Tag Archives: Writing

Enjoying an Embarrassment of Riches

You know that saying, “When it rains, it pours”? Well, I believe it’s starting to rain for me and it’s threatening to turn into a downpour. Since my retirement from Rocketdyne over four and a half years ago (really?), I’ve tried various methods of earning enough extra money to keep from depleting our savings. I haven’t been all that successful, though I’ve just about stopped the bleeding thanks to the ACA, solar panels, some re-balancing of assets, etc.

The latest thing I had been working on was earning some money as a proofreader or an editor or even a writer. I’ve done several things I’m quite proud of, two of them being proofreading Age of Context, with Shel Israel and Robert Scoble, and doing some editing for Dan Keldsen’s book, co-authored with Thomas M Koulopoulos, The Gen Z Effect. I also did some research and writing with Lorien Pratt and Mark Zangari of Quantellia, most notably a paper on the Carter Center’s Community Justice Advisor program in Liberia.  I’m in the first footnote.

I have also had the good fortune to work a little with Marcia Conner and, recently, she asked me if I would help her revise the book she co-authored with Tony Bingham, president and CEO of the Association for Talent Development (ATD), formerly ASTD, The New Social Learning. I haven’t said anything because we were waiting for a contract from the publisher. That has happened and I’m beginning my efforts.

Multi-tasking man

This is Going to be Fun . . . and a Real Test!

As far as the downpour is concerned, I also just got a job writing a paper (sort of a cross between a white paper and a trade study) on a cloud-based Earned Value Management System and its competitors. Additionally, since I never knew where my next gig would come from, I took advantage of what I thought was a slim, but conceivable, chance I could now return to Rocketdyne as a temp doing whatever-the-hell they want me to. I just received notification that the requisition my former colleague requested for bringing me in has been approved, though there’s still some hoops to jump through, I’m sure.

Nevertheless, it would seem I am now suffering from an embarrassment of riches. I will, of course, honor my previous commitments, so I’m hopeful Rocketdyne will be flexible enough to allow me to do that. I have said I don’t want a full-time job and my goal is not to return as an employee, but I would like to be on their short-list of people who they can count on.

I am really excited about working on the book with Marcia. As I said, we’ve worked together some before and I believe we both enjoyed it immensely, even though we live on opposite coasts. I know I learn a lot merely from the process of collaborating virtually.

PS – I’m also still expecting to be an adjunct professor of business communications at USC’s Marshall School of Business next fall.


Possibly Another Stellar Career Move?

USC Marshall Logo

Yesterday was a very good day. I didn’t make a penny and I don’t care. Jimmy could have cracked an entire bushel of corn and I still wouldn’t care. I had a good morning, posting a few items to my FB page, as well as a special item to my Rotary Club’s group and page. I spent a little time studying a request to get involved in the effort to bring open source, transparent voting technology to bear in California, and I enjoyed some interesting conversations with friends here on FB. I received a copy of a soon-to-be-released, transformational book that I had the privilege to help one of the authors with . . . and it was signed with a nice personal note. I also noticed I received a mention in the acknowledgements. All good stuff.

However, the pinnacle, the apex, the absolutely awesome apogee of my day was an interview at USC’s Marshall School of Business, where I had applied for a position as an Adjunct Professor. At this point I don’t even know who referred me to them. I thought it was a friend who teaches there, for whom I have been a guest lecturer a couple of times, but the woman who interviewed me thought it was a cousin who is a Professor in the Education department. I need to sort that out.

My appointment was for 2:30 pm and, since I live over forty miles from the campus and would have to traverse downtown Los Angeles to get there, I planned on leaving an hour and a half early. It turned out to be perfect, as I ran into the expected traffic, arriving at the entrance a half hour before the scheduled time. It took a couple of minutes to secure a parking permit (they had reserved a slot for me) and the gentleman who did so also gave me a map and instructions.

I parked on the fourth floor of a large structure and, noticing there were no elevators, I walked down the stairs to the street level. I guess I haven’t been in a building that tall in quite some time — at least one without an elevator — and, between the distortion of my bifocals, my being out-of-shape, and what I can only assume is an age related tendency to experience a little vertigo, I felt like a doddering old man, carefully stepping down each flight while holding on to the hand rail. I can remember a time when I could virtually skip down such stairs, but I guess those days are long gone.

As I walked the nearly quarter mile to the building I was headed to, I looked around at all the students walking and riding bicycles and skateboards, as well as the plethora of vehicles that included a large number and variety of electric carts and vans. Coming from the suburbs, I was struck by how closely packed everything seemed to be and I found myself thinking we are preparing the students for life as sardines.

