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Can you buy a machine gun at a gun show as many Democrats are suggesting?This question unwittingly I believe exposes the problem with the overall gun control debate better than most from both sides. That is we are often talking past each other and not paying attention to each other at all, not to mention that we are entrenched in our points of view and aren’t really having a debate or a discussion.Yes, you can buy and legally own a fully automatic machine gun in the United States. You can even buy one at a gun show, as long as you follow the rules established by Federal and local law. Machine gun ownership is highly regulated and requires an extensive background check. The gun is in a national database and you have to report transportation of the weapon across state lines. There are criminal penalties if you violate the law, which is the National Firearms Act of 1934.The NFA was very successful at getting machine guns out of the hands of criminals and was in fact supported by the National Rifle Association. Sure, there will be the occasional criminal who will violate the law but outside of a Miami Vice episode fully automatic weapons are rare and, when privately owned, in the possession of a law abiding citizen who pays taxes and follows the rules administered by the ATF. The rules are tough but most people accept them as reasonable. The weapons in question are not used in the execution of a crime and can be considered safe and “well regulated.”The so called “anti-gun” position, and for the record you can count me in that group, tends to focus on relatively cosmetic and emotional appeals to gun control. That’s understandable due to the horrors we’ve seen, but things like the assault weapons ban and, here in New York, restrictions on magazines, tended to annoy the more knowledgeable gun enthusiast and lead to a breakdown in dialogue between those who are upset about the carnage and those who have a desire to own and use firearms. There was always going to be some disagreement, but that there is no discussion just compounds the tragedy.The recent events in Las Vegas were horrible. No reasonable person will deny that there needs to be some kind of rational debate and discussion. There will be people on both sides who might disagree with that of course, but if you accept the premise of the NFA in regulating weapons from the Al Capone era you already have a basis for dialogue. The problem is that Las Vegas is an outlier and it doesn’t address most of the actual carnage.Most gun deaths in the United States are not like Las Vegas. We have approximately 33,000 each year. 2/3 of them are suicides. Women firearms deaths are largely from domestic violence. In these cases the good guy with the gun might just be, due to mental illness or uncontrolled anger, actually the bad guy. Then there’s the deaths due to accidents or misuse. Ironically, the gun purchased for self defense is far more dangerous to the owner and their loved ones than it is protection against a violent stranger.To me, as a person who thinks guns should be regulated more rigorously, the questions about bans and appeals to the Second Amendment are distractions. I think the NRA acts like those tobacco companies back in the day that paid doctors to opine on the health benefits of cigarettes or who paid celebrity endorsers to smoke. We have a trade organization representing an unscrupulous group of businessmen who are exploiting our emotions, fears, and yes, our self-image as Americans, to sell a dangerous consumer good and avoid appropriate oversight.These businessmen, like their counterparts in the tobacco industry, would like to sell a large amount of product at a profit that depends on people having an image of themselves and of the world around them that beggars reality. It requires that we buy into it. There isn’t a huge market for the kinds of firearms you use to get a gold medal in the biathlon at the Winter Olympics, nor is there a big enough market for guns used to put meat on the table. Hunting as a sport is shrinking every year and we don’t do particularly well at international shooting competitions considering. The market where there’s money and profit requires that people see themselves in need of a weapon that can be used for self-defense or that mimics the kind of weapon designed and used for war. It’s a market that benefits from minimal regulation and not even the most reasonable requirements for education, insurance or screening. To push this marketing the trade organization paints a picture of a dystopian, dangerous America where you need a gun on you at all times and where you have to be afraid of your government and of strangers when if you want to see the real threat of gun ownership you just have to look in a mirror.So, do I think that we should ban guns? Absolutely not. I think a law abiding adult should be able to own one subject to the law and with a clear understanding of the risks. I also think you should be allowed to enjoy a cigar.I tend to think the Democrats are more often right on the issue, but then I also remember when Republicans like Governor Ronald Reagan were on the forefront of gun control. In the current situation where we are polarized and not talking to each other and each national party in entrenched it’s important to keep in mind that maybe what we really need is to start a discussion and that the consensus we’ve had since 1934 on automatic weapons might be a good place to start. Yes, we can have reasonable gun laws that work for all of us, but maybe we better start looking at the bigger problems, which aren’t what makes the headlines. We can start by having a discussion and respecting each other.
What is one ridiculous reason for which you got kicked out of class?So in 8th grade Orchestra….I was the most advanced student by far. Honestly…I had been playing almost 3 times as long as the other students…yeah.So this Director, K, and I didn’t and still don’t get along well at all. He was a horrible teacher and quite mean to us. Degrading achievements, telling us to shut up, etc. Just point-blank mean. I wasn’t the oldest, and yeah actually one of the smallest, but I was concert master, and it’s not in my nature to take shit from people.I would always be an asshole back. I’d talk back, play after he cut off, talk while he was talking, basically piss him off! And man we got into many heated discussions and he never sent me out. One day with 10 minutes to the bell we finished rehearsing a piece.Seeing as it was nearing the end of the class I asked, “Are we done?” As he was deciding what piece to play next.He goes with a bitchy attitude, “Do you want to be done?”“Yeah.” The room goes quiet.“Well what time is it?”I look at my watch in an asshole way and the room holds in laughter, “It’s 8:31.”He looks at me.I respond, “A.M.”“If you want to be done so bad, just leave.” He demanded.“Sure.” I responded, promptly packed my instrument and walked out. I went to my next class.The next day he pulls me aside before class.“Why do you have to say those things in class?” He asks, “Is it because you think you’re so much better than everyone else? Is the music too easy for you?”“Look, I could care less about being better than anyone in here, this is a middle school orchestra. I’m fine playing easy music if it’s challenging for them, so they can learn.” I explained, “I don’t play in this orchestra so that I can be the best, I play in here because I love playing violin and I want to help others learn too.”“Start acting like it, then.” He turns.“Me start acting like it?” I asked, “Who taught them vibrato? Who taught them rhythm? And who walks them through each piece? You play the violin worse than most beginners, I don’t know what you’re complaining to me about. Isn’t it your job to teach them how to play and to actually know your shit?”He stared at me, obviously unnerved he was being lectured by a 14 year old.“All you do is hobble your big ass in here and start ordering us around and being outright mean. Show us some respect and maybe I won’t have to stand up for my friends or do your job for you.” I responded.“Get back inside.” He ordered.“I must admit, of all the things you could have sent me out for, asking if we were finished was the dumbest.” I responded, and walked back in class, the students awaiting to hear what happened.Few days I unhinged him again and got kicked out.As he worked with the Violas I was chatting with a friend, he turns to me and says, “Shut up.”I respond, “You’re not my father, don’t talk to me like you are.”I spontaneously turned to finish my previous sentence amongst laughs from the others.