Courtesy Warner Bros.
Remarkable author Dashiell Hammett keeps this classic murder mystery going by only describing what characters see and do—never their thoughts or feelings. This makes for a tense and innovative approach to a who-done-it, and even started the hard-boiled, film noir trend of later detective novels and movies. Four out of five stars.
Although several of my international travel stories are still on hold, a handful of domestic ones recently published that I hope you enjoy. Thanks for reading and sharing any you like:
Judge me if you must, but I’ve been roadtripping with family for the last several months in quarantine to domestic locations that are increasingly open to tourists.
This is what I’ve learned from that changed, strange, but still worthwhile experience of traveling in a pandemic: Continue reading…
Two weeks after lockdown began this spring, I went to Guitar Center to pickup some gear for my new album. The place was packed. “It’s been Black Friday every day for the past two weeks,” one clerk told me.
Turns out, the sudden spike in homemade music has remained ever since. Gibson, Fender, and others have already broken record sales this year. One guitar maker sold in June and July what they expected to sell for the entire year!
According to the New York Times, “In a narrow sense, the surge made sense. Prospective players who had never quite found the time to take up an instrument suddenly had little excuse not to. As James Curleigh, the chief executive of Gibson Brands, put it: “In a world of digital acceleration, time is always your enemy. All of a sudden time became your friend.””
That was certainly the case for me. My work slowed, and I didn’t watch any Netflix or read any books during the first five months of quarantine. Instead, I spent all of my spare time making music, which resulted in my debut record and forming my first band since college.
It’s amazing what you can accomplish when time slows, whether by design or by pandemic.
Next to California and Alaska, Utah is one of the most disproportionately beautiful and geographically diverse states in America. It has five national parks, 10 national monuments, and dozens of other national recitation areas. Even some of its state parks that would likely be a national park anywhere else (I’m looking at you Snow Canyon). It’s a state I call home, and where I want my ashes spread when I die. About the only thing Utah doesn’t have are beaches, but the red rock just might make up for that absence. Either way, here are five impressive photos of some of the state’s most iconic scenery: Continue reading…
In 2015, the U.S. Department of Justice indicted dozens of global soccer officials on charges of rampant bribery, money laundering, and widespread corruption. As the “FIFA fallout” continues, here’s what organizations can do to keep themselves honest, in good standing with the law, and free from corporate fraud.
The month before the 2014 World Cup was set to kick-off in Brazil, a Los Angeles journalist by the name of Ken Bensinger received a juicy tip from a colleague. According to the tipster, a top U.S. soccer official by the name of Chuck Blazer had defrauded the sport of more than $20 million dollars. Not only did the official deal in the wholesale bribery, but he apportioned 10% of almost every single dollar that came in—even hot dog sales, even on charity games.
Bensinger did some digging, confirmed the rumors, and published his wild, investigative story for Buzzfeed News. The story went viral, and quickly uncovered a rabbit hole of obscene corruption that reached nearly every region of the global sport, from the bottom to the top. Although international FIFA officials were always suspected of rampant fraud, Bensinger’s story was the first to reveal that the culture of crime had undoubtedly reached U.S. shores.
A year later, with the help of a cooperating Blazer, the U.S. Department of Justice indicted the first of dozens of FIFA officials on organized crime charges of racketeering, bribery, money laundering, and fraud. That seismic event lead to Bensinger’s groundbreaking and riveting book, Red Card.
I recently spoke to Bensiger about the fallout and what companies can learn from the largest sporting scandal in world history. And although few, if any, legitimate businesses operate as organized crime syndicates like FIFA often did, Bensinger was quick to diffuse the proximity.
“It was organized crime, but the corruption case also involved several legitimate businesses,” Bensinger says. “Sports marketers, big broadcasters, and sponsors such as Coca-Cola, Sony, and McDonald’s, the latter two which even canceled their contracts with FIFA as a result.” Continue reading…
Business Insider recently compiled the latest research on how parenting styles affect our grown children. For example, according to the American Medical Association, Harvard, the University of Michigan, and others:
- Kids who do chores grow into more independent and responsible adults.
- Kids who are taught social skills end up graduating from college and earning more money.
- Kids who were told white lies by their parents have a lot more trust issues as adults.
- Kids develop low self esteem after watching their parents speak negatively about their own bodies.
- Kids with high expectations and nurturing parents get better grades in school.
- Kids who are taught how to verbalize feelings get fewer divorces as adults.
- Kids who are sheltered by their parents suffer greater anxiety as adults.
Parenting isn’t easy. But reading the above makes me want to double my efforts. The upside is far too great than giving in to a daily tantrum.
When a friend recently asked Blake Snow if he was quitting his day job to become a full-time musician, he answered “No.” But that doesn’t mean his debut album, Mr. Mustache, is a joke or something not worth supporting (or even touring). “It’s a synth-laden rock record that I take very seriously,” Snow says.
Written, recorded, and produced entirely in quarantine, Mr. Mustache is the public culmination of more than 25 years of homegrown songwriting, recording, and performing. “I wouldn’t say this record saved my life, but it definitely saved my sanity during lockdown,” Snow says. “I hope you enjoy listening to it as much as I had making it.”
Standout tracks include the lead single, Turn A Corner, the moody Control What You Can, the playful Mr. Mustache, and Snow’s personal favorite, Shrug, which also happens to be his go-to coping mechanism for the current madness.
Listen to the full-length album now on:
Do you know what happens when world-class athletes stop taking time-outs? Their body slows down and they start making bad decisions. Anyone who’s every played competitive sports or even performance art already understands this truth.
And yet when it comes to office work, many of us overlook the importance of regular breaks. We mistakenly assume that just because we’re not exerting our bodies, we don’t need rest. But breaking isn’t just for people who tax their bodies for work, it’s for anyone who thinks and makes lots of decisions—you very much included.
To that end, here are 5 ways regular breaks can help you work smarter, faster, and even longer: Continue reading…
I finished writing my second book the day America shutdown on Friday the 13th. In the months since, it was edited, approved, and most recently cover art-ed.
Although it was suppose to publish in August, COVID slowed things down a little. But I’m still confident it will release in the coming weeks, depending on schedules.
Either way, I’m incredibly proud of the result and can’t wait to share it with the world soon. Thanks for considering it.
Photo by my son, Max Snow
My first album, Mr. Mustache, was released on all major music stores today. I’m proud and excited to share recording with the world. Here are 10 things you should know:
- It’s streaming on Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, YouTube Music and more. Additionally you can purchase the album for download from iTunes or Amazon. I get like .00000001 of a penny every time you do.
- With exception to one song (“Show Me,” co-written by friend Chris Morell), the entire album was written, recorded, produced, mixed, and mastered by me in my home office. I even did the cover art.
- I wrote and recorded 18 songs for the album, but shelved five and will re-record the sixth for a later release. The album was recorded in Garage Band on my Mac mini and distributed by Amuse.
- The record is 41 minutes long, which is the age I turned while finishing the record.
- It was produced entirely in quarantine. Although unwanted, “The Great Shutdown” proved to be the most musically inspiring event of my life so far.
- It took four months to complete, from pre-production songwriting and arranging, to recording and performing, and ultimately mixing and mastering.
- Not since college have I played this much music. Never in my life have I written this much music. I can’t tell you how wonderful it feels to make noise while the world sorts itself out.
- There are six synth pop songs on the 12 track record, plus two rock songs, two pop punk songs, and two ballads.
- My friend recently asked if I was quitting writing to become a full-time musician. I replied, “No,” but I plan to release several more albums in my spare time now as an unsigned artist.
- You can ask Alexa, OK Google, or Siri to “Play the latest Album by Blake Snow” and they will. Neat!
After my family played the record for this first time this morning, my wife asked in earnest, “Will you cut your mustache now?” I said, “Yes.” But only after my album release party tomorrow!
Thanks for listening and sharing with anyone who might like it.
PS—If you would review the album on your favorite music service, it would really help it reach more people. Thank you.
Credit: Lindsey Snow
I was recently interviewed by Kim Forrester, a wellbeing podcaster from New Zealand, about my book Log Off: How to Stay Connected after Disconnecting.
I hope you enjoy her delightful accent and questions as much as my answers related to sustainable technology use, how quarantine has changed the rules (or hasn’t), and what you can do right now to reclaim your nights and weekends.
Thanks for listening.
I was a mess the first two weeks of quarantine. My wife of 17 years said she had never seen me so stressed.
What did I do to cope?
I started writing music at a frantic pace and recorded 18 original songs in the first three months of shutdown. Twelve of those songs made it on my debut album that’s available for streaming and download on August 20.
