Fahrenheit 451Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Couple of years ago, I wrote a series of blogposts, trying to understand that elusive creature: The Reader.

I was trying to motivate myself to write my sub-sub-genre literary stories. When I learned who and where my ideal readers were, I relaxed. Instead of trying to write, I found out that reading could almost be just as good. I kind of said,
Fuck writing. Let's just read and see what happens.


Read I did. In hundreds and hundreds. Every day. For two years. On every book format. From every field, even those that obscurely made sense. And with jealous possessiveness for all the books I have not yet read, stacked and saved and sorted in boxes, ebook readers, MP3 players, phones and computer screens.

What relaxed my overachieving drive to write, and pumped my overdrive to read, was the realization that when the student is ready, the teacher will show. That when readers are ready, the books will be printed and reprinted, distributed and hoisted on shoulders and bandwidth, voiced through and in spite of brick and censorship barriers. When readers are ready, there will be no law too restrictive or expense too high or income too low.

Then, and only then, I read "Fahrenheit 451", and it said: "You can't make people listen. They have to come round in their own time, wondering what happened and why the world blew up under them."

Like, it took two years for me to finally find the book that verbalized a vague belief about why it doesn't matter who reads or when or how. That when someone is ready to ask that very specific question, she would have already been stung with the wisdom that'll allow her to swallow the truth. That there will be someone who'll whisper to her that very passage, from that particular book, through that secret, soft spot.

That "The most important single thing we had to pound into ourselves was that we were not important, we mustn't be pedants; we were not to feel superior to anyone else in the world. We're nothing more than dust-jackets for books, of no significance otherwise."

This writing? I'll probably share and link the heck out of it on every social media I'm part of. I can't just let a good story pass through me without tapping on the social spheres. But if nobody ever reads, I can be perfectly alright with that too.



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Why does it take so long to finish a book?
The most common answer I get is “Distraction”.

Why do we get distracted? 
Mostly because we think that other things are more gratifying than reading. 
    • Other things such as social media, cooking, TV, miumiuing.
Compared to the shallow instantaneous gratification we get from the things that distract us, trying to finish a book seems too big an investment to make.

What if the gratification from the time spent on reading equals the gratification we get from being on social media? What if it's even better?

How 10 minutes are enough

For example, let’s take Harry Potter’s the Philosopher’s Stone.
  • The whole novel’s length is around 78’000 words.
  • Assume that your speeding read is 200 wpm.
  • Say that you only have 10 minutes/day to read.
  • In 10 minutes, you would have read 2000 words.
Which means that by reading for 10 minutes every day, the Philosopher’s Stone would take 39 days to finish. 

How to Read 9 Books in a Year
  • Let’s say that reading a book takes 40 days to finish.
  • Say that we divide the year into 40-days blocks, one book for every 40 days. 
    • 365 days ÷ 40 days = 9.125 books
  • By the end of the year, you’d have read at least 9 books.
Nine stories, man. 

You know what it's like to finish reading 9 novels?

It’s like having 9 extra lives added into your frame of mind. Like having 9 loyal friends to accompany and advise and feel you. These friends will always be with you, regardless to internet connection and popularity.

Better than getting likes on Facebook, the pleasure we get from reading a good fiction novel is constant.

And you don’t even have to be nice to them. You only need to turn off the internet for 10 minutes every day. (Dare you?)

Need to get gratified quick? 

Here's a list of famous novels organized by word count (a lot are shorter than the Philosopher’s Stone).

Go ahead, read the shortest ones and finish fast. See how you'll like it.

Then, if you please, add me on Goodreads

2016 Reading Challenge

2016 Reading Challenge
Alia has
read 6 books toward her goal of 100 books.
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Image: Pexel
Amrush was thinking about how much force it would take to veer the planet off its course.

It took a scale of 9 richter for an earthquake to wiggle Earth off her axis. How many atomic bombs does it take to make an earthquake as big as the one in 2005?

This brought into perspective the amount of force it would take to bring Jakarta out of her usual mechanisms. Much less to bring her down to her knees. 

The underline is this: Jakarta is just too fucking big.

