Mar 21 2011

On Serious Baking, and a Whole Wheat-ish Bread Recipe

I bake a lot. I’m regularly bringing things I bake to work or to friends, since part of the fun of baking is being able to share, and seeing other people smile when they eat your yummy creations. Last time I brought something to work, one of my coworkers asked me how long I had been baking. I answered without thinking, “I’ve been baking seriously for about 15 years.” Her response “what’s seriously baking?”

Good question, and one I had to think about. I believe I did give the right response. I’ve been baking my entire life, but for years and years I was like most people and just pulled out a random chocolate chip cookie recipe or something every once in a while. But 15 (or so) years ago, it all changed.

It wasn’t really intentional, I didn’t set out to become a baking geek. A friend of mine had a bread machine, I saw what it could do, and thought it was the greatest thing ever. I bought a second hand machine off of Ebay for next to nothing, and discovered I could bake very good bread very cheaply. Financially, bread baking made a lot of sense for me at the time. I joined a bread maker Yahoo! Group, and found that the science behind baking was really interesting and fun to play with.

I still think I tend to approach baking as more of a science than an art – most bakers would agree (in fact, “if cooking is an art, baking is a science” is one of my favorite quotes). I tend to think about what I want as the end result and back into a recipe from there. I think that’s different than what most chefs do, which seems to be more adding ingredients to see what the end result will be, playing with various combinations that seems like they’d work well together. Baking is a bit more complicated.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I’m a perfect baker. I screw up ALL the time. That’s part of playing around. I always have a couple of recipes I’m working on perfecting, and more and more I tend to make “kitchen sink” bread where I open the fridge/cabinets and throw stuff in randomly. I made an awesome loaf last night this way (and will share the recipe below), but often have disasters. My recent explorations into ciabatta baking have resulted in a number of disasters. My one successful loaf looked like ciabatta, but was fairly tasteless – there is a lot more perfecting to do.

These days, if I want to bake something specific and don’t know how, I tend to read a bunch of recipes and combine them into something I like. But if it’s totally unfamiliar (like ciabatta) I will follow the recipe to the letter until I get the technique and procedure down.

Enough blabbering, onto the recipe. I fully intended to make a pizza for dinner last night, but when I started pulling together the dough, got a bit carried away, and it mutated into something else. This obviously isn’t a tested recipe by any sense of the word, seeing as I only made it once (I wouldn’t put it up there with my perfect French bread or anything), but it is good, healthy, whole-wheatyish sandwich bread. I am out of real sugar at home, which is why the splenda, substitute real sugar if desired.


3 cups white bread flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 tsp salt (this made for a slightly salty bread, which I think worked well with the other ingredients)
heaping 1/4 cup splenda
dash of honey (this was for the yeast more than anything else, there isn’t enough for flavor)
2 tbs olive oil
1/4 cup non-fat milk powder
1/2 cup seeds & grains (I use this – I love everything about KA’s harvest grains blend except for the poppy – this lets me make my own).
2 tsp yeast

Throw all the ingredients in your bread machine set to dough, OR…mix the yeast, honey and water, let sit. Mix all the dry ingredients, then add the yeast/water mixture and olive oil.

Once the dough is kneaded (if by hand, about 20 minutes kneading should do it), let it triple for the first rise. In my case, this means I have to pull it out of the bread machine – the machine will automatically knock the rising dough down before it can fully triple. Took about an hour.

Now to decide what to do with the dough! I made this into 4 rolls (for dinner that night), and 1 big loaf. The rolls baked at 450 for 15, the loaf at 375 for closer to 30. Both batches were sprayed with water 5 and 10 minutes into baking.

Allow to cool off completely before slicing, then enjoy!!

Sep 27 2010

You’re Not As Cool As You Think You are

I wrote this as an answer to a question on Quora asking about whether or not the perception of cool kids on the Internet was a positive, or negative thing. Having worked for many companies that were at one time considered cool, I have a pretty strong opinion on this. Pseudo was my first “cool kid” experience, but not my last, and let me tell you – nobody’s ever as cool as they think they are. This is the answer as written, I wanted to keep it here, as I think I may expand upon it in the future, and bring some other companies into it.  This is explicitly written about the atmosphere in tech in the late 90’s.

