Living in the land of plenty

Donut - Land of Plenty

I remember growing up in St. Paul, there was a donut shop on University and Dale that made the best raised donuts in the world. They were big and my favorite was a chocolate with crushed peanuts on top. We would take a special trip there every few months and only get one donut for each of us. The donut would take forever to eat.

We had the same relationship with the Dairy Queen on Rice St. We would visit the DQ on the Sundays our family drove down by the Mississippi to watch the barge traffic. We didn’t go for those drives often and we would always only get a small cone per kid. No matter how hot it was, that ice cream would last for a long time.

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A monkey with a loaded typewriter

Right margin on the manual typewriter

I read this short post by Nathan Bransford about tinkering with e-books after they have been “published.” At first, I was deeply conflicted. On the one hand, being able to correct typos easily and make updates seems like you would be giving your readers a service they could not get in print books. On the other, my English degree (my old, tattered one) says that once a writer releases the work, it is no longer his; it belongs to his readers, warts and all.

But then my old newspaper background reared its ugly head and reminded me square on that in print, there are no do-overs. If you miss a typos or make some other mistake during the editing process, it will get replicated 200,000+ times and be forever archived AS IS in the Library of Congress, the Newseum and as clippings in scrapbooks for generations. If that kind of pressure does not force you to become very, very good at the craftsmanship of writing, you should perhaps look for another profession.

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From my point of view or yours?

Church Steeple

I saw this church across the parking lot of a Morris furniture store in Dayton. I was being dragged to go shopping for a new sofa that I didn’t want and I don’t really need, so I was in a somewhat goofy frame of mind. It’s how I handle my reality when I’m in a situation I don’t want to be. Everything gets funny.

As I looked up at this really sharp, point steeple and mused, “From God’s point of view, that is a thumbtack on a chair.”

But when the funny wore off, I started to think a bit deeply about why people build steeples on churches. It occurs to me that the best church would be built around this really cool-looking garden sanctuary so that when God looked down, he would see a place that invited him in instead of poking him in the eye… or the nether regions, depending on which direction he was facing at the time.

People build churches in God’s name, but everything about them satisfies their needs, not His. They reach toward the sky with steeples in hopes of being closer to God; they put the tower bells up high so that God’s voice can call to them. They line the inside with statues and gold candelabrae. (Lutherans also make sure there is a kitchen for coffee and donuts after the service. But they also put roosters on top of the steeple, so I don’t know what that means.)

I wonder if God looks down at us and thinks, “these people sure are a selfish bunch.”

This post isn’t really about God or religion or any of that. (If you comment about religion below, you are warned that I am a cantankerous Recovering Catholic and you should be prepared to suffer the slings and arrows of an unfiltered opinion.) It is, rather, a introspection on the relationship we have with one another. When we extend out an invitation, do you point the thumbtack pointy end out or in? Do we see ourselves from the other person’s point of view? Should we?

I don’t have the answers, but I now have the questions. I suspect that is a lot more than most people get looking up at steeples.

This blog post is part of a blog-off series with a group of bloggers from different professions and world views, each exploring a theme from his/her world view. This was about exploring the theme, Thumbtacks To explore how others handled the theme, check them out below. I will add links as they publish.

Letsblogoff with Paul Anater

Twice a week, all the #letsblogoff characters get together and share their viewpoint on a particular theme selected by the super-secret committee at the LetsBlogOff compound, apparently offshore in a secure location.

We were lucky enough to get in touch with one of those members, Mr. Paul Anater, editor of the insanely popular blog, Kitchen and Residential Design. He also acts as the editor-in-chief and LetsBlogOff pilot every other Tuesday when he is not jet-setting around the world for his day job as a Super Agent of Design.

Here is a short conversation with Paul. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did walkin’ and talkin’ with him.

MP3 File

The next #letsblogoff is this coming Tuesday where the gang will explore the theme: What is the best book you ever read?

When we fail as readers, we fail as writers

I read this article in the NY TImes this week about e-books adding music to the “experience.” Champions of this technology justify it by saying it adds to the experience, enhances imagination, meets readers where they are, blah, blah, blah.

I have not yet worked out all the feelings I have about this, but I am down to one thing: Parents and teachers need to teach young readers how to hear the sounds that words on the page produce through the ear of their own imagination. Readers need to be able to create the characters and the settings in their minds through imagination. They need to learn how the cadence, rhythm and rhyme of the words produces the “soundtrack” that propels the reader through the book.

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Confessions of the creative wannabe

I remember buying a tape recorder at Radio Shack when I was twelve or thirteen years old. It was one of those old ones that you loaded the cassette tape into the top and plugged in a wired microphone. I remember how excited I was that this piece of gear would allow me to record sounds that had never been recorded before, including my own voice. When you’re young, you think the sound of your own voice is pretty cool. As you get older, you discover not so much.

I got bored pretty quickly with the recorder as I thought a 16mm video camera would be even cooler. I never did get one, but only because VHS video cameras came out before I had enough money to buy one. I hear nobody makes 16mm movie camera anymore.

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#TwitterMakesYouStupid – a New York Times challenge

Last night, Bill Keller, Executive Editor, The New York Times tweeted out: “#TwitterMakesYouStupid. discuss”

And of course, this started up a firestorm among the twits, many of whom were not particularly skilled with using the grammar of the English language or the proper placement of an apostrophe, but that probably proves Mr. Keller’s bias a bit too much.

I digress.

I don’t care about how stupid twitter makes you or if stupid people use twitter or any of that. Not one bit. My motives for writing this blog post are just way more selfish than that.

I hopped on over to The New York Times library of blogs and noticed a gaping hole in your catalog: NO DOG BLOG!

That can not stand!

Everybody knows that Americans only want to read stories of cute puppies, dogs being rescued from flooded drainage ditches, loyal dogs saving their owners during earthquakes or rescue dogs doing extraordinary things during times of tragedy like 9/11 (shameless, I know, but watch where I’m going with this before you judge.)

So, Mr. Keller, I propose you hire me to write a blog specifically dedicated to dog residents of New York City. In a city of 8-9 million people, many who own dogs, there has to be at least a hundred stories a year worth reporting, right?

I will be in New York City for the annual 140Conf June 15-16. Please call my people to set up an appointment in your offices.. or Gregory’s Coffee on 7th is fine. I’ll buy.

Unless you think I’m just too stupid to write for your little newspaper.

All you, Mr. Keller.

A thousand words in a million keystrokes

This morning, I pulled the dust cover off the old manual typewriter, rolled a sheet of paper into the carriage and typed something. I wanted to see what it felt like again to be a “real writer.”

In truth, it felt like getting on an old bike after having not ridden for years; slow going at first… a lot of fits and starts but eventually that rhythm… aw, who am I kidding. It was painful as heck. It felt more like learning how to walk and talk again after someone hit you upside the noggin with a hammer and broke both your legs with a Louisville slugger.

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Ideas through fear – a #letsblogoff thingie

I’d like to wax romantically about how I get my ideas strolling along on dog walks, but that would be a lie. I spend most of my time watching out for speeding cars, white reverse lights and kids on bicycles who think dogs know to move over to the right.. or left.. as they weave in and out along the sidewalk. Walks are for the vigilant. I spend most of my brain power strategizing on how to carry 200 pounds of dog should anything unfortunate happen.

So, dog walks are not really fertile idea grounds. Neither is the time spent mowing the lawn, shopping for groceries, strolling the mall, walking in the park, standing in the shower — all of those stereotypical settings people go on about. Sure, I get ideas in those places from time to time, but mostly not.

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The definitive guide for planning your day to maximize your potential and meet cute people

Day Planner for maximum potential

Ok, so the title was a bit misleading but if Google and I are still buds, I’m guessing you are here to meet cute people. It could happen by reading this post, but not likely. Pull up a chair anyway.

It has become fashionable among all the A-list blogger folk this time of year to tell you how to plan your day, focus this much time on that task, focus on that, blah, blah, blah. Take this from an old dog — they are all wrong.

The chart above is how I plan my day. Everything gets planned Before Walk (BW) or After Walk (AW) but the walk never, ever gets skipped. We are never too busy for the walk. The smaller bubbles attached to the walk bubble are really important too and will always get done when the opportunity presents itself. The smaller bubbles on the outside are things life makes us do.

A few years ago, the walk bubble was really small and all the other bubbles were larger. As time went by, many things that I thought were important just turned out not to be and became small bubbles. The walk bubble got larger. I also focused on making the walk bubble larger and hope one day to make my entire day the walk bubble.

Get it? Now since we’re dogs here, the walk bubble is a literal walk bubble. But in your life, it might just be a metaphor for what you want to do. If you are a potter, maybe you want to throw clay all day. If you are a writer, you may want to sling words. If you are a photographer, your walk bubble may be taking photos.

Define your central bubble and figure out how to make that the central part of your day. Then figure out how to expand it out until nothing else is more important than the central bubble. Minimize all the smaller bubbles and keep what makes the central bubble more intense and worth doing.

Pretty simple, eh? No charts, no keeping track of how much time you spend doing stuff. Just a laser-like focus on increasing the amount of time you spend doing what makes life worth living.

And you people who came in looking for cute people; if that is your central bubble, at least you are ahead of most people. You know what you want to do. We hope we expanded your bubble just a little bit more.

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