Thursday, August 15, 2019

Writing in Times of Anxiety

Kameron Hurley's latest LOCUS column tackles the problem of writing through anxiety. The essay focuses mainly on public crises and disasters but mentions its application to personal troubles as well:

Writing Through the News Cycle

She quotes a common reaction: “It’s 2019. Who doesn’t have anxiety?” She also highlights what she sees as the difference between today's news-inspired worries and those of people in the 1950s and '60s faced with possible nuclear war: Nuclear holocaust was a hypothetical threat; such crises as wars in the Middle East and global climate change are already happening. "That makes optimism and hope a lot more difficult to cling to, and anxiety ratchets up the more one stays glued to the news." (A good reason, by the way, to resist the temptation to click on every Internet headline or obsessively pore over social media streams, a remedy Hurley herself alludes to.) She compares chronic anxiety to a "faulty fire alarm" (I'd say "smoke alarm," which is what she seems to be talking about), which keeps going off despite the absence of fire. Subjected to constant alerts, one suffers fear and anxiety even though, objectively, there's nothing more wrong at this moment than there was a minute, an hour, or a day ago.

One cognitive trick I try to remember to use on myself, by the way, is becoming mindful of the fact that very seldom is this present moment unbearably terrible. (It can be, of course—if one is in acute danger or severe pain, for example—but more often than not, it isn't.) Much of our unhappiness springs from brooding over unpleasant, scary, or outright horrible things that might happen in the future.

In response to the challenge of writing "through the tough times in life, personal as well as national, and, increasingly, global," Hurley says, "I’ve found that focusing on a better future, and putting that into my work, has helped me deal with the news cycle and the rampant anxiety." My own reaction as a writer to public disasters and personal troubles is pretty much the opposite. I don't feel capable of creating fiction with the weight needed to confront such crises. The problems of my characters seem to trivialize by contrast the real-world distress around us. Instead, I've turned to composing lighter pieces, stories featuring hints of humor and protagonists with believable but not dire problems (such as my recent novella "Yokai Magic," a contemporary light paranormal romance inspired by Japanese folklore) rather than backstories that abound in horrors and tragedies. Also, on a personal level, working on a story that I can hope will entertain readers as well as myself not only helps to distract me from whatever I'm worrying about but can cheer me with a sense of having accomplished something.

Some critics might label taking refuge from real-world problems in fiction, whether weighty or light, "escapism." Tolkien dealt with this charge many decades ago, asserting that such critics confuse "the escape of the prisoner" with the "flight of the deserter"? If we find ourselves in "prison," why should we be blamed for trying to get out? Hurley herself makes it clear that "this doesn’t mean closing one’s eyes to the horror." A fictional vision doesn't have to equate to "the flight of the deserter"; rather, according to her, "We are what we immerse ourselves in. We are the stories we tell ourselves."

Coincidentally, this week the local Annapolis newspaper, the CAPITAL, published a column by psychologist Scott Smith headlined, "How to stay happy in a world filled with sad events." He discusses how to deal with the modern condition of being "inundated with tragedy." He makes the very cogent point, "Our human brain is not really built to process this ongoing flow of tragic and negative events. We live with a brain that is tooled for a much slower pace...." Like Hurley's column, Smith's emphasizes the emotional and physiological stress caused by being constantly bombarded with negative images in the 24-hour news cycle. He mentions, in addition, "Our brain is also not very good at placing tragedy in context or calculating probability." When we hear about high-profile, terrifying, but extremely rare disasters, our brains are wired to react to these remote (for the vast majority of us) contingencies as if they were "imminent threats." Smith lists several suggestions of ways to reorient our thinking and appreciate the good things in our own lives, remedies that collectively boil down to "focusing on the positive and limiting our exposure to negative events that are out of our control." He would doubtless agree with Hurley that we, as writers, should resist allowing stress to drain our energies and instead cultivate the positive benefits of exercising our creativity.

