Eery comparison…

Cops in 1974 vs today:

I suppose I had implicitly assumed that things had dramatically improved in every area over the last 45 years…

Today in Music.

In which I attempt to play the intro to Thunder Road on Harmonica (I do not yet play the harmonica), do a poor, shrill, and off-key impression of Bruce Springsteen, and snuggle quietly with the dog.
(Also, at the end, the song ends rather abrup

Notes to readers:

  • If you have a harmonica in the key of F, play along.

Notes to self:

  • Yes, I always knew I was going to be famous.
  • Yes, I posted these in part to inoculate myself against public mockery and to get comfortable with being emotionally authentic in public.

Jaywalking & You: A Guide

This is not a guide to jaywalking. It’s a humorous story; I lied.

Now that I’ve got your attention, please enjoy this anecdote. ‘Twas written by a dear friend of mine, Archibald Smittens*, who is a real person** who actually exists***.

*: Not his real name.

**: Not true.

***: Censors have attempted to verify this for years. None have, as yet, returned alive.

[Your Humble Editor also feels obligated to preface by saying that the low-fat version of cream cheese DOES NOT taste the same. He does not wish to spread such malicious lies. Anyway, without further ado…]

3 Perspectives on Jaywalking

Perspective 1:

The red hand. Just great.

9:27—three minutes left. The coffee shop’s only what? three, four blocks away? I can still make it…

The woman next to me just quickly skimmed the empty road and then jaywalked. More like a leisurely jay-stroll. What’s she thinking? Back home, no one would ever do that. Ma would’ve killed me. It was either jaysprint or jaysplat.

Still no cars, and that red hand’s still there.

Well, maybe it is time for a jaysprint.

But I’m in a suit; that’d look weird…right?

Middle-aged guy checks his watch, gulps down a half-chewed bite of bagel, and then rushes across the street. Didn’t even look both ways. Actually looked kinda cool doing it.

Well, until he dropped the bagel.

Maybe I should bolt across too. Like one of those guys from the movies.

Oof, curbside puddle. Just great.

Ah a dry patch. Perfect.

Wait.

Who am I kidding. I can’t.

My foot returns to the curb, defeated.

The empty road stares back.

Maybe… Just maybe…

My foot lifts off again.

Maybe just this once…

And the red hand turns into the white man.

Oh well. Right. Left. Empty road.

At least, Ma’d be proud.

Perspective 2:

Damn good bagel today. Think I’m gonna stick with this low fat stuff. Tastes pretty much the same as the regular cream cheese.

Countdown stops. But that stupid hand’s still there.

Chunks getting stuck in my teeth? Gotta check before I walk in the office.

Oh wow, now dumbass over here walks across the intersection. No hesitation. No urgency either. The hell’s wrong with her?

No cars out there, but seriously, lady? Can’t wait like two goddamn seconds for this light?

What’s the deal huh? Late or something? What’s the time anyways?

It’s only 9:28. Really? C’mon lady?

9:28!

Shit! Move people, move!

Yeesh. Took ya long enou—

Shit! No time to pick it up.

Perspective 3:

Red.

Right. Left. No cars.

Let’s go.

A Step-By-Step Description of How I Edit for Flow

One of my clients was impressed by an edit. We then shared this delightful exchange:

Them: `How did you edit this section to make the article flow better?` 

Me: `I can use any information to prove any point.` 

Them: `That’s scary.` 

Me: `I know. That’s why I don’t work for Philip Morris.`

I then described my process. Here’s that walk-through:

You expressed curiosity about how how I solved the “disjointed” problem. I mused on my approach a bit and can better articulate it in writing here. It’s somewhat of an engineering approach… I think… (I have never done engineering outside of that one time I built a shelf):

