Also spelled cod’s wallop. But what does it mean? Folderol. Balderdash. Bunkum. Applesauce. Hogwash. Of the rich catalog of pseudo-sensical synonyms for “nonsense,” Codswallop is a top-drawer specimen.
Consider its codswallop of an etymology (or lack thereof). Some competing theories:
‘Cods’ is a euphemism for testicles (as in cod-piece), and ‘Wallop’, a euphemism for beer. It was a humorous term for ‘piss’, and by transference came to mean ‘rubbish’. — Peter Brooke, By Kinmuck, Scotland
The expression comes from the fairly meaningless sound (oooph!) emitted by one struck (or ‘wallopped’) by a cod (a now abandoned instrument of medieval torture) following questions of the “when did you last see your father?” kind. — Pete Wigens, Stroud, Glos, UK
While the genus of questions proposed here is intriguing, this definition smells fishy.
As far as I am aware, in the 19th and early 20th centuries beer was known colloquially as ‘wallop’, because of its alcohol content. Then a Mr. Cod [sic] started to manufacture Cod’s ginger beer that contained no alcohol and was regarded with contempt by beer drinkers. After that anything lacking substance was referred to as Cod’s wallop. — J. Owens, London, UK
This is the most popular theory, but it’s probably folklore. We know there was a soda maker named Hiram Codd and that ‘wallop’ was one time slang for beer. But if there was ever proof that these concepts are connected, it’s lost to us now.
For the kind of evidence you can see we turn to Phrases.org:
The phrase probably originated in post-WWII Britain. The earliest reference that I can find to it in print is as the title of a sketch by the Anglo-Australian artist Richard Larter, which he created in 1958, while still living in England.
‘Load of Codswallop’ gained more currency the following year, in the script of a 1959 episode of the popular UK television series ‘Hancock’s Half Hour’. The writers Galton and Simpson don’t claim to have coined the phrase, which they say was in public circulation when the show was broadcast. — Gary MartinRichard Larter, 1958
I’ve never seen Hancock’s Half Hour, but it sounds like a riot. In its script we find the first record of codswallop in print, but the writers abdicate responsibility for its creation. Could a word this insane really have chugged through the machinery of public consciousness, for decades, without anyone writing it down?
If not, then those radio play writers have played us hook, line, and sinker. Their made-up, funny-sounding concoction now thrives in the wild; swimming freely in a sea of flim-flam, rigmarole, and riddlemaree.
A memory of the color red.
What color is it this month? Cranberry. Pinkish. Dark/Rusty. And how much (light, medium, heavy) comes out? Do you rage, this month? Do you rage on Day 21, or do you rage on Days 23-29? Do you crave beets, that earthy, dark, sweetness? The juices dripping down your wrists as you peel them? And mushrooms, fire-seared golden with fat. Do you record anything, try to make sense of it? Do you record your patterns, notate the sheet music of a biological experiment: living as a woman in this technological dream? Do you dream heavier this week? Do you drop in deeper, diving off the cliffs in the sunset? Do you scoop the rubies from the floor of the ocean?
That Moment is an app inspired by the CW&T project Time Since Launch. It is a single-use timer that shows the elapsed time since a single event.
What is the most important moment in your life? How long has it been since that moment occurred?
That Moment is designed to make you think about what is important to you, and to help you remember its importance as time goes by.
Each time you come back to That Moment, you will see how long it has been since the moment occurred. This gives you a reminder to think about how that event changed your life, what it means to you after the passage of time, and what it means going forward.
When you launch it, it will walk you through entering a moment. Once you have it set up, try tapping the screen to see some different ways to look at the elapsed time. You may find that seeing the time represented in different ways makes you feel differently about the event and how long it has been since it happened.
That Moment is free for iOS on the App Store.
I love coffee more than life itself. I would probably trade my human existence for an eternity of coffee, and I would certainly trade yours. Perhaps I could be reincarnated as the Platonic form of coffee. Stripped of this mortal coil, I could be both the container and the contained. A duality of drink and drank. Or maybe it’s more of a holy trinity: The father, the son, and the medium roast.
Like many of life’s most hallowed institutions, the creation of coffee involved a series of improbable acts. An account from the Islamic world:
Omar chewed berries from nearby shrubbery, but found them to be bitter. He tried roasting the beans to improve the flavor, but they became hard. He then tried boiling them to soften the bean, which resulted in a fragrant brown liquid. Upon drinking the liquid Omar was revitalized and sustained for days. As stories of this “miracle drug” reached Mocha, Omar was asked to return and was made a saint.
Like a morning yawn interrupted by bird droppings, that first cup must have been jarringly potent. Coffee has since transcended its African origins to become a global phenomenon. Every culture has their own spin on the beverage. In southeast Asia they brew it strong and blanket it with condensed milk. In Turkey they grind it to powder. In America, it comes in plastic drums, fire engine red. Irish coffee is about as Irish as street crime, that is, kinda Irish but mostly a thing in a America. And then there are the Italians.
The espresso is a respectable concoction. It’s a dynamic drink that undulates in gentle cascading layers in front of you, proving the effects of steam extraction. The drink is as fast to produce as consume. It’s a delightful shot.
But what we have done to the espresso, with layers of steamed milk, sugar, flavored syrups, and other filagree, is a modern tragedy. I don’t hate Starbucks, nor would I dismiss the efforts of an entire organization. They make passable coffee on an international scale, and that’s worth something. But their innovations in espresso are the antithesis of coffee.
The history of Starbucks’ cup sizes provide a tidy analogy of decline. In the beginning, there were two sizes: short and tall. An easy-to-parse CPG emulation of the long and short styles of espresso that inspired Howard Schultz 30 years ago. But tall wasn’t tall enough for American tastes, and the company introduced Grande. And “grande” isn’t a bad solution to a naming problem. It means large in more than a few Romantic languages, including Italian, and is an evocative choice of nomenclature for Starbucks’ then-largest drink.
