My blog, and Cincinnati

I’m going to blog here more often.

I’m getting worried about Facebook and Google. I worry a bit about their censoring policies. I’m also deciding, slowly but surely, that’s it’s just plain risky to host the bulk of my creative content with one company, behind one single password. My blog is safer.

I also think about my son—he’s 16 months old. So much of what I write—my messages to friends, my notes, my thoughts on things—is online, be it Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc. One of my favorite things to do as a kid was rummage through my dad’s library. I’d look at his books and get a sense of what he believed. I’d see old photos of him in college—yearbooks and Kodak frames stuffed in textbooks—that put him in a a different perspective. I’d find letters he’d written to my mom or to his parents that helped me understand who he really was, what he thought about besides me and my brother.

I want my son to have that, too. I want him to be able to see who is dad was, and is, on the inside—what I’m thinking about, what I believe. Of course, I want to tell him these things in person as he grows, but inevitably I will forget to say something, or forget what I once believed, or forget that, once upon a time, I did ask the same questions he’s asking and I did have a hard time deciding the answer. I want him to see where I’ve been, what I’ve done. If not for this blog, the only record of that will be in my password-protected email inbox.

So I want a record. And I want to be open about things—there’s not enough of that around these days.

My goal here isn’t to get as much web traffic as possible. But I do have more to say now, for some reason, than before. I had writers block for several months this year—really since last fall. I was busy. Moved from Virginia to Florida, my business is booming, my wife and I are slowly renovating our home.

That’s all changed, now. I’ll credit that both to settling into my new home and to the church community I’ve found here in Jacksonville. Great preaching, strong community. The whole thing just makes me think a lot more than I had been, at least about things other than work and market research.

I’ll start off with the photo at top. I took that from Mt. Adams in Cincinnati, OH earlier this month. I went to meet with a client. Spent the evening prior walking the city, ultimately climbing back up Mt. Adams (I was there last year, too) to take a photo for my wife. The neighborhood up there is picture-perfect. Old row homes, almost all with a view like this. Quaint, quiet, serene. Walked by a family excitedly reviewing the footprint of their new home, perched on the edge of a cliff with the same view in my picture.

One of the coolest places I’ve been. I highly recommend it. Here’s me at the top:

Why I haven’t been writing

Again, I haven’t written here lately. I’ve been writing a little more elsewhere, though. I have an article coming out on Enhancing Capital sometime this week. My journal is also a little fuller than it was a few days ago.

I was right last time I posted here—I am settling into somewhat of a routine, now that I’ve got the first six weeks of a new job behind me. But oddly, that routine doesn’t involve quite as much writing as it used to, and that’s not because I don’t have the time. Frankly, I don’t really know what to write about anymore.

Part of me thinks this has something to do with the quantitative nature of my day-time work. I’m a research analyst for a market research firm. I study survey results from every which angle, looking for interesting trends to show our clients. This isn’t complex math by any means, but the reasoning I’m doing certainly falls on the left side of the brain (if you believe in that sort of thing).

Because of this, I think, I’ve been noticing order in things—road patterns, architecture, ways of speaking—that I didn’t notice before. Music is especially interesting these days. I’m a little better now at keeping rhythm while playing, and I’m noticing more of the complexities in rhythms in songs on the radio. I’m adding up daily expenses in my head. Weird little things like that—things that don’t leave much time for the types of political/economic/financial considerations that usually make the muse for what I post on this blog.

This isn’t like some uncontrollable impulse. This doesn’t happen all day, every day. Just every so often, I find myself thinking about how things are ordered and arranged where I used to think about what things mean (in a philosophical sense). But I guess order itself is something worth considering philosophically—order is heaven’s first law, after all.

I’m also taking a somewhat advanced microeconomics/game theory class right now. And graduate-level econometrics. And macroeconomics. Maybe those are more to blame. And the fact that I come home super-tired at 11 o’clock most days.

Or maybe this all has nothing to do with it. It sounds silly reading it over. Either way, I haven’t had much inspiration to write lately. My classes will be done for the summer after next week, so perhaps things will change then. Who knows. I’m happy either way. I do hope to write more one day—I’d love to write for a living. But until then, I’m more than pleased to keep at my daily grind. My job is intellectually stimulating and engaging, which is more than most can say. I ought to be thankful, and I am.