“Get out of here.” He said.This time there were still 40 minutes left in the class!That summer my mom organized us a meeting with the counselor. It was uneventful until he tried to tell me why I’m so ‘rebellious’.K: “I understand if you’re frustrated with the world and have to take it out on something, that just doesn’t have to be my class.”Me: “Who says I’m frustrated with the world.”K: “Well when I was your age, I was a loser too.”Me: “I don’t see what makes me a loser. I’ve obviously beat you and I everyone in orchestra has my back.”I got up and walked away.Anyways, after freshman year in high school…rougher for him than for me, I can promise you that…I quit because I just couldn’t take him anymore.A week before…well first off I wasn’t concert master, I was second chair to a Junior girl who was absolutely fantastic. The week before my last day in the class, we had our last concert of the school year. He offered me a measure of solo for it. I said, “No. That’s as close as you’ll ever get to punching me in the face.” It was honestly rude…On my last day of Orchestra I gave out a speech in front of the whole class, my friends and I announced it as some “venting”:“I would say ladies and gentlemen, but this one is for you Mr. K. Let me start off there, somewhere along they misspelled your name because it's obviously supposed to be Cunt. (they rhyme) I'm not even sure that's where you came from... Let me just tell you this, you piss me the fuck off. Your big ass mouth, and the fact that you can think you can scold me, which you can't cuz you're not my father, really shows what a stubborn motherfucker you are. They usually say, son of a bitch, but that's what they say to your son. You said he's fussy, he probably saw who his father was... Your conducting is so poor that I'd rather listen to someone taking a loud, stinky, soggy shit than to your orchestra. Oh yeah, about that, you were supposed to be a band director, but you turned out to be the last resort orchestra conductor... Unqualified as you are, you're still a load of shit! You think that because you stand up there, that you're in control, but it's the students who make the class, and we all fucking hate you. You're just a cocky prick aren't you? Strutting you're big ass everywhere and when you play bass looking so arrogant. I just turned 15 and have played violin longer than you have played bass... You sick bastard are going to be a terrible father... Enjoy fucking up generations of kids to come, my life was already fucked up and somehow you made it worse! If I'm having a good day, I walk into you're class and I see this big ass standing up there, cocky as hell tryna tell me what to do. You have you're own child, he's yours to fuck up. I know it's not cool to insult your son, but you called me a loser anyways, funny that your shit comes back around. *cough* *cough* your pullout game.” After an applause and a nervous smile he asked me to his office.He asked me, “Why?”“Quite frankly, you’ve put us through hell, and ruined my orchestral experience. Music is beautiful and almost impervious, but somehow you found a way to mess it all up.”K: “I’m sure there’s some ways we can improve, we could use you in this orchestra.”“I’m sorry, but I honestly despise you.”And I headed out.I’m a senior now, we both play in our local Universities’ orchestra. We see each other every now and then. I know and he knows he was wrong in how he treated us, and that I won. But he still does it! Pathetic. Anyways 20 more orchestra members dropped out with me and 8 more this year…without me, no one stands up to him. Sad.Wow my longest Quora ever!
What did you do after getting recommended from SSB?What did you do after getting recommended from SSB?It was this day of 02nd July at SSB Bhopal when in second and last attempt I was recommended for training at OTA. Six months back, I was rejected at SSB Allahabad.When I was in the list of selected candidates, it was the biggest feeling of achievement. I had worked on it since last seven years. I had joined in the ranks of Indian Navy seven years back. After completing two years of basic training as Naval boy, I ventured onto realisation of alleviating my career from rank to Officer. I took admission for graduation as external candidate. I used to sail on board warship. I used to perform six hours duty and in next six hours of rest, I used to study for three hours and sleep for three hours. When i was in last year of the graduation, I attempted both simultaneously, the CDS exam and final year. I Passed both but got rejected in SSB. I had come to Allahabad from Andaman islands for SSB. Having been rejected, I decided not to show face to my father and went back to port Blair to be back with unit. I had one more chance . This time again I passed CDS and made it at SSB Bhopal.As I found my name in the list, I kept the happiness hidden as there were other candidates who were depressed as they could not make it.The first call I made was to my Commanding Officer. He was waiting for the news. I could hear him making announcement on PA system in unit lines about my selection. He ordered me “ Last time after you failed at SSB Allahabad, you didn't go on leave. Now proceed on two weeks leave from Bhopal. Spend time with family. After leave report at Chennai. I will have you flew in air force cargo plane to Port Blair.”I picked up my bag and left SSB centre for railway station. There was some hours left for departure of the train. It was drizzling. I went and sat in solitude at Lake Bhojtal. Closed eyes and thanked god for having bestowed on me what I dreamt. On the way, found shop selling army uniform and accessories.signNowed next day hometown of Aurangabad. Father and Mother were surprised at sudden appearance of me. I had smaller luggage. I used to always bring a defence made whiskey for father. This time I asked him to close eyes. I placed in his handIt took seconds for him to know what was it. He stood up like a young man and embraced me and started weeping. The joy of tears. The news was out in our village that someone first time is going to become officer in army. Two days later my birthday was celebrated amidst the entire village.I left after my leave was over. I reported back to Chennai. The CO had kept his promise.First time in life flew in air and that too in cargo plane.After two months, again the kind CO summoned me and asked me to pack up my bag and report to his office. He said “ I am sorry to inform you that your father has passed away. I am sanctioning you leave again. After rituals, report directly for training at OTA”. He personally dropped me at Port Blair Airport, never to be seen again later”.
Why should Kashmiris (Indian part) join Pakistan?To make a sound decision let’s first go back a bit in time. You have to have an analogy to get the right prospective.At the onset of 20th century, Bengali Muslims were as radicalized as a large number of people in valley are these days. The 1905 Bengal partition was carried out on demand of Bengali Muslims backed by British. After the partition was rescinded, the radicalization in Bengali Muslim community continued which virtually ensured a vast majority of the community members did not participate in the freedom struggle. When the idea of separate country was floated, the radicalized youth in Bengal promptly latched on to the idea. In the 1937 provincial elections separatist Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s party won the maximum seats (compared to other states) from the state of Bengal. In the following years, the radicalization in the Bengali Muslims increased and signNowed its crescendo in the year 1946, when on direct provocation of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, radicalized youth in Bengal massacred 4,000 in the city of Calcutta (what is known as Direct Action Day or The great Calcutta Killing). In the 1946 general elections, which proved to be virtual referendum for partition, Muslim league won by far the most number of seats (113 out of 119 Muslim majority seats) in Bengal. Even in the cradle of partition, the Punjab, the party could manage only 73 seats (it’s second best performance though). So it won’t be a hyperbole, if I say that the Pakistani Punjabi Sunnis were the driving force behind the partition, the Bengali Muslims acted as their lackey. Eventually Partition happened.WHAT DID EAST PAKISTAN GOT FROM THE PARTITION: KARMARight after the partition, Punjabi Sunnis started showing their true colors.Pakistan was separated by 1,000 miles of Indian territory, with those on the West of Pakistan viewing those on the East as “impure” or “too Bengali”, creating a reign of hatred and violence that would span for several decades.This is the confession of a Pakistani Army official, in