What are your favorite books of all time and why?


Growing up my younger brother was clearly the bookworm of the family. We would come back from the public library and he would have a stack of fresh literary sustenance several feet high. I did not understand why he spent all day reading book after book; there were times I remember exclaiming– "He reads stuff he doesn't even like!" This was not an exaggeration; often within the first few pages it was clear if the novel matched his preferences, but if it failed he would continue to power through. Later I understood, it was not about whether he connected with what he was reading. Rather, he liked the act of reading. He was (and still is) a consumer of the written word.

The preferred "literature" of my childhood was always about sports cars and rock music. One book, Guitar World Presents the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time!, sticks out in particular. The sections ranking the guitar players was fine, but what kept me up at night was the list of guitar solos. I took this as scripture. It never phased me that the list was simply the result of a reader's poll. This was a challenge. From the ages of 14-17 I had this text in tow whenever I traveled, reading and re-reading every detail about these guitar solos. Not only did I have the list memorized in order, but I sought out recordings and sheet music for each of these songs, learning how to play a large portion of the solos and riffs myself. Exposing myself to a variety of sub-genres and eras via this publication proved to be formative in my background as a creative person.

As evidenced above, I have always had the makings of a specialist. Unfortunately, my early interests rarely fit into the literature classes at school. It felt like the curriculum was made up entirely of novels taking place in rural pre-1900 America. I grew up in a quite rural area myself and lived in a house surrounded by cornfields and soybean fields as far as the eye could see. Needless to say, I was less than enthusiastic about these mandatory books on frontier life. I knew first hand what living out in the country was like and these romanticized depictions not only bored me, but left me with a suspicion that I perhaps hated reading. During English classes I thought, if this is what novels are all about maybe reading is something I don't care for.

This all changed my senior year in high school through British Literature. Every book required for that class I enjoyed. Themes of humanism and the chasing of intellectual pursuits were common among the works. The settings were frequently urban. I was hooked. From this year George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, Christopher Marlowe's Doctor Faustus, Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, and William Shakespeare's Macbeth all left a strong impression on me. It was also during this year that I realized my preference for absurdest humor. I read a lot by and about Douglas Adams, as well as the history of Monty Python. Furthermore, around the same period I was studying for the SAT's I remember connecting with A. J. Jacobs' memoir The Know-It-All.

College (undergrad and master's years)

My freshmen year in college I had enrolled in two comparative literature courses. The topics seemed to be based around various novels from across the world (all translated to English). I appreciated the analytical and critical aspects of pinning these texts against each other. Also during this time I dove into Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow trans.) and John Henry Newman's The Idea of a University. Soon after, my focus firmly settled on composition, and because I felt my peers already had such a strong background in classical music (many had attended high school programs like Juilliard Pre-College and the New England Conservatory Prep School), I immersed myself in the subject.

Memoirs from major contemporary composers like Gunther Schuller's The Compleat Conductor and John Adams' Hallelujah Junction: Composing an American Life both helped inform what the history of my profession was like in America. As I progressed in my craft my interest in more technical publications began to take over my reading list, both out of necessity and a pure love for the material. These included The Collected Essays of Milton Babbitt, Olivier Messiaen's The Technique of my Musical Language, and Erno Lendvai's Bela Bartok: An Analysis of His Music.

During my final year in undergrad I received a commission to write an art song for a music festival. I took this as an opportunity to delve deeper into modern poetry. I felt strongly about using text from a contemporary writer, as I would hope those in other art forms would feel strongly about using music from a contemporary composer. Thus, I poured over hundreds of short works in various collections and anthologies. I eventually settled on Mark Strand's piece Eating Poetry. Much like the realization that I favor absurdity in humor as a high school senior, through this quest for a text I realized as a college senior that I favor surrealism in poetry.

While at Oxford for my master's I focused deeper into modernism. The most helpful and engaging publications I encountered were Marguerite Boland and John Link's Elliott Carter Studies, and Iannis Xenakis' Formalized Music: Thought and Mathematics in Composition, and David Metzer's Musical Modernism at the Turn of the Twenty-First Century. In particular, Metzer's book was pivotal in my understanding and contextualization of artistic expression in today's world.


I am starting to be in the odd, yet fortuitous position where I know either the subject or the author (or both) that I happen to be reading. I had the great privilege of studying with Aaron Einbond, and recently he, along with Aaron Cassidy, published Noise in and as Music. I view this book as the next step after Metzer's work on modernism. Einbond notes that– “Its contributors are first and foremost practitioners, which inevitably turns attention toward how and why noise is made and its potential role in listening and perceiving.”