I've probably quoted C. S. Lewis's refreshing perspective on global problems here before, but it's too relevant not to include now. This passage comes from his essay on living in an atomic age—demonstrating that news-related stress is far from a recent phenomenon:

"In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. "How are we to live in an atomic age?" I am tempted to reply: 'Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.' . . . .

"In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds."

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Targeting a Readership Part 16, Plotters, Pantsers and Game of Thrones

Targeting a Readership
Part 16
Plotters, Pantsers and Game of Thrones

Previous entries in this series are indexed at:

https://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2013/10/index-to-targeting-readership-series-by.html

So now here is an article in Wired Magazine which is by an Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Women's Studies, Daniel Silvermint, and addresses the infamous 8th Season of Game of Thrones

https://www.wired.com/story/game-of-thrones-plotters-vs-pantsers/

-------quote-------
Long-standing threats are being dispatched too easily, and plot threads we thought would matter have been quietly dropped. More troubling still, character motivations appear to be in a state of flux, and much of the drama involves clever people committing obvious blunders and suffering reversals of fortune as a result.
-------end quote-------

All of the issues listed in that quote will always arise when a writer shifts, changes, forgets, or just plain ditches a THEME mid-writing.  A major rewrite has to be done to give the ending material the same theme as the opening material.

So the Wired article advances this idea:

-------quote------
It all comes down to how stories are crafted, and for that, we need to start with two different types of writers: plotters and pantsers. Plotters create a detailed outline before they commit a word to the page. Pantsers prefer to discover the story as they write it—flying by the seat of their pants, so to speak.
-------end quote-------

I understand both these creative styles because I was taught the craft by a pantser, though I rarely employ that method.  I suspect both these definitions miss a vital point.

My instructor worked from a detailed conceptualization of the thematic structure of the piece she was crafting, but seemed to have no conscious idea of what that theme was or what she wanted to say about it.  She followed her characters into the story to see what they'd do, and to be surprised by what they did.

Following your characters by the seat of your pants is somewhat like great conversation.  We often talk "off the cuff" without seeming to plan what to say even as the words flow out of our mouths.  We know the language, and use the knowledge of the "grammar" of language (even as children, long before studying grammar) to place words together.  We craft sentences to say what we mean without thinking about grammar, just about what we mean.

And so it is with both plotters and pantsers.  Plotters write it down, and pantsers don't -- and that's the only difference.

The writer gets inside the Character and runs into the World to see what happens next.  Those who write down detailed outlines often find the Characters take over and run in an unplanned direction.  Those who don't write anything down find the Characters just stop and look at the writer wondering what to do next.

Either way, writing is not about plotting any more than conversation is about grammar.

The process of writing a story is about communicating the theme.

If you change what you are saying, or which side of an argument you are espousing, right in the middle of dinner table conversation, you sound like a hypocrite, or maybe just an idiot.

If you change what you are saying with a story in the middle of writing it, you lose your target readership just as surely as the espouser of a Cause will lose the nodding heads at the dinner table conversation.

Again from
https://www.wired.com/story/game-of-thrones-plotters-vs-pantsers/
 blog entry:

--------quote--------
Martin planned to skip the story ahead five years. But he couldn't make the gap in action feel true to the characters or the world, so he eventually decided to write his way through those five years instead. Knowing the bridging material wasn't ever going to be as gripping as the central conflicts, he compensated by planting more seeds in more corners of his already complex world. And once he had them, he couldn't prune them back without their resolutions feeling abrupt or forced. Worse, some of his idle characters were taking the opportunity to grow in the wrong directions, pulling away from the ending he had in mind for them. Soon, the garden was overgrown, the projected length of the series kept expanding, and the books stopped coming.

For the next couple seasons, showrunners David Benioff and D. B. Weiss tried to take over management of Martin's sprawling garden, simplifying and combining character arcs with mixed results.
--------end quote-------

Trust me, read that whole blog entry to glean the context while thinking in terms of THEME.

In TV, when other writers mix in, other themes get introduced.  This tussle with Characters and Seeds, and conflicts and characters growing in the wrong direction is not dozens of different problems.  It is one problem all by itself -- loss of focus on the thematic structure.  What that world is about, is what makes a statement about this world.

