lessons learned from working with an editor

First of all, here is the post

I have now written my second ever guest post. In exchange for a piece about the afterlife on cafephilos, I got the opportunity to have someone else edit my work. I think this is important for my development as a writer and look forward to working with many more editors. To those that have already reached out, don’t worry, I have a list and content will be coming your way soon.

I would like to reflect on what I have learnt from having someone edit one of my posts and share what I have learnt.

Keep paragraphs short, as people tend to glaze over when reading a wall of text, especially as there is so much content to choose from.

here is an example of what I had.

Especially when I was younger, I thought the idea of an afterlife was a great idea. I guess because it was sold to me on the proviso that you get what you want in heaven. As someone, who at the time thought of school as a chore, It seemed like being able to do what I wanted was a small price to pay for all the hoops that would need to be jumped through. As usual, with age comes wisdom, and that wisdom has given me doubts about how good eternal bliss would be, and ask a few questions as to the practicalities of such a location.’

After editing.

When I was younger, I thought an afterlife was a great idea. I was told that you get what you want in heaven. I guess that’s what sold me on it. It seemed like being able to do whatever I wanted to do was a small price to pay for all the hoops that I would need to jump through.

But as usual, with age came wisdom, and wisdom has given me doubts about how good eternal bliss would be. I nowadays ask a few questions about the practicalities of such a location.’

Be concise.

With the aid of a human editor, the wheat was separated from the chaff. My sentences were overly wordy. Why say something you can say in two words in ten words. I had already read this, but seeing it in the flesh really hit the idea home. Why must I always learn the hard way?

In a few weeks, I may post the original, so you can see for yourselves the difference between my work and mine and Paul’s work.

Final thoughts, and advice to people who want to write guest posts.

Depending on whom you’re writing for, the more freedom you will get to write in your own voice. When writing for cafephilos, my copy kept the essence of its original character, which is a delight. However, when working with the British Nutrition Foundation, there was a lot more editing as they had a very strict style that they wanted to present. Eventually, it became to have to keep editing and I became sick of the article, I let them do what they want with it.

So, the take-home message is to know who you’re writing for, this may save you some time. When deciding to do a guest post, take the writing style of the publication into consideration and decide if you can be bothered to conform!

I will leave you with one last thing, do you think this line was cut after the edit?

 

Of course not, that is why Christmas was outlawed in the year 2020 when it was considered too degrading of moral fibre. Okay, enough with the pretentious meta-textual self-aware shit.’

find out here

 

 

 

 

 

 

Religion and Spirituality

When I was younger it seemed that religion was the default setting that we were programmed with; this is a view I no longer have. As soon as someone told me that God ruled everything, I asked ‘who made God?’

I have never been given a suitable answer to this question. In fact, I have only ever been given two answers; the first is: ‘He has always been there’. The second, ‘we cannot know’.

The first of these answers is insane, and I am not sure how absent-minded you have to be to swallow that without hesitation. The second is more compelling, although it is more dangerous.

The reason I say it is more dangerous is that there are people who claim to know about God, and these people have real power over you in the only Universe we can be sure exists. They say they know what ‘God’ wants and command us to do what ‘God’ says, whether it is to mutilate our children’s genitals or my personal favourite commandment, the tenth. Not only is keeping up with the Jones’ a sure fire way to remain in debt to the man, but it is also a sin. It would seem marketing is even eviler than I thought.

‘You must not be envious of your neighbour’s goods. You shall not be envious of his house nor his wife, nor anything that belongs to your neighbour.’

Shortly after this, I heard about the ‘Big Bang’. My question was almost precisely the same ‘what was there before the Big Bang?’ The only answer I have been given to this is ‘ We cannot know’. The difference is, with the Big Bang, the numbers add up, and those numbers tell us that the universe is roughly 14 billion years ago.

When I was a teenager, I started to ask my peers if they believed in a God. Most of them did not. In my family it is only my grandmother that believes in any form of spirituality; I don’t know precisely what her beliefs are, but she does believe in heaven. I was lucky not to have anyone’s beliefs thrust upon me: I was allowed to think for myself.

Since I have learned that there are people that do believe there is some supernatural being or an entire supervisory Justice-Leagueesque team of supervisors, I have been interested in why people believe this answer.

I have never heard an argument for the existence of anything supernatural where you do not have to make big leaps in imagination and except things because someone else says so. It is not often in my discipline that I come across anyone willing to believe; whenever I do come across them, they are never above average regarding their ability to use their initiative.

