Friday, October 26, 2007

Increasing the Odds of Success Through SEO

Peter Bernstein, in his bestseller Against the Gods, the Remarkable Story of Risk, stated that no matter what the venture, whether managing a family or managing nations, risk is a factor that must be taken into consideration. No one can infallibly predict success, because there are always variables beyond our control. “Even with thousands of facts, the track record of experts,” wrote Bernstein, “proves that their estimates of the probabilities of final outcomes are open to doubt and uncertainty.”
In short, risk is part of business; there are no sure things. Wall Street does not always lead to Easy Street. Nor does an internet retail strategy always lead to internet riches. As Robert Burns noted in his ode to a mouse, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”

Nevertheless, we also know from experience that the very opposite is also true. Attempt nothing, and nothing you will achieve. In light of this latter equation, efforts at Search Engine Optimization are not optional but necessary.

This past month a friend of mine who runs a specialized online retail music business lamented that despite efforts at click-through links and banner ads, he had not found himself making any money despite the traffic brought in.

I observed, “Your lack of success might well have been your website's inability to easily and quickly lead to a purchase decision. Another failing may be that the traffic generated was too general and not specific enough.” In other words, SEO and other mechanisms for bringing in web traffic are only one piece of a larger strategic marketing plan.

He replied that he’d not thought of that.

The wonderful thing about the net is that we can measure everything. The hard data we gather helps us fine tune our efforts. By continually improving our systems, we generate more revenue with the same amount of effort (greater efficiency). Banner ads, pay per click ads on search engines, Google Adwords are all tactics, though none guarantee sales.

All that said, one sure way to be unsuccessful is to have no traffic at all because no one can find you. SEO is one tool among many that we use to minimize risk and increase odds of success.
en ~1996

For additional articles I have written pertaining to achieving success in business, visit:

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Third Man

Completed Graham Greene's The Third Man. Story of racketeering and murder in post war Vienna. The real story is about heroes and disillusionment. Very interesting how Greene's main character (a writer) is made to see things through the distorted lens of his hero worship -- and later, while speaking to fans of his own, the misunderstandings that occur because they worship him. A very funny moment in this otherwise dark story. Greene is masterful at painting with darks and shadows.
Journal note, Dec. 21, 1993

Greene is one of the great writers of our century. His works deserve to be read, ought to be required reading for any literate person. His autobiography (A Sort Of Life, I believe it called) reveals a brooding man with intense inner conflicts. A frequent event in his life is a game of solitary Russian Roulette with a loaded pistol. It is not a pretty portrait, but out of this tortured dungeon of self comes a world class writer whose works have tremendous power and dignity.

His characters themselves are usually complicated, world weary travellers on life's road, hard pressed by their circumstances, thus brought into situations that explore the deeper depths of the soul. What do we find at the heart of a man when we strip everything else away? When we pick at the scabs, what do we see? What is here worth preserving? His perceptive probing and vivid prose at times create amazing and memorable epiphanies.

Recommended readings: The Power and the Glory, The Heart of the Matter, A Burnt-Out Case, The Tenth Man, The Quiet American, The End of the Affair, Orient Express, The Comedians and of course The Third Man. (I have read all these and more.) You will not regret reading this writer, wherever you begin.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Press On

"Keep pressing on. When one person makes it, others see that maybe they can do it, too." Line that was never used from a screen play I wrote called The Extras.
Journal note. Dec 19, 1993

1993 was an interesting year. A big Hollywood production came to town and filmed Iron Will, a Disney flick with a number of mid-range stars along with the up-and-coming Kevin Spacey. Like hundreds of others, I got involved with the film as an extra and became mesmerized by the experience. While in the holding area during the shooting of the ballroom scene, I introduced myself to Robert Schwartz, one of the producers, seeking an opportunity to pitch a movie idea.

Mr. Schwartz listened and said that if I wrote up a ten to twelve page proposal he would read it. In point of fact, when the film was a wrap, and everyone had returned to Hollywood, he called me to say that if I wrote the screen play, he would read that, too. Thus began the distracting traipse along the garden path that led to three screen plays and a lot of diverted energies.

