Jake LaCaze

writings about writing and other stuff too

I'm experimenting with some new things on the blog, mostly with trying some new post formats.

I wish I could tell you that I'd have it all figured out soon, but we all know that would be a lie.

Apologies in advance, y'all.

#photojournal #dayinphotos

George Coffee in Coppell, TX

Started the day with some studying and writing at George Coffee in Old Town Coppell.

A pickle bus in Old Town Coppell

Went for a walk around Old Town Coppell and spotted a pickle bus as a pop-up shop. I've been in a pickle bus only once, and I couldn't stop smiling the whole ride. I still daydream about fixing one up as a road-trip machine.

Lil Bit at Millennium Park in Irving, TX

Took Lil Bit to the library and then we walked over to Millennium Park to say hi to the turtles and the ducks

Trail in Coppell Nature Park

Went for an evening walk walk around Coppell Nature Park. Got a little uneasy, waiting for a snake to jump out and say hi.

Kids' baseball game

Capped the day off with Booger's baseball game. Tough day at the plate—he went 0-3. Better luck next week

#kindle #instapaper

Discovering how to send blog posts to the Kindle via Instapaper has been a game changer.

It doesn't work perfectly—most issues I've had concern images—but I appreciate that I can read some blog posts in bed with my Kindle. No backlight, no distractions

Ducks at Grapevine Lake #essays #tutorials #socialmedia #twitter

My strategy for using Twitter in 2021 means using twitter.com and Twitter's official apps as little as possible. Instead, I rely on a couple third-party apps and services for a better experience: NetNewsWire and micro.blog.

If you've never considered using anything other than Twitter's official offerings, you may be asking why anyone would do such a thing. I'll give a couple reasons below.

That damn timeline

You never know what tweets Twitter's algorithm will throw at you if you stick with the default Home option for your timeline.

Screenshot of Twitter's timeline options

Sure, you can opt to view latest tweets first for a chronological view, but I can't help questioning the setting's consistency when old tweets reappear in my timeline. Also, the timeline view seems to reset to the default Home option from time to time. And then there are those damn ads that pop in and confuse you.

Enter NetNewsWire, a free RSS reader for Mac and iOS.

In addition to subscribing to your favorite blog feeds, NetNewsWire can connect to your Twitter account and provide a feed of tweets from the accounts you follow. Tweets are mostly in reverse chronological order, though I have noticed some threads do get out of order. But I'll blame that on the tweeters since any thread over three tweets long should be a blog post anyway.

How much does NetNewsWire cost?

Free. Simple as that. Though, as previously noted, this app is only for Mac and iOS.

Getting sucked into the abyss of tweets

You get on Twitter to post one thing. You glance at your timeline. You look up and three hours have passed.

This is where micro.blog comes in.

micro.blog is a Twitter alternative that allows you to microblog (and also blog longform) from your own domain.

Connect your Twitter account and you can cross-post to your Twitter timeline. I especially like that micro.blog allows you to cross-post from multiple external RSS feeds, so micro.blog is my hub for cross-posting my blogs to Twitter.

Because things tend to be slower on micro.blog, there are fewer opportunities to get sucked into a rabbit hole. So I can post, check in on micro.blog, and then go on my merry way.

How much does micro.blog cost?

micro.blog offers three tiers for individuals: – free – $5 a month – $10 a month (includes podcast hosting)

micro.blog also offers a Teams option for $20 a month.

A better Twitter experience

In short, NetNewsWire and micro.blog combine to create a Twitter experience that works for me. While I wouldn't subscribe to micro.blog only for the option to cross-post to Twitter, I do feel that the option adds value to my subscription.

On the other hand, at the low, low cost of free, NetNewsWire is worth the cost of a download, and more.

#emergencycoffee #newsletter #writing

Emergency Coffee is a monthly newsletter featuring writing-related articles, videos, and podcasts.

It's Spooky Season. Great time to write out your demons.

Articles

Thoughts on your book cover – Seth Godin explores some of the things your book cover can say to potential readers.

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Misusing Dialogue Tags – Getting the flow of dialogue right can be tricky. But it's worth spending the time on.

On Not Letting Ambition Take Over – This is a reminder not to let ambition get in the way of the most important aspect of writing: actually getting words on the page.

Videos

If You Can't Answer These 6 Questions You Don't Have A Story – Glenn Gers shares his thoughts on the necessary components of a movie. But story is story (and movies are written before filmed), so this applies to our purposes.

Podcasts

Why I stopped trying to write good headlines – In this Racket, Chris J. Wilson reminds us not to be afraid of writing badly. In fact, that may be just what we need.

rocks welcoming you to the Rock Art Trail #essays #inspiration

If you've ever sought advice to combat writer's block or to rediscover inspiration, you've likely stumbled upon the advice to go on a walk. And if you're in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, I would amend that advice by recommending you take a walk on the Rock Art Tail in Grapevine's Parr Park.

The Rock Art Trail is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: a path lined with painted and decorated rocks. The rocks come in all sizes, shapes, and flavors.

