Content trends

There’s this trend in content that I’m noticing. And it’s not good. At first, I thought it was, more content means more companies realizing the benefits of a solid content marketing program means more great reading material, right?

Nope.

What I’m seeing is a proliferation of fluffy nonsense. It all sounds the same. The same tropes, the same similes, and the same badly written intros. It’s like they’ve all taken the same scammy “how to be a content writer” course and were turned loose on an unsuspecting internet.

Blog posts that are nothing but a handful of single sentence paragraphs.

Or “whitepapers” that start with a metaphor that’s so dated and niche, you have to read it 3x and still aren’t sure you understood it?

Or infographics with ungrammatical gibberish in place of, you know, information.

I need a good word for that stuff. It’s becoming a major pain in my ass.

How about “flurfy?”

Um...huh.

So I’ve got this…thing…that happens on my iPad when I read. And that’s the #1 use for said iPad, so this thing has been happening quite a lot.

Whenever there’s a double vowel in a word, today it was ‘reevaluate,’ an umlaut appears, as if by magic, above the second one.

I don’t even know how to do that intentionally, let alone why in the actual hell iPadOS has decided to do it for me.

Oh, and it’s happened in Pocket, The NYT app, Firefox, and NetNewsWire.

Any of the iPad-knowledgable out there have any advice, tips, tricks, suggestions, or admonitions? All are welcome and truly appreciated.

Interviewing for a role with a company based in El Segundo.

Can I possibly get through the whole thing without busting into song?

(age check: who’s with me on A Tribe Called Quest being perhaps the greatest hip hop act of the 90’s? Or ever.)

Quick city loop on a gorgeous morning

Decided to start the day with a ride around town before it hots up ( I know, 75 isn’t hot to most of you. I live in Seattle. It’s hot for us. Stuff it.).

Started out getting gas and heading down Aurora (Hwy 99) into town. Then hopped off by Seattle Center and went overland to the waterfront. I won’t say it’s because I don’t like the deep-bore tunnel.

OK, fine. I don’t like the deep-bore tunnel.

It’s hella creepy on a motorcycle.

Headed down the waterfront where I waved to the entire “West Edge” (cough - cough - Belltown - cough) since I don’t know where @cheri actually is (Hi, Cheri!). Then hopped back on Hwy 99 down into Georgetown.

Up and over Beacon hill brought me to the shores of Lake Washington, where I turned north and made my way along Lake Washington Blvd. as it follows the shore of its namesake and through the Washington Park Arboretum. Then I stopped to pick up brunch at Agua Verde (Baja-style Mexican place on top of a kayak club on the shore of Portage Bay) and headed up and around Green Lake and back to Greenwood.

With apologies for not knowing my tech as well as I would like, I can’t work out how to get a clip of helmet cam footage into a post here, so please accept these photos as penance:

Before you get excited, I think it’s a parking garage…On Alaskan way just north of the sculpture garden.

“Mountain’s Out.” Mt. Rainier from Lake Washington Blvd near the Madrona neighborhood.

Now, tea.

Then, write something.

Maybe.

I hope.

Sigh.

That thing when you have an article stub you started like 2 weeks ago and have exactly zero idea where you intended to take it.

Yeah, that.

For those still wondering about the weather in Seattle – You know the one about how the Inuit have 50 ways to say snow? Well, here we have at least that many ways to say “cloudy.”

Today it’s “Considerable Cloudiness.”

Yes. Really.

Of course, the sun’s out…so there’s that.

Smith Tower

Every time I come into downtown on a ferry, I can’t help but take a moment to admire this building. Completed in 1914, Smith Tower was the tallest building west of the Mississippi for more than a decade and the tallest building on the west coast until the Space Needle (just on the other end of downtown) was completed for the World’s Fair in 1962.

Aside from the history, I worked in Smith Tower for a few months on an IT contract, during a strange period in its history when it was more or less vacant. Tech companies liked the prestigious address, until Amazonia took over the South Lake Union area and the biggies vacated Pioneer Square for those greener pastures. Then the building was sold and the new owners haven’t really done anything noticeable about drawing new tenants. I wonder if the elevator attendants are still there?

Anyway, I love the view of this plucky little “skyscraper,” holding strong at the southern end of town as it’s dwarfed by the ever expanding downtown to its north. Bookended by that other former tallest building at the foot of Queen Anne hill. Maybe next time I’ll draw lines indicating each successive expansion of downtown until it reached its current footprint nearly filling in the entire skyline between those historic bookends.

Or not. Frankly, I think I’d rather focus on the mountains in the background.