One of the songs that really help me move from stress to at least some kind of clarity was called “Control What You Can.” With exception to the bridge, it ‘s only two chords and it has an uneasy feeling, the same feeling most of us felt when the world changed.
But in spite of the uneasy sound, I wrote the encouraging lyrics for myself, pleading to “control what I could” when there was so much I couldn’t control. It was a wonderful realization that help me turn a corner; from stress into action.
When I went to record the song, it was late at night. With my floor lamp and headphones on, I spent several hours on the production and immediately knew I had captured a special sound, arguably the most professional track on the the entire album. By the end, I recorded a simple but righteous guitar solo and sung my heart out during an extended outro.
This is that song. It’s pretty moody. And although the music doesn’t sound very uplifting, the lyrics completely are, which is a juxtaposition that I really like and hope you do to.
I’ve never been scared of COVID.
I’m still young and in good health, which played a big part in me not feeling vulnerable, since the virus tends to kill older and chronically ill people. But even those groups are both enjoying well over a 99% recovery rate now, according to the latest numbers. Whereas before coronavirus was hospitalizing and killing around 5% of those it infected, those numbers have dropped below 1%. Neither 5% or 1% scares me.
Truth be told, I’ve always sided with Sweden’s controversial, no masks, and little social distancing approach, which allowed schools, businesses, and small gatherings to remain open. That approach is increasingly looking like a more than suitable one that benefited Sweden’s economy without the massive death that the rest of the world predicted they would have.
Furthermore, in a recent report entitled The Coronavirus Is Never Going Away, The Atlantic convincingly argues that COVID will likely become a common cold or seasonal flu strain, like other coronavirus have before it. “I think this virus is with us to the future,” said one vaccine researcher at Johns Hopkins. “But so is influenza with us, and for the most part, flu doesn’t shut down our societies. We manage it.”
If that ends up being the case, I’m not sure how soon we can all remove the masks and start “social proximiting.” But I sure hope it’s sooner than later. As one commenter recently said, “Sitting at home shaking with fear while pointing the critical finger is no life.”
Courtesy Nirmal Purja/Twitter
This is an excellent long-read on the overpopulation of bagging Mount Everest (aka “the world’s highest junkyard”).
From The Hustle: “On Everest, even these deaths come at a premium. Retrieving a body is an extremely challenging endeavor that requires as many as 10 Sherpas and can cost up to $70k. Most corpses are left on the mountain; some, like “Green Boots,” become immortalized as trail markers.”
No, thank you.
SHOW CANCELLED: Due to drummer issues 😔, our band won’t be playing this weekend. I hope to announce a rescheduled date later this fall. Thanks for your support. 💪
Music has been good to me in quarantine.
In addition to recording an album, I started a cover band with three local musicians.
We call ourselves “Super Cover” and play energetic, dance rock songs that’ll make you want to sing. As you can see, Ashton Bennet rips on guitar. Caleb Browning destroys the bass and backing vocals. Jayce Ward keeps perfect time on drums. And I sing while playing a mean tambourine sometimes.
Our first all-ages show is Saturday, September 12 on the outdoor stage at the Provo Riverwoods Mall. We plan on playing from 7:30–9:00 pm. Our setlist includes bangers from The Black Keys, Fitz & The Tantrums, Muse, MGMT, Phoenix, Tame Impala, Grouplove, and Awolnation among others, not to mention a couple of ’80s surprises.
Hope to see you there. 🤘
More than half of Americans think crime is getting worse, according to FiveThirtyEight. Truth is: this majority is wrong. Both property and violent crimes have decreased by nearly 75% over the last three decades.
On top of that, everything else is down too, according to Factfulness. Death, poverty, illness, disease—everything. And we can confidently say that without fear of things getting worse if we admit that. Humans get better. Period. We progress and we still will.
Problem is, fear has a nasty way of impeding our progress. For example, “The trouble is that fear about crime isn’t rational, and it’s hard to convince people to think differently about a problem that they don’t experience on a day-to-day basis anyway,” reports FiveThirtyEight. “’You can tell Americans that the crime rate is lower today than it was in the 1990s, but it won’t feel real to them,’ said Kevin Wozniak, a sociologist at the University of Massachusetts Boston. ‘That is, unless politicians stop drumming up the crime rate and people stop hearing about murder every night on the local news.'”
This is especially compounded in middle class and rich countries like America. These types of societies fear more irrational things than others, because they have the luxury of worrying about a lot more stupid things than basic necessities and average wants and needs.
So they worry. They overstate their fears. Then they become victims of that fear.
Coincidentally, we see a lot of similar fears taking hold today about public health. Both are valid concerns, mind you. But I believe both are equally overstated and misunderstood.
I’m incredibly proud of the album and what it did for me during quarantine. I hope you mark your calendars and enjoy as many songs as possible. Here is the track listing:
- Under Quarantine
- Turn A Corner
- Show Me
- Control What You Can
- Mr. Mustache
- No Longer The Same
- Bad Friends
- Time Isn’t Money
- Going Up
Thanks for giving it a chance. I know it seems weird to have a writer release an album, but I hope you take it as serious as I have. I think you’ll find there are some redeeming, heartfelt songs inside.
My latest for Orbitz: “In case you didn’t know, there’s been a boom in camping this summer. In wake of COVID quarantines, people are gravitating toward trips and activities that come with built-in social distancing. Camping, of course, is a great option. But packing for either a short- or long-term camping trip involves a lot more than just a tent and smores. Looking to spend a night in the great outdoors? Consider these 17 items before you go.” Continue reading…
My latest for Lonely Planet: “The past few months have been a challenge for everyone. But for travelers, wanderlusters, and global adventurers, the closed borders and shrinking world have been especially depressing. Here are 10 ways to cope for the foreseeable future, according to experts.”
SEE ALSO: My latest for Orbitz—What your summer vacation will look like this year
Courtesy Boston Globe
This is a great report by Vice on quitting conspiracy theories. From the article:
“These days, Dave lives differently. ‘Mentally, I’m in a much better place. There isn’t a boogeyman around every corner. The mistrust and paranoia is gone. Some of my former compatriots would compare me to Winston Smith at the end of 1984, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. I am able to trust that 2+2=4. Earthquakes happen, people die, stuff happens. There isn’t always a nefarious plot behind it.'”
Like many of you reading this, the last four months have been the most eventful, strangest, and unsettling spring of my life. But it’s also been one of the best (i.e. bonding with family, completing my second book, starting a band).
In that time, I also wrote, produced, sung, and recorded 16 original songs. I just finished the last one this week and just need to make some finishing touches and final mastering before independently releasing the album to Spotify, Apple, and Amazon Music in the coming weeks.
I’m incredibly proud of the result and grateful for it helping me to cope with this fearful new, but still incredibly beautiful world. I can’t wait for you to hear the whole thing.
Until then, here is the “lead single” entitled Turn A Corner.
If you enjoy the effort of doing something more than the result, you will be good at whatever you decide to do.
In my case, when I spend days, weeks, months, or even years writing something, I love that process more than the minutes, hours, or days it takes me to read the result.
I’m not exaggerating to prove a point. It’s true. I love the act of writing more than the result (although the result is really nice icing on the cake that sustains me to the next result). Asking a lot of people if I can write for them is worth the rejection.
That’s how you know you can “win” at something—because you enjoy the mastery time, effort, and rejection required more than the average person.
In my case, I would write for free, I love it so much. Which is precisely how I started writing, for free, on this blog (and still do). Because I love writing so much, I’ve gotten good enough at it that people will pay me to write for them.
Which is a fulfillment of Joker’s absolutism: “If you’re good at something, never do it for free.”
I’ll disagree with him on the “never” aspect, since you sometimes have to work for free to keep learning and growing. But the point is hard work is valued.
So find work you love doing and the value will take care of itself.
My wife and I at the summit of Olympus (courtesy Steven Smith)
I firmly believe that all humans are remarkable and average at the same time. Even Da Vinci, Einstein, and Mozart were average to mediocre in many areas of their lives.
The vast majority of us, however, are neither geniuses nor special. We must accept that, on the whole, we are average. That shouldn’t keep us from dreaming big and trying to be remarkable in a handful of special ways. But acceptance of our averageness can be a powerful motivator in the proper context.
This week with family I summited Mount Olympus, an eight mile roundtrip hike that climbs (then drops) 1000 feet every mile. At one point while approaching the final push to the summit, my brother-in-law Steven blurted out, “I’m average—but average people make it!”
We all laughed out loud and immediately appreciated what he was reinforcing. That is, life is hard sometimes, but the average life overcomes hardship—at least on average.
It’s reassuring to know that over tens of thousands of years (and millions if you consider our ancestors), average humans have survived incredibly difficult things, over and over again. Pandemics. Floods. Pestilence. Earthquakes. Racism. Wars. Famine. Poverty.
