hippie Dog Grand Champion!

There were three votes for "Hippie Dog sympathizes with the enemy."

Honorable mention goes to "Hippie Dog doesn't follow your rules, man," which garnered two votes. My wife voted for "Hippie Dog messes with your mind for art's sake."

I drew the picture in class, and then came up with the captions in the order they appeared in the comics. I think my personal favorite is "Hippie Dog experiments," because it hints at interspecies love-makin', which is always a positive.

ARS Vlog 1

Sunday, October 23, 2011

An Animal in the Sack

Although this headline claims "unrelenting sex drive may signal deadly rabies," in my case it just seems like I'm rabid.

Imagine my sexy tiger noise right now.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Possible Explanation?

What's the deal with American employment? Maybe we've developed hysteresis.

From The ECB: Safe at Any Speed?, the 1998 edition of the Monitoring the European Central Bank series, we read:

The contrast between the two figures suggest that European unemployment, unlike that in the United States, may be subject to hysteresis: temporary recessions have permanent effects.

There are a number of reasons, specific to Europe, which can explain the hysteresis phenomenon. These explanations typically emphasize the fact that labour negotiations are conducted on behalf of the currently employed workers, the insiders. Outsiders do not have a voice through which to argue for the wage moderation that could make it possible for them to compete for jobs. Outsiders may not even wish to compete hard if they benefit from relatively generous welfare protection.

Hysteresis is unlikely to be symmetric: just as it is easier to fall down a cliff than to climb up it, the destruction of physical and human capital, and indeed of confidence, is not easily reversed. This helps to explain why the recent recovery of output has yet to lead to any sizeable reduction in unemployment within the EU 11.

p. 22

That's the extent of my knowledge about hysteresis at the moment, so I can't say if this applies to America or not. But unemployment in this recession has been unlike any other post-war recession (as the following graph from Calculated Risk shows), and this idea at least tries to explain why.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Food With Machismo

While browsing YouTube looking for the Pepto Bismol "underindulgence" ad I linked to this week, I found these two other ads I can't stop watching.

Damn, that cheesecake is a misogynist!

Readers Stephen and Miss Jill will have to let us know what exactly an empaƱada can say that's so hurtful.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Peruvian Onanists?

In Llamaland

there's a one-man-band

who will toot his flute for you.

--From "Come Fly With Me"

Guest columnist Estaban will have to let us know if he saw anything like this when he was down there. (And by "down there," I mean, "in Peru.")

Great Moments in Maturity

I grew up a little bit more this summer, as I realized this fundamental truth of life: If something is stressing you out, stop doing it.

My wife scheduled me to be on a vacation until nearly the moment an important exam of mine was to begin. It was the source of a lot of problems in my life, until I decided to stop the vacation and come home. Stress over.

We were going to go camping for Columbus Day weekend, but the place we wanted to go had all been reserved, and the campsite down the road didn't take reservations. We were worried about driving all the way to North Carolina to maybe find out we had no place to stay, until I decided to spend the weekend at home. Stress over.

Our last landlord is trying to intimidate us into paying restoration fees we don't owe. I was worried about trying to find a lawyer and what would happen to us if we had our case turned over to a collection agency, until I decided to pay the fee and fight it afterward. Stress over.

I don't recommend this in all cases. After all, I could have solved the first problem by dropping out of school and not taking the exams. But lots of things that cause aggravation in people's lives could be solved if the people stopped doing the thing causing the aggravation. I plan to make the talk-show rounds as Almost-Doctor ARS and preach my new program, "Quit Your Way to Happiness."

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The End of TV

In fifth grade I had a classmate who prided himself on his family not owning a TV. And honestly, this was the type of kid who REALLY didn't need to be giving the rest of us one more reason to make fun of him, you know what I mean? I remember thinking, "I would NEVER do that to my children!"

When Persephone* and I got married, we got basic cable. We thought we were being so frugal. No movie channels! No foreign soccer channels! Only $70 per month! About 18 months later we were suckered into moving in with her parents, who had an extensive satellite package, including the entire baseball season. I was often upset with Major League Baseball for not staggering their games more. There should be a baseball game on at all times!