Such is the power of Hollywood, to fire up our dreams and then to let us down. Mr. Schwartz did read my work and said "it was good"... but that to make it in Hollywood you really have to BE in Hollywood. With a young family and a secure job, it seemed just a little too much risk to trade my little piece of paradise in Northern Minnesota for a small stash of fools gold.

Albeit, the dream was motivational. I became a dues paying member of the screen writers' guild, I produced a lot of work and my second screen play was actually quite powerful. (Uprooted: The Ralph Kand Story) The Disney producer said so himself. But my agent had difficulty finding it a home and like the early mists on a Minnesota highway, those dreams quickly evaporated in the light of day.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Urge To Commit Art

"Nothing is so cheerful as the urge to commit art. The purpose of all great art is to give courage and thereby cheer us, just as the purpose of education is fundamentally cheerful -- to draw us out of gloomy solitude and into conversation with other scholars."
~ Garrison Keillor

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Matilda Who Told Lies and Was Burned

Matilda told such dreadful lies, It made one gasp and Stretch one's eyes;
Her Aunt, who, from her earliest youth,
Had kept a strict regard for truth,
Attempted to believe Matilda:
The effort very nearly killed her,
And would have done so, had not she
Discovered this infirmity.

For once, towards the close of day,
Matilda, growing tired of play,
And finding she was left alone,
Went tiptoe to the telephone
And summoned the immediate aid
Of London's noble fire-brigade.

Within an hour the gallant band
Were pouring in on every hand,
From Putney, Hackney Downs, and Bow
With courage high and hearts aglow
They galloped, roaring through the town,
"Matilda's house is burning down!"

Inspired by British cheers and loud
Proceeding from the frenzied crowd,
They ran their ladders through a score
Of windows on the ball room floor;
And took peculiar pains to souse
The pictures up and down the house,

Until Matilda's Aunt succeeded
In showing them they were not needed;
And even then she had to pay
To get the men to go away! . . . .

It happened that a few Weeks later
Her Aunt was off to the theatre
To see that interesting play
The Second Mrs. Tanqueray.
She had refused to take her niece
To hear this entertaining piece:
A deprivation just and wise
To punish her for telling lies.

That night a fire did break out -
You should have heard Matilda shout!
You should have heard her scream and bawl,
And throw the window up and call
To People passing in the street -

(The rapidly increasing heat
Encouraging her to obtain
Their confidence) - but all in vain!
For every time she shouted 'Fire!'
They only answered 'Little Liar'!
And therefore when her Aunt returned,
Matilda, and the house, were burned.

Hillaire Belloc

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Panther

His vision, from the constantly passing bars,
has grown so weary that it cannot hold
anything else. It seems to him there are
a thousand bars, and behind the bars, no world.

As he paces in cramped circles, over and over,
the movement of his powerful soft strides
is like a ritual dance around a center
in which a mighty will stands paralyzed.

Only at times, the curtain of the pupils
lifts, quietly. An image enters in,
rushes down through the tense, arrested muscles,
plunges into the heart and is gone.

~Rainer Maria Rilke


Little things that no one needs
-- Little things to joke about --
Little landscapes, done in beads.
Little morals woven out,
Little wreaths of gilded grass,
Little brigs of whittled oak
Bottled painfully in glass;
These are made by lonely folk.

Lonely folk have lines of days
Long and faltering and thin;
Therefore -- little wax bouquets,
Prayers cut upon a pin,
Little maps of pinkish lands,
Little charts of curly seas,
Little plats of linen strands,
Little verses, such as these.

Dorothy Parker

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Another Reason Why I Don't Keep A Gun In The House

The neighbors' dog will not stop barking.
He is barking the same high, rhythmic bark that he barks every time they leave the house.
They must switch him on on their way out.

The neighbors' dog will not stop barking.
I close all the windows in the house
and put on a Beethoven symphony full blast
but I can still hear him muffled under the music,
barking, barking, barking,

and now I can see him sitting in the orchestra,
his head raised confidently as if Beethoven
had included a part for barking dog.

