Posts Tagged writing

David Guskin: Autobiography

Friday, November 19, 2010
Write the first paragraph of your autobiography.

I spent my life wondering how much I would accomplish, and with whom I would accomplish it.  Now, looking back, I realize how much more straightfoward the path seems from the end of the road than when you are standing on it.  I’ve known a ton of great people in my life, and this is as much a story about my relationships with them as it is about my own accomplishments.  There are a ton of goals I reached successfully with their help – and some I didn’t even know were my goals until I achieved them (secret goals!) – and this is a story of how I did it.  (Spoilers: if you look past the longing for meaning and an ever-present drive to make a mark, there’s a ton of happiness in my life from a day-to-day life of making others happy too.)

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Event Journalism

When I was in high school, one of my English teachers convinced me to go join the journalism class, which was responsible for our newspaper The Flagship.  I had a great time working on it, so much so that I took on editor-in-chief at Caltech as a freshman.  Oops!  It was tons and tons of work for very little payoff… but I still had fun.  So when I joined Wizards and realized I still had a desire to write about things happening, I talked with Greg, the events coverage coordinator, and he agreed to let me try.

I am now at my fourth Pro Tour doing coverage, and it’s awesome!  It’s a lot of work, and the hours are a little… weird.  And the particular context in which I am doing event coverage – of Magic, and of Magic players – can sometimes be frustrating (Magic players are very opinionated, for example, and not very hygienic sometimes).  But it’s still awesome, and I am very happy to have the opportunity to write.

Writing about Magic games is an interesting balance between play-by-play and story.  It’s pretty important to have a narrative thread to keep the reader’s attention, and except for the very best players, you don’t want to flood readers with game states.  I have found it is way easier to write down the play-by-play while sitting there watching them play, and then revise into a real story afterward if I can.  Oftentimes, when you look back to do a first and second edit of your work, you can feel themes emerging.

Maybe it’s silly to think this way about specifically articles about Magic games, since they are so inaccessible to an uninformed audience, but I have definitely appreciated seeing my writing in new light from doing event coverage.

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Refresh Everything

Pepsi has apparently decided that instead of spending millions on television ads (or maybe in addition to!), they’re going to give away $20 million in grants for projects submitted through their website  Each month, 1000 submissions get pitted against each other and the community votes on which ones they like.  Then Pepsi awards grants of various sizes ($10k to $250k) to the winning/most popular proposals.

This endeavor is like grant-writing-lite, and I think it would make a good exercise for me to try to make a submission.  They have six categories (Health, Arts and Culture, Food and Shelter, The Planet, Neighborhoods and Education), and some of those apply to some ideas I have kicking around in my head. Fleshing out one of the blue-sky ideas I have for making the world a better place, especially if it has an outside chance of getting me $25k in funding, seems like a totally cool way of spending my time. Plus, doing a proposal through this miniaturized process will inform my ability to create a real business plan or real grant proposal for the same or similar idea.

The tricky part is transforming a plan that could make the kernel of a good for-profit business into something more like a one-man not-for-profit venture.  Anyway, once I think a bit more about the kind of proposal I would make, I’ll post about it here!

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How to Write and Influence Friends

I want to continue my discussion of teleportation and the important corrolary that Greg brought up — identity and how it relates to your physical self — but then I realized that I need to get a full week’s worth of future blogs in the bag before I go on my internet-free cruise to the Caribbean.  (Mwahaha!)

Additionally, I worked out today with the illustrious Magic Web Team (well, I guess mostly Kelly) that I’m going to write a piece on said cruise, since it is Magical, after all.  Due to the proposed quick turnaround time of the article, I’m going to need to be sure to create and stick with a process for writing as the cruise progresses.  Here are my thoughts so far on the matter:

  • Use the built-in iPhone Voice Memos app for taking roughly in-the-moment notes to myself
  • Scribble down at least an outline if not some real words each night on ye olde laptoppe
  • Get a new digital camera for snapping photos on the cruise proper
  • Get some waterproof instant cameras for water and other excursion photos (hmm, also voice dictation clearly won’t work for scuba… maybe there’s a different solution here?  Or just try and remember stuff, that might work too)
  • Interview plan: make a plan to talk to a person a day just for the article – this will probably also help me make new friends, huzzah!

So, back to the question at hand — what to blog about prior to departure, sent as messages from the Ghost of Dave Past?

[poll id=”2″]

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I had an idea last night before going to bed, that was still in my head on the way to work (usually a good sign!), for a possible science fiction novel.  What if there was a pseudo-humanoid race that “saw” using gravitons (i.e. gravity) instead of light (i.e. electromagnetism)?

Small physics lesson, for background: there are four fundamental forces – in order from weakest to strongest, they are Gravitational, Weak, Electromagnetic, Strong.  All of them except gravity have to do with interactions at the atomic scale; gravity is the only one that, due to some of its special properties, has major effects at the macroscopic level.  If electricity and magnetism didn’t have opposites (like positive and negative charge) it would have a far greater effect macroscopically — gravity only attracts, and has infinite range, and can’t be shielded against, so it has the largest impact at the macro level.

We interact with the world using our eyes primarily, and then less so through our other senses.  But our eyes, as amazing and complex as they are, are really only capable of observing a small portion of the electromagnetic spectrum.  I’m no expert on how eyes work, but essentially photons (the carrier of EM) are reflected off of objects and then absorbed by our retinas.  In this way, we form a picture of our surroundings – quite a detailed picture!

So what about a story in which this hypothetical g-human race had “eyes” that sensed gravitational force?  I imagine the beings form sort of a 3-d “sonar” map of their surroundings, based on the raw attractive power of objects near them.  They’d have to be hypersensitve (gravity is a literal hojillion times weaker than EM), and they’d probably develop “microgravity” to differentiate themselves from each other — like plumage, but due to very dense spots in their physical makeup.

One of the major challenges with writing this story will be how hard it is to SHOW things – it would take a great deal of effort to immerse a human reader in the g-human world.  Also, what would the story be about?  I don’t think it’s a good idea to have a human meet a g-human; I think the story is more interesting if it is entirely within the context of this gravity-sense world.  Maybe there’s a fundamental problem that this species had “solved for them” by happenstance – think of their “sun” as a black hole, and that their planet is somehow in a stable orbit around it due to (some reason), that they took for granted for a loooong time.  And now, it’s becoming undone and they have to figure out why their planet is sliding into the “sun” and how to stop it!

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