My commitment to television began to wane again when it was once more my job to pay for it. When we moved to Kansas, we put off getting cable until my job situation was more secure. When that finally happened four months later, we thought, "We survived four months without TV; let's see how much longer we can survive."

Sometime in late 2007, Persephone broke down and bought rabbit ears. We could watch ABC and sort of watch Fox and CBS. But then in 2008 the digital changeover came, and with the new (government subsidized) box we could watch nothing. Thanks for the lifestyle upgrade, jackasses.

We found a happy medium with Hulu. We don't just turn on Hulu to "see what's on," and we don't get hooked on a show we haven't already watched. Friends have recommended "Castle" to us, but it's in season, like, seven or something. We watch 88 minutes of television per week ("Bones," "30 Rock," and "The Simpsons.")

The new TV season has begun, but not for us. "Bones" has a weird production schedule this year because of a real-world pregnancy (talk about inconveniencing your fan base), "The Simpsons" haven't started because Fox shows baseball until November, and "30 Rock" hasn't begun for reasons I don't know. And we're surviving just fine. I don't spend 88 minutes each week wishing I had something to do.

Notice how none of this discussion involves my kids? They watch TV once a year at my parents' house, and other than that they're fine on a diet of DVDs. It turns out I AM the kind of guy to do that to my kids. Maybe homeschooling is our way of protecting them from the taunts of bastards like fifth-grade me.

* = She's back to Persephone for now, I guess. Or maybe she should be Persephone*.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Sexy Like a Geriatric

Last month I went on a county trip (write-up forthcoming, I swear!), and spent a lot of time listening to the radio. I repeatedly heard several songs I had never heard before, such as "Stereo Hearts" by Gym Class Heroes, "If I Die Young" by The Band Perry, and "Super Bass" by Nicki Minaj (the video of which is the best Pepto Bismol ad I've seen since this one). This was also when I first heard the baffling song "Moves Like Jagger" by Maroon 5.

What is the point of this song? The singer is claiming to be as sexy as...a 68-year-old British man. (And yes, I was totally correct in my guess of Mick Jagger's age because I was assuming he was 19 in 1964. Hurray for ancient history!)

This is how far we've sunk: when looking for the quintessential sexy icon for comparison's sake, we have to look to a man who has been receiving AARP mailings for over 20 years. Why is this? We have current stars who try to exude sexuality, but there's a difference between sexy and sex. When you're naked and engaged in sex, you've missed the exit to sexy. Elvis swiveling his hips on Ed Sullivan was sexy; the modern version is some dude on Howard Stern saying, "Hey, watch me hump this chick." That's not sexy.

We obviously need a new standard of sexy, and I am willing to perform the public service. Feel free to compare your sexiness to mine.

I brought sexy so far back that it's now someplace in the future. I'm pretty sure that when college girls say they are going to be a sexy witch for Halloween, this is the look they're talking about. But don't feel bad if you find you're always on the short end of the comparison; you're not alone. Mick Jagger is also far less sexy than I am.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Hippie Dog Championship

Earlier this week I used a free blog polling webservice to create this post. Evidently between then and its scheduled publication today, the service went offline.

So here's the lo-tech version of the poll.

HIPPIE DOG POLL

Which Hippie Dog caption is best?

Hippie Dog messes with your mind for art's sake.

Hippie Dog doesn't follow your rules, man.

Hippie Dog is an iconoclast.

Hippie Dog experiments.

Hippie Dog is on drugs.

Hippie Dog sympathizes with the enemy.

Instead of clicking buttons, you'll have to leave a comment with your vote. Sorry. I expected world-class service from a free anonymous website; I don't know why that expectation was not met.

Friday, October 14, 2011

"I Can Make Anybody Go to Prison / Just Because I Don't Like Him"

There are lots of reasons to dislike the current tax code. Just about the only people who DO like it are those who profit from its complexity (H&R Block employees and IRS stoolies). Yet, like the Dude, it abides.