We survive despite our averageness. And that makes us remarkable. 💪
Courtesy Blake Snow
You don’t have to cross borders or cook from home to taste some of the world’s greatest foods. Looking for fresh ideas to spice up your quarantine cuisine? Try one of these, although your mileage may vary depending on current state restrictions: Continue reading…
With little else to do in quarantine, I’ve been making a lot of music over the last four months. I’ve recorded an album’s worth of original material, which I hope to release this summer, and started rehearsing with a live cover band—a rock quartet comprised of me singing, Ashton Bennett melting faces on guitar, Caleb Browning rocking a ridiculous amount of bass and backing vocals, and Jayce Ward not missing a beat on drums. (video evidence here)
Though both experiences, I’ve learned two important lessons:
- I love making music. I learned guitar and started singing in middle school and played in several bands through college. But with notable exception to listening to lots of new music, I largely quit making it after marrying, having children, and taking up writing. Quarantine changed all of that for the better. It’s a wonderful feeling to make harmonious noise while the world slowly sorts itself out.
- Tambourines are in over 50% of popular music. While recording, studying, and performing more live music than ever before, I’ve been immediately struck by the amount of tambourines used in recorded music (at least the kind of pop and rock that I mostly listen to), and how much better they make live music sound. I realize tambourines are the ugly stepchild of music, but let me explain why they’re used more than even synthesizers when it comes to making popular music.
My latest for Fodor’s: Ready or not, the world is starting to reopen to both shoppers and travelers, after more than three months of quarantine. Although international borders are still largely closed, most state borders are open to domestic visitors. Granted, it will take a lot more time and research to pull off a successful interstate trip these days. But for many, the added hassle, increased risks, and fewer options are still worth it. They aren’t perfect. But until further notice, this is as good as it gets. Continue reading…
Courtesy Paramount Pictures
Divisive presidents, partisan gridlock, identity politics, and fake news are not new, argue the authors of Democracy Despite Itself. In fact, these frustrating problems have been around since America declared independence nearly 250 years ago.
“The history of democracy is a story of ignorant voters making questionable decisions, and unqualified elected officials implementing abysmal policies,” say researchers Danny Oppenheimer and Mike Edwards. “And yet, by every measure of well-being that has ever been studied, citizens of democracies are doing better than any other form of government. We live longer. We have more wealth. We are better educated. We are safer… Yes, inequality, poverty, and crime still exist, but that is true of every society. No society is perfect, but democracies are less imperfect.”
Not only that, but democracies do a better job improving the existing inefficiencies better than other governments, without widespread bloodshed, the authors argue. Like capitalism, democracy has a proven track record of being the most progressive system available to enrich societies.
In other words, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater!
I was raised on Beach Boys, Beatles, ABBA, Led Zeppelin, and ’80s soft rock hits in that order. My father largely exposed me to the first three. My older sister Cami to Zeppelin. And my mother to the latter.
But it wasn’t until the spring of 1990, at the ripe age of 10, that I thought to myself, “I love this song, and I need to spend money on it to start my own music collection.”
The song was Technotronic’s “Pump Up The Jam,” which is a tasty mix of both hip-hop and house music. So on a visit to an Oklahoman Walmart with my mother, I forked over what I remember being around $8 for the album on cassette. I listened to that thing constantly while pretending to be Michael Jordan with my over the door basketball hoop.
Later that year, I was mesmerized by Metallica’s “Enter Sandman,” so I bought and devoured that album on cassette too. I don’t remember the third album I bought, but I remember borrowing and adoring my sister Summer’s Nirvana Nevermind CD on the regular.
From there my musical tastes traveled far and wide. With exception to select Nine In Nails songs, there are only two genres that I actively dislike: industrial and death metal. Everything else is fair game.
Readers: What was the first piece of music you bought for yourself?
An aspiring freelance writer recently emailed asking me how to increase her chances of placing articles with editors. She seemed eager to learn and willing to work, so this is what I told her:
- Keep your pitches (and requests in general) to a single paragraph. If you can’t sell a story or request for help in just a few sentences, you won’t be able to sell it in several paragraphs, which is annoying and disrespectful to an editor’s time. If they want more information, they’ll ask.
- Ask 100 editors if they’ll run your story. After most or all ignore you, ask them 3-4 times more. Often times it takes that much to get a favorable response, even after you get some good bylines under your belt. Usually I start by emailing my top 25 editors, and if no one bites, I’ll increase that number. But I didn’t place my first story with Wired Magazine until the 100th editor!
Lastly, I’d argue that most beginning writers struggle with wordiness. They like to hear themselves talk, and it shows in their bloated writing, which neither editors nor readers like. It sounds obvious, but to succeed as a freelance writer, you must be able to write in a way that appeals to a lot of other readers.
Think short sentences. Crystal clarity. Spicy words. Well-researched and genuine arguments. And in an increasingly distracted world, compelling writing requires more brevity than ever before.
Placing articles ain’t easy, but it’s totally worth it.
I was raised on the belief that few things are more American than protesting.
In high school, I successfully protested a high school teacher for saying that I had to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance. Although I was sitting out of laziness, as soon as she told me I “must stand,” I remained seated in legal defiance. The next day after my friend and I failed to stand, she sent us to the principal. After meeting with school officials, it was determined that students didn’t have to stand for the Pledge. So on the third day, our teacher humbly stood in front of our class and said she was wrong and apologized. From then on, my friend and I stood for the Pledge every single day with the utmost respect.
I felt a similar feeling of pride watching “reopen the economy” protesters this spring. I was saddened to them being shamed for protesting nationwide quarantines. There’s never a bad time to protest! If anything, lockdowns are the ideal time to protest.
Recently, I’ve felt equal amounts of pride watching “black lives matter” and “celebrate police” protests. Although seemingly on opposite ends of the political spectrum, I believe both are justified and honorable. As with all complicated issues in life, the truth is somewhere in the middle. Cops are sometimes brutally and deathly racists, and we should try to fix that. But mostly they are good, and they should still be celebrated. Continue reading…
Earlier this month, I received one of the nicest reader emails ever. With his permission (and edited for clarity), I share the letter in the hopes that it might inspire someone else:
Hi Blake. I want to let you know how great an impact your book Log Off had on my life.
You see, I was overwhelmed, unable to focus, distracted, and constantly tired. I kind of knew the source of it all, but was unable to express it, even to myself. Now, thanks to you, I have changed my relationship with technology, and my life is increasingly better.
A few things about me: my name is Mauricio Munoz. I am 48 year-old dentist from Bogota, Colombia. I love technology. I really like the internet and all the possibilities and access to information and communication that it entails.
I love devices like smartphones, but I realized, after reading your book, that I was addicted to those things. I was completely dominated by the dopamine fix that those devices and connectivity gave me. Now I feel much better. Thanks a lot, man.
Here are some major changes I’ve made:
- Now I use a dumb phone. My office has a smartphone managed by my staff, but it’s only used for business.
- I do own a smartphone, but I use it with no sim card. Like a tablet mostly for online banking, communication with family overseas, and for its very good camera. But I don’t carry it with me all the time, and sometimes I don’t use it at all for weeks.
- I still use a first-generation iPad for reading books.
- I have other laptops and desktops around, but I only use those on a need-to basis now.
- I enjoy my free time with my family and myself more. I like my work more, too, and feel more present in every moment.
Thanks, Blake. Great work—your book changed my life.
Mauricio, muchas gracias for reading my book and saying so. I’m thrilled it had a positive impact and am humbled by your kind words. I hope to shake your hand in Bogota someday.
Courtesy Blake Snow
Here’s my latest travel dispatch for Lonely Planet
Depending on where you live, amusement parks can be one of the best day trip experiences around. But like everything else, coronavirus indefinitely changed them.
As one of the US states with the lowest rates of coronavirus infections, Utah was also one of the first to lift restrictions and open its doors. In late May, one of those doors was the highly-rated Lagoon Park, which USA Today recently named one of the best “hidden-gem” theme parks in the country.
Local reaction to the park’s reopening was tepid at best. Is a tightly packed, and line-filled attraction really such a good idea, especially after over two months of quarantine? At first my wife and I said no. But after reading favorable reports of “no crowds,” “attendance limited to 15% capacity,” and “we had a lot of fun,” – not to mention almost no getaway options at our disposal (even Utah’s national parks still hadn’t yet opened) – we booked our family for the following Saturday. Continue reading…
My wife started and runs a successful soccer club of 14 youth teams. Now in their second year, they’ve done really well because they charge little more than recreational fees for a league that’s a lot more competitive, without the expensive time and money commitments of “club soccer.”
