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Westworld: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

westworld

I am loving Westworld thus far into episode two.  So many questions!

These are questions both new and old, the latter due to my currently wizened state and my recalling of the original work from 1973 by Michael Crichton.  Does anyone else remember Yul Brynner with his rubber face peeled off?

Anyhow, the one thing that has me pulling at my chin hairs is related to the character known as Teddy.  Yes, there are other questions, but they will come later.

We initially saw Teddy entering Westworld in the opening sequence as a guest, listening to the banter of other patrons while wistfully gazing at the panoramic landscape of mesas and canyons as his train whisked past the window’s view.  But then, with the help of the Man in Black played by Ed Harris, Teddy met an unfortunate demise due to his ineffectual ammo against said robot that is apparently immune to gunfire.

Ignoring everything else (and a lot is going on here) in episode two, Teddy appears sidled up against the bar in the local whorehouse.  He’s in one scene where he chirps an ineffectual line; and then in his next scene, he chirps again and is perfunctorily shot to a bloody death by a guest with a just a wee bit of whoop and hollerin’ while the rest of the onlookers remain oddly stoic.

But that’s not the weird thing here… for me at least.

What’s weird to me is that the robots of Westworld seem to have memories, while some of the newcomers keep picking up soup cans for Dolores in hopes to find whatever quasi-robot love that Westworld may have to offer.  Dolores apparently has some skeletal dreams in her closet to boot!

So are robot’s memories based on people’s past lives?  Was Terry once a human?  Was he turned into a robot at some point?  Do androids dream of electric sheep?

WTF?  Seriously, WTF?!

Designated Survivor False Flag?

designated-survivor

I’ve been watching the new TV series, Designated Survivor, starring Kiefer Sutherland, which just began a couple weeks ago. So far, it’s pretty good; however, I’m already smelling the huge hint of a false flag operation in play here.

While I could be wrong, this could be a plot point very similar to what transpired in FALSE POSITIVES.  I’ll say no more on that bit to avoid spoilers.

What is a false flag? In short, it’s a diversionary tactic used as a red herring to make it look like an operation or event has been carried out by some group other than has actually done the deed.

Wikipedia has this to say about false flags. There are many other sources on the topic.  The group at #infowars, while frankly a band of hyped-up, sensationalist, mouth-frothing lunatics (IMHO), have some interesting opinions that take conspiracy theory to levels worthy of the next action thriller.

Maggie Q’s character, FBI Agent Hannah Wells, has caught the scent, but the gravitas of the catastrophe has everyone looking for the quickest conclusion (i.e scapegoat) to soothe America’s soul rather than being 100% sure about the whole thing.

Will President Kirkman be forced to pull the trigger on an unsure target, or will cooler heads prevail?

I am staying tuned.  Will you?

Orwell had it right in 1984

Big BrotherThere’s a revived interest in Orwellian fiction trending in light of the recent government-spying flap.

It’s funny; as I’ve had a few readers recently ask me how books sales where doing since Edward Snowden decided turn whistleblower on the NSA.   “You couldn’t ask for better advertising!” one added gleefully.

The core themes of FALSE POSITIVES are firmly rooted in non-fiction.  Much of the story was inspired by material that can be found on the book’s research page.

The neat thing is that striking similarities between the story and real life continue to emerge as time goes on.  For example, Burns & Lynch, the consultancy that employs the protagonist pretty much is Booz Allen Hamilton.  The data-mining concepts behind PRISM (and its ancestors) are the same things that went into the creation of the story’s omniscient (and homicidal) computer system, Junior.

Obama Reads False Positives

I find it wonderful that readers are seeing the connections and reaching out to share their support, as I believe these are important topics for us all.  Most of all, I’m loving the renewed interest in FALSE POSITIVES, and I hope the story will be able to reach more readers who value their personal freedoms and understand that there is always a trade-off between security and freedom.  I love my readers and thank them for spreading the word!

Markup: HTML Tags and Formatting

Headings

Header one

Header two

Header three

Header four

Header five
Header six

Blockquotes

Single line blockquote:

Stay hungry. Stay foolish.

Multi line blockquote with a cite reference:

The HTML <blockquote> Element (or HTML Block Quotation Element) indicates that the enclosed text is an extended quotation. Usually, this is rendered visually by indentation (see Notes for how to change it). A URL for the source of the quotation may be given using the cite attribute, while a text representation of the source can be given using the <cite> element.

multiple contributors – MDN HTML element reference – blockquote

Tables

EmployeeSalary
John Doe$1Because that’s all Steve Jobs needed for a salary.
Jane Doe$100KFor all the blogging she does.
Fred Bloggs$100MPictures are worth a thousand words, right? So Jane x 1,000.
Jane Bloggs$100BWith hair like that?! Enough said…

Definition Lists

Definition List Title
Definition list division.
Startup
A startup company or startup is a company or temporary organization designed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model.
#dowork
Coined by Rob Dyrdek and his personal body guard Christopher “Big Black” Boykins, “Do Work” works as a self motivator, to motivating your friends.
Do It Live
I’ll let Bill O’Reilly will explain this one.

