Third Presidential Debate: Subliminal Message Counts

So, my favorite phrase is back: New Direction (see previous blog post). This phrase is a favorite of those who like to play in the subliminal playground, because it's an attention getter. Say it fast, and the brain trips over whether it's "New Direction" or "Nude Erection".

So let's see the tally shall we?

In tonight's debate, McCain said it 5 times. Obama said it twice.

Other tricks:

Handed to McCain on a silver platter was the "quote someone else" trick. This is where you quote - say - Joe the Plumber - because it doesn't matter what you say if you're saying that someone else said it. The message comes from you still, and it sinks in in the same way, but it bypasses the bullshit filter because you're not asking people to believe you - you're asking them to believe someone else. However, the end result is the same thing - the message is delivered.

Needless to say, Joe the Plumber came up a lot in the talks as a foil for McCain's arguments.

Obama played back a little by bringing Warren Buffet into the fray.

McCain then went on to talk about tax rates. US corporate tax rate? One of the highest in the world at 35%! (Never mind that a study came out yesterday which shows that most US corporations don't pay ANY income taxes). He then went on to talk about Ireland, where the tax rate is 11% (insinuating that this is commonplace). In fact, this is one of the lowest in the world - although a little higher than Uzbekistan and Serbia.

Ireland also is a little different here in that in Ireland they have a 25% Value Added Tax (kind of like a sales tax). Their payroll taxes are higher than in the US. (16.75% vs. 15.3%). And income tax in Ireland ranges from 20-41% - whereas in the US it's from 0-35% (federal) and 0-10.3% (state).

As for the actual US Corporate tax rate? That's actually between 15-39% (federal) and 0-12% (state). Of course, again, most US corporations pay 0% in income taxes.

The average corporate tax rate world wide is in fact 25%. The lowest is in the British Virgin Isles, Nepal and the UAE - all of which pay 0%. Most "1st world" countries are sitting at about 30%.

I've been to Ireland. It's mostly green hills.

(OK, so this whole bit isn't subliminal, but it still bugged me).

I could go on, but frankly, I'm really annoyed by the whole debate. Grrr.

#psychology, #subliminal cues
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2 Degrees of Political Separation

Just for giggles, I just looked up Joe Biden, John McCain, Barack Obama and Sarah Palin on LinkedIn.

Here's my connectedness. I was surprised.


Huh... I'm 2 degrees from Barack Obama.


... and 2 degrees from John McCain.

Apparently, I'm this far from Sarah Palin:


... but I'm guessing that's because she's on McCain's friends list.

Joe Biden? Can't find him on LinkedIn.


Mmmmm.... Home Made Chicken Noodle Soup

This was a bit random... I didn't quite get what I wanted at the store (ok, I forgot) - so a lot of this is made of bits and pieces I got out of my cupboard.

On the plus side, it tastes AWESOME, especially with a bit of lime juice in the mix.

Ingredients (Makes 4-6 servings)

3 half chicken breasts (diced)
2 cartons Swanson's Organic Chicken Broth
1 yellow, sweet onion
4 tsp crushed garlic
3 tsp crushed ginger
1 tsp chopped basil
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tbsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 packet rice noodles (from a pack of Pad Thai fixings I had in the cupboard)
1 lime per person


Pour the broth into a large saucepan, and put on high heat (you might want to do this part later, if you're not reasonably quick with a knife).
Add garlic, ginger, chopped basil, cumin, cinammon, cayenne pepper and the kosher salt to the broth.
Cut the chicken breast into 3/4" cubes (or however you prefer), and throw them into the pan.
Slice the onion in half, and then cut each half from root to tip, into very thin slices. Throw them into the broth too.
Bring to a boil on high for about 5 minutes, stirring.
Turn the heat down to about Medium, and cover. Leave for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
10 minutes before the end, add the noodles.
5 minutes before the end, add the black pepper.

Serve with the lime cut into 4 pieces. Squeeze into the soup to taste. (Personally, I like it with a whole lime's worth of juice).

Enjoy - it's spicy, hot, good, and chickeny. Bit expensive compared to the Campbell's stuff, but I think it was worth the effort.


Rewriting... It's like Writing, only this time you get to punch Yourself in the head

So I think enough time's passed that it's worth taking another look at The Mara and see if I can rejigger it a bit. (Hey, it's over a year since I started that project... all good things to those who wait, I guess).