But then came Venti. And Trenta. And toffee drizzle. Milks and mylks. Requests for “extra-pumps,” and Frappucinos, and the PSL, and a litany of easy targets that I won’t even bother complaining about here.
Because frankly, anything that’s not a simple shot of espresso is stupid. Lattes, cappuccinos, macchiatos, and Americanos are straight up coffee hate crimes. I don’t think I have to explain why Americanos are dumb, and people who drink these daily wouldn’t understand anyway. But lattes and cappuccinos are pointless too. Just because we can turn milk into foam, that doesn’t mean we should. Why is this impressive or desirable? If I spooned milk foam into your mouth at 8am, you’d rightly declare me a psychopath. But it’s OK to destroy an espresso this way?
In liberal cities, the laptop class will talk of Cortados, macchiatos, Gibraltars like they are different things. These hipsters just want a shot of espresso. Why add a thimble’s worth of steamed milk on top? My disgust is summed up by the words of a Four Barrel barista named Josh:
I like cream and sugar. Cream and sugar make ice cream. And I say, if you want an ice cream: go get an ice cream!
The kid was nicer about it than I am. He’ll actually make you a latte; I don’t think it should be on the menu. A latte is bullshit. It’s mostly milk, and some milk foam, with a single shot of espresso crying for help at the bottom like a cat crawling through trash in a hoarder’s apartment. Shame on you for ordering this drink.
I’ve heard the French expression, “chacun son gout” but fuck that. That’s how Dockers pants happened and Franco rose to power. Don’t add milk or cream to coffee. It’s a pathetic display of human weakness. You’re complaining that your cappuccino isn’t dry enough? It’s not supposed to be “dry.” If you want foam, go take a bubble bath. Coffee is a drug and a spiritual elixir. In its purest form, it’s a work of art. Please show it some respect.
Do you like reading fake news? Do you wear a helmet when you cross the street? Do you slap our nation’s educators across the face? Do you burn books? If not, then please heed the wise words of the CEO of Kaiser Permanente. He drinks his coffee black because it “puts the fear of God” into people. The man or woman who takes their coffee black rides with me when Rome falls and the bombs come down. In the rear-view mirror is someone who’s fussing with two creams and a Splenda.
And frankly, you’re just missing out. Coffee tastes great. When you plunk in any form of ooze that comes from cows (yeah, you heard me Big Dairy, your product is bad and you should feel bad), you are chemically changing the composition of a drink that has worked for centuries.
Coffee is made by brewing the beans (seeds really) of coffee plants in water. The beans themselves are very bitter, but the roasting process helps with a few things. It incites chemical reactions inside the beans (like the Brouillard transformation) that help unlock complex flavors. You know what’s not a complex flavor? Simple sugars like lactose. You know what interferes with your body’s ability to taste? Huge globs of fat suspended in cream.
There are so many ways to brew delicious coffee, but I think the drip method, or any of its persnickety variations, is best. I like espresso, but it’s a lot of work and energy for a few seconds of beverage. A dripped cup of coffee gives you more time with the liquid and makes it easier to taste a range of flavors.
Depending on the fineness of grind and the length of pour, there is a tremendous range of things you can taste. Drip coffee lets you pull out acidic flavors, toffee flavors, bitter, smoky, sweet, plum, cherry, and more. This is the world you gain access to when you don’t assault your coffee with milk, or cream, or almond milk (which isn’t milk) or soy milk (again not milk) or coconut milk (Jesus Christ, why are we doing this) or non-dairy creamer (like seriously why) or flavored non-dairy creamer (you have a problem).
(And I don’t want to make this about race, but can’t we enjoy something black for once without having to co-opt it, redefine it, or otherwise “whiten” it to make it palatable? ‘Headline: Why lattes are racist and you are too.’)
But, I think I hear you saying, “Coffee tastes bad and I’m not used to it, waaaah!” Let me ask you this: Do you have stage 1,000,000 cancer? Are you on death row? Are you 140 years old? If not, there is still time. Everything worth tasting takes a little getting used to. Most of us started our drinking careers with beverages like Smirnoff Ice or Mike’s Hard Lemonade, and I think you’d agree that anyone still drinking those in their 30s should be taken to a vet and euthanized immediately. There is always time to redefine your relationship with flavors you’re not used to.
Finally, let’s address the elephant in the room: coffee is a vehicle for a drug called caffeine. It’s a stimulant that every government has miraculously decided is legal; it would never be approved by the FDA today. It would be like if your office installed an Adderall dispenser in the breakroom. I mean it’s neat, but a fucked up message.
Well, coffee is that fucked up message. It’s the drink that simultaneously says “wake up” and keeps us in the lockstep of capitalism. It’s free at car dealerships for Chrisssake. It’s stimulant and Soma all in one. We are all sipping from the same gourd, originating from the cradle of civilization, and passed through hands covered with blood, trembling slightly. Coffee is our history. Coffee is the way forward. It is the drink of the human condition—and that is why it must be consumed in darkness.
I’m a sucker for a shiny adjective, and today’s word of the day reminds me of a stiletto heeled pump, covered in glue, rescued with two fingers from a oil drum full of sparkles. Entrez: Blasé.
The word has a tinge of oxymoron to it, since it describes the emotional imperviousness of she who is fully permeated. The French verb blaser means “to blunt” or “to dull,” presumably from overuse and exposure. It comes from the Middle Dutch blasen which means “to blow” in every sense of that word (including that one).