Theme is the fabric that holds all those disparate characters together into a world of art that satisfies.

When opposite or oblique thematic statements are introduced, different segments of the audience become agitated, dissatisfied, disinterested, or just angry.

Study thematic structure from a philosophical point of view -- what is a human being, where do we come from, how did we get created, what is the meaning of life?

These are the kinds of questions that, when answered, form the framework of a work of art.

Changing horses in mid-stream does not lead to a work of art.

Or as this blog entry
https://www.wired.com/story/game-of-thrones-plotters-vs-pantsers/
said:

---quote-------
That's why Game of Thrones feels different now. A show that had been about our inability to escape the past became about the spectacle of the present.
----end quote------

And later, it is stated:
-----quote-----
Organic consequences gave way to contrivance. Gone was the conflict between complicated people with incompatible goals. Grey morality turned black and white.
------end quote------

The only way organic consequences give way to contrivance is when the underlying THEMATIC STRUCTURE is weakened.  Stick to your theme and you'll never write a "contrived plot twist."

Maybe you'll want to watch the whole Game of Thrones series again, or read the books it is based on, with an eye to sussing out the theme that Martin was working with that the showrunners missed.  I've done panels with Martin, and I'm telling you he understands his material on every level, even when it is his subconscious driving the action.

He is all about the charging forth into action, about strategy and tactics, but most of all force directed.

(He's also a very nice guy.)

So this very popular and easily available series is a perfect textbook example of what we've been talking about in all these blog posts.  Theme is the glue that holds it together for the reader/viewer.  Veer away from the theme driving the opening scene, and the ending fails.

------quote------
Endings invite us to consider the story as a whole; where it started, where it went, and where it left us. And we can feel the gaps as this one comes to a close.
------end quote-----

Daniel Silvermint is absolutely correct.  Think about that as you tackle your next writing project.  What is your payload?  What are you saying?  Oh, do please read Silvermint's article in Wired.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg
http://jacquelinelichtenberg.com

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Traps, Treats, Trickery, and Trolls

This week, there's no theme... beyond writers' rights. It's a smorgasbord!

Victoria Strauss posts on Writer Beware about an alleged pirate site named for osculation.
https://accrispin.blogspot.com/2019/08/kiss-library-pirate-site-alert.html

These alleged pirates behave differently from the average pirate --nicer manners-- but as with most pirates, "Reader Beware", especially if the price of a "free ebook" or a book acquired from a site that does not pay authors is your credit card info.

Following the thread of online payments, Vox Indie has a heads-up for the charitably inclined.
https://www.voxindie.org/google-tricks-search-users-to-redirect-amazon-smile-charity-donations/

Apparently, those sophisticated West Coast tech folks seem to think that charity money is fungible, and the would-be donor does not really mind if their gift intended for one charity goes to another one instead... one that pays for placement.

Just because we are all wordies here, here's a lovely, informative blog from Cecilia Watson about punctuation: the semi-colon.
https://themillions.com/2019/07/9-things-you-didnt-know-about-the-semicolon.html

And, here's a real eye opener from Bloomberg's Susan Decker and Christopher Yasiejko  for those who thought that copyleft activists such as EFF were full of it when they fulminate about copyright trolls.
https://www.bloombergquint.com/business/porn-purveyors-use-of-copyright-lawsuits-has-judges-seeing-red

Apparently, copyright trolling is --or has been-- a highly profitable thing, for a small subset of pornographers, but judges may be bringing the hammer down on the funny business.