Oh…one more thing. I said in an earlier post that I have been working on a website whose name would soon be announced on this blog. Here it is:

I didn’t create this from the ground, up. I did brand it, though, and come up with the logo and marketing materials. The URL was my find, too. I’m really not sure what my goal with this site is—to get bookings, yes, but I’m not sure why. For now, though, I’m trying to market on social media and see how far I can get without paying for advertising. So be a pal and forward this to your friends? I’d appreciate it. I promise all prices are as good as you’ll find on Expedia, and probably anywhere else on the web. And everything is totally secure…I had some professionals tell me so.

A new theme, yet again

Ok, I’m a little late writing about this, but I got a new blog theme.

Yes, I just did this a few months ago. I switched from Adapation to Ryu because I wanted less clutter on the and more emphasis on my writing. I want what I write to set the tone—not the surrounding colors and widgets.

My new theme, Editor, aligns with that goal, but does allow readers to scroll down through my posts without losing sight of my blog’s menu. In other words, only the right column scrolls. The menu bar on the left remains static no matter what. Losing the menu after scrolling to view my posts was something I did not like about Ryu.

I like this feature. I also like how it looks. I like having the menu on the side of the screen and not at the top. I also like how posts in Editor are tagged and dated to the side of the post content and not at the bottom or at the top (between the post title and the post content). I don’t mind so much if the tags are hidden at the bottom, but the date and categories are things that I think belong before the content.

So Editor it is. For now. I don’t like switching themes all the time, especially as I gain more readers, so I do intend to keep this theme going for the foreseeable future.

That said, I do like the book-ish look of WordPress’s new Twenty Fifteen theme (screenshot below). Very clean. Very readable. It’s overarching structure is actually quite similar to Editor—menu bar on the left, scrolling only on the right (mostly), sleek social links icons.

screenshot - TwentyFifteen

What I don’t like about Twenty Fifteen, though, is it’s placement of post tags and dates at the bottom of the post. I think this frustrates readers who want to know if what they’re reading is current before diving in. They can scroll down and check, of course, but posts can be pretty long and this can be a hassle when you’re trying to read or work quickly. At least, that’s my reaction to this format.

You’ve probably noticed by now that web design is a hobby of mine. Not coding, but critiquing. I spend so much time online—after a while, I really do start to notice how tiny, seemingly insignificant features affect user experience. I used to think it didn’t matter and that most people just cared about the content. Now I think it’s more of a 20-80 ratio, design to content, that affects how viewers will react to web content.

Just my little theory.

Why I plan to write poorly

I added this note to the “About Me” page of my blog today.

Finally, please be forgiving with my blog here. I try to post every day because I believe that practice makes perfect. Unfortunately, this means that some posts are better than others, and that some are downright bad. I shouldn’t make any grammar mistakes (let me know if I do), but I’m sure my style in many of these posts leaves worlds of room for improvement—room that you won’t, I hope, find in my pieces published by more “formal” publications.

I hate disclaimers like this. Rather than apologize in advance for my mistakes, why not avoid mistakes altogether?

But the more I write, the more I realize the need to write and write consistently—every day, inspiration or none. Like with anything else, it’s the only way to improve.

This is frustrating for a writer. With something like basketball, for example, you can miss all the shots you want in practice—no one is watching, no one will know. But writers make their mistakes publicly. They adopt bad logic, use poor language, construct losing arguments, contradict themselves. Sure, they can practice writing in a private journal, but knowing the public won’t ever see those words makes the whole exercise something entirely different and unhelpful toward learning to write better for an audience.

I want to write professionally one day, so I’m committing to write at least one post here every day. I’m sure that means I’ll adopt bad logic, use poor language, construct losing arguments, contradict myself…all that and more. But I do it hoping it will make me better in the end.

That cheesy stuff aside, here’s an inspiring quote from James Altucher:

Every game, every industry, has its history. A history of successful business models, of successful people, of styles in which the game was played. Of colorful personalities.

If you don’t love the history of what want to master, then you will never master it.

Simon Rich, one of the funniest writers I have ever read, the youngest writer of SNL ever, and now working on two movies and a sitcom, said to me, “if you don’t wake up and want to write first thing, you probably shouldn’t be writing.”

In the course of our discussion he must’ve referred to 50 different books and comedians and movies, etc.

It’s like the movie Groundhog Day. Bill Murray relives every day over and over. He becomes a better person for it.

You can’t do that. You can’t relive the same day. But you can relive the thousands of days before you in the area you are most interested in by studying the history of the field you love.

Writers should of course constantly read. You can’t write a good book if you havn’t read 500 other good books. You can’t write a good screenplay if you haven’t watched 100s of movies and appreciate the beauty of specific shows from the 60s, the 70s and the various eras of movies that came after that.