Answer to the Riddle (and 3 Literary Books for Expectant Dads)

Dear mediocremeg14, guydreaminglife, honkinggoose, and Batzorig Begzsuren

Thank you all for giving answers to yesterday’s riddle post. Two of you guessed it right, and the other two had it pretty close. [To others: Don’t know what I’m talkin’ bout? Click here.]

Since the next Blogging101 assignment is a letter form, I thought I’d appreciate your feedback and write you four back a letter.

The answer to the riddle is: his son. As explained here:

The portrait is of the man’s son. Many people mistakenly argue that the man is looking at a picture of himself. If he had said, “… that man is my father’s son.” then this solution would be correct, but he said, “… that man’s father is my father’s son.” One way out of the confusion is to substitute the word “me” for the more cumbersome phrase “my father’s son.” Then the statement becomes, “that man’s father is me.”

The reason I posted the riddle yesterday was because my fiancee went into labor and gave birth to a beautiful boy. You might also notice that I put “Important Day” in headlines with a parenthesis. I was waiting outside a maternity hospital.

Yes–I’m a father now! 🙂 It was a lifetime event for me, but since I like to keep things not-so-personal, I’ll spare you my emotional speech.

But, how about you guys? How was your experience of fatherhood/motherhood? It’s a totally unique thing, isn’t it? Expecting a child is a unique experience for the mother, but also for the father. I have been clueless and often counseled the omniscient Internet.

And naturally, I sought advice from the most unexpected resources–literary fiction. Here are three literary books that also helped me shape what expectant dads should and should not do.

Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

Yes, it’s about World War I, but it’s also about tragic consequences of what harsh conditions do to a pregnant woman. After reading the book I asked my fiancee to get an ultrasound, because I was afraid for the baby. And as if to warn us, the baby had an umbilical cord around his neck and had high contraption. He needed more calcium. My fiancee consumed dairy products more often since then, focused on resting more and our baby boy came by fine (knock on wood).

Rabbit, Run by John Updike

I think I read it before my fiancee was pregnant, but this book told me what not to do as an expectant dad. It’s about a father who runs away and leaves his pregnant wife for some soul-searching. Not every expectant dad considers leaving his pregnant wife (not me, of course not), but fatherhood has a scary side, too. I couldn’t really relate to this tall, high-school star protagonist (I was recommended this book for its style), but I finished it knowing what not to do as a soon-to-be-father.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Don’t tell anyone, but I cried like a goddamn baby at the end of this book. You know why? Because this book is what being a father is all about: knowing your child is your legacy and sacrificing yourself to protect him and/or her. If you have a baby on the way, read it (and make sure to read the end alone, so no one can see you crying). If you know someone who’s going to be a father soon, give it as a present. They’ll thank you for life. Oh, and also give them a tissue. That’ll be extra thoughtful.

Would you agree with these books? What else would you recommend for dads? My blogging101 assignment was to flip a book at page 29 and pick up a word that caught my eye and incorporate it into my new post, in a letter form. My word was “three”, hence only three books. There’s more though.

Sincerely,

Natso

Advertisements

Different Post Format (Important Day)

My blog posts are usually articles–paragraphs of text. Not today. Ladies and gentlemen. Today, you have a riddle to solve. Intrigued? Read on.

Riddle me this:
A man is looking at a portrait. “Whose picture is that?” someone asks, and the man replies: “Brothers and sisters have I none, but that man’s father is my father’s son.” At whose picture is the man looking?

Let me know what you think the answer is in the comments section below. I’ll post the answer tomorrow.

Fiction vs. Non-Fiction: Which one should I read?

This is a question that comes to my mind often. Obviously I like reading fiction. It lets you have an adventure, or a catharsis at least. Non-fiction? Not so much. Here are their quick pros and cons.

Fiction: Pros

Fiction gets consumed easily, because our brains are wired to listen to stories. Thanks, evolution!

By reading character descriptions, reader actually learns to decode human behavior and improves social skills.

Good novel re-wires the reader’s brain into an altered state, at least for few days. I think it lets you keep the author’s narration voice for a while.

– By reading classics, you can learn of intimate details of people from different time and place, and realize how common idiosyncrasies of human nature are.

– Because the story grabs you, you’re highly likely to read it in bed without dozing off.

Fiction: Cons

– There are so many fiction books that it’s hard to find good ones.

– OK. With all that said, to what extent is reading a book different than watching a movie? I mean, some films are better than the books, because one author can overlook some aspects. (Some books, not all)

– Fiction doesn’t give much factual or insightful information like non-fiction.

Non-Fiction: Pros

– Made under rigorous research, so usually gives you in-depth knowledge of a particular field.

– Can contribute to the economic, entrepreneurial aspect of your life. When’s the last time Anna Karenina helped you earn more?

– Personal development and autobiographical non-fiction lets you learn from the giants and get inspired.

– Timely research from cutting-edge field catered to the mass. And still better reads than research papers.

– If you sell it after you read it, there’s a higher chance someone will buy it.