  1. What are our aims? What are our problems?
    1. The two sections feel disjointed. We want them to feel connected smoothly.
    2. The comment _______ made has interesting info–let’s find a way to include it. 
  2. Implicit step: What are our requirements? What are our constraints?
    1. We’re constrained by our medium, so “published on the web” (Writing, web formatting (especially headings & subheadings), hyperlinking, bulletpoints, and pics/drawings are the big ones.)
      1. Meta: I don’t think about this so much consciously any more. Not for this medium, at least (for other media, yes!). There was a time, however, when I thought obsessively about “what are the constraints of the written-for-web medium?”, which was super formative in becoming facile with the tools. (The biggest one that people mess up in this medium is headings and subheadings. It’s like a table of contents to guide you while reading! Who doesn’t appreciate an easy-to-use map?)
  3. Structure the content to achieve the goal.
    1. ________’s comment had very interesting info, albeit some of it was framed off-topic-ly. However, everything can be on-topic in one sentence or less. 
      1. This is kinda a cool idea. I think of it as “bridging” because that’s how I was taught: you find a relevant trait of topic A, highlight that piece, bridge to a similar nugget in topic B, and then go to point B. This parallels the way our brains process language: we fire neurons in clusters around each word. So, to go from “Sheep” to “cloud”, one could use “white” or “fluffy”. These are trivial examples, but the concept stays the same: From my dog to Trump could be The Adorable Smidgen -> Chihuahua -> Mexican wall -> Trump. You get better at it over time, finding the shorter (and in the case of logic/business, actually relevant) paths. (That said, in persuasion, you don’t even need relevance! Crazy concept that’s super scary when you think about it…)
    2. In this case, we had a starting point (the paragraph before) and an end to get to (the next section). We also had the content of the middle bit (which I got by breaking ________’s points into their constituent pieces). Now use the technique “bridging” and the thing structures itself! It naturally lends itself to an order… the one that links most logically!
  4. Make the new text as short as possible while still being easily readable.
    1. Good writing is short. Good nonfiction, especially. For me, this comes from a concatenation of “aims” and “medium constraints”–we want to give the reader the most value for their effort/time. It also aligns with standard writer wisdom that “shorter is better” (and, I suppose, the simple economic notion that wasting resources is bad).
    2. The easier an article is to digest, the more readers will value it (i.e. there will be more economic surplus since it took them less time). 

I don’t always think about these pieces consciously. Some are now gut instinct (like “eliminate the maximum number of words”). Others are more well-defined and intentional, like the order in which I do each step in my writing process.

^I hope this is interesting! You expressed curiosity; thought you might find it cool! Feel free to poke if anything interests you. (I’m always a sucker for writing about my process. For some wonderful reason, it’s one way I improve… 🙂

Musings on the future of work (or, why you should be excited–not concerned–that I’m currently nocturnal)

Individuals (and small teams) have always been the ones acting, but now they’re more movable (you could imagine the Google phone team basically “stealing” the Apple phone team by wooing them over. This seems unlikely 20-100 years ago). The game for corporations, therefore, becomes more along the lines of “make an environment that’s attractive to the right sort of individuals/teams”. Now, this is probably obvious for anyone who asks the question “why does every startup have pingpong tables and free lunch?” but let’s take it a step further:

The top performers have always been eccentrics. Weirdos. I live in a van and drive around the country. (Not that I’m necessarily a top performer, but I’m certainly working with more successful people than most people who have the job title “writer”.) These are people who will form their own unique strategy for working (I’ve been nocturnal for the last week because it seems to help my novel writing).

This is mainly interesting to me because it creates opportunities for people to create highly-specialized products/services that assist very specific (i.e. unusual) people with very specific needs.

If an individual is such a great, high, top performer, they often have an assistant. I bet the assistants for top performers in many fields have similar jobs, though, and there wasn’t previously enough value created by these oddballs to warrant tools to help them.

Now, we’re recognizing that (a) no number of Walmart greeters could equate to one Sam Walton (just as no number of gazelles would ever hunt a lion [it’s a bad analogy but you get the point]), and (b) we can see how much value Sam Walton created (he built Walmart!) as compared to your average joe, so we’re able to create tools that will help, say, the 10 Sam Waltons in the world be 1% better, which is huge value but would previously be uncapturable. (Or, more accurately, provide tools to make the 1000 people in the world who are 2 orders of magnitude lower than Sam Walton be 5% more effective.)

I guess, what I’m saying is: could someone please make me a business-casual onesie that I could wear in public?

I put the punctuation outside the quotes.

I put the punctuation outside the quotes. I also hyphenate adverbial constructions ending in -ly. I know these are “wrong”. I understand they’re conventions. The conventions are stupid.

A sentence ends with a mark of punctuation. A quotation may include a mark of punctuation in the quote: 

  • David said, “Where are we going?”
  • Did David say, “Where are we going?” 
  • Did David say, “We are going north?” 

Oh shit. You see the problem? It’s that third sentence. The one where your English teacher would demand the question mark go inside the quotes, but putting it inside the quotes is misleading. 

An English sentence starts with a capital letter and ends with a punctuation mark. This system works. It doesn’t need to change when it’s in a fucking quote. 

I’d punctuate that last, dastardly question like this: 

  • “Did David say, “We are going north.”? 

Why? Because David spoke a fucking sentence.

Let’s reverse it. What if the sentence is a statement and the quotation’s a question? 

  • David asked, “Where are we going?”. 

See what I did there? I tossed a period into the sentence, after the quotation marks. Why? Because “David asked, __________” is a sentence. It should end with a punctuation mark. Omitting the punctuation makes us assume it’s a question… and David’s quoted query doesn’t make my statement an inquisition. 

