Tools of Goodness

Book review: Writing About Your Life

children sitting on the floor, listening to a story

For the first 24 or so years of my life, my literary drug of choice was the novel.

I liked stories, you see, making them up, having them read to me, hearing old ones of my grandfather's over and over again. (Maybe that's the secret behind the strength of the bonds that can happen between the very old and the very young who love each other: the comfort-need to tell over and over neatly intersects with the reassurance that repetition brings with it.)

All that changed when I met Kate O'Hair, my first art director at Young & Rubicam New York. Kate was from Detroit originally, but had already lived in San Francisco and beat me to New York City by a few years. She was that good kind of worldly, accomplished and accessible, that made learning about cognac, Ry Cooder and the Hitchcock canon fun. (Believe me, a pedant could fuck up even the Cooder.)

Kate made everything seem fun and interesting and worth learning about, and it was from Kate that I learned how much fun non-fiction in general, biographies in particular, could be. She got me started with Zelda and A Moveable Feast and The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas*; somewhere between Growing Up, Remembering Denny and Shock Value, I was hooked. Because while fiction can be engrossing and illuminating in its own way, non-fiction stories of the people who came before us shine that light, connect the dots and inspire into the bargain.

Memoir gets a bad rap for a whole bookful of reasons. A story is only as good as the storyteller, for one, and not too many people know how to tell a good story anymore. It's a skill, like anything else, that requires a mix of instruction and immersion, and over a varying but always extended period of time, and who has that these days? Some of the skill lies in the mastery of nuts and bolts stuff, structure, grammar and tone, but a whole lot of the magical pixie dust happens with intent: what is the story trying to do? What is it there to illuminate? What are we supposed to see after engaging with it that we couldn't see before?

For as long as I've been at this game of writing, I'm really at the beginning of learning how to tell good stories, which require a whole different level of intention and restraint. My experience crafting the Ignite piece about my hospital-bed epiphany is a great example: some 20 hours went into telling that five-minute story, and most of the hours weren't about picking out good Flickr photos for my slides. It was telling and re-telling, pushing in and moving out, plucking this and condensing that. It was biting into the bits of every thing that happened, worrying the thread of the story, until I found the five minutes' worth that would engage people's attention long enough to pass along a truth I couldn't even articulate at the outset.

This is what William Zinsser talks about in Writing About Your Life, his book devoted to teaching the generalities and particulars of teasing out the true stories of your life. The material he uses to instruct comes from his life and his experience, and his methodology of explication is brilliant: tell the story, then stop to explain how he told you the story, what he left in the story and what he took out of the story, and finally, why he told you the story. There are many fine snippets of Zinsser's stories in the book, his boyhood school, his world travels, the unusual points on his career trajectory, but they never feel like random bits. Rather, like some kind of gentle word magician, he weaves all of the stories into a unified whole whose point is not just how to tell stories, but why we might want to, why we need to.

There are not enough stars in the world to shower upon this book, and I'm not yet the kind of storyteller I must be to do it justice. If you want to tell any kind of story, on your blog, to save for your grandchildren, to make sense of your own past, buy this book immediately. It's what I plan to do as soon as I return this copy to the library. It is an instruction manual and an inspiration, and something I want by my side as I move through this next phase of my journey...


Image by Greene/Ellis via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

*Which turned out to be not an autobiography at all, but the best kind of sneaky auto/bio mashup, and the only thing of Gertrude Stein's I've been able to get through to date.

Yo! Disclosure! Links to the books in the post above are Amazon affiliate links. This means if you click on them and buy something, I receive an affiliate commission. Which I hope you do: it helps keep me in books to review. More on this disclosure stuff at publisher Michael Hyatt's excellent blog, from whence I lifted (and smooshed around a little) this boilerplate text.

Book review: The Creative Habit


Whether from laziness, lack of inspiration or the youthful conditioning that made me the cheapskate I am today, it's rare that I will mark up a book.

