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Friday, July 30, 2010

Freelance Writing: FAQ

I have received multiple questions from students about and freelance writing. I don't have time to answer every single one, but here are some answers to frequently asked questions.

Is a for-profit site or a non-profit site?

It is a for-profit site, making donations to cancer research.

Is associated with

Yes, but is a non-profit site

Is LIVESTRONG affiliated with Lance Armstrong?

Yes, LIVESTRONG is also known as "The Lance Armstrong Foundation." Armstrong remains closely connected with both sites. He started as a site in support of people with cancer.

Are the writers on LIVESTRONG professional writers?

Yes, they write for money. To write for Health or Nutrition you must have a medical degree or an M.S. in a medical field.

Are the articles on reviewed?

Yes, they are reviewed by editors who have at least five years experience editing for a print publication.

If I don't get into graduate school in philosophy, can I make a living as a freelance writer?

Yes, but I strongly recommend that you supplement your degree with an M.S. in a medical field. You will make more money.

How do you know what to write about?

You will get an assignment or a title to write to, or you can send a pitch letter to an editor.

Do I need a published article to be considered as a freelance writer for a popular magazine or ezine?

No, but you will need a well-written article, written in the style of the publication you want to write for.

How do you find your sources for health-related publications?

Articles published in top medical, nutrition or neuroscience journals are the best resources. You can then contact the media person at a university listed in the "affiliations" section of the article and ask if she has a news release that you might have overlooked. If she does, she will send it to you or provide a link. That's her job. If she doesn't, ask her if she can arrange a phone conversation with one of the authors of the paper.

Do you have to learn how to write for popular publications?

Yes, lots of know-how. The explicit rules are simple. Use an active but authoritative voice. Avoid passive tense. Avoid the dummy phrase "to be." Avoid empty phrases. Don't state unsupported facts or anything that is not common knowledge. Find a source to "blame" it on. Unless you article is strictly informative (e.g., How is a Frontal Lobe Meningioma Diagnosed?), use a surprising or strong, supported fact or a catchy anecdote as your first sentence. Actually, a strong beginning is recommendable even if your article is strictly informative. Never write "this article is about ..." But do convey why the reader should continue reading. Why is this important? Hint at how you are going to address the problem. Then practice practice practice.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Why Men are Never Depressed

(Thanks to Hugh Mellor for sending this)

Your last name stays put.

The garage is all yours.
Wedding plans take care of themselves.

Chocolate is just another snack.

You can never be pregnant.

Car mechanics tell you the truth.
The world is your urinal.
You don't have to stop and think which way to 
turn a nut on a bolt.
Same work, more pay.

Wrinkles add character.

Wedding dress £5000; DJ rental £200.
People never stare at your chest when you're 
talking to them.
New shoes don't cut, blister, or mangle your feet.
One mood all the time.
Phone conversations are over in 30 seconds flat.
You know stuff about tanks.

A five-day vacation requires only one suitcase.
You can open all your own jars.
You get extra credit for the slightest act of thoughtfulness.
If someone forgets to invite you, he or she can still be your friend.
Your underwear is cheap.

You almost never have strap problems in public.
You are unable to see wrinkles in your clothes.

Everything on your face stays its original colour.
The same hairstyle lasts for years, maybe decades.
You only have to shave your face and neck.
You can play with toys all your life.
One wallet and one pair of shoes in one colour for all seasons.
You can trim your nails with a pocket knife.

You can choose whether to grow a moustache.
You can do Christmas shopping for 25 people in 25 minutes on 24 December.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Philosophy Student Reflects on his Weight Loss

My former student Adam Taylor reflects on his 156 pounds weight loss here.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Growing Up

Some people grow up a lot slower than others. I am one of them. But I am starting to grow up. I think growing up, in part, means learning not to do the things you just hate doing (and can easily avoid). I have always hated organized conference lunches. The super-amazing conference organizers here at the SPAWN conference have organized the most fantastic lunches at the most fantastic and damn tasty restaurants. For most people, that's heaven, true paradise. Who wouldn't want yummy food surrounded by the world's most brilliant minds and mind-blowing (literally) conversations about your favorite topics? Well, not me. Don't get me wrong. I want the conversations and the yummy food. But conference lunches generally irritate me. Like A LOT. You leave the conference site, hurry down to a great restaurant, start a rock-the-foundations-of-the-world conversation. Then 10 minutes into the conversation, food is served. You forget to eat because Kit Fine is in the middle of proving an incredible (and I mean "INcredible") result in his new semantics for counterfactuals. Then someone reminds you that the next session starts in 10 minutes. So, you never see the final steps of the proof, you stuff yourself quickly with half of the food on your plate (who would want to let great food go to waste, right?), and then you get a tummy ache and almost fall asleep in the next session because you over-stuffed yourself, or you can't concentrate on the talk, because that damn proof that seemed so irritatingly sound is running through your mind like a sprint runner at the Olympics. So, YES, I do know that today's lunch restaurant is AppeTHAIzing. This is the place that's supposed to serve this yummy, formidable, dynamite Thai food (I guess you got the point). But I am not going! Not today. I am growing up.