USC Mascot

Tommy Trojan and Traveler – Fight On!

I had little trouble finding the Accounting building, where I was to report and, once inside, I sat down for a moment to get my bearings and to check in with my location on Facebook. I had posted about the interview and was pleased to find so many friends wishing me luck and I wanted to let them know I was there. I once read of a man who, asked to what he attributed his success, answered that he always arrived ten minutes early. As I had long believed a lack of punctuality was disrespectful, I adopted his tactic and, in this case, I was actually 15 minutes early. I don’t know if all this will translate into success, but I’m committed to the effort.

Based on a quick reconnoiter of the office numbers, I figured the one I was headed to was on the fourth floor, so I climbed up the first flight of stairs. At the top I found a sign indicating the stairs provided access to floors one through three, and that there was also access to the roof. I was pretty sure the office I was looking for wasn’t on the roof, but I couldn’t find any sign that pointed out where access to the fourth floor was located. I stopped a couple of students and asked them. They didn’t know, but one offered that she was going upstairs and she would walk with me. When we got to the third floor, it appeared there was another flight, but when we went around the corner it led to a locked door. We clearly weren’t going to the roof.

The student who had accompanied me offered to seek out advice and we ended up finding one of the Deans, who led me down a corridor to a door that opened up to stairs. Not in any way obvious, but . . . voila! I was near the end of my search and still 10 minutes early. I climbed the stairs and found the office I was seeking, announced my presence and the recognition I was early, and took a seat outside. Within minutes, the woman who was to conduct the interview popped her head out the door, introduced herself, and asked me to come on in.

I followed her inside, through the reception area, and into her office where she offered me a seat, closed the door, and sat down at her desk opposite me. We had an interesting opening chat which thoroughly confused me as to how my name had found its way to her, and I intend on researching that a little more, but it wasn’t really all that important. It did serve to show I had more connections to the University than I had realized, which was gratifying.

To make what is now a long story a little bit shorter, she told me I had a very impressive resume and she thought I would be perfect teaching both business communications and writing. She also told me they’re already set with their Spring schedule and that I would likely be offered a position after that, which would probably be teaching either Sophomores or Juniors, students she suggested would be very interested in my eclectic experience and knowledge. She also said I might be able to teach virtually, especially since they’re heading more in that direction and I had fairly recently completed my Masters degree in Knowledge Management entirely online. I would also be assigned a mentor, this being my first experience teaching at this level.

As it stands right now, in the interim I have the opportunity to be a guest lecturer, somewhat at my leisure and with subjects of my choosing. This, of course, would be uncompensated but I consider it valuable experience and a way of showing what I can do. I will soon send her a couple of synopses of what I propose to offer. Otherwise, I wait. Based on her enthusiasm and interest, unless she’s being disingenuous (and I have no reason to believe that to be the case), I expect I will begin what may be a new, interesting, and challenging chapter in my life’s journey within the next year.

One thing I find both interesting and ironic about all this is that I grew up believing I would attend UCLA, if I went to a local University. As it turns out, I never did go to undergraduate school, but UCLA likely would have been my first choice. That I may end up teaching at USC, their bitter crosstown rival, is kind of like growing up wanting to play baseball for the Los Angeles Dodgers, only to end up being drafted by the San Francisco Giants. There are far worse things I can think of.


Twenty Years of Blogging – Congrats to Dave Winer

To Blog or Not to Blog

To Blog or Not to Blog

Dave Winer has played, mostly unbeknownst to me, a critical role in the development of blogging and other forms of online communication, including outliners and other types of online authoring and publishing software. I have been blogging for about ten years and I just recently came to realize his role. Actually, ever since I began following him on Facebook and experimenting with his numerous free offerings, e.g. Little Facebook Editor, which currently allows you to post to both Facebook and your WordPress blog, as well as edit and update both simultaneously, Little Card Editor, with which you can upload graphics (with added text) to both Facebook and Twitter, and Fargo, a quite useful outliner I’m using for a couple of things I’m working on.

Today, he posted in celebration of his twenty year anniversary of blogging. It’s an interesting explanation of what he’s been through (not exactly pretty) and what he thinks he’s learned from it. You can read it here. It’s really worth your while, especially if you’re a blogger and you sometimes wonder if it’s worth it.

