100,000 Words

A milestone neither based on miles traveled nor made of stone.

The new book about all our travels back and forth across the country has reached this important (to me) point in its construction. Not that volume is representative of quality. Some facts:

  • In answer to the question, “How long does it take to write 100,000 words?” the answer is, “About this long.” It’s taken me roughly eight months.
  • 500 words per day, six days per week. It’s easier than I thought it would be. Very achievable for someone who didn’t think he had much to write.
  • 237kb of storage space used for the text file.
  • Created entirely with OpenOffice Writer.
  • The book features 8 of our moves so far. There are 4 more to go. For now. 1 move has occurred during creation of the book, so subject to change.
  • It’s over 75% written.

So I offer encouragement to anyone thinking of taking on a big project like this: don’t worry about selling it. It will be fun just to make it. One day you’ll have a printed copy for yourself, if nobody else, and it will have been fun to do.

Happy (belated) Solstice!

Trendsetting

Playing a Cattle Decapitation album backwards actually removes plastic from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

The president keeps using #MAGA in his tweets. In the style of Satanists who inverted the cross and the scared parents who thought those same Satanists put messages into records played backwards (Remember that, kids?), I humbly submit a new pound-sign-letter-combination:

#AGAM

America is Great Already, Mister.

Substitutions can be made for the M, although my substitution is stymied by a semantic argument depending on whether you believe “mother” is one word, or only half of one.

Have a sane weekend!

A Cynical Portrait of Transportation in Pittsburgh

Just because everyone does it doesn’t mean that it should ever be done by anyone. Ever.

I’ve learned the following by observing my fellow vehicle operators. These are apparently taught in Pennsylvania schools. I wish the Pittsburgh Left were the worst of it:

  1. (Note: this is not a Pittsburgh Left. I’ve omitted that one.) When turning left across traffic, it is perfectly acceptable behavior to pull out into one lane, forcing it to stop, and then to wait there for an opening in the other lane. Beeping at a person who does this means you just don’t understand.
  2. If you’re not doing at least 10-15MPH above the posted speed limit, you should be tailgated immediately at a distance not to exceed 10 feet.
  3. Tailgating actually works as a method to modify the behavior of another driver.
  4. Tailgating is the acceptable way to approach on-ramps and other merge points. That’s your highway and those other merging losers need to yield.
  5. Tailgating is actually the default method of vehicle positioning, and it is not to be referred to as tailgating, but rather “driving”. Tailgating is what you do at a Steelers game.
  6. When the person in front of you is allowed the space to merge at an on-ramp, that automatically means everyone in line has just been allowed to merge at that spot and should follow that person into it.
  7. Use your horn. For everything.
  8. When changing lanes, do so as rapidly and with as little warning as possible. Everyone else will understand that you’re about to change lanes by the way you’re driving.
  9. Every four-lane road is a highway, the left lane of which is for passing only. If you’re in it and not passing, you must be destroyed.
  10. You can actually see around blind corners and what’s on the other side of the crests of hills. Don’t worry about it.

As a pedestrian:

  1. Crosswalks are for tourists. When you’re ready for the pro circuit, try jaywalking.
  2. As a walking parent, always lead with the stroller. This will ensure the traffic will stop.
  3. If someone doesn’t stop for you when crossing at mid-block, that person should be cussed at. They’re always supposed to yield because you’re a pedestrian.
  4. Help your spouse into parallel parking spots from the street, holding up your hand like a traffic cop so that the traffic doesn’t kill you. Under no circumstances should this be done from the wide sidewalk immediately next to the car. (Okay, I only saw this once, but I have NEVER seen it before.)

Hope you had a good Memorial Day holiday, and remember to buckle up!

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Roll for Fortune

On a result of 1, you end up penniless with a TEDx beer cozy.

I’ve once again been rendered inadequate by xkcd.

It’s difficult for me to describe why it bothers me so much to see successful people giving talks about their good fortune, attributing it instead to hard work and trivializing the luck involved. There’s probably a more appropriate logical fallacy to describe it, but this idea that a person can simply work hard to achieve success seems to be an odd form of legitimizing one’s outsized results in a socially acceptable format, presumably to escape the “Why me?” feeling that ought to accompany ridiculous success.

I’m jealous, to be sure. I’d love to be able to never worry about money, food, or housing ever again. I’d like to be swimming in job offers and never need to take any of them. Who wouldn’t be envious? It’s just that the “hard” work thing sticks in my craw. What does that mean, hard work? Does that mean long hours? Doing things that make you morally uncomfortable? Does it mean physically challenging?

According to Maynard James Keenan’s biography, the band Tool was signed to a record label after just a handful of live shows. Less than ten. (I’m being vague here because I can’t remember the number and I can’t be bothered to look it up. The impact is the same. I think it was eight.) I love Tool’s music and it’s been great to see their success. I truly believe that they deserve it. Certainly they worked “hard” to make their music, but I can’t help but point out that they got ridiculously lucky in being signed to a record contract so soon, and I can’t help but think that it was the luck that played the more significant role. There are countless acts working their asses off, touring, playing shows everywhere, and they either get ignored or end up producing their own stuff to lukewarm reception. Go ahead and try the ol’ ten-show record contract plan today.

So when does the work end up determining the success? Is it possible to be successful without the work? Of course it is, and not just because “successful” is also a moving target. However, keep a D6 in your pocket, and when listening to these successful folks describing the roots of their success, roll it to remind yourself of the role chance plays, because a great many of these people will be, consciously or not, reluctant to admit that they probably didn’t work any harder or better than the hordes of less-prominent people around them.  While I enjoy a good inspirational talk as much as the next person, simply saying “I got lucky” tends to take the wind out of the sails a bit, though it shouldn’t.

This might be a peculiarly American thing, or a feature of any culture that tends to over-emphasize the value of labor. Randall Munroe has succinctly described my thoughts on the matter in one frame, in either case.

Image result for six-sided die
On a result of 4, your job pays really well, but also gives you hemorrhoids.