Taking this path, it reminds me of an often misused word, decadent. Decadent literally means “affected by moral decay” but you’ll sooner hear it used to describe fudge.
Delving into the origins of blasé, I now understand that it was never merely a sophisticated sneer at proletarian pastimes. It’s the well-traveled nostril rejecting a rail at midnight. It’s the knowing pause before declining drink number two. Of political protest, it’s the the voice that originates in the belly, not the heart; less passionate perhaps, but less afraid, less sibilant, and more likely to be chain-smoking Camels.
I thought blasé was salty like caviar, but it’s actually bitter, like experience.
There is a generation of witless imbeciles who believe that being fast is more important than being useful. These people, and today’s word of the day, are Responsive. To identify one of them, blast out an email and keep an eye on the second hand of your watch. Responsive People will fire back a note at reflex speed with a sentence-long email that contains zero usable information:
Got it. Will address right away.
Thanks. I’m on it.
Can’t read right now — will check it out in 5 hours.
Once upon a time in the 90s, some prophet of doom (a Marc Cuban or equivalent) proclaimed that ’tis better to have responded to an email within 10 seconds than to never have lov’d at all — and Responsive People are true believers. They’re the people who cut their teeth on Blackberrys and uttered troubling phrases like “I can’t live without BBM” out loud and in earnest. Members of this always-on and eminently reachable cohort have crafted their mobile signatures to say things like:
Sent from mobile please forgive any typos
This curt apologia is a cop-out. If the purpose of a fast response is to make the recipient feel heard, it doesn’t work. Your pathological hair-trigger stimulus response does not equal (or even approach) understanding. This may be subtle, but remember that Pavlov’s dog didn’t drool because he was hungry. He got hungry because someone rang a bell.
I don’t hate Responsive People and want each one to enjoy their life away from the office. If you’re between mouthfuls of a home-cooked meal right now, keep chewing. If you’re “on the move,” then keep both hands on the steering wheel. If you’re straining to grip the edge of a rocky crevasse with your fingernails, then you should attend to that. I don’t need you clogging my life with informationless micro-updates.
And no, I do not forgive the typos. This is a Faustian bargain for knowledge workers at best. I can even hear the Lumberghian drawl in which it might be offered:
“Yeah, hi… if you wanna go ahead and work when you’re not actually at work… that would be great.”
In exchange, we don’t have to spell correctly? Yay.
(Aside to the did-you-get-my-email people who walk over to other humans’ desks to ask if they, in fact and reality, have received the email sent from your computer just moments ago: you should be rotisseried. I’m still traumatized from more than one memory of a skull hovering 12–18" from my shoulder, gaping at my screen and whispering “did you get my email?”)
Now now now. Some of you will say, “Look, I work in enterprise sales.” And say no more Brett, you are saving lives and I commend you on crushing it today, but for the rest of the knowledge worker class just about everything can wait. Every. Single. Thing. Can. Wait.
(Even the animated GIFs for the email newsletter? Even the animated GIFs for the email newsletter.)
The benefit of asynchronous conversation is found in that telling adjective, “asynchronous.” If sent you something, I want you to read it. Even better, I want you to understand it. Because think about what email is. In the Platonic workplace, we’d transfer Perfect Knowledge by touching our foreheads, and then go do the thing that our individual skills and talents allow us do better than our coworkers can.
Instead, we mortals must use email—our 8-bit substitute for telepathy. The result will always be imperfect and in progress. This is communication; something very different from work. Communication is not something to be “done.” Building understanding is a process, not a task. Talk is a verb, not a noun. Get it? Now let’s touch foreheads.
Spare me the scraps of non-versation that only deaden true understanding, and only serve to make you feel like you’re being productive. If it takes you 24 hours to respond to an email, no big deal. Just afford me the same courtesy.
Sent from a laptop computer plugged into the wall.
Today’s word of the day might remind you of trees, foliage, or one of those things that’s neither a pergola or a gazebo. But for me, Arbor unlocks a cavalcade of sense data: the sound of mismatched chairs at a dozen mismatched tables squeaking on a worn wood floor, the glow of small white lightbulbs that spell out “Oakland” on the wall, and the smell and taste of freshly brewed coffee.
Arbor Cafe is a coffee shop in Temescal, Oakland. This is an excerpt from their Employee Handbook.
In this chapter, we talk about our unique approach to The Customer. Even if you have experience working at other cafés or restaurants, read this carefully—because at Arbor, we do things a bit differently.
Follow our Five Simple Guidelines to make sure any customer who walks through our doors gets the true Arbor Experience.
Contrary to your instincts, customers are not be approached in a way that is direct, helpful, or courteous. This is what they expect and at Arbor we consistently Challenge Expectations.
Treat incoming patrons the way a birder might an endangered sparrow: with trepidation, distance, and quiet. Use small, subtle movements, don’t walk up to them, and never try to to feed them.
Exercise caution when a customer walks through the front door. These people probably want something: coffee, snacks, or a meal. Remain out of sight for as long as you can.
Pro-tip! Position your body so that it is invisible to anyone who enters. If you are not sure where exactly to stand, practice with a coworker or manager before your shift. Everybody who walks into Arbor should see a front counter that is perpetually unmanned. They should believe the café is automated or that all the employees have been zapped with a shrink ray.
Sometimes our newest Arbor team members , especially those with prior hospitality experience, are confused by our Unique Approach to Customer Service. Many of them instinctively walk up to the counter, say hello, and take a customer’s order. This often results in a customer ordering something from the menu and paying for it.
Instead, find a Behind Counter Activity to occupy your attention. Sort Tupperware containers. Stand behind the espresso machine and produce steam. Sit on a milk crate and complain about politics. If you do happen to get ensconced in a customer request, see if you can increase the length of time required to do it. There’s no law that says a bagel must be prepared in under 10 minutes.
