Blake Snow

content advisor, recognized journalist, bodacious writer-for-hire

Hi, I'm Blake.

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Like #music? Wanna win a $200 wireless speaker? Tell me your favorite underrated artist and it’s yours.

ue boom 2 main

I’ve spoken highly about bluetooth speakers before, including the original UE Boom, Mega Boom, and Cambridge Audio. Like 21st century boomboxes, they bring music to life because they’re easy to pair with your phone and go anywhere.

This month, Ultimate Ears sent me a UE Boom 2 in the hopes I’d publicize it, which I’m doing now. Not because they asked me to. But because it maintains the full and deep sound of the original (although not as bumping as the Mega or as rich as the Cambridge) with twice the wireless range, a little more battery life, and pause and skip functions right on the speaker. That alone makes it a no-brainer consideration for budgets between $100-200.

That said, UE are giving away a limited edition Boom 2 (pictured) to blakesnow.com readers. Here are the official rules:

  1. You must reside in the U.S. (sorry international readers)
  2. You must share your favorite underrated or under-appreciated artist of all time in the below comments and convincingly explain why they deserve more airplay.

That’s it. I’ll announce and publish my favorite entry on May 15 and the speaker will ship shortly thereafter.

Thanks for playing. May the best entry win.

Published works: If the Internet never happened, how might we live today?

courtesy reddit

courtesy reddit

An edited version of this story first appeared on April 5, 2016 in The Atlantic

Not long ago, I stumbled on a list of the best sci-fi novels according to the Internet (i.e. the highly entertaining computer geeks on Reddit). As someone who reads for pleasure as much as job security, I decided to finish as many of these and others that I could handle.

After completing over a dozen—not to mention many more in film adaptations—the following occurred to me: every single one of these acclaimed, futuristic stories—at least the many I was exposed to—completely missed the existence and impact of the Internet. Everything from published media and daily communication, to realizing sight unseen romance and access to global markets.

Why?

“A lot of science fiction was primarily focused on moving people and things around in exciting ways,” says technology commentator Clive Thompson. “These forward-thinkers were using flashy visuals to hook their readers, while understandably overlooking non-sexy things such as inaudible conversations.”

Which is largely what the Internet facilitates. Like electricity, it’s really just an everyday utility now. And utility talk is not plot. It’s boring.  Continue reading…

9 habits I want to absorb this spring

courtesy wikimedia

courtesy wikimedia

  1. Keep a journal. Because they remind us of our thoughts and feelings as well as photographs remind us of people, places, and things.
  2. Say “no” to distractions. I’ve started doing this already by avoiding the news. Instead of consuming news in the morning, afternoon, and night, I now only read three newsletter summaries from my three favorite sources. This frees a massive amount of time without missing the most important stories to my work.
  3. Hire a professional coach. I did this a few years ago and it nearly doubled my sales. After become complacent recently, I need to do this again.
  4. Continue reading…

Off The Grid: India tips, wander wisely, Irish highlights, holy places, best mainland beach

credit wikimedia

credit wikimedia

You know the drill. Here’s where my travel column went last month:

How to stay happily married: Seduce, entertain, be nice

credit blake snow

credit blake snow

A happy wife is a happy life. Or so goes a popular adage.

This goes both ways, of course. But I suspect the saying is written primarily for men because we probably fail as spouses more often than women.

Either way, what’s the key to successful marriage?

First and foremost, always pretend you’re still courting your spouse, writes popular Quora author and Cal physicist Richard Muller. “Seduce. Entertain. Be nice,” he says. “Do all those things you did when you were trying to win her over.”

That means taking a sexual interest in them (not just maintenance, mind you—that’s not love-making), making them laugh, smile, and feel good about themselves, and respecting them no matter what (as opposed to misjudging, resenting, or objectifying them).

Lastly, “Don’t take them for granted, ever,” Muller says. Do this long enough and you’ll probably get divorced.

In other words, surprise them. Marriage is not a given. Do all you can to earn your keep. Contribute. Give. Don’t just take. Be the spouse you’d like to have.

Sage advice, Mr. Muller.

Why 60% of people who hang toilet paper “over” the roll make over $50,000 per year

over under toilet paper

I sigh every time I see toilet paper hanging under the spool as opposed to over. Toilet paper orientation is a big deal. So big I sometimes switch offending rolls mid bowel movement. It’s one of my OCD indulgences.

But spool orientation is more than just preference. Researcher Barry Sinrod found that 68% of Americans roll over. In fact, 60% of those who earn $50,000 a year or more roll over. Meanwhile, 73% of those who earned less than $20,000 roll under.

When asked what his research proves, Sinrod replied, “I don’t know, but it’s sure interesting.”

I’ll give it a shot. Rolling over conserves more paper. It’s not as easy to let it fly, but it offers better control. Under, on the other hand, is easier. Similarly, making less than $20,000 a year is easier than $50,000.

Granted, being underprivileged isn’t always about taking the easy road, even though it is some of the time. And 40% of middle class and higher roll under. But that’s the best I can come up with.

A brief interview: What I value most in life

credit lindsey snow

credit lindsey snow

My wife and I asked and answered five simple questions over a picnic lunch on our sun-drenched driveway today. Most of our answers are closely aligned. This is what I came up with:

What things do you value most in life?

Happiness, which is largely derived from my wife (aka love life), my experiences, my children, the food I eat, the friends I play with, my work as a writer, and my faith.