After opening registration this summer, she had more than enough players sign up. That’s what you get when you run a well-organized event with lots of value. Last week, however, she received a long-winded email from a demanding mother that listed out several line items she required before registration. She went on and on, my wife said.
In response, my wife kindly but briefly wrote, “Thanks for asking. We’re full this year. Please consider us again.”
My wife instinctively understood that this woman might cause more headaches than her $200 registration fee was worth.
The same is true of any business. If someone seems like they’d be a difficult customer, they probably will be and should best be avoided through a polite “No thanks,” or “I’m busy.”
In rare cases where you provide a custom quote, you might try to “price them out,” that is only work with them for an amount that you estimate would be worth the added headaches.
Both approaches have served me well and really help the free market shine, for sellers as much as buyers.
During the Great Depression, a man named Charley Pride was born in Mississippi as one of 11 children to his sharecropping parents. The year he was born, The Dust Bowl would ravage 300 million American acres, forcing hundreds of thousands of migrants to California in search of income.
As a boy, Pride was introduced to country music by his father and later learned guitar. Though he loved music, he dreamed of playing professional baseball, which he successfully did for much of his 20s in both Negro and minor leagues. After being cut by the Cincinnati Reds farm team in Missoula, Montana, Pride worked in construction and a metal factory for many years. He also played semi-pro ball on the side and made double his salary by singing to the crowd before games. Years later he cut a demo at the famous Sun Studio in Memphis, the same recording studio that put Elvis on the map. Sometime later, country superstar Chet Atkins heard the demo and signed him to a contract. With over 30 number one hits, he would become the second most successful RCA musician in history (after Elvis).
But fame quickly forced him to confront his outsider status. This is how he confronted it, according to Wikipedia. “In the late summer of 1966, on the strength of his early releases, Pride was booked for his first large show, in Detroit’s Olympia Stadium. Since no biographical information had been included with his songs, few of the 10,000 country fans who came to the show knew Pride was black, and only discovered the fact when he walked onto the stage, at which point the applause trickled off to silence. “I knew I’d have to get it over with sooner or later,” Pride later remembered. “I told the audience: ‘Friends, I realize it’s a little unique, me coming out here—with a permanent suntan—to sing country and western to you. But that’s the way it is.’ ”
I love that quote as much as I love Pride’s music and character. This is my favorite song of his.
Days before America went on coronavirus quarantine this spring, Time Magazine published an excellent report on why Asian countries wear masks and Americans (up until that point) didn’t. The reason? There is little scientific evidence showing that masks actually work in preventing non-airborn illness such as the flu, common cold, and coronavirus from spreading. Earlier this year, the New York Times published a similar report showing dubious benefits, if any.
In light of that lack of evidence after decades of research, American health officials basically took the stance of, “If it ain’t proven to work, don’t do it.” They kept this stance until early April, when the CDC and WHO superstitiously started recommended them. Not because there were suddenly lots of scientific studies showing that masks actually work (there weren’t). Rather, when dealing with something that’s new and mysterious, humans understandably resort to “doesn’t hurt to try” approaches.
Only in this case, it does hurt to try. Here’s why well-intentioned but “false sense of security” health masks aren’t worth the hassle in the fight against coronavirus: Continue reading…
Courtesy Janine Rubenstein
Read and enjoyed this adventurous story by Janine Rubenstein this week:
I found a site called RVShare.com, which is basically AirBnB for motor homes. Unsurprisingly, you could count on zero hands the amount of Black RV owners I spotted on there. But I stumbled upon the nicest guy renting out the perfect first-timer van: a Class A, 2016 Ford Thor Vegas, measuring in at 24ft. “It drives just like a big SUV” he told me, which helped calm my nerves about how my brother and husband would be able to maneuver the thing.
Pretty sure it’s the first article I’ve ever read in Essence and hope it’s yours too if you’re never read the magazine before.
There are a lot of things I miss since coronavirus scared, scarred, and upended the world.
I miss the large number of people I used to freely associate with. I miss seeing the bottom half of people’s faces. I miss the wonderful customer service we used to receive from restaurants and other stores. I miss a normal workload.
I miss live events, especially sports, music, and movie theaters. I miss roaming about my city, country, and world in what was surely the heyday of global travel. I miss knowing that I could shake hands or high-five anyone I encountered. I miss the trust we used to have in immune systems, the ones that largely kept our species alive for hundreds of thousands of years.
But mostly, I miss being treated like a trustworthy human instead of a disease-carrying leper that should be avoided. That’s a gross feeling to confront on a near daily basis.
That said, I couldn’t have stomached and mostly thrived over the last three months had it not been for the following: Continue reading…
PROVO, Ut. — Want to get ahead in this world? Work lots of extra hours — even nights and weekends — experts say, and it will all be worth your while.
“It’s easy to forget what’s most important in life,” says Bill Loney, a certified life coach who hasn’t quite made it in life yet. “Family, friends, and social activities that can often inspire and enrich the life of an individual… these are all distractions in getting more work done,” he adds.
Emma Royds, who hasn’t stopped looking at her smartphone every five minutes for three straight years, councils that most people actually die wishing they had spent more time — not less — working. “People never regret working too much,” she says. “My neighbor opted to do adventurous, social, and fitness-related activities with family and friends in his spare time.
“Now 80, he told me recently he really wishes he would have spent more time on TPS cover sheets, obsessively trying to turn his company into the next big thing, and reading email during every waking hour of his life. It’s kind of sad, really.” Continue reading…
Here’s some scientifically tabulated advice. They’re called the top five regrets of the dying. In short, a nurse that took care of lots of people on their deathbeds asked and recorded their most common regrets. They are as follows, along with my pithy commentary: Continue reading…
This is a fantastic long-read by Louis Menand about how baseball players turned athletes into the sponsored celebrities we know them as today. “He signed his first client in 1921. And that client turned out to be the greatest sports figure of his day, or possibly, with the exception of Muhammad Ali, of any day: Babe Ruth. Ruth didn’t just do what every ballplayer did but better. On the field and off, he was in a class by himself.”
Knowing the 5 love languages has greatly improved my marriage and other relationships. Since first being introduced to it many years ago, my wife and I have significantly enhanced our communication.
I didn’t learn about the 6 love busters until last night, however, while attending a local charity meeting. They are as follows: Continue reading…
If you insist on setting 5, 10, or 30 year goals in life, you’re gonna have a bad time.
The reason: Long-terms goals are mostly arbitrary and futile. Since life is full of surprise, setting specific expectations for it largely results in a feeling of failure.
In other words, “Don’t aim at success,” writes Viktor Frankl in his seminal Man’s Search For Meaning. “The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it.”
This has certainly been the case in my life. Continue reading…
Leo Tolstoy courtesy Wikimedia Commons
This issue of the Offline Newsletter is brought to you by Leo Tolstoy.
It once occurred to a certain king, that if he always knew the right time to begin everything; if he knew who were the right people to listen to, and whom to avoid; and, above all, if he always knew what was the most important thing to do, he would never fail in anything he might undertake.
And this thought having occurred to him, he had it proclaimed throughout his kingdom that he would give a great reward to any one who would teach him what was the right time for every action, and who were the most necessary people, and how he might know what was the most important thing to do.
Several learned men came to the King, but they all answered his questions differently (e.g. advance planning, multi-tasking, mentoring, high-ranking people, science, warfare, religion).
All the answers being different, the King agreed with none of them, and gave the reward to none. But still wishing to find the right answers to his questions, he decided to consult a hermit, widely renowned for his wisdom. Continue reading…
I start many of my conversations with the following: “I read an interesting article recently…” This week my twelve-year old daughter asked, “Dad, where do you read all these articles you’re talking about?”
Good question. In essence, she was asking how I stay informed and uncover a lot of interesting information and in-depth news. This is what I told her:
- I read three daily newspapers. They are: USA Today (for national news) and KSL and Daily Herald (for local news). I only scan the homepages and click on headlines that interest me. I sometimes skip weekends and weekdays on extra busy days. All told, I might spend 10-20 minutes reading these. I rarely read politics.
- I read Digg’s daily long reads. These are editor picks of some of the best long-form journalism and magazine articles on the web, from a variety of outlets. I stockpile them in several open tabs on my phone and read them throughout the week, spending a few hours doing so.
- I subscribe to weekly long read newsletters. They are the Weekly Top 5 Longreads and Longform’s Pick of The Week. Like Digg Longreads, I stockpile these and spend a few hours reading them each week.
On top of that, I read about 8-10 books a year, mostly non-fiction and biographies.