This can be challenging for newcomers, but you’ll get better over time. One of our earliest employees once spent four minutes “facing” the bottles in the fridge while ignoring a queue five customers deep that started to form behind him. He is now a manager!
After an appropriate amount of dithering (we aim for 80–100 seconds), find your way to the counter where the cash register is. You will almost always find a customer waiting there. But remember, you don’t know her life story, her journey, or her expectations. You really can’t help them.
For example, if a customer asks for a coffee, “for here”, with no room for cream, that is not what he wants, nor can he ever know. Treat all patrons the way a jaded social worker might regard a hopeless case or in the way one patronizes an elderly relative with dementia. But with 1000 times more pity and loathing.
Remember: Arbor isn’t just a business that exchanges goods and services for money, it’s a way of transmogrifying the theoretical concept of “surly” into a temporal and physical experience for our local community. By following the five guidelines above, you can help our customers understand that the best response to their needs is no response at all.
We’ve hired you because we know you can do it. By working together, you and the rest of the Arbor family can help us put the “nay” back in in “neighborhood café.”
As a society, we have a fraught relationship with management. Think of your favorite managers from television. They fall into one of three categories:
None of these people are role models and our collective unconscious seems to like it that way. In video games, it’s a boss or mini-boss that stands in the way of progress. “You’re not the boss of me” is a put-down and its opposite, “You’re the boss,” is a sarcastic statement of indifference. The only boss anyone’s ever respected is Bruce Springsteen, and even he hates that nickname.
But bosses aren’t all bad. You can even learn something from your managers. Here are a few lessons that have stuck with me.
Before achieving greatness, I dragged a two-wheeled cart filled with newspapers around my neighborhood for $45 a month. My boss (let’s call him “George”) was a Persian man who emanated cigarette smoke even when he wasn’t smoking. He was legendarily uninterested in my performance. When I signed new subscribers he didn’t care. When I lost customers he didn’t care. When I quit he didn’t care. He taught me my first lesson about managers: they might not care.
In high school I sold knives door-to-door. Our sales manager was balding and stout like George Constanza. He was either 24 or 44 years old and our training felt like something out of Glengarry Glen Ross — except all the trainees were 17. Between specifics on carbon steel and serrated edges, George hurled motivational phrases and promises of succulent commissions. One afternoon, he got weirdly serious and paced the room. With his palms up, like holding an invisible football, he tearfully told us about his wife’s miscarriage. When I had to quit a month later, I shook from nerves. George taught me the value of a powerful performance.
Since the knife gig didn’t cut it, my cousin found me a job at his construction company. The start time was 6am. In high school, 6am is not a real time. I briefly considered faking my own death, but took the job anyway.
My boss, the site foreman, resembled a slim George Lucas. He was exceedingly supportive. I redesigned an attendance sheet for the workers and George acted like I had invented new tech or something. Even though it was criminally early — and I had no internet all summer — George made the job something I looked forward to. He taught me the power of gratitude.
In my final year of university, I worked at a pizza place a block from campus. It should have been busy, but the restaurant twisted their menu into an upscale monstrosity. Students rejected our $4 gourmet slices, so I spent most of my time cleaning surfaces and listening to my boss, George, talk about The Stone Roses. They were his favorite band. (Let that sink in for a minute.) He was also a practicing Wiccan. I ate lots of free pizza and George talked a lot about Beltane and the Madchester sound. It was the best job I ever had.
My first job after graduating was at a small construction company. A starter gig that ended up hooking me for four years. My boss, George, was a maniac, and there’s no easy to way to describe him. Some anecdotes:
I later learned that when George was hiring for my position he collected all the resumes from men and threw them away. He only kept mine on a suspicion that I was a “hot Russian chick.” The person who interviewed before me was literally a cheerleader. I learned a lot from George, but most important was the value of chaos in the workplace. And that’s it’s worth it to hire a wildcard sometimes. I invited George to my wedding.
For a very short period, I was fully embedded in the corporate world. I worked in a skyscraper downtown, I wore a Hugo Boss suit, and I talked to investment bankers all day. My boss’s boss was George, a gregarious Aussie, and our most memorable interactions bookended my tenure.
First, was the job interview. George asked me far out questions like, “What’s your favorite color?” and “How many Tim Hortons are there in Canada?” Remarkably I got both of these right.
The second moment was when I gave my notice. It was only 8 months into the gig, but an actually life-changing opportunity was at hand. I thought George would be disappointed, but instead he was surprisingly real. He encouraged me to go for it. “Be loyal to yourself; no company will never be loyal to you.” Some managers do in fact care.
Upon entering tech, I got to experience five managers in five years. In a happy irony (considering the industry) four of those five managers were women. The short and overlapping experiences with these managers makes it hard to single anyone out, but here is what what I learned in aggregate.
In Silicon Valley, five years is a long time to spend at one place. I am genuinely glad I did.
My last company had a holocratic structure. Technically, no one was a manager and yet everyone was a manager. I learned a lot at this job, but one lesson is forever branded into my skull: People trump process. There’s no technology that can replace human interaction and no algorithm to represent leadership; sometimes there’s needs to be someone (a human) in charge.
These days I am my own manager. I must devise, undertake, and mark my own tests, which really isn’t fair for anyone involved. I am ruthless and impatient and I never, ever say thank you. It occurs to me as I write this that there is so much I can learn from my past managers.
Interestingly, the lessons I remember most aren’t the ones about increasing performance. They are the ones that remind me that the best managers served me as much I served them. I could stand to cut myself some slack once in a while. To every so often interrupt my day with a wooden toucan or a dose of Mancunian beats.
