Never Say Never

As I get older, I find myself much less likely to take an absolutist position on things. I look back on the days when I did take absolutist positions—all those late night arguments in the college dorm—with mild embarrassment. When my kids say, “I would never…” I caution them with the cliché, “Never say never.” But they are young, and in my experience, the need for absolutes atrophies with age.

Even here on the blog, there are things absolutist positions I’ve taken, which, when I come across those posts today, embarrass me. I stated, quite firmly, for instance, that I could never listen to an audiobook. Five years later, I wrote about my 4th anniversary on Audible, and of the 143 audiobooks I’ve listened to during that time.

In the mid-1990s, I recall my utter disdain for pagers and mobile phones. “I’d never have anything to do with those,” I said to whoever happened to be nearby. Then, work provided me with a pager, and not long after, a mobile phone. I’ve been with one ever since, and my hypocrisy has not gone unnoticed by friends and family.

When I decided to experiment with going paperless, what I had I mind was cutting out paper entirely. I went immediately to one extreme to see if it was possible. I was chasing that elusive paperless office that I’d been hearing about since the mid-1990s. Eventually, I found that while I might be going paperless, the rest of the world was not, and I needed to be able to deal with the paper that the world pressed upon me. These days, I found a happy medium. I try to minimize the paper I use, but I still find it more useful to jot things down in a Field Notes notebook than to try to capture them in an app on my phone. There are practical limits to everything.

Even my opinions on taste moved away from absolutist. I have several friends (to say nothing of a mother) who are huge Beatles fans. I’ve never been particularly fond of the Beatles, and there was a time when I’d rant about my dislike of the band whenever the topic came up. These days, if someone likes the Beatles, good for them! It makes them happy, and why should that bother me?

Perhaps more than anything, I’ve found myself more open to ideas. If I can be convinced of something, then I will gladly change my opinion of it. When I was younger, I think I felt that changing my opinion was a sign of weakness, that I was a flip-flopper. I don’t believe that today. There is something like 6,200 posts on this blog, and if you go through some of the early ones, you will almost certainly find absolutist opinions I held that I no longer hold today.

I’m kind of proud of that. It makes me feel like a grownup, even if I don’t always act like one.

4 Years of Audiobooks

I listened to my first audiobook out of sheer desperation in February 2013. I finished it on this day, four years ago. It changed the way I read books more dramatically than even the advent of the e-book.

Time, or the lack thereof, was what forced me to turn to audiobooks. Prior to February 2013, I was certain that audiobooks weren’t for me. I needed to be conscious of that inner voice when I read. I couldn’t bear the thought of someone reading to me. In a post on this blog, I delineated 4 reasons why I thought audiobooks were not for me. Reading that post, I am reminded of the time I tried to convince my son to try bacon. He swore he wouldn’t like it, but very reluctantly, he tried it, and of course, he loved it.

So desperate was I to find time to read in early 2013 that I decided to set aside my disdain of audiobooks and give them a try. I reasoned that I could at least multitask with them, and I promised myself that I would only listen to audiobooks while working out.

My very first audiobook was Stephen King’s Misery, narrated by Lindsay Crouse. I started listening to it as I worked out on the elliptical machine in our guest room. When my workout was over, I found that I didn’t want to stop listening. So my promise to listen only during workouts lasted all of 40 minutes.

In the four years since that day, I’ve listened to 143 audiobooks spread across all genres. To get a sense of how this changed the way I read, keep in mind that since January 1, 1996, I have read—as of this writing—667 books. In the last four years of that 21 year span of time, I’ve read a total of 163 books. A full 87% of the books I’ve read in the last four years have been audiobooks.

Were it not for audiobooks, I’m certain that I would not have read nearly as much as I have managed. That is because I can listen to audiobooks under circumstances that traditional reading would not permit: commuting, exercising, daily walks, doing chores around the house, grocery shopping. I can listen to an audiobook in bed at night without worrying about the light of an e-reader disturbing my eyes, or that of my wife. When asked what my number one productivity tip is, I always say: audiobooks!

My favorite audiobook also happens to be my current favorite novel: 11/22/63 by Stephen King. The audiobook is narrated by Craig Wasson. This is one case where I cannot listen to other books narrated by Wasson. He does such a good job as Jake Epping/George Amberson in King’s novel, that I can’t possibly imagine him as any other character.