Fun fact: I used to spend a lot more time staying informed and reading dozens of websites and online newspapers in my twenties but have found since my thirties that the added distraction didn’t justify the amount of time I was spending. Since then, I’ve been a lot more productive and happy while still staying just as informed on the low-caloric, but nutrient-rich diet of the above.
Hope that helps.
Courtesy Amazon Studios
My wife and I recently watched Manchester by the Sea. It’s a beautifully-acted but heart-wrenching story about a Boston man (played by Casey Affleck) that is left utterly devastated and largely alone after a careless act and some horrifying bad luck. In fact, it’s one of the saddest movies I’ve seen in years.
Although I appreciated the film, I forgot the importance of tragedy while exiting the theater. “For someone who is living in a comedy, is there any value in being reminded that life sucks sometimes?” I asked myself. “Is there any harm in solely watching movies with happy endings?”
With the help of the internet, this is what I learned: Continue reading…
Credit: Blake Snow
My wife and I believe the world is inherently good and we want to indoctrinate our children to think the same. Not by ignoring society’s seedy underbelly. But with measurable evidence such as this that overwhelmingly proves the world is getting better and better.
To that end, my wife shared the following quote with our children and I over breakfast recently: “Feed your faith and your fear will starve.” In other words, people who are afraid are usually consumed by doubt.
But in my experience, we can replace that fear and doubt with hope and love by doing the following: Continue reading…
Years ago I read one of the greatest sports biographies ever: You Cannot Be Serious by John McEnroe. You should read it.
Last week I watched one of the best sports documentaries I’ve ever seen: John McEnroe: In The Realm of Perfection.
Now before you write me off as a McEnroe fanboy, which I unabashedly am, please know that the latter is a French documentary about a controversial American tennis brat in his prime.
Shot mostly in slow motion, it is a quirky and mesmerizing film with a powerful finish that convincingly argues that a tennis match is good cinema, and that McEnroe was arguably the sports best “directors” of tennis cinema.
Four stars out of five.
My first time surfing (in San Diego): What I looked like days after quitting Facebook
10 years ago to the day, I quit Facebook. At the time I feared I might be committing social suicide. Today, I can happily report that didn’t happen.
Since quitting the popular boomer hangout, I’ve limited the number of work and out of office distractions I encounter. I no longer feel the desire to “check in” online at every waking hour. It takes me longer to discover new bands. And I don’t have to consciously decide or distinguish friends from colleagues, associates, and nobodies. I just let them happen naturally now; unannounced and always evolving.
My daughter taught, if not reminded, me of an important lesson last week.
While driving home after dropping off one of her applications, I saw a homeless woman on the corner. At first glance, she looked like she might have been high or intoxicated, so I quickly drove past. Upon second thought, I turned to my kiddo and asked, “Do you think we should give our blessing bags (that we keep in the car) to homeless people that look high or might not benefit as much from them?” After a moment, Sadie plainly answered, “Dad, I don’t think we should ever judge a book by their cover.”
Of course she was right, so I quickly responded by turning around and driving back to the spot where the woman was standing. I handed Sadie a bag from the back of the truck. She rolled down the window to the approaching woman. “Here you go,” the former said to the latter.
It was dark outside but the street lamp was bright enough to reveal a woman with lively eyes, a completely sober demeanor, and a bright, appreciative smile. I felt warm inside and was proud of the example that my 14 year old had shown.
Credit: Blake Snow
This wasn’t the first time I’ve written about my favorite, lesser-known Utah outdoors. And it probably won’t be the last. Hope you enjoy.
Utah has some of the most beautiful national parks in the United States, if not North America as a whole. Because of this, numerous state parks and other protected lands are often forgotten; many would likely have national park status were they not located somewhere that already has five. Read on to learn about one of Utah’s best kept secrets. Continue reading on Lonely Planet…
See also: Which Utah park is right for you?
Because I have a lot of extra free time in a partially paused world, I decided to re-listen to the entire Beatles catalog this weekend (well over 10 hours worth!) to determine my favorite albums.
Although I regularly feasted on The Fab Four in high school, college, and into my late twenties, I haven’t listened to their music much in the last decade. Not that I no longer like or respect it. Only that I probably overplayed it to the point of boredom.
After my weekend binge, however, I reconfirmed my belief that The Beatles are the greatest pop band ever—ahead of only Elvis and Michael Jackson in terms of the shear number of songs I enjoy. Either way, this is what I learned from my quarantine experiment: Continue reading…
Courtesy Columbia Pictures
Lord of the Flies by EL Epstein was one of my favorite books I read in my adolescence. It’s shocking, sad, and discouraging.
It’s also entirely made up and based on the fear-mongering belief that humans will basically eat each other when the going gets rough. Many humans often think like that in times of uncertainty—global quarantines very much included.
But “it’s time we told a different kind of story,” argues Rutger Bregman, who researched the reality of shipwrecked isolation and found that the vast majority of evidence suggests that adolescent boys would act very differently. In fact, they would largely cooperate and thrive instead of succumbing to war, murder, and anarchy.
“Readers were still skeptical,” Bregman reported, however. So he searched high and low for a real-life example of what shipwrecked boys might actually do. After sleuthing on the internet, he discovered a story of six boys from Tonga in 1965 who were shipwrecked on a Polynesian island for 15 months. He went and visited one of the survivors and heard a detailed and inspiring true story. The short of it: when the boys were finally rescued by a passing ship on September 11, 1966, a physician was “astonished by their mulled physiques” and overall health.
“The real Lord of the Flies is a tale of friendship and loyalty,” Bregman concludes. “One that illustrates how much stronger we are if we can lean on each other.”
Need more proof? Look how far humanity has come over the last 2000, 200, 100, or even 10 years! If the haters, pessimists, and naysayers were actually right, we would have all died along time ago. 💪
You can listen to the 17 minute episode here. Thanks for having me, Jordan.
Thanks for reading and sharing any of the below:
My latest for Lonely Planet: If you’re hoping that travel will return to normal in 2020, don’t hold your breath, experts say. That said, you will likely be able to vacation on a reduced basis later this year, if not by summer, some believe. Although not ideal, that’s better than the “do not travel” orders the world has endured since March.
So what might a travel reopening look like?
“The travel industry is a huge part of the economic health of so many countries, so I imagine by the end of the summer tourism will begin again,” says Jorge Branco, director of the World Travelers Association. “I don’t think schedules will be as they were pre-coronavirus right away, but there will be options available to begin the transition.”
In other words, we won’t hit the “on” switch as quickly as we hit the “off” switch. Rather, governments, health experts and tourism providers will metaphorically install “dimmers” to gradually increase lifestyles and travel to normal levels.
Continue reading on Lonely Planet…
I wish coronavirus never happened. Given its uncertainty, I also wish society would have partially distanced like Sweden did instead of hitting the giant “off” switch on social life or “save hospital capacities at all costs” approach the rest of us took.
It’s a fearful world we live in.
That said, I’ve been able to take the lemons, if you will, to make some sweet lemonade recently. Although I was an angry, stressed-out wreck the first two weeks of quarantine, I’ve been able to transition to first coping and eventually thriving over the last month.
Here’s how the unwelcome outbreak and draconian quarantine have actually changed my life for the better: Continue reading…
Lindsey and I have been blessed with many genuine friends — ones that make us laugh, can celebrate our accomplishments, and extend considerate help.
This week, while visiting one such family, we discovered that they’ve been dealing with some “friends” that reputedly became envious and judgmental of our friends’ recent good fortune. This saddened me. Time is too precious to waste on such superficial friends.
With that in mind, here’s my proven guide to ditching and avoiding fake friends, so you can better enjoy your days in the sun. Continue reading…
I’m convinced there are two types of creators in this world: genius ones and everybody else. By my estimation, 99% of us fall into the latter category, myself very much included. As such, we must play by different rules. Continue reading…
I took this picture of my front yard this week—one of the prettiest springs I’ve seen in years. Thankfully quarantines didn’t cancel that.
Life goes on. 🌻
I graduated from college at a time when “Casual Fridays” were a thing. This was before Silicon Valley established the “casual everydays” that most offices now enjoy—hoodies, jeans, t-shirts, and even activewear and joggers in some cases.
As a senior, I was invited to interview with a large national company that was coming to campus. I wasn’t particularly fond of the company, but I was flattered they had reviewed my resume and wanted to speak to me (after graduating, I would forgo employment altogether to work for myself, but that’s another story).
When the interview time came, I entered a designated office on campus and met a recruiter in his mid 40s under drab fluorescent lighting. He didn’t look particularly happy. In fact, he looked rather miserable. Obviously would rather be home with his family than interviewing some undergrad like me in some far away city. Continue reading…
The following description by Glenn Colehamer of California is as fascinating as it is relevant.