Unsurprisingly, many works professed the creator's love of the Great State.

rocks at the entrance of the Rock Art Trail

A rock with major Texas cities and regions

Some rocks celebrated alma maters or cartoon and comic book characters. Some were pieces of larger works.

Rocks forming a rainbow at the Rock Art Trail

Some were products of their time.

A rock dedicated to someone who died of COVID-19

A rock of a heart wearing a mask for COVID

Some were intended to be inspirational.

Some sought to give practical advice.

And some were pure silliness.

Pet rock cemetery

But collectively, the rocks filled me with wonder. I marveled at the work that went into creating some of the rock art. The effort to paint the scenes. The time spent to find the perfect rock. How many people poked out their chests as they boasted about their participation in a Guinness record?

The trail served as a reminder of our desire to be a part of something, and a reminder that, regardless of what some people or outlets may make you believe, there are still beautiful somethings to be part of.

More pictures available in my snap.as gallery

#essays #fear #health

I cried when I read the lab results from my latest annual exam. Not because the results were bad. Quite the opposite—I'm a healthy adult male with imperfect cholesterol. But I'm not alarmed; I'm simply aware.

I smiled as I re-read the results and then I thought back to my first visit with that same doctor four years earlier. I had cried when my doctor asked if my parents were still alive and I had to tell her no—they've been dead for a while now. Cancer got them. I would later break down when I got to my car and then somehow fake my way through the rest of the workday.

Then I thought back to a moment before that doctor's visit, when I told my counselor I was afraid to get a checkup.

“What if you go to the doctor and everything is fine?” my counselor asked.

“I'll just think the cancer hasn't come yet,” I told her.

For a while, that was my fear, and that fear kept me away from the doctor for years. But that fear was nowhere to be found as I leaned against my car, in front of my mailbox, and shuffled through the paperwork from my latest visit.

To say I no longer worry about cancer would be dishonest. Cancer has taken more family than just my parents. But I do have certain factors in my favor. For one, I don't smoke. I don't work around the smog of heavy machinery. I'm prioritizing exercise. And I now get regular annual exams. I do have some things I need to improve on—like my diet, as my doctor reminded me.

Still, that old fear may come to be true. But it's not true now, so I should live my best cancer-free life while I can.

For too long, I let fear paralyze me. Fear led to inaction. But action has proven the best antidote to fear. Our fears are often worse than reality. This is a lesson I'm constantly relearning.

How else am I letting fear get in the way? Where else can I take one small step to shut down that unhelpful part of my brain?

Enough about me.

What about you?

lights at a Jesus and Mary Chain concert #essays #technology

On this blog, I recently asked why I keep coming back to social media and other platforms, and now I'm asking exactly how much digital convenience I need in my life.

I first asked this question sometime in the last couple years when I started examining my relationship with notifications. For most of my cellular life, I was the type of person to keep all the apps on his phone and also keep all notifications enabled. Because FOMO.

But that changed when I found myself on a quest to regain my attention.

First, I mostly disabled push notifications. One notable exception does come to mind: I retained push notifications for text messages. Fortunately, while hardly anyone wants to contact me, this is especially true for people who know me well enough to have my phone number, so this exception isn't as antithetical as it may sound.

I often go back and forth on exactly which apps I should keep on my phone because even with notifications disabled, certain apps tempt me to check in far too often.

So which ones should be removed completely? Twitter? RSS reader? Banking and investing? Do I really need to invest via my phone?

These questions force me to ask how I view my cellphone and how exactly I want to use it, because it is a tool, after all. We're reaching the point where we can do almost anything—or at least anything I want to do—with our phones. But just because we can perform a specific task on our phones doesn't mean we should, for no other reason than I'm an old man who's more effective with a physical keyboard and mouse than with onscreen controls. Some tasks are better put off until I have access to a better machine, such as my desktop or maybe even my iPad with a bigger screen.

Being intentional about which apps I hang on to forced me to acknowledge that every app is an opportunity for distraction, so which apps are worth that risk? I know I need a navigation app since I am directionally challenged. But GPS apps have never been unwelcome distractions, so they're free to stick around.

I ramped up thinking about these and similar questions more after I dove back into Douglas Ruskhoff's Team Human, which argues that we don't use systems like technology and markets so much as they use us. (One could argue that linking to the book via Amazon is a slap in the face to Team Human, and one may have a point.) We're more aware than ever before of the ways technologies like social media influence us via algorithms and showing us content we're sure to like rather than showing us reality.

With cellphones in our pockets, we're in an age of unprecedented convenience, but whom does that convenience serve? Surely some degree of friction is healthy as our persistence in spite of it reveals what truly matters, right?

Ever since I heard Chuck Palahniuk explain to Joe Rogan the difference between writing and typing, I've tried to identify the point at which technology gets in the way or—at the very least—stops adding value to the process. But as is often the case, I am able to identify that line only once I've identified my goals. And that process starts with asking the right questions, something I consider the real point of this blog.

my home sit-stand desk #essays #books #WeWork #business

If you had to sum up in only a few sentences the WeWork debacle to someone unfamiliar with the situation, how would you do so? The following quote from The Cult of We: WeWork, Adam Neumann, and the Great Startup Delusion by Eliot Brown and Maureen Farrell would be my candidate.