We can debate whether listening to an audiobook is the same thing as reading. I treat them interchangeably, for reasons I have argued elsewhere. I suspect that my primary form of reading will continue to be audiobooks into the foreseeable future.

Filling the Gaps

It is hard to believe that smart phones have only been around for a decade. Though only ten years have passed, I can’t remember how I filled the gaps of time while waiting to do something else. These days, that time is often filled looking at my iPhone.

I have this irritating habit of pulling my phone out of my pocket when I step onto the elevator. Since getting my new phone (one in which I deliberately refused to install Facebook and Twitter) I’m trying hard to break that habit. Still, I walk onto the elevator and my natural instinct is to reach for my phone. It feels strange just to stand there doing nothing.

What did I do in elevators before I had a smart phone? I can’t remember. Smart phones have sunk their roots so deep into my brain that it seems like I’ve always had one ready for use. But there was a time before smart phones. Indeed, I lived some 35 years before the smart phone came along. Why, then, can’t I remember what I did in elevators before my smart phone provided a distraction?

For that matter, what did I do while waiting in the lobby at the doctor’s office. Probably I read the well-worn magazines scattered across the table. Come to think of it, I haven’t seen magazines in waiting rooms for a long time. Charging stations, yes, but not magazines.

Now that I have taken Facebook and Twitter off my phone, I have less reason to pull it out of my pocket while waiting for something. I am slowly beginning to remember what it was like to just stand there and wait. But I am also beginning to recall just how frequent that waiting can be.

It leads me to recall how I managed to do lots of other things before my smart phone did them for me. Remember meeting friends at the mall after school? We’d pick a time and place, and that’s where we’d meet. If one of us was going to be late, there was no way to let the others know. We made it work.

I knew the roads in my old neighborhoods far better than I know the roads in my own neighborhood today. I would pour over Thomas Guides of the San Fernando Valley. It seemed, at one point, that I knew every street. Flying over the Valley (back when I flew) I could easily recognize houses and builds and streets from the air because of those maps.

Not so today. The Google Maps app on my phone takes care of directions for me. It makes it easy to get where I am going, but its the maps version of Cliff’s Notes, and I feel somewhat ashamed every time I turn to Google Maps.

For the first 35 years of my life, the morning weather report suited me just fine. A newspaper like the Los Angeles Times gave me what I needed to know. I got along without up-to-the-minute weather and BREAKING NEWS.

Refusing to install Facebook and Twitter on my new phone has been a good thing. Now, when I have to wait for something, I pull out my phone and check the weather, or pop open the L.A. Times or NY Times apps to see if anything has happened in the 30 minutes or so since I last checked.

Proposed Rule Changes for Major League Baseball in 2017

There are two proposed rule changes to Major League Baseball for 2017. One involves shrinking the strike zone, bringing the lower end up to the top of the knees. The argument is that umpires have been routinely calling strikes below the knees and by raising the strike zone, this will help bring it back to what it was supposed to be all along—effectively shrinking the strike zone by 2 inches.

Then there is the proposal to eliminate the need for pitchers to throw any pitches when calling an intentional walk. The proposed rule would allow a pitcher to announce an intentional walk. The batter could then take his base without any need for the four pitches to be thrown. The purpose of the rule is to help speed up the pace of the game. I don’t buy it.

In 2015 (the most recent year for which I could find the data), there were 0.2 intentional walks per game, on average. Put another way, there was one intentional walk every 5 games. Over the course of a season, for a given team, that means a grand total of 32.4 intentional walks.

Let’s say it takes 1 minute of game time for an intentional walk. Batter comes to the plate, pitcher throws his pitches, batter takes his base. How much time does this really shave off in a game?

Well, with 1 intentional walk every five games, you save one minute every five games, or about 12 seconds per game on average. That’s 12 seconds per game. Twelve seconds is not even enough time to throw in another commercial on the broadcast. That requires at least 30 seconds. In 2016, the average MLB game time was 3 hours 26 seconds. Eliminating the need to throw pitches for an intentional walk would bring that time to about 3 hours and 14 seconds. Big savings!

I might get on board with other reasons for changing the rule for how intentional walks are executed (although I don’t know what those reasons might be), but to change the rule to increase the pace of the game is patently ridiculous when that savings amounts to 12 seconds per game.

Things look better when you take the season as a whole. There are 2,430 games in a regular season. Saving 12 seconds on each of those games amounts to a little over 8 hours saved in game time across an entire season. That is to say that if you watched every MLB regular season game, this rule change would save you 8 hours/year. But most people don’t watch every game. So for most people, such a change would go unnoticed.