one of biggest Pakistani newspaper.Remembering 1971: A retired major tells the story he’d rather forget - The Express TribuneBefore the 1971 Bangladesh liberation:Pakistan army killed 3 million Bangladeshi in cold blood in a span of months.Pakistani Army backed Imams and religious leaders publicly declared that the Bengali women were gonimoter maal (war booty) and thus they openly supported the rape of Bengali women by the Pakistani Army.Pakistan Army raped 200,000 to 400,000 women and children in a systematic manner.The rapes caused thousands of pregnancies, births of war babies, abortion, infanticide, suicide and ostracisation of the victims.America(then ally of Pakistan) controlled United Nations rejected India’s appeal to help Bangladeshis on Humanitarian ground.India took a massive risk by helping Mukti Bahini, and thanks to political turmoil in USA, India could pull off the operation successfully. Ironically, Bangladeshis were saved by the same people against whom they harbored religious hatred fanned by the Pakistani Sunnis.EAST PAKISTAN VS KASHMIR : The curious case of Muhammad Iqbal and Shah FaesalKashmir is witnessing something Bengal was witnessing between 1905 to 1946. The stooges of Hurriyat on direction from rogue Pakistan army are radicalizing youth and filling hatred against people of other faith. Mosques are used to legitimize the hatred and no wonder the Friday which should be a peaceful day is used by separatist to indulge in stone pelting. Politicians and other opportunist take advantage of such situation. Take the recent example of Shah Faesal, the radicalized intellectual who resigned to satiate his greed for power which he tried to sugar coat as this:If you see he is trying to intellectualize hate against Hindus almost on lines of what Pakistan Army is trying to do. Shah Faesal reminds of Muhmmad Iqbal, who after initially having won hearts of everybody sowed seed of separatism.Iqbal expressed fears that not only would secularism weaken the spiritual foundations of Islam and Muslim society, but that India's Hindu-majority population would crowd out Muslim heritage, culture and political influence.Both Faesal and Iqbal are trying to obtain the same objective. Using religion as a tool to fill hatred in impressionable young Muslim minds against people of other religion.Like Aga Khan, the separatist leaders are making a fortune by implementing Pakistan agenda. This is how Agha Khan used to look, a typical money hungry middleman between British and radicalized Pakistan Punjabi Landords looked like:The separatist radicalize youth to do stone pelting while their kids study in expensive foreign universities similar to Aga Khan. Kashmiri separatist on direction of Pakistan army were able to carry out massacre of Kashmiri Pundits in 1989 in an eerie similarity to the great Calcutta killing(1946) done by Bengalis on the direction of Jinnah.Join Pakistan?Join Pakistan, if you want to end up as another “East Pakistan” or a Baluchistan or Sindh. Heck, just see what is happening to Kashmiris in the Pakistan occupied Kashmir. The choice is between a country standing last in every single development index (except that of terrorism) living on largesse of China/USA and another country pegged to be a global leader in a matter of decades. Punjabi Sunnis didn’t even spare the Shias using whom (Agha Khan and Jinnah) they could form a separate country. The love for Kashmiris by Pakistan Army is as genuine as it was for the Bengalis until they usurped their land. I won’t be surprised if Pakistan does another 1971 genocide on Kashmiris to foist their “Pak army version of Islam”,Should they get control over whole of Kashmir.Footnotes Partition of Bengal, 1905: All about the divide and rule that spurred protests Direct Action Day - Wikipedia https://guestlist.net/article/92... Civil Society, Religion and Global Governance Rape during the Bangladesh Liberation War - Wikipedia The anatomy of a Friday stone-pelting in Srinagar  The Island 14 properties of Geelani, kin worth Rs 150 crore under NIA lens - Times of India ► Pakistan's Shia genocide
Is it safe to travel to the India Pakistan border?Depends on which part of the border you are approaching.It was October 2012. I had visited my uncle posted in Poonch. He was one of the CO (commanding officers) there. It was one-in-a-lifetime bone-chilling experience. I vow never to go back to such a place!I stayed in Poonch for 2 weeks. The 1st few days were in the town itself, exploring places of interest. However, I did not know my uncle had taken permission from higher authorities to take me to the Indo-Pak border, 10 km from his quarters. He had some work there at the border check-post. There area is called Chakan-da-Bagh (famous for its barter trade system with Pakistan).That is place strictly out-of-bounds for civilians. I felt privileged to get to that place escorted by well-armed smartly turned out Indian Army soldiers. Upon getting off the jeep, we walked on a straight metalled road to the border gate. It was a huge gate but nothing elaborate with a generic: “Welcome to Pakistan” sign on top.(This is the best picture I could get on the internet.)On the other side, I could see Pakistani officers manning the roads. Diagonal to the place we were standing (on Pak side) stood 2 hilltops. Each having a outpost on top with a supposed sniper manning it and some heavily armed soldiers. Similarly, Indian side had similar features. What made it bone-chilling was: violation of ceasefire was frequent in the area! Few weeks prior my visit, the outrageous beheading incident had taken place which garnered lot of media attention.And there I stood in the eye of the enemy. With a camera in hand. (Yes, I took a lot of pictures of the area with a condition not post them on any forum.)The feeling of standing at a tensed border gate was eerie but that particular it seemed no different than my university gate. Both sides looked so similar. Few hours later, the gates opened and thus came a barrage of heavily decorated Pakistan registered trucks carrying dry-fruits and other merchandise. A thorough check was done before letting them into our side.Towards the left of border gate lay a no-man’s land which is said to be minefield. To the left of it lay the Poonch river, which acted as a natural barrier. My uncle invited to taste the icy cold waters of the river. It was a very shallow crystal-clear river.As I approached the river, I came across wired fence. My uncle crossed over with a gun in his hand with some other soldiers. I followed suit. And then he pops the question: Do you know what you just crossed?“Nope. A fence?”“This fence is called Line of Control (LOC).”I was stunned to hear it. I. Crossed. Line of Control.That day I learnt something, a common misconception. The LOC is actually the 1st line of defence from the side of India. You can cross it. The 2nd line of defence is the Indian Army which patrols beyond this line. The 3rd line is the LAC (Line of Actual Control), which is commonly mistaken to be the LOC.I tasted the waters of the river. It was sweet.P.S.: I had a lot of pictures of bunkers, weaponry used by Indian Army and kind of life our soldiers lead there. It filled my heart with respect for the alert brave souls there.Yes, I am allowed to give out the info I’ve given above. :)
What is it like to understand advanced mathematics? Does it feel analogous to having mastery of another language like in programming or linguistics?You can answer many seemingly difficult questions quickly. But you are not very impressed by what can look like magic, because you know the trick. The trick is that your brain can quickly decide if a question is answerable by one of a few powerful general purpose "machines" (e.g., continuity arguments, the correspondences between geometric and algebraic objects, linear algebra, ways to reduce the infinite to the finite through various forms of compactness) combined with specific facts you have learned about your area. The number of fundamental ideas and techniques that people use to solve problems is, perhaps surprisingly, pretty small -- see http://www.tricki.org/tricki/map for a partial list, maintained by Timothy Gowers.You are often confident that something is true long before you have an airtight proof for it (this happens especially often in geometry). The main reason is that you have a large catalogue of connections between concepts, and you can quickly intuit that if X were to be false, that would create tensions with other things you know to be true, so you are inclined to believe X is probably true to maintain the harmony of the conceptual space. It's not so much that you can imagine the situation perfectly, but you can quickly