Tag Archives: Reading

We Declare That George III is Worse Than Independence Day: Resurgence

In these here United States, it’s Independence Day! Because October 19th is a ways off and it’s not as socially acceptable to shoot off fireworks then.

So before you go re-watch President Whitmore give the aliens what for, why not enjoy this staging by the National Archives?

Muppet Monday

I’m currently reading Brian Jay Jones’ biography of Jim Henson, so it I came across this video about current Sesame Street muppeteers at just the right time. Enjoy!

Jobs Expanding to fit the Pointlessness

If you’ve wondered what the point of some jobs are — and if, in fact, there seem to be more jobs out there trying to “maximize innovative enterprise solutions” or just “realize value,” you’re not alone.

What’s worse is realizing you might be in one of those positions and then pondering what you can possibly do within the confines of that meaninglessness. (Though I suppose some people long for that.)

Why, you could put things on top of other things!

Over at the Washington Post, Jena McGregor talks with anthropologist David Graeber about his work exploring the societal and economic consequences of pointless jobs.

Besides the “Brazilian” fascination with the topic, I’ve been doing project and program management for about 20 years — a prime suspect for pointless work. As I explain to people from time to time, the level of meaning and satisfaction from my jobs varies greatly on the work culture and management where I work.

The contract where I updated a spreadsheet three times a day and had meetings about it was neither fulfilling nor, I would argue, very useful to anyone. It’s not like anyone got insight from the minutely updated spreadsheet or any bonuses from attending meetings. My management was unconvinced and, frankly, rather hostile to any process improvements.

Contrast that with a job where the manager said the first day, “No process is sacred, including our own.” And true to form, we updated one central business process no less than three times in three years — all to get people more engaged and meetings more consequential. I’ve also been in positions to happily eliminate thousands of hours’ worth of meetings from peoples schedules every year and set up intranet sites that (gasp) answer people’s questions without them ever needing to contact me about some previously inscrutable topic.

Reducing net headaches for hundreds of people — including those you’ll never meet — is immensely satisfying. But as Sam Lowry would attest, the bureaucracy resists simplification or clarity. So channel your inner Tuttle and watch out for Jack Lint.

Ranked Choice Voted First

My local primaries were not particularly interesting, but I found Maine’s primary elections very interesting to watch because they were using ranked-choice voting.

What is ranked-choice voting, you ask? Why not explain it with dinosaurs?

Or, you could look at this longer piece by CGP Grey:

I like this because it also explains how ranked choice voting (here called “alternative vote/instant runoff voting”) is not the end-all, be-all panacea, yet has advantages over “first past the post” elections.

And if you’re wondering why we’d want to move away from “first past the post” voting (i.e., what happens with most elections you’re used to), here’s another piece by CGP Grey:

Many a politician is not overfond of ranked choice voting because “voting for the lesser of two evils” is a pretty good strategy with just about every constituency outside of Cthulhu fans. Indeed, Maine’s legislature really did not like the idea of ranked choice voting and worked to have it removed, but those pesky voters has other ideas.

Here’s hoping the idea spreads, especially for local and primary elections that can benefit from more voter engagement.

Grieving and Living

While I’m sure its author would not purport to be the last authority on the subject nor her article a substitute for medical advice, I thought Lori Gottlieb’s piece in The Atlantic to be a good reflection on the grieving process.

Move over Monorail, It’s Electric Bus Time

I still remember researching electric cars being developed during the beginnings of the auto industry and being surprised when my dad mentioned that there were still electric vehicles on the road when he grew up in the 40s and 50s. Old models of delivery vehicles were still being used by thrifty businesses — and, in fact, the Walker Vehicle Company made such vehicles up until 1942 in Chicago.

The reason the vehicles were still on the roads was because electric motors cope with lots of starts and stops… such as delivery vehicles make. Delivery vehicles usually also don’t need to worry about extended range. They’re headed across town, not cross-country.