My biggest complaint with the tax code isn't any of the pedestrian ones: yes, it's obtuse, it's unfair, it's inefficient. My biggest complaint is that it makes criminals of us all. There is no way that anyone is guaranteed to be 100% compliant with the tax code at any given time. So there is always a pretext to prosecute and imprison anyone. A sure way to keep people in line is to threaten, "You're next, pallie." A citizen with a clear conscience would reply, "Bring it on," but since none of us can have a clear tax conscience, we slink away and hope--if we just keep our heads down--they'll not bring the power of the state down on us.

Paranoid prediction that maybe isn't so paranoid: If non-compliance with the tax code is ever seen as a facet of terrorism, then a code that makes us all violators coupled with the president's secret kill list will make the song's lyrics quaintly outdated. Try "I can have anybody murdered / Just because I don't like him."

Title from "Handlebars" by Flobots.

Three In a Row

I'm trying to string together three productive days in a row. (The fact that I'm blogging right now is an indication just how successful I'm being at the attempt.)

Hippie Dog 6

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Corporations and Governments

Friends of mine have recently posted on Facebook that "51 of the world's 100 largest organizations are corporations." The other 49 are governments.

I am shocked at the implications. I had no idea personal liberty was under such a direct assault. We have to take immediate action...to reduce the number of governments on this list.

Who is a bigger threat to me: Bill Gates or Barack Obama? Of the two, who can take my money without asking? Of the two, who can send me to prison for not complying with his wishes? Of the two, who can add my name to a secret extra-legal "kill list"?

It's not even a close comparison. Bill Gates can get nothing from me without enticing me. Barack Obama uses the threat (and sometimes the act) of violence to get his way. If these asinine protesters were serious about defending liberty, they would want that list of largest organizations to be comprised entirely of corporations, not governments.

Hippie Dog 5

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Random Movie Thoughts 2

Last month I watched the Adam Sandler movie Just Go With It. I was intrigued by the change in characters Adam Sandler plays. In his earlier carrier, he played the loud-mouth guy who says the rude thing everybody wishes he could say. Think of in Big Daddy when he dumps the McDonald's patron's fries on the floor and tells him to take a walk. But now, he's farmed that role out to a younger actor, and Adam Sandler plays the guy who's embarrassed of how rude his friend is. In this movie he took a guy to a party thrown by a guy who's had too much plastic surgery, and Adam Sandler wasn't the one making cracks about how terrible the host looked. Instead, he was saying things like, "Don't do this to me."

Does this count as maturing? I mean, the rude lines are still in the movie, but now they are there to mock the rude as well as the target. This might be as close to "maturing" as Adam Sandler is going to get.

PS: before you write to tell me that Spanglish was very mature for him, he didn't write that movie.

Hippie Dog 4

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Synonyms

My students were staring at their desks, pretending to work. I didn't know if it was because I was going too slowly, going too quickly, or if they just didn't like economics. I gave them a quiz where they had to answer two questions: what did they like about the instructor-controlled portion of the class, and what would they like to see different in the instructor-controlled portion of the class. (I had to specify "instructor-controlled" to weed out answers like "I wish there was less about money in 'Money and Banking.'")

I gave credit based on attendance that day, so they didn't have to include their names, which I hoped would lead to more honesty. In reviewing their responses, I noticed a trend in what they liked.

  • Instructor makes class entertaining.
  • You make everyone feel comfortable to ask questions and not like it's a dumb question. Entertaining and funny so everyone pays attention.
  • Everyone in class listens to you, mainly because you know the material very well [The joke's on him! -ED.] and present it in a good way, also because you are really funny and make class entertaining.
  • Relaxed, friendly environment.
  • Your style of teaching and laid back attitude allow students to be comfortable when learning instead of students being afraid to approach you.
  • Very fun class, entertaining, taught in a fun manner.
  • Lecture is entertaining and informing. Keeps everyone focused and awake.
  • The laid back nature of the class helps me learn better and keeps me interested.
  • I like that it's a relaxed setting.
  • The way you talk. [?! - ED.]
  • The professor is very entertaining, keeping me engaged in class.
  • Interesting, easy to follow lectures.
  • I just enjoy the jokes, the laziness of the teacher makes me think that economics is not that hard as a discipline.