I worked for a very “cool” Silicon Alley (NYC) company called Pseudo back in the bubble days.

Within our little world of startups, we were rock stars. We had huge parties, we did whatever we wanted in the city, and everyone thought we were the greatest. We were hanging out with celebrities, going to awards shows, really part of a whole other world as the “startup kids.” We thought we were revolutionary (and to an extent, I guess we were), and really believed we were changing the world…this was all covered really well in the documentary We Live in Public. But that’s all perception, and being cool doesn’t write checks…

What happened is we concentrated more on being cool and having fun than we concentrated on actually making money, as did many other startups at the time. It was an awesome ride for a few years, but it was not sustainable. There are also other aspects of this culture that I hope don’t exist anymore, like the very prevalent in-office drug use, and other things (sex in the office, for example) preventing actual work from getting done. I haven’t seen that happening at a company in a very long time, thankfully.

The concept of the cool kids has not gone away, it just switches from company to company. It existed here in SF just like it did in NY in the late 90’s, and is beginning to exist again today. I think it’s horrible, has a terrible impact on the industry as a whole, and let’s face it, none of us are “cool,” we’re nerds who spend all day in front of a computer. Some company becomes cool, everyone scrambles to hire the employees from there and copy their ideas…and six months later it’s another company that everyone’s imitating.

I guess all I can say to anyone who thinks they’re one of the cool kids, is that they should be very aware that as soon as the market or popular opinion changes, they won’t be oh so cool anymore. They should make sure they’re building a career they can keep going after their company goes away, or even better, build a company that can exist after the cool factor wears off.

Aug 29 2010

What Does Being an Aural Learner Mean?

My learning style according to the University of PhoenixA few weeks ago at BlogHer, the University of Phoenix was offering a learning assessment you could take to find out what your learning style was to win an iPad (which I did win – holy cow – but more on that in a future entry, there’s a funny story to share). As you can see from my results here, I tested nearly completely as aural, with a big chunk of logical, some solitary, and a teeny weeny bit of visual. I was told that was pretty much dead opposite of the rest of BlogHer attendees, which I found pretty fascinating. I knew my learning style was considered more masculine than feminine, but I would have said it was because I was visual/spatial (or what I thought of as left brain vs right). Mind you, spatial isn’t on this learning style chart, could mean the same thing as visual, and maybe one doesn’t exclude the other (anyone know?), but I barely registered as a visual learner.

I have always been very musically oriented, from starting to play the piano when I was 4, to learning a bunch of other musical instruments just because (not saying I was good at them, but they were fun to play with), to singing in any chorus, choir or musical that would have me. And of course, if you know me, you know my love for Broadway. A good song, or even just an amazing voice will easily bring me to tears, but I never really thought about whether or not that meant anything.

I was staying with my parents while I was in NYC at the conference, and when I told my mom (who’s a lifelong academic/educator, now a college professor and school superintendent) what the test said, her response was simply “of course!” Oh. Revelation to me, known fact to her.

Some people have eidetic (photographic) memories, where they can take a quick look at something and recall every single element of it. I can do something similar where my brain takes single snapshots of certain moments and can recall details of those snapshots, no matter how old they are. My memories are full of mental pictures. If I’m remembering notes on a page, I have to remember where those notes are on the page before I can remember the content of the notes. I’m also terrible at foreign languages, and thought all of this made me a visual learner.

Now with the learning assessment results in mind, I realize that my “visual snapshot ability” (it’s in quotes because I don’t think it’s considered any kind of “real” ability) doesn’t even come close to what I do with audio. People with eidetic memories can remember every single detail of something they’ve seen for a brief moment, which I can only do on occasion, and I can’t make it happen, as much as I’ve tried to “train” it. It just happens, sometimes due to an emotional event associated with the moment, and sometimes for no good reason at all.