So right now, I'm in OneNote, breaking down the whole structure of the story. Ends up that my read through crew (Darci being the only person who actually gave me detailed constructive feedback so far - she's awesome) was totally right about a number of key things about the story.

So it's time to revisit it, restructure it, cut some of the chaff, break up some scenes which were 4 times longer than others (and boring) and find another way to throw that information around.

So I'm writing notes about each major story beat, trying to pull out the threads and see where it's lacking. Much easier this way in shorthand than by trying to do it the longwinded way (and deal with 90 pages of script). At least now I can see where all the bits lie, instead of the tangled version of it that lives in my head.

Editing and Story

I'm no stranger to editing... I used to do at least three passes on every article I wrote. (I don't do that for this blog - I also don't plan out the articles. I'm not on the clock for this work, so... the hard part of the work is the first to go. I can spew out anything in a short period of time - cleaning it up, however, is where the hard part lies).

But hey, I need to edit my story. I already did 2 passes on it. Third time's a charm right? I read recently that M. Night Shyamalan did ten complete rewrites from scratch before he realized that Bruce Willis's character was dead.

Personally, that seems a little remiss to me. How can you write a story like that without knowing from the get-go what you're doing? Or where you're going? Maybe it's the programmer in me, but I take a very top-down approach to this whole thing.

I start with the global story, and then drill down to focus on individual parts, fleshing out the whole as it goes. Generally speaking, I always have a beginning, a middle and an end in mind. If I didn't, I wouldn't sit down and start writing.

Mind you, I didn't always do this. I learned after writing 58 pages of a time-travel novel, that going in without a plan - especially with time travel stories, (which are like mystery novels, in that every working part affects every other cog in the machine) - is something you absolutely don't do.

That doesn't mean you don't let the story evolve the way it should as it goes along... but it does mean that you don't go in without a road map. Change the map later - but have the map to start out.

Maybe this is why I'm not exactly prolific when it comes to screenwriting. I like to hone the idea first, and then start putting it to paper.


Another thing I've learned? The last screenplay I worked on was UNSEALED. Now, that one didn't have the full monté road map. It did have a core idea, and I built around that. The first version was 20 minutes long, and somewhat lacking - until I decided it was time to up the stakes and really pull out all the stops. And then it got really really good (in my opinion).

The difference here is that Joseph DeLorenzo and I spent a lot of time working on character. (One of these days, when I get access to a scanner, I'll put up my notebook so you can see what we came up with - there's about as much work that went into the characters as went into the actual script).

The way we wrote UNSEALED was to sit in a bar, and talk about story. And characters. I went in with a rough idea of the plot, and then we'd sit and figure out every aspect of those characters we could, figuring out scenarios we could put them in, character traits, their likes, their dislikes, their relationships. (Phil and D.K.? By the way, although it's never spelled out, a long time ago they had a gay relationship - mainly because Mortimer and Scarlet were so busy doing each other, and they had no-one else... so they decided to screw it and screw each other. It's subtle, but it did make it into the script - they have a certain ease and familiarity with each other borne of that relationship).

And then, at night, I'd go home and write the script. We'd get together a day or two later, and finesse the dialog (Joey was great at pointing out when lines could just be entirely left out, or conveyed with a gesture instead of a line of dialog - I guess that's the true hallmark of a great actor).

But the crazy thing? We had the characters 80 or 90% figured out before I sat down to write the screenplay. And it's still my favorite thing I've ever written - in fact, it's one of a myriad of reasons my tattoo is what it is. (It took 15 years to decide on what to get; if you're going to stick something on your body forever, you'd better make sure you have a good reason for it).

blackwidowtattoo_edited by you.
The symbolism of the hourglass? Two-fold - patience, and it's also the hourglass from UNSEALED.

I think one of the bigger mistakes I made with THE MARA (aka Little Miss Litty) was assuming that because I'd had the story rolling around in my head for about 12 years, it was all figured out and good to go. I'd never intended to tell a long story with it - just a short story. So there wasn't any room for character development.

Well, since working on UNSEALED, I've decided that I really like the character development approach. It gives you a lot to draw on.

And I completely ignored that for THE MARA. Talk about lame. Ah well, part of that rewrite is going to be coming up with completely fleshed out character sheets for all of the characters too. Let's see where it goes.

Because if you do the character work, everything a character does will be informed by it - even at a subliminal level. And that character definition will make your work more complex, more real, and more believable - even if you don't spell it out in bright neon lights.