If you’re willing to believe a negative, because you cannot disprove a negative then you must surely think the following. There is a tiny invisible, undetectable penguin that accompanies each of us around. If you cannot prove me wrong, it must be true.

I will write about life after death in my next post, but before we depart ways, I will leave you with one final thought.

There are estimated to be 4200 different religions I believe in zero, and therefore I believe in zero percent. If you do believe in one, you believe in 0.0002% of religions. Of all the different God’s that have been dreamed up by humans which is well more than 100,000, what are the chances the one you believe in is correct?

P.S –  The term atheist… Do you think it is stupid as I do? After all, why do you need a word to say you do not believe in something? I don’t have a word for my non-belief in the penguin I previously mentioned, should I have?

Why I don’t think I will be a successful scientist

I have been comparing myself to established scientists within my field, and without exception, the result of my comparison leaves me thinking that I do not want to be like any of those people. I suspect this is mostly my naivety clouding my opinion, but there is a vital component to being a scientist which I currently do not care for. The essential component is producing papers and hustling to get noticed by the relative popularity of these papers. A lot of what you read in a paper is not crucial and usually is only there because publishers want a specific style to differentiate their journal from the others – classic business behaviour. I have extremely low motivation to try and get good at producing papers, and this is why I do not think I will be a good scientist. I have been pondering this for a while, and when I was re-reading Thinking Fast and Slow, I spotted these few sentences which, of course, resonated.

I have yet to meet a successful scientist who lacks the ability to exaggerate the importance of what he or she is doing, and I believe that someone who lacks a delusional sense of significance will wilt in the face of repeated experiences of multiple small failures are rare successes, the fate of most researchers”.

Daniel Kahneman – Thinking Fast and Slow, page 264.

Ninety-percent of the time when I talk to my colleagues, they will be the one talking about their project. It is not that I do not enjoy my project, because I do, it is because I rarely feel the need to tell people what I am doing. I would rather talk to them about non-work related stuff; I found this lack of wanting to show-off about my project even more pronounced when I went on a residential course with lots of other students. I was a shoulder to cry/climb on for people to moan and brag about their projects. I preferred to talk about them and get to know them. I love the problem-solving part of my project, the rest of it I could easily delegate to someone else if the option was available. I suspect if I had a big ego, or I had been damaged in some way so that I had this burning desire to prove the demons in my head wrong; I would be on a mad crusade to reach the top. Luckily for me, or maybe unluckily I do not have the ego or desire.

Reflecting on what I have said so far, I assume my thoughts will be a lot different in five years. I think this as my goals have changed drastically over the years, and I have no inclination that this trend won’t continue. I also realise that you could probably apply my particular dilemma to a lot of different disciplines, so I hope it has not been too narrow!

 

World class procrastination – FIFA world cup

A sporting event has got in the way of me writing a post this week, and it was for a sport I don’t usually care about. However, this world cup has felt different, I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it did feel different. Looking through social media, it seems everyone other English-man/woman seems to feel the same.

A sporting event has got in the way of me writing a post this week, and it was for a sport I don’t usually care about. However, this world cup has felt different, I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it did feel different. Looking through social media, it seems everyone other English-man/woman seems to feel the same.

Usually, I have little respect for football, amongst many things, the player’s attitudes towards fair play have been a problem for me. I guess this a side effect of the ridiculous salaries and pressure; however, it might be the culture. I used to be very keen on the game until rugby came into my life around age twelve, since that day I have been a rugby fan – as an aside we found out today that we did not get tickets to the rugby world cup in Japan, it has been a sad day for English sport, and my spectating of it.

Anyway, I really enjoyed the atmosphere that has been hanging in the air around the country this year and based on history; It will not happen again until I am in my mid-50s. I have seen one world cup victory for rugby, but I am uncertain as to whether I will witness a win in football, I indeed won’t hold my breath, but you will want to be in England if it does happen as I imagine it will be the biggest party the country has ever seen no exaggeration.

I hope you all had an enjoyable evening and good luck to France and Croatia in the final.

Marriage is a fine institution, but I’m not ready for an institution.

I feel as if I have to give some pre-amble to this post as I think it will trigger quite a few people. Please try and have an open mind about the following subject as I find people will defend their positions very strongly without the use of facts.

The reason, I have felt the need to have a warning, is that once upon a time on a Humanist forum, marriage was being debated. I asked why people want to get married, and one guy was very angry, I must have triggered him, and even though I was very respectable, he did not relent. I do not want that to happen here.

If you want to learn about humanist views on marriage go here.

The delicate subject is marriage. My position is quite contrary, but I believe people should do what they want, so without further ado.