However, I can recall audio I’ve heard for a brief moment down to the most minute detail, sometimes with visuals, sometimes without. I know the proper pitch, the vocal tone, I can identify single notes in chords in my head, I often remember the lyrics, and although I may not be able to accurately recreate the audio due to my inability to play the piano or sing even half as well as I used to (I mentioned all of this briefly in the 25 things you don’t know about me post/meme/thingy), I know the tune inside and out. It used to drive my piano teachers crazy (they call it “playing by ear”), if they made the mistake of playing a song for me before I learned it by reading the music, I would never look at the music again and play from audio memory. I’ve always thought that was due to a lot of training (both vocal and instrumental), and music theory classes, but I now think it’s more than that. In hindsight, the learning assessment results make perfect sense. Why else would I still be able to recall every single helper verb I had to memorize in 6th grade to the tune of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star (“be being as is have has could, do does did, may might must….” and so on). My teacher said we would never forget, and she was right.

I also learned years ago that I cannot do much of anything without sound in the background. It doesn’t really matter what the sound is, just something my mind can grab on to so the rest of me can concentrate on something else. When I was younger, this was a pretty big problem due to the common belief that you must have silence to be able to study. Once I got older and figured it out, concentrating became much easier. I blamed that on my general tendency towards hyperactivity (or ADHD, or whatever you want to call it). I’ve never been good at sitting still, and have never grown out of the “ooh, shiny!” distractibility.

The same goes with me in the office and at home. If I’m at home, the TV is on, no matter what I’m doing. CNN is on right now, has been for hours, but it’s just background noise. I do know part of my head IS listening, though, for example, I just heard the words “Clay Shirky” and looked up. And now (it’s probably hours later, I’ve been doing other things while writing/editing this entry) I just recognized a voice, looked up, and it’s Marc Saltzman, who used to work with us at Pseudo years ago, wow, hey Marc! How on earth is possible that he looks younger now? I sure don’t. But he’s on CNN! See, random bits and pieces catch my attention. But is my attention being swiped by the TV ADHD, or my ability to learn almost subconsciously through audio?

At work, if I’m trying to concentrate, my headphones are on. I’m not really paying attention, but just like CNN right now, I will be affected by what I’m listening to. I tell you, there’s nothing like fighting tears while writing a spec (I swear, I’m not crying over specs, even if Jira does love to suggest that I tag all my specs “pain”). And nothing on earth will keep me from falling asleep more than a sound I can just barely hear, no matter what it is, my mind will not stop trying to interpret it into something I can recognize, put to a pattern, and end.

Everyone gets a song or a jingle stuck in their head every once in a while. I’m the same, except in my situation, I cannot get the tune out of my head until I completely memorize it. I will hear commercials as I’m wandering around the house (I fast-forward through them when I’m actively watching TV) and end up memorizing them, or even worse, memorizing bits and pieces. It doesn’t matter what the song or jingle is, anything musical has to have an ending, otherwise it gets stuck on a loop in my head.

That is also why I tend to listen to full musicals or albums that run together (like Queensryche’s Mindcrime) while I’m working (and monotonous TV when I’m reading or writing or something), I don’t notice the switch from one song to another as much, and am able to easily stop in the middle, since it can then continue through to the end in my head.

If I don’t know the ending of a song or jingle, or if it ends on a discordant note or in the middle of a beat or something (like nails on a friggin chalkboard to me!), I’ll end up mixing it in my head with a song I do know that hits the same note or a complimentary one in the same key.

Fortunately, I tend to forget the mix once I learn the song, since I do come up with some really weird ones, I don’t know how my head pulls the songs together. I’ve wondered before if really good DJ’s train that ability to select songs that match, and that’s how they mix music so well (I don’t do it intentionally, and have never tried), but that’s another blabber for another time. I do get well done mash-ups (ones that match more than just a beat) stuck in my head pretty easily, and tend to avoid them as a result.

As a silly example, last September when I was on vacation to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon, we kept hearing “See You Again” by Miley Cyrus everywhere. It has a funky chorus with off beat lyrics, and got hopelessly stuck in my head. I bought the song as soon as possible (I think I got it from iTunes while I was still at the Vegas airport), put it on repeat many times over a few days, worked out the piece of the song I was having trouble memorizing, even looked up the lyrics I couldn’t clearly understand, and was done with it. I can still run though the whole thing in my head, it’s actually a cute, catchy song, but the point is…I don’t have to.

