Archives For May 2008

Running Lean

May 31, 2008 — 16 Comments

I’m moving again. In the process, I took stock of my possessions and realized that I don’t have any.

There’s the DVR that I never used for anything but The Office, Intervention, The Hills and every episode of the Real World I could find. It’s hooked to a TV that sits on the floor. More white t-shirts than I can count. Sorted only by presentable and runnable. I bought a peacoat sometime during the winter on one of the rare occasions that I added to my wardrobe. A pair of Pumas that the company sent me because of a client. They’ve been out of the box exactly twice. I was supposed to get a dresser but I never got around to that either. I bought more books instead.

A legal pad full of drawings that Joe Hahn gave me. A Mont Blanc that’s probably worth more than anything else I own. I’ve been instructed how to use it ‘strategically’. They’re stacked in my closet, on top of a first edition of Belligerence and Debauchery and signed copy of I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell that says “Ryan – Don’t fuck this up.”

The Books. They’re everywhere. Unshelved; I never felt like I needed any. I’ve taken recently to stacking them under my desk rendering it pretty much unusable. The rest are packed in Amazon boxes in my extra closet. From a glance I can feel what song I listened to as I read it, if I was stable or depressed or excited or hopeful. I can get drawn right back in from the stains on the pages. Carl’s Jr spicy chicken sandwiches with ranch or pepperoni and olive from Philly’s on La Cienega. Did I breeze through it or did I struggle? Well, that depends on the crack in the spine and the bends in the cover.

I feel a little like Erasmus when I look at them, “when I get a little money, I buy books; and if any is left, I buy food and clothes.” It’s one of the few times I am proud of myself. I would die if anything ever happened to them.

I’ve got a friend who’s moving to L.A next month, borrowing money from his parents to pay more in rent than I do – plus roommates. Telling me something about how he doesn’t have the funds to start the site he desperately needs to do what he’s supposed to do. Which is like so many people, entitled about the things that don’t matter, ambivalent to the rest.

If I was doing it again, sure, I’d probably be less of a cheapskate. But I got what I needed accomplished. Many, many times over. The asset I carry around with me is worth my salaries multiplied together. Because when turn the drive from acquiring to inquiring, you start to accumulate things that no one can ever take away.

The funny thing about not having anything is that I never think about money. It’s not a concern. It’s not a burden and it’s not a curse. And I’m poised to make more than I know what to do with. Exactly where I said I wanted to be.

The Firm

May 29, 2008 — 3 Comments

The main law of entrenched businesses is that it’s always cheaper to keep something going than to start something new. I think the main law of Office Politics is that it’s always easier to prevent someone from doing something than it is to do something yourself.

In an Australian first, NSW HSC students will from next year be able to take a course in studying Wikipedia, the online collaborative encyclopedia.

Wikipedia, which ranks among the world’s top-10 most visited sites, has been listed by the NSW Board of Studies as prescribed text for an elective course in the English syllabus for 2009-2012. – Sydney Morning Herald

I’ve been saying it for a long time . Being familiar with Wikipedia has been a huge asset for me over the last year. Not just in terms of traffic – a site like Robert’s gets 15% of all its visitors from Wikipedia – but in understanding how to work within a community from the inside. Having an outlet like Wikipedia, makes you a better reader and gives you a reason outside of school or work to be didactic.

BUT the last thing you should do is act like you’re entitled to the benefits without paying for your share.

Here are some of the best ways I’ve found to rack up edits [contribute]:

1) Fix grammar and spelling

2) Work on pages for books you read, as you read them

3) Double or triple source citations

4) When you’re reading an news article that mentions hard sales figures for something (for example, that certain book sold 20,000 copies) add it to the product or artist’s entry. Those are rarely ever featured on Wikipedia and are great, credible support. They are also really easy to cite.

5) If you go to a decent university, use your schools account for Lexis Nexis to dig up old press than other people can’t find. A lot of interesting stuff is stuck behind the pay wall.