Day Trippin’

A mere 18 months. That’s how long it’s taken me to take the day trip to Port Townsend that I was scheduled to take on my birthday, last year. So that was January 2020, and it’s now nearly June 2021. Close enough, right?

To be fair, a crash complete with a broken scapula two days before said birthday and a pandemic have happened in the intervening months. But still. 18 of them have passed while I was rehabbing and trying not to make eye contact with masked strangers.

Fun note: when you ride Washington State Ferries on a motorcycle, you don’t have to wait in silly lines. So when I got to the outbound dock in Edmonds, I slid past what had to be a 2 mile backup, walked into the passenger terminal, purchased a ticket, and slid up to the end of the dock. Then we board right after bicycles. Repeat the process at the other end, we get off first so I wasn’t at the end of a parade of campers and sightseers heading to the peninsula to cause traffic jams all weekend.

Some epic views were to be had all over the place, unfortunately I can’t figure out how to get clips off my helmet cam (like the 2-seater lightweight plane coming in for a landing 20 FEET ABOVE ME or the hawk diving into a field for lunch) and onto Micro.blog. If anyone has any suggestions, I’d truly appreciate it. So instead, please enjoy these shots, in order of arriving in Kingston, Port Townsend’s lovely Water St., and the view from the final approach back to Seattle.

Oh, and one bonus, completely gratuitous shot of Mt. Rainier, because “the Mountain’s out.”

Man, I needed that.

New-to-me Surly Long Haul Trucker. Hoping that riding will help my ailing knees while also helping with shoulder strengthening. Fingers crossed…

When your stakeholder’s team has 4 people, 6 opinions, and none of them match the whitepaper you’ve already written based on the specs they approved last week…

How’s everybody else’s Thursday going?

1:30 and the overall achiness, soreness, exhaustion, and useless left arm are all starting to clear up. Fingers crossed the vax jab 2 owies are passing.

Jab #2 done. 14 days and we’re that much closer to whatever “normal” will be post-pandemic.

Also, had a 4.5 hour interview cycle for a new gig this morning and I’m honestly impressed I can string words together at this point.

Hey M.B friends in Oceania who are also devs – Can I ask you a question?

What are the main cybersecurity issues you see day to day?

Sometimes it's the work you don't see

Of all the things I wish people understood about being a writer, this essay beautifully sums up what would be my main point. For every 1,500 word blog post or 5,000 word whitepaper, it’s the work the reader doesn’t see that leads to that polished gem of wordsmithery.

I’m currently working on condensing a 10-page whitepaper into a one-page checklist. For every ~200 words, I need to write ~20. The act of writing those words will ultimately take me somewhere between 2-3 hours. It’s the 10+ hours of reading, digesting, and condensing that nobody but me and my editor/manager see that make it work.

Without those hours and that effort, what I would produce would be a hot mess. Oh, it would meet the criteria given to me, a one-page checklist that summarizes the whitepaper. But it would be unreadable and certainly NOT something I would ask our sales team to direct prospects to.

What I need to do now is take this knowledge, understanding, and insight and put it to work on my currently un-paid work. If I’m serious about launching a career as a writer who doesn’t also have a day job as, well, a writer — I need to get my shit far enough together that I can at least see all the piles from my vantage point.

(Along the same lines, I’ve been working on something centering around the simple fact that none of us will likely ever truly have our shit together, and why that’s preferable. Stay tuned for more on that…soon -ish.)

A Needed Moment of Calm

I’m what’s called aHighly Sensitive Person(HSP). Without going into the details, Dr. Elaine Aron has been studying the phenomenon of Sensory Perception Sensitivity for years now and estimates that up to 20% of the population is as well. The short version is that stimuli that most people find irritating at worst can be debilitating to us. Bright lights, loud noises, large crowds, and intense (or even not-so-intense) smells are just the beginning. Here’s a decent summary and comparison with things like introversion (I’m also one of those).

A full day of work as a business writer for a tech startup, even in my quiet, dimly-lit basement office, can leave me struggling to put two words together or run errands without feeling the urge to curl up in the fetal position and sob. Between meetings and Slack interrupting my work flow, it’s just exhausting.

To counteract that exhaustion, I’ll take mid-day walks around my neighborhood. The 30 minutes outside does my mind and body a world of good and helps ensure that I can get through the afternoon’s work relatively unscathed.

That said, and the actual point of this piece, is that by the end of the week I’m still operating at a deficit. My brain is tired, my body aches, and my senses and nervous system are shot. My remedy for this is to get outside as much as possible. Trees, mountains, and rivers are my answer to HSP overload.