For the most part, I discover interesting music this way. The annoying piece is when I get bits and pieces of TV jingles stuck in my head, or songs I really don’t like – the solution is still the same as with the Miley Cyrus song. I’m also often amused when I discover what song goes with what tv commercial, there’s rarely any relation between the lyrics of the song and what the commercial is pitching.

Strangely enough, this all started out as an entry about my trip to South Africa, but it’s safe to say that this is already far too long of a single blog entry from a girl who’s already been told her entries get too long. Oops.

Until an actual “all about my trip to Cape Town” entry (of which there will be many), I leave you with this…gorgeous, isn’t it?

Table Mountain

Disclosure: I wrote most of this entry on an iPad I won from the University of Phoenix at BlogHer because I took the learning assessment described in this entry. I think I’d be writing this entry anyway, because the findings were really interesting to me, but maybe it wouldn’t be quite so rambly if I hadn’t had the iPad on some very, very long plane trips. You decide if that is a good or bad thing. I’m too jet-lagged to care. There ya go, FTC – full blogger disclosure.

Aug 17 2010

More from Dubai

Still at the Dubai Airport and still have not found wifi. So more random blabbering from me. I did get today’s New York times downloaded, which is something I suppose….yes, the Kindle’s world 3G really is world wide. I’m at the gate waiting for my flight now, this was a much more pain-less checkin than in SF, primarily because I was already checked in. My luggage (hopefully) went straight through to South Africa.

I had a really interesting conversation with a woman from New Zealand who is on her way home from Afghanistan. She had spent the last 4 months there as a relief worker, and was on the 12th hour of her layover. Some random facts she told me about: no smoking anywhere in public during Ramadan, the Irish pub at the airport here is the only place that serves alcohol during the holiday and they have free wifi (will check it out on my return, I’ll have four hours to kill), shopping here is out of control – the time to come is the first two weeks in January, but duty free isn’t bad here end either. She definitely convinced me to take a longer layover if I’m ever here again – i would love to explore.

What else. Burkas are omnipresent here, but not so much so in rural Afghanistan, near Iran. Women there do not wear the full deal, some of them may wear the head piece, but she made a point of saying its personal choice. It’s not quite as required as it may be elsewhere. Of course, that said – no shorts, no skirts unless they hit the floor. No short sleeves, no cleavage. Strangely enough, heavy, heavy makeup is ok – its strange to me to see these gorgeous women wearing pounds of makeup covered from head to toe. All you see are smoky eyes. She pointed out a woman wearing a tank top and said that someone was going to ask her to please “cover herself for decency.”

I suspect I will have a lot more to say about the gender stuff once I’m not quite so sleep deprivand have had time to process. It has definitely been an experience. Nothing bad, though, I want to emphasize that.

Ok, I think we’re boarding soon. Next stop Cape Town, where although it is winter, there is nothing wrong with a woman in a tank top.

Aug 14 2010

San Francisco to Dubai

I’m currently sitting in a hotel room in Dubai, typing this entry on my brand spanking new iPad I won at BlogHer care of the University of Phoenix!! I’m in Dubai because I’m headed to Cape Town for work – that’s where Yola is originally from.

The iPad is….spectacular, and well deserving of a post of its own, which I’ll do once I’ve had some more time to play with it. To summarize, though, I will say that I still stand by everything I originally said about it – it is a luxury device. It doesn’t replace anything I already have, but wow, is it am amazing experience. And as you can see, I’m kinda getting the hang of typing on here too.

Back to the story at hand – traveling. So I left San Francisco at 4pm on Sunday. It is now 9pm on Monday, after a 16 hr flight, and I’m in the Emirates Millennium hotel overnight before my 9 hour flight on to Cape Town tomorrow.