Except… eliminating the need to throw the pitches for an intentional walk eliminates an elements of chance from the game. It eliminates the very thing that can make baseball so exciting. One pitch could get away from the pitches, leading to a wild pitch. One pitch could come a little inside, leading to a batter to take a swing at it. Part of what makes baseball great how quickly things can change. Eliminating one of those means to save 12 seconds seems silly to me.

Reliable Writers

Sometimes I finish a book and have a difficult time figuring out what to read next. This usually happens when the book I’ve just finished is so good that almost nothing will hold up to it. It is as times like this that I will return to my stable of reliable writers. These are a handful of writers I’ve read over the years, whose work I always enjoy.

On the fiction side of the fence, these writers include Stephen King, Jack McDevitt, Barry N. Malzberg. On the nonfiction side, they include writers like Andy Rooney, David McCullough, Doris Kearns Goodwin, and more recently, Simon Winchester.

Later this week is the 4th anniversary of the first audiobook I listened to. Over those four years, I have also built a stable of audiobook narrators that I particularly enjoy. There’s Grover Gardner, for example, or Craig Wasson. There are also author narrators that I particularly enjoy, like Neil Gaiman, and Simon Winchester.

Thinking about the writers and narrators that I gravitate toward got me thinking about some of the ways that we describe writers. Here are some of the adjectives describing writers that I pulled from the review pages that often precede the text at the beginning of a book: Extraordinary, ingenious, master craftsman, ambitious, delightful, entertaining, reliable, vivid, talented, underestimated, luminous.

Of all these adjectives, the one that I most want applied to me as a writer—the one I strive for more than any other—is “reliable.” It would be nice to be a great writer, a master craftsman, ambitious, and all the rest, but many of those things are entirely out of my control. What is in my control is dependability. I want to be the writer to whom an editor can give a job and have confidence that it will be delivered upon.

I’ve written two lead editorials for Analog Science Fiction over the last few years. I did it upon editor request both times, but the second time the editor was on a short deadline, and turned to me to deliver, which I did. That was one of the more satisfying feelings I’ve ever had as a writer.

I know my limits. Though I can emulate styles with a certain amount of success, I cannot write the way, for instance, Barry N. Malzberg writers. I wish I could weave a story like Stephen King, but my writing abilities lie elsewhere. It took a long time to learn that, and a long time to be okay with it. These days, I just want to be a dependable writer.

That is true for this blog as much as for any editor. I write what I want here, and my interests change and evolve over time. But every day at 9 am, there is a new post, and I like to think I have a developed a style that works for my readers. I have a certain set of expectations in mind when I pick up a Jack McDevitt novel, or a collection of Andy Rooney essays, and I am rarely disappointed. That same dependability is what I strive for here.

Hello Phone, Goodbye Facebook

My iPhone died earlier this week. It went quickly, and painlessly. One minute, it was plugged in on my nightstand, bleating the gentle alarm in the Bedtime application. The next, it was dead. The screen went dim, then dark. The phone would no longer take a charge.

This is my work phone, and I reported it to the appropriate people when I arrived in the office. Within a few hours, I had a brand new phone, this time an iPhone 7. My old phone, may it rest in peace, was an iPhone 6.

It is amazing to me how much stuff accumulates on my phones over time. It is equally amazing how long it takes to get a new phone configured just the way I like it. My late phone was backed up regularly, and I could have restored that backup to my new phone, but since the phone was new, I thought I’d take the opportunity to selectively install those apps that I use the most, and see if I could manage to leave everything else off the phone. This leads to the question: what apps must I have on my phone?

I try to keep a minimalist look to my phone. I dump nearly all the apps into a single folder that is off the main screen. When I want to use an app, I use the search feature to search for the app I’m looking for. If I wait to email someone, I swipe down, start typing “Mai…” and then tap on the Mail icon when it appears in the search results. I’ve done this for a long time now. I’m used to it, and it works for me. It means that my home screen is empty, except for the apps that go on the bar at the bottom.

For me, the things that I need instant access to are:

  1. My calendar
  2. My books
  3. My text messages
  4. My to-do list

My frequent apps

I use Fantastical 2 for my calendar, Audible for audiobooks, the Apple Messages app for texts, and Todoist to manage my to-do list. There were a few other must-have apps include Dark Sky (for weather), WordPress (to keep an eye on things here), Evernote, LastPass, and… and… and it turned out that was it. There weren’t any other apps that I had to have.