I was a college junior at the dawn of the 1970’s. Here’s what I remember during that remarkable fascinating decade, both great and not so great:
Cigarette butts on the ground everywhere people went. Ash trays everywhere.
Peace symbols as graffiti everywhere you looked.
Long hair on men everywhere you looked.
Free sex, no AIDS, no herpes, no condoms. Antibiotics reliably cured most venereal diseases.
Youthful baby boomers everywhere.
Muscle cars everywhere. VW bugs in your way everywhere. VW vans owned by hippies everywhere. Curtains covered all the side and rear windows. We knew why. Continue reading…
I’ve written thousands of articles since becoming a full time writer 15 years ago. But I’m especially proud of these:
- Log Off, my first book
- My best feature stories
- My best travel columns
- My best personal blogs
- My favorite people in the world
Thanks for reading. I wouldn’t be a writer if it wasn’t for readers.
With a lot fewer distractions in quarantine, I’ve recorded more music in the last two weeks than I have in years. I even started playing with a local guitarist in the hopes of starting a band. 🤘
Until then, I wanted to share some of the things I’ve recorded recently, in addition to some of my all-time favorite recordings. They are as follows (click to play):
- “Girlfriends” (The Academic cover). I love this pop song and just had to record it. I sang and played the guitars and tambourine.
- “Another One” (Mac DeMarco cover). I ripped the piano chords from YouTube and sung the lyrics to one of my favorite songs written by my new favorite artist.
- “Internet” (Post Malone cover). I played guitar and sang a mostly clean version of this song, with exception to one emotional outburst that I just had to sing in this crazy world right now.
- “The Promise” (When in Rome cover). I played piano, guitar, and sang both harmonies. This is one of my all-time favorite ’80s songs. I don’t love the piano tone, but I’m proud of the result.
- “Different” (original). A song I wrote, sung, and played while living in Brazil. It’s about changing for the better.
- The God of Abraham Praise. If you’re looking for a spiritual track, try this one. I sang the choir parts over a radical organ I found on YouTube. This is one of my favorite hymns, which was converted from an old Jewish song in the 1700s.
- “1901” (Phoenix cover). I played guitar and sung one of my favorite upbeat alternative songs.
- “Last Time” (original song). An early aught pop song I wrote with my friend Dylan Denny. I sung, played drums, and lead guitar.
- “Best Foot Forward” (original song). Another upbeat song I produced and sung with my friend Dylan.
- “The Deepest Sleep Ever” (original instrumental). I’ve written and produced a lot of instrumental music over the years, and this is one of my absolute favorites.
- “Abstract Consensus” (original instrumental). Recorded in 2002 with over 75 samples, this is probably the best dance song I’ve ever written.
- “System Sound” (original song). Ever wanted to hear me rap, albeit not very good? Well now’s your chance! I wrote, produced, and rapped this song in the summer of 2001.
- “Stay” (U2 cover). Probably one of the best recordings I’ve ever made. I played guitar and sang.
It only took me a few minutes to fall 10,000 feet, but I didn’t really come down for another couple of hours. That’s the best way to describe my first time skydiving. That and recognizing it as one of the greatest physiological sensations I’ve ever endeavored.
On a royal blue morning recently, I drove forty minutes south of my home to Skydive the Wasatch in Nephi, Utah. I was greeted by Andrew the drop manager, Jordan my instructor (or more accurately the person I’d strap my life to), and Joel the pilot.
Free snacks, a row of leather sofas, and caffeinated drinks lined the open hanger in an effort to ease or at least distract the nerves of would-be jumpers. Just outside, an old Cessna plane came to life to take a woman in her forties and her friend in her twenties on their first and second respective dives. While waiting for their quick return, I signed and initialed the longest waiver I’ve ever seen without reading a single line of legalese.
“Are you ready?” Jordan asked with a friendly smile. I honestly answered in the affirmative, and then he explained the safety and protocol procedures. “The whole experience takes about 25 minutes,” he said. “Twenty minutes to climb, around half of minute to free-fall, and three or four more to parachute down.” Continue reading…
This is what old people talk about over lunch: how degenerate youth no longer use capitals and punctuation when writing. At least that’s what I did over lunch today with a few middle aged friends.
This is especially important to me because I’m in the business of selling clear writing. Having done so for many years, this much I know: the clearer you write, the better chance you have of avoiding confusion and getting what you want.
A few years ago, a recent college graduate and aspiring writer emailed me to ask for help in getting a job. He used no capitals, punctuation, paragraphs—let a lone line breaks. It was just one huge blob of text. Continue reading…
What do Indiana Jones, Little Miss Sunshine, Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Darjeeling Unlimited, and Endless Summer have in common? They’re among the very best feature films that make you want to go places. So before streaming your next great home movie, consider one of these first: Continue reading…
Photo: Blake Snow
I recently started reading The Nature Fix by Florence Williams.
In her introduction, Williams reports that most empirical evidence suggests there are four ingredients for happiness, namely feeling enmeshed in a community of healthy friendships (i.e. “it takes a village”), having your basic survival needs met, keeping your brain stimulated and engaged, and working for something that’s larger than yourself.
There’s increasing evidence, however, for a fifth ingredient, Williams argues: Regular outdoors, getting outside, or “forest bathing.”
I certainly won’t argue with any of those. Surrounding myself with healthy relationships, having my basic needs met, keeping my brain stimulated through learning and interesting work, volunteering, and staying outdoors has done the trick for me.
Easier said than done. But when you break it down like that, it also seems highly attainable.
What do the world’s greatest leaders have in common? What makes a great boss?
Stanford professor and management consultant Robert Sutton recently asked that question and presented his findings in an hour-long, information-packed lecture.
According to his research, this is what great leaders often do: Continue reading…
Like so many other peasants — and royalty for that matter — I owe much of my good fortune to luck and timing. And nothing has been more beneficial to my career than getting into blogging before it became blasé.
I barely made it. Continue reading…
When the world first starting shutting down amid the coronavirus outbreak, I was angry. Angry with how the situation was being handled and frustrated by how quickly everything changed.
After the second week of widespread restrictions, I was grieving. I missed the sudden loss of lifestyle, normal working conditions, family routines, and exciting plans—almost all of it cancelled.
In this third week of quarantine, however, I’ve learned three important lessons that have allowed me to appropriately adjust and make the most of an unprecedented situation. They are as follows: Continue reading…
Some of my clients have recently asked how to address coronavirus uncertainty in their immediate writing and content marketing plans.
While I don’t have all the answers, these seem to be the most common approaches: Continue reading…
Some of the below are no longer relevant right now, due to coronavirus quarantines. But others still are, and I wanted to add them to my portfolio in any case.
Thanks for reading, bookmarking, or sharing any that you enjoy.
The following was a sermon I gave in 2018 to 50 juvenile detainees. I cried through most of it.
By a show of hands, who here believes in second chances? I believe each of us have several second chances in life. All of us do. And I’m here to tell you that if we want the most from our second chances, we must do two things: 1) seek forgiveness from God; and 2) forgive others instead of seeking revenge or succumbing to resentment—both of which will enslave us for as long as we let them.
This is easier said than done. But it can be done. Today I’d like to share five stories of people that have done just that in order to inspire each of us to do the same: Continue reading…
Until I get around to writing a condensed, more interesting story, here’s a chronology of mostly personal events:
1979. Born in Moscow, Idaho to goodly parents named Brent and Cathy Snow as the fourth child of six and second son in the family. Moved to Oklahoma one month later.
1985. Started my formal education at Westwood Elementary School in Stillwater, Oklahoma while my father taught psychology at Oklahoma State University (Go Pokes!). Said formal schooling would last me 17 consecutive years (gulp) across three state programs.
1986. Exposed to my first home computer and modern video game console after my mother bought a colored IBM PCjr and some neighborhood friends scored a Nintendo Entertainment System. The love affair with technology, personal computers, and video games had begun.
Below is excerpted from Americana by Hampton Sides, which I recently enjoyed reading.
A few years ago, I was passing through Marrakech on my way to the Sahara for a magazine assignment. One afternoon, outside La Mamounia Hotel, I was accosted, as all tourists inevitably are, by a “guide.” He was an intense young Berber with penetrating eyes and a brisk stride, one of those canny creatures of the bazaar. He wore a slick black suit.
“Hello, American?” he said, instantly sizing me up.
”No, no American,” I replied and walked on as fast as I could. Not that I’m embarrassed by my nationality, but I’d been told the guides assume all Americans are loaded. Besides, I didn’t want a guide that day, and this guy really seemed like an operator.
He looked puzzled. “American, yes? You need guide for the souk. We buy rugs now.”