For the very few of us who worry about whether or not we could get into trouble if our individual, single-author websites are in violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act, the legal bloggers for Buckley LLP  pen a reassuringly non-committal article.
https://buckleyfirm.com/blog/2019-08-02/senators-ask-doj-clarify-website-accessibility-under-ada#page=1

also on Lexology:
https://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=812fa517-be53-4caa-91b2-f4f0d0dd855d&utm_source=lexology+daily+newsfeed&utm_medium=html+email+-+body+-+general+section&utm_campaign=lexology+subscriber+daily+feed&utm_content=lexology+daily+newsfeed+2019-08-09&utm_term=

The DOJ quote is a fascinating example of where the double negative is alive and well, and thoroughly useful to this day.
“absent the adoption of specific technical requirements for websites through rulemaking, public accommodations have flexibility in how to comply with the ADA’s general requirements of nondiscrimination and effective communication. Accordingly, noncompliance with a specific voluntary technical standard for website accessibility does not necessarily indicate noncompliance with the ADA.”

Finally, whether you --as a writer-- decide to take on a ghostwriting gig, or whether you --as a highly successful and prolific author-- decide to hire a ghostwriter, the law has become quite precise about what qualifies a work as "work-for-hire".  You should read this Warning from Craig B. Whitney, legal blogger for the law firm Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz PC.
https://ipandmedialaw.fkks.com/post/102fowf/warning-make-sure-your-work-for-hire-agreement-is-signed-in-advance

Or, on Lexology:
https://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=bd99d2f5-7c22-421d-9bde-61c25827d776&utm_source=Lexology+Daily+Newsfeed&utm_medium=HTML+email+-+Body+-+General+section&utm_campaign=Lexology+subscriber+daily+feed&utm_content=Lexology+Daily+Newsfeed+2019-08-08&utm_term=

All the best,

Rowena Cherry 

Thursday, August 08, 2019

An Ethical Duty of Civility?

The National Conference of State Legislatures publishes a magazine called (appropriately) the STATE LEGISLATURE MAGAZINE. Their July/August 2019 issue contains an article titled, "Is There an Ethical Duty to be Civil to Our Rivals?" My spontaneous answer is, "Yes, of course, you betcha." And, indeed, one recent survey finds that 93% of Americans believe our nation has a "civility problem." So, if the vast majority of Americans think we need more civility, why do we have a shortage of it? The article points out that inflammatory remarks and "negative campaign strategies" often backfire, causing the public to react against the perpetrators of "uncivil attacks." When this kind of behavior becomes too prevalent, it not only lowers the general tone of political discourse but tends to damage "the public perception of government and public officials overall." The article does suggest, however, that sometimes a "middle ground" between civility and "extreme incendiary language"—flavoring one's assaults on the opposing position with a dash of snark—can be effective for winning support.

Granted that the past is a different country, nevertheless I feel a certain nostalgia for the historical eras—if they actually existed—when even men preparing to kill each other in duels exchanged challenges in unfailingly courteous language. It costs nothing to be polite instead of rude, and claiming the high ground makes one's opponent look worse in comparison. Does this constitute an "ethical duty"? I think so, because a pervasive attack-mode verbal culture may lead to concretely harmful actions. Ben Shapiro, by the way, makes a distinction between "inflammatory" speech (which, he acknowledges, is still wrong) and speech that actively incites to violence. This strikes me as a valid distinction in principle, but in practice it seems that drawing the line between the two would be difficult and delicate.

Maybe the unpleasantness all too prevalent in political discourse arises from a version of the Prisoners' Dilemma, which you've probably heard of. Here's the Wikipedia explanation of it:

Prisoners' Dilemma

In short (if I understand the setup correctly), the prisoners will achieve the best outcome for both of them if both behave generously. Since they aren't allowed to communicate, though, if each assumes the other will turn informer then betrayal appears to be the optimum strategy. Do politicians and pundits fear that if they're the first to act nice to their opponents, they'll place themselves in a position of weakness?