I had momentary qualms about not putting Facebook back on my phone. But they lasted only a moment. If I want to look at Facebook, I can do it on my computer, I don’t need to pull out my phone to look at it. It was a little more difficult not to put Twitter on my new phone, but I managed to get over it pretty quickly.

There was a time when Facebook and Twitter were among the first apps I’d install on a new phone. I’m not sure if my refusal to install them this time around is a sign of growth, or a sign that I’ve just grown tired of the apps.

“What Do You Do?”

I have a hard time telling people what I do for a living. I dread the anticipation that results from knowing that at any moment, I’m going to get asked,  “What do you do?” The most recent incident took place a little over a week ago. I was sitting in the dentist chair, mouth open, metallic tools scraping away at my teeth, when the hygienist asked the question.

“I work with computers,” I said, hoping I sounded disinterested enough to for her to drop it.

It is a perfectly true answer, although deliberately vague. Few jobs these days don’t involve working with computers in one way or another.

Let me take the opportunity to set the record straight, to answer the question once and for all. Officially, my title is “Application Developer.” Titles, however, are funny things. They have to be specific enough so that someone with a similar title would get the drift, but general enough to include a broad range of skill sets.

A more accurate description of my job these days would be “Project Manager.” Applications developers tend to write computer code. And there was a time when a big portion of my day was spent in IDEs like Microsoft Visual Studio. As a Project Manager, I’m not writing much, if any, code. My IDE these days is Microsoft Word, or Project, with Visio diagram thrown in for good measure now and then.

Ah, but a Project Manager is a broad description. As I work in the IT realm, my projects tend to revolve around technology. And the technology they revolved around most for me on a day-to-day basis is software. In that sense, I don’t tend to think of myself as a project manager as much as I do a Product Manager. I oversee the birth, development, enhancement, and ultimately the demise of software products.

There are occasions when I am asked the question, when I’d love to answer, “I’m a writer,” and just leave it at that. Of course, telling someone you are a writer leads to other questions. Besides, I don’t make my living as a writer. And when people ask “What do you do?” they are asking how you make your living.

Sometimes, the writer in me is tempted to come up with a more colorful answer to the question. Just once, with a straight face, I’d like to say something like, “I’m a medieval cartographer,” or, “I’m a parachute tester.” Better yet, I’ve had a recurring daydream of answering the question as follows: “I’m not allowed to talk about what I do. I can get both of us into big trouble just for acknowledging that I do anything all at.”

The truth is, I don’t like talking about my day job. I enjoy what I do—if that were not the case, I would not have stayed on the job for more than 22 years now. But I work hard, and when I am not working, the last thing I want to do is being thinking about working. Being asked the question forces me to think about work, and I suppose I resent that a bit.

I recently had new business cards printed for my day job. I wish I had waited until I’d written this essay. I would have added a line to the back of the card that read: “What do I do?” and then provided a hyperlink (or better yet, a QR code) to this post. I could hand someone the card and never have to answer the question again.

Radio Days

When I lived in Los Angeles, there was an all-news radio station, KNX1070 “News Radio” that, despite its tag line, did not play “all news” all the time. There were breaks in the news for traffic and weather reports (“traffic and weather together!”). In the evenings the had the KNX Radio Drama Hour. I don’t recall if this was a daily occurrence, or if it took place once a week. But during that golden hour, the radio station replayed old radio shows like “The Lone Ranger,” and occasionally comedies like “The George and Gracie Show.”

I loved listening to those shows. It was like being transported back in time, but in some fundamental way. The people who listened to the original broadcasts did so on radios not much different from the radios on which I listened to the replays. There was nothing to see, nothing to watch. My imagination filled in the blanks as I listened to “The Shadow” or a George Burns comedy skit.

I grew up in a television era. In the heyday of my youth in the late 1970s, I remember watching The Dukes of Hazzard, and The Incredible Hulk, and The Six Million Dollar Man, and The Love Boat (and sometimes, if we stayed up especially late, Fantasy Island). As fond as I am of those shows, I sometimes wish I’d grown up in a radio era.

We have radio today, of course, but it is nothing like radio in the days when television was a glimmer. Our car gets Sirius XM satellite radio and we can choose from a host of commercial-free options. Broadcast radio plays music, or provides news reports, and bickering conversation in between a barrage of commercials. But I have a fondness for old radio that I can’t quite explain.