Dubai is a hoot. The airport is a hoot, the airline is enough of an experience that it also deserves a post of its own. ….it’s all pretty amazingly foreign and I love it. It’s funny – I was in India about 4 years ago, but Dubai is much more like Israel than india as far as the general makeup and culture. And I don’t mean that in any political sense, but it really is shockingly similar (in a positive way, in my mind). Stupid stuff is familiar to me, the fliptops on soda cans, the selling of “soda water,” the military everywhere.

Part of the familiarity is because I was in Israel over Passover, and here I am in the UAE over Ramadan. I don’t really drink alcohol, so it doesn’t effect me quite as much as it did the 13 year old me dying for a bagel, but the feeling is the same…and I think the word is respect.

It’s respect for the dominant culture/religion of the region, and as a tourist, the subtle (and not so subtle) reminders that this is a major holiday is helpful. I’m not trying to be dumb American and offend anyone.

Cross Las Vegas with middle eastern culture, and you kinda have Dubai. I mean, there’s a waterfall at the friggin airport. Oh, and yeah, it’s hot out. Well over 100 and the sun is down.

I’m not sure when I’m going to get this posted – no wifi in the hotel (but hotel, food, and transportation are free from Emirates so I’m not complaining) – but will post this, using the word press iPad app, as soon as I can get online.

Aug 07 2010

Who Will You Be Online When You Die? BlogHer Day Two

I’m in the Geek Lab this afternoon, in a session on “Taking an inventory of your digital life” by Rosemary Jean-Louis and Kristen Kuhns. Sort of similar to my own panel yesterday, but different – more about understanding the impact one thing can have on your digital presence.

They make a very good point, that you’re not going to end up in the history books unless you’re Steve Jobs or something. You are making your own history with your online presence across social networks, blogs, email – it’s not JUST your blog. You’re leaving footprints everywhere you are online.

In fact, it’s entirely possible the worst stuff about you online is not on your blog. For example, that damn Quake box picture that I will never live down is on, not here.

A recommended list of places to check to determine your “digital inventory”:

  • Ping sites
  • Location sharing sites
  • Your websites
  • Websites that have quoted you
  • Websites/blogs you have commented on
  • Websites you’ve joined

They recommend using Google Alerts for your own name to catch new mentions of your name. I do this, but it’s become pretty funny for me, since there is a reporter with my name. Every time she writes a new article (which is a couple of times a week), I get alerts. But hey, at least I’m up to date on the news in Boston?

Interesting point about how your digital presence is more than just the now, but about your legacy. I admit, I pretty much never think about that, and it’s a fantastic point. Your children, your great-grandchildren will read about you online someday. Imagine if you could read your grandmother’s blog? How cool would that be.

And some recommendations on how to leave a digital legacy to be proud of:

  • Centralize your identity – consider using Open ID or Facebook Connect (or other) to be the same you everywhere.
  • Be familiar with privacy settings on sites you belong to and their policies on what happens when you die.
  • Consider adding your username and password info to your will so your family has access to your blogs, email, social media sites.
  • Consider an online vault site, or digital will (Entrustet is one company – never even knew this existed).

Ok, I admit, I NEVER EVER think about that. I’ve dealt with it from a work perspective, mostly back when I was with the LiveJournal Abuse Team, but it is worth thinking about. If I die, do I want this blog to stay here, with the last entry as whatever it was?

Facebook apparently allows family members to access a deceased user’s profile, but Twitter has no such policy. Most companies don’t, apparently.

Hotmail allows a family to order a CD copy of their loved one’s emails. Now that’s creepy to me. I really don’t want anyone getting my email history after I’m dead, I wonder if I can opt out?

Online retailers are in a whole other category for digital legacies. What happens if orders keep coming in and you’re dead? How does anyone contact customers, etc.

It’s also important to remember that technology changes. This is the first generation who will be online from birth ’till death – I’ve definitely seen that with my niece, where my brother bought the domain name for her website before she was born (even before he’d tell ME what her name was!). You’ll note- now that Alice is two, that website isn’t being updated anymore. Pics are private on Flickr. But what if Flickr goes away? Caption your pictures, make sure you know who’s in them, because you won’t know forever. That’s a great point for someone to make to me, the lazy girl who just uploaded pictures to Flickr that I took over New Year’s in Ireland! I’m terrible about archiving and recording things for posterity.