What would highly advanced extraterrestrial visitors think about the behavior of our public figures? Imagine a society like that of Vulcan, or what Vulcan at least claims to be. Its purely rational citizens would argue the merits of each controversy on logical grounds, and theoretically the discussion would reveal the obvious solution to the problem, which rational beings would naturally agree to carry out. A hive-mind species would presumably have no trouble reaching consensus quickly, because they would all have the same factual knowledge and complete access to each other's opinions and motives. Klingons, on the other hand, would probably wonder why we don't settle political disagreements through trial by combat. Now, although that wouldn't be rational, it would certainly make election campaigns more exciting while not necessarily discourteous.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

Targeting A Readership Part 15 Why Readers Feel They Have Outgrown A Genre

Targeting a Readership
Part 15
Why Readers Feel They Have Outgrown A Genre
by
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Previous parts in this series are indexed at:
https://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2013/10/index-to-targeting-readership-series-by.html

In Part 14, we noted in passing how resolving a subconscious conflict can change a reader's taste in fiction.

People grow up reading Romance genre, then just drift away once they have found their spouse.  Others, hitting hard going in marriage, drift back to reading Romance, but look for a different sort of setting, or problem or issue.

Romance novels used to serve only the young women who wanted wish-fulfillment fantasy come true.  Today's older women readers were once just such young girls, but now they want a different story.

One such popular new story is, the divorced or widowed heroine makes her own way in a tough world and becomes a kickass heroine in her own right -- then meets her Soul Mate.

Another whole panoply of stories have emerged in the Vampire Romance and other Paranormal creatures women are fascinated by.

Each of these sub-genres emerges, sells huge for years, then submerges, perhaps surviving with a smaller readership.

Why does this happen?  

As a reader (all writers are voracious readers)  you know you have times when you're not in the mood for this kind of book, but will leap into that kind.

Moods come and go, but through life the mood that predominates will shift from one kind of book to another, and yet another.

One theory seems to cover most all of the mysterious changes people undergo with age.  And it's all about Conflict.

We say that as you become old, you don't become different, but you become "more-so."  Whatever traits persist and dominate across the phases of life, from High School, to College, to first job, to Marriage, to kids, to empty-nest, become engrained, perfected, showcased as seminal to the personality.

Or put another way, every human has within both a Wolf and a Tiger fighting for their life.  Which one will win?  The one you feed the most.  It's up to you to choose which of your traits will predominate.

In other words, as we mature, the fight-to-the-death within us begins.  Everyone has an internal conflict, and as that conflict see-saws back and forth, we make irrevocable life-course choices, and sometimes have to ditch an entire decade or more of investment, and just take off in another direction.

As we wrestle with these decisions, mostly on a subconscious level, we search for clues in our real world environment, and we search for interpretations of our real world environment in our fiction.

Different genres specialize in different sorts of Conflict, but all genres of fiction focus "story" around a "conflict."

Conflict is the essence of story. 

We are fascinated by certain stories because the Conflicts that drive those stories are derived from the same Master Theme  that roils around underneath our real world lives.  There's a resonance, a harmony, that energizes the subconscious issues that discomfort us.

https://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2012/08/how-to-use-theme-in-writing-romance.html

Readers and writers discuss theme by sharing a story, walking miles in the Main Character's moccasins, and ultimately in addressing and resolving Conflict.

The fictional piece is energized and driven by a Conflict as ferocious as the conflict inside all humans.  Once fed enough, one element in that conflict will prevail, and the conflict will be over.  Peace, inner peace, and very often peace in the surrounding world will prevail.

It will prevail until a new conflict is joined, a new topic, a new problem in life.

Sometimes readers continue or resume reading a favorite genre, entertained by the predictable, reliable, firm resolution of the conflict.  But very often, readers will feel they have outgrown a genre because the conflict that genre specializes seems like something only a child or young adult would still be wrestling with.

Writers often come to writing late enough in life that they have resolved some conflicts, and experienced the peace that brings.  Such writers may want to share that peace with readers.

It doesn't work on a commercial level.  It can work with family and friends who have been associated with the writer through the fight and resolution, but it doesn't  "sell."

A personal story, a memoir, or autobiography is of interest only to those who have some knowledge of who this person is.  The main character in a world of fiction has to be introduced to the reader, all fresh and new, yet somehow familiar.

The "yet somehow familiar" (or 'give me something the same but different') part is the Conflict and the underlying theme that fires up that Conflict.