Being the practical engineer type, my dad was always befuddled by the fact that no one had decided to continue making electric vehicles for the urban environment.

It might not come as any surprise that many practical engineer types have had similar thoughts of late, only this time with buses versus delivery vehicles. In fact, they’re on track to be a significant percentage of all buses inside the next 10 years. Not only that, their use is already making a noticeable dent in oil use. My dad would especially like the passage in the latter article where the electric bus company was laughed at for making a toy not too many years ago. There’s no hubris quite like status quo hubris. (Especially since many people have mused about this happening, as you’ll see in a similar article from last year).

Of course, the only surefire way to have local governments adopt electric buses is to come up with a catchy song. You, know, something like…

A Look at the State Of Publishing: Traditional, Indie, and Self

I know author Kristine Kathryn Rusch mainly from her short stories in various science fiction magazines, but the truth is she writes across multiple genres and –apparently because sleep bores her or caffeine works particular wonders on her nervous system– she also edits, publishes, and shares all sorts of insights about said writing, editing, and publishing.

So when someone posted her thoughts about state of publishing in 2017, I thought it was worth a read… and you might, too.

Time is Not on Your Side. It is Your Personal Rashomon

As the year draws to a close, people invariably muse aloud about how fast the year has gone. Strangely, November was far longer for me than October. I’m not sure yet how December will shape up.

I decided to do some Internet digging about time and how people perceive it. I suppose I could go ahead and read some Marcel Proust since no one can properly summarize his masterwork, but I wanted something more on the scientific side.

I read about how time itself isn’t real certainly that time is subjective to each person. I tend to think of it as a lovely intangible. I was very interested to learn about how music affects our perception of time — and in general, I’m pretty sure I’ll be reading more about the study of time perception in the near future. It seems it often explores the nature and limits of what could be termed the Rashomon effect.

Eventually, I found a satisfying piece by Alan Burdick in the New Yorker that is, in the end, far more personal and philosophical than what I originally intended from a scientific assessment. So perhaps I’ll seek out that Proust after all.

 

 

Monday Motivation: You Doing You Creatively

I am overdue in continuing the “Monday Motivation” posts, so I thought it’d be an opportune time to note that sometimes it’s good to just do what you’re doing and keep on doing it. Especially for those of you in the middle of the slog that is NaNoWriMo: just keep truckin’. Don’t edit, write! As “they” say, the first draft is always garbage anyway and editing is another month.

One thing I thought of in terms of “you doing you” creatively is the fact that certain things are outside of your control. For example, sometimes people aren’t buying what you’re selling creatively… and it has nothing to do with the quality of what you’re selling (or you, personally). Mark Evanier mentions this as it applies to writers and actors in one of his excellent columns on rejection. As he points out, not every opportunity is an opportunity you’re supposed to get.

I’ve experienced both sides of this equation. On the submission side, I have and continue to get to be rejected both as a writer and an actor. I’m lucky on the actor front to often hear the voice-over spots I auditioned for that I didn’t get: many’s the time where I hear it and think, “Yup, they were going for something different than what I was giving.” It helps that I also get accepted as a writer and an actor from time-to-time, but it’s by no means guaranteed.

The flip side, doing casting or editing, I know the people Mark Evanier talks about who feel work should be guaranteed. The ins and outs of that are worth a whole other post, but the main thing I can say is, so long as you have an honest feedback loop in place to tell you how good your work is, you can and should just keep on doing your best and learning how to better that. Time and again I’ve seen that kind of self-aware, self-improving hard work be noticed and rewarded.

 

Lots of Recommended Reading: Scripts for Days

Life in the offline world has been demanding much of my attention this past month, so I haven’t been posting as much.

I feel somewhat remiss in my Internet duties to pass along useful information and interesting things to read. With that in mind, I direct you to 50 screenplays made available for free from some darn fine movies, from “Alien” to “Up in the Air.”

Happy reading!