imagine many other things that are logically connected to it.You are comfortable with feeling like you have no deep understanding of the problem you are studying. Indeed, when you do have a deep understanding, you have solved the problem and it is time to do something else. This makes the total time you spend in life reveling in your mastery of something quite brief. One of the main skills of research scientists of any type is knowing how to work comfortably and productively in a state of confusion. More on this in the next few bullets.Your intuitive thinking about a problem is productive and usefully structured, wasting little time on being aimlessly puzzled. For example, when answering a question about a high-dimensional space (e.g., whether a certain kind of rotation of a five-dimensional object has a "fixed point" which does not move during the rotation), you do not spend much time straining to visualize those things that do not have obvious analogues in two and three dimensions. (Violating this principle is a huge source of frustration for beginning maths students who don't know that they shouldn't be straining to visualize things for which they don't seem to have the visualizing machinery.) Instead...When trying to understand a new thing, you automatically focus on very simple examples that are easy to think about, and then you leverage intuition about the examples into more impressive insights. For example, you might imagine two- and three-dimensional rotations that are analogous to the one you really care about, and think about whether they clearly do or don't have the desired property. Then you think about what was important to the examples and try to distill those ideas into symbols. Often, you see that the key idea in the symbolic manipulations doesn't depend on anything about two or three dimensions, and you know how to answer your hard question. As you get more mathematically advanced, the examples you consider easy are actually complex insights built up from many easier examples; the "simple case" you think about now took you two years to become comfortable with. But at any given stage, you do not strain to obtain a magical illumination about something intractable; you work to reduce it to the things that feel friendly.To me, the biggest misconception that non-mathematicians have about how mathematicians work is that there is some mysterious mental faculty that is used to crack a research problem all at once. It's true that sometimes you can solve a problem by pattern-matching, where you see the standard tool that will work; the first bullet above is about that phenomenon. This is nice, but not fundamentally more impressive than other confluences of memory and intuition that occur in normal life, as when you remember a trick to use for hanging a picture frame or notice that you once saw a painting of the street you're now looking at.In any case, by the time a problem gets to be a research problem, it's almost guaranteed that simple pattern matching won't finish it. So in one's professional work, the process is piecemeal: you think a few moves ahead, trying out possible attacks from your arsenal on simple examples relating to the problem, trying to establish partial results, or looking to make analogies with other ideas you understand. This is the same way that you solve difficult problems in your first real maths courses in university and in competitions. What happens as you get more advanced is simply that the arsenal grows larger, the thinking gets somewhat faster due to practice, and you have more examples to try. Sometimes, during this process, a sudden insight comes, but it would not be possible without the painstaking groundwork [ http://terrytao.wordpress.com/ca... ].Indeed, most of the bullet points here summarize feelings familiar to many serious students of mathematics who are in the middle of their undergraduate careers; as you learn more mathematics, these experiences apply to "bigger" things but have the same fundamental flavor.You go up in abstraction, "higher and higher". The main object of study yesterday becomes just an example or a tiny part of what you are considering today. For example, in calculus classes you think about functions or curves. In functional analysis or algebraic geometry, you think of spaces whose points are functions or curves -- that is, you "zoom out" so that every function is just a point in a space, surrounded by many other "nearby" functions. Using this kind of zooming out technique, you can say very complex things in short sentences -- things that, if unpacked and said at the zoomed-in level, would take up pages. Abstracting and compressing in this way makes it possible to consider extremely complicated issues with one's limited memory and processing power.The particularly "abstract" or "technical" parts of many other subjects seem quite accessible because they boil down to maths you already know. You generally feel confident about your ability to learn most quantitative ideas and techniques. A theoretical physicist friend likes to say, only partly in jest, that there should be books titled "______ for Mathematicians", where _____ is something generally believed to be difficult (quantum chemistry, general relativity, securities pricing, formal epistemology). Those books would be short and pithy, because many key concepts in those subjects are ones that mathematicians are well equipped to understand. Often, those parts can be explained more briefly and elegantly than they usually are if the explanation can assume a knowledge of maths and a facility with abstraction. Learning the domain-specific elements of a different field can still be hard -- for instance, physical intuition and economic intuition seem to rely on tricks of the brain that are not learned through mathematical training alone. But the quantitative and logical techniques you sharpen as a mathematician allow you to take many shortcuts that make learning other fields easier, as long as you are willing to be humble and modify those mathematical habits that are not useful in the new field.You move easily among multiple seemingly very different ways of representing a problem. For example, most problems and concepts have more algebraic representations (closer in spirit to an algorithm) and more geometric ones (closer in spirit to a picture). You go back and forth between them naturally, using whichever one is more helpful at the moment. Indeed, some of the most powerful ideas in mathematics (e.g., duality, Galois theory, algebraic geometry) provide "dictionaries" for moving between "worlds" in ways that, ex ante, are very surprising. For example, Galois theory allows us to use our understanding of symmetries of shapes (e.g., rigid motions of an octagon) to understand why you can solve any fourth-degree polynomial equation in closed form, but not any fifth-degree polynomial equation. Once you know these threads between different parts of the universe, you can use them like wormholes to extricate yourself from a place where you would otherwise be stuck. The next two bullets expand on this.Spoiled by the power of your best tools, you tend to shy away from messy calculations or long, case-by-case arguments unless they are absolutely unavoidable. Mathematicians develop a powerful attachment to elegance and depth, which are in tension with, if not directly opposed to, mechanical calculation. Mathematicians will often spend days figuring out why a result follows easily from some very deep and general pattern that is already well-understood, rather than from a string of calculations. Indeed, you tend to choose problems motivated by how likely it is that there will be some "clean" insight in them, as opposed to a detailed but ultimately unenlightening proof by exhaustively enumerating a bunch of possibilities. (Nevertheless, detailed calculation of an example is often a crucial part of beginning to see what is really going on in a problem; and, depending on the field, some calculation often plays an essential role even in the best proof of a result.)In A Mathematician's Apology [http://www.math.ualberta.ca/~mss..., the most poetic book I know on what it is "like" to be a mathematician], G.H. Hardy wrote:"In both [these example] theorems (and in the theorems, of course, I include the proofs) there is a very high degree of unexpectedness, combined with inevitability and economy. The arguments take so odd and surprising a form; the weapons used seem so childishly simple when compared with the far-signNowing results; but there is no escape from the conclusions. There are no complications of detail—one line of attack is enough in each case; and this is true too of the proofs of many much more difficult theorems, the full appreciation of which demands quite a high degree of technical proficiency. We do not want many ‘variations’ in the proof of a mathematical theorem: ‘enumeration of cases’, indeed, is one of the duller forms of mathematical argument. A mathematical proof should resemble a simple and clear-cut constellation, not a scattered cluster in the Milky Way."