It’s a shame we don’t appreciate the miracle of aeronautics. We talk about air travel like it’s a chore. Wide-eyed families once draped themselves in Sunday Best for a two-hour skip through the sky. Now they don pajamas and trudge through the airport with Xanax in their carry on. We treat every flight like it’s our first day in prison. That’s today’s word of the day.
Of course, our post-nine-eleven security theatre doesn’t help. Mandatory processing by uniformed guards is hardly a liberating experience. But it’s only a speed bump. Once reunited with your shoes and your belt, you get to experience the closest thing we have to time travel.
Time travel! I mean, we used to visit Europe without airplanes, but we’d have to slosh around on a wood boat with no Wi-Fi and possibly lice, for weeks.
Today: you can have dinner in America and breakfast in England. That’s magic.
Not that I’m salivating to sit on a boat. The very existence of aeronautics makes boat travel a curio. Only aerophobics and “old-timeys” are fortunate enough to know the true space of our planet. For the rest of us, Europe is a cold sandwich and two bad movies away. Asia is four movies and the risk of deep vein thrombosis. For the convenience of teleportation, we accept ignorance of our planet’s true size.
We also get a warped relationship with tourism. Imagine if took a fortnight to get to Paris; would you spend more than a fortnight there? You wouldn’t stay at the Hilton the entire time (I hope). You might talk to a local. You might find something more interesting to do than the Tour Eiffel. You might even slow down and soak in the culture — not spritz it on, at arm’s length, with your smartphone.
I knew someone who did one of those Contiki tours. It’s a packaged experience that’s busses you through (not to) a dozen countries in 10 days. You get off the coach with enough time to see The Thing You’re Supposed To See and, if you’re lucky, make out with a local. If you’ve ever experienced the thrill of filling out a Subway Sub Club card, then you get how Contiki feels about travel. How ironic the brand is named for Thor Heyerdahl’s epic expedition. The real Kon-Tiki trip was all journey: 100 days on a balsa wood raft in the Pacific. Spoiler alert: Landfall wasn’t the point. It never is. When you donate a slice of your life to the journey, destination is only a part of it.
Time travel is like a pernicious personal assistant. It doles out chunks of time with one hand and erases understanding of time’s value with the other. Flight is an abbreviation; it’s worth remembering what it stands for.
You can’t say no to brunch at Philip’s, despite the shortcomings. His living room seats about 8 people comfortably, 12 uncomfortably, and today buckles under the strain of 20 hungover hipsters with paper plates on their laps. Plus the whole ordeal is tragically vegan. But there is always way too much Champagne and that guarantees good conversation. Between bites of a soyrizo scramble, Jeff asks me questions about Sales. That’s today’s word of the day.
Sell me this pen.
What? Look, I’ve seen Wolf of Wall Street. This isn’t —
You said sales is about influence. Influence me to buy this pen.
Before I protest, I noticed that this gauntlet is noticed by other brunchers. Damn it. I take the pen from Jeff, sit up straight, and hold it in front of his nose.
OK, asshole. I’ll sell you this pen. But like, let’s get real about this. Some preliminaries. Do you have money? Money you are willing to part with, today?
Yeah, I do. And I might part with it, if your pitch is convincing…
Well, here’s the thing. We both know you don’t want this pen. So I’m going to sell you something you want along with this pen. Something that can change your life completely, and forever. Would you pay for that?
Hm… intriguing. Yeah, I suppose I would pay for something like that.
I put the pen down on the table with a snap.
Finally, are you open to an unsolicited personal observation at some point during this sales pitch?
I don’t know what that means, so sure.
Great! Let’s start with an exercise to help me understand your needs and goals. Take this pen.
With my mimosa in a solo cup held precariously between my kneecaps, I gingerly retrieve a napkin from across the coffee table and place it in front of Jeff.
OK. Write down what you are having for breakfast five years from now. Don’t overthink it. Put yourself at breakfast, exactly five years from today, look down, and write down what you see.
What I’m actually eating?
Yeah, what’s on your plate. It’s December 14, 2022 if that helps.
OK… It really doesn’t. But let me think about it. I don’t know. There are so many possibilities. I’ll probably… still be in Oakland?”
I tap the napkin in front of him.
Breakfast. Write down the breakfast.
Right. Well then eggs for sure, because I mean… I’m having eggs no matter where I am. And bacon?
Jeff is interrupted by Sheppard, who’s following this conversation.
Five years is a long time? What if there’s an uprising of self-aware robots and resources are kind of scarce? Maybe you’ll be eating vegan?
Oooh. Robot uprising is a good point, but I’m not going vegan. Singularity or no. I’m having bacon and eggs. And since I’m in California, let’s add some fresh avocado too.
Write it down.
Jeff writes down “Bacon, eggs, and avocado” on the napkin. Before he can put the cap back on the pen, I flip the napkin over.
Not so fast. Here’s the next question. Close your eyes and imagine a world of no obstacles. No barriers to your ambition. You can live the exact life you want to live from this day forward. Live where you want. Do what you want. Be whoever you want to be. Now open your eyes: what are you having for breakfast, five years from today?
I mean, you’re asking about my dream breakfast — ?
I am but I’m not. What I’m really asking is, “what is the life you want?” Truly and candidly.
Wow. I mean, that’s a huge question…
It is… but maybe it’s the only question? Even though we don’t actually ask ourselves out loud, we’re answering it every day. Through our actions and our inactions. Everything we do is world-facing memo: “This is who I want to be. This is what I want to do.” So I want you, just for the purpose of this napkin, to let yourself envision the life you’d actually want to live.
The room is a lot quieter now, waiting for Jeff’s answer.
I want to be an entertainer obviously.
Obviously. Everyone in this room knows that. And you should be. So what would breakfast look like if the world you wanted was true?
