Cafe Witness

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Dropping the Ball


Evidently, there was a disconnect on a freelance job I'm currently working on. I hadn't realized the estimated date of review for the next round of video clips, which was last week, was a hard deadline. Thus, when something else was thrown into the works last week, I missed that deadline -- not realizing it was in pen, not pencil.

Normally, this wouldn't be a large issue. The matter of rubber dates vs. stone dates is forever a complication of freelance, and I've bounced on both sides of the dividing line over the years. If there's a disconnect, a phone call or email and a redoubling of the efforts usually results in a finished (or review) product that's even better than it would have been under normal circumstances. (Catholic guilt dies hard.)

But in this case, I'm not the primary contact for the client. In fact, the client is actually an intermediary as well. There are really four lines of communication involved, and if there's a disconnect in one part of the chain, it extends all the way down.

So, in this case, the best thing I can do is fix the problem without creating additional problems by circumventing the appropriate communication channels -- which is hard to do when I'm so used to working with clients directly.

The Root of the Problem

Of course, ALL of this could have been avoided with one simple action: being AHEAD OF SCHEDULE.

Granted, when have I EVER been ahead of schedule on something? But, then, that's precisely the point, isn't it?

Looking back on most of my work for the past few years, I see one startling truism: nearly all of it has been produced either AT (or shortly after) the deadline. While some of this has been undoubtedly due to the complications of the clients, much of it falls squarely on my own shoulders. It's incredibly evident in Something to Be Desired, which -- as Mobasoft's Michael Bailey has mentioned -- "says it comes out on Monday but really comes out on Tuesday."

I'm swiftly becoming aware of the likely truth of an old adage -- and if it isn't old, it's still certainly valid -- that the most profound way to change one's life is to simply show up on time. For everything.

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Monday, May 28, 2007

Zelda Only Got One Walk

Since we can't have pets in our apartment, Ann and I have been volunteering as dog walkers at the Animal Rescue League for the past month or so. It's a great experience, and I always wish there were more time in the day so I could walk more dogs. (The average walk lasts anywhere from 5 minutes to half an hour, depending upon need and inclination.)

Today was Memorial Day (here in the States, anyway), so the shelter was closed. However, they asked volunteers to come in and help all the dogs get at least one "long-ish" walk for the day -- 10 minutes plus. (Every dog gets a "pee walk" in the morning, which is usually as short as it needs to be -- just so the housebroken dogs don't have an accident and the non-housebroken dogs can start learning.)

Ann and I were there for about 90 minutes, and we were able to walk about 10 of the dogs. Other volunteers were there earlier in the day, and among us, all but four of the dogs had been able to get out for their "long-ish" walk with fifteen minutes left in the day.

Ann and I, along with another volunteer, Wendy, got three of the last four dogs out for their extra walk before the shelter closed for the day (to us). Unfortunately, Zelda -- an adorable mutt who happens to be gigantic, and therefore intimidating to walk -- was the only one who didn't get out twice. Her cage also happens to be situated near one of the doors, where she probably saw other dogs going in and out all day, wondering when her turn would come.

I don't pretend to understand the minds of dogs, but I understand the mind of me, and I know I felt soooooo guilty for not sticking around long enough to get Zelda out. Maybe she's wondering if she did something wrong. Maybe she's wondering if she was forgotten about.

The funny thing is, on days when Ann and I are the ONLY volunteers who come through, we feel good to get 4 or 5 dogs out for a walk. At least we did something, we rationalize. But when all but one dog gets a walk, that's even more depressing.

Zelda, I owe you one.

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Friday, May 25, 2007

In Praise of Naps

The concept of the nap is a touchy subject in my household. One of us (i.e., me) believes a nap is one of the most useful, refreshing and rewarding ways to spend a slice of one's day. The other (i.e., she) believes naps are evil, soul-draining activities that rob a person of time that would be better spent being productive.

I'll admit it's entirely possible to overnap -- lord knows I'd sleep 24 hours a day if it were physically possible. But I actually consider a strategically timed nap to be one of the best things a person can do to improve productivity.