***

Taking it from the population’s perspective only, if we brought everyone in Saudi into an area size as big as Jeddah, Makkah and Medina combined, then we might have one Jakarta. 

[Hypothesis A]:

Say that somebody blew up the NCB building in Balad. How much would that effect the day-to-day mechanisms in the Holy Mosques, in your mama’s kitchen, in Elena’s kindergarten?

[Hypothesis B]:

Say that the entire South side of Jeddah was submerged in flash floods. How much would it give effect on the people in the North, in Basateen, Naeem and airport districts? 

The answer to both hypothetical questions? Not much.

***

Taking today’s attacks in Jakarta in allegorical comparison. 

On one side, it’s sore. Sarinah is a cultural home for a lot of Jakartans. Just like Balad is a cultural home for the Jeddawis. That a bunch of fools thought they could trample around the place like that, deserves at least a breath of earnest cussing.

Once that part is done and over with, we take a step back a look at it from a wider perspective. How big is the damage, really?

Sarinah’s incident doesn’t reach Cideng, Tanah Abang, or Palmerah. It doesn’t reach Blok M, TIM, Kelapa Gading, Senayan, Kota Tua or Tanjung Priuk. Each of those districts is a Sarinah by its own right. Every square meter of Jakarta is covered with so much life that it’d take a global monetary crisis to force her to a stop.

Say that a terrorist attack causes worse traffic jams than the usual. So, would it be like the traffic jams in 2007 or in 2012? 
    1. Would it mean that commuters would reach home closer to midnight or the wee hours of the next morning.
    2. But if the terrorist attacks were combined with rain AND the approach Azan Maghrib on a Ramadhan day, THEN it would cause a serious traffic lock down.
    3. A traffic jam that would last so long that the people would leave their cars to walk to nearby convenience stores to by adult diapers and bottled waters. And sit back in their cars.
    4. Or, peddlers would notice the demand, stock up in bulk, then offer bottled water and adult diapers on foot to the drivers stuck in those cars.
My point is, it would take a lot more than a ten, twenty or a hundred terrorists to cause a serious hiccup in Jakarta.

***

Which brings me to this nagging question: What are those idiots thinking?

Who manages and leads these terrorist attacks? What level of education has he gotten? If they’re so effective at being leaders, why couldn’t they think of a better plan? If the plan was to scare the people of Jakarta, then it’s not working. If the plan was to cause a systematic imbalance, then it’s not working. It wouldn’t work with the size of Jakarta, the size of Indonesia.

And the drones who follow them, how could they entrust their lives on leaders with chronic shortsightedness?

Unless stupidity really is that prevalent and there’s no way to cope with it but with a personal moment of dedicated facepalm. “Guoblognyaaa manusia…”

***

I'm abusing my conveniences. 

I've never been a terrorist, so I can't really offer insight to how it feels to being one. But I can relate to how it feels to be misunderstood. And I'd love if anyone could shed a light on the inner tick-tocks of a man who thinks that he can cause a glitch in a town as gargantuan as the Big Duren. Seriously. Comments box is yours to fill. 


image: pexel
1.
In this garden,
You're irreplaceable:
With you, I'm thankful.
Without you, I'm thankfully missing you.

Either way, I'm taking the flower.

2.
Couple of days ago, Ben wrote a thought about reCAPTCHA.

The idea is this: Google Books scans using OCR. But OCR is still an imperfect technology. So sometimes it reads something but isn't sure about it.
Book Prints OCR Reads
from fnom
and amd

So Google uses RECAPTCHA for human eyes to verify the words. Every time we enter reCAPTCHA, we're helping Google verify its OCR scans.

3.
I wondered,  "How does reCAPTCHA know that our verification is correct? How does it know that we're not just fnoming around?"

Two ways:

One: Two-word verification
reCAPTCHA comes with two words. One word is verified by the system. And the other word is the word that the OCR isn't sure about.

Two: Algorithms.
If a lot of people enter the same word verification, then it's likely that it's a correct reading.

But, goddamn irrepressible curiosity, that made my head explode with crowdsourcing math.