There’s grapefruit. There’s grapefruit because I live in LA. And that’s where I need to be if I’m serious about writing—and I think I’m serious about writing. I mean, I could even live with Kirby; he’s been trying to get me down there for ages. I definitely want to get some parts too, but I mostly want to write. Television. And shoot stuff! Remember when I used to make all those movies–-“
That’s great, Jeff. I don’t care. Breakfast. What. Is. For. Fucking breakfast.
Ha! So grapefruit… and eggs and bacon, obviously, but then… why not some cottage cheese? Is this craft services because —
No, it’s not craft services.
This is kind of restrictive, you know.
Look man, just keep it restaurant-ish.
Jeff starts scribbling “Grapefruit. Eggs. Bacon. Cottage cheese.”
Well, since I’m crushing it, then I’m adding some lox and…
Dude, cinnamon buns.
The room oohs.
I tap the napkin. Jeff writes down his second breakfast and hands the napkin back to me. I hold it up for the room. Everyone is watching like I’m about to do a magic trick. In the kitchen someone pops the 11th bottle of Champagne that morning.
You wrote down two visions of the future. I’m not here to judge either one. They both sound like decent breakfasts and bacon is involved either way, so your future looks bright. What’s important is that both visions are possible. There is nothing in the realm of fantasy here. Cottage cheese exists. You can move to LA. You know how to write. You are dumb enough to be an actor—
—and I don’t think there is anything really stopping you from living that grapefruit, bacon and eggs, cottage cheese, frittata, lox, and cinnamon buns life. You can have this breakfast. Is that fair to say?
The group murmurs and Jeff nods his assent.
But now my unsolicited personal observation: When I asked you for the breakfast you will be having… you didn’t mention grapefruit. You said bacon and eggs and avocado in Oakland. The breakfast you will have in five years is different from the breakfast you could have without obstacles. Is that right?
I mean… yeah.
Why. What’s the difference?
OK, you’re getting psychological.
I’m talking about breakfast. We agree that both are realistic, but you think one is more realistic. It seems like.
Well, Maybe I’m scared of failing? Or I’m worried that I don’t know how to actually do it? I mean, I’m also just super comfortable here and… well, maybe I’m afraid of admitting I actually want that second breakfast.
Perfect! So there’s a breakfast you want. And a breakfast you don’t want. And Jeff, I want you to get the breakfast you want. I mean it. We’re pals, right? So now I’m coming clean. This is what I’m going to try to sell you today. Do you want that grapefruit, Jeff?
I think I do.
Dude. I’m half-numb from 30 mimosas; you have to do better. Do. You. Want. The. Grapefruit.
Yes! I want that grapefruit and that cottage cheese!
And cinnamon buns!
And cinnamon buns!
The room reacts with glee.
So if it isn’t obvious, these breakfasts are a metaphor—
—for a change in mindset. To live a different life five years from now, it sometimes takes a change today. Do you believe that’s true?
That makes sense.
Now here’s the hard part. To make this happen you have to sign a declaration. Circle the breakfast you want and cross out the breakfast you don’t. You’re going to do it here, in the living room, over breakfast, in front of your dear friends. Once you do, everyone will applaud, blah-blah-blah. Ready?
Fuck yeah. I’m actually excited.
Once again the pen is in my hand.
And here’s the good news. This pen—the pen that you will use to signal to your friends, to the universe, and to yourself, that you are committed to the future you want — is surprisingly affordable. Because it’s Saturday and I’m almost drunk, the price is every single dollar you have on your person right now. All the money in your wallet.
Haha, I don’t even know how much I have on me.
It doesn’t matter. If it’s a dollar, then that’s the price. If you have $1,000 I’ll take that too. But your future isn’t free. Every journey means sacrifice. You don’t get that grapefruit breakfast unless you buy in.
Everyone is looking at Jeff. He pulls his wallet out and sighs.
I literally just went to an ATM. $120 dollars.
And if you act now, I’ll throw in a full breakfast, exactly five years from today, on me.
I remember being a new mom in winter in Brooklyn. There was snow on the ground. The air of our apartment was stale with the smell of the diaper pail and her unceasing wails. The tiny, irate baby whom I was simultaneously in love with, terrified of, and resenting, waved her miniscule fists, her eyes scrunched up. Desperately I tried to stuff my nipple into her mouth. She wouldn’t latch. She screamed in hunger. Then when she finally did latch, days later, after a lactation consultant hired at great cost by my absent husband gave me a silicone nipple shield, she screamed in pain. She writhed, her face red, her belly full of breast milk that she spit up moments later. I could do nothing but pace the three rooms with her on my shoulder, screaming in my ear. I had no power to help her. I had no power to do anything. It was an all-day effort just to make dinner.
During one of her 20-minute naps, I stared at the tops of our kitchen cabinets, covered in fuzzy gray dust, feeling dulled by lack of sleep, wired by coffee, bored out of my mind, trying to come to grips with the fact that this was my life now. Forever. There’s no giving back an infant, even the most defective, most miserable, most pissed-off late-term preemie. And, I am a terrible mother. Not only can I not help my own baby, I don’t even want to any more. I want my old life back. I want to sleep enough so that simple math makes sense again, enough so that I am not afraid to drive a car by myself lest I zonk out at the wheel. I want to leave this apartment and go out in the cold sun. I don’t want to send emails about diaper service, join new-mom groups full of self-satisfied mothers and their well-behaved babies, or practice wrapping myself and my delicate newborn in 20 yards of authentic baby-carrying fabric. I want the screaming to stop. I want my mother.
Avital and I have started learning Japanese! We’re aiming to live in Tokyo for a few months in 2019 and are working hard to learn the language.