Maybe it's just me, but I find a nap helps me:

- recharge and reinvigorate my body

- clarify and recalibrate my mind

- calm down and refresh my energy

The way my mind works, I tend to go through "stages" in a day, in which I transition from number crunching to organizing to creating to filing to scheduling to brainstorming. I find the transition between mindsets can be jarring, and it often helps immensely to grab a quick nap and approach the new situation with a new frame of mind.

I'm not alone. Studies have shown that workplaces which allow their employees to nap / meditate on the job experience higher morale and increased productivity. It also decreases the chances of heart disease!

From one such article in the Chicago Tribune:
By one estimate, sleep-related fatigue costs U.S. businesses $150 billion annually in absenteeism, accidents and lost productivity, according to a 2006 report by the Institute of Medicine.

Pulling an all-nighter or sleeping as little as four to five hours daily for a week produces the same level of cognitive impairment as if a person were legally drunk, with a blood-alcohol level of 0.10, according to Czeisler. We would never praise someone who came to work inebriated, he argues, yet business glorifies people who sacrifice sleep to work.

Polls suggest a majority of Americans are sleep-deprived, says Darrel Drobnich, program director of the National Sleep Foundation. The group's 2005 poll found that U.S. adults sleep an average of 6.9 hours daily, compared with about 10 hours a century ago.

How ironic: Given the rigors of the workplace and the pressure to succeed, sometimes the best solution is to check out of the game for a catnap.

What about you: do you find a nap recharges your batteries or derails your day?

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Remembering Why I'm Here

I just had one of those "aha" moments -- the kind that right all the wrongs and remind me why I'm here.

I was driving in the car with Ann and, for some reason, it occurred to me that she's very literary-inclined -- reading and writing are among her favorite activities in life.

And then I remembered: so am I.

I love writing. It's one of the things I'm best at, one of the things I enjoy most and something I'd be happy to do for the rest of my life. (Drawing / cartooning / video are all ways of storytelling, and also things I enjoy; I sense an overwhelming trend.) The concept of making a living as a writer is something I frequently intend to get around to but then subsequently forget as new elements pop in front of my eyes.

It's nice to clarify your life in the middle of the afternoon on a Thursday.

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Graphic of the Day

Yesterday I posted my blogography, and then realized there actually IS a blog called Blogography out there.

Today, it's the source of much amusement for me. Reprinted here: the backbone of an argument made about the inanity of The View.

Image via Blogography

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Steve Garfield vs. The Wall Street Journal

Yesterday, Steve Garfield found a problem with a Wall Street Journal article that referenced the blog he creates with his mother, Millie. His problem? The article was filled with factual errors and misrepresentations.

In a nutshell: the article portrays the blog as Millie's way of staving off memory loss, and paints her relationship with Steve as something more contentious than it ever is. It seemed their story was being strained through a pre-determined filter to meet the needs of the reporter's angle.

So, Steve contacted the WSJ, only to get the runaround from the reporter.

Compounding the issue, that article is now being syndicated through OTHER newspapers that are redistributing the wrong information. At this stage, it's nearly impossible to stop the spread of incorrect information. Even a retraction or correction won't change the fact that anyone who's read that article will have THAT version lodged in their memory banks.

As Steve says:
If the Wall Street Journal can't even get the facts right in a human interest story, what are they doing on the real news?
It all comes down to intractability: once something is in print, it's incredibly hard to make corrections. Contrast this to blogs, where everything is fluid, and you can see why print media is in trouble.

Of course, you can also see why society has been in trouble for hundreds of years, since the printing press had made it nearly impossible to correct a mistake -- or a lie -- after it's been circulated for a day... or a week... or a generation...

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007


Chris Brogan did it this morning. It smells like a meme. And it's also an incredibly useful way to clear my head by summing up where I've been and where I'm going.

Three Reasons to Write a Blogography

- It gives readers a snapshot summary of the author's life

- It enables the author to connect the dots of the past and present for self-reflection

- It answers all the questions no one ever thinks to ask

So, without further bullet-pointing, ladies and gentlemen: my Blogography.

(Warning: it is a tad long. Of course, it is a life story...)

The Early Years

I was born and raised in Erie, PA, which makes me half-Canadian by association. I spent most of my time reading, drawing and creating. I made my own activity books based on video games, wrote and drew my own novels and comics, and played endlessly with action figures (including MUSCLE Things, around which I invented an entire self-created storyverse because they didn't come with one of their own -- making them truly the greatest toys ever for a creative mind).