[...]"[A solution to a difficult chess problem] is quite genuine mathematics, and has its merits; but it is just that ‘proof by enumeration of cases’ (and of cases which do not, at bottom, differ at all profoundly) which a real mathematician tends to despise."You develop a strong aesthetic preference for powerful and general ideas that connect hundreds of difficult questions, as opposed to resolutions of particular puzzles. Mathematicians don't really care about "the answer" to any particular question; even the most sought-after theorems, like Fermat's Last Theorem, are only tantalizing because their difficulty tells us that we have to develop very good tools and understand very new things to have a shot at proving them. It is what we get in the process, and not the answer per se, that is the valuable thing. The accomplishment a mathematician seeks is finding a new dictionary or wormhole between different parts of the conceptual universe. As a result, many mathematicians do not focus on deriving the practical or computational implications of their studies (which can be a drawback of the hyper-abstract approach!); instead, they simply want to find the most powerful and general connections. Timothy Gowers has some interesting comments on this issue, and disagreements within the mathematical community about it [ http://www.dpmms.cam.ac.uk/~wtg1... ].Understanding something abstract or proving that something is true becomes a task a lot like building something. You think: "First I will lay this foundation, then I will build this framework using these familiar pieces, but leave the walls to fill in later, then I will test the beams..." All these steps have mathematical analogues, and structuring things in a modular way allows you to spend several days thinking about something you do not understand without feeling lost or frustrated. (I should say, "without feeling unbearably lost and frustrated"; some amount of these feelings is inevitable, but the key is to reduce them to a tolearable degree.)Andrew Wiles, who proved Fermat's Last Theorem, used an "exploring" metaphor:"Perhaps I can best describe my experience of doing mathematics in terms of a journey through a dark unexplored mansion. You enter the first room of the mansion and it's completely dark. You stumble around bumping into the furniture, but gradually you learn where each piece of furniture is. Finally, after six months or so, you find the light switch, you turn it on, and suddenly it's all illuminated. You can see exactly where you were. Then you move into the next room and spend another six months in the dark. So each of these breakthroughs, while sometimes they're momentary, sometimes over a period of a day or two, they are the culmination of—and couldn't exist without—the many months of stumbling around in the dark that proceed them." [ http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/phy... ]In listening to a seminar or while reading a paper, you don't get stuck as much as you used to in youth because you are good at modularizing a conceptual space, taking certain calculations or arguments you don't understand as "black boxes", and considering their implications anyway. You can sometimes make statements you know are true and have good intuition for, without understanding all the details. You can often detect where the delicate or interesting part of something is based on only a very high-level explanation. (I first saw these phenomena highlighted by Ravi Vakil, who offers insightful advice on being a mathematics student: http://math.stanford.edu/~vakil/... .)You are good at generating your own definitions and your own questions in thinking about some new kind of abstraction. One of the things one learns fairly late in a typical mathematical education (often only at the stage of starting to do research) is how to make good, useful definitions. Something I've reliably heard from people who know parts of mathematics well but never went on to be professional mathematicians (i.e., write articles about new mathematics for a living) is that they were good at proving difficult propositions that were stated in a textbook exercise, but would be lost if presented with a mathematical structure and asked to find and prove some interesting facts about it. Concretely, the ability to do this amounts to being good at making definitions and, using the newly defined concepts, formulating precise results that other mathematicians find intriguing or enlightening. This kind of challenge is like being given a world and asked to find events in it that come together to form a good detective story. You have to figure out who the characters should be (the concepts and objects you define) and what the interesting mystery might be. To do these things, you use analogies with other detective stories (mathematical theories) that you know and a taste for what is surprising or deep. How this process works is perhaps the most difficult aspect of mathematical work to describe precisely but also the thing that I would guess is the strongest thing that mathematicians have in common.You are easily annoyed by imprecision in talking about the quantitative or logical. This is mostly because you are trained to quickly think about counterexamples that make an imprecise claim seem obviously false.On the other hand, you are very comfortable with intentional imprecision or "hand-waving" in areas you know, because you know how to fill in the details. Terence Tao is very eloquent about this here [ http://terrytao.wordpress.com/ca... ]: "[After learning to think rigorously, comes the] 'post-rigorous' stage, in which one has grown comfortable with all the rigorous foundations of one’s chosen field, and is now ready to revisit and refine one’s pre-rigorous intuition on the subject, but this time with the intuition solidly buttressed by rigorous theory. (For instance, in this stage one would be able to quickly and accurately perform computations in vector calculus by using analogies with scalar calculus, or informal and semi-rigorous use of infinitesimals, big-O notation, and so forth, and be able to convert all such calculations into a rigorous argument whenever required.) The emphasis is now on applications, intuition, and the 'big picture'. This stage usually occupies the late graduate years and beyond."In particular, an idea that took hours to understand correctly the first time ("for any arbitrarily small epsilon I can find a small delta so that this statement is true") becomes such a basic element of your later thinking that you don't give it conscious thought.Before wrapping up, it is worth mentioning that mathematicians are not immune to the limitations faced by most others. They are not typically intellectual superheroes. For instance, they often become resistant to new ideas and uncomfortable with ways of thinking (even about mathematics) that are not their own. They can be defensive about intellectual turf, dismissive of others, or petty in their disputes. Above, I have tried to summarize how the mathematical way of thinking feels and works at its best, without focusing on personality flaws of mathematicians or on the politics of various mathematical fields. These issues are worthy of their own long answers!You are humble about your knowledge because you are aware of how weak maths is, and you are comfortable with the fact that you can say nothing intelligent about most problems. There are only very few mathematical questions to which we have reasonably insightful answers. There are even fewer questions, obviously, to which any given mathematician can give a good answer. After two or three years of a standard university curriculum, a good maths undergraduate can effortlessly write down hundreds of mathematical questions to which the very best mathematicians could not venture even a tentative answer. (The theoretical computer scientist Richard Lipton lists some examples of potentially "deep" ignorance here: http://rjlipton.wordpress.com/20...) This makes it more comfortable to be stumped by most problems; a sense that you know roughly what questions are tractable and which are currently far beyond our abilities is humbling, but also frees you from being very intimidated, because you do know you are familiar with the most powerful apparatus we have for dealing with these kinds of problems.