Unless the book is choreographer Twyla Tharp's The Creative Habit and you are me over the past two weeks. If my first pass was any indication, I'm going to need to bust out the box of 64 for subsequent reads. Of which there will be many. Many.

It would almost be disrespectful not to mark up a book like this: a staggeringly juicy and well-crafted manual/bible/first aid kit, bursting with tools and inspiration for creative types, served up in every possible way to serve every possible style of learner.

There are concepts, laid out clearly and logically and in an order that makes perfect sense, and that would be a jumble of chaos in the hands of lesser wranglers*.

There are stories to illuminate and illustrate the concepts, both from Tharp's career and those of the great artistic legends of our time and beyond.

There are pictures, there are (praise be!) lists, there are pull-quotes.

And there are exercises, 32 glorious, immediately executable exercises, that I guarantee you will be all over like white on rice.

One minor quibble? The bulk of the book is rather unfortunately set in Bodoni, a lovely title case, but a bit hard on the eyes as a text case**. On the other hand, it slows you down, which is probably a good thing: I quite often found myself racing through parts, my greedy brain screaming for more, and faster. This is a book to be devoured and savored, and marked up, and discussed, and grabbed for in moments of creative crisis. Of which...well, you know.

Honestly, I don't care who you buy this from. But buy it. It's not a loaner. Not unless you have an extremely understanding librarian.

And then, when you get it, don't put it on your "to read" stack: put your ass in the chair, get a big, old writing implement and commence to reading***.

You can write and thank me later...


Image by laffy4K via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

*The author credits go to Tharp and Mark Reiter, Tharp's literary agent and a frickity-frackin' Renaissance one at that, he's collaborated on eleven other books! That's the kind of agent I want, dammit.

**Merlin likened it to "reading a 250-page poster for a freshman poetry series." Maybe unkindly, but brother, it's the truth.

***Thank you, Julien. You were 100% right, and I totally owe you a beverage of choice.

Referral Friday: TextExpander for the Mac


If you're like me, you type the same stuff over and over again, without even knowing it.

  • Your name.
  • Your address(es).
  • Your (too many, and growing list of) phone numbers.
  • Etcetera.

I've written before of my awesome and abiding love for TextExpander, the text expansion program for the Mac. After mere hours of use, I wrote about it so glowingly that they used my quote as a testimonial (and an awesome and abiding, albeit virtual, friendship with Smile On My Mac's evangelist, Jean MacDonald, was born). Other people, Merlin Mann, from whom I learned of it (and many other Tools and Practices of Goodness), and Gina Trapani, of Lifehacker and many other flavors of worthwhile celebrity, have done a better job than I've the time or brain cells to pull off (especially since my brain feels like it's permanently expanded, and in the bad way, in this heat.)

Still, I'll share what have become my favorite uses for TextExpander snippet storage:

  • Email signatures (I have many!)
  • Amazon affiliate links
  • Evergreen frequently-linked-to stuff (my newsletter signup page, my filthy motivational song, etc.)
  • Evanescent linked-to stuff (PresentationCamp, the workshop I did with Pam Slim, etc.)
  • Etcetera (biggest category, always thinking of new uses)

Bonus screencast of TextExpander in action, communicatrix-style

Regular readers have likely noted (I hope) that at the top of most posts, I use a carefully chosen photo from the Creative Commons Attribution-Only pool on Flickr to illustrate my posts. Extra-careful readers have probably also noted that there's a line tucked into the bottom of those posts that looks like this:

Image by CrazyFlickrName via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

That's two links and a bunch of italicized text every time. Or, it's three keystrokes, f-f-l (without the dashes), that invokes all this data:

<em><a href="%|">Image by  via Flickr</a>, used under <a href="">a Creative Commons license</a></em>.