My parents were iconoclasts and insisted I drop out of Catholic high school at the age of 16 because, as they said, "you're going to be an artist anyway, so why not get started now?" Realizing this was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to f*ck up my life, I grabbed it.

I spent the better part of 16 and 17 on the road with my dad, who was (and is) a traveling salesman. Together, we saw the country several times over, from Seattle to Atlanta, Boston to Los Angeles, Houston to Chicago and everywhere in-between (or wherever he had an account). During that time, I self-published (under a pseudonym) a black & white comic book that was sold nationally, albeit in painfully small quantitities. I also learned how to drive (mostly on highways), and grew my hair abominably long. (That stopped when I grew weary of being called "ma'am" whenever we drove South...)

The Roaring Pre-Twenties

At 18, I moved home with my grandfather, who was 81. Despite the generation gap, we got along well, and I learned a lot about my family that I doubt I would have otherwise had the opportunity to know. I also discovered a love for video when my high school friends and I spent countless hours creating ever-longer home movies of truly esoteric sketch comedy.

When the rest of my friends moved away to college, my best friend Tom Duska (aka Locobone) and I kept in touch with them using a mysterious new invention called Telnet. This was 1995, and the full extent of my online knowledge involved sneaking into the Penn State Behrend computer lab (Locobone was a student there; I was not) to connect with our friends via the scrolling black-and-white chatroom screen. This activity would eventually occupy nearly my entire waking, non-working existence, as I formed seemingly deep bonds with other wandering souls via blinking cursors and text.

In 1996, I became enamored with our local college radio station, WERG 89.9 FM from Gannon University. The summer DJs became listless around July and one of them, whose show I was a frequent caller into, asked if I'd like to take over one of his weekly shifts. That offer snowballed into a yearlong stint in which Locobone and I became elder statesmen of WERG, helping train their incoming class of freshman communications majors and building the station into the city's #2 radio destination despite neither of us actually going to school there...

Becoming friendly with the freshmen inspired me to reconsider my own education. Unbeknownst to anyone, I secretly completed my GED, "just in case." Continued conversations (and a flare-up with my girlfriend at the time) led me to realize I should go back to school. By chance, I stumbled across a college guide listing for The Art Institute of Pittsburgh. I visited the school, sat in on a class and decided to attend. My major? Computer Animation and Multimedia. (Why? Because the admissions reps were pushing it that year.)

The College Years

From 1997-1999, I lived, worked and honed my craft in Pittsburgh. I learned a lot about myself, my worldview and my work ethic, and I developed some incredibly long-lasting friendships. Most importantly, I realized how much can be accomplished when a group of passionate creators work together to push one another to succeed. That atmosphere was the most dynamic I'd ever lived in, and I missed it sorely after graduation.

I spent a few weeks living in Arizona, only to go broke and return home, ready to start over. A week later, my car was totaled (with me in it). This downward spiral of bad luck and questionable planning was assuaged by a job offer from Multimedia Training Systems, Inc. The company creates safety training for the steel industry and needed a video editor. Having taken numerous video editing classes in college (I'd realized midway through that I should have enrolled in that major instead, so I maxed out my electives with video), I was the only qualified applicant. I was hired.

During the 5 years I spent at MTS, I developed a need for a creative outlet apart from the rigors of accident recreations and industrial training. I'd been fiddling with a short film script for years, and when I met a small group of actors, I pitched them on the concept of turning that script into something serialized on the internet. They were interested, and in 2003, Something to Be Desired was launched. Today, it stands as the longest-running (yet mostly undiscovered) episodic web series, with four seasons and well over 100 episodes under our belts.

In 2005, I quit MTS to concentrate on STBD full-time. Although that decision has resulted in traumatic stress to my personal finances, the professional and artistic benefits have been astounding. That year I also had the opportunity to visit London for a month while my girlfriend studied toward her Master's degree. As the first significant travel I'd enjoyed in nearly a decade, it re-awakened my desire to live a more fluid lifestyle.