Friday, July 23, 2010

New Consciousness Paper

I have made my paper for the Syracuse SPAWN conference temporarily available here. I am sure it will undergo drastic changes after the conference.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Color Experience in Blindsight?

I have a new paper called "Color Experience in Blindsight?" It's a semi-protected link, so Google search engines won't pick up on it. If you are interested, please go ahead and take a look at it. The link will be fully public, when I am done making little alterations (very little, as the proofs are on their way).

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

There's Something about Mary

Cross posting from Sick Love

From my newest blog: There's Something about Mary: The Princess Diaries

The fairytale began on September 16 2000 when Mary Donaldson, an ordinary Australian girl, met Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark at Merivale's Slip Inn in Sydney during the Summer Olympics.

Three years later the Australian beauty and the crown prince decided they wanted to spend the rest of their lives together. On October 2003 after a long-distance relationship, a short stay in Paris and a number of private visits to Denmark, Mary and Frederik got engaged. Read the rest of this post >>

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Stupid People Deserve What They Get

That's the title of my paper responding to Joshua Knobe. The paper argues for personality effects in judging intentional action. It's available here.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

About Color Vision

The distribution of cone types, types of cells in the retina that detect different wavelengths of light, varies greatly among different individuals, says University of Rochester professor David Williams. Williams and his team used a laser-based system to catch images of the retinas of living humans. While the study participants picked nearly the same "best example" of yellow from color samples, the cones that detect red, green and yellow were sometimes richly dispersed across the retina and sometimes barely present. The divergence was 40:1. "That points to some kind of normalization or auto-calibration mechanism [...] that balances the colors for you no matter what the hardware is", says team member Heidi Hofer. Read the rest of this article >>

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Working Your Way Up

There is something to be said for working your way up, starting as the coffee boy and ending up as the CEO of the company. The idea of working your way up also stands for all the things I was raised to dislike as I grew up in Copenhagen.

In a welfare country like Denmark, you get an education, then you get a job. In theory, you cannot work your way up to anything. Of course, there are raises, promotions and prizes, but starting out as the copy girl and ending up as the editor-in-chief at a major publishing house is practically unheard of.

Working your way up is also foreign to the philosophy arena in the US. There are, admittedly, some philosophers who have worked their way up in terms of where they publish, who they hang out with, or where they work. Graduating from Syracuse University and ending up at Oxford and Princeton, John Hawthorne is an excellent example of someone who has worked his way up. But it's rare. It's rare to hear of someone who starts out at Crackpot Community College in Southern Mississippi and ends up at Jackpot Ivy League University in Manhattan.

The philosophy profession inadvertently borrows some of its ideas from European royalty and aristocracy. You are either born with a silver spoon in your mouth, or you are not. If you are not, you can marry your way in. Or if you are very ambitious and very lucky, you can get hired as, say, Princess Mary's fashion consultant and make your way into the inner circle, get invited to their parties and be seen with her eating lunch at upscale vegan cafes in Copenhagen. But fashion consultants don't become royalty. Like the crown prince couple's best friends from high school and college, they just hang out with them, get media attention and a taste of life in a castle.

Unlike the real castles, the philosophy profession's castles have a few loopholes that make it possible for a few of the fashion consultants and college friends of the philosophical royalty to slip through the cracks. Tenacity, strategic planning and a good portion of luck can increase your chances. Luck is an uncontrollable factor but the rest of the recipe goes like this. Keep a finger on the pulse, find out about the royalty's research interest and concentrate on those areas, publish in the journals approved by the royalty, cite the royalty's work extensively, do not criticize the royalty, criticize those the royalty criticizes, find out where the royalty hangs out, present your work at those events, become their fans and supporters. The recipe is no surefire route to success but it helps. There are other little secrets to success, which I will save for another post.

But back to working your way up. The recipe I just gave you for making your way to the top in philosophy is not a recipe for how to work your way up. Working your way up in the genuine sense of the word means starting on the floor and then slowly through good, solid work breaking through the glass ceiling.

Having flirted a bit with writing for popular media, I already have a sense of how you can really work your way up in that business. Though every rule has its exceptions, you don't start out as a New York Times reporter or a CNN correspondent. But if you can write or you have the abilities to learn to write, you can get there in a finite number of steps. You literally start at no-name sites with nearly no requirements in terms of a platform or portfolio. Then you move to local newspapers, magazines or slightly more prestigious online sites. By then you have a couple of quality clips to include with your pitches. Next step is a national publication. The recipe then goes like this. Work on your pitches, do quality work, learn as you go and move one little step up at a time.

Despite going against my childhood teachings, I like the idea and the process. It gives you an immediate sense of gratification. Every assignment you complete successfully takes you one step closer to the goal. Pay-offs (monetary as well as mentions) along the way increase steadily and typically match your current abilities and accomplishments. The process is fair and satisfying in a way that aristocracy and royalty are not.