When the record finally ends he is still barking,
sitting there in the oboe section barking,
his eyes fixed on the conductor who is
entreating him with his baton

while the other musicians listen in respectful
silence to the famous barking dog solo,
that endless coda that first established
Beethoven as an innovative genius.
Billy Collins

An Hour of Poetry for People Who Are Not Into It

A few years ago I was thinking of offering to do a poetry reading at Barnes and Noble called "An Hour of Poetry for People Who Are Not Into It" with the aim of sharing poems that connect, in the hopes of introducing people to some fun, thought provoking material which they are not familiar with because it is labelled "Poetry" and a lot of people simply think they do not LIKE poetry.
So, I made a list of my selections for that hour of entertainment and placed it in a folder on my desktop. Having come across it this morning, it seemed worth sharing. If you can find some of these, they will reward you. Or, if you be patient, I will share some of them on this blog over the next short space of days.

Billy Collins
(selections from Sailing Alone Around the Room)
Aristotle p. 132
Another Reason I Don't Keep a Gun in the House p. 3
Some Days p. 97

Hilaire Belloc
Matilda Who Told Lies and Was Burned

(from The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke)
first sentence, page 91
The Panther p. 25
Autumn Day p 11 two versions
Sonnets to Orpheus 1.3 and II. 13

Dorothy Parker

Robert Browning
How They Brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Robert Frost
Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Eve

Ed Newman
Wisconsin Misty Morning
Bad Break
Hitchhiking Across Antarctica
High Upon the Wire

Poem from Don Quixote

Dale Wasserman
Lyrics of To Dream the Impossible Dream

Bob Dylan
Only a Pawn in Their Game
Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall
It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleedin’)

One reason for sharing a night of poetry would be to share a few of my own poems with a wider audience. If you have interest, here is a link to a few of my early favorites which I have produced.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Measure of a Man

"The measure of a man cannot be extracted from one isolated incident, but must be based on the tenor of his whole life."

Nov. 22, 1993

Monday, October 15, 2007


"Cultures are measured not by how big their buildings were, but by how they treated people. It begins at home and in the workplace, with habits of courtesy and respect, honor and mercy."
November 19, 1993

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Paths of Glory

This afternoon I decided to revisit Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, co-written and directed by Stanely Kubrick. This cold war classic was remarkable for its originality and dark comedy. "After all, we don't want to start a nuclear war unless we have to now, do we?" (Peter Sellers as Officer Mandrake)

It's hard to pinpoint the film that put Kubrick on the map as a director, but certainly all of his works demonstrate the power of his vision and unique genius. His films are both distinctive and daring.
One of my current top ten films of all time is Kubrick's Paths of Glory. It may have been the first film I wrote a review for on the Internet Movie Database. The following review is posted there, and at the end of this blog entry you may link to my reviews of several other films.

Early Kubrick film displays his profound skills of storytelling in film in remarkable and poignant World War One film.

I have placed this early Kubrick anti-war statement on my top ten list both for its originality, great acting, compelling story line, plot twists, and surprisingly beautiful and inspired ending. This one is a heart-breaker account of a moment in history that repeated itself endlessly in that horrific bloodfest called the trenches of World War I. To some extent Kubrick returned to the theme in various ways with Full Metal Jacket, but Kirk Douglas as Colonel Dax is perfect here, demonstrating the challenge of maintaining honor within a system that has turned values on its head. It is a crisis in the life and career of Colonel Dax, who has lived by the watchword of Duty with a capital D throughout his career, but has remained idealistic and faithful to his men. The army's absurd effort to capture "the Anthill" results in a tear in the fabric of his idealism. The ugliness he sees is an eye opener for both Dax and the audience, who sees the truth with tragic clarity.

Colonel Dax, identifying with his men, is an inspiration in contrast to an empty culture of power and prestige with no ethical base.