In 2006, one stray introductory email to then-new media neophyte Chris Brogan resulted in a domino effect for both of us. Thus far, it's led to Chris switching careers and becoming the community ambassador for social media, while I've had the opportunity to meet hundreds of fellow web media creators as we all strive to figure out this new medium together.

Life is exciting. It feels like college all over again. And that's a good thing.

The Next Steps

A week ago, I turned 30. Realizing how far I've come over the past 10 years -- moving to Pittsburgh, obtaining a degree, investing 5 years in a growing company, investing 4 more in an artistic venture, co-organizing PodCamp Pittsburgh -- I realize I have no idea where I'll be at 40. But I'm quite excited to see where the next 10 years lead me. And, thanks to the magic of blogs, Twitter and social media at large, I doubt the trip will be lonely.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

If You Don't Have Something Relevant to Say, Don't Say Anything at All?

Sometimes, I'm swamped with work. Other times I'm swamped with real life. And still other times, I just need a break from the computer.

And yet...

... there's always that unspoken obligation to blog.

But why?

Blogging Dodos?

Since the advent of Twitter, much buzz has been expended on the decreased rate of blogging.

"If I can connect with people in 'real time,'" so the theory goes, "why should I spend more time blogging about what I just Twittered?"

(Context, for one. Evergreen-ness, for another. But I digress...)

If we can agree in principle that the minutae of our day is best left to Twitter, IM and email, what then is there left to blog about? Items of relevance, of course. In fact, that's all anyone SHOULD be blogging about anymore: concepts that are too large for Twitter's 140 character limit.

The funny thing is, once you get used to breaking your thought process down to Twitter-sized morsels, that pool of topics is a lot smaller than you might think.

Justified and Recent

As I've mentioned before, I get upset when the bloggers I read regularly don't update for a day or two. Judging by the ebb and flow of my own subscriber base, so do my readers. A couple days of radio silence in this ADD-addled attention economy is the kiss of death for some audiences who need insight AND immediacy from their punditry.

But should I blog just because I haven't blogged much lately? Or should I wait until there's something extremely topical AND worthwhile to blog about? What's more important: the quality or the frequency?

What do you need? Regularity or relevance? (Presuming "both" is not possible, of course...)

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Sunday, May 13, 2007

My Mac Mail Program Is Getting Senile

I woke up to 82 messages in my inbox today. Of them, 80 were spam. That's not a very good ratio.

Is there a way to make my Mac Mail program better at sniffing out spam? It seems like it's actually getting stupider over the years. You'd think by now it would realize that anything involving penises, cash transfers and Hoodia belongs in my dreams, not my inbox.

Oh, and Happy Mother's Day to all applicable readers!

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Friday, May 11, 2007

The Problem with Redundancy

I'm sitting in the Crazy Mocha in the South Side Works. The barista this evening (whose name escapes me) is playing her collection of Beatles music on the PA system.

This barista ALWAYS plays the Beatles on the PA system.

Other baristas have their favorite musicians too. One plays Stevie Nicks and the Black-Eyed Peas often. Another used to play the most recent Fiona Apple every shift, without fail.

My question: what's the benefit in listening to the same music SO OFTEN?

I understand having a comfort zone. I also understand wanting to share your personal choices with the public.

But where's the value in logging, literally, HUNDREDS of hours listening to the same -- and, frequently, decades-old -- music?

This is the same question I ask of people who have classic rock stations bookmarked on their radio dials. Have you NOT heard Dark Side of the Moon enough in your lifetime? Do you have any idea how much new information you're NOT taking in as a result?

I also find certain music (like all art) elicits a specific response in me, which can help with brainstorming, motivation and mood control -- but only for so long. The more I listen to the same music, the less of an impact it has on me.

If we overplay it, the magic is gone. And what are we doing then but listening to familiar noises?

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BootCamp PGH Interviews

Joel Witt interviewed several Pittsburgh new media types at BootCamp PGH last month, including Jim Shireman (Sportsocracy), Lindsay Patross (Spreadshirt), honorary Pittsburgher Chris Brogan and me. If you haven't heard these spots yet, you can check them out here.

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Sunday, May 06, 2007

Thoughts on MicroHoo!