What follows is a short piece I wrote for a creative writing workshop. The assignment was to write with all five senses. I add proprioception (your sense of where you are in relation to the world around you), so six senses it is. I’d love to hear your thoughts, either on the writing or on all things HSP!

As I pull into the unassuming gravel parking lot, careful to dodge the massive pothole just off the edge of the cement, I’m happy to see only one other car. I may find the solitude I’m seeking after all. After parking and making sure my parking permit hang-tag is visible hanging from the rearview mirror, I make my way over to the access trail. Originally cut by fly fishers and whitewater kayakers, this isn’t a trail so much as a ravine. With the goal of getting to the water fast, there was no felt need to make even the pretense of an easily accessible route. As I pick my way over the exposed roots and around the rocks nobody bothered to remove, I can feel a lightness returning to my body. The sound of rushing water fills my head and the smell of new rain and fish invades my consciousness.

Then I’m on the rocks. Ranging in size from golf ball up to watermelon, traversing the shore here requires slow, sure footing. As I listen to each step cause cascades of smaller rocks to tumble over the larger ones, the fast-moving river comes into full view. There’s an island that’s formed, in the area where a tributary empties into the main river, and it’s grown to around 20 square yards and with the water level down it stands nearly 5’ above the waterline. Carefully picking my way over to the edge of the tributary, a new sound pushes the roar of the water aside. Looking up toward the opposite bank, I see an eagle perched on the very top of a snag. It’s scanning for lunch and telling its partner where to look with a haunting shriek that pierces the rushing of the river.

The river smells fresh today. It’s a mix of the ozone released by the spring rain that fell earlier in the morning, the fish making their way upstream, and the rotting wood laying all around the shoreline. There must have been flooding over the winter, I haven’t made it up here in several months. Slowly making my way upstream, I notice a new smell getting stronger, its peaty, like aged whiskey. Ah, there’s a tree leaning over the water that’s covered with a thick, spongy layer of moss. I’ve never seen such a vibrant green shade, either. It’s somewhere between the deep green of the surrounding evergreen trees and the neon green on the sign in front of my local pot shop. 

I’m not fond of how I ended that, but the feedback I got was all excellent, so I’ll leave it at that.

I love the different colors the water takes on. The main flow is coming straight from snowpack runoff, while the stream starts in the foothills further north.

Today’s visit to the river was vastly different, but in important ways also much the same. It’s spring and we had an epic snow year so the water level was quite high, making that tributary island much smaller and lower than I remembered it. The water from that stream seems to take entirely new courses through the rocks every time I make it out there.

It’s only 45 minutes or so from downtown to my spot, yet I manage to find at least some peace and solitude every time I visit. Today was no exception. A couple of pickups followed me into the lot, causing momentary concern, but they went further downstream and took their kids with them.

I found a new spot to park myself, a bit up the tributary stream and partially hidden from the main area of rocks and shrubs. Got almost an hour of the quiet I needed before a family arrived with kids and picnic supplies in tow.

That’s OK. My ass was falling asleep from sitting on the rocks anyway. Maybe I’ll make it back next week. I hope so.

Next week I also hope to write some about the work being done to study just why being in nature is so calming, for everyone, but particularly for those of us with persnickety nervous systems.

Notebook updates

I think I have a problem.

A notebook problem, that is.

For this iteration, I’ve acquired (read: bought myself a present) a lovely brown leather tri-fold journal cover. It’s roughly A5-size, called the Fillion, and made by Little Mountain Bindery.

Think Traveler’s Notebook, but sized better for long-form entries.

Into my new Fillion, I have slipped 4 soft-cover notebooks. I think they all qualify as “cahier”s, but I digress.

First up is a plain paper journal from Little Mountain Bindery. Theirs are a bit narrower than A5, because reasons, so it’s in front and will be for “thoughts on” entries. I’ll be writing more about that soon, but it was borrowed from a post I read…somewhere I can’t find right now (ironic, huh? Writing about journaling and taking notes and such to, you know, remember things…). Also, since it’s just that little bit narrower, I’ve got my pen attached via a brass binder clip they include with the Fillion for just that purpose.

(The glowing keyboard in the background is a Drop Alt, which I also absolutely adore, but this is an analog post so talk of that will have to wait)

Next is also plain paper and will be for reading notes and post ideas, this one is a refill notebook from Lochby that’s full of Tomoe river paper.

And behind those are two further Lochbys, both lined and for general journaling, mid- and long-form.

Maybe, just maybe I’ll stick with this setup for more than a month before shuffling the notebook deck again. Or, you know, maybe not.

Sidenote for @alans, yep, that’s the Prussian Blue TWSBI Diamond 580. The Tomoe River paper and that F nib are incredible together!