Right now we’re using Duolingo to get the basics down. It’s a decent app that has built in lessons and quizzes. It’s fun but sometimes I wish they’d give more context and explanations into the lessons rather than just throw new words at us.
Duolingo has a companion app called Tinycards which has all the vocab on flashcards. They’re a helpful way to practice and there are also third party decks to supplement the Duolingo lessons – I used ones to learn the characters with mnemonics.
I’ve already learned the two kana alphabets / syllabaries: hiragana and katakana. Now I’m focused on picking up vocabulary, grammar, and learning Kanji. I’m using the website WaniKani to memorize Kanji and more vocab. It starts slow but looks like it’ll be pretty effective.
I’m looking forward to getting proficient enough to learn by reading manga or watching anime but I think that’s still aways off.
If you have any suggestions or materials you highly recommend, let me know!
Adulthood is the key, youth the shackles. Don’t believe me? Picture a 7-year-old, full of snot, next in line at the supermarket. He’s kicking a basket along the ground, inch by inch. The basket holds his weight in cookies. The blue-hairs in line behind him are aghast. They twist their heads in search of the responsible parent. The nosy cashier peers down his apron: Does your mommy know were you are? Where are you going to do with all those cookies? How are you going to pay for those?
Seriously demeaning stuff.
It takes two decades for our protagonist to earn the benefit of the doubt. Now he’s 27, has post-nasal drip, and slides the basket with an adult foot. The other shoppers charitably assume the cookies are for his rosy-cheeked progeny. Or that he’s a Little League coach. For fanciful minds: he’s a burgeoning cookie magnate. Or he’s forced to pay a ransom to an elf.
We talk of kid gloves, but really it’s manacles. Everything at the kid’s table is less free. And smaller. Micro-aggressions for micro people. Alongside Chicken Fingers ’N’ Fries, the kid’s menu offers many pint-sized affronts to liberty. Curfews, regulations, timeouts, “because-I-said-sos.” Not to mention the insidious gaslighting disguised as polite inquiry henceforth known as The Question:
“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
Perhaps after jabbing a child with a meat thermometer on his birthday, The Question does the best job of saying, “You’re a work in progress, kid.”
My most potent exposure to The Question was in seventh grade, when it became subject of an entire unit in Health & Guidance. Health & Guidance was not a priority class at my middle school. It’s the kind of pedagogical experience they ask a gym teacher to helm. There’s nothing in it like Canadian history or prime numbers; the syllabus was sex and our future careers. You know, totally irrelevant stuff.
I bristled then as I do now. Everyone in class showed up with a dream vocation in mind. Total cliché was apparently encouraged. I don’t remember that day’s breakdown, but this sarcastic mapping is a facsimile:
I showed up empty-handed. “Not a problem.” My track-suited instructor walked me to the modest library at the edge of the portable. I dove into a pile of 20, thin-as-a-dime, hardcover tomes in the genre of So you want to be….
One book stood out. One cover to be exact. A black and white photo. A man wearing glasses pointing at a massive computer. I liked computers. The man seemed happy. The title held the cover’s only color —crimson red, the shade of HAL9000’s lens. The color held two Latinate terms. Systems Analyst.
As the French say, “why le fuck not”? For the duration of a unit entire, I wanted to be a systems analyst.Here’s your scientifically assigned career
System isn’t that Latin actually. The Greek systema means “organized whole, a whole compounded of parts.” It’s a part of the compounded synistanai; syn (“together”) and histanai (“cause to stand”). In the center of histanai, a Proto-Indo-European root (sta–) provides far-reaching support across many languages. Meaning “to place” or “to stop,” it gives footing to stand, stable, statis, static. It evokes firmness. Rootedness. Solidity. Unmoving.
Greek histanai is a prefixed form based on the older root sta- “stand” which also produced English stand, stage, and stay. In Greek it produced stasis “motionlessness”, whose adjective was borrowed as English static. The verb meaning “stand” in Latin was stare, which went into the making of the stamen, stamina. Alpha Dictionary
Doomsday harbinger and Dilbert creator Scott Adams loves systems. Specifically, he advocates for the use of systems over goals. Even more specifically: “Goals are for losers.” A goal is a giant whose shadow blackens your yard until he is slain. And having slain him, you are without purpose until the next beast is chosen.
Goals are a lot like The Question. Both are a gift-wrapped plaque reading: “You are not enough.” A reminder that you are incomplete. That danger looms and that you must Do Something about it.
A systems analyst is a person who uses analysis and design techniques to solve business problems using information technology. Systems analysts may serve as change agents who identify the organizational improvements needed, design systems to implement those changes, and train and motivate others to use the systems. Wikipedia
Though I don’t share Adams’s views on Pleasanton, CA (he lives there) I share his admiration for systems. “Lose 25 pounds” is a goal. “Avoid sugar and unhealthy foods” is a system. “Learn fluent Mandarin by 2019” is a goal. “Practice Mandarin for 30 minutes every day” is a system. “Write 52 blog posts this year” is a goal. “Publish readable words every week” is a system.
Here’s the difference: If you don’t speak Chinese by this time next year, you’re a failure. But if you miss a half hour of practice today, there is always tomorrow. And tomorrow and tomorrow. Goals punish; systems forgive. Systems give you the power to keep going, because that’s what a system is. A promise to yourself to continue. Systems are not the growing shadow of a two-story foot descending on your house. They are the speed of your steps as you march to the castle. Systems are the sharpness of your sword, and the sound of her swipes against flesh.
And there’s a temporal difference too: Goals seem to be waiting for you in the future, but once realized, they evaporate into the past. Not even time for a handshake and you are on to the next one. Systems are now. Their continuous grasp encourages you as you undertake the work of the world you want. When you live in systems, you are in the process of the present.