6) Delete PR fluff when you see it. (this entry is a good example. You could do this page a big favor using only the delete key)

7) When you see articles tagged for Notability, add sources until you can delete the tag. You can usually find enough through Google News.

8) Link relevant articles together. Every good article should have a See Also section, if it use it to connect the dots as you find them. (or create the section)

9) Cite books whenever you can, they are much harder to dispute and give you more room to paraphrase.


May 27, 2008 — 6 Comments

When I first started working in LA, somebody asked me if I could fax something for them. Of course, I have no idea how to properly work a fax machine and I guess I ended up sending it upside down. The guy I’d done the favor for lost it. He started pacing back and forth and cursing. Someone came up and tried to explain but he was just inconsolable. Nevermind the fact that all the person had to do was flip it 180 degrees when it came through the machine.

He went back into his office. When he came out hours later, he turned it back on, muttering and shaking his head so everyone could see he was still mad. That he was a Big Swinging Dick. That he was angry and that we ought to know.

I remember being struck with how incredibly pathetic it was. He is throwing a temper tantrum. A grown man. I didn’t want to be like that.

Driving in LA is awful. Especially for me, near Korea Town. And so I will catch myself ranting about how horrible someone is in front of me. I’ll realize that I’m the only one in the car. I’m hoping for the attention of a non-existent audience. Sometimes, when I’m writing I’ll throw a chair because my computer is glitching for no reason or I’ll slam my arm down against the table. When I settle down, it’s strikes me that there is nothing lamer than trying to use physical intimidation on inanimate objects. I guess in retrospect I can laugh a little bit for screaming at the automated DMV phone operator “to listen up you stupid piece of shit, I already repeated my number six fucking times” but more comically sad than anything else.

There is that Marcus line about “not turning this into something” but I think it’s more than that. The saddest part of that Bill O’Reilly video is the end where he gets up and tries to rip off his microphone. The camera pulls away right as he’s doing it and we can see how frantic and ridiculous and insignificant he looks. All that ego, all that money and he’s still five years old trying to fling his jacket off so it knows who’s boss.

It’s about who you want to be. Animals can get angry and snarl and bite at the wind. That’s easy. One of the things I respect most about my girlfriend is how she can reprimand my puppy calmly, as it’s biting her. Me, I have to react emotionally or pull away. To be in control – to know what you want and not indulge – that’s hard. That’s worthy of distinction. If you could pull away and look at yourself, what would you rather see? I know I don’t like seeing the guy screaming to himself in the car, stupid enough to think it makes a difference.

What I’m Reading

May 25, 2008 — 9 Comments

The Canon: A Whirligig Tour of the Beautiful Basics of Science – Natalie Angier

Inspired premise: Writer asks leading scientists what they wish the public knew about their field. Execution: Writer joylessly pleasures herself to the sound of her own voice, interspersing the occasional scientific anecdote between the constant sodomy of puns and allusions. “Ooooh, maybe if I use the word pernicious again someone will buy a microscope!” The book is often fascinating but in everything I have ever read I don’t think I have once come across a more glaring example of a writer so totally failed by their editors. So if anyone has any good science books, I’d love to hear about them. I’m just starting out so they’ll have to be basic.

Teacher Man – Frank McCourt (great)

The Chris Farley Show: A Biography in 3 Acts – Tom Farley Jr. (interesting way to structure a biography. Did you know that Farley did an early version of Shrek?)

Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy – Vincent Bugliosi

I bought this just so I could have it (it was like $10 at Borders) and then I started flipping through it and got hooked. The book is 1,600 pages plus another 1,000 in endnotes, topping out at 1.5 million words. I am splitting it up into multiple reads. This week I did the first 400 pages which cover the introduction and a definitive narration of the assassination. Bugliosi is peerless.

Thick Face, Black Heart – Chin-Ning Chu (I had no idea it was written by a woman until I read the inside back cover. this book is ice cold. nice addition to Robert’s stuff)

These posts by Noah Brier seem to me to be the only honest and realistic discussion of building popular sites/communities around.

600k and Counting

Tagging Brands

Fail Dogs was linked on Gorilla Mask this week.