The super-magical part, as Merlin explains in his post, is that there are some nifty shortcuts built into TextExpander itself, like the "%|", which is a command for the cursor to travel back from the period at the end of whatever your long text thread is to the place where the "%|" resides.

Here's a little screencast I put together to show you how it works:

In case the video doesn't play, you can click here to watch it. Also, you might want to embiggen it via the button with the four arrows in the lower right-hand corner, since it's all about the minute details. Still working on the encoding and such, but this is at least legible.

Let me know what you think of the video, okay? And TextExpander, if you buy it!


UPDATE (5/27/10): If you have to suffer through a second computer running on the Windows platform, check out Breevy, by Patrick McCann: it also invokes text via self-designated shortcuts, and you can import your TextExpander snippets directly or via Dropbox. And let me know how you like it, okay?

*For any of you especially hawkeyed viewers, that long-ass link is not an affiliate link, but it is the one they sent me in the email this week. As someone who obsesses over my own stats, I can totally appreciate this desire to know from whence come the links. But no, not making an effing dime off of it.

**Ditto on this long-ass link. Also, it takes you straight to the iTunes store, don't freak out! Just breathe!

Referral Friday: Photo rescue kit from Sally Jacobs, Archivist


Referral Friday is part of an ongoing series inspired by John Jantsch's Make-a-Referral Week. For more about that, and loads more referrals for everything from cobblers to coaches to gee-tar teachers, start here. Pass it on, baby!

You know that gigantic box/drawer/garage-full of loose snapshots you have socked away?

Don't worry about them.

As my friend and archivist extraordinaire, Sally Jacobs, says, those are the photos that still stand a chance of making it another generation without immediate intervention.


That cache of round-cornered square satin prints of you at camp circa 1976 that you neatly ordered in the crappy, spiral-bound, Woolworth's magnetized photo album with the stained, Peter Max-ian fabric on the cover? Toast. Unless you get cracking now. Because between the acid of the cheap-ass glue and the toxicity of the cheap-ass plastic, your precious moments are currently the center attraction in what Sally calls "a chemical sandwich of doom." Tasty, no?

The issue of that box/drawer/garage we shall address at a later (but not too much later, now I'm thinking on it) date. For now, may I suggest you do as I do and order you up one "Easy Peasy SAFE Photo Rescue Kit" from Sally, who assembles them lovingly and persnickety-ly from several sources at what looks to me like not much profit for the purpose of helping preserve you, in all your Quiana-clad disco glory, from imminent doom. (And so you know, these evil books predominated from the 1970s through the 1990s, although they're still available today, so just stay the hell away from ANYTHING PLASTIC when it comes to storing your photos, 'kay?)

Said Easy Peasy SAFE Photo Rescue Kit contains some surgical spatula-type tool thingy that you've probably seen your dental hygienist farting around with, along with gloves, the correct pair of arcane pencils, and instructions, plus some other goodies if you order by today, May 8 (scroll to the bottom of the page to see them). Because she is nice and my friend, if you identify yourself as a reader of this here blog, she will also send you a PDF about the right way(s) to digitize (i.e., scan) your photos.

VERY IMPORTANT: She only makes 100 of these packets a few times per year. As of yesterday, there were 85 available. Just so you know.

And yes, I bought one! So prepare your asses for Round Two of Scanning My Damned Photos, this time, done right!



Referral Friday: Birdhouse for Twitter


Referral Friday is part of an ongoing series inspired by John Jantsch's Make-a-Referral Week. For more about that, and loads more referrals for everything from cobblers to coaches to gee-tar teachers, start here. Pass it on, baby!

Those of you who follow me there know that I use Twitter in a way that has become decidedly non-mainstream: to inform and share in short, dense bursts, and in as entertaining a fashion as possible.

Some of the tweets fall directly from my brain to the little "What up?" box in perfectly-formed, 140-character packets. Many, however, do not. Wit just don't work that way.

