I don’t like academic writing. It’s mostly nonsense.
A few years ago, I said as much to my father who works in academia. Despite my insensitivity and lack of tact, I stand by my belief. Not because I’m incapable of admitting when I’m wrong. But because academic writing’s verbose language, impersonal tone, and dispassionate delivery ultimately fail to engage readers.
In other words, “Academics are really good at writing books that only academics will read, but they’re not very good at making anyone outside of academia care,” says Jared Bauer, co-creator of Thug Notes, in an interview with Huffington Post. ”Teaching isn’t easy, so I’m not trying to shame teachers for not trying more radical approaches to literature education,” he adds. “But at the very least, I hope (our) show makes teachers realize that a student won’t volunteer their attention. The teacher must seize it.”
As I debated with my father that day, for writing to succeed, it must capture the reader’s attention. If it doesn’t, the writing won’t get shared, influence can’t happen, and the opportunity to learn is squandered, even among scholars. There’s no point to that kind of writing other than to serve as a reminder of how not to write. Continue reading…
© Blake Snow
As an amateur photographer, I sometimes get compliments on the photos I take. Here’s my secret: Continue reading…
For the next month, soccer fans watching the World Cup will see more fake injuries than any amount of magic spray could possibly cure. And by fake I mean diving, flopping, conniving—temporarily feigning injury in an effort to draw an advantageous ruling on the field.
Although seen in international soccer with regularity, diving during the World Cup happens in greater frequency because the stakes are higher. (This is the world championship, after all, held once every four years.) And when the stakes are higher, cowardice teams will employ anything they can for an edge.
“In the British game, it is often seen as an import from foreign players,” says psychologist Paul Morris, who studies diving at the University of Portsmouth. “Many people argue that it has been common in Italian football for decades.” Continue reading…
© Blake Snow
My brood just returned from a week long road trip to the Black Hills. At close range, we saw Devil’s Tower (4.5 out of 5 stars), Rushmore (4 stars), the Custer Needles and Sylvan Lake (5 stars), Badlands (4 stars), and… a lot of senior citizens (2 stars—wink). We bumped into a few younger families on our travels, but not many. The vast majority were graying couples.
“Where are all the twenty and thirty-somethings?” I asked my wife. She shrugged.
A moment passed, then she offered, “Maybe they’re at Disneyland.”
“Maybe they’re watching TV,” I added.
Wherever they were, they weren’t outside. Continue reading…
In honor of the World Cup, which starts next week in Brazil, here’s how I fell in love with the game.
The year: 198X. I was at a friend’s house in a remote part of northern Oklahoma. We were watching Victory, a so-so Sylvester Stallone movie about a POW soccer team playing Nazi Germany during World War II. My buddy and I were no older than five or six at the time.
Not wanting to endure the feeble character and pre-game drama, we fast forwarded the VHS “through all the boring stuff” to get right to the climatic game. While the build up to said game will likely keep most adults engaged — more for its interesting plot than acting skills — the last 20 minutes of the movie is most triumphant.
I quit social media four years ago. By that I mean I quit Facebook, Twitter*, Google+, LinkedIn and other “social networks” that require the declaration and management of electronic relationships. Since then, my personal and professional lives have been greatly enriched. So much so, I don’t plan to join digital social networks ever again. (More on that here.)
Unless, of course, those networks can enhance my physical relationships. Consider, for example, Google Hangouts, an ad-hoc social network. After reluctantly declining six months of invites, my wife recently convinced me to join. I’m glad I did. It’s allowed me to stay in close touch with extended family without colleagues, associates, admirers, like-minded people, or old high school acquaintances getting in the way. It’s also let me indulge in animated gifs.
But even this endearing network has become a distraction at times. By my own doing, it’s sometimes made me lose sight of the big picture. Continue reading…
“If you approach two people in the middle of a conversation, and they only turn their torsos and not their feet, they don’t want you to join the conversation,” teach the smart people of Quora. “Similarly, if you are in a conversation with a coworker who you think is paying attention to you, and their torso is turned towards you but their feet are facing another direction, they want the conversation to end.”
Wonderful observation. Another one I like: “If you are angry at the person in front of you driving like a grandmother, pretend it is your grandmother. It will significantly reduce your road rage.” As of 6:58 yesterday on I-15 southbound, I can confirm this works.
Speaking of feet: Did I pass that on? Human genetics are incredible
I got an unexpected royalty check from Denmark last month. Apparently some Dane liked one of my stories enough to make a bunch of copies for their organization to read. In route through foreign and U.S. copyright law, the specific story and organization that used it were lost unfortunately. But I’m grateful just the same — for the recognition as well as compensation.
My millennial brother-in-law chided me recently for using only a single monitor. “Get with the times,” he joked. “Two screens will boost your productivity.”
I’m normally confident about my technology use, but his remark surprised me since no one had questioned the size of my desktop display before. Keep in mind, I’ve worked from home for over a decade, so I don’t get to see how the Jones’ use computers at work. I don’t see their workspaces—only their faces over Skype calls or in conference rooms or voices over phones or words over email.