I occasionally wonder why I’m doing this, as I’ve no intention of making any money off of my efforts but, rather, am merely looking for a way to express myself and, hopefully, reach a few people who like what I have to say. My biggest reason for blogging nowadays is to leave something of myself for my children, who may or may not find anything of value in it. I keep writing, though it’s sometimes a struggle – especially in terms of sharing some of my more personal thoughts, observations, and desires.

Anyway, this is my way of thanking Dave for what he’s done and recognizing his work in making all this possible. If you’re a blogger, you may not realize the role he’s played. Perhaps you should. At the very least, I always find it interesting to learn more about how we got to where we are. It’s frequently not terribly apparent unless you seek it out.

Mazel tov, Dave. Thanks for the ride. I, for one, am deeply appreciative.


What Didn’t You Say?

Horn Antenna

I’M ALL EARS!!

I think most anyone who finds their way to this blog, whether for the first time or if they’re regular visitors, knows I’m not really trying to promote myself or to make money off of it. Since I use the WordPress.com engine for this, I know there are occasional ads that pop up, but I don’t receive any compensation from them. I’m really not interested in it. I guess it’s a vestigial behavior related to my actually having a real job for over two decades. I’m not terribly adept at promoting myself, though I will surely have to improve if I’m to accomplish anything of value from my latest endeavor. More on that below.

Nevertheless, I am interested in making a difference; in reaching people and sharing something of my unique perspective on things. Because of that, I do look for one thing other than remuneration . . . feedback. Unfortunately, I get precious little of it. Certainly much less than I get on Facebook. One of the reasons I have a hard time tearing myself away from FB is the engagement I receive. There’s almost always a conversation going on and I get a fair amount of likes, comments, and shares for a guy who is far from well-known for anything.

As far as this blog is concerned, I do watch my stats, which WordPress does a damn good job of providing. I also try to promote most of what I write here using the share buttons and the automatic sharing the engine does when I publish. It’s gratifying to see how many people read (or, at least, visit) my blog, but there’s one thing missing and I’m hopeful that can be remedied somewhat.

What I’m referring to is comments. I get very few comments. I’m not sure why and I do worry sometimes it’s just because I’m not all that interesting. :/ In some respects, it shouldn’t (and mostly doesn’t) make one whit of a difference in terms of whether or not I speak my mind. However, I think that’s about to change.

I’ve announced I’m working on a book. It will be my memoirs of activities I was involved in during the period 1967 through about 1976. This was the period in which I was most active in the Peace & Justice movement, especially the effort to end the war in Vietnam. I am currently in the process of connecting with some of the people I worked with back then and am discovering it is difficult. I need to do a lot of research, as my memory is like a steel sieve. I remember a lot, but it was nearly four to five decades ago and I’m not sure I completely trust what I recall happened. Additionally, I want to include as much as I can from others who experienced some of the same things I did, either with me or in similar circumstances.

This means I need to reconstruct what took place during that time. I spent time working with lots of different organizations and people and there are details I’m hoping to get fleshed out by others. Some of the groups I worked with were the Peace Action Council, Indochina Peace Campaign, Los Angeles Women’s Liberation Union, The Resistance, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, The Committee to Free Angela Davis, the Brown Berets, La Brigada Venceremos, and the Black Panther Party. I’m sure there were more I will either remember as I get deeper into my research or that others will remind me of.

Some of the people I worked with were Dorothy Healy, Irv Sarnoff, Tom Hayden, Jackie Goldberg, Ron Kovic, Holly Near, Jane Fonda, the law firm of Margolis, McTernan, Scopes, Sachs, & Epstein, Daniel Ellsberg and Tony Russo, and many others. Some I spent a lot of time with and with others I was involved in one or two engagements and that was it. Since I did a lot of security work, some of those engagements were — shall we say — quite exciting.

I will be sharing more and more of what I’m doing, including posting portions of the book as it progresses. What I’m really hoping to see, and what I’m asking readers of my blog to provide, is a little feedback. If you or someone you know was involved in any way, e.g. anti-war demonstration, march, rally, love-in, teach-in, cultural event, or concert, etc., I’d love to hear from you and, if you are willing, I’d like to talk with you. I suppose you could call what I want to do an interview but, in this case — since I was so involved at the time — I tend to think what I’m seeking is an opportunity to reminisce.

Feedback. It’s what I need right now. After the book is complete everyone can go back to ignoring me. ;)


Breaking Away from HuffPo

Recently, I wrote about my frustration with the Huffington Post’s online presence, due mostly to the length of time it takes for the page to load and the number of refreshes one experiences while numerous pieces are fit onto the page. What I find most frustrating is the constant resizing and repositioning of what I’m trying to read as it’s loading. I’m not one to click on a link, then walk away for a minute or two waiting for the page I’m being served to settle down comfortably in my browser. I start reading the moment there’s a word in front of my face. BTW – I currently use Google Chrome and I am not going to spend time testing Safari, Firefox, or Opera to see if there’s a difference, though if someone tells me there is a substantial difference I might check it out.