Wait, what? "Laid back" is okay, "relaxed" is okay, but "laziness" isn't. I'm going to have to have a talk with them about correct synonyms before they fill out the evaluations that go to my department.

Hippie Dog 3

Monday, October 10, 2011

Marine Corps Museum

I took my son to the Marine Corps museum in May, and in late July we went back with the rest of our family. The best part for me was the short film about the Battle of Belleau Wood.

The older I get, the more terrible war seems. Not that it's never justified, but there's got to be some horrendous reason that I doubt comes along anywhere near as frequently as war.

Unwanted in Chesapeake Beach

Last spring we stopped in Chesapeake Beach, MD, for our kids to see the bay. We didn't bring our bathing suits with us, but when I saw their beach rules, I realized it was a good thing.

It's like they were going through my drawers when they wrote Rule #4. How did they know ALL of my bathing suit styles?

Hippie Dog 2

Sunday, October 09, 2011

The Greatest Day of My Life

A few weeks ago I told Articulate Joe, "We're going to go get a lawnmower and teach you to use it and then I'll never have to mow a lawn again in my life!" He was less-than-thrilled, because he's lazy. (Just like his old man.)

We got the lawnmower home and I took him out back to teach him how to use it. Two minutes into watching he said, "I thought you said I was going to do this." I was muscled aside.

The next morning he woke up and asked my wife, "When can I mow the lawn again?"

Hippie Dog 1

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Four Years Late

During the last presidential election, I wrote a post that advised Mitt Romney tell evangelicals to get bent. Because that's what every gazillionaire presidential candidate needs: unsolicited advice from a nobody with a blog.

Well, Romney took my advice today. Okay, he didn't actually say "get bent," but he did tell them they were acting like a collective douche. (That might be a paraphrase.)

It's still not strong enough. Here's what he needs to say: "Idiots, you cannot defend 'historical Christianity' while belonging to any church other than a Catholic one. Roman or Greek, you decide. Anything else is nothing more than the learning of men. Your continued insistence on passing judgment regarding who is a 'true' Christian would be shameful if you were, in fact, smart enough to realize your conduct is shameful."

Mitt, don't wait four more years to work this into your stump speech. You don't even have to cite me as your source (Joe Biden has my back on this one).

Schedule Your's Today!

This was across the street from our pizza restaurant in Cedar City. I risked my life to dash across and take this picture. Because I'll do anything for all five of my readers.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Damn the Pigeons! Full Speed Ahead!

I recently had to spend two hours reading in Farragut Square. This bird was perched atop Admiral Farragut's head the entire time.

"That Word--I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means"

I remember a story from 12 years ago about a District of Columbia employee who was forced out of his job for using the word "niggardly," which has no racial connotation at all. I thought of it the other day when my wife sent me a text message that made no sense to me. I responded, "Your message is unintelligible."

Good thing my wife is smart enough to know the difference between intelligible and intelligent.

Title quote from The Princess Bride.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Terrible Things I Do

I wrote a long post about allergies, then I realized it would get a lot of people mad, so I decided to just skip that part. Instead I'll just say I intentionally eat Payday candy bars in public.

While I'm confessing, I might as well tell you that once when I was a missionary I was about to use the bathroom at another companionship's apartment, and one of them said something rude to me, so I intentionally peed all over their toilet seat. It was very strange, after a lifetime of trying to not hit the seat. But it made me feel good inside. That good feeling is called "revenge."

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

I've Got Them All Now

When I teach, I unintentionally identify a few of the brighter students as my "litmus test." If a regular student has difficulty understanding a concept, the problem is probably on his end, but if a litmus test student has difficulty, the problem is probably on my end.

Which isn't to say that I blow off the regular students' problems and tell them, "Figure it out on your own." I just mean that a communication error can arise because of either the transmitter or the receiver, and when good receivers are only picking up static, you should check the transmitter.