Before Birdhouse, an ingenious little iPhone drafting app developed to help Twitterers who write, one of two things happened: (1), I posted something half-assed; or (2), I posted nothing as I mused over the best phrasing, invariably losing forever whatever germ of a gem I'd started with. Suckery! Confounded suckery!

To paraphrase one of the participants in this fan video, now that I have Birdhouse my teeth are whiter, my children, well-behaved and my tweets are "favorited" all the time. Well, not really; nobody's tweets get favorited all the time.

Birdhouse lets you save drafts of your tweets, star and review them, then publish (or presto!, unpublish them) as you like. It's not meant to replace other iPhone apps, but to complement them. (Although I wouldn't be surprised if those other iPhone apps start baking in something Birdhouse-like themselves once they do the Homer "D'oh!", so I hope for the developers' sakes they have some really neato features lined up for future releases.)

Full disclosure: I am a friend to and mad fan of Adam Lisagor (@lonelysandwich on the Twitter), who developed the app along with his able compatriot, Cameron Hunt (@camh) from my new-favorite city, Portland, Oregon. (Should we all just move there now? Seems like all the cool kids are doing have done it.) But hey, them what knows me knows I don't just SHILL. And even if I was, it's a crapload of functionality for just $3.99.

If you're just using Twitter to talk about what you had for lunch (and please, stop doing that!) or mostly to share links, promote yourself (stop that, too!) and shoot the shit on the backchannel, as they say, keep on using your regular iPhone client.

But if you want to use Twitter to entertain the world and make yourself a better in the bargain, Birdhouse is the tool of the month.

In the good way.


Birdhouse writing app for Twitter on the iPhone, just US$3.99

Priming the idea pump (A character checklist shamelessly lifted from acting)

thinking hard There are lots of tools the great actor has in her toolbox, but most of them really only gain utility with time. Script analysis, the ability to quickly access one's emotions, physical flexibility, vocal projection, even memorizing lots and lots of text is a skill that can take years to learn.

But there is one tool that is pretty easy to use right out of the box: the character checklist. Exactly what it sounds like, the character checklist is a list of questions that, when answered thoughtfully, provide a wealth of information for the actor to draw from.

Writers stand to gain much from the character checklist as well. For the fiction writer, it's a terrific way to sketch out a full picture of the character in your mind before writing, or even (oh yes) when you find yourself stuck. Let's face it: most characters in fiction draw heavily on slices of the writer's self; it's nice to have a few other things to flesh them out into full-fledged bona fides themselves.

But another great use for the character checklist is to jump-start your own non-fiction writing. Bloggers have embraced the meme in a big way; it's everyone's favorite crutch when the well runs dry.

And pre-Web 2.0, the form was equally popular. From the emails that circulate with lists of likes, dislikes and quirky questions to fill in and forward on to the venerable Proust Questionnaire, people are endlessly fascinated with...themselves, yes, but other people, too. My favorite features in glossy magazines are usually the ones where the same five, 10 or 20 questions are asked of different people.

There are probably as many of these character checklists circulating among acting classes as there are memes proliferating across the blogosphere. I dug this one out of my old actor files, and it's as good a place as any to start:

The Character Checklist from Colleen's Old Acting Files (provenance unknown)

  1. Name
  2. Age
  3. Occupation
  4. Hobbies
  5. Marital Status
  6. Favorite Color
  7. Favorite Restaurant
  8. Favorite Song
  9. Favorite Movie
  10. Favorite TV Show
  11. Pet
  12. Bad Habit
  13. What I Like About Myself
  14. Who I Look Up To
  15. What Makes Me Laugh
  16. What Makes Me Sad
  17. How Do I Relax
  18. What Word/Phrase Do I Use Most Often
  19. Favorite Room In Home
  20. Goals
  21. Embarrassing Moment
  22. Favorite Article Of Clothing
  23. Pet Peeve
  24. People Close To Me
  25. One Word To Describe Me
  26. Favorite Holiday
  27. What Is Important To Me
  28. What I Can't Do Without

The trick to making lists like these useful to your writing (and there's always a trick) is using them thoughtfully and strategically, not just indulging in them as diversions (although that can be fun sometimes, too). Figure out the task you're wanting to accomplish and then pick up your tool. Not all of the items will be useful for every piece of writing you're sitting down to work on, but a surprising number will be, if you let mind wander to new and interesting places.