While discussing the potential Microsoft / Yahoo! merger on Friday, David Armano referred to the hybrid as MicroHoo! Catchy as it is, the commenters on his blog had some of the day's best insights, including - from Madhu:
This is what losing companies do. I think it would become -

MicroWho ??

From Andy Didyk:
You've got two giants of companies that both try to do everything for everyone; in other words, they are both specialists at being generalists instead of two specialists combining to become a generalist. I foresee this working well for both companies, and a natural response to Google's policy of "Invent everything useful on the web, and buy out what others have already invented."

And from Paul McEnany:
Well, i love the idea that one slow company + another slow company somehow has a greater chance to beat one innovative one.

My Two Cents

Watching massive companies merge is almost always a good thing -- for the little guy.

As McEnany mentions, massive companies cannot move quickly. They cannot innovate swiftly. They must rely on scavenging the ideas from the smaller, quicker, more nimble competition. Imagine a Tyrannosaurus Rex with a firewire port.

Smashing two of these companies together may be wonderful in terms of available in-house resources, but all it really means is that it'll take this ship twice as long to turn around or adjust on the fly. Sure, there will be a trimming of fat from both companies, but the overall increase in people mass will only make them go THAT MUCH MORE UNSTOPPABLY in one direction.

And this leaves room for all kinds of small and mid-sized competitors to thrive in their shadow.

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Saturday, May 05, 2007

Weekend Arbitrarium

Brian Conley (Alive in Baghdad) and Justin Kownacki
bring sexy back at Video on the Net in San Jose.

This weekend is shaping up to be a hodgepodge of random information, half-confirmed obligations and the very real possibility of alcohol. Thus, I thought I'd share 3 lists of 3s:

3 Ways You Know You're Not Paying Enough Attention

1) I drove to the bank today... only to realize it's been shut down, the sign has been removed and the building is for sale. This probably didn't happen overnight.

2) Ann and I arrived at a student film shoot at 10 AM, but we couldn't find the other cast / crew. Then we realized there was no confirmation as to whether the shoot was to happen at 10 AM or 10 PM, and we didn't have the director's phone number. Whoops. (FYI: It was at 10 AM, and we were the first to arrive; those who know me know this is EXTREMELY rare.)

3) While walking dogs from the Animal Rescue League, people regularly stop me and ask what breed the dog I'm walking happens to be. I rarely have any idea, even though the information is RIGHT THERE on the dog's cage sheet, so I make an educated guess. ("I think it's a Rottweiller... something... mix...")

3 Things That Sway Me Toward the Death Penalty

Make no mistake: I would MUCH rather have violent criminals rehabilitated or put to good use in some kind of life sentence prison work program. Lord knows there's always something productive someone can be doing. But when it comes to murder perpetrated on:

1) Animals,

2) Children or

3) The elderly,

... my opinion shifts.

A recent news story involved an elderly man who woke up every morning and spent his days riding various buses around Pittsburgh. He was found dead, shot execution-style, near some railroad tracks this week. His walker has yet to be found.

What possesses someone to murder an innocent, defenseless person? (I suppose the above criteria would extend to a fourth category: the mentally or physically handicapped.) Perpetrators of these crimes make it very hard to elicit sympathy.

3 Cool Upcoming Pittsburgh Events

1) Saturday, May 5 (that's today!): The Creative Treehouse hosts a charity art & music event to benefit The ONE Campaign, the worldwide movement to end poverty. STBD's own Kellee Maize (aka Celeste) will be among the 5 live performers. (517 Lincoln Ave 15206 [Bellevue]. 7 PM - ???. Suggested $5 donation. Join the locals afterward for a BYOB festivity at Affogato from 8 PM - 1 AM.)

2) Saturday, May 12: Join the creators of Pittsburgh's Sound Kitchen as they celebrate 2 years' worth of live music and poetry. Over 65 performances on 5 stages! Free food and drink! Plus, the audience votes for their favorite performer, who'll win 15 FREE HOURS of studio time at Mr. Smalls! (Event held at Artists Image Resource, 518 Foreland Ave 15212 [North Side]. Suggested $10 donation, with net proceeds donated to anti-violence campaigns.)