This semester I have about four litmus test students: an Anglo woman, an Indian woman, an Anglo man, and an Hispanic man. The toughest of them all is the Hispanic man. He has this unbelievable ability to identify exactly what I don't know well and question me on it. I get the feeling he has professional experience with some of the concepts that I don't understand as well, which allows him to pin-point exactly when I have no idea what I'm talking about.

I dread when he raises his hand, because it means I just said something wrong. I have resigned myself to the fact that he would turn in a scathing performance evaluation at the end of the semester, and have taken to just praying he would be as merciful as possible.

Yesterday, leaving class, he asked me what class I'm teaching next semester. "Because he wants to avoid you," I thought to myself. No, it turns out, because he wants to enroll in it.

I could have kissed him, if it wasn't a violation of acceptable practices. (Once I've graded his final, though, anything goes.) If I've got him on my side, I've got them all.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Reading Commitment

Here are the books I'm either currently reading or have on deck. I'm posting them here not to say, "Look at me! Like 95% of Americans, I can read!", but to strengthen my commitment to actually, you know, read them.

  • The Advanced Genius Theory, by Jason Hartley
  • Alas, Babylon, by Pat Frank
  • Beric the Briton, by G.A. Henty
  • A Commentary on the Doctrine and Covenants, Volume 2, by Stephen E. Robinson and H. Dean Garrett
  • Competition and Currency, by Lawrence H. White
  • The Crystal Bridge, by Charlie Pulsipher
  • A Journey to the Centre of the Earth, by Jules Verne
  • Managerial Dilemmas, by Gary J. Miller
  • The Mortal Messiah, Book 2, by Bruce R. McConkie
  • The Theory of Free Banking, by George A. Selgin
  • The Wright 3, by Blue Balliett

When I clear off some of these, I have others waiting in the wings. The 25,000-page year will not happen in 2011 (my big chance was over the summer, before all the books I read last August became a year old), but I should be able to get to 20,000 without too much strain at the end of the year.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Author Interview: Charlie Pulsipher

Utah-based science fiction author Charlie Pulsipher recently completed his first novel, The Crystal Bridge (available at these links in Kindle book, Nook book, and dead tree formats). He was kind enough to answer a series of interview questions.

A RANDOM STRANGER: What's your "elevator speech" (30 sec.-ish summation) of your novel?

CHARLIE PULSIPHER: Kaden is a typical teenage boy who can open wormholes to worlds only he can see. Aren is far from a typical teenage girl, seeing into the memories of other people as though they were her own. When they meet, their gifts will send them to a planet torn by war, where a dark creature seeks to free itself from the cold spaces between universes. Their adventure may destroy two worlds. Or, they may just save us all.

ARS: What were the influences behind your novel? Was it a concept you've been thinking about for a long time, or something that came to you suddenly? Did you have points in the writing where the plot took a turn from your original concept?

CP: I have weird dreams. This novel originally came into my head as two separate dreams. My wife suggested I combine them, so I did. So, the seed ideas came suddenly, but it took several years thinking about them for the rest of the novel to come into focus. Plot turns? Definitely. I had a minor character become very important halfway through. I had to readjust Aren's and Kaden's gifts several times. I had an AI character grow into something special where I never planned on having her do much apart from annoy a geneticist. Some of the twists near the end were planned, but a couple were not. Sometimes the best surprises are the ones the author didn't plan on either.

ARS: On your blog [Notice Your World], you've categorized The Crystal Bridge as involving elements of sci-fi and fantasy. Would you consider yourself a sci-fi or fantasy writer, or just a writer who was taken in those directions by this particular story? Do you have ideas for future projects that are very similar/different?

CP: I am a sci-fi and fantasy writer all the way. I plan on doing both and not much else. I like stories to have a little adventure and a touch of the fantastical. I have some more nano-tech novels to write. I also have a magical series that won't stay quiet in my head about children of sorcerers that have been exiled to mundane Earth. It has a talking doorknob. I'm excited for that one.

ARS: What was the hardest part about writing a novel, from a technical standpoint? What about from an artistic standpoint? If you ran up against any large roadblocks, what were they and how did you overcome them?