To set the scene, I am a 27-year-old male, that has been in a relationship for seven years almost to the week. My parents have been married for around 29 years, and are still going strong, and both my grandparents have been married 50+ years. So I do not have any close negative experiences of marriage. Up until I started to educate myself, around the age of 20, I had assumed that I would end up getting married, because that is what you do, right?

Currently, in the UK, anyone can get married to anyone, providing you’re over 16, not already married, and not closely related. If you’re under 18, you have to have your parents permission. Only same-sex couples can form a civil partnership, which I find the most strange of all the laws. For more information go here.

Now that I have set the scene, I can state my opinion on the subject. I personally do not see the appeal of marriage or civil partnerships – for the remainder of this article, I will just refer to marriage. I am not religious; this has been the case since I found about the big bang. No one could provide me with an answer to the question ‘where did God come from’, and since then, it was not a satisfactory worldview for me. Seeing as I am not religious there is no doctrine telling me whom and how I should love, in short, I can think for myself. This rules out one of the main reasons to marry. I am not aware of any religions that do not have some sort of marriage ceremony.

The second reason as to why I do not wish to be married is that I do not need to bind our houses for the security of the realm for centuries to come. Okay, that was a bit flippant, but it contains some truth in it. Until recently, the abstract concept of love had nothing to do with marriage. It was simply a way of making alliances and increasing labour forces. ‘How can I attack you now you’re family. It has been known that in some cultures that parents married one child to the spirit of a deceased child in order to strengthen family bonds! I am sure that system wasn’t abused…
So, there is no pressure for me and my partner to join families, as I imagine is the case for the vast majority of the western world, and there is another reason as to why I don’t need it.

When asked, some people cite the fact that you get tax breaks as a reason to get married. My response to this is: ‘How many years do you have to be married to gain back the money you spent on the wedding?’ My guess is that you do not get the money back. The average length of a marriage is 11 years, and the average wedding costs ~ £27,000, and the maximum you can save due to tax breaks is £238. Therefore, you will be, on average, £2000 a year worse off for the length of your marriage. Don’t get me started on the ring. So, there goes the economic argument. I have not even factored in the cost of divorce…

This last argument is the most convincing to me, and I suspect it is for most people. Marry someone because you love them. Well, sure, I have seen the adverts and the propaganda from the industry that is marriage. An absolutely massive industry by the way. And I do ‘Love’ my girlfriend, whatever that word means, but I do not feel the need to apply to the exam board, that is the government to validate this ‘love’. I would not feel any different towards my partner if I were to marry her. This has been corroborated by all the people I have asked about this, which is a large number of people as I am fascinated by why people get married. Mostly the response is: ‘it is just what you do’. When I ask my partner, her response is always: ‘ I just think it is nice’. My response is normally related to the return on investment as any increases in happiness will regress to baseline over time.

I know my happiness with her will not increase as I am already happy with her; if I have learnt anything from my education it is that hedonic adaptation comes for us all. After a period of time, this new level of happiness becomes the new normal, and marriage becomes as mundane as any other certificate you have received throughout your life. The joy from achieving a first class honours degree in the sciences wore off within a week. This regression toward the mean with respect to happiness Is never mentioned before you get married, all you hear are the jokes about the old ball and chain. For these reasons I do not think it is ‘worth’ the money; After all, you can’t shelter from the elements in a marriage.
My guess as to what people will say about this is that you will probably think that ‘I got married because I wanted to and didn’t really think about it’. I hope, dear reader, that you can convince me that marriage is a good idea. I do not believe you can do it, and you will have to use logic as I won’t listen to any hedonistic nonsense on the subject.

I will cover my views on Love in another post, but I suspect it will come from a utilitarian, biological, educated point of view.

Please, let me know why you got married, and If it was for a reason, I have not covered. Please do not, just give a negative comment unrelated to what I have been writing about in this post.

 

Marriage is a fine institution, but I’m not ready for an institution – Mae West

 

If you want to read about marriage from a different perspective – someone living in the east and with a talent for writing – look at this blog! It is very good.

On time or of time, or simply, time?

Of all the ideas and concepts that I have encountered, nothing confused and enthuses me more than time. It is a concept I have trouble understanding, so explaining my views will be difficult. I will try anyway.

For the day-to-day experience of life, it seems that time is an Inherent force like gravity or electromagnetism. For me at least it was somewhat unintuitive to find out that it is not. It is a man-made system to keep track of things that are important such as how long until it gets dark, and how long until it is winter, so we can stockpile a sufficient amount of food. I wonder what a world would look like where clocks or time were not invented?  If clocks were not invented or any other measure to standardise the processes that occur in the expanding universe, you would still age as ageing is just the sum of all the processes that occur within your body, but there would be nothing to compare it against.