The old shows were rehearsed, but they were funny. They are funny still today, when I have a chance to hear them. The personalities appearing on the shows were celebrities in every sense of the word. Even the commercials were part of the show, often built in to the skits, (“The makers of Lady Ashbond’s Incense, the incense that is kind to your nose, presents ‘The Hour of Love…’”)

There is something delightful imaging the family gathered around the radio, listening to George Burns, or Bing Crosby, or getting the news from Edward R. Murrow. Radio is a simple enough to transport you to a different era. Modern distractions: the Internet, video games, television, all fade into the future.

After nearly 30 years, KNX1070 stopped the Radio Drama Hour in 2003. I wish there was a radio station—even a satellite radio station—that played full feeds from the 1920s, 1930s or 1940s. The could play the old dramas, the news, even the commercials. A radio station that did that today might be the closest we ever come to experiencing time travel.

I Can’t Stand Still!

I can’t seem to stand still!

This is nothing new. I’ve noticed it before, and wondered about it, but it really began to seem ridiculous over the weekend. I took the Little Miss to her dance class on Saturday morning. The parents don’t go into the class. We drop off our kids and then pick them up an hour later. Like several of the parents, I stuck around, lingering in the hallway, listening to more of Simon Winchester’s The Men Who United the States.

Most parents who stuck around sat on the ground, backs against ubiquitous lockers, tapping away at their phones, or reading a newspaper. I’m just not comfortable sitting on a hard floor, and so I stood for the hour. I was moving the entire time.

When standing and waiting, my default appears to be a gentle sway to the left and right. I sway and I sway and I sway with no end in sight. Other people stand still, and I tell myself that it is silly for me to be swaying while I stand. So I stop swaying. But it feels strange to me not to be moving. And the moment my attention is not focused on standing still—as when I am focused on listening to my audiobook instead—I begin swaying again.

The fact is, I am rarely still. While at work, my fingers are flying across the keyboard, and my legs are usually moving to some internal rhythm. When I take a break, I go for a walk, and then I’m moving. Even while standing in line to pay for something at the grocery store, I can’t stand still. I am always swaying this way or that way.

I try not to think about it too much. When I do, I become self-conscious. I try to stand still, and instead, feel like I am suddenly standing out.

Things have been this way as far back as I can remember. Back in the days (prior to my forties) when I could eat anything I wanted and put on no extra weight, I attributed my remarkable metabolism to the enormous amounts of energy my fidgeting must consume. Forget Pilates! Just put me in a line and I’ll burn a few hundred calories standing there waiting.

That is obviously not the case these days, a month or so before my 45th birthday. I fidget as much as I always have, but it no longer seems to have an impact on my metabolism. I have the sneaking suspicion that it never did.

No one ever mentions to me that I am fidgeting. No one ever complains. But I notice it, and when I try to stop it—and inevitably fail—I feel disappointed in myself. I should have more discipline than this. I would have made a terrible solider. Imagine me trying to stand at attention!

I tell myself that there is a good reason for my fidgeting, even if I don’t know what that good reason might be. But I am beginning to wonder if that is true.

I took me about ten minutes to write this little essay. When I started, I told myself that I would sit still through it; that I could certainly managed to sit still for ten minutes. Halfway through, I noticed a squeaking in the background. It was coming from my chair. My chair was squeaking because I was tapping my foot as I wrote.

If you’ll excuse me, I need to go find the WD-40 so that I can get rid of this annoying squeak. It distracts my attention from trying to keep still.

I Have a Story in This New Anthology: FUNNY HORROR, Edited by Alex Shvartsman

Funny Horror, ed. by Alex Shvartsman

Allow me a moment of writerly pride. A new anthology entitled Funny Horror edited by Alex Shvartsman is available today on Amazon from UFO Publishing. The anthology has stories by a slew of great writers. The anthology also contains a reprint of my one-and-only zombie story, “Meat and Greet.”

The e-book is available on Amazon today. A physical version of the book–for those who prefer one–will be available shortly.

Book Sale!

Over the weekend, we went to a book sale the kids’ school was having as fund-raiser. I’d never been to their book sale before, and was a little skeptical, but it turned out to be a good one.

