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The Unapologetic Geek

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14 Things I Learned in 2014 - Page 3

I was afraid that, as the years go on, it would get harder and harder to find enough things to fill this annual blog. I'm at 2014, so I have to come up with 14 things I learned? Actually, this was an easy year. I don't even have any parenting tips for 2014, because it was just that eventful for me. I haven't separated the list the way I did last year, but there is a rough stream of consciousness to the order below, from personal to video games to publishing to politics, and know that, had I wanted to, I could have easily doubled the size of this entry.

Getting Ready to Publish is Expensive

Mr. Krabs
Not me money!

One of the very first things you learn when you get ready to publish a book is that, if you have to pay somebody to publish it, you're being scammed. If somebody is making you pay, that means they're not interested in making money off the book itself. Any publisher that does that is, at best, a vanity press, and at worst, it's a single con man leeching off the dreams of the gullible. Knowing this, though, gives you a false sense that, if you want to publish a book, the entire process should be free. That's insane. I've been circling around the publishing industry for two decades now, trying to find a way in, and I can tell you that every single avenue available to you requires money. You have to hire an editor (someone who actually edits your words, not an "editor" who is responsible for publishing), which is surprisingly pricey. Something like, say, three cents a word might not sound bad, but do the math: an average-sized book is about 100,000 words. And then you've got things like cover art, professional mark-up, marketing, etc. If you really want to do it right, you'll also need to hire an agent and a publicist, neither of which is going to give you a discount rate. The chances that you can actually turn a profit at the end of all this are so small that you might as well forget about it. So my most sincere thanks must go to my wonderful wife, for bankrolling a bet that makes Vegas odds look good.

Don't Skimp on the Proof

Road typo
Eh, good enough

So, anyway, did I mention that I finally published Paradox in 2014? Seriously. Go buy a copy today! In fact, you have my permission to forgo the rest of this blog if it means you're going to buy my novel. You can get the paperback or the Kindle edition at I told myself at the start of 2014 that the book would be published by the end of the year. It was, without question, my most ambitious New Year's resolution, so much so that I have refused to make a resolution for 2015. I succeeded, too, but that success cost me. I underestimated how long those last few steps would take, and as I approached crunch time (my deadline was to have the book available by the time our Christmas cards were out, so I could use them for shameless marketing purposes), my copy of the book's first physical proof was delayed by the traffic of holiday mail. I was able to look at a digital proof to confirm the cover looked good and the typesetting was okay and all that, but I was foolish enough to believe that, since the book had been proofread and edited more times than I have fingers and toes, there wouldn't be any significant typos or errors. So I approved the proof without ever seeing the physical book, which was a mistake. I'm not saying the final product was bad, but when I finally got around to reading through my proof copy, I found several typos, a few misplaced commas and spacing errors, and one glaring continuity error that caused me physical pain to discover. The vast majority of readers aren't going to really notice these problems or judge me for them, but dammit, I wanted my book to be perfect. The good news is that I fixed every problem I found and quietly updated the book to a second edition. If you order the book today, you will get the final product I should have published to begin with, had I not been in such a hurry. For my second book, I will not publish it until I've had a chance to hold a physical proof in my hands and read through it. Oh hey, by the way, buy Paradox!

Facts Don't Alter Strong Opinions


I live uncomfortably close to Ferguson, Missouri, where riots went on for at least a month concerning the grand jury's decision not to indict a white police officer for shooting and killing an unarmed black teenager. It started with protests--with people carrying placards demanding "justice" for the slain teen--and those who were the most vehement were arguing that nothing less than a full prosecution of the officer would do. The thing is, that's not how "justice" works. "Justice" is concerned with evidence, with the law, and with the system in place. "Justice" is blind. In "justice," a person is innocent until proven guilty. When the grand jury released the evidence it used to reach its decision not to indict, do you know how many people's opinions were changed by it? None. Not a single person changed his or her mind because of the evidence. They had already reached a decision about an event they did not personally witness and had decided that they knew what was "just" and what was "unjust." The protesters--and the rioters that followed them--were not interested in "justice"; they were only interested in revenge.

Congress Has Completely Abdicated its Authority

The one thing they're really good at: recess

Over the years, Congress has been growing more and more irrelevant. Every year, Congress passes laws that grant legislative powers to executive agencies that didn't even exist until recently. It has also lazily given up its power of the purse through the "omnibus budget." Never has Congress' growing irrelevance been more apparent than now, when the United States President is brazenly exercizing his executive authority through acts that are arguably extra-constitutional. His defenders like to say he's passed fewer Executive Orders than past presidents, but they ignore how many times he's signed memoranda that tell his agencies to do extraordinary things that would be too bold for your average Executive Order. I'm not blaming the president here--one of the foundational ideas of our country is that power always seeks to grow itself and must therefore be checked and balanced--but I am totally blaming Congress. Republicans are upset that nobody could stop the president when he announced his unilateral plans for amnesty, but what could Congress really do? If they exercized the power of the purse during the omnibus process, who do you think the people would have blamed for the inevitable government shutdown? Add to that the mockery they made of the impeachment process during the Clinton years, which effectively took that power away from them for many decades at least, and you can start to see the problem here. The president is almost a dictator at this point, and a disturbingly large proportion of the Congress seems okay with it. They even signed letters to the president urging him to go it alone on things like immigration. We are witnessing the decline and fall of our constitutional order, and those who recognize this fact are openly ridiculed.

We Are Becoming a Nation of Cowards

Charlie Hebdo cover
By posting this image, I am officially braver than The New York Times

As I write this, the world is reeling over a terrorist attack in Paris in which at least twelve people were gunned down over a disagreement about publishing satirical images of Mohammed. This should only reinforce our resolve when it comes to defending free speech on a cultural level, especially speech we find offensive or indelicate. Unfortunately, we seem to be going in the opposite direction. Whether it's Hollywood caving (and then half-heartedly uncaving after public outrage) to cyber-attacks and blackmail allegedly sparked by the disdain of a North Korean dictator over a stupid movie, people in academia being forced to avoid everyday words like "violate" because they might be traumatic "triggers," news outlets preaching to us about the need to stick up for free speech while simultaneously refusing to show the drawings that have sparked the attack in France, or colleges cowing to constant pressure to disinvite commencement speakers who might be considered controversial by a vocal minority, there are hundreds of examples out there of how we are less interested in defending free speech than we are in making sure nobody nowhere can get offended by what we say. For a nation that is constantly patting itself on the back for its moral courage in having a First Amendment, it's stunning how afraid we are to exercise and defend the freedom it protects.

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-e. magill 1/9/2015

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