3) Saturday, May 26: Pavement Shoes (3629 Butler Street) is having its first annual Weenie Roast! Come enjoy traditional hotdogs or veggie dogs, live music and great shoes! (11 AM - 7 PM)

Plus, My Special Bonus "Best Spam Mail of the Day":

From: Williesha Hashem

"Hello my friend!

I am ready to kill myself and eat my dog, if medicine prices here ( are bad.

Look, the site and call me 1-800 if its wrong..

My dog and I are still alive :)"

(Photo by Clintus)

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Friday, May 04, 2007

Justin in Atlanta

I'll be in Atlanta, GA, next Wednesday. A few social media folks, including Steve Garfield, Michael Bailey, Vergel Evans and myself, will be meeting with several of Atlanta's new media stars (including PodCamp Atlanta co-organizer Amber Rhea) at Manuel's that evening.

Care to join us?

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What Makes an MVP?

Yesterday, the Dallas Mavericks -- the NBA's best team this past season (67-15) -- were bounced from the first round of the playoffs by the 8th-seeded Golden State Warriors. This is the first time in league history that an 8 seed beat a 1 in a best-of-7 series.

Part of the reason is because the Warriors were coached by Don Nelson, the former Mavericks coach who built that team in the first place and understood most of their weaknesses.

But the bigger reason is because presumed MVP Dirk Nowitzki came up small. Repeatedly.

Keep in mind that the NBA playoffs are a best-of-7 affair, meaning a team needs to win 4 games against their opponent in order to advance. This means a good team can have a bad night and still survive. The odds of an inferior team beating the better team 4 times out of 7? Rare.

So when likely MVP Dirk Nowitzki (the MVP votes haven't been released yet) turns in one bad game after another... after another... after another... after another... basketball fans start wondering what's up. For example, in yesterday's game, which saw the Mavericks ousted:
Nowitzki finished 2-for-13 from the field with eight points, unable to prevent the NBA's biggest playoff upset ever. Nowitzki didn't make his first shot until the final minute of the first half. By the time he made his second, Dallas was already down 23 points.
The bolded text was mine to emphasize a point: Nowitzki didn't score for the first 23 minutes of the game. Knowing his team was counting on him to carry them to the next round, he instead deferred all responsibility to his teammates. In fact, Nowitzki had been complaining about how well Golden State had been defending him all series -- essentially admitting he had no solution for their gameplan.

So, instead, his solution was to stop trying.

Does that seem like Most Valuable Player behavior to you?

What You (May) Have in Common with Dirk Nowitzki

Like basketball, business and art are collaborative works. They're performed by teams, but those teams are comprised of individuals. And everyone on the team is expected to do his or her job in order for the team to succeed.

Dallas won 67 games this year because Dirk Nowitzki did whatever his team needed him to do to win. Then, Dallas was ejected from the first round of the playoffs because Dirk refused to do what his team needed him to do to win.


Was it pressure? Was it fatigue? Was it a lingering injury that no one knows about?

Was it the fact that the opposing coach also mentored Nowitzki for his first 7 years in the league, and therefore knew how to get inside his head?

Or was it a simple matter of temperament? Perhaps Nowitzki's not cut out for the high stakes, high-pressure, high-visibility role of being the top dog on the top team when the stakes are highest.

You know what? That's okay. It doesn't mean Nowitzki's not a great player. In fact, it might even validate his expected award -- he might BE the league's Most Valuable Player, because when he doesn't show up, his team is in tatters.

But when I think "MVP," I think of someone who gets the job done, no matter what, and helps his team perform even better in the process. I think of someone who helps his colleagues find creative solutions to vexing problems that could spell disaster if left unchecked. And I think of someone who rises to the challenge and performs best under pressure, when one false step could send the entire venture hurtling to the ground.

Does that sound like Dirk Nowitzki?

More importantly: Does that sound like you?

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Thursday, May 03, 2007

Motivation Burst

The trickiest thing about motivation is harnessing it.

So often, I spend days -- or weeks, months or, in some extreme cases, years -- harboring ideas or glimpses of things I'd like to do, or should do, but which I never seem to get around to. It always seems like these ideas need "further gestation."

And then, suddenly, something comes along and forces me to take action and -- out of nowhere -- I enter the ring and come out swinging.