I shook my head vigorously and picked up my step, but he persisted. “British. German, yes? Canadian?” I could almost hear his brain racing.
“I am Finnish,” I said. Someone had told me this always throws the guides. Continue reading…
Over the last week, the world radically entered a health crisis mode. What was normal just a few days ago is no longer the case. In addition to school, office, sports, and recreation closures, many restaurants are even closing in some parts of the country. That can be a scary thing.
But it’s not all scary. We can still play music, congregate in tight groups, go outside, and carry on as best as possible. To help you do that, here are eight proven ways to overcome uncertainty, regardless of the source: Continue reading…
There is no replacement for seeing something with your own eyes. Let alone hearing, smelling, and feeling it with your own presence.
But despite coronavirus quarantines, there’s still something you can do about it. With the help of modern technology, there’s a lot you can do about it.
From seeing the seven wonders of the world and world-class museums, to exploring the great outdoors and National Parks on foot, these are the best virtual tours I found online in a story I wrote for Lonely Planet.
Hope you enjoy.
Stay safe out there, Internet.
This week many world and local leaders hit the nuclear response button to a pervasive, flu-like virus that kills a lot of old people and around 10 times the number as the common flu, according to the latest figures.
Dubbed “the coronavirus” (covid-19 to be scientific), roughly 92% of all infected age groups survive and fully recover. For those under 60, the survival rate jumps to over 99%. For those in their 70s and 80s, or those with respiratory or smoking conditions, the survival rate drops to 96% and 92% respectively. For comparison, the flu kills .1% of those infected on average.
Understandably, those “much higher than normal odds” are a scary concern for senior citizens like my parents who venture out in public. But depending on how optimistic you are, a 92-99.5% survival rate doesn’t warrant shutting down society for, as one megacity in China has done and the entire countries of Italy, France, Spain (and surely more) have already done.
In my opinion, those reactions are the nuclear option. A “flattening the curve” of infections at all costs option. In America, we’ve so far taken a hybrid approach, which is still an overreaction, in my risk-taking opinion. Although citizens are free to move about and go to a decreasing number of open stores (because there isn’t enough foot traffic to keep them all open), every public event, many businesses, most churches, and an increasing number of schools are closed to meetings.
To make matters worse, public officials haven’t explained an endgame or exit strategy for the first wave of 15-30 day closures. Because they don’t have one. This only causes more panic and uncertainty. Continue reading…
I wrote this for Lonely Planet today and hope it can lighten any travel restrictions.
This is a fascinating report by Time on cultural truth, incomplete science, better than nothing protection, and the cost of social distancing. “People look at me funny because I don’t wear a mask,” Chan says. “But I think the only thing that’s laughable is everyone buying into this excessive fear. People are being led by emotion, not science.”
PS—I’m grateful for public health officials and infectious disease doctors. Like vaccines, I believe they have our best interests in mind. What I’m not comfortable with is a nuclear social distancing response in reaction to a serious but still not that deadly virus (aka the vast majority of those infected by coronavirus live). It’s unfair to trump out a “flatten the curve at all costs” approach to something that doesn’t deserve such a dramatic response. Just because we could “flatten the curve” of 61,000 flu deaths last year with nuclear social distancing doesn’t mean we should. That’s why people are upset, scared, and confused. We can’t agree on the price to pay!
The following was updated and adopted from a recent hired-speech I gave to a group of 50 CEOs and partners at the headquarters of NEA, the world’s largest venture capital firm.
Since 2005, I’ve written for half of the top 20 U.S. media publications and dozens of Fortune 100 companies as a featured contributor, branded storyteller, and retained content advisor. In that time, this is what I know for sure: marketing is the way you let people know you exist. Content marketing is the ongoing explanation for why they should care.
As a discipline, content marketing (or brand journalism, executive editorial, and thought leadership) is important, because it allows companies to persuade highly-informed buyers in an increasingly noisy world. Not only is it the fastest growing marketing strategy in recent years, it’s also the most effective for supplying search demand, engaging target audiences, enabling messaging, and satisfying the buyer’s need to read and inform themselves before making a purchase.
What surprises people most that engage me? Here are the top five: Continue reading…
The following was written by Dr. Abdu Sharkawy after a global wave of premature event cancelations, travel restrictions, and economic collapse:
I’m a doctor and an Infectious Diseases Specialist. I’ve been at this for more than 20 years seeing sick patients on a daily basis. I have worked in inner city hospitals and in the poorest slums of Africa. HIV-AIDS, Hepatitis,TB, SARS, Measles, Shingles, Whooping cough, Diphtheria…there is little I haven’t been exposed to in my profession. And with notable exception of SARS, very little has left me feeling vulnerable, overwhelmed or downright scared.
I am not scared of Covid-19. I am concerned about the implications of a novel infectious agent that has spread the world over and continues to find new footholds in different soil. I am rightly concerned for the welfare of those who are elderly, in frail health or disenfranchised who stand to suffer mostly, and disproportionately, at the hands of this new scourge. But I am not scared of Covid-19. Continue reading…
My wife and I (and even some of our young children) watched Amazon Empire: The Rise and Reign of Jeff Bezos recently. It’s a slick documentary that raises some important questions and concerns about the increasingly monopolistic company that keeps prices low (instead of raising them like past monopolies).
The movie wasn’t enough to make me ditch my Amazon Prime or Alexa accounts, especially given how much time and money Amazon has saved my family over the last two decades. That could change, but for now I’ll say: so far, so good. In fact, I’d rather convert to Android and stay with Amazon than stay with Apple and ditch Amazon—I like them that much.
For its slick production and warranted scrutiny, I award it ★★★★☆.
Fun fact: Walmart made twice as much money as Amazon did last year ($512 billion versus $233 billion).
Me at my desk. Photo by Lindsey Snow
I was recently on a podcast to talk about my education and career path towards becoming a full-time freelance writer for the past 16 years. If you have 30 minutes to spare, I hope you enjoy my remarks. If you don’t have that much time, the short answer is lots of luck and persistence. Either way, I’m still pinching myself.
Thanks for having me on the show, Doug.
This story by Molly Young on why corporations speak nonsense is the best thing I’ve read in a long-time:
But unlike garbage, which we contain in wastebaskets and landfills, the hideous nature of these words — their facility to warp and impede communication — is also their purpose. Garbage language permeates the ways we think of our jobs and shapes our identities as workers. It is obvious that the point is concealment; it is less obvious what so many of us are trying to hide.
I’m partially biased because I spend a lot of my time helping companies talk like humans instead of broken computers. And I suppose I might not have a job if humans always spoke clearly:
When we adopt words that connect us to a larger project — that simultaneously fold us into an institutional organism and insist on that institution’s worthiness — it is easier to pretend that our jobs are more interesting than they seem. Empowerment language is a self-marketing asset as much as anything else: a way of selling our jobs back to ourselves.
Either way, I think this is a must-read. I enjoyed every word—well, the non-garbage ones at least.
Courtesy Mark Manson
Hope you enjoy these recent long-form articles as much as I did:
I was recently interviewed by Metro International, the world’s largest free daily newspaper, about my book. This is what I said and thought you might enjoy:
In your book description you say that excessive “internetting,” smartphoning, and social media make us miserable, Why do you think that?
That’s not my opinion. There’s an overwhelming amount of research that proves that virtual socialization is no substitute for the real thing. In fact, it’s even worse since infinite scrolling on screens is either curated highlights that make our own average lives feel worse by comparison, or endless online news that make the world sound a lot more worse and scary than it really is.
In this connected world, do you think you can really manage to live disconnected? How?
As outlined in my book, not only can we successfully disconnect, we can thrive more offline when we find a good balance of it. Smartphones, the internet, and social media aren’t all bad. But they can be if we allow them to be. The trick is setting boundaries in ways that allow them to work for us instead of letting them interrupt and dictate our everyday lives. Continue reading…
The following is an excerpt from a graduation speech my father Brent Snow gave in 2008 at the University of West Georgia:
I grew up in the deep south—deep southern Idaho–so I picked potatoes rather than cotton! My family was very athletic and my older brother Bruce was probably the best all around athlete in Idaho when he was a senior in high school. Being two years younger, I was constantly compared to him in every sport I played as well as in academics. While I was often on the “short” end of those comparisons, I never resented being so. I respected and admired him a great deal and thought it was an honor to be compared to him.
After finishing my Ph.D. in 1979, I became a faculty member at Oklahoma State University. After I had been there for a couple of years, my Father called me and said he was coming to Stillwater and maybe we could go see a couple of basketball games that were on the schedule. This was quite common for us as athletic events were really an excuse to be together, laugh, and for me to be interviewed about how I was doing—was I doing what I should as a Dad?, husband?, and in my work? I loved those interviews with my Father as he would listen and share some advice and wisdom all the while watching a point guard hit a three pointer! You didn’t have to know my Dad very long to realize he was a very wise person.