But prior to the prospectus becoming public, bankers and other advisers had continued to shower [Adam] Neumann with praise—giving him criticism too infrequently and too meekly. These advisers either ignored or danced around the company's obvious warts and red flags.

Now, at the eleventh hour, they finally spoke up. But the IPO was already on life support.

If you have any interest in investing time reading about business train wrecks rather than investing your money into them, then pick up a copy of The Cult of We. Throughout the book, I often found myself shaking my head in disbelief, amazed at how many smart and successful people overlooked what should have been obvious red flags, such as CEO Adam Neumann's selling too many shares too soon, Neumann's constant power grabs, a private company buying a $63 million private jet even though it was hemorrhaging cash despite having had plenty time to find a path to profitability—the list goes on.

WeWork's business model was simple. They leased up office buildings, prettied the spaces up to attract Millennials, and subleased the space at a premium. Their plan was hardly unique, as Regus had done the same a couple decades earlier. No matter how you cut it, WeWork was a real estate company. Yet many viewed it as a tech company, which justified the crazy valuations it had received before its IPO. WeWork would not have been valued so high if it were seen as a real estate company, since real estate companies are unable to scale as well as tech companies. It was the era of the visionary founder, and if the founder said WeWork was a tech company, then it must be a tech company.

Neumann and Masayoshi Son, the head of SoftBank, had convinced themselves that WeWork was a $10 trillion company, basically because they dared to dream so. The authors point out that, in 2018, the entire value of the U.S. stock market was $30 trillion. (Take a moment to let that sink in.)

Neumann and Son laid out a plan to reach the ambitious valuation while never acknowledging all the obstacles they would face. Neumann believed he could change the world in myriad ways: from how people work and live to how they educate their children.

Neumann and his wife Rebeka had convinced themselves they were environmentalists despite riding freely on the aforementioned private jet and even taking an abundance of WeWork's unused couches to landfills. Rebeka had described the family as minimalists despite having at one time owned at least eight homes.

In summary, the delusions ran far and wide.

The story was a reminder of a crucial life lesson: Don't be afraid to question the herd; just because the herd buys into the same narrative doesn't mean they're right. And you're not wrong to question the herd.

The story also reminded me of similar moments I've experienced in thirteen years as a petroleum landman.

The first such moment came early in my career, when I was working in Dallas-Fort Worth's Barnett Shale play. In the shadow of the Great Recession, the natural gas play was a bright spot and a boost to the local economy. Everyone involved in the industry was in high spirits, some even claiming the boom times could last 20 years. I remember raising an eyebrow at that declaration. I couldn't make a convincing case for why the boom wouldn't last 20 years, other than a feeling in my gut that such good times are unlikely to last so long. Within 13 months, my employer had closed its Fort Worth office and most of the former occupants were looking for jobs, as natural gas crashed from all-time highs and is only now, over a decade later, showing signs of significant recovery.

The second such moment came when I moved to West Texas in 2012. The Permian Basin is no stranger to boom-and-bust cycles, so the narrative wasn't exactly the same as the Barnett Shale in 2008-2009. Instead, the collective wisdom was: This boom is different, whatever that meant. While the Permian Basin does not appear to be at risk of going the way of the Barnett, the area has still seen fluctuations in the near-decade since. The cycle of booms and busts is more frequent than in past decades, but the cycle still exists.

The Cult of We is not just a business book or a biography of a company that went from rising star to laughing stock in the blink of an eye. The book is also a warning: Never underestimate someone's ability to be out of touch with reality.

#emergencycoffee #newsletter #writing

Emergency Coffee is a monthly newsletter featuring writing-related articles, videos, and podcasts.

September is here. That means you have 30 days to figure out which font makes your writing best.

Articles

Write like a mother fucker by Sugar — Want to become a better writer? The article title hints at one strategy.

5 Pieces of Common Writing Advice You Should Absolutely Ignore by Stefanie London — I'll cancel out my giving advice in the first article by now sharing some anti-advice advice. Remember: writing advice is useful only when applied at the right moment in the right situation.

Why you should be a copycat by Daphne Gray-Grant — If you want to become a better writer, consider copying writing you enjoy. The process may reveal more than simply reading can.

No answer by William Gallagher — In fiction, characters should never directly answer a question. The story is far more interesting if they respond in other ways.

My Latest Job Rejection Email, Translated by Jenny Crowley — You've likely been hearing about the Great Resignation and all the people leaving their jobs for greener pastures. But rest assured everyone ain't having the easiest time jumping ship. Here's a (humorous) look at what some are experiencing.

Videos

Zombie Nouns: Trying to Sound Smart is a Pretty Dumb Strategy — Don't rely on nouns created by slapping on -ity, -tion, or -ism at the end. We can all write more clearly and directly without these zombie nouns.

Podcasts

How to get published from Content Rookie — Nicole Michaelis shares her experience with publishing her poetry collection and warns us of some things to look out for before signing on the dotted line.

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