Check out Rosemary’s site at The Geek Treatment or @thesexygeek, and Kristen at Story of My Life.

Fabulous session, ladies, very very glad I attended.

Aug 06 2010

NSFW and TMI? BlogHer – Day One

I think it’s interesting how every year BlogHer seems to have a theme running through the sessions. Last year it was really focused on how to blog, or become a better, bigger blogger. This year it seems to be more about what, or how to share, and how to spur community around whatever you’re sharing. And that was certainly the topic of the panel I was on – “Authenticity or TMI: When does blogging the personal hurt your brand?”

As everyone knows, this is my personal blog. I talk about all sorts of stuff here, but it’s not about work, as in, it’s not about my job at Yola. To read about that, go check out the Yola blog which has lots of people blogging about all things Yola.

This is my personal space. I talk about tech stuff, baking, science fiction, my cats, annoying experiences, whatever is on my mind at the moment. But I also heavily self-censor. There are topics I will never, ever discuss here, or at least, not until I’ve made a conscious decision to change my online image.

Those of you who’ve known me since the Pseudo days know that there was a time where I didn’t see any limits to what was “right” to do online. I also believe that the Internet was a very different place then. My mother wasn’t going to accidentally come across an episode of Lilith & Eve and be freaked out because I fake-punched Aurora in the face (and what an awesome fight that was!!). These days there would be no keeping that from my mom, my employer and everyone.

My choice is simply not to put it online. Other women on the panel with me have other approaches to this, and I can’t say one is right or wrong over another. It’s a very personal decision, and one that someone should very consciously make. So here’s my advice, and a summary of what I said on the panel:

Don’t leave it to chance. Sit down and decide where your line will be drawn. What is the right content for what network – they’re not all the same. After that, go clean up anything that doesn’t fit between the lines. Decide what you want the top search result to be for you in Google. If it’s not the top result already, do some SEO and make it so.

Whether or not you want to be, you are a brand online. And just as Coke or Pepsi fastidiously monitors their brand online, so you should yours as well.

Aug 06 2010

It’s BlogHer Time of Year Again

..and this year it’s in New York City, which is about as cool as things can get, since I’m from here.

I’m waiting for the first session to begin right now, so while I’m waiting, here are some random tips on BlogHer and NYC:

– If anyone asks you for money, to buy crap, or whatever on the street, glare at them with narrowed eyes and snark “Do I look like a fucking tourist.” Guaranteed to work.

– Don’t get overwhelmed with all the sessions. You can’t attend them all, and that’s OK!

– Be friendly. People are more than open to talk (I do get the irony that I’m sitting staring at my computer telling other people to be friendly. But I will be friendly later, I swear), and are here to meet people like you! I finally did talk to the woman sitting next to me, awesome blog I need to read: One Woman’s Eye.

– It’s hot. Very hot out. And chilly inside. Wear as little as possible while still being decent.

Woops, this will be shorter than intended, session starting now. More later!

Jul 01 2010

On Life as a Fan Girl

I am a fan of things. By that, I mean that while I do “like” some things, I also, always, have been that person who, when I really like something, I REALLY get in to it. I become obsessed with one thing after another, maybe it’s what happens when you cross an addictive personality with ADD? I am fairly monogamous in my addictions, though, I tend to only have one obsession at a given time.

Stargate is probably the longest-running fandom I can claim to belong to. I’m not head over heels obsessed, in fact, there is only one reason I’m up to date on Stargate Universe right now, and his initials are MS, but it’s definitely something I love. I listen to multiple Stargate podcasts, I’ve seen all there is to see, and keep up on the news and blogs. I’ve never been to a Stargate convention (as much as I would love to go, it’s one of those “if I won the lottery” things) and while I wouldn’t go chasing Michael Shanks across the country, I wouldn’t say no to seeing him at some convention if it was in SF. Which it never is, mind you.