For additional film comments:

Saturday, October 13, 2007

The Burden

The old masters knew the truth of how it is, while we moderns so easily forget -- or evade -- the wisdom of the ages which so plainly stands forth.
Sept. 12, 1993

"Life is a tragedy." ~ Sir Walter Raleigh

"O life! Thou art a galling load
along a rough, a weary road." ~ Robert Burns

"Our aim should not be so much to live long as to live well." ~ Seneca

"Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the great truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. One we truly know that life is difficult -- once we truly understand and accept it -- then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters." ~ M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Travelled

"Life is suffering." ~ the first of the Four Noble Truths of Budhha

And yet... and yet...
"O Lord Almighty,
blessed is the man who trusts in you." ~ Psalm 84:11

Thursday, October 11, 2007


We are at the cabin. Getting organized was hectic... Cleaning, straightening, filling boxes for the move. I keep reminding myself I have a screen play to finish, but in reality I am not in that mode, attracted to other projects with quick results and no commercial value. Doodles. What I long for, if the truth were known, is the freedom to spend the rest of my life doodling.

Absolutely beautiful here. The lake is still, placid, at rest. A hot humid day across the Northland has been invaded by cloud cover along with promises of rain. The restlessless of this place is a gift which I deeply appreciate.

The fact that we exist is so remarkable, yet we take it for granted, as we do beauty, breath and life. What does it mean, "to live"? I exist... this is no accident.
August 26, 1993

When we were raising our young family, one book that really made an impact on us was Let's Make a Memory. Vacations were especially valuable for making memories and Twin Points Resort, now gone, proved to be just such a resource for us with its quaint cabins directly on the shore of the world's largest inland body of water, Lake Superior.

Many great moments, hours of reflection, and a time to cherish the gift of life.

Look Up and See

Lazy bundles of clouds crawl leisurely across the clear blue fields of sky.
Aug. 27, 1993

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

No Guarantees

Quitters never win, and winners never quit.

That's the way it is. Without persistence, we are guaranteed to fail. The reverse, however, isn't necessarily true. Sometimes we persist, we finish the race, and yet we don't get the prize. This can be a hard nut to swallow.

A verse in the Old Testament book of Ecclesiates states, "The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong... but time and chance happen to them all." (Eccles. 9:11) The verse gives us a much needed reminder that things don't always work out. That's reality.

For example, there are no guarantees that if I say all the right things I will "close the deal" in business. Or get the job. Nor am I guaranteed to win the big race at the track meet if I prepare better this year than last. Nor am I guaranteed to become a famous novelist by writing lots of books. In all of these examples there are many factors outside of our control. Illness, strong competition, a death in the family, a car accident, even death - the list of things outside our control is limitless. As we all know, none of us is God. We are finite creatures with limited capabilities.

Nevertheless, there is one thing that is within our control. We can choose to give up, to quit, or we can choose to keep going. The one who quits pursuing his dream is certain never to reach it. The one who keeps going, who persists, will find that his dream inspires and strengthens him. And whether he reaches his dreams or whether he doesn't, he will be an inspiration to others to go after their own dreams.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007


A while back I read a book on advertising in which the author noted that words do not have meaning until we invest them with meaning. That is, words do not have meaning in themselves, but are just a shell that the hearer fills with meaning.

This idea immediately intrigued me for a couple reasons. First, because it explains why sometimes we say things and other people don’t know where we are coming from. Try describing New York City skyscrapers to people in East Africa who have never seen a two story hut. And what does "love" look like to people who today for whom the word love is only a sex act?

We say a word, and people hear something different than what we mean. The word Conservative is highly loaded these days. For some it means “family values” whereas for others it means narrow-minded bigots who (if they had their way) would become jack-booted, freedom-stealing fascists. To some the word Liberal means compassionate people who care for the less fortunate, and to others the word means anti-American, anti-business, tree-hugging communist or idealistic airhead.

The point is, we say a word, and it can be invested with a range of different meanings by the hearer. Words are like triggers that awaken meanings in the mind, often with a lot of emotional baggage attached.