What is your biggest achievement so far?

Marriage, children, and getting hired by and published in fancy media and blue-chip company publications.

Where do you want to be in five years?

Same house, all the kids in school, still healthy, discoverer of at least five new hobbies, published non-fiction author, discoverer of five new friends, sailor, visitor of all seven continents (Antarctica, Asia, and Australia still pending). My wife answered, “Skiing every weekday with friends, more involved in the community.”

What are some of your favorite books?

Of the top of my head: A Short History of Nearly Everything, Planet of the Apes, Thinking Fast and Slow, Unbroken, And Then There Were None, The Last Place on Earth, The AP Guide to News and Feature Writing (more here).

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The Princess Bride: Another movie that is better than the book

princessbrideFound another one. In addition to Stardust and The Natural, The Princess Bride by William Goldman is a better film than book.

I read the latter this month and was in awe of the actual book within a book. Admittedly, Goldman is a remarkably creative, funny, and powerful writer. But the literary mechanism he uses to set up, interject, and conclude the beloved ’80s story — in this case pretending to be a humbled author searching for his next great hit by abridging “the good parts version” of another fictional author’s larger work — detracts from an otherwise five-star effort.

I suspect even Goldman realized this when writing his award-wining screenplay for the actual movie 14 years after publishing the book. Instead of his original, confusing, and over-the-top author trope, Goldman instead opts for the much cleaner “grandpa reading the story to his sick grandson” setting.

Either way, Goldman is a sarcastic genius. And I’m glad he finally got it right. Four stars out of five. Would have awarded it five stars had it not been for the above oversight.

If you do read it, skip the setup, treat Goldman’s interjections as author’s notes, and head straight for the exceptional story of true love, Inigo’s heartwarming backstory that is strong enough to stand on its own, and dozens of beautiful passages like this:

  • The woman who emerged was a trifle thinner, a great deal wiser, an ocean sadder. This one understood the nature of pain, and beneath the glory of her features, there was character, and a sure knowledge of suffering.
  • The rope seemed almost alive, the greatest of all water serpents heading at last for home.
  • His eyes bulged wide, full of horror and pain. It was glorious. If you like that kind of thing.
  • I really do think that love is the best thing in the world, except for cough drops. But I also have to say, for the umpty-umpth time, that life isn’t fair. It’s just fairer than death, that’s all.

Top 10 ways to fix content marketing

Content marketing has been around for centuries—ever since the first newspaper figured out they could sell ad space against stories that interested people. But it wasn’t until the last few years—even after mostly failed corporate blogging efforts—that content marketing has become a staple of modern marketing budgets in the social media age.

Consequently, commercial brands, communication departments, and Fortune 500 marketing arms are hiring former journalists, editors, and content strategists at an astonishing rate. One well-known software maker I consult for even has a bona fide news department. The place bustles like the New York Times newsroom. Their editorial content is generating executive interest and finding traction with online audiences.

That said, we’re still in the wild west of content marketing. Here are 10 ways to lay claim on the new frontier. Continue reading…

Travel roundup: Most visited countries, foreign education, China tips, nearby snorkeling

courtesy wikimedia

Here’s where my travel column went last month. Better late than never:

Philanthropy, mystery, and optimism: The 3 best short-stories I read last week

marge-pee-wee

Warner Bros.

As seen on the Internet:

  • How Mark Zuckerberg should give away $45 billion by Michael Hobbes. I cringe at the idea of telling other people how they should spend their money, but I’ll let it slide in this clever case as it tells the larger story of how philanthropy might change for the better.
  • The creepiest thing that’s ever happened to me. This non-fiction story by Mark Blanchard about breaking down on the loneliest road in America with his girlfriend is not only incredibly written and told, but it’s a modern day mystery with a Pee-Wee’s big adventure like twist.
  • The case for a bright American future. Living in fear is for Satanic people who watch too much news. The world is in good hands. Or so says the Oracle of Omaha.

Why loss aversion motivates twice as well as rewards

courtesy wikimedia commons

courtesy wikimedia commons

When motivating others, take away expectant freebies instead of giving rewards. That’s the take-away of a new study, which found that loss aversion works twice as well (or 82% of) task completion when compared to rewards, which works only 43% of the time.

In other words, promise a desired effect to everyone (in this case, no course final), then take it away if they fail to do as you ask (in this case, pass weekly quizzes). This may seem the same as rewarding someone with no final, but people place a higher value on things they already posses, which motivates them to work harder to keep it than doing something for an award.

Of course, awards still work and are often the only thing you can use when motivating yourself. But loss aversion is a lot more effective.

See also: 9 things Rudy teaches about motivation 

Now is the most important time because it’s the only time we have any power

Leo Tolstoy courtesy Wikimedia Commons

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…

11 years after becoming a paid writer, I finally learned the difference between em dashes and parenthesis

Six months after I started blogging in 2005, I got my first check for writing. I’ve learned a lot since then. But many professional stories, outlets, and years later, I still didn’t know how to distinguish an em dash (the really long hyphen) from parentheses.

That is until this week. Turns out, em dashes are reserved for brief interuptions that are unrelated to the preceding clause, whereas parentheses are primarly reserved for clarification of the preceding clause, writes Sarah Stanley, who strikes again! For example:

  • Johnny asked me—with a straight face, I might add—if he could borrow the car for the weekend.
  • Anyone can edit Wikipedia (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

Continue reading…