For example, let's say you've got a blog edumacating people about widgets and you are plumb out of widget stuff to write about. You could...

  • Talk about how people shorten the life of their widgets with bad widget habits. (#12)
  • Describe your favorite widget use, and why. (#28)
  • Relate a horror story about a customer being widget-less in a widget-necessary situation. (#21)
  • Interview a few people in the widget chain of supply. (#24)
  • Link to your favorite widget scene in a movie on YouTube. (#9)

There's no set way to put yourself in a frame of mind to see questions differently so that you can answer them differently, but one great trick is to imagine yourself sitting down with someone who knows nothing about widgets, or who thinks they know everything about widgets, and then look at those questions as though you're being interviewed for a show or podcast or magazine that goes out to that target.

In other words, an actor!

xxx c

P.S. If you give this a whirl, I'd love to hear how it works for you: communicatrix [at] gmail [dot] com.

Image by welcome_to_nunavik via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

This post gets a lot of traffic from StumbleUpon. Go figure. Anyway, if you clicked looking to find posts about acting, there are a ton of them here, two years' worth of columns written for a major casting service's newsletter here in L.A. And if you're looking for more tips on writing and how to make it more awesome and less awful, check out the back issues of my non-sucky (I swear!) newsletter. Back to you, Chet!

Helpful Thing of the Day: Putting the "useful" into URLs

holepunch TinyURL is great for making big-ass emails shorter, no question. I've used it regularly for a couple of years now, and it's reliable and great.

But while it takes care of overly long URLs, it doesn't do it very gracefully. Those of us who don't understand the numerous hideous things that can happen upon clicking a blind link don't do much to assuage the fears of those who do.

Then again, there are geniuses like my new best friend, the adorable, kind and wildly talented Doug Stern, who totally get it. Since Doug is a master self-promoter (i.e., he does it well and for the right reasons) I don't think he'll mind if I share his email sig (it's a screenshot, kids, so don't make yourself batty trying to click on things):

doug stern

When I saw that list of clean, orderly URLs at the bottom of his sig, I almost shat myself. While I love my newsletter service provider, I hate being their free ad everywhere I go; even more, I loathe the stupid URL I got. (I think they offer some way of creating permalinks for your newsletter archives on your own site, but if there's a way to put it on a subpage of one's own site, I've yet to find it.)

Anyway, I immediately did some quick Googling and interwebbery, and found the magic site that will cure all of your wonky permalink woes, Metamark. Not only does it take a big-ass URL and shorten it into a nice, clean redirect--it will add the short, vanity extension of your choice. Behold, my original big-ass, gibberish newsletter signup link from Emma:

Meh. And bleh.

Now feast your eyes on its brief and elegant cousin:

Note to the extremely nervous: nothing is infallible. Metamark was upfront about their failing, which 86'd a number of URL redirects in early June.

But since my main use for these will be visible URLs--i.e., the kind that grace my email sig rather than the kind that hide, invisible, embedded in HTML on a website (hover over both of the above to see what I mean)--I don't much care. Email's shelf life is such that I don't think a lot of people will be digging through theirs to find that one link I included to my newsletter signup.

And in the short term, it sure is pretty...

xxx c

Admin: New! Make the communicatrix come to you!

living room silhouette While I love this beautiful template (headspace, by fernando_graphicos, if you're reading this in shouting distance of 2/20/07), its super-minimalist search feature has long been the gimpy-legged straggler of the site, something that became more and more obvious as the information grew broader and deeper.