Take the word God, for example. For many Christians this is far more than a word. It is the Almighty Creator, Yahweh, the high and holy one, awesome in power, who humbled Himself to die in shame to conquer death and make a way for us to be part of His great family. But if you say “God” in some circles, it means “a concept by which weak people comfort themselves.” Or perhaps a concept by which certain cynical people manipulate manipulate the masses and oppress others.

How are we to communicate in this world where words have become so divested of meaning? Think about it. What do you do when words no longer have any meaning? How do we reach people? How do we help meet needs or make a difference if we can’t use words?

The answer is ever the same: our lives are a book read by all. Our deeds communicate, even when words fail.

Let's not give up on words, but let's also remember that nothing speaks louder than our actions. When our words and deeds correspond, only then will we make a difference in this world.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Columbus Day Reflections

In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue. With three ships he crossed the Atlantic: the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria.
This year in late summer a replica of the Nina, one of these three ships, came to Duluth, Minnesota as a tribute to this significant occasion. Simultaneously, our town was also visited by protestors of this historical achievement. With increased awareness of the dark side of the Conquest of the Americas, some have suggested that we discontinue the celebration of Columbus Day as a national holiday.

In December 1980 when I was at the Zocalo in Mexico City, archeologists had unearthed a room the length and width of a football field filled with human skulls to a depth of twenty feet. The protesters of the Nina here in Duluth may have desired to (correctly) note that Christopher Columbus did not herald all good things for natives of the Americas, but this single archeological dig is evidence that not all atrocities in this hemisphere originated with whites from across the seas.

Christopher Columbus' original aim was to find a route to India. His intentions were earnest, not malicious. And no, he was not a genocidal maniac.

The dark side of human behavior neither begins nor ends with Western Civilization. Robert Burns noted, “Man’s inhumanity to man makes countless thousands mourn.” Horrors have been committed by every race throughout the course of history. This past century we have seen horrors in Rwanda, Uganda, Cambodia, Algeria, Bosnia, Albania, as well as the German Holocaust and Stalin’s terrors. A-bombs obliterated Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And going further back we see the Spanish Inquisition, Ghengis Kahn, the American slave trade, Vikings, Huns and more.

Since perpetrating evil is the province of all races, perhaps the solution can be found by all races working together to find solutions that are relevant to all races… today. In our own time, better jobs, housing, freedom to live without fear of violence, hope for tomorrow… these are things toward which we can all work together, rather than quibbling over the meaning of a replica of a 500 year old boat.

Unfortunately, we can't change the past. Hopefully we can learn from it.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Woody Allen

Reading portions of Woody Allen’s book Side Effects & reflecting on his movies. Allen addresses and incorporates the serious questions of life & meaning, and while making humor/jokes, etc. Although some find it irreverent, is he not, at least, raising the questions? The “heavy question” or “profound thought” is a regular feature of his humor, as are his countless references to classic literature.

Perhaps this is the only way modern man can toy with these ideas. Allen, then, is the genius who has managed, more successfully than many preachers, to confront modern man with a true sense of his situation. Why am I here? Why do we do the things we do?
August 1, 1993

A few Woody Allen quotes to give a taste of his flavor:
"Eternal nothingness is fine if you happen to be dressed for it."

"If only God would give me some clear sign! Like making a large deposit in my name at a Swiss bank."

"Money is better than poverty, if only for financial reasons."

"I'm astounded by people who want to 'know' the universe when it's hard enough to find your way around Chinatown."

"It is impossible to experience one's death objectively and still carry a tune."

"There are worse things in life than death. Have you ever spent an evening with an insurance salesman?"

"I'm not afraid to die, I just don't want to be there when it happens."

"I don't believe in the after life, although I am bringing a change of underwear."

Two Questions

1. If you could re-live one experience over and over again any time you wanted, what would that experience be?
2. If you could re-live one day of your life and do it differently, what day would it be and what would you do different?