CP: Keeping it all straight in my head. I have too many point-of-view characters. It was difficult keeping all their voices separate and keeping the plot moving along when each one wanted to be next. I know that sounds crazy, but writers are a little crazy. I had to rewrite my outline five or six times to keep everything flowing smoothly. Artistically, I had to get over writing beautifully all the time. That's what revisions are for. You have to let the words out even if they aren't the best and trust yourself to make it better on the next pass. If you wait for perfect inspiration every time you write, your novel will take forever. Those perfect moments, when everything flows and you feel the beauty in every word you type, don't come along very often.

ARS: On your blog you've written, "I'm not even going to try the traditional publishing route. I think ebooks and indie publishers are the wave of the future." What has led you to this conclusion? Do you foresee the end of hardcopy publishing as well? Basically speculate on the future and make it seem as bright-and-shiny/scary-and-bleak as you'd like.

CP: That's me trying to sound sure of myself in an unsure time for publishing. Big bookstores are filing for bankruptcy. Authors are getting smaller advances. Ebooks are exploding. Big publishers are scrambling to make money and keep on top of a market that is changing every day. My biggest reason to self publish is my impatience. A typical first time author will spend years trying to find an agent, years for that agent to sell the book to a publisher, and years for the publisher to actually get it out in print. I didn't want to wait years. Also, a first time author rarely earns more than the advance. With advances shrinking, I didn't want to accept some tiny amount after working on this novel for five years and after waiting untold years for a publisher to bite. Self publishing lets me put it in readers' hands now and I keep the rights to the book forever. I may not earn a lot, but I can keep making money for as long as I want to keep it online. If I keep writing and leave each book up for ten years, I'm bound to make more than the advance. I don't get the big check up front and I have to do a ton of work, but I hope it will be worth it.

I don't want it to be all about money though. There are more advantages and I have yet to see much in the way of money. I can make changes whenever I want. I can get a new cover in five years if I decide it needs something more. I can add enhanced content if that's the way books go in a few more years. It lets me adapt, float on top of the tumultuous publishing market. I don't think print books will go away, but we've seen what digital did to music and movies. I expect similar results with books.

ARS: The economic theory supporting copyright says there would be less entrepreneurship without a legal monopoly. How motivated are your creatively by potential income, and how much by the dissemination of your ideas?

CP: I want to make money. I don't need to make millions. I don't believe I'll make millions. I just want to make enough to be able to keep writing and also eat. I'm more motivated to get my ideas, my stories out there. It's that pesky impatience again. I finish a novel, I want people to read it and I want to move on to the next one. Writers write. We have a compulsion to do so. Money would be nice, but I'll keep writing even if I make nothing...I'll just have to get a day job.

ARS: Now that you've completed a novel, has it turned you off somewhat to writing, or whetted your appetite for more? Is it like you've seen sausage being made?

CP: I admit the process wasn't always pleasant and I was a little sick of reading the story over and over again as I did the final revisions, but then I got the proof copy in the mail. I held my words in my hands, full of possibilities where two worlds collided and my characters struggled to survive. I'll never stop writing.

ARS: What will you do next? Jump into a new project, take time to promote The Crystal Bridge, something else entirely? Or some combination of these?

CP: I'm debating jumping into the sequel or starting the magic series. Each one is begging to be written next. I'm waiting for one novel to get more demanding and I'll choose that one.

ARS: What was the most surprising part to you of the novel-writing process? Was it harder or easier than you first suspected?

CP: I think it surprised me how much I've come to love the characters, like they're old friends. I miss them now that I'm not immersed in their lives. I wonder how they're holding up, how the experience changed them, and if their children and grandchildren will know how important and heroic they were. I know they aren't real, but they are in some small way to me and hopefully to anyone else who reads this book. It was harder, definitely harder than I ever suspected, but so worth it, even if I never see a dime. I had to tell this story.

Thanks again to Charlie Pulsipher for allowing me to interview him on writing and his new novel, The Crystal Bridge. Check out Charlie's blog for more information about him and his book.


NB: The "crazy celebrities" tag for this post is not an assessment of Charlie's mental health; it's just the only celebrity-related post tag my blog has right now.