New writers, I have found, most often sidestep, duck, or ignore their Character's internal conflict.

I'm not the only one who has noticed this common issue among new writers.

Here is an excerpt from a blog I follow on Twitter about Screenwriting.

https://gointothestory.blcklst.com/the-power-of-conflict-in-storytelling-178d09105c5b

--------quote------
A few years ago, I posted this question on my blog: Why do we find conflict entertaining? The responses were fascinating and informative:


  • Conflict is interesting: In real life, we tend to socialize with likeminded people, so when we see characters in a movie who disagree, argue and fight, that is different and therefore stimulating.
  • Conflict is speaking one’s mind: In our daily lives, we often have to bite our tongue, but movie characters can give voice to things we wish we had the opportunity and courage to say.
  • Conflict involves risk: Whereas we may play it safe in our regular routines, we never know what could happen with characters involved in a conflict, an unpredictable dynamic implicit in every fight.
  • Conflict requires stakes: Characters don’t get into conflict unless there is something of importance at stake.
  • Conflict is about goals: One character wants one thing, another character wants something different.
  • Conflict is a battle of wills: There is always the question, “Who is going to win” which makes for an intriguing scenario.
  • Conflict is emotional: When characters are engaged in a struggle, it is not a mere exercise in logic, but charged up with feelings.


--------end quote-------

Notice how superficial these answers are, but every one of them would satisfy a professional Editor at a traditional publishing house.  They are not, however, useful from the writer's operational perspective to answer the question:  How do you DO THAT?

Think about each of those answers and about which sorts of Themes can best drive one of those conflict hooks.

Each of those reasons for being interested by conflict defines a Readership.

Which readership is naturally yours?

Feed the Readership you want to prevail in the real world Conflicts that are tearing you apart inside.

Ponder all that we've discussed about Theme, how to define it, how to use it, and how to blend it seamlessly, integrate it into a work of fiction to make that fiction a work of Art.

https://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2008/09/how-to-learn-to-use-theme-as-art.html

https://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2008/09/what-you-can-do-in-novel-that-you-cant.html

https://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2009/08/plot-vs-story.html

Once you have your Theme you will not be conflict-shy, pulling back or tip-toeing around a Conflict your Characters must resolve.

As you progress through life, you will evolve new Themes and new conflicts.  Literary critics define "periods" in a writer's life, and whether they know it or not, they are tracing that writer's personal resolution of personal internal conflicts.

When you're finished with a Conflict, you are finished.  You are at Peace.  And Peace is not Story.  Peace is what happens between Stories that happen to Characters.

Peace is not "Happily Ever After."  Many who disbelieve in the Happily Ever After ending think happiness is perpetual peace.  It isn't.  And that, in itself, constitutes a Theme Bundle -- an entire array of statements about reality.

If you, as a writer, want to share the experience of peace from conflict with your readers, learn to share the moment of resolution of a conflict.  That resolution-moment is the climax of your story and your plot (in the same Event, at the same moment, on the same page).  How and by what a conflict is resolved is your Theme.  The theme generates the conflict and resolves it.

Conflict isn't interesting for any of the reasons in the quoted list.  Conflict is interesting because of what/how/when it RESOLVES.  That's part of the reason viewers want a remake of Season 8 of Game of Thrones.

Here is a post on nesting Themes, creating a theme bundle that is large enough to support a long-running series (novels, TV shows, spinoffs).

https://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2011/10/believing-in-happily-ever-after-part-4.html

Jacqueline Lichtenberg
http://jacquelinelichtenberg.com

Sunday, August 04, 2019

Friendship Breach

If you are a writer (or a racing driver -- according to RUSH), it helps to have friends. But...

Writers tend to have thousands of friends of the social media kind, who, in the real world would not count even as acquaintances. With those friends come risks; unavoidable risks; exponentially compounding risks. Stay with me.

Cameron Abbott and Allison Wallace, legal bloggers for K & L Gates "Cyberwatch: Australia" explain how your name and number get into the hands of global searchable database owners.