Job's done. Case closed. No more procrastination.

Where did that sudden burst of motivation come from?

Home Cooking

The most obvious example of this behavior is housecleaning. I can stare at the piles of misplaced items all around my apartment and KNOW they should be put away. But it takes a phone call from a friend or family member -- "We thought we'd drop by tonight..." -- to get me off my ass and into homemaker mode.

Suddenly, dishes get washed, papers get recycled, furniture gets rearranged and laundry gets washed, dried, folded and hung up... usually in just a couple hours. Visitors have no idea that the place looked like a homeless man squatted here mere hours ago.

And, of course, as soon as I'm done, I'm thinking, "This wasn't hard at all. Why the hell did it take me THIS LONG to do?"

Leaving the Nest

Half the reason I don't pull the trigger on an action is because I don't consider it to be ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY. I lull myself into a false sense of security. I become complacent with my life as-is, even though I know it needs to be improved.

"Sure, those piles of books belong on a shelf somewhere, but leaving them out won't kill me... I should go play Madden instead."

The problem with this type of thinking is that it justifies my excuses. And once I start justifying excuses for little things, I start doing the same for big things. It's a snowball effect, and it leads to a massive amount of NOT getting things done.

If I applied that same "burst of motivation" in housecleaning to whatever business, social or creative endeavors I'm putting off, I could probably clear up my hundreds-of-items-long to-do list in a reasonable amount of time AND have a blast doing it.

Odds are, so could you.

All it takes is the strength to say "yes" to that tiny, flickering flame of motivation in the back of our minds -- the one that says, "Hey, wouldn't it be a good idea if you did this?..."

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Life Is Math

Chris Brogan recently mentioned that the best comedy works because we, as humans, can relate to it.

I'll go even deeper: the best comedy works because it's mathematically sound.

As any comedian will tell you, comedy is all about timing... and timing is math. Sure, relatability is the humane filter that determines whether or not we develop an emotional response to something (like humor), but whether or not a joke works boils down to simple mathematics.

The same goes for music, painting, photography, theatre, dance, writing, architecture, film... Everything we consider to be aesthetically engaging and unspeakably profound -- even sex -- can be broken down to mathematics.


Composition, color scheme, rhythm, tone... each element that affects the "finished product" of art is mathematically based. Change any element, even by a fraction, and you have a wholly different end result -- one which society may react to in completely different ways.

The same goes for life beyond art. Great feats in sports are merely the result of body mechanics. The difference between a great golf swing and one that slices into the woods off every tee might be one-sixteenth of an inch.

Likewise, traffic patterns are entirely mathematical -- humans operating machines that are simultaneously computing millions of equations, all the while being influenced by external data (weather, temperature, distance, congestion).

The entire concept that life is math occurred to me in college, and I recall being profoundly depressed at that observation. Who, at the age of 20, wants to believe that his or her entire life will be dictated by the uncaring objectivity of numbers?

But Chris's post highlighted the element that mitigates the objectivity of math: we're all subjective creatures. Life might be entirely mathematical, but individuality is our one-of-a-kind way of interpreting the exact same set of data.

Or, in other words, I like Whit Stillman movies and you like Jim Carrey... and that's okay.

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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The Mystery of the Fax Machine

Ray and I see eye-to-eye on technology. Achewood © Chris Onstad

What is it? Why do we use it? Where does all that information GO?

Here in 2007, when you can email, text and Instant Message anyone, anywhere -- even on planes -- business STILL use fax machines to transmit "important documents."


I can see where this technology was useful 20 years ago. I can also see where the need to transmit signed documents containing private information must be made feasible.

But there has to be a better way.

Last weekend, I had to transmit a Non-Disclosure Agreement for a client. I faxed it from a copy shop because I don't own a fax machine -- who does? -- and the copy shop told me everything went through fine. $3 please.

Yesterday, I get an email from the client asking where the NDA is. I say I faxed it. They say they never received it.

So I traipse out to another copy shop and re-fax it. $5.35 please.

I still haven't received confirmation that the client received it. Meanwhile, at least one other fax machine has access to all my personal information -- including my social security number -- because of the mysteries of fax culture.

And, somehow, this seems like the smart way to do business?

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