Non-Fiction: Cons

– Damn it, fell asleep reading Bill Bryson’s Short History of Everything again.

– Is text really the right medium to explain scientific concepts? Mendeleev proved even tables can do better–in his dream.

– Speaking of tables, the only protagonist to tie all these mumbo-jumbo is — the Table of Contents.

What do you think? Agree with my list? I’m, of course, going to uncharted water when I talk about non-fiction. I don’t read them much. So I’ll appreciate your input on non-fiction or general feedback. Muchos gracias.

Fanalyzing Fight Club’s … (Ow!) Fwo Fhemes

I juf got punched.

In the feif.

By myfelf.

Just kidding. Sorry, I’m a sucker for alliterations. It’s a Mongolian thing.

Anyway, today I wanted to talk about “Fight Club” by Chuck Palahniuk. You probably watched the movie or even read the book. Aside from the mind-blowing twist, which if you haven’t watched or read, I’ll try not to spoil, its philosophy touched many people and helped it become a cult over time. The ideas just makes you want to get mad, start an underground bare-knuckle fight club, or at least throw your mail-order catalog out the window. But some of the quotes are coming back to me and as a fan I felt like reflecting on the following two themes.

I’m not criticizing him, though. I’m a fan. I’m analyzing. You could say–see the headline?–fanalyzing. And if you think you can trademark this word, you can’t, because I just did.

1. You Are Not a Unique Snowflake

“You are not special. You’re not a beautiful and unique snowflake. You’re the same decaying organic matter as everything else. We’re all part of the same compost heap. We’re all singing, all dancing crap of the world.”

This one touches close at home. We all grew up thinking we’re special. But we’re not. We’re all same, and we’re all gonna die someday. But let’s focus here a minute. Sure we’re all same, but generalizing on the level of organic matter is a little too much, don’t you think? I mean, it would include plants, animals, fungi, and tardigrades, which are really different things. OK, within humans, we’re all same. Except, our genes are a mathematically exponential tree structure where a mother’s and a father’s gene. Even each conception is unique; its chromosome pairs are arranged by a magic lottery ball machine, so that the siblings are not clones.

fallopiantube

So, the fleshes are pretty unique (well, of course there are coincidental similarities like Katy Perry and Zooey Deschanel). Even the brain. The wiring of our brains is so unique that it contains our whole identity. All our experiences, skills, memories are stored and made by the path of transmitters. They even came up with a new word to name the map–connectome. Ah, he probably meant the software–our mentalities. We’re all mass educated so we think the same things. Yeah, we are really all singing, all dancing crap of the world.

In this sense, each of us is a unique, weird and colorful “snowflake”.

2. You Are Not Your Job

You are not your job, you’re not how much money you have in the bank. You are not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. You are not your fucking khakis.

This is a very acute observation. Your job, savings and car are supposed to express your status (wallet and the khakis are a little too much). He means we are obsessed with expressing ourselves through the products we use. In our modern society, there are products/services that people buy for status reasons, usually the more expensive and rarer, the better. Take Apple’s annual iPhone craze, for example. It’s ridiculous.

Capture
Their next product is only $899.

Then later I read this (quite literally) kick-ass motivational article. Here’s what David Wong from Cracked.com said about this quote:

Tyler said, “You are not your job,” but he also founded and ran a successful soap company and became the head of an international social and political movement. He was totally his job.

OK. David took the quote out of the context, or rather, he’s refuting the people who’s been using the quote of context. Chuck is saying, “Stop, get over your insecurity! Just any decent car will do.” But David is saying, “People treated you bad because you drive a jalopy? Suck it up, because that’s how the world works.” As you can see, these are subjective interpretations. But I think the difference is on whether the rejection of status-seeking, as advised by Chuck, actually leads to any rejection from others, as cited by David.

If it doesn’t, scoff at the new iPhones and have an actual life outside your job. In other words, don’t live behind your suit. Or better yet, get a new job, not for the sake of its status or prestige, but your intrinsic preference. But if you choose to become an artist instead of a lawyer and it does lead to rejections, that’s the reason you should fight for status, you know for survival and good life.

Now, let me ask you, dear reader. Chuck’s saying, “You’re not your job! You’re you!” and David’s saying, “You are your job! Welcome to the harsh world.” Which one of these ideas do you like the best? Which one of these would you like to uphold in your life? Let me know in the comment below.

If you’re from Mongolia, make sure to read my “Fight Club” book review in Mongolian.

A Cool Sci-Fi Short Story, A Question That Sprouted From It

I just read an awesome short story and I wanted to share it with you. It’s titled Zugzwang and it came from Daily Science Fiction yesterday, which emails you sci-fi stories under 1000 word every day. If you aren’t subscribed to DSF, I highly recommend it. Think about it. You read boring e-mails every day, right? Why not add a short story in your reading list as well?