Lastly, about a year ago I was completing an artist residency at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts (VCCA). As with most artist residencies, the fellows are given a room and private studio to work on their respective project. During mealtimes everyone comes together at the dining room and socializes. At VCCA there is also a tradition of weekly readings, performances, and gallery showings by the current fellows after dinner on a given evening. This is a great, low-key opportunity for everyone to share a bit about their discipline among such a multidisciplinary group. The evening presentations throughout my time there were always a highlight; not only because of the high level each artist was working at, but also because it allowed me to see a different side of an individual that had perhaps remained hidden through the friendly discourse and daily small talk.

One of the fellows whose residency overlapped with mine was Sharon Charde, and over the few weeks we were both at VCCA we chatted quite a bit. Our conversations were different from those I would have at other institutes and festivals with composers. After a day or so with a composer I would have a clear idea about how their music would sound and how they relate to their art form before even seeing a score or hearing a recording/performance. With Sharon we spoke about PBS programs, about interpersonal relationships, about graduate school (I was probably a bundle of nerves waiting to hear back after my Stanford interview), and so on. Toward the end of my stay, Sharon mentioned that she was going to present excerpts from one of her books after dinner. I was excited to hear her readings, but honestly was not predicting what it would be like based on getting to know her.

That evening I was floored. Sharon's selections from Branch in His Hand were so intense, so wrought with beauty and sadness that I did not know how to respond to what I was hearing. Underneath the family therapist, the mother, the wife, the friend,  was someone with a profound ability to express loss.

Why did the Apple announcement fail so much this time? Will it get better and should I invest now?

If you have to ask this question,your perfect for index funds

How to Invest in Index Funds – NerdWallet

When investors buy an index fund, they get a well-rounded selection of many stocks in one package without having to purchase each individually. And because these funds simply hold all the investments in a given index — versus an actively managed fund that pays a professional to do the stock picking — management fees tend to be very low. The result: Higher investment returns for individual investors.

Even recommend by Warren Buffett

Warren Buffett on Index Funds

Buffett's main reasoning in favor of index fund investing, and for S&P 500 index funds in particular, is that by definition, they will match the market's performance over time — no more, no less. And with rock-bottom management expenses, investors will be the beneficiary of virtually all of the gains — not investment managers.

Essentially, Buffett feels that investing in a broad basket of stocks is a bet on American business, which he feels is sure to do well over time. "American business — and consequently a basket of stocks — is virtually certain to be worth far more in the years ahead," Buffett said in his 2016 letter to shareholders. In fact, Buffett has advised his own wife to invest her inheritance in index funds after his death.

On the other hand, some actively managed investment vehicles will beat the market in any given year, and some will underperform, but as a group, they will match the market's performance as well. However, because of the high fees many of these products charge, their investors are at an inherent disadvantage

If I asked the right question, would you tell me the answer, even if the answer was a secret?

Knowing the right question dictates you know the nature of the secret.
(Truly) unknown, asking the right question would be improbable.
If your question were anywhere close to this supposed secret, I'd wager you already know It. Unless you're a psychopath – have one hell of a poker face, your facial expressions and/or body language would have already given you away; in which case, I would (depending on my mood) f_ck with you – telling you an altered version of the secret (since we both know who's secret it is), then arguing it's validity with you until you either get mad and leave, or frustrated and leave: but, either way, you leave.
 Who know's, though: I might just like your devious-black-little-heart and invite you to coffee (you pay though: I don't argue with just anyone).

Yo ho!

How to make sentences flow in fiction writing

Well, there are a lot of technical answers to this question, like Alliteration, more commonly used in poetry, where several words close together or in the same sentence, start with the same consonant, such as; the lilacs along the lane listed leftward until I could pass. OK, that was very obvious and you may not want your sentences to flow that much. There is onomatopoeia, which may add a bit, which basically are words that sound like the sound they make, buzz, that’s the only one I can think of, but there are a lot. Assonance is a third example, this is where similar vowel sounds are used in prose and poetry to create a rhythm of sorts to mimic the mood the author is trying to set. Instead of composing my own terrible example this time, I will give you a line from a Pink Floyd song

  • "I lie down by the side fo my bride"/"Fleet feet sweep by sleeping geese"/"Hear the lark and harden to the barking of the dark fox gone to ground" by Pink Floyd
  • I would also suggest, that maybe most importantly, you practice the rhythm of your writing, and this can be easily done by reading a good bit of poetry. I think your flowing sentences will be quite beautiful, but you do not want to put anyone to sleep, so you will also must be willing to punch them in the gut ever so often with a second , harsh, no words wasted voice, that could suggest a second character and would definitely keep your readers enthralled. It is much about balance, but their are, rarely, those writers who brilliantly break the rules.