4.
How many people do you need to amass the credible opinion that their reCAPTCHA entry is correct? How many votes does the engine need to gather to finally concede with the anonymous entrees claiming that the word reads "from" not "fnom"?

The answer:
"reCAPTCHA takes only 10 seconds to solve. There are 200 MILLION  reCAPTCHAs getting solved every day. A problem that would take 50'000 hours gets solved in a day."

5.
That last factoid closed the nagging questions that Ben triggered a week ago. And it came through a book that bored me to death.

It's not a bad book, mind. But after reading "Thinking Fast, Thinking Slow" and "Willpower Instinct",  the current book I'm reading, "The Organised Mind", felt repetitive. I GET IT!

But even repetition has its values. The book offered insight on how many people solve reCAPTCHA

Without breaking my flow to google the answer, it came to me through force of habit. That's one less nagging question obstructing my flow. So I took it as a flower from the Universe. A tip that I'm doing the right thing even though I've read the same book a million times.

6.
Yesterday, I asked for a flower.

I felt shitty all morning. The book isn't coming out. The story isn't working out. The trip is debilitating the rest of my mental capacity. I wasn't just hysterical, I was a hysterical failure.

So I yelled. I asked for a sign, a flower, a friend. I was desperate, so I didn't care where it came from. I didn't care who brought it in. I was losing my mind and I needed help. And dared asking for it.

It came.

It came in volumes. In this auditorial hell of a village, help arrived. It arrived in metta and conversations. It came in naps and stories. It kept pouring in until I went to bed. And I kept pouring out with gratitude. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Hamdillah. You are a Godsend.

7.
This morning, I did my accounting.

You know what I do in real life? I listen.

I listen to stories and try to reframe them in a gentler another format. My main tools of creation are basically mouth and keyboard. I read and talk and write. That's it. All day. Every day. With all the tangible gifts and wealth and books I got, my results are mainly intangible. No thousands of followers. No millions of riyals. Not even an ISBN number to tag on my gajillion of words.

The accounting doesn't seem to add up.

Nevertheless, when I got stuck and hopeless, I was showered with help and love. So much love and hope that I managed to practice my asanas for another day. I managed to reopen that story I've been struggling with for another week. So much love and aid that I had to tell you about it.
(وَأَمَّا بِنِعْمَةِ رَبِّكَ فَحَدِّثْ)

I can't tell you the numbers. But I can show you how it works. How it has and will always work.
"Do what you can, with what you have, where you are." - Theodore Roosevelt
You do it all day, every day. You don't worry about results or recognition. You don't worry about past or future. If you're really into your work, in flow with your work, you really won't care. It isn't work if you love it, right?

If the Universe would help me, someone whose main output are just words, then how could the Universe not aid you? How many people have you met with kindness today? How many tasks have you crossed out? How much temptation have you averted? With all that work, how could the Universe not notice and take into you into its account?

Your work, your service on Earth, is your heart reaching God with your hands, thoughts and words.

And when you get stuck, He will come. And when He comes, you don't ask questions. In God's presence, you don't ask questions. You only say, Hamdillah.

((َمَا يَزَالُ عَبْدِي يَتَقَرَّبُ إِلَيَّ بِالنَّوَافِلِ حَتَّى أُحِبَّهُ فَإِذَا أَحْبَبْتُهُ كُنْتُ سَمْعَهُ الَّذِي يَسْمَعُ بِهِ وَبَصَرَهُ الَّذِي يُبْصِرُ بِهِ وَيَدَهُ الَّتِي يَبْطِشُ بِهَا وَرِجْلَهُ الَّتِي يَمْشِي بِهَا وَإِنْ سَأَلَنِي لَأُعْطِيَنَّهُ وَلَئِنِ اسْتَعَاذَنِي لَأُعِيذَنَّهُ وَمَا تَرَدَّدْتُ عَنْ شَيْءٍ أَنَا فَاعِلُهُ تَرَدُّدِي عَنْ نَفْسِ الْمُؤْمِنِ يَكْرَهُ الْمَوْتَ وَأَنَا أَكْرَهُ مَسَاءَتَهُ ))
(صحيح البخاري)
 
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