Anyway, this story is about an alien encounter and it hooked me in right from the beginning. Its writer’s name is Curtis M. Chen. As a big fan of Ted Chiang and Ken Liu (if you haven’t heard of them, you’re missing out on some awesome stories!), I was curious to see another Chinese American name.

And I wasn’t disappointed. The story was excellently crafted. The plot had tension and several layers of things going on, yet no word seemed redundant and all of the sentences were simple-yet-varied.

If you haven’t read it already, I ask you to go ahead and read it here. When you’re done, come back and let’s talk about it.

Are you done? Good. How’d you like it? I know, right? Well, on the topic of alien chess, there has been an awesome novella series called “Championship B’tok” by Edward M.Lerner on September, 2014 issue of Analog Science Fiction and Fact Magazine. If you liked Zugzwang, your mind will be blown to smithereens at B’tok, I guarantee. (Sadly, though, it’s a series and ends with a cliffhanger… the show still goes on.)

Anyway, a little bio of Curtis Chen said that he was a software engineer in Silicon Valley (whoa!), AND he is a Clarion West graduate (double-rainbow-whoa!). So we should expect to read more awesome stories from him. As you probably know, Clarion is an intensive and competitive sci-fi workshop, many contemporary sci-fi and fantasy authors are alumni.

Both Chiang and Liu have computer science background and I got really accustomed to their easy reading, thought provoking stories. So this might get you wondering, “Would I succeed as a sci-fi author if I pursued IT?”

I would argue that it doesn’t have to be IT, but any science degree helps. Robert Heinlein had a naval engineering degree, Isaac Asimov was a professor of biochemistry and Arthur C. Clark had a degree in math and physics, among his experience in other things.

Should You Read Blogs? – Cons

“You can’t just turn on creativity like a faucet. You have to be in the right mood. What mood is that? Last-minute panic.” — Bill Watterson

So, yesterday’s Blogging 101 assignment was to write about your Ideal Reader. It got me thinking if reading blogs were worth our time at all. Of course, I wrote about the pros yesterday, but reading blogs, especially too much, is not always a good idea. And here’s why:

1. Blogs Can Complement Books and Press, Not Replace Them

I can’t find the exact link, but there was an article in either Forbes or Inc that went like this. Value of information between a column article and a book can be compared by the amount of time spent in researching them. A columnist in a respected magazine spends almost a month to publish an article, whereas it takes at least a year to write a book. So the information you get from reading an article is worth a month’s research and book is at least a year’s research and labor condensed into few hundred pages. How does blog posts compare to that? I can’t say a definitive answer, but definitely lower. For instance, I have been writing one article for Cracked.com for the last month and a half. (On that note, Yeah baby!) Even the images require a lot of research. But I’ve been known to write one post in one morning, drafting, image research, editing and everything. Which is why…

2. Not All Blogs Are Professional

Including this one. We live in a world of information overload, almost to the point of becoming several degree of autistic. (I think this is where you laugh now. Or cry, I don’t know.) With this predicament, it’s hard to spend time–let alone commit to follow–blogs that have:

a) poor spelling and design,

b) uninteresting content,

c) awfully lot TMI about their personal life, and

d) disorganized writing that doesn’t always reach the standard of journalism or content writing.

Sorry, folks. I’m also guilty of these. But we’re all learning, am I right?

3. Most Blogs Have No Strategy (Ideally They Should Either Go Pro or Evangelic)

When I think about good blogs that accumulated regular followers, only Seth Godin and Maria Popova comes to mind. The dude was an idea machine and a marketing genius. I recommend his TED talk video on what makes ideas go viral. What he did was go full throttle in giving marketing and blogging advice and becoming an expert in that field. Maria Popova, on the other hand, collected inspiring quotes and information bits on her blogs Brain Pickings. She spread out any new discovery about authors (some of which she uncovered herself) and passionately advocated the importance of following famous author’s advices on life, writing and happiness. These people are well-renowned now, because what they provided have been good values that readers mostly expect from a blog: either to be a pro, and if not, relay good information like an evangelist.

4. Unfettered Reading Yields Less Productivity

While reading other people’s blogs and getting touch is vital, (trust me, it makes all the difference) few people have told me that they spend too much time reading other people’s blogs and not writing anything on their own. Let’s face it, you’re probably reading this because you’re a word nerd and you dig reading AND writing. So make sure to balance the two and write as much as you read. I for one use the WordPress mobile app on my smartphone and the Reader is pretty efficient–it shows previews of the posts from the blogs you are subscribed to. I think I should structure my time to keep tabs on the people I follow, get inspired, leave a few comments and get back to my own writing. I’m still working on this one, so anyone’s tips will be appreciated.

So these are four cons I have came up with. If you looked for Blogging101 exercises, today’s assignments were to experiment with the themes of my blog. Don’t freak out if the visual appearance of this blog changes suddenly.

Disclaimer: I’m neither an expert, nor a newbie. What’s stated above are purely my thoughts–my sloppy morning thoughts. So critical thinking and commenting is advised. In other words, call out my bullshits, if you find any, deal?