What would you do if a perfect stranger stopped by your house, gave you a bag containing a million dollars, said to you, "Take it, it's yours", and then walked away?Did you know that a million dollars in U.S. currency weighs just ten kilograms? It's true. A freshly-minted $100 bill weighs in at slightly over a gram, and 100 of them is ten thousand dollars. 100 of those stacks, and there's your million.It’s not often that 10 kilograms - 22 lbs of anything can change your life. But on February 25th, 2014, that’s exactly what happened. Day 1: $1,000,000 As the man in the gray suit walks away, I shout after him “Hey, come back here. Who are you? What’s this all about?” He does not look back and quickens his pace. Between the choice of chasing down a stranger, or securing what appeared to be stacks of currency, I chose the currency. We can resolve the issue of his identity later, but a loose sack of cash is, well, a loose sack of cash. I look through the contents again. Bundles of US$100 bills, stacked a hundred bills deep, wrapped in standard $10,000 bank bands. A quick count revealed that there were precisely a hundred of those stacks in the bag, and spot-check riffle-counts of the $10k bands suggest that there are no short-stacks within. These were full bands of $10,000 apiece of non sequential USD$100 bills, and I was holding what appears to be a million even in cash. And it feels like just as many question are swirling in my head, as I feel my pulse pounding in my skull. Who was that guy? Why me? What is this all about? But the most urgent thoughts swim past the dizzying deluge of unanswerable questions. Fakes. It’s one thing to inadvertently be the recipient of counterfeit currency; as you’re reading this very sentence, a clerk at a retail store somewhere in your city just accepted a counterfeit bill and made change from the real money in the till. But to be in possession of a life-changing amount of counterfeit currency of the United States of America? Well, that’s sort of thing that can bring the full might and wrath of their law enforcement apparatus on your head. My emotions swing wildly between the elation of instantaneous wealth, and sheer terror that I was minutes away from being snatched from my home and corralled into a Federal holding cell, where I will grow old within its walls. Terror was the stronger of the two emotions, and I quickly went to work. First things first: the bag had to go. If there is a GPS tracking device embedded in its seams, it would take too long for me to root it out. Better to incinerate it, and make sure that whatever trail it was laying stops at a dead-end for its pursuers. I pour the stacks of bills into an empty duffle back from my garage, and lock the bag in my condo. There’s an abandoned marina just a mile from my home and I get in my car and drive straight to the docks, at the top of the posted speed limit. After pouring enough Kerosene on the bag to see the shimmering mist of petroleum evaporate above it, I lit a book of matches and threw it in the middle of the mass. A satisfying “Whoomph” lights up the fire, and I watch the edges of the bag curl and burn - sizzling in the midmorning sun. As the remnants of the bag’s embers swirl around the scorched mark on the docks, I drive back to my condo, pulse still pounding in my skull.I still haven’t figured out if the bills are real or not, but if this morning’s bag-drop was an attempt to pin a piece of deeply incriminating evidence bearing a tracking device … well that plan has been thwarted. Or delayed, at the very least. What do I do? What should I do? Call the authorities? Consider how it would sound: “Hi, Police? Somebody dropped a million dollars in cash at my home. I don’t know if it’s fake or not. Please help.” Would you believe such a ridiculous story? I wouldn't. Any reasonable law enforcement dispatcher would consider the caller legally insane, and I'd be arrested on the spot and sent to psychiatric care. If the money was real, it’d be seized and I'll never see it or spend it. If it was fake, they’d find a way to stick “possession of counterfeit currency” charge on me, and I'll be shoved into a Federal concrete box, draining the best years of my life away, only to be released when I can’t chew solid food any more. No. The only recourse is to handle this myself. I call an old college friend practicing criminal defense law in New York City: “Hey Roger, it’s Kai. How’ve you been?” “I'm cool. It's been a while. What’s up man.” “We should catch up soon in person. But I’m calling because I need something.” “Ok, shoot.” I swallow hard - it’s difficult to even say the words: “Who’s the best CrimDef lawyer you know in California, who defends against Federal charges?” A moment. His voice lowers noticeably. “Shit, man. You in some kind of trouble?” “I’m not sure yet.” I said, truthfully. “But I need someone experienced and smart ... someone who you’d hire, if you’re facing serious attention from the Feds." He lets out a long exhale. “Vincent King. Former rockstar DOJ prosecutor in D.C. Had a change of heart halfway through his rotation in Maryland, when he was securing Life sentences for “interstate drug transportation” charges on young Black kids who were busted muling for the cartels. Was offered a fast-track promotion straight to the U.S. Attorney’s office but went rogue. He set up independent shop in San Francisco, fighting Fed cases. Heavy hitter clients, but makes a point of refusing to represent anyone accused of murder or human trafficking. Intimate knowledge of Federal prosecutorial procedures and evidence-collection protocol. Smart. Methodical. Very expensive.” “Perfect.” “I did mention ‘very expensive?’” “You did.” “I’ll send his contact information now.” =================================“I’m sorry - Mr. King is in court all day and won’t be back in the office. His earliest appointment is tomorrow morning after a client meeting. Shall I book him for 11am for you?” “Yes, thank you Marta.” “We’ll see you tomorrow at 11 then.” I look at the digital clock in my kitchen - it reads 10:44am. Just me and a stack of bills which may or may not be fake, no formal legal representation for over 24 hours. It’s going to be a long day. Taking even a few of these bills to a bank to corroborate their authenticity is out of the question. If a bank officer confirms they are fraudulent, I’ll be arrested on the spot, and since I haven’t hired counsel, I’d be at the mercy of the Public Defender’s Office - the most overworked and underpaid division of the American Criminal Justice system. No, thank you. The next number I dial is an old friend, Robert Kendrick, sole proprietor of ‘Secher Nbiw - The Golden Path,’ a gold bullion dealer with a whimsical Dune reference in the name of his shop. I’ve known Robert for over a decade; his business deals in large amounts of (mostly) legal cash. By necessity, he has a high-end currency counter/ counterfeit detection device in his office, which can swiftly count and verify large sums of money with precision. “Bobby, it’s me.” “Hey, what’s up.” “Can I come to your office - like right now?” “Sure, what do you need?” “I, uh, came into some money. Long story, and I really don’t want to get too much into the details … but I’m wondering if you’d be willing to run the bills through your counter for me? I’m not 100% sure they’re real, and I’d like a discreet way of verifying them. If they are, I’m going to pick up some bullion as well.” “Sure man. Happy to help. How much money are we talking about?”“$60,000” I flinch at that - I hate lying to friends, but at this point, I have no idea who to trust. Though if you want to be technical about it, I did come across $60,000. I am just simply not telling Kendrick about the other $940,000 that accompanied the $60k in the satchel that dropped into my life just three hours ago. “Come on by.” I pull apart a few $10,000 currency bands and start plucking random $100 bills from the middle of every 10k stack to assemble a randomized sample of the entire million. 100 bills, wrap it up. 100 bills, wrap it up. 100 bills, wrap it up. Three bands, thirty thousand dollars, randomized and fully assembled to be tested for authenticity. “Half” of my alleged $60k windfall. The rest of the loose bills are refolded back so there remains 97 stacks of $10k racks, re-wrapped and properly sorted. In 30 minutes, I will figure out if I’m rich, or holding on to enough illicit contraband to send me to Federal Prison for the rest of my life. =============================The Golden Path, like most bullion dealers, work out of small, highly secured office covered by multiple layers of security. At any given moment, Robert may have several hundred thousand dollars in cash or gold, silver and platinum bullion on the premise, it pays to be careful. One of the few civilians in California with a Concealed Carry Weapons permit, Kendrick and I met on pistol gun range ten years ago; we bonded over shooting .45 ACP slugs down-range. He and I spent countless hours debating the relative merits of his preference for single-action 1911s, vs my bias toward double-action SIG-Sauer P220s. In the bullion business, you learn to know the boundaries of money-laundering laws, and know how to walk right up to the edge without triggering reporting thresholds. Drop US$10,000 in cash or more at a car dealership, bank or bullion dealer in a single day’s transaction, and the U.S. authorities gets very interested in the source of your funds. By law, these business that receive such sums of cash must fill out invasive forms to tie the transaction to you