Some will be uncomfortable with these ideas. “But my English teacher taught me…” Well, tough titties. Language lives. We grow and improve it. Did you know the word “okay” comes from a mid-1800s comedic misspelling of “all correct” as “oll korrect”? Is it stupid that old-timey people misspelled words for humorous effect? Yep. But aren’t you glad we now have that damn valuable word? Language is for communication. If it works, use it. 

Maybe punctuating outside the quotes “looks ugly” or “feels weird”… but think of our children! They’ll live in a much clearer grammatical world. They’ll inherit a world where the sentence is the sentence and the quote is the quote, where you can tell whether the person said a full sentence or not by checking the quote itself. 

  • Kennedy said, “We choose to go to the moon…”.

Without the ellipses in the quote, you’d assume that as his whole sentence. With the ellipses, you know he continued. 

  • He finished the speech, “… in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”. 

Grammar should make writing clearer, not hold onto outdated structures. 

Join the resistance. Punctuate proper.

Travelog 191024 (Redacted Version)

Start: [Redacted], Pflugerville, TX 

End: Parked on a public street outside Walmart, West Houston, TX 

Real Realizations: 

  • I hear men jiggle the handle before removing gas from cars and women don’t. HILARIOUS. Must research further. 

Quotent Quotables: 

  • “It’s hard to mend the relationship after being brutally honest to someone with low self-esteem.” -[Redacted]. 

Exciting Events: 

  • Worked for three hours. [Redacted]. Yay! 
  • Left Austin, heading toward New Orleans. 
  • Call with [redacted] today. Love talking to him. 

Delicious Delectables: 

  • Ham & pepperjack & mayo roll-ups. Yum! 
  • A glass of white moscato. Also yum! 

[Redacted]

  • [Redacted]. 
  • [Redacted]. 

Alluring Activities: 

  • Traveling to New Orleans. Seeing [redacted] & his crazy parties.  
  • Making t-shirts with [redacted]?!?!?!

Travel Log 191017 (Redacted Version)

Start: Guest Room in [redacted]’s house, Austin, TX

End: [Redacted]’s house, South Austin, TX

Delicious Delectables: 

  • Sous vided a steak for [redacted] and myself; seared it at the end. Was TO DIE FOR. 

Quotent Quotables: 

  • “Is the opposite of ‘pee-shy’ ‘pee-proud’? ‘Cause I’m pee-proud.” -Me 

Real Realizations: 

  • It’s not how fast you move; it’s hitting all the right steps. Some steps take time. Others can zoom. 
  • I don’t want to [redacted]. That would be complex. Complex is bad. 

Exciting Events: 

  • [Redacted] with [redacted]. Very comfortable very fast. [Redacted]. 
    • [Redacted] made a funny face. I teased her [redacted]. 
  • Completed much work, including over an hour for [redacted]. 
  • Got lost on a walk with Smidge. If you plan to turn right at each chance you get, you can retrace by making each left. This only works if you don’t find a cool path that you decide to take, because, “Look! A cool path!” 
    • Called [redacted] via Apple Watch, for directions when lost. Grateful he helped. He’s a good friend.
  • Chatted with [redacted] about his life & his work. Suggested he get a sleep doc, do a sleep study, reshape his life. 
  • Texted [redacted] that I loved our chat last week. That was delightful. She called back, too. 
  • Texted [redacted] that I wasn’t happy [redacted]. Just not the relationship I want to have. She said, “all good” and “no skin off my back” (paraphrased). “Still,” I said, “Wanted you to know.” 
  • Wrote a very good section for my [redacted] story. Very, very good. About [redacted]. 
  • Cleared out my notebook from Myschevia. Notes moved, friends made!

Alluring Activities: 

  • [Redacted] tomorrow with [redacted]?!?!?!

Travel Log 191016 (Redacted Version)

Start: Outside E Bar Tex-Mex Restaurant, Dallas, TX 

End: Guest Room in [redacted]’s house, Austin, TX

Delicious Delectables: 

  • Shared my moscato with [redacted]. 

Real Realizations: 

  • Sex with complicated people is, well, complicated. 
  • You can live like a king in the outskirts of Austin (two-story house, 4 bedrooms, hot tub with a projector) for the same price as a solo studio apartment in San Francisco. 

Exciting Events: 

  • Walked Smidge through Dallas. Got lost, got directions from a helpful guy outside a convenience store. 
  • Hot tubbed with [redacted]. 
  • Arrived to Austin. 
  • Called the three groups I want to meet in Austin: 
    • [Redacted]
    • [Redacted]
    • [Redacted]
  • Called dad, told him about the burn and that I plan to [redacted]. He said, “be safe, whatever that means.” 
  • Called [redacted], told her stories about the burn. 
  • Spoke with [redacted] about his relationships & his life. 
  • Called [redacted]; she’s [redacted], not super happy with her life. 

Alluring Activities: 

  • [Redacted] tomorrow?