Who Have You Been Giving Your Name And Number To? A Cautionary Tale.

You might not have signed up for this, but if any one of your friends does so, he or she or they might legally agree to give away their entire contact list and the personally identifying information for every friend on their contact list. They might not even realize that they did that.

It does not seem right, does it?
Read the cautionary tale. It is worth your time.

Some super "helpful" sites (such as LinkedIN in the early days) even made it so difficult *not* to "opt in" that a well intentioned member who mindfully tried not to share his or her or their contact list found that they had done so.

Some contact lists are more comprehensive than others.  Maybe you should check what you obediently have entered on yours in response to prompts. Do you really need the full first and last names and nicknames and home addresses and phone numbers for work, cell and home, and email addresses of everyone on your list?

Legal bloggers Thomas Dubuisson and Tom De Cordier  for CMS Belgium discuss social media plug ins, and the legal consequences for website owners (which writers are) of those Facebook "Like" buttons, and "share" and "follow" buttons, too.

Using Social Plug-Ins....

As a visitor to a site, you do not have to click a Facebook "like" button. You do not have to have a Facebook account. The mere presence of the Facebook "like" on the host's page will plant a tracking cookie on your computer, and the trustworthy people at Facebook will receive your IP address and your browsing string.

If you are a writer who runs a website (or six), and you have installed social plug-ins for likes and links and shares and social media optimization, and you have visitors from Europe and your books generate assets in Europe, you should read the CMS Belgium "Key takeaways" section.

As for this blog.... please consider yourself advised.

By the way, please note the irony: many of the legal sites writing about "Like" breaches have all the plug-ins on their pages!

Students aren't safe, either. At least 62 universities and colleges have a weak link that might reveal highly sensitive information that one has no choice at all but to provide to colleges and universities as part of the application process.

Higher Education Data Breaches.... 
or
https://www.michaelbest.com/Newsroom/216013/Higher-Education-Data-Breaches-Draw-Response-from-Federal-Agencies

Specialists in cybersecurity and privacy for universities, Michael Best & Friedrich LLP share an alert, and their seven legal bloggers point out the problem with the Ellucian Banner system.

Finally, although Congress is on recess, it is still worth encouraging your Congress person to sponsor and support the CASE Act.  Even if you do not imagine that the CASE Act is of  benefit to you, it might be.

David Newhoff explains that which EFF does not want you to know.
https://illusionofmore.com/the-people-the-case-act-critics-dont-want-to-mention/

All the best,

Rowena Cherry

Thursday, August 01, 2019

3D-Printed Organs

3D printing is now being used as an aid to cardiac surgery. The printers don't yet make actual replacement hearts. What they do is use information from ultrasound images to construct three-dimensional duplicates of patients' hearts for surgeons to practice on:

3D Print Heart Models

Here's an article about a baby in Baltimore, with a severe congenital heart defect, who's getting prepared for surgery through this method:

3D Heart Model for Toddler

This technique does, however, have the capacity to produce simpler cardiac replacement parts, in the form of 3D-printed silicone heart valves:

3D Print Heart Valves

A vital problem in growing artificial organs for transplant consists of providing them with a viable blood supply once they're implanted in the body. Creating "intricate networks of tiny blood vessels" is a major challenge. Now scientists at Rice University in Texas have made progress with "a 3D bioprinter that can print vessels less than a third of a millimeter wide in biocompatible hydrogels." They've even built an artificial lung capable of oxygenating blood:

Biggest Challenge with 3D-Printed Organs

Here's a Smithsonian article about the prospects for lab-grown and 3D-printed organs:

Printed Organs on Demand

Two obvious advantages of producing custom-made body parts on demand, of course, would be bypassing the donor shortage and avoiding any risk of rejection. Maybe in the future most of us will be cyborgs. Moreover, if such personalized replacements eventually become available to everybody, might we reach a point where people never have to die until they reach the upper limit of old age? Maybe our descendants in the near future will see the fulfillment of the biblical prophecy (paraphrased), "As the age of a tree shall the lives of my people be."

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt