She’s still light-years better than the alternative. No contest.

I was disappointed the way the Clinton campaign handled her illness. I’d rather they disclosed Friday when she was diagnosed. But I’m mostly over it.

Her sickness changes nothing about the choice ahead. She’s still light-years better than her opponent. Trump is a bigot, a con man, willfully ignorant, a bully, a coward, enthusiastically supported by white supremacists, he has openly bragged about paying off politicians, he has never disclosed his own medical records or his financial records. And he speaks admiringly of brutal dictators.

Meanwhile, Clinton has pneumonia and SHE STILL SHOWS UP FOR WORK. She COLLAPSES from pneumonia and she’s back at work a couple of hours later. Goddamn right she’s a bitch.

Passions aren’t discovered. They’re cultivated. 

Psychologist Angela Duckworth advises graduates in The New York Times:

Don’t panic if you can’t think of a career path that’s a perfect fit. In large part, this is because interests are not just discovered, they’re developed. Scientists have learned that the sort of enduring fascination that commencement speakers like to praise usually takes time and experience to bloom fully.

For instance, when she graduated from Smith College, Julia Child had no idea that she would fall in love with French cuisine in her late 30s. She had no inkling that writing cookbooks and teaching on television would one day become her calling.

A good-enough fit is a more reasonable aim than a perfect one. Consider your first job as an opportunity to begin an unpredictable, inefficient trial-and-error process. The violist Roberto Díaz told me he didn’t know he’d love the viola before he tried it, and his tepid reaction to the violin could not have foretold the lifelong love affair he has had with the ever-so-slightly-larger viola.

As I said to one young man who, on the cusp of his first real job, was paralyzed by indecision: “Don’t overthink it. Move in the direction of something that feels better than worse.”

Also: Don’t try to think of what interests you. Instead, think about how you’d like the world to change, and work for that.

Marie Manning wanted to be a crime reporter. Instead, she invented the advice column.

Fresh out of finishing school, with a name that appeared on the social registry of Washington D.C.’s debutante parties, Marie Manning was fascinated by true crime stories. She got a job as a newspaper reporter in 1892, but was soon sidelined to the “Hen Coop” to work on the “women’s page.” There, they received letters from people looking for advice, and Manning cooked up the idea to run the letters and answers as a regular column.

Today’s creative writing: 778 words on “The Reluctant Magician”

866 words total. I’m just getting started.

Rather, I’m just getting started for the third time. I made a couple of false starts.

Then I read this essay from Michael Moorcock on how to write an adventure novel in three days.

I do not plan to write this novel in three days. If I can finish it in a year, I’ll be satisfied. But the essay got me thinking about outlining.

Moorcock doesn’t outline exactly. But he does have situations and locations worked out in advance, at the ready, like a metaphorical briefcase into which he can dip and pull out whatever he needs to keep the writing going.

I’ve never tried creative writing with an outline. I always thought outlining was the opposite of creative, and looked down on it. But after reading the Moorcock essay I realized that’s just a silly prejudice. Some excellent writers work from outlines. Others work freestyle. It’s just a matter of what works best; outliners are no better than non-outliners. Maybe outlining would work for me?

I did some research on outlines and came across the snowflake method. You’re outlining your novel by starting from the center and working outward. Like a snowflake — get it?

You start with a one-sentence summary, build that to a paragraph, expand further to studies of your secondary characters, and so on. I started with the snowflake method but abandoned it immediately after the one-sentence-summary stage, because it wasn’t working for me. But outlining was working for me.

I don’t mean a formal outline, with roman numerals and all that. I mean I just started writing down notes about the novel, in sequence. Who were my main characters, what was their problem, how were they going to solve it?

I also remembered a tip from Cory Doctorow on how to structure a novel: A character gets in trouble, does something intelligent to solve the problem but that only makes the problem worse. Repeat that several times until all is very nearly lost, and then the character does one more intelligent thing to solve the problem, and this time it works

Or something like that. I can’t find where Cory said that; the closest I can find is this article on InformationWeek that I wrote nine years ago but have no memory of writing. (That happens sometimes. I write a lot of articles.)

I worked on my outline for a couple of weeks and ended up writing 3,178 words, which I think covers the whole novel.

I think an outline is great for me for a couple of reasons: First, it allows me to forget about the big picture for a little while. I don’t have to hold the whole novel in my head every day, just whatever bit I’m working on at the moment.

The outline is also helpful because the novel I’m working on is a cross between a caper story and urban fantasy, in a fantasy city resembling 1970s-80s America in some ways, and drastically different in other ways, with a lot of background that needs to be explained in a lively fashion and moving parts to keep track of.

I’m not going to claim “aha! I’ve solved the problem of creative writing and will just keep plugging along and producing one novel after another!” I’ve thought that was the case many times before.

Ezra Klein Show: Melissa Bell on starting Vox, managing media, and connecting newsrooms

Ezra Klein:

I first started working with Melissa Bell at the Washington Post. I was trying to launch a new product — Wonkblog — and I needed some design work done. Melissa wasn’t a designer. She wasn’t a coder. She didn’t manage designers or coders. She was, rather, a blogger, like me. But somehow, no one would meet with me to talk Wonkblog unless Melissa was also in the room.It was my first exposure to Melissa’s unusual talent for finding and connecting the different parts of a modern newsroom. We went on to start Vox together, and it’s no exaggeration to say Vox simply wouldn’t exist without Melissa’s vision, her managerial brilliance, or her unerring sense of where journalism is going. She’s also one of my very favorite people — working with her has been one of the highlights of my career. Melissa was recently named publisher for all of Vox Media — so if you’re wondering what’s next in journalism, she’s someone you’ll want to listen to, because she’ll be building it. In this conversation, we discuss:-How Melissa started her journalism career in India-Her experience working near the World Trade Center on 9/11-What she learned from her time as a waitress, and how it was crucial to her development as a journalist-Her pending case before the Indian Supreme Court-How observing large institutions reveals how little information and control any one person really has-How she thinks about “mapping out” organizations and creating informal networks within those organizations to get things done-Why it’s hard to create new things in big organizations and how to create better systems for making those things-How the distinctions between “old” and “new” media have largely collapsed-What it was like starting Vox, and what we got wrong from the beginning-How Vox’s brand identity emerged, and why it proved more important than either of us expectedAnd much more. I work very closely with Melissa, and I learned a lot about her in this discussion. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Klein and Bell discuss what happens when you go from fighting The Man to being The Man.

Also: As a boy, Klein’s favorite book was “The Dragonriders of Pern.” Wow.

Self-Driving Cars Will Improve Our Cities. If They Don’t Ruin Them

Without planning, self-driving cars could increase congestion, widespread unemployment, and reduce tax revenue, says Zipcar co-founder Robin Chase on Backchannel.

Most of what has been written about self-driving or automated vehicles (often abbreviated as AVs) focuses on subjects like their technical aspects, the regulatory battles to license them, or the fascinating but remote dilemma of a self-driving car being forced to choose between holding its course and hitting grandma, or swerving into a troop of boy scouts. There’s relatively little discussion of the speed and scope of change, the impacts that go well beyond the auto industry, or the roadmap to unlocking the enormous upside potential if we actively guide the trajectory of their adoption.

We’re at a fork on that roadmap. One direction leads to a productive new century where cities are more sustainable, livable, equitable, and just.

But if we take the wrong turn, we’re at a dead end. Cities are already complex and chaotic places in which to live and work. If we allow the introduction of automated vehicles to be guided by existing regulations we’ll end up with more congestion, millions of unemployed drivers, and a huge deficit in how we fund our transportation infrastructure. We will also miss an opportunity to fix transportation’s hereto intractable reliance on liquid fossil fuels (and their associated pollution).

Right now, we’re not even alert to how crucial the choices are. In fact, we’re falling asleep at the wheel. Most people in charge of shaping cities — mayors, transportation planners, developers, and lawmakers — haven’t realized what is about to hit them and the speed at which it is coming. They continue to build as if the future is like the present.

George RR Martin’s “Wild Cards” books are coming to TV

The “Game of Thrones” author’s Wild Cards series are set in an alternate history where an alien virus in the 1940s gave superpowers to a tiny fraction of humanity. Martin worked on the books with Melinda Snodgrass and a team of about 30 collaborators, each writing individual stories in the larger universe.

I loved the first dozen or so volumes of the series, and I’m looking forward to the TV show.

Dalya Alberge at The Guardian:

It is a sprawling fantasy featuring deformed humans, superheroes who can read minds and fly, and plot lines exploring issues such as bigotry and raw political ambition. Like the blockbuster TV hit Game of Thrones, it is also based in part on the work of the cult fantasy writer George RR Martin.

Now Hollywood is betting that a major TV adaptation of Wild Cards, a series of science fiction books grounded in gritty realism that Martin began writing 30 years ago, can emulate the extraordinary worldwide success of the HBO show. If it does, it will fulfil the dreams of Martin’s collaborator on Wild Cards, Melinda Snodgrass, who has struggled in vain for 12 years to interest film and television producers.

The US writer and editor was praised by executives, only to be given excuses about why the books were not for them. She refused to be bowed by rejection and her determination has finally paid off. She is now heading an ambitious TV adaption of the series backed by Universal Pictures.

 

Ow my head

I wrote an email to our new corporate HR department summarizing my employment history with UBM/CMP Media. The email took a while to write. It’s more complicated than the storyline of the Back to the Future movies.

By my count, I was hired by the same company … four times? I think  it was four times. I  quit once (twice if you count the transition to Light Reading), and was laid off twice. During the years I worked for them, CMP was acquired by United Business Media, which I think changed its name to just UBM.

Melania Trump had work visa when she modeled in the 90s, former agency says

Melania Trump’s former modeling agent says she obtained a work visa before she modeled professionally in the United States in the mid-1990s. Those comments came in response to questions about Mrs. Trump’s own remarks that appeared inconsistent with U.S. immigration rules….

In interviews earlier this year with MSNBC and for a profile in Harper’s Bazaar, Mrs. Trump’s comments appeared to be inconsistent with holding a work visa.

“I never thought to stay here without papers. I had a visa. I traveled every few months back to the country to Slovenia to stamp the visa,” she said during the MSNBC interview.

U.S. immigration law did not require such trips that Mrs. Trump describes for work-visa holders at the time. People who hold visitor visas would be required to leave the country on or before the end date of their authorized stay. U.S. law does not allow someone to use a visitor visa to regularly live and work in the country.

Mrs. Trump published a statement on Twitter on Thursday, disputing that she violated immigration laws. “I have at all times been in full compliance with the immigration laws of this country. Period. Any allegation to the contrary is simply untrue,” she wrote.

Seems likely that she was here and working legally. Maybe back in the 90s she overcomplied with requirements because she misunderstood them. Or maybe now she is misremembering events of 20 years ago.

(The Associated Press/CBS News)

Informa acquires Light Reading. I work for Informa now.

I’m still digesting this. We just got the news less than two hours ago.

I have an article to write this morning, and earnings calls in the afternoon, so I’ll focus on that. I’ve been through one acquisition before, and too many reorganizations to count. Best thing a person can do in a situation like this is keep doing their job.

Further out, I do see potentially interesting opportunities coming from this.

Cisco Live in pics: Who needs flying cars?

LAS VEGAS — Cisco Live — In the middle of a virtual reality demo of the Internet of Things for transportation, my smartwatch buzzed my wrist with a notification from the real world. Later, I got into a spirited disagreement with a woman from a company called Gupshup about how much personality chatbots should have.

“We’re living the future!” I thought, and used my pocket computer, connected to a global wireless network, to instantly shared the insight with thousands of friends all over the world.

We’re almost never amazed anymore by technology miracles like IoT, chatbots and wireless networks. We take them for granted. And yet, as Yvette Kanouff, SVP/GM service provider business for Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), observed at a Thursday session here, it’s up to service providers to deliver the bandwidth to make it all go. “It’s wonderful for the world to talk about how everything, everywhere is going to be connected, but the pressure is on us to provide the bandwidth and make it work,” she said.

Cisco Live is the company’s annual conference for its enterprise customers. Light Reading was there with its trusty camera. Here’s some of what we saw.

More photos: Cisco Live in Pics: Who Needs Flying Cars?

Me on Light Reading.

Science fiction writer Jerry Pournelle is possibly the first author to write a novel on a word processor

Word processing has transformed the way writers work, a transition from typewriters to electronic writing that happened in a  few short years, starting in the mid-70s and ending by 1984 and 1985. The transition has been largely overlooked by literary historians, but now Matthew Kirschenbaum, an English professor at the University of Maryland, has written a history, “Track Changes” (great title!). He talked with Robinson Meyer at The Atlantic: How to Write a History of Writing Software

Writers of genre fiction — particularly science fiction — adopted word processors long before literary writers. That’s not necessarily because science fiction writers are technology focused (I’ve been surprised myself by how Luddite science fiction fans can be in their real-life use of technology), but because genre writers need to work fast, and turn out a lot of work at high volume.

Robinson writes:

[Kirschenbaum’s] new history joins a much larger body of scholarship about other modern writing technologies—specifically, typewriters. For instance, scholars confidently believe that the first book ever written with a typewriter was Life on the Mississippi,by Mark Twain. They have conducted typographical forensics to identify precisely how T.S. Eliot’s The Wasteland was composed—which typewriters were used, and when. And they have collected certain important machines for their archives.

One day, a similarly expansive body of work may exist for writing software—and Kirschenbaum will be one of its first builders.

In the interview, Kirschenbaum addresses the question of which author was the first to write a novel with a word processor.

We can’t know with absolute certainty, I don’t think, but there are a couple of different answers.

If we think of a word processor or a computer as something close to what we understand today—essentially a typewriter connected to a TV set—there are a couple of contenders from the mid- to late-1970s. Notably Jerry Pournelle, who was a science fiction author. He is probably the first person to sit and compose at a “typewriter” connected to a “TV screen”—to compose there, to edit, and revise there, and then to send copy to his publisher. That was probably a novella called Spirals.

But there are earlier examples. Len Deighton, a highly successful author of British high-tech espionage thrillers, bought an early IBM word processor in the late 1960s. It wasn’t recognizably related to the word processors of today; the user typed on an IBM Selectric MS/ST typewriter that simultaneously recorded text on magnetic tape and conventional paper.

Kirschenbaum notes that secretaries, usually women, were the first to use word processors. Indeed, I remember that in the 1980s and well into the 1990s, successful men couldn’t type — typing was clerical, menial work, something that most men simply did not do. The transition to personal computers led to a brief bloom of typing classes — although the word “typing” had girl-cooties, so these classes were called “keyboarding,” or even “executive keyboarding.”

Me, I knew from a young age that I wanted to be a writer, and even in the late 70s it was obvious to many of us that personal computing was the future. I taught myself to touch-type when I was about 12 years old, and I took a typing class in high school to brush up on those skills, along with a few male friends who were also active in the computer club.

Back to Kirschenbaum: Even though the MS/ST lacked a screen, he calls it the first word processor because it stored the text electronically.

Your “screen” was the sheet of paper you had in your Selectric typewriter. You did your typing on the Selectric—which is the same typewriter, for example, we see in Mad Men; it’s a famous ’60s-era electric typewriter—and if you made mistakes, you would backspace. You would get a mess on the sheet of paper that was currently on the Selectric, but the correct sequence of character strokes was being stored on the tape. Then you would put a clean sheet of paper into the typewriter and it would automatically print out, sort of player-piano fashion, the text stored on the tape’s storage.

This unit sold in the 1960s for $10,000. That’s obviously quite a lot of money, and IBM used the term word processing as a marketing device.

Deighton wrote on a conventional Selectric, then handed the typescript to his secretary, Ellenor Handey, to retype it using the MS/ST. Therefore, I call shenanigans on Kirschenbaum’s classifying Deighton as the first author to use a word processor, simply because he wasn’t the one using the MS/ST. Still, it’s an interesting anecdote — Deighton was on the edge between non-word-processor users and word-processor users.

And importantly, Kirschenbaum says the essential thing about the word processor isn’t the screen, it’s the fluid, electronic nature of the text.

Microsoft Word is still the gold standard for writing software; even people who write primarily for the Internet — including most of the technology journalists I know — use Word. That absolutely flummoxes me. Even today, Word  seems to me to be software designed primarily to produce printed hardcopy, often ornately formatted in ways that writers don’t care about. It’s not designed for articles, blog posts, or books; it’s designed for corporate annual reports.

Until recently, I preferred to write in text editors designed by and for software developers. Now, there’s a new generation of word processing software developed primarily for people who write electronically; Ulysses for Mac is one of those apps, which is the one I use. Scrivener is a more well-known example.

A lot of writing today gets done in email applications and web browsers — specifically the text entry box of Facebook, Twitter, etc. I’m writing this post in the composition window of WordPress. I’m writing on a plane (Kirschenbaum discusses how word processors have changed WHERE we write, as well as how), and I don’t currently have an Internet connection. I really, really hope I don’t lose my work, but WordPress is pretty good about that.

And of course, writing on mobile phones is hugely popular. Maybe the people who are toddlers today will never learn to keyboard; they’ll just thumb-type.

Kirschenbaum also talks about writers he calls “refuseniks,” who were adults in the 70s and 80s and who refused to use word processors. Harlan Ellison is possibly the most outspoken example, still pounding away at a typewriter. Cormac McCarthy is another example.

Another example, not mentioned by Kirschenbaum in this interview: Our friend the science fiction writer Joe Haldeman, author of “The Forever War” and a couple of dozen other, excellent novels. Joe is no refusenik; last time I talked tech with him he was a user of a Mac, iPad, and iPhone. But he likes writing his first drafts in fountain pen on bound, blank books. He says he just writes better that way.

I’ve added Kirschenbaum’s book to my Amazon Wishlist. And, hey, there’s another idea for a book: How digital technology changes the way we read. When I was a teen-ager back in the 70s, I could easily read two or three books every week. Now, I read a half-dozen books a year, if that. I have to make a conscious effort to set aside some time every day to read books. Most of my reading time is taken up reading articles.

 

Those crazy millennials!

I was fired from my internship for writing a proposal for a more flexible dress code [Ask a Manager]

This link has been making the rounds. It’s about a bunch of interns who petitioned their employers for a more relaxed dress code. They were fired for their trouble. The moral of the story is supposedly about how millennials are entitled and spoiled.

A recent study found that nearly half of internships are unpaid. Those millennials sure are spoiled, wanting to at least dress comfortably for jobs for which they’re getting shitty or no money!

Back to Evernote

I’m getting back into using Evernote more. Primarily for interview notes and research materials for articles. I haven’t found anything as good for mixing media types (plain text notes, PDFs, and images), and I like the synch between multiple platforms. The recent price increase doesn’t bother me. It doesn’t look like much money, frankly.

I had nearly abandoned Evernote in 2014 or so because it was bloated and slow on my then-primary computer, a 2010 MacBook Pro. And I really didn’t like the public statements by then-CEO Phil Libin about the way the company was going to go. It looked like Evernote was going to get worse, not better, adding more useless features in an attempt to steal Google’s mission of organizing the world’s information.

I’m encouraged by comments by the new CEO that they’re looking to refocus on note taking, rather than being a company that sells socks and software to take food selfies. Maybe they’ll even kill work chat, which nobody likes.

I’m still writing in Ulysses, though I’m not using it to take notes anymore. One thing I liked when I was taking notes in Ulysses was that the notes and article would be together in a single folder. My solution now that I’m using different apps for research and writing: Tags. I tag each article, starting with the letter n to be sure all the tags are grouped in the list, followed by company name or keyword, short code for day of the week, followed by the date I start work on the article. Example: “n Microsoft Thu 2016-06-30”. I use the same tag for every document, Ulysses sheet, and Evernote note related to that article. Seems like that will work. Ask me again in a year.

I found a note in my journal from three years ago saying I’m getting back into Evernote. So this is not my first turn on that merry go round.

I give this study a standing ovation

Standing desks boost productivity, not just health, study finds [Megan McDonough – The Washington Post]

I’ve been using a standing desk more than five years. My set-up – and all standing desks that I’m aware of – should really be called a standing/sitting desk, because I do spend a lot of the day sitting at it. I’m sitting right now. I use a tall stool. But I spend more than half my time standing at the desk.

It’s perfectly comfortable and I don’t plan to ever go back to a sitting desk.

Do not spend hundreds of dollars on a convertible standing desk. All you need to do is elevate your desktop by about 18″. Putting a coffee table on top of your desk works nicely. I think the piece of furniture I’m using started life as as console for a widescreen TV. And get a tall stool for when you want to sit.

If you hate the open office, blame these guys

Episode_704__Open_Office___Planet_Money___NPR

Ad agency Chiat/Day pioneered the open office in 1994. Architect Gaetano Pesce designed the space to look like a giant living room – or so he said. Maybe Beetlejuice’s living room.

Many people who worked in the office hated it. One said it was “like sitting inside a giant migraine.” But the idea spread, and now 70% of American offices are open plan.

Open Office [Planet Money (podcast)]

Successful Americans lose their shit when you attribute their success to luck.

Cornell economist Robert Frank studies the role luck plays in the outcomes of successful people, and the hostility that comes from suggesting luck plays a role in success.

Behavioral economist on why Americans freak out when you attribute their success to luck -Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing:

Frank’s argument: being born to a rich, privileged family is sometimes sufficient to guarantee success, even for people who aren’t very good at their jobs and don’t work very hard; meanwhile, being born into a family that lacks wealth and privilege can sometimes prevent people from rising in society, even if they are very good and work very hard.

In my observation most successful people are lucky and work hard. I’ve known many unsuccessful people who work hard, and a few successful people who were lazy and lucky.

From my life experience I conclude that good luck is essential to success, and hard work is helpful.