Apolo Ohno

Yep! Just Like my Politics.

HuffPo is no longer the force it was when I first joined it over eight and a half years ago. At least it isn’t for me. There are plenty of alternatives, many of which are simpler and also a bit closer to my politics. Meaning, they lean to the left like Apolo Ohno entering a turn.

Yesterday I received a comment from a reader (also a friend) who said he experienced the same thing and was wondering if I could point him to some possible replacement sites for learning from a similar outlook. I should mention I know this person does not share my politics, but I’m glad to hear he’s interested in seeing things from more than one angle. The hallmark of an open mind is the willingness to see things from perspectives different than one’s own. I respect that a great deal.

Now, I go to quite a few different sites, each of which would be considered Leftist, but which are also somewhat different in how they approach the news and their reporting and analysis of it. For instance, there is a distinct difference between a site that is run by liberal Christians and one run by secular leftists. They report the same stories, frequently in similar fashion, yet they each have a particular slant on how important they consider these stories and what they think is behind them and how they ought to be resolved. These show up in how their posts are written, where they’re placed, or when they are attended to. There are numerous other nuances that I think differentiate many of the sites I get my news from, but the bottom line is I still have to sift through what they’re telling me, as well as what others are saying. Then I have to hold it all up to the lens of my knowledge and experience over the years. Did someone say critical thinking?

So . . . here’s a list of some of the sites I would recommend, along with a little bit of my thinking as to why they matter:

  • Daily Kos – What I like about Daily Kos is that many, if not most, of the stories (which they call “Diaries”) are written by individuals who have an interest in the subject they’re writing about. Some of them are excellent journalists and some are merely passionate individuals who have something to say. Diaries run the gamut from well-researched investigative pieces to highly opinionated diatribes. The page loads quickly and is customizable to your tastes, including subjects and authors. You can also create a fairly detailed profile. It’s very participatory. I post there once in a while; usually by copying over one of my blog posts from Systems Savvy.
  • Mother Jones – In addition to politics, MJ covers environmental and cultural news, much like HuffPo. They also have lots of photo essays and blogs. Pages load up quickly, yet there’s lots of info to choose from, all of which is presented pretty clearly. I’m not a web designer, so I don’t know what the ultimate is when it comes to ease of access, etc., but MJ looks pretty good to my eyes.
  • The Raw Story – I’m not that familiar with this one, but I do read some of their stories when I’m pointed to them via a friend on Facebook. The site loads up quickly and offers snippets to lots of different stories. In addition to the front page, their menu (easily accessible at the top of the page) offers U.S. and World News, Science, Tech, and a few other special areas of interest.
  • Slate Magazine – Visually, Slate is considerably different than the three above, though I think they just changed and it looks like they’re trying to create a paid subscription issue with some special content. The home page is somewhat visually appealing, but looks a little confusing if you’re just wanting to find specific types of information. There is a menu, but it wasn’t apparent to me (it’s at the top right and the icon for it is three horizontal lines. What I like about Slate is many of its articles are in-depth. They take a bit of commitment to read through, but they’re generally quite well-written and literate.
  • Truthout – Interestingly, I’m not all that familiar with this one, yet their Senior Editor and Lead Columnist is a Facebook friend of mine. I read a lot of his stuff directly on Facebook, where it is easy to engage. Doing so on any of these sites isn’t anywhere as easy or as immediate, let alone satisfying. Truthout is a non-profit and you will see far fewer ads than on some of the other sites. They also have a section called “Progressive Picks” where they offer books for sale, a portion of the proceeds (tax-deductible) going to their organization. They also provide articles, excerpts, and interviews related to their weekly pick. Everything loads quickly and there’s little superfluous junk on the pages. Truthout also has a sort of auxiliary site called “Buzzflash”, which has loads of headlines (sortable by freshness) as well as commentary.
  • Liberal America – This WordPress-driven site is one I am somewhat familiar with, as I was accepted as an author for them. I ended up not writing anything because I was admonished that it wasn’t an opinion site, yet it was clear to me there’s a very opinionated slant to all their articles. I’m fine with that, but I found the position confusing and, since the pay was very minimal, I decided to concentrate my efforts elsewhere. Nevertheless, the site is reasonably clean, loads quickly (without all the garbage that makes HuffPo so damned infuriating nowadays) and, with the exception of a tendency to republish older material (at least on their Facebook page), is timely and pertinent. The publisher and at least several of the writers are left-wing Christians.