With my new Lijit widjit, however, I have leapfrogged over my 2.0 templated cousins, and probably the next several releases of WordPress, as well. Just enter your search term in the box to your immediate right (if you're reading this in shouting distance of 2/20/2007), hit "go" and your search will be conducted to the farthest reaches of the communicatrix literary landscape, or at least, every one of the 20+ sources I've entered so far.

It uses Google's search engine and some, um, other stuff to pull sources from my all blogs, my aggregators (StumbleUpon, delicious, etc) and any other site you list (places I comment a lot, like, or other, random pages I've entered). There is some duplication of results and it's definitely better on very specific searches than general ones, but overall, I'm pretty happy to have the means to find those precious words I've misplaced somewhere.

If you despise it, you can still use the old-school search box at the bottom of the sidebar. But I'd be interested to know what you guys think of this here Lijit, and how it's working for you.

xxx c

Flickr was down for the count, so here's a little pic from my place circa last December. Nice light!

Nerd Love, Day 4: I'll show you mine if you show me yours

I see London I've alluded before to Best Year Yet on this here bloggy, but for those of you who missed class and/or are too f**king lazy to click the links or Google it, Best Year Yet is a values-based goal-setting system which I discovered via Heidi Miller's podcast long ago, and which could just as rightly be called "The Nerdiest Goal-Setting System Yet" except that it'd be redundant.

My friend, Kathy (zen-shiatsu mistress supreme) and I spent four, count 'em, four, hours today going over our plans. We'd both done all of our (nerd) homework and I've been implementing mine since the second week of January, but Kathy's a single mom and, as I understand it, time bends in funny ways when you're situated thusly.

Anyway, I buffed out the scratches in my Best Year Yet plan and, because one of the things that tripped me up the first time I tried doing it was a lack of concrete examples of workable plans, I decided to make mine public.

Via Backpack. Because that's how I roll, baby.

Feel free to check it out (link here), and contact me with any questions or comments. You can do it via email or the comments section of this post. I'd like to keep the process as transparent as possible, to help the most people; so if you email me, I may use your question to work up an FAQ somewhere here on the site, but if I do, I promise to keep your identity a total, double-secret-probation-level secret, should you so desire.

Bottom line: if you're already doing BYY, I encourage you to post somewhere and share a link. If you're not, consider doing something similar with your goals and post a link.

Accountability ain't everything, but it helps.

Later, nerds...

xxx c


UPDATE: I got an email from my pal, Neil, asking why the monthly and weekly goals were missing. They're not: they just get a little too personal, so they're not displayed for public consumption. But rest assured, I have them and am doing them. And it's working!!!

Image by occipital lobe via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license

the communicatrix elsewhere: How to make resolutions that actually work

LIghting the way

I've spoken before about how resolutions blow big, stinky chunks, but only hinted at how goal-setting can really work.

If you are over 40 or a realist (I am in the former camp, but hardly the latter), you doubtless understand too well that there is no one book or system or piece of software that will change you life for you, only tools and hacks that help facilitate the growth you are ready to embrace.

I know: I spent 40+ years accumulating tools, and while I made incremental progress on my own, I didn't get Big Mama Change until the universe saw fit to sit me down and teach me a hard lesson. Fortunately, I was ready for it. Because really, the universe's next move was, like, non-operative cancer or some shit, and while the morphine and pot-smoking part of hellish pain sounds good, I question how well I would do with the rest of it.

So if you are change-ready (or change-curious) and want a new tool to play with, I humbly suggest you check out my latest column for on effecting real change. Included are three steps I've found work well for me, as well as one really excellent book/system which I've hinted at here called Your Best Year Yet, by Ginny Ditzler. I did write the column for actors, but it's not totally acting-centric, and besides, it's always fun to read stuff about actors: ask the publishers of US and People and every other fucking consumer magazine aimed at women 18 - 54 in the U.S.

