Startups Are Enjoyable Work and Pain

Startups are not fun, they are stressful and quick-moving but they come about from a necessity to DO MORE and that is what makes them so enjoyable. A successful startup is building on an amazing number of failures, of dumb ideas and fitful nights obsessing over tiny details. Learning to manage time and duties, finding out what it truly means to “self-start”, and effectively coping with the stress and setbacks creates a wealth of tools to use for the rest of your life. Sure, I might fail in this endeavor but the time won’t be wasted, unless I learn nothing from this experience. I embrace the hard work because now I am building something that I want, for you.

“Startups are not magic. They don’t change the laws of wealth creation. They just represent a point at the far end of the curve. There is a conservation law at work here: if you want to make a million dollars, you have to endure a million dollars’ worth of pain. For example, one way to make a million dollars would be to work for the Post Office your whole life, and save every penny of your salary. Imagine the stress of working for the Post Office for fifty years. In a startup you compress all this stress into three or four years. You do tend to get a certain bulk discount if you buy the economy-size pain, but you can’t evade the fundamental conservation law. If starting a startup were easy, everyone would do it.”

Paul Graham on “How to Make Wealth”

Colson Whitehead’s Rules for Writing

The art of writing can be reduced to a few simple rules. I share them with you now.

Rule No. 1: Show and Tell. Most people say, “Show, don’t tell,” but I stand by Show and Tell, because when writers put their work out into the world, they’re like kids bringing their broken unicorns and chewed-up teddy bears into class in the sad hope that someone else will love them as much as they do. “And what do you have for us today, Marcy?” “A penetrating psychological study of a young med student who receives disturbing news from a former lover.” “How marvelous! Timmy, what are you holding there?” “It’s a Calvinoesque romp through an unnamed metropolis much like New York, narrated by an armadillo.” “Such imagination!” Show and Tell, followed by a good nap.

Rule No. 2: Don’t go searching for a subject, let your subject find you. You can’t rush inspiration. How do you think Capote came to “In Cold Blood”? It was just an ordinary day when he picked up the paper to read his horoscope, and there it was — fate. Whether it’s a harrowing account of a multiple homicide, a botched Everest expedition or a colorful family of singers trying to escape from Austria when the Nazis invade, you can’t force it. Once your subject finds you, it’s like falling in love. It will be your constant companion. Shadowing you, peeping in your windows, calling you at all hours to leave messages like, “Only you understand me.” Your ideal subject should be like a stalker with limitless resources, living off the inheritance he received after the suspiciously sudden death of his father. He’s in your apartment pawing your stuff when you’re not around, using your toothbrush and cutting out all the really good synonyms from the thesaurus. Don’t be afraid: you have a best seller on your hands.

Rule No. 3: Write what you know. Bellow once said, “Fiction is the higher autobiography.” In other words, fiction is payback for those who have wronged you. When people read my books “My Gym Teacher Was an Abusive Bully” and “She Called Them Brussels Sprouts: A Survivor’s Tale,” they’re often surprised when I tell them they contain an autobiographical element. Therein lies the art, I say. How do you make that which is your everyday into the stuff of literature? Listen to your heart. Ask your heart, Is it true? And if it is, let it be. Once the lawyers sign off, you’re good to go.

Rule No. 4: Never use three words when one will do. Be concise. Don’t fall in love with the gentle trilling of your mellifluous sentences. Learn how to “kill your darlings,” as they say. I’m reminded of the famous editor-author interaction between Gordon Lish and Ray Carver when they were working on Carver’s celebrated short story “Those Life Preservers Are Just for Show,” often considered the high-water mark of so-called dirty realism. You’ll recall the climax, when two drunken fishermen try to calm each other after their dinghy springs a leak. In the original last lines of the story, Nat, the salty old part-time insurance agent, reassures his young charge as they cling to the beer cooler: “We’ll get help when we hit land. I’m sure of it. No more big waves, no more sharks. We’ll be safe once again. We’ll be home.” If you examine the Lish papers in the Lilly Library at Indiana University, you’ll see how, with but a few deft strokes, Lish pared that down to create the now legendary ending: “Help — land shark!” It wasn’t what Carver intended, but few could argue that it was not shorter. Learn to kill your darlings, and don’t be shy about softening them up in the hostage pit for a few days before you do.

Rule No. 5: Keep a dream diary.

