Drone Writing by Humans.

ChainsA recent message on LinkedIn from a new connection had me laughing. I’m barely active on LinkedIn, as I consider myself retired from most of that, but it serves to amuse me more than educate me.

The message:

Thank you for connecting with me earlier. I reached out because I’m a big believer in using Linkein to create win win strategic partnerships with highly motivated individuals and businesses from around the world. If interested, I would like to briefly speak with you so you may tell me about yourself and business and discuss if we might potentially have any synergy together. Thanks in advance for both your time and consideration. Best Regards, ….

I cringed. A boilerplate. It could have been written by the Corporate B.S. Generator.

And I sighed. There were times I had to write like that, in that soulless speak of buzzwords – but it was never to be understood, it was so that it was parsed by Human Resource departments, or Upper Management. This sort of writing is only appealing to the people who either make the Koolaid or drink it. Here. I’ll take a stab at a better way of writing the above with some pointers in blockquotes.

Thanks for adding me [use of personal pronoun attempting to establish a human connection]. I try to connect to people and businesses I might do things with – having looked over your profile [which apparently was not done] I saw you have experience with [add what you found interesting] and thought I’d drop you a note. Maybe we could chat about it sometime?

See, somewhere along the path of writing for business, people lose what they really need for actual communication. The first is not to make the reader cringe. The second is to write toward an objective – what do you actually want to talk about other than overused buzzwords? I mean, I could write like that:

I can schedule a synergistic meeting such that we can holisticly evolve out-of-the-box solutions that leverage competently iterated open-source results. We can appropriately benchmark high-payoff outsourcing through synergistically facilitating scalable relationships in a many-to-many matrix. I look forward to working with you to progressively formulate sustainable ROI.

Corporate Drone.

Or, I could just write, “Clearly, we can communicate here” which translates to:

“I communicate when I desire.

I take great joy in watching you squirm as you actually have to write something of worth to continue attempting to communicate with me.

Please, make yourself relevant or bugger off.”

Clarifying Syntax: Eats Shoots And Leaves

Shoots & Leaves.As luck would have it I ran into Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation in a local bookstore here in Trinidad and Tobago. That’s the upside of the bookstores in Trinidad and Tobago. A hungry reader finds themselves reading off their own beaten path because the books on the shelves simply haven’t been purchased since they were published.

Bookstores in Trinidad and Tobago are a topic worthy of their own book, if anyone would read it.

Amazon.com never suggested it for me. Of course, my digital shadow is not known for reading books like this. Amazon.com doesn’t know I have a Reverse Dictionary within a foot of my left hand, or that next to it are rare paperback copies of Sir Isaac Newton’s works.

As I started reading it this morning, chuckling at a few things, I came to think of why I had always been interested in these sorts of things. Was it my mother the poet? No, not really, it simply made her happy that I was interested for a while in poetry as a child. Was it the devastating accuracy I needed in saying what I meant to my father when I was growing up, being understood? Partly.  The anniversary of his death was yesterday, and I might write something on that.

And so, as I started reading the book, all of this came flooding back. Writing was an outlet, a way to think through things, and most desperately a way to be understood. There is folly in that; even the best of writers is limited by the reading comprehension of the reader.

If you are interested in writing, take a look at this book. I’m only through the first chapter with my first cup of coffee. That alone was worth the price for me so far. The rest, as they say, is cream.

Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation

Axing the Writer’s Block

storytellingI found a way around writer’s block for the site.

It’s Inspirobot.me, a site that generates random memes. It comes up with some brilliant ones (and a lot of really bad ones), but on the days when I can’t think of anything to write about, I’ll be using it.

Meanwhile, I’ve started writing a new book that is fun and interesting to write. It might even be fun and interesting to read, though I figure it will not be a stunning commercial success.

I mean, I’m a writer that has a blog of two flies having sex that somehow incorporates storytelling and randomness. That can be read a lot of ways when you think about it.

Deep Writing

DepthWhat I did in my last post, the Narrative Wars, was use depth through hyperlinks. It’s a form of modern writing on the Internet that has since been bastardized by SEO – where linking to similar pages affects page rank, and thus people have a tendency to link laterally rather than in a hierarchical sense. The lateral linking allows for other perspectives on the same topics, and it definitely has it’s uses, but the depth is better served by building on pre-existing works. An example of that sort of work is Wikipedia.

Speaking for myself, I like to build on a topic – particularly when I’m not sure that the audience (of whom you are one, gentle reader) understands – and it allows me to use my posts as bricks. This highly unused way of writing on blogs and media is not a new idea – it isn’t always a great idea, either – but it stems from an old article in Byte Magazine, in the 1980s, where Apple was very excited about the use of hypertext for this sort of writing – particularly in the context of an encyclopedia.

What would have happened had some of the great writers in the past done this? I don’t know, but I like to think about it now and then. Rather than rewriting something that they or someone else had written about in a way that they wished to convey, imagine them being able to simply link to it and move on. With tabbed browsing on PCs and that ilk of technology, it becomes even easier for someone to follow.