Also, I'm trying to add to my own body of knowledge on this stuff, so if you've found tactics or tools that work for you, please let me know either in the comments or via email (communicatrix at gmail dotterooski com). I first heard of Best Year Yet via Heidi Miller's excellent small biz marketing podcast, and I totally stole that theme thing from Jenny, for example (she was very gracious about it) and would be happy to steal equally good ideas from you, too.

With attribution, of course...



Image by carf via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Clipmarks: killer app for the rest of us

large paper clip If I were one of those bloggers who was good at the short stuff, I might not need Clipmarks. I'd either have me a whole blog of linky goodness like Jason Kottke, have the time to write a multitude of posts about a multitude of wonderful/useful/both things like the folks at BoingBoing or Lifehacker or the geeky know-how to program a running list of links with pithy summations onto my main site, like swoony Merlin Mann.

But I'm not. I write long. I suck.

Fortunately, Clipmarks does not. In fact, it is the opposite of sucky, in that they seem to have anticipated my every webby need and programmed it in, then delivered it to me along with (AHHHHH, SWEET MYSTERY OF LIFE, AT LAST I'VE FOUND YOU!!!) redundancy so I can rest assured that if they ever go south, forever or even for a teeny split second, my data is also safely held for me at (here's mine) and StumbleUpon (here's mine, and also a lengthy, glowing review of that excellent tool).

Like StumbleUpon, you post links to pages you find interesting, write up an optional summary, and then like Digg, people vote you up the list. You can choose to follow clippers you like, and they can choose to follow you.

Two things make it extra-fabu. First, you don't have to post the whole page, just the parts that interest you. There's a Firefox extension that plugs all the necessary dialing up to the mother ship and clippability; you just clip and send. No more sifting through a long dense article to see if you want to read it: the summary is right there! (I like to add commentary anyway, b/c that's the kind o' broad I am, pushy!) And you can tag the ever-lovin' crap out of it all, so you can find it later.

Second, you can send the entire link or just your clipped portion to any number of other collection services, like, StumbleUpon, Reddit, Digg, etc. And you can set up your clipmarks as a virtual blog by registering with Technorati, so the blog-o-verse will be able to follow the trail of your crazy genius! (Although even Clipmarks can do nothing about Technorati being broken all the time.)

So if you're one of the few who miss my occasional link round-ups of yore, you can bone up (ha ha, I said "bone"). And if you're looking for a way to collect all of your own stuff in one place, you are so DONE, baby!

Word of caution: like all of these 2.0 apps, it can get addictive. I am probably a lousy community member, since I mainly clip and don't "pop" (i.e., vote on other people's clips). And I never check to see if something's been clipped. But the gang are very nice and supportive (hi, Eric!), nonetheless: look who's Quote of the Day:

clipmarks quote of the day

xxx c

Image by Canonadian (ha ha!) via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Eggplant, J-Date and Conan O'Brien: a brief intro to the greatness that is StumbleUpon


I left the cocoon of Harvard, I left the cocoon of Saturday Night Live, I left the cocoon of the Simpsons. And each time it was bruising and tumultuous. And yet every failure was freeing, and today I'm as nostalgic for the bad as I am for the good. So that's what I wish for all of you, the bad as well as the good. Fall down. Make a mess. Break something occasionally. Know that your mistakes are your own unique way of getting to where you need to be. And remember that the story is never over.

, Conan O'Brien, in his commencement speech to Harvard Class of 2000

[posted to SU by Zolox | Stumbled Upon by communicatrix on August 15, 2006]

As someone toward the peak of the early adopter curve, I came late to stumbling. Bonnie Gillespie, who is way geekier than I, turned me onto it in her usual, non-pushy way (i.e., by alluding to it to her blog, which is what blogs are for).

At first, I thought it was just a great way to procrastinate. And it is...oh, how it is. But it's much, much more...