It just so happens that these processes occur over a period which we have standardised as time, in the UK it is 30,660 rotations of the earth on average (84 years). The thing is, if the universe stopped moving and therefore, the standard by which we measure time stopped, we would still age, and ‘time’ would still tick by. If you’re anything like me, time is one of those subjects that you find hard to grasp. If you’re unlike me you’re either an expert when it comes to physics, or you do not think about time at all, and due to common sense, most people are in the latter group.

We, humans, change our standards of time depending on the seasons. We do not age a negative hour when the turn the clocks back, the results if that were true, would be very interesting. So the concept of time is quite fluid as it stands.

There are many phrases and quotes related to time, here are a few I like.

Time is the most valuable thing a man can spend – Theophrastus.

The future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is – C.S. Lewis.

Men talk of killing time, while time quietly kills them – Dion Boucicault.

The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once – Albert Einstein.

 

Here is a thought of my own. If time = distance / speed. If you have no reference points to measure speed or distance by – say you’re in a void – does time pass? My answer would be that time doesn’t exist in this question, but you will still age…over ti…

It is this last quote by Einstein that both disturbs and enthrals me. I know from reading, not from understanding, that time is relative; meaning that it changes at different rates depending on the observer. Once you divorce the idea of time being absolute, which I find difficult, it is easier to understand how clocks travelling at different speeds can tick at different times relative to the observer; just as a ball will have different relative speeds when thrown at two different starting speeds. Imagine you’re standing next to a road you see a car drive past, and the kid sat in the back throws a ball to the front of the car and you measure the speed. The speed will be whatever the boy can throw it at, say five mph plus the speed of the car say 70 mph, so the speed of the ball will be 75 mph relative to you the outside observer. Whereas, inside the car, the boy will only see the ball travel at five mph as he and the ball are already travelling at 70 mph, so the ball will travel at five mph relative to the boy, which is much slower than you see it. Time works the same way in a relativistic universe, and therefore, two people can have different views of time.

 

Here is a cool video of an interesting time-related paradox.

On exams – the worst part of being a student?

One of the best things about being a graduate, at least for me, Is the knowledge that I will not have to sit formal exams again. I will have assessments, but there will never be a time when I have to sit in a room in silence with only a pen and a strong sense of dread.

I am one of those people who hated exams, not to the extreme, but I always preferred coursework and essays as I could work on them over time. The main negative with exams is that the questions that will come up are somewhat random. You know the kind of question that will come up most of the time, and you will have practised similar questions, but inevitably you cannot learn all that is expected if you’re a normal person. What makes it worse is the fact that you know you will be judged on the results of this for the rest of your life; if you need certain grades to move up the ladder to your next goal I can’t imagine how nervous you would be. One of my bosses a few years ago told me he still has nightmares about his exams that he took well over 30 years ago!

I am not sure how many exams I have sat in my life, but I imagine it is around 100. Here is my biggest issue with exams. It is a bulimic system; you cram as much information as you can in preparation for the exam and then spew it all over the paper. The information, from my experience, stays on the page, I do not have even fifty percent of the knowledge I gained in my binging period, and it has continued to fade over time. If I were to sit the same exams as I did last year, I wonder how I would do. Better? Worse? The same? Without going through the same binge period, it would undoubtedly be worse. If you do not take the knowledge with you what is the point. Just do a general IQ test and be done with it.

Are there any benefits to exams? I have heard someone who works in an educational institute say that one of the only reasons we keep exams is that they are very hard to cheat in. It is true that it is quite easy to cheat with an essay, as there are many websites that will write your essay for a price. On the first week of my undergraduate degree, I was given a voucher for £10 off of a website called IvoryResearch. Presumably, the university did not know about the company, and has since banned them as I didn’t see them again, but who knows? I have never known anyone who has used one of these services, but there are many of them, so I guess they are doing a good trade. You cannot get this kind of service for exams. Although I did see on TV once that some guy was taking peoples driving tests for them for a price, so I guess it could be done.

So, should we get rid of exams? If we care about students mental health, the answer may be yes. However, I cannot think of what we would replace them with. Besides they are basically a rite of passage at this point, a ceremonial process that results in something that feels like it is straight from the middle ages, in the UK anyway, It is very pompous, and I didn’t enjoy it. I cannot see a world where exams no longer exist, but I hope that they become less relevant.

Do you like exams? What should we do about it?