#script writing, #writing, #screenplay
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Political Proposals #1: Healthcare

This is the first of a series of posts on what I believe the US (heck, make it all developed countries) should do for their population.

First up - Healthcare.

I believe that the US should:

1. Provide Universal Healthcare

Like Canada, and the UK, this healthcare should be the basic, guaranteed right of every citizen. It should be universal, and provide a solid level of care. Those who want something a little better should be able to pay for private insurance.

In the case of the US, paying for private insurance should give you a tax credit for the lesser burden you're putting on the base system.

If you smoke (hey, I do), then you pay for private insurance, or you get a government sponsored smoking cessation program.

2. Provide a Universal Health Records Database

This database will be provided by the government. Everyone's health records is put up there. There's a website you can go to to see your innoculations, your health records, the works.

No more lost records. Everyone has their data up in the cloud. To access your records, you use a number (looks like a credit card) which is assigned to you, plus a private key. VIsiting a health provider gives them access to your data. The website would allow you to revoke access at will. The card would contain all the information necessary to generate a certificate for each provider (preferably optically encoded, although magnetic's ok, with a backup of a PIN + number system on the website if necessary - say, in case you lose your card, or wipe the strip).

3. Datamine the Database

The database should be accessible by medical researchers. The data they can access will be sanitized, so it is not possible to recover a specific person's identity (although it would be possible to post data to the file, so that if they visit the doctor or check their account, information which is uncovered through the analysis can be passed on).

Ideally, travel records would be tied to this, but I can see people getting skittish already, so it's not a requirement.

This data will allow researchers to uncover patterns in disease which are not currently visible - such as, say, if your spouse has Crohn's diseases, and you have Cholangio Carcinoma, and your son got Gastroenteritis 3 months before... is there a connection here? (My personal belief is yes). Do you have brain cancer while your wife has multiple sclerosis? How many times does this pattern occur?

No one knows right now, because except in very specific cases, doctor's records don't care about familial disease unless there's a hereditary link. This is a HUGE hole in the data. Even if we don't do the database, doctors should start looking into this; two people may have very different diseases with the same underlying cause.

4. Biopsies, Swabs, etc for all

Currently, not everyone is tested for every complaint. Every new cough, new cold, new rash, new lump - when it can be easily swabbed, or when a biopsy is taken, it should be tested for every bacteria, fungus and virus known to man. And this data goes into your medical records. Which are then datamined. This will show patterns where subclinical or atypical infections (the kind currently regarded as only relevant to the immunocompromised) are actually causing other issues. No-one taking suppressive medicine for genital herpes gets arthritis? That's useful data. And it's currently being lost.

Currently, only military bases perform comprehensive testing of all personnel. It's how we track new cold viruses (eg. Adenovirus 14) when they emerge. We should be tracking all of this - it'll unlock all kinds of new cures and information.

We've had the tech to do this with viruses for about 5 years now. We can tell you which virus is in any piece of tissue - which is a much better approach than checking your blood for antibodies to the virus. This will allow us to localize the test, and tell you exactly what's where, and what might be causing a whole bunch of issues.

In fact, it'll be the most comprehensive application of scientific method to the medical practice in a very long time.

Oh yes, and who pays for this? The government. This is a public health issue, and if we start looking into this, I'm willing to bet that a whole bunch of conditions which are mysteries to us right now will suddenly become clear. Think of it as a program in the same way we managed to eradicate smallpox.

5. If you're sick, you don't come into work

The government will pick up the tab. If you're ill, you don't show up. You go to a walk-in clinic set up specifically for checking all the coughs, colds and minor malaises (you still go see your specialist or GP if it's more serious), and they perform any necessary tests. Then you go home until you're better.

If you're ill for more than 3 days, you go to your GP, and get a note. If you're ill for more than a week after that, you go back to the GP. If you're ill for more than a month, well... that's a different program.

We'd still need a way for people to deal with mental health days, and hangovers and so on. (Come on, we're all human, and people occasionally slack off and need a day to change things up).

Why do we do this?

Because when someone comes into work because they have no choice - no time off left, no money, they're a contractor or paid hourly - they get everyone else sick. And that hurts the economy massively.

This scheme would pay for itself in terms of lost productivity and the respective boost to the economy very quickly. The only thing to figure out is how much to pay into the system, and who pays for it - and that's not something I feel qualified to address.


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