Unordered Lists (Nested)

  • List item one
    • List item one
      • List item one
      • List item two
      • List item three
      • List item four
    • List item two
    • List item three
    • List item four
  • List item two
  • List item three
  • List item four

Ordered List (Nested)

  1. List item one -start at 8
    1. List item one
      1. List item one -reversed attribute
      2. List item two
      3. List item three
      4. List item four
    2. List item two
    3. List item three
    4. List item four
  2. List item two
  3. List item three
  4. List item four

HTML Tags

These supported tags come from the WordPress.com code FAQ.

Address Tag

1 Infinite Loop
Cupertino, CA 95014
United States

Anchor Tag (aka. Link)

This is an example of a link.

Abbreviation Tag

The abbreviation srsly stands for “seriously”.

Acronym Tag (deprecated in HTML5)

The acronym ftw stands for “for the win”.

Big Tag (deprecated in HTML5)

These tests are a big deal, but this tag is no longer supported in HTML5.

Cite Tag

“Code is poetry.” —Automattic

Code Tag

This tag styles blocks of code.
.post-title {
margin: 0 0 5px;
font-weight: bold;
font-size: 38px;
line-height: 1.2;
and here's a line of some really, really, really, really long text, just to see how it is handled and to find out how it overflows;
}

You will learn later on in these tests that word-wrap: break-word;will be your best friend.

Delete Tag

This tag will let you strike out text, but this tag is recommended supported in HTML5 (use the <s> instead).

Emphasize Tag

The emphasize tag should italicize text.

Horizontal Rule Tag


This sentence is following a <hr /> tag.

Insert Tag

This tag should denote inserted text.

Keyboard Tag

This scarcely known tag emulates keyboard text, which is usually styled like the <code> tag.

Preformatted Tag

This tag is for preserving whitespace as typed, such as in poetry or ASCII art.

The Road Not Taken

Robert Frost Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both (\_/) And be one traveler, long I stood (='.'=) And looked down one as far as I could (")_(") To where it bent in the undergrowth; Then took the other, as just as fair, And having perhaps the better claim, |\_/| Because it was grassy and wanted wear; / @ @ \ Though as for that the passing there ( > º < ) Had worn them really about the same, `>>x<<´ / O \ And both that morning equally lay In leaves no step had trodden black. Oh, I kept the first for another day! Yet knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back. I shall be telling this with a sigh Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference. and here's a line of some really, really, really, really long text, just to see how it is handled and to find out how it overflows;

Quote Tag for short, inline quotes

Developers, developers, developers... --Steve Ballmer

Strike Tag (deprecated in HTML5) and S Tag

This tag shows strike-through text.

Small Tag

This tag shows smaller text.

Strong Tag

This tag shows bold text.

Subscript Tag

Getting our science styling on with H2O, which should push the "2" down.

Superscript Tag

Still sticking with science and Isaac Newton's E = MC2, which should lift the 2 up.

Teletype Tag (obsolete in HTML5)

This rarely used tag emulates teletype text, which is usually styled like the <code> tag.

Underline Tag deprecated in HTML 4, re-introduced in HTML5 with other semantics

This tag shows underlined text.

Variable Tag

This allows you to denote variables.

Markup: Image Alignment

Welcome to image alignment! The best way to demonstrate the ebb and flow of the various image positioning options is to nestle them snuggly among an ocean of words. Grab a paddle and let’s get started.

On the topic of alignment, it should be noted that users can choose from the options of None, Left, Right, and Center. In addition, they also get the options of Thumbnail, Medium, Large & Fullsize.

Image Alignment 580x300

The image above happens to be centered.

Image Alignment 150x150The rest of this paragraph is filler for the sake of seeing the text wrap around the 150×150 image, which is left aligned.

As you can see the should be some space above, below, and to the right of the image. The text should not be creeping on the image. Creeping is just not right. Images need breathing room too. Let them speak like you words. Let them do their jobs without any hassle from the text. In about one more sentence here, we’ll see that the text moves from the right of the image down below the image in seamless transition. Again, letting the do it’s thang. Mission accomplished!

And now for a massively large image. It also has no alignment.

Image Alignment 1200x400

The image above, though 1200px wide, should not overflow the content area. It should remain contained with no visible disruption to the flow of content.