After one of those games on the way home, we had been talking about my Brother and me always being compared as athletes. I decided to try to be a little clever by putting my Dad on the spot and testing his wisdom:
“Well Dad, how would you compare Bruce and me as athletes?”
“In what sport?” he said –surprising me that he was willing to do so.
“How about baseball?” Continue reading…
Valentine’s dinner with kids at home beats crowded restaurants
Like any red-blooded American, I grew up observing Valentine’s Day, albeit casually. I traded candies with classmates, chocolates and stuffed animals with crushes, and used to take my wife to “romantic” dinners at crowded restaurants.
It was not an enjoyable experience, especially the latter. A few years after marriage, my wife and I started eating Valentine’s dinner on another day the week to beat the crowds, but that didn’t feel right either.
Then one day nearly 10 years ago, my wife proposed a radical idea: “Why don’t we stay home and cook a nice candlelight dinner with the kids and celebrate all kinds of love, not just romance?” By this point, I didn’t really care since nothing seemed to work. “Sure,” I said. Continue reading…
Courtesy Blake Snow
Planning to visit London but now sure what to do while there? Here are some iconic highlights for first-timers, things repeat visitors may have missed, as well as special considerations, things to avoid, and where to stay. Continue reading…
I volunteer with a support group that counsels and encourages ex-prisoners back into society.
It’s heavy stuff, especially since many of them are homeless when they first get out and largely ostracized by friends, family, and greater society. Those are hard conditions to beat, which is why so many of them return to prison (upwards of 70%).
That said, these meetings are usually incredibly warm, uplifting, humbling, and inspiring. Just last night, one participant expressed frustration in how difficult it can be to leave negative relationships behind, especially if you don’t have any positive relationships to replace them with.
In other words, misery loves company. As social creatures, many humans would rather stay with toxic people than endure loneliness.
When I quit recreational drugs, I spent a lot of lonely nights on my own. My friends were still good people, but I had to remove myself from negative behavior.
It was hard. But after a while, I gradually started fellowshipping with less dependent, more “naturally high” individuals. That felt wonderful and totally worth the temporary loneness I suffered in order to meet them.
So if you’re in an unhealthy relationship but don’t want to be alone, that’s understandable. But it’s better to brave temporary loneliness than to endure ongoing negativity.
The sacrifice is worth it, I promise.
My sister-in-law challenged our family to a plank-off recently. Person who could plank the longest wins. “I don’t know,” I said. “I can’t stomach those things for 30 seconds.”
Or so I told myself.
Before continuing my story, a quick note: Like any inherently lazy human, there are a lot of exercises I hate doing. But planks are the worst—invented by Satan himself. They’re right up there with Turkish getups, mountain climbers, and wall sits as most uncomfortable for me. So I wasn’t enthused to participate.
“I’m in!” my wife said. My daughter, too, was excited to compete. “I’ll try,” I relented, offending Jedi Masters everywhere. Continue reading…
These are the best long-form articles I’ve read recently:
Learning this number-to-time scale blew my mind recently.
We all know that a million, billion, and trillion are very big numbers. But we often don’t appreciate the staggering increases between them. For example, a million seconds equals eleven days. That’s a lot, but two weeks isn’t that far away. A billion seconds, however, is over 31 years—either a third or even half of a lifetime depending on how healthy you are. Now that’s a lot.
But a trillion is unfathomable, if not completely unrelatable to our lifespan. In fact, a trillion seconds is over 31,000 years!!!
The more you know.
See also: A Short History of Nearly Everything
Earlier this month, I finished a gripping non-fiction and superbly reported book on the terrorist civil war that devoured Northern Ireland from 1969—1998 (aka The Troubles).
Written by Patrick Keefe, Say Nothing is a shocking, deplorable, and sometimes asinine account of two groups of Christians who looked identical, spoke in the same English accent, and only disagreed upon which country they did or should belong to (i.e. United Kingdom versus Ireland). That disagreement, amazingly, caused them to terrorize and kill each other to the tune of 3,500 people, most of which were innocent civilians. To get an idea of how crazy the conflict was, the Irish Republican Army (which was largely a guerrilla group of terrorists) would sometimes bomb civilian buildings, alert civilians a couple hours before the bombing so no one would get hurt, then absolve themselves of any “accidental deaths” because they weren’t responsible for any civilians that didn’t get the message to stay away.
That about sums up the logic behind The Troubles, which thankfully ended two decades ago. But man are the stories from the past as thought-provoking as they are tragic. May history never repeat itself. Four stars out of five.
These were my favorite passages: Continue reading…
Not only is 2020 the start of a new year, it’s the start of a new “roaring twenties” (hopefully one that doesn’t end in another Great Depression). That’s exciting–the new decade part, not depression.
Regardless of what greater society elects to do, I’m here to tell you that individual people can change. Granted, a lot of people try and fail to change, especially in January. But that doesn’t mean the rest of us are incapable. It just means change is hard.
It’s easier, however, if we make small, daily choices that can have a big impact on our future prosperity, health, and fulfillment. For example, here are 10 simple things you can do on a daily basis to improve your future and slay the next decade of your life. Continue reading…
I recently read a thought-provoking essay by James Pogue on the rise of long-form articles that are later optioned into feature films and narrative-driven books, sometimes to the tune of several million dollars, as was the case with Argo, a movie that was based on a previously published Wired article.
As Pogue seemingly sees it, this new economy of article-to-film adaptations turns previously idyllic literature into modern day “trash,” which is as harsh as it is inaccurate. For example, Say Nothing, a book written by the New Yorker’s Patrick Keefe and based on his previously published articles, is hardly trash for soon becoming a TV series. In fact, the book is phenomenal and proof that great authors and their stories deserve to be told across as many mediums and adaptations as possible, in an effort to reach as many people as possible—even ones that don’t like to read books or long-form articles.
On the whole, it seems like Pogue is just bemoaning change. Continue reading…
Over the holidays I read The Body: An Occupant’s Guide by Bill Bryson, one of my favorite authors. It is well-researched, captivating, and enlightening. It loses steam in the third and final act, however, which is why I dock it a single star, while still recommending it. These are my favorite passages:
- It’s a slightly humbling thought that the genes you carry are immensely ancient and possibly—so far anyway—eternal. You will die and fade away, but your genes will go on and on so long as you and your descendants continue to produce offspring. And it is surely astounding to reflect that not once in the three billion years since life began has your personal line of descent been broken. For you to be here now, every one of your ancestors had to successfully pass on its genetic material to a new generation before being snuffed out or otherwise sidetracked from the procreative process. That’s quite a chain of success.
- The body is often likened to a machine, but it is so much more than that. It works twenty-four hours a day for decades without (for the most part) needing regular servicing or the installation of spare parts, runs on water and a few organic compounds, is soft and rather lovely, is accommodatingly mobile and pliant, reproduces itself with enthusiasm, makes jokes, feels affection, appreciates a red sunset and a cooling breeze. How many machines do you know that can do any of that? There is no question about it. You are truly a wonder.
- With such an unrelenting work rate, it is a miracle that most hearts last as long as they do. Every hour your heart dispenses around 70 gallons of blood. That’s 1,680 gallons in a day—more gallons pushed through you in a day than you are likely to put in your car in a year.
- Even with the advantage of clothing, shelter, and boundless ingenuity, humans can manage to live on only about 12 percent of Earth’s land area and just 4 percent of the total surface area if you include the seas. It is a sobering thought that 96 percent of our planet is off-limits to us.
- When a teenager struggles to get up in the morning, that isn’t laziness; it’s biology. Matters are compounded in America by what The New York Times in an editorial called “a dangerous tradition: starting high school abnormally early.” According to the Times, 86 percent of U.S. high schools start their day before 8:30 a.m., and 10 percent start before 7:30. Later start times have been shown to produce better attendance, better test results, fewer car accidents, and even less depression and self-harm.
- Medical science has never produced a more noble and selfless group of investigators than the pathologists and parasitologists who risked and all too often lost their lives in trying to conquer the most pernicious of the world’s diseases in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. There ought to be a monument to them somewhere.
- As Daniel Lieberman told me, reaching 80 is largely a consequence of following a healthy lifestyle, but after that it is almost entirely a matter of genes. Or as Bernard Starr, a professor emeritus at City University of New York, put it, “The best way to assure longevity is to pick your parents.”
- It is an extraordinary fact that having good and loving relationships physically alters your DNA. Conversely, a 2010 U.S. study found, not having such relationships doubles your risk of dying from any cause.