One old man's replies:
To question #1: The experience of capturing, in a half dozen lines of poetic verse, the essence of my life.
To question #2: There is nothing I would change, for I am not certain whether it was the joys or the sorrows, the successes or the failures, that enabled me to assemble the words and phrases of which this poem was composed.
July 18, 1993

The first question in this journal entry led directly to my concept for The M Zone, a short story which I shared on my website and which later became a screen play for a short film.

To read The M Zone, visit:

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Experts don't always know what they are talking about

Experts perform a valuable function in our modern world. Whenever we get into an argument, whether heated or as a diversion, it isn't long before we reach for a forceful quote or two from an expert. Experts strengthen our confidence in views we've chosen to defend. Experts supposedly know what they're talking about because they've got the inside track on specialized knowledge. Experts are called upon to give us the final word in matters both obscure and self-evident.

And sometimes experts are wrong. Here are just a few of the more well known examples of prognostications that missed the mark.

In 1876 an internal memo at Western Union declared, "This 'telephone' has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us."

According to Dr. Lee De Forest, inventor of the vacuum tube and father of television, man would never reach the moon regardless of all future scientific advances.

In 1949, Popular Mechanics boldly asserted that "computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons."

The editor in charge of business books for Prentice Hall in 1957 said, "I have travelled the length and breadth of this country and talked with the best people, and I can assure you that data processing is a fad that won't last out the year."

Commenting on the microchip, an engineer at the Advanced Computing Systems Division of IBM said, "But what . . . is it good for?" This was in 1968.

By 1977, the chairman and founder of NEC Ken Olson expertly demonstrated his prescience by exclaiming, "There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home."

From the entertainment industry: "Who wants to hear actors talk?" said H.M. Warner of Warner Brothers in 1927.

Gary Cooper, in turning down the leading role in "Gone With the Wind" said, "I'm just glad it'll be Clark Gable who's falling on his face and not Gary Cooper."

And when the Decca Recording Company rejected the Beatles in 1962, their in-house experts assured management that, "guitar music is on the way out."

"Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value," said Marechal Ferdinand Foch, Professor of Strategy of the Ecole Superieure de Guerre.

For a lengthier treatment on the subject of experts, and a handful of marketing articles I have published, visit:

Bottom line: Don't believe everything you hear. Even when it comes from me. I was wrong once, too.

Friday, October 5, 2007

How to Teach Writing to Young People

A few years ago I had the privilege of participating in a workshop for coaches of youth soccer led by Buzz Lagos, head coach of the Minnesota Thunder, a professional soccer team. Coach Lagos showed us all kinds of neat games that we could have our kids play to help them learn basic skills. It was a fun experience and one in which I learned a lot.
At the end of the evening he conducted a highly informative question and answer period. One attendee asked a key question that has across the board applications for all teachers or instructors. He asked “What skill level should we be expecting eight and ten year old soccer players to be at?” The answer surprised me, but then made perfect sense. Coach Lagos replied, “You should not even be thinking about skill levels at that age. What you want is for every child to learn the rules and enjoy the game.”

The coach’s reply demonstrated his love for the game. Buzz Lagos also showed a deep understanding that if the children do not enjoy playing, they will not apply themselves to mastering its fundamental skills. Instead of laying heavy expectations on eight and ten year old kids, let them simply have fun. (This was how I developed my skills in baseball as a boy, and later as a young artist.)

I believe this is exactly what our children need when it comes to learning basic skills like reading and writing. If we can somehow foster a love of reading, and an enjoyment creative self-expression with words, we have done a remarkable thing. To give our children a love of learning, a love of reading, and the enjoyment of self-expression through writing and art... what a wonderful gift!

I may be wrong, but I have always believed that children are filled with an innate desire to learn, to create, to explore, and to express themselves. In other words, they begin life with natural motivation. Our role, then, is not to attempt to motivate, but rather to avoid quenching this natural motivation. Here’s an example of how to kill the love of reading. Recently, my wife was at someone’s home when an argument erupted between the two children regarding what to watch on television. The father, infuriated, resolved the matter by punishing the one in the following manner: “Go upstairs and read a book.” Yikes! Reading as punishment is hardly the way to foster a love of reading!
Perhaps one day I will finish my book of exercises for training young people to become better and more interesting writers. In the meantime, take these words to heart. If your children have a passion for self-expression, whether through art, music or the written word, rejoice. Encourage. And worry about technique later. You never know where it will lead.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Yes, Deer

A few shots from my front yard tonight.