Self consciously, I began asking family and friends if they used dual monitors at work. “All the time,” said one. “Have for years,” said another. “Will never go back!” exclaimed a third. With exception to one, all my inquires said “yes.” Even my dad and father-in-law use dual screens at work. BABY BOOMERS MORE WIRED THAN ME??!! Continue reading…
Credit: Blake Snow
For energy saving reasons, I did a wholesale replacement of our incandescent lightbulbs this week. We’re now using compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) throughout the home (gasp!). Here’s what I think so far: Continue reading…
Ev Williams believes the internet is “a giant machine designed to give people what they want.” In a speech reported by Wired, the co-inventor of Blogger and Twitter added, “We often think the internet enables us to do new things, but people just want to do the same things.”
For instance, we want to socialize, entertain ourselves, learn, and make work easier. The internet does all four better than any other convenience of the last century.
It does this in two ways, Williams explains. “Big hits on the internet (think Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon) are masters at making things fast and not making people think… But the internet is not a utopian world. It’s like a lot of other technological revolutions.” Continue reading…
Photo: Blake Snow
That’s Harley, the family dog. He just had his balls removed. Now he’s reduced to wearing this emasculating hat for a week to prevent post-op licking.
I think it’s funny. Harley doesn’t. But then again, he and I don’t see eye to eye on a lot of things. Continue reading…
My wife and I recently borrowed a large sum of money to buy a highly illiquid asset. To secure the loan, we disclosed more of our financial behavior to the bank than we’ve admitted to anyone else, including God. And rightfully so—again we were borrowing a large sum of money, and they wanted to make sure we’d pay it back.
In addition to scouring our personal finances, the lender took a fine tooth comb to our business finances. I’m self-employed. But my wife owns 50% of “the company.” I generate and service all the income. She gets half. Many would call her—as my lender often did—a “silent partner.” But she is anything but. Continue reading…
Warner Bros. / Blake Snow
My stomach turns anytime I witness waste, lavishness, or squandering. I smile whenever I see thrift, frugality, or resourcefulness. (See also: The difference between cheap and frugal)
In fact, the latter is a life-long pursuit of mine: To be resourceful in everything I do, including my personal and business endeavorers.
Which is why I relate to Amazon’s leadership principle on frugality, explained like this Continue reading…
My latest for the fair and balanced department at Fox News: Online blood tests like WellnessFX are empowering and affordable as much as they are against medical advice.
Five years ago, I “pivoted,” as they say in business. I went from writing feature stories primarily for top 20 news media to writing features stories for Fortune 500 companies as an embedded journalist and content advisor.
Landing a new client typically goes like this: They like my pitch and ask for more info. I send it to ‘em. We talk. They like what they hear and think I can grow their audience with a fresh voice.
Over time, however, some of those clients let that voice rot. Continue reading…
I’ve vouched for “email free” nights and weekends for several years now. Work-related email, that is. With proper planning and discipline, I’m convinced 99% of white collar workers would benefit, especially when allowing for no more than 3-4 emergency checks per year. Continue reading…
With age, I’ve started a habit of condensing my thoughts, ideas, and beliefs into short “quotables.” Here are some of my more Confucius-quality ones, formatted and ready to share—how conceited of me!
- “In life, everybody is legally blind. Some are completely blind. Never follow the latter.”–Blake Snow
- “If you depend on someone else to make you happy, you’re gonna have a bad time.”–Blake Snow
- “Sometimes the best move in life (and chess) is to do nothing.”–Blake Snow (Aka Never let a threat, intimidation, or external pressure force you to do anything against your will. Make your own choices and dictate your own strategy.) Continue reading…
Ordered by most spins so far this year. All worth a listen if you like rock music.
- Stay Young by Young Rival. Says my friend David, “Young Rival will fill the gap left behind by Band Of Skulls. Good find!”
- Voices by Phantogram. The ’90s called. They want their trip-hop back—their really, really good trip-hop minus the grittiness. Referred by my sister, Sara
- After the Disco by Broken Bells. Nice record to clean the house to. Or remember the Bee Gees by. Referred by my brother-in-law, Steven
- Heza by Generationals. Cool sound. Not a lot of catchiness, but groovy just the same. Referred by my colleague, Gavin
- Melophobia by Cage the Elephant. Ignoble winner of the loudness wars (i.e. poor mastering), but some rocking tracks on this.
NOTABLE MENTION: Morning Phase by Beck—Pleasant, but not as good as Sea Change
There’s a funny saying in journalism. You could publish the biggest exclusive story in the world — a major political scandal, military coup, celebrity scoop, scientific breakthrough, or life-changing event. But it still won’t reach as many people as a cute story about a dog (See also: The AP Guide to News & Feature Writing).
I was reminded of this recently while walking my dog. Although I’ve walked the block many times with my adorable toddlers, one neighbor in particular never took much notice when crossing paths. No biggie. I just thought she was a private but pleasant lady. She’d smile; sometimes wave. We waved back. That was the extent of it for nearly four years.
Until she met Harley. Continue reading…