AssalamAlaikoom, I'm a 12 year old Muslim girl who wants to dye her edges light purple, navy blue, light pink, and light blue permanently. What is not allowed though (ingredients, processes, etc)?

Wallakum Assalam!

After doing a little research, I have concluded that dying hair is permissible. Although if you regret your choice, dying your hair black(or yellow) is not suggested in Islam.

Beware of products that coat your hair, they can prevent ghusul. Make sure all the ingredients are halal too.

The Prophet(peace be upon him) said: “Jews and Christians do not dye their hair, so you should do the opposite of what they do.”

If Stannis won at Winterfell, would he have managed to save Blackfish at Riverrun?

No. If Stannis won the Northern campaign against House Bolton (like he will in WOW) he would remain in the North to temporarily rule it for a good few years. Stannis can't immediately march south with a small army which is ill and wounded plus it's his duty as King to help rebuild the North and find a suitable ruler. Disloyal Houses may not proclaim him King but they'll have to do eventually in order to survive even stubborn House Mormont on their damp little island. I imagine Northern Houses on the eastern coast would bend the knee first such as House Umber, Karstark, Hornwood and Manderly proclaiming him King. Rickon Stark would come out of his hiding place in Last Hearth and thus Rickon would become Warden of the North however being young and incapable of ruling independently Stannis would be Rickon’s castellan and adviser educating him how to be an excellent Lord.

Now Sansa Stark is older than Rickon but in a traditional and medieval sense plus because bring married into House Lannister and Bolton Stannis wouldn't allow her to rule the North because in a marriage sense that means House Lannister is ruling. Stannis may offer Sansa the Dreadfort because it is hers by right of marriage thus Sansa could become Lady of the Dreadfort and Sansa could start a new cadet House renaming the Dreadfort perhaps. Stannis may urge Sansa to marry a Northern Lord and bare children in order for the Stark legacy to continue, whatever man Sansa would marry he'd take on the Stark name perhaps a man distantly related to the Stark's (Flint/ Royce). Now Rickon would have to marry so perhaps Alys Karstark can be his wife (not in the novels).

Stannis the castellan and adviser of Rickon Stark Warden of the North.

Sansa Stark Lady of the Dreadfort.

Okay Jon Snow if he was still resurrected he would have no one stopping him from skipping off south or sailing from East-Watch to Essos. Perhaps Jon would be urged by his former Brothers to travel to Winterfell and help rebuild the North and inform everyone of the grand threat. If Jon did meet with Stannis then its possible Stannis would legitimise Jon to a Stark but that means Jon is Warden of the North and Rickon his heir. Stannis had strong faith in Jon seeing almost every element of Ned Stark within him so Stannis would leave the North with Jon Stark as Warden of the North, Rickon Stark the heir and Sansa the Lady of the Dreadfort.

Stannis feeling the Northern Campaign is successfully won with House Stark the Wardens of the North he would begin marching south with his more healthier army and try to win the support of the Riverlands.

This is where the fun happens. The Twins of House Frey block entrance to go further south into the Riverlands so there would be the Battle at the Green Fork with House Baratheon (perhaps with some Northerners) battling House Frey. The problem is that half the Frey military is sieging Riverrun so Lord Walder may not send his military to battle Stannis outside the Twins and will block off all entry to the Twins. Sieging the Twins would be difficult lasting days perhaps weeks because Stannis hasn't got the equipment or supplies. Let's imagine Stannis won the Battle at the Green Fork or the Siege of the Twins he would execute Lord Walder, imprison Frey heirs and would win the support House Mallister and later on House Blackwood but eventually Stannis would have to battle the eight thousand Lannister army commanded by Jamie Lannister and would possibly be defeated. There's allot of possibilities and problems with Stannis winning the Northern Campaign and the aftermath but Jon would be Warden of the North, Rickon his heir, Sansa Lady of the Dreadfort. WHAT if Jon Stark marched south with Stannis to continue the war? Hmmm.

What are some of the most meaningless things in the world history?

This morning, at approximately 9 AM UTC+2, I like a comment that a friend tagged me in on Facebook.

Is this world history? Well it will be there for everyone to see for as long as Facebook lasts.

Is it meaningless? Until I find a governmental policy or genocidal psychopath that has been influenced by me liking a comment on Facebook, I would be inclined to say so.

I wouldn't say it is the most meaningless event in world history, but it surely must be close.