and your Social Security Number. Keep cash transactions below US$10,000, and you can avoid much of that intense scrutiny. “Welcome back man. I haven’t seen you in a while.” A discreet man, Kendrick does not inquire further about the source of the cash. In the business of buying and selling gold bullion, you learn to comply with the letter of the law, while avoiding conversational topics that can jeopardize one’s own plausible deniability. While his clientele is mostly legitimate, I’m certain the most lucrative of his customers are criminals - and he smart enough to know not to ask the sort of questions that open up a line of liability for him. So long as the proper theatrics of anti-money-laundering protocols are observed, everyone is technically in the clear. I hand him the three $10k stacks and he pulls the bands off them and puts the entire block in his high-speed currency counter. After a second, the machine spools up and the digital counter swiftly runs from zero to three hundred. Thirty thousand dollars. “It’s real.” It’s real. His words hang in the air for a moment, and it takes a moment for them to sink in. One million dollars. Genuine currency of the United States of America, the most recognized and accepted form of money in the world - denominated in crisp, non-sequential bills. I hold my face as neutral as possible, but my excitement made me slightly dizzy, and I am glad I was sitting down. “What’s the spot price of Gold today?” Kendrick’s eyes drift to his laptop computer, where the current day’s commodities prices were fed to him via a live stream. “$1334 Ask, $1335 Bid.” I nodded my understanding.Precious metals bullion trade in troy ounces, and prices are quoted on a per troy oz basis; depending on the specific type of bullion (bars, coins, make), there are different markups from the quoted price. Depending on the specific form, Gold is typically marked up by USD$20 to $60 over the day’s quoted Bid price, and sells for $5~10 over the Ask. “What do you have in inventory right now for gold?” “The usual. South African Kugerrands. American Eagles. Canadian Maples. Oh, I do have a lovely Credit Suisse 5oz bar that somebody just sold to me, and I’m happy to let it go for $25/oz over spot.” I quickly did the mental math calculation. With the hard-cap spending limit of $10,000 before I trigger any mandatory anti-money-laundering paperwork, $1335/oz works out to about seven troy ounces of bullion I can buy, without forcing Robert to fill out invasive forms about me and my identity. “I’ll take the 5oz Credit Suisse bar, and two American Gold Eagles.” Kendrick pulls out a calculator and taps in the numbers, “So five troy ounces at 25 over spot plus Eagles at $50 over spot works out to nine thousand six hundred and -“ “Take ten grand and keep the change.” I interrupt. “I will be back for more.” He raises his eyebrow, but says nothing. “Thank you. I’ll be right back.” He counts back $20,000 and hands it to me, taking the $10,000 in the back room of his office and returning with the 5oz Swiss bar and two heavy 1oz American Eagles, along with a receipt for US$9675. I pause for a moment and hand him back one of the $10,000 stacks. “I know the limit is $10k in transactions per day. Consider this pre-payment for a purchase tomorrow. Your call, on a mix of anything up that totals up to $9500. Keep the rest for you and Katie.” A barely-perceptible smile flickers across his face, then his face was clear again. “Sure thing.” There’s nothing like the feeling of holding physical gold - the density, color and heft of the metal is like no other substance on earth, and it is no wonder that since its discovery, every culture on Earth treated gold with awe and respect. With 18 hours left before I can understand my legal options, there’s only two things I know for certain: 1. The money is real. 2. At least one person knows exactly where I live, and where the money was dropped off. I need to get mobile. I need to get mobile and off the grid ASAP.... to be continuedIf you'd like to be the first to get updates to this story, please add me kai chang 張敦楷 (kaichang) on Twitter. Part 2 (of 10) is being written right now, will be announced on Twitter. Please follow for updates on the saga of the Quora Millionaire! :D
Who is your favorite obscure author? Why do you think others should try reading this author’s works?Aha. Time to reveal my sources.I first read this author as a teenager. As an adult, I’ve stealthily acquired many of his books, because he wrote much more than the ones that earned him his (very moderate) fame. I believe I answered a question with him before, back when I had a lot fewer followers than I have now, but I’m happy to do so again if it brings this guy the fame that I think he deserves. Because he’s hella obscure now, so obscure that most of his books are out of print.He wasn’t a novelist or a poet or a philosopher, or a literary critic (well, he was a literary academic for a while), or even a musicologist, to name five types of author that I regularly read. But even if you’ve never heard of him, you’ve almost certainly been influenced by him, because he brought new words to the English language, which referred to concepts that nobody before him had codified.His name was Stephen Potter.He was born in February 1900, and he died in December 1969.In between, he had various jobs. He was briefly an academic, teaching English literature at Birkbeck College in London. His first book was the first ever book-length critical study of D.H. Lawrence. It was published in 1930 and owing to an unfortunate accident of timing, it came out just days after Lawrence died; what was meant to be an attempt to look freshly at Lawrence’s career inadvertently became a memorial. (It’s still pretty good though.)After this, he focused on Coleridge, editing the Nonesuch edition of Coleridge’s selected poetry and prose and publishing a study, Coleridge and S.T.C., which I have but haven’t read. In 1937 he published a relatively informal but well-researched, fascinating, and sometimes very funny study of the history of the academic study of English, The Muse in Chains.Around this time he decided he wasn’t earning enough money, and so joined the then-rapidly-expanding BBC as a writer-producer. At the BBC he further exercised his gift for comedy, and in 1947 a ten-day power cut prevented him from working. He filled the time by writing a new book: The Theory and Practice of Gamesmanship: Or the Art of Winning Games Without Actually Cheating.Yes, Stephen Potter coined the word ‘gamesmanship’. His book is the first citation for it in the OED.Potter’s book is ostensibly a manual on how to do gamesmanship, presented with all the appearance of a serious scholarly tome: he refers to various ‘local research groups’ as making this or that advance in the subject, and namechecks several real-life friends in mock scholarly manner by means of one initial and a surname.Gamesmanship as Potter described it is somewhat more subtle than gamesmanship as normally understood. The point of it, as he says, is to break your opponent’s flow—that same complete absorption in what one is doing, described by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in 1975, which enables certain kinds of sportsperson to easily beat an opponent.But Potter points out that the good gamesman is always a good sportsman. It is bad gamesmanship to break an opponent’s winning streak at tennis by claiming that something is in your line of sight, but it’s good gamesmanship to ‘notice’ someone walking across one’s opponent’s line of sight, and wait for the distraction to go away, or even ask the person to stop distracting one’s opponent (obviously, this only works if one’s opponent isn’t actually distracted.) It’s bad gamesmanship to fidget and whistle while your opponent at snooker or pool is playing; it’s good gamesmanship to ask onlookers not to fidget or whistle while your opponent is playing. (A really skilled gamesman or gameswoman will whistle while taking the shot, to show how they don’t even have to concentrate.)Other forms of gamesmanship include drawing one’s opponent’s attention to how they play, and giving helpful-seeming but meaningless advice (‘Walk up to the tee, line up, and take the shot. Simple. Easy’), which makes them self-conscious; claiming that the sport you’re playing ‘isn’t your sport’ because actually you play something more difficult or dangerous, which makes them stop taking the game seriously, etc.Having had a bestseller with Gamesmanship, Potter followed up in 1950 with Lifemanship, which extended to life in general the technique of making other people feel slightly awkward. I am not ashamed to say that I’ve learned much from this book and its sequel, 1952’s One-Upmanship.Lifemanship parodies the tendency of everyone who’d been in WW2 to exaggerate the scale and heroism of their exploits, in its approval of a technique by a Lifeman who, in conversation with actual war heroes, recounted his experiences of being a Air Raid Precautions member in WW2 as if by stamping on a cinder from some incendiary that had landed in his garden, he’d somehow single-handedly averted a firestorm.It was in these books that Potter created the cast of characters that are, for me, as vivid as the characters in Wodehouse or GRRM are for other people: the bluff, charming Harry Gattling-Fenn; the pedantic Coad-Sanderson; the crushingly unsubtle Odoreida, always cited by Potter as an example of the most blunt and aggressive form of Lifeman; the postmodernist fanboy avant la lettre Irwin Cannery who becomes the ultimate in