On phones and tablets, not so much.

It’s probably one of the gaps reintroduced that needs to be removed again. It allows building of things beyond stringing things together, building on other things easily.

And really, it seems wasted on people who lack the curiosity to ask, “He means something by this – what does he mean?” – and clicking the link.

On Suicidal Trees

Suicidal Hog Plum Tree.Like most suicides, it gave no warning. The machinations of digging the pond included the tree being over the pond.

The pond was dug right at the very end of dry season. The tree seemed to be fine, this large hog plum tree. No roots were broken, no damage to the tree.

Leaning against it, I learned of the biting ants and learned… not to lean against it. It became a landmark of one of the many things to avoid casually touching on the land, like the weaponized chlorophyll of the Trinidad Roseau.

Maybe it was that lack of touch that was the signal. Maybe, somewhere in the latent consciousness of trees it decided it was not just alone but lonely. Maybe I had chopped down some of it’s children and it couldn’t stand to live without them. Maybe it had seen it’s reflection in the beginnings of the collected water of the pond and it didn’t like what it saw.

Whatever the reason, I found it in the pond one day, broken at the roots. At the roots, I saw the stone.


I do not know why it committed suicide. It seemed happy enough. And here I was left, having to remove it’s burdensome body from the pond, something that between the pickup, tractor and excavator was done… dismembering it accidentally here and there. Corpses are so fragile.

I write all of this to show how easy we are to anthropomorphize non-human things, and how we treat humans like non-human things. About how people commit suicide every day – U.S. military veterans alone at a rate of 22 per day, once every 65 minutes – dismissed as numbers that march into the sunset.

Civilians, too, who pass quietly into the night, not the celebrity.

And here I wrote about a suicidal tree.
And you read it.

Share this to support Suicide Awareness. The life you save may never know. 

The Expanding of the Canvas

Framed WallI was standing with Tony, who I’d just bought a copy of his book from at the Presentation College Reunion. I mentioned I was battling existence in my mind.

He said we writers look at the world differently and see things differently.

That’s a true statement, I think. I also think that it’s not true enough.

Our world is framed, and when I say that, I mean that your world is framed, my world is framed, and everyone else’s world is framed. There is absolutely nothing in our world that we deal with that isn’t a derived construct of our brains. All of our senses are interpreted, processed and spat out to us as reality. We know what we like and we know what we don’t like.

That physiological limitation is the first frame. We cannot experience things like magnetic waves and radio waves directly; these are things that we have interpreted into motion and sound so that we know that they exist. And all of our frames are slightly different – someone may have better vision, someone else better hearing, and someone else may be more sensitive to touch, smell… the list goes on. And how we interpret these signals, the ratio of these signals, varies our framing.

Then, when we introduce more human beings, it gets more complicated. We have sounds we agree on for language, and around the world we agree on different languages. We agree on things like what the color blue is, even though each one of us might perceive it differently, some of us more sensitive to the visual spectrum than others, but we have this agreement on what we call blue – and if you get into the finer details, you find the disagreements.

We frame our own physiological experiences to each other in the context of what we agree on. We will say that the sky is blue, even though it actually only appears to be what we all agree on as ‘blue’. And that, too, we frame – within our physiological frame. The communication frame, the ability to share things with others and have them shared with us.

Then it gets even more framed with society, with cultures and subcultures, and suddenly we’re looking at the world through shared experiences rather than as we actually see it, the phrase, ‘typing at a keyboard’ only making sense to someone who knows what a keyboard actually is.

So I don’t know that just writers see the world differently. I think we writers simply communicate more differently than others in the written sense, some of us  to expand it because we see the world differently at some level of framing and feel the need to expand the canvas within the frame. Some could argue that artists only see things that way, but that argument is typically made by artists. Scientists also have that issue.

In fact, everyone has that issue. It’s how we expand our canvases… or try to… that allows others to define us so.

Influence: Douglas Adams

Ready To Leave The Planet.Imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, “This is an interesting world I find myself in — an interesting hole I find myself in — fits me rather neatly, doesn’t it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, may have been made to have me in it!” This is such a powerful idea that as the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, it’s still frantically hanging on to the notion that everything’s going to be alright, because this world was meant to have him in it, was built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise. I think this may be something we need to be on the watch out for. We all know that at some point in the future the Universe will come to an end and at some other point, considerably in advance from that but still not immediately pressing, the sun will explode. We feel there’s plenty of time to worry about that, but on the other hand that’s a very dangerous thing to say.

– Douglas Adams, Speech at Digital Biota 2, Cambridge, UK, (1998)

I was introduced to the works of Douglas Adams in my youth, and his dark satire suited me well – but he was larger than that in many ways. He also happened to be alive when I was reading his works, and in that he held a fairly lonely spot. So lonely, in fact, he left it in 2001.

His non-fictional work is worth seeking out.  He played with Pink Floyd, co-wrote a Monty Python skit, worked with the BBC in educating the public about wild life… he was far from just a boring human being.

People should know where their towels are. They should also not panic all the time.