Perhaps instead of “what do you want to be” we should ask the more answerable “what is it that you do?” It’s a more accurate predictor anyway, and more telling of the person we might become.
First off, thanks to everyone who’s helped support my Kickstarter project to Make 100 Risographed Mini-Comics!
It’s my hope that this project inspires others to make mini-comics and zines of their own. To that end, I’ve made my guide on “How To Make a Mini-Comic” freely downloadable so you can print it at home and fold it yourself. Spoiler alert, this comic is one of the 8 mini-comics in my Make 100 project.
The comic is copyright-free! Feel free to print it out and use it how you wish. Hopefully it will inspire you to make mini-comics of your own. I’d love to see what you end up creating!
This project ends in just 14 days. Please help spread the word so we can reach the goal. Thanks!
The post How to make mini-comics, my guide to cutting and folding an 8 page zine. appeared first on Doc Pop's Blog.
For 2017’s 24 Hour Comic Day I decided to make 8 mini-comics, instead of one 24 page comic. The project turned out so well that I’ve launched a Kickstarter to make a limited run of all 8 comics as a set. The project has already been selected as one of Kickstarter’s “Projects We Love” and will be included in their list of Make 100 projects throughout January.
The final prints will be made on a vintage Risograph printer and only 100 sets will be made (plus any extras from the $32 level). Please check it out and consider helping support the project.
The post New Kickstarter launched: Make 100 Risographed Mini-Comics appeared first on Doc Pop's Blog.
My sister runs a little coloring book challenge called "Cunt Quarterly." She sends out a vagina coloring page for friends to flex their creativity, color it in, and send it back. She then chooses a winner and sends them a prize. It's meant to happen quarterly, but you know how these things go...
I wanted to do mine in watercolor this time, but didn't want the thick black outlines—so I transferred the image to watercolor paper (shading the back of the coloring page and tracing over it for light graphite lines). Whether or not I win, I'm really pleased with how it turned out!
Happy 2018 y’all. I’ve been cranking away at a bunch of new things already this year. It’s nice to finally be coming out of my funk and being productive again. Later this week I hope to launch a Kickstarter for a collection of hand-folded mini comics, and after that I’ll be doing another yo-yo Kickstarter. Most of my creativity has been focused towards music though, with 4 new song ideas fleshed out this year.
Here’s my most recent one:
2017 was a very productive year for Diegetic Games! I’ll give a quick overview of my releases, drafts, and conference attendance. Also, launched a Patreon and would love your support in making better games! Further, I started a podcast called Jamming on Games and have released three episodes so far.
I participated in five game jams and I continue to love jams as a reason to quickly prototype and ship finished games.
In April, I wrote Good Morning Magicland for the 200 Word RPG Challenge. You put on a series of short shows on a local access TV station in a fantasy world. It’s a lot of fun to play and I may return to it someday to add some extra player scaffolding and more settings.
In June I participated in Game Chef and released my first larp, Across the Border. It’s about a covert border crossing and takes place walking around your neighborhood or a park. I’ve gotten increasingly excited about larps and expect to keep writing and playing them in 2018.
In September, I submitted another larp, Among the Mortals, to the Golden Cobra larpwriting competition. The game has two players peoplewatching in a public space and speculating on the fates of those around you.
In October, I submitted GIF-Apocalypse to the 280 Character Game Jam and it’s a silly little game played through Twitter using animated GIFs.
Finally, I created a Ghost Court / Paranoia mashup for the New Year, New Game, Game Jam. It’s called Loyalty Celebration and is pretty silly.
In the first few months of the year, I made significant progress on Make Haste! – a game where you draw a map as you narrate a quest. The game is in a pretty mature form and I need to make the final version of it at some point…
I also designed and tested a few games that have yet to be released as drafts.
I ran two playtests of BART Larp, a collaboration with Albert Kong that takes place on public transit. I have the draft of the rules half-written and hope to get it to a sharable state in the next few months.
Another larp I’ve been developing is Behind the Magic – a fantasy mockumentary that I brought to Metatopia. I’m extremely happy with how the game is shaping up. A current draft is available to my Patreon backers and I hope to release a final version this quarter.
I tested two other games that I’m designing through my Patreon – Duetta and Chaos is a Ladder. The former is a sandbox game with 30 minute adventures with two players that affect a persistent, shared world. The latter is a one player, one GM scheming game inspired by Littlefinger on Game of Thrones. Look for more information about both, later this year.
I was fortunate to attend Dreamation, Big Bad Con, and Metatopia. All three were phenomenal and I’m planning to attend all three again this year. I ran my first (non-playtest) con game at Big Bad Con and plan on running games at Dreamation and Big Bad Con this year, too. If you’re heading to any of those events – come find me!
It was a super productive year and I’m looking forward to another high-output year in 2018. I’ll be sharing updates here on the blog but if you want early access to drafts and design notes – go check out my Patreon!
If you want to get updates about new games and drafts, sign up for the Diegetic Games Newsletter
I have released a new version of SuprSetr, my set management tool for your Flickr photos.
Version 3.2.0 adds an option to use machine tags when running FavrTagr, and adds support for the experimental Flickr searches based on color, image orientation, and picture style.
This means you can do things like create a set where tags contain “blackandwhite” and image orientation is “square“:
Or, if you tag your photos with something that identifies the camera, you could make a set of all the photos with “red” taken by, say, a FujiFilm camera:
The experimental options are definitely experimental. They don’t work by themselves – you need to search by tags or machine tags, and then the experimental options will filter those results. However, it is still a lot of fun to play with the new options.
SuprSetr is written in Java and will run on Linux, Mac, and Windows machines. It’s free and licensed under the GPL. You can get it here.