Rule No. 6: What isn’t said is as important as what is said. In many classic short stories, the real action occurs in the silences. Try to keep all the good stuff off the page. Some “real world” practice might help. The next time your partner comes home, ignore his or her existence for 30 minutes, and then blurt out “That’s it!” and drive the car onto the neighbor’s lawn. When your children approach at bedtime, squeeze their shoulders meaningfully and, if you’re a woman, smear your lipstick across your face with the back of your wrist, or, if you’re a man, weep violently until they say, “It’s O.K., Dad.” Drink out of a chipped mug, a souvenir from a family vacation or weekend getaway in better times, one that can trigger a two-paragraph compare/contrast description later on. It’s a bit like Method acting. Simply let this thought guide your every word and gesture: “Something is wrong — can you guess what it is?” If you’re going for something a little more postmodern, repeat the above, but with fish.

Rule No. 7: Writer’s block is a tool — use it. When asked why you haven’t produced anything lately, just say, “I’m blocked.” Since most people think that writing is some mystical process where characters “talk to you” and you can hear their voices in your head, being blocked is the perfect cover for when you just don’t feel like working. The gods of creativity bless you, they forsake you, it’s out of your hands and whatnot. Writer’s block is like “We couldn’t get a baby sitter” or “I ate some bad shrimp,” an excuse that always gets you a pass. The electric company nagging you for money, your cell provider harassing you, whatever — just say, “I’m blocked,” and you’re off the hook. But don’t overdo it. In the same way the baby-sitter bit loses credibility when your kids are in grad school, there’s an expiration date. After 20 years, you might want to mix it up. Throw in an Ellisonian “My house caught fire and burned up my opus.” The specifics don’t matter — the important thing is to figure out what works for you.

Rule No. 8: Is secret.

Rule No. 9: Have adventures. The Hemingway mode was in ascendancy for decades before it was eclipsed by trendy fabulist “exercises.” The pendulum is swinging back, though, and it’s going to knock these effete eggheads right out of their Aeron chairs. Keep ahead of the curve. Get out and see the world. It’s not going to kill you to butch it up a tad. Book passage on a tramp steamer. Rustle up some dysentery; it’s worth it for the fever dreams alone. Lose a kidney in a knife fight. You’ll be glad you did.

Rule No. 10: Revise, revise, revise. I cannot stress this enough. Revision is when you do what you should have done the first time, but didn’t. It’s like washing the dishes two days later instead of right after you finish eating. Get that draft counter going. Remove a comma and then print out another copy — that’s another draft right there. Do this enough times and you can really get those numbers up, which will come in handy if someone challenges you to a draft-off. When the ref blows the whistle and your opponent goes, “26 drafts!,” you’ll bust out with “216!” and send ’em to the mat.

Rule No. 11: There are no rules. If everyone jumped off a bridge, would you do it, too? No. There are no rules except the ones you learned during your Show and Tell days. Have fun. If they don’t want to be friends with you, they’re not worth being friends with. Most of all, just be yourself.

 

from “How to Write“, NY Times: July 26, 2012

An Exercise in Gender Awareness

I read a few articles in the New York Times using a Chrome extension called Jailbreak the Patriarchy and found it empowering and revealing. It functions to swaps gender-specific words on any webpage to it’s opposite. For example, “he used his sister’s computer” is switched to “she used her brother’s computer”. From a gender-swapped perspective, never have so many women, worldwide, run the most powerful economies, businesses and laboratories, nor had they resorted to such violence.

Here are a few (swapped) observations and headlines: women were dunking in the NBA without fanfare; a group of armed women killed 7 peacekeepers in the Ivory Coast; men are very concerned about their looks; the Venezuelan government is a one-woman show; Mrs. Taylor, former president of Liberia, was sentenced to 50 years in prison for war crimes including rape, use of child soldiers and mutilation; women dominate the Fortune 500 and move a lot of money.

Certain themes seemed to be more predominant with one gender than the other but hopefully this will not always be so and some themes would be best as a thing of the past.

Be aware.

Mc SuperSized – McDonald’s Commentary

This debuted back in ’09 but seeing how McDonalds sales are increasing it is (sadly) still relevant.
Ron English (the artist) is a  subversive genius and his commentary on consumerist culture is spot-on.
It’s creepier in color and the extended right pinky is a great touch.
Let’s see Wendy and Colonel Sanders next…

The OG – Ron English’s Mc Supersized via Hypebeast

The Deluxe version at 3 feet tall x MINDstyle via MINDstyle

New Colorways x Whiz x Secret Base via Freshness Mag

Readlists & Readability: create better reading experiences

I stumbled across readlists.com and readability.com, two apps that allow you to save articles for later, store and share collections of articles, sync articles across devices and create a better web-based reading experience. Readlists stores articles and allows you to create reading lists to save or share and readability has apps to make your reading experience more enjoyable and allows you to save articles for later. The accounts and apps are free and work across many different devices.