The book sale was set up in the Parish Hall, a large room, much larger than the school library, where I thought he sale would be held. (After some consideration, I realized that holding a book sale in a library might be confusing, and unproductive.) All the books were donated and there were plenty of them. The books were arranged into rough sections: Sports, Fiction, Religion, Biography, History, and children’s books.

As a lifelong bibliophile, I know how to make my way through a bookstore. I’ve made my way through countless used bookstores, softening lingering for hours, but only because I enjoy the stores. I know what I am looking for and I know how to spot it quickly. Within ten minutes, I’d found five books that I wanted.

I assumed we needed to pay in cash, and Kelly said she’d brought some cash along. She picked out a book for herself, and for the baby. The kids picked out about 15 books among them. I wasn’t sure we’d have enough cash for all of the books, and I wasn’t sure we could pay with a card. But it turned out my worrying was needless. Kids books were 3 for a $1. Hardcovers and trade paperbacks were $2 each. We walked out of the book sale with 22 books and paid $14. I felt a little guilty, until I realized that the books were all donated to the school, so the entire $14 we spent was profit for the school.

What books did I pick up?

In the Sports section, I found a hardcover edition of Roger Angell’s Game Time: A Baseball Companion. I’ve read a few of Angell’s books, and this seemed like a nice addition.

I found a trade paperback of Patrick Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind, which I also tossed on my pile. I’ve read the book twice, but both times were the audiobook version, and I wanted a paper version.

There was a hardcover edition of Stephen King’s Desperation, one of the few King books I have not yet read.

Finally, and best of all, was a two-volume biography of John Adams by Page Smith, complete with the box for the boxed set. These five books cost me $8.

Book Sale

It was interesting to browse the selection of books they had at the book sale. I like to think that my reading interests run to the obscure, but I saw several books for sale that I’ve read that I was surprised that other people had read (or at least purchased) as well. I saw, for instance, Bing Crosby: A Pocketful of Dreams by Gary Giddins. I would have sworn I was the only one in the world to read that book. (The sequel is coming out soon by Little Brown, according to Giddins website.)

This book sale is the kind of win-win event that makes everyone happy. We came home with 22 books, pleased we spent only $14. And the school is probably making a killing, thanks to the thousands of books donated to the cause.

Learning to Write

I often day-dream about doing other jobs. I wonder how easy (or hard) it would be to learn to play the guitar, or make furniture, or repair clocks. I look at people doing things well and marvel at the time and commitment it must have taken to become so proficient. How did they do it?

Then I remind myself that I learned how to write. I don’t know from where the desire to write sprang within me. I have always been interested in books. Even before I could read, I can remember sitting on the couch with my dad as he read Dr. Seuss books to me. He read them so much that I memorized them all, a trick that serves me well today when reading the books to my own kids.

But why did I want to write? I can’t say. All I can say it that the desire to do so was always there. In third grade, for instance, we were reading about Moscow in our social studies books (this was in the early 1980s and the Cold War was in full brew). Something about what I read interested me, and I wrote a story about two friends who visit Moscow.

Later, in 7th or 8th grade, I read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams and wanted to write my own version. I wrote a story that was at least 60 single-spaced, typewritten pages long, as much in the style of Hitchhiker’s as a I could manage at the time. These stories were read by no one, save perhaps my family.

In high school, me and a friend began writing a series of stories that we shared with classmates. This was the first time I had an audience beyond my family. It was also in high school that I finally learned to write.

I attended Cleveland Humanities Magnet High School in Reseda, California, a suburb of Los Angeles. We did not have traditional English and History classes. Instead, we had a “core” set of classes that included: philosophy, literature, social institutions, and art history. All of our tests were essay tests. It was in these classes that I learned to think critically, encouraged to do so by my teachers. And it was in the essays I wrote for these classes that I learned to write.

When I say I learned to write, I don’t mean I learned to tell a story. I mean that I learned to write in a way that presents information clearly, in a way that makes a good argument. More than anything else, then, I learned to write for this blog. It was in those essays that I began to develop the style that has evolved to what I use here on the blog. And friends will tell you that my style here isn’t much different from my style in an email message. Some people even complain that I write the way I talk.

The ability to tell a story and the ability to write are two different things. I don’t tell stories nearly as well as I write. But I am also self-taught when it comes to telling stories. I learned by reading.

When it comes to writing, however, I think that the essence of my style, comes from those high school classes, and I am convinced, even if others aren’t, that if not for those humanities classes and their essay tests, I would not be the writer that I am today.