That said, I’m still not a casual fan of anything. My favorite way to watch a tv show is start to finish, as in, watch the whole season start to finish. I will often not watch a show while it’s airing so I can do this. I get really into the show for about two weeks, crank through it, and then I’m done. For some reason, I find that much more satisfying than watching an episode a week for 20 weeks, although I definitely do feel a difference in the show’s pacing – in some cases, the storyline significantly changes in your mind if you go through a season too quickly. This also works well since I tend to prefer shows that are complex enough that it’s impossible to jump in midway through, I just wait for them to finish airing and then watch it all.

I will rewatch exceptional tv shows, listen to commentary, watch extra features, and read analysis online. If I really like a tv show, I want to learn as much as I can about it. I’m currently rewatching Babylon 5, and it amazes me how much more I notice about the show now that I know how it all ends. I’m even re-reading the episode guide as I rewatch the episode. Great shows do that…leave you amazed at the end about things they did in the first episode. They give you a reason to want to be a fan girl, to want to learn more, because there actually is more to learn! I definitely prefer shows and stories that are multi-threaded, that give you things to think about. Simple is boring.

I don’t think there’s anything negative about being a fangirl. It simply means I like complex things that require thought and invoke emotion. So what if I have a new obsession every week? It keeps life interesting, and I have a lot more fun being REALLY involved in things than minimally.

What about you? Do you keep all things at a distance? Or do you bury your head until you’re done?

Jun 01 2010

Flashforward from TV to Book

Flashforward logo
Imagine if the entire world stopped for a moment in time and got a glimpse of themselves at some point in the future? Imagine the ramifications of that moment – not just the effects of being stopped in place, but what happens to ambition and free will when you know what’s already going to happen?

That basic idea was what hooked me on Flashforward, first the TV show, and then, just yesterday, the book by Robert Sawyer. It’s fascinating, isn’t it? People need hope, they need to believe they can succeed. What happens if you KNOW your efforts will be fruitless? Or on the flip side – if you know you will succeed anyway, how hard will you try?

Flashforward, the TV show, just finished airing its only season. It was extremely disappointing, a great idea that was executed poorly from start to finish. It didn’t deal with any of the issues I mentioned above, but it did ask a lot of questions it never got a chance to answer. As entertainment, it was ok, but it came up very short of fulfilling what I thought was amazing potential. So when I found out there was a book, I jumped on it.

I read the book cover to cover yesterday. I don’t think that’s a major accomplishment, I don’t believe it was particularly long (it’s hard to tell relative book size on a kindle), and I had a long flight with nothing else to do. I also, admittedly, could not put it down.

The book had me at go just like the TV show did because of the concept, but where the show became immensely complicated and overwraught with useless subplots, the book remained simple – almost too simple. The story is about Lloyd. There are some small subplots, but they’re fairly unimportant to the overall story.

The book does completely, and very, very thoroughly, explore the science behind the Flashforward. It explains in great detail how the Flashforward happened. If you think the idea of a multi-page discussion on how Schroedinger’s cat fits into the idea of “moving the perception of now” in time travel than this is the book for you.

…but you can see the problem. While I did find that discussion fascinating, I’m not sure how many people would. And by the time I got to the end of the book, the excessive scientific detail was starting to get grating.

Unfortunately, the book does not offer any insight whatsoever into the television show. The flashforward in the TV show could not have been caused by the same thing that caused it in the book, and there is no FBI, secret spies, CIA, Mark or Olivia. No ring, no test in Somalia, no military connection at all.

Everything is different. Lloyd is Canadian, and he works for CERN. There is a character named Demetrius, but he’s not Demetri from the show. The Flashforward was 20 years ahead, and the Matrix put together not only each person’s individual flashforward, but an entire timeline of what happened between now and the flashforward. Big and small, people were able to figure out what would happen. What companies went bankrupt, who was elected president, what revolutions would fail, what marriages would last, even the lottery numbers for the day, it was all revealed.

The book kind of fizzled out at the end, I don’t even know how to describe it, it almost became another book and twisted in a very unexpected, not really enjoyable direction. But up until that point, it was a very, very enjoyable read.

I still believe that this is an amazing concept that has yet to be executed well, and I would love to see it done. Flashforward the movie, maybe?

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