Nature and books belong to the eyes that see them. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Geek Humor

This past year I had an idea for a Dilbert cartoon based on an experience in which a company hired a consulting firm for a massive upgrade several years ago.

"The last time our consulting firm was hired by XTL Corp, they observed that at any given moment one of our consultants was sitting on the john."

"They determined that it was costing them $200 an hour for us to use their bathroom, or $8000 a week..."

"which added up to $160,000 during our 20 week systems upgrade at XTL."

"As part of the negotiations for the new contract with XTL, they have asked us to delegate the bathroom duties to a minimum wage employee who has been hired for this purpose."

Panel 5: "Any questions?"

Dilbert: "Yes. What programming languages will he need to know?"


I sent the above cartoon idea to a couple friends, one of them a programmer who enjoyed it and sent this response:

-----Original Message-----
Sent: Wednesday, October 03, 2007 11:19 AM
To: Newman, Ed
Subject: Re: cartoon idea

Funny,That reminds me of the only graffiti I ever wrote.

int i;
int sum = 0;

for (i = 1; i <= 10; i++) sum = sum + i;

printf("Pooping", i);
This is c code that prints the word pooping 10x and then is done.

If I saw this on the bathroom wall it would make me laugh so maybe I made someone laugh...

Recommended Readings

The two greatest influences on our lives are the people we meet and the books we read. Here is a short list of thought provoking or entertaining recent readings.

(1) Relativism ~ by Francis Beckwith & Gregory Koukl
(2) The Death of Common Sense: How Law Is Suffocating America ~ by Philip Howard
(3) The Long Tail ~ by Chris Anderson
(4) False Presence of the Kingdom ~ by Jacques Ellul
(5) Bias ~ by Bernard Goldberg
(6) Blinded by the Right ~ David Brock
(7) Closing of the American Mind ~ by Allan Bloom
(8) The World Is Flat ~ by Thomas Friedman
(9) A Bend in the River ~ V.S. Naipaul
(10) Mere Christianity ~ C.S. Lewis

(Bonus Recommendation) Boogers Are My Beat ~ by Dave Barry

Tuesday, October 2, 2007


"We cannot afford to forget any experience, not even the most painful." ~ Dag Hammarskjold

Hammarskjold was the first Secretary-General of the United Nations. His book, Markings, is a collection of notes, poems, philosophical musings, insights on life and the challenges of being human in the modern world.

I discovered Hammarskjold in June 1993. Of his book I wrote in my own journal, "an honest, deep 'picking at the scabs' trying to understand the mysteries of injury and healing, pain and meaning. And good writing, too." And later I referred to it as a "treasure chest filled with gold pieces."

Here are two more "gold pieces" for today from Hammarskjold:

"Never look down to test the ground before taking your next step: only he who keeps his eye fixed on the far horizon will find his right road."

"Never measure the height of a mountain, until you have reached the top. Then you will see how low it was."

Thank you Mr. Hammarskjold for your service to humanity and for having shared this book of deeply personal and profound insights.

Monday, October 1, 2007

All the Old Cliches Are True

"It seems to me that when a writer at last finds an outlet for his work -- has a channel into which he can pour himself -- it matters very little, from that time on, what he is going through, whether he is happy or sad, healthy or ill. Rather, he lives for his work, for others, to be poured out, to fulfill his reason for being." June 24, 1993

These words were penned the year I had my first book assignment and was simultaneously doing a screenplay call The Extras, while working full time. The two projects tested my time management skills to the limit, but the experience proved highly rewarding on several levels.

I would venture to say that most of us live at a lower level of accomplishment than we are capable of. Set high goals, and then take action. All the old cliches are true. Rome was not built in a day; the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. The cumulative efforts of small daily achievements can really add up. When you look back, it may even one day astound you.