A New York Times article before and after Readability’s Read Now app.

A sample readlist – each header in the right-side column is a link that web page. A readlist can be sent and downloaded as an e-book, shared on twitter or facebook and/or sent to an ipad or kindle.

Thoughts on Digital Photography

A photographer once told me, “not everyone who owns a piano is a pianist”.

With the rise of digital photography the number of horrendous pictures of pets and food on social networking sites has increased exponentially. The excitement and anxiety of opening the 24 pack of developed pictures from the Kodak store has been replaced by instantaneously accepting or rejecting the shot by analyzing each picture on the cell phone or camera’s LCD screen. There is literally no time involved in taking a picture; the world’s fastest camera can capture up to one trillion frames per second.

I am not an expert on photography, nor do I consider myself a photographer, but in high school I learned to appreciate the time and work that goes into creating a memorable image. I took two semesters of a manual photography class. With only 24 exposures and having the skill to apply a filter or add an effect to impress a college professor is not comparable to a camera with  unlimited images and applications with pre-set filters.

Digital photography has positively changed the media landscape by allowing anyone to send a photograph anywhere via an internet connection. However, I mourn the loss of the physical object, the connection created when an image slowly forms on a blank page in a chemical bath or while being fanned in midair. A connection so severed, Polaroid famously stopped production of its instant film camera in 2008 after sales of chemical film bottomed out (which spawned The Impossible Project).

The art of photography has been drowned in the mediocracy of accessibility. When developing a photograph was a passion or an occupation, only serious photographers spent the time and money to produce an image. Now, in its simplest form, all is needed is a cell phone, which does not make one a photographer (nor does the use of Photoshop).

 Ansel Adams’ Darkroom  ///  Digital Darkroom

..and here is a short video on a tintype photographer in San Francisco – talk about a hard copy…

Vonnegut’s Tips on Writing a Great Story

Vonnegut has been one of my favorite writers since I was a child, his non-linear and fantastical stories always captured my imagination and his straightforward cadence and sobering realizations wizened me, as did Kilgore Trout. After leaving Indiana, I realized how the Midwest had shaped both of us (Vonnegut was also a Hoosier).


Kurt Vonnegut’s 8 Tips on How to Write a Great Story

1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.

2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.

3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.

4. Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action.

5. Start as close to the end as possible.

6. Be a Sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of.

7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.

8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To hell with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

Source

LEGOS!

Rainy days are always good for building something. I have this set at home but won’t be following the instructions — gotta update for new technology. Will show pictures of modified ship later.

Black Seas Barracuda #6285 – gifted to me in 1993.

Using Green Roofs to Build a Better City

An architect in New York City wants to build mountains for skiing and hiking on top of big box stores, which I think is a great idea although rife with problems. I think the unused space on top of these mammoth buildings can be utilized for better purposes than HVAC systems and gravel. In some situations, the store may be able to make money of this space if rented/leased to organizations who want an urban farm or park, such as Grange Farm in New York City.

A better solution is requiring new buildings to implement environmentally-friendly features to offset the effects of large spaces in urban settings and the use of LARGE parking lots. According to Michigan State’s Green Roof Research Program, benefits include storm water retention to decrease runoff and reduce erosion, increased energy efficiency, and longer life span of the roof. What I found interesting is that Germany is the leader in green roofing.

Plus green roofs are beautiful. Take a look:

Grange Farm in NYC

Chicago’s City Hall

ACROS Fukuoka, in Fukuoka City, Japan
(I would love to visit Japan)

American Interference

 

It is amazing to see how much the government has interfered with the politics of other countries – and this only documents interventions since either 1939 or 1945 (start and end dates of WWII).

A few summers ago I made a chart of wars the United States has been involved in since 1776 along with duration and causalities. It wasn’t pretty. I have the chart somewhere, if I can find it I’ll post it.

Lesson Plan

Perhaps we could endeavor to teach our future the following:

  • How to focus intently on a problem until it’s solved.
  • The benefit of postponing short-term satisfaction in exchange for long-term success.
  • How to read critically.
  • The power of being able to lead groups of peers without receiving clear delegated authority.
  • An understanding of the extraordinary power of the scientific method, in just about any situation or endeavor.
  • How to persuasively present ideas in multiple forms, especially in writing and before a group.
  • Project management. Self-management and the management of ideas, projects and people.
  • Personal finance. Understanding the truth about money and debt and leverage.
  • An insatiable desire (and the ability) to learn more. Forever.
  • Most of all, the self-reliance that comes from understanding that relentless hard work can be applied to solve problems worth solving.

— from Seth Godin