Image Alignment 300x200

And now we’re going to shift things to the right align. Again, there should be plenty of room above, below, and to the left of the image. Just look at him there… Hey guy! Way to rock that right side. I don’t care what the left aligned image says, you look great. Don’t let anyone else tell you differently.

In just a bit here, you should see the text start to wrap below the right aligned image and settle in nicely. There should still be plenty of room and everything should be sitting pretty. Yeah… Just like that. It never felt so good to be right.

And just when you thought we were done, we’re going to do them all over again with captions!

Image Alignment 580x300
Look at 580×300 getting some caption love.

The image above happens to be centered. The caption also has a link in it, just to see if it does anything funky.

Image Alignment 150x150
Itty-bitty caption.

The rest of this paragraph is filler for the sake of seeing the text wrap around the 150×150 image, which is left aligned.

As you can see the should be some space above, below, and to the right of the image. The text should not be creeping on the image. Creeping is just not right. Images need breathing room too. Let them speak like you words. Let them do their jobs without any hassle from the text. In about one more sentence here, we’ll see that the text moves from the right of the image down below the image in seamless transition. Again, letting the do it’s thang. Mission accomplished!

And now for a massively large image. It also has no alignment.

Image Alignment 1200x400
Massive image comment for your eyeballs.

The image above, though 1200px wide, should not overflow the content area. It should remain contained with no visible disruption to the flow of content.

Image Alignment 300x200
Feels good to be right all the time.

And now we’re going to shift things to the right align. Again, there should be plenty of room above, below, and to the left of the image. Just look at him there… Hey guy! Way to rock that right side. I don’t care what the left aligned image says, you look great. Don’t let anyone else tell you differently.

In just a bit here, you should see the text start to wrap below the right aligned image and settle in nicely. There should still be plenty of room and everything should be sitting pretty. Yeah… Just like that. It never felt so good to be right.

And that’s a wrap, yo! You survived the tumultuous waters of alignment. Image alignment achievement unlocked! One last thing: The last item in this post’s content is a thumbnail floated right. Make sure any elements after the content are clearing properly.

Markup: Text Alignment

Default

This is a paragraph. It should not have any alignment of any kind. It should just flow like you would normally expect. Nothing fancy. Just straight up text, free flowing, with love. Completely neutral and not picking a side or sitting on the fence. It just is. It just freaking is. It likes where it is. It does not feel compelled to pick a side. Leave him be. It will just be better that way. Trust me.

Left Align

This is a paragraph. It is left aligned. Because of this, it is a bit more liberal in it’s views. It’s favorite color is green. Left align tends to be more eco-friendly, but it provides no concrete evidence that it really is. Even though it likes share the wealth evenly, it leaves the equal distribution up to justified alignment.

Center Align

This is a paragraph. It is center aligned. Center is, but nature, a fence sitter. A flip flopper. It has a difficult time making up its mind. It wants to pick a side. Really, it does. It has the best intentions, but it tends to complicate matters more than help. The best you can do is try to win it over and hope for the best. I hear center align does take bribes.

Right Align

This is a paragraph. It is right aligned. It is a bit more conservative in it’s views. It’s prefers to not be told what to do or how to do it. Right align totally owns a slew of guns and loves to head to the range for some practice. Which is cool and all. I mean, it’s a pretty good shot from at least four or five football fields away. Dead on. So boss.

Justify Align

This is a paragraph. It is justify aligned. It gets really mad when people associate it with Justin Timberlake. Typically, justified is pretty straight laced. It likes everything to be in it’s place and not all cattywampus like the rest of the aligns. I am not saying that makes it better than the rest of the aligns, but it does tend to put off more of an elitist attitude.

Markup: Title With Special Characters

Putting special characters in the title should have no adverse effect on the layout or functionality.

Special characters in the post title have been known to cause issues with JavaScript when it is minified, especially in the admin when editing the post itself (ie. issues with metaboxes, media upload, etc.).

Latin Character Tests

This is a test to see if the fonts used in this theme support basic Latin characters.

!#$%&()*
+,./01234
56789:;>=<
?@ABCDEFGH
IJKLMNOPQR
STUVWXYZ[\
]^_`abcdef
ghijklmnop
qrstuvwxyz
{|}~

Why Reader Reviews are More Important Than Ever

fake-amazon-reviews1It has been said that authors live and die by reviews.  Nowadays, in the heat of the self-publishing revolution, this is truer than ever.  ePublishing has ushered in the beginnings of a paradigm shift, where readers are becoming the new gatekeepers of the publishing industry.  Well, maybe not the gatekeepers—more like the caretakers—as they are definitely more visibly involved in a book’s ranking.  Reader reviews such as those on Amazon (and other sites) are becoming true indicators of not only popularity but also quality.