one-upmanship because everyone is, to him, a delightful example of a cultural stereotype.Potter became famous, and he went on a book tour of America, which he recorded in a fascinating 1956 travel book Potter on America, in which he recorded the contributions of American lifemanship fans such as the editor Bennett Cerf. He noted some specifically US-centric ‘ploys’ such as, on being asked what do you do for a living, replying ‘I work for the…Navy Department’, the slight pause being calculated to imply that you work for something much more secret than the Navy Department. Another one, useful for the American who wishes to annoy and then confuse his interlocutor, is to first assume that the person being spoken to knows absolutely nothing about US history (‘There were two President Roosevelts, you know’) and then to come out with statements which assume vastly more local knowledge than the other person has, referring to ‘Lausche in the days when he was mayor of Cleveland’, etc.Potter kept the ‘-ship’ ship floating for a few more years, but the later books were slapped together with less care, and the jokes became thin. He wrote an amusing memoir of his very dull early life, Steps to Immaturity, and a number of other books including a favourite of mine, The Sense of Humour, a serious attempt to codify the specifically English sense of humour. But by the time of his death in 1969, his name was largely forgotten, even though ‘gamesmanship’ and ‘one-upmanship’ are now permanently part of the language.Smart readers will no doubt have noticed that much of the techniques of one-upmanship are used in online discussions all the time, since online discussions so often take the form of how one-upmanship describes all social interaction: as an unending battle for supremacy. Quotemanship, for example, is the art of inserting a (possibly fictitious) quote during conversation with an expert in a subject, in order to make it look like whatever the expert is saying, you got there first. Or there’s the devising and playing of games that only you know how to play well, ensuring that you’ll always win. Potter has entire chapters devoted to proper behaviour of a guest in someone else’s house: one Lifeman earns a reputation as a wonderful guest simply by doing all the dishes single-handedly on the first night of his stay only, and then never going near them again.This article contains some neat updates to one-upmanship, which in Potter’s formulation is very much of the 50s. I especially like Wikimanship, demolishing someone else’s obviously-derived-from-Wikipedia argument by ‘implying [you have] inside intelligence unavailable to the rank and file.’ Confronted by someone saying ‘Clearly, Philip Roth’s later work is a meditation on waning sexual power in old age’, the skilled lifeperson responds ‘Yes, though Phil, as you may expect, is increasingly unhappy with that interpretation. He’s been trying to edit his page all week but Wikipedia says he isn’t a super user. An ironic situation, especially for those of us who are familiar with his early unpublished essays.’ Or there’s Twittermanship: retweeting foreign language tweets.In the end, it’s Potter’s sense of conversation as being a battle for supremacy that makes him a man ahead of his time, and therefore of interest; but it’s also what I find ultimately wearying about the lifemanship books. I read his other books in the hope that he had other things to say, and he does. His affection for Lawrence and Coleridge is infectious, and his book on America has neat character sketches of mid 20C celebrities like Raymond Massey and Dave Garroway, and beady observations on American life (which he finds quite charming and hospitable.) But in the end, he’s a minor writer who found a moment.Still, we don’t all get to add words to the language.Potter’s books are mostly out of print, but second-hand editions are readily available.However, those who are interested in lifemanship and one-upmanship, and want to read more about them, should seek out the original Hart-Davis hardback editions.The books themselves seem to have more lightness and more gravity in these editions; also, the kerning in later omnibus editions leaves much to be desired.(See what I did there?)
What are the biggest myths about living in America?Things that surprised me when I first moved to the USA, good and bad (as they occur to me) were:Everybody I met is so nice. People are generally friendly and polite. From the TV shows I saw, I expected everyone to either be scowling at each other in a threatening manner, if not actually shooting.The areas I first encountered were and still are covered in trees. There is much more green space in housing areas and a lot of this is covered by trees.It’s not really the land of opportunity at all. If you come in as I did with a good job already, you can do quite well, but moving from being working class to middle class is actually more difficult than in the UK where I come from.The US is a great place if you have enough money but can be a terrible place if you are short of money. There is far less of a safety net for people who have problems, and there is certainly a less sympathetic attitude.It’s much easier to get things done in the US than in the UK. People have a much more forward-looking attitude in businesses.Much of the growth in the US is actually driven by foreigners. So many of the IT departments in the US are staffed by foreigners like me, and in particular, Indians, that if you removed them all, I’m sure the US IT sector would collapse. This was the biggest surprise to me when I first started working here. I did consulting work in IT for Life Sciences companies and every one of the IT departments was at least 50% Indian.People don’t carry guns on the street and there aren’t shootings every day, in most places. In some places, there are shootings every day, but they tend to be concentrated. Petty crime is less common in the US in most areas. I know few places in the UK where you would leave your gardening stuff in an unlocked shed or a bicycle in the drive. It’s common here.In many areas, I didn’t notice any racism at all. It did take me some time to spot it in some places, to be frank, and some of my black friends had to point it out to me, but I’ve been in far more racist places in Europe.There are more different kinds of churches than you could possibly imagine, particularly in the South, not just the main denominations that you see in most of the UK and Europe. Dozens of them.So many people dress in exactly the same way. My American wife pointed out the converse of this in the UK, that people look quite different from one another. I was at a hardware store recently, there was a delay at the checkout. I noticed that of the eleven men waiting in line I was the only one without a plaid shirt, goatee beard and baseball cap.Service in restaurants is probably ever so slightly better than the UK, but is far less personal. No one has ever called me “love” or whatever the local equivalent was there.Everyone has to fill in a tax return. This nearly caught me out. Filling in a tax return is such a usual part of life for Americans that nobody thought to tell me about it. I’d never done one in my life and it is a lot of work. In the UK my employer did all of that.Healthcare - I think most people are aware that the cost is a lot higher than the UK, but I couldn’t believe how bureaucratic it is, form after form after form. Insurance coverage is an absolute minefield, the plans are mind-bendingly complex and of course, insurance companies, being profit-making, will twist and create obstacles and do anything they can, to avoid paying out. The trouble with health insurance is that if they don’t pay, you can die. If there’s anything that I do miss about the UK it’s the NHS.
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How much does it cost to make a will with a lawyer?It's very common for a lawyer to charge a flat fee to write a will and other basic estate planning documents. The low end for a simple lawyer-drafted will is around $300. A price of closer to $1,000 is more common, and it's not unusual to find a ×1,200 price tag. Lawyers like flat fees for several reasons.
Do you need a lawyer to make a will?You don't have to have your will signed. ... A lawyer does not have to write a will, and most people do not need a lawyer's help to make a basic will -- one that leaves a home, investments, and personal items to your loved ones, and, if you have young children, that names a guardian to take care of them.
How do I make a will without a lawyer?Start a new word processing document or begin writing in ink on a blank sheet of signNow. ... Specify that the document you are creating is your will. ... Identify your spouse or most recent ex-spouse by name if applicable. ... State the number of children you have who are currently living and supply their names.
Can you just write a will and get it signed?You don't have to be a lawyer, just have it signed Do-it-yourself wills can save you money, but create a mess for your heirs when you're gone. A. You don't have to have a lawyer to create a basic will \u2014 you can prepare one yourself. It must meet your state's legal requirements and should be signed.
How do you make out a will?Write the introduction to the will. Start by clearly labeling the document \u201cLast Will and Testament.\u201d ... Select an executor. ... Identify your heirs. ... Name a guardian for any minor or dependent children. ... Assess and divide your property. ... Sign the will. ... Ask witnesses to sign the will.