Now for a little confession. When I read the comment asking my opinion of sites similar to The Huffington Post, which was last night, I did a Google search on the term “news sites similar to huffington post”. It was a bit disconcerting to find most of the hits returned were about HuffPo itself. I probably could have changed my query to get a more targeted set of responses, but I was able to find one site on the second page of hits that was what I was looking for. It’s entitled “Huffingtonpost.com – 50 Similar Sites and Alternatives” and I used it to navigate to most of the sites I mention above. I could have gone to most of them independently, but I wanted to check out some of the others.

In the list of 50 similar sites, there were a few that are not similar; at least not for the purpose I was asked to consider, which was sites with a definitely liberal, progressive, left-wing slant. Obviously, there are quite a few sites to check out and I suggest anyone who is interested (including my friend who requested my opinion) use this site to check them out. You can even vote on whether or not you agree with their picks.

My analysis is not terribly extensive, but I hope it’s helpful. I would like to reiterate what I mentioned in most of what I wrote about these sites. None of them take longer than a few seconds to load and, therefore, in addition to being left-leaning in content and position, they are also superior for ease-of-use and lack of irritating, multiple refresh instances. As always, I welcome any feedback others may wish to provide.


Making Contact

VVAW Button

An Honorable Organization of Good People

Since “announcing” my nascent book project the other day, I have communicated with four people who were part of the action back in the time I am writing about. One of them reached out and reminded me of some of the things we were involved in that had yet to cross my mind. Two of them I had been in touch with previously and they just happened to answer emails I sent out a couple of days ago. One I called today to give him a heads-up.

Of these four, two are Vietnam veterans; one an Army Engineer, the other an RTO with an Army LRRP team. They both played major roles in my life back then, as their opposition to the war they had fought in strengthened both my belief it was wrong and my resolve to do something to end it. I have a hard time putting into words just how much their friendship meant to me, but I’m going to try.

Right now I’m working on an Introduction; an attempt to explain what I want to accomplish in the body of the book. This is all kind of new to me. Not entirely, as I’ve had the honor and experience of working with a few other people (as an editor or proofreader) on books they’ve written. It’s just that I’ve never done the actual writing before and those books were business books (and a couple of Zombie Apocalypse novels). I’m hoping once I get going a lot of it will just come pouring out. Those were eventful times.


12 Things You Should Know About Lists

I’ve received plenty of advice or, more precisely, offers to subscribe to newsletters, attend webinars, or purchase books on how to get more traffic to one’s blog. I’ve never been all that interested in them though, truth to tell, I sometimes read a few paragraphs or so. One of the great “formulas” for blog writing is “The List” which, for some odd reason, amuses the hell out of me.

Lists are ubiquitous and endless. Virtually anything you can think of has been – or can be – reduced to a list and chances are someone has created one. In that spirit, today I did a little poking around to confirm my suspicions. For your dining pleasure I bring you 12 lists of 12 things you should know about something or another.

  1. 12 Things You Didn’t Know Your Smartphone Could Do
  2. 12 Things to Know About Medicare Advantage Plans
  3. 12 Things to Know About “Lifted” Suspension Engineering
  4. 12 Things I Wish I’d Known
  5. 12 Things Wedding Photographers Want to Tell You, But Can’t
  6. 12 Things You Didn’t Know You Could do With Mason Jars
  7. 12 Things No One Ever Tells You About Babies
  8. 12 Things Every Gender-Nonconforming Child Wants You to Know
  9. 12 Things You Might Not Know About World of Warcraft
  10. 12 Things Your Nail Salon Doesn’t Want You to Know
  11. 12 Things You Might Not Know About Elephants
  12. 12 Things You Should Be Able to Say About Yourself

I got these from searching Google for the phrase “12 things you should know about”, which returned a little less than 50 pages of reasonably relevant material. Some of the results were for different size lists. Five, ten, and seven are pretty popular size lists as well, each one returning around 40 pages, though the time-honored dozen provided the largest return.

I don’t know what this means or what it says about us (writers and readers). I’m not really big on formulaic writing, though I’ve recently done quite a few case studies, which must follow a basic format in order for them to make sense. Still, there’s something about the ubiquity of lists that grates on me a bit. Maybe my next post should be “13 Reasons I Can’t Stand Lists.”


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