That said; there is no denying that the marketing machines behind the major publishing houses still reign in mighty ways.  A press release for a new book coming out from Random House, for example, still has significantly more impact than an indie author tweeting about their blog tour.  There are sure to be advertisements and reviews found in the major newspapers both funded and managed by the large publishers.  Ignoring shelf space in bookstores, which is still a huge chunk of the market, we’re much more likely to see well-funded marketing efforts online with lots of “above the fold” placement for new “big six” releases too.  When we see this, it really exemplifies the black hole of publicity that most writers find themselves struggling to escape.  It is very hard to get even a little attention paid to the self-published book, regardless of the effort and expense the author may put into marketing it.  The industry is simply not yet geared to allow an easy sharing of limelight with traditionally published authors, and this will continue to be the case for the foreseeable future it would seem.

This is why reader reviews are so important for the indie writer.  While it’s obvious that there is a lot of “five star fluffing” happening, it’s my contention that with enough “thoughtful” reviews, a book will stand out as being worth a try for most readers.  On a side note, thanks to the advent of the eReader, free samples make trying a new author completely risk free, and that’s a good thing.  At the end of the day, the hope is that with enough reviews, visibility increases.  If the reviews are stellar, a book might even get selected as an Amazon Editor’s Pick, which is like a shot of recognition in the arm for the aspiring indie writer.

The problem is, as I see it, that it’s a real challenge for indie writers to get enough reviews to actually stand out among the established crowd.  If we take a look at some Amazon top sellers, we can see that Fifty Shades of Grey has ~7500 reviews right now.  Hunger Games has ~8000.  Interestingly, their star weightings are very different with FSoG having ~40% of its ratings composed from 1-3 star reviews (these are considered “critical,” or not-positive, according to Amazon), and HG’s 1-3 star ratings composing only 10% of its total reviews.

50shits1

I think this is interesting because it somewhat underscores the concept that “any news is good news.”  Or it may just be that there are quite a few people impassioned enough about how bad they think FSoG is that they feel compelled to express it.  Anyhow, what I’m saying is that indie authors will be hard pressed to ever see these kinds of numbers.  Even the legendary J.A. Konrath’s Amazon reviews are measured in tens (mostly) and hundreds (a few), not thousands.

So what can the indie writer do?  Well, the first—and all-important thing—to do, IMHO, is to keep writing.  Not just because that’s what we love to do, but also because the more books one has out on the market, the more one’s chances for visibility increases.  It’s a well-known fact that Konrath has written a *lot* of books, and I believe that his large catalogue contributes significantly to his sales figures.

The second thing, I think, is to get a little bold and actually start asking for reviews.  I mean, I don’t think it can hurt as long as you’re not coming across as a pushy twit.  While it might feel smarmy to some, I’m pretty sure many readers don’t understand the impact that their review will have, especially for indies.  I also believe that if they did, they’d probably care enough—provided they liked or disliked a book/author enough—to take the 5-10 minutes (or 5-10 seconds on Goodreads, which is a great site for readers, btw) out of their life to help be a part of the indie publishing movement.  The fact is that there are quite a few great indie writers out there, and without the help of reader reviews they are likely to remain undiscovered amongst the ever-increasing torrent of self-published works.

I know that as a reader, before I ever published a book, I never even thought of leaving a review on Amazon for a book I’d read.  Even after publishing FALSE POSITIVES, I still have to feel fairly passionate (good or bad) about a traditionally published book for me to take the time to review it; however, when I read a novel from an self-published author, I am more likely to leave a review, because I know it counts more for those without a power-house marketing machine promoting their work.

In some ways, reader reviews are the only “real” advertising an indie author has that’s worth a salt.  Reader reviews are, in fact, a form of “word of mouth” marketing, and that’s the real power of the reader.  The more readers that come to learn this, the better off the self-publishing eco-system will be.  As a direct result of a more participative readership, more new authors will get discovered, more great authors will receive well-deserved praise, and a lot of not-so-good work will get justifiably punished.

It’s kind of like Darwinism if you think about it, where only the “fittest” writers shall survive, and I think that is a very healthy environment for both readers and writers.  Yet I fear the indie movement will continue to thrive only if participative readership continues to increase and more and more readers come to understand their importance.  After all, for whom do we write other than ourselves?  We write for the reader, and that’s why their reviews are more important than ever.


If you have enjoyed reading FALSE POSITIVES and have a little time, please leave a review on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, the iBookstore, or wherever you got it.  Your support is most appreciated.  Every little bit helps!