I just received your emails and also your message from last night. I was away and am just getting back this morning. I had every intention of calling you andmeeting to go out but your email has completely turned me off and i find it extremely tacky. I will not be sending you any money since i offered that night to pay and you told me no that you would take care of it.

Please do not call me or send me another email i would rather not hear from you at all. And for future reference in the dating world you may want to rethink the tacky approach about asking someone for money like that perhaps that is why you haven't met anyone or have seen them again.

, Joanne X, in a reply to several email and voice mail requests for cash reimbursement for a failed date from a man whom she met on J-Date

Upon downloading the SU toolbar to Firefox and inputting a few preferences, with every click of the SU button, you are transported somewhere new and wonderful (or not) loosely based in your stated interests. Hi-larious stories. Great portfolio sites. Mesmerizing video. Sexy toys (as opposed to sex toys, which I've always found to be sort of sad and pedestrian and unsexy).


Its most common name, aubergine, is French. The aubergine originates in India where it was called vatin-ganah - bringal in modern India. When it arrived to the Middle East it was named al-badinjan, in France, it was corrupted into aubergine.

, Oded Schwartz, on his aubergine page on

There are great things about wikipedia, including their randomizer, which just took me to a They Must Be Giants Bed Bed Bed page (talk about random). There are different great things about Stumble Upon, but its focused randomness (like delicious) plus its goofy community feature (like epinions, from the old-school dayz) plus its visual goodness (see Flickr) make it super delicious. SU aggregates the caprice of the aggregators, then dispenses it with the self-same caprice. It's pretty much everything I love about the web: deep, wide, infinitely customizable (pick your categories or stumble by favorite stumblers), (almost) infinitely random.


In most religious traditions one prays to the deities of the tradition in the hopes of receiving their blessing, which will benefit one in some way. In the vajrayana Buddhist tradition, however, the blessing and the power and the superlative qualities of the enlightened beings are not considered as coming from an outside source, but are believed to be innate, to be aspects of our own true nature. Chenrezig and his love and compassion are within us.

, from Om Mani Padme Hum, the meaning of the mantra in Tibetan Buddhism

A part of my work, I'm starting to realize, involves copious amounts of play. I get stuck otherwise, in the same books, the same thoughts, the same intake. And since I cannot expect to do anything differently by doing everything the same, Stumble Upon is a great way to change things up, open things up, shake things up.

Not to mention whoop it up...

Etudes on Conan O'Brien by Andrew D Miller, Ms L and Looper-312, all via Flickr and all used under a Creative Commons license, two more bits of Interweb greatness

Colleen of the Future

honeymooners.jpgI found a cool site thanks to Stumble Upon, my new-favorite source of time suckage*. It's called, and it's nothing more than an email form that collects words you write, to someone else, I suppose, but mainly to oneself, and sends them to that person in the future. (The default is set to one year.) This is pretty much what journals are all about, at least to me. I knew as I wrote them that even though they provided an excellent place for brain (and heart, and psyche) dump, they were mainly a map of me. From time to time, when I'm feeling particularly brave and strong, I'll pull out an old journal from college or my early 20's or, who am I kidding?, my late 30's and early 40's and cringe and cringe and cringe...and then I'll spot something that saves me: some glimmer of insight or truth that runs through from the pure me to the me-currently-enmired in crap to, hopefully, the future me who will finally be beyond all this petty nonsense. (Although I will not be wearing any motherfucking purple, straight up.)**

I don't write much in a journal anymore; after a year and a half of this, it'd feel like a busman's holiday.

Then again, I don't need to look too far to find Colleen of the Past anymore. Just an inch or so to the right.

xxx c *Thanks, Bon...for NOTHING!!! Sigh...

**UPDATE (8/27/12): Except for my purple sweater, my purple sweater I had before that, my purple shirt, and my purple scarf. And so it goes.

Photo of monkeyed-with scene from a great Honeymooners episode via