Change and Stability

Well, it looks like I’ll be an employee of Hewlett Packard soon. HP bought the company I work for, Eucalyptus. We’ll be joining the cloud org.

I find change a bit more difficult as I age. However, I still have some giddiness when I come upon some new venture. It usually feels exciting  and hopeful. And this new path in my professional career feels the same. I’m looking forward to working with current teams at HP.

I don’t think much will change for a while. I believe it will be a smooth transition. And I get an excuse to bug my quasi-colleague Anne Gentle at OpenStack.

More to follow as I navigate the path.

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On Jazz Snobbery: Letting Go of Rock Star Status

“You rock.”

“She’s a rock star in our industry.”

Rock schmock.

I have an appreciation for rock music. I grew up with it. I bought my first Beatles LP when I was five. Went to see Jethro Tull at the L.A. Forum when I was 11. Played rock music in bands throughout junior high, senior high, and college. I lived rock music for a while.

But here’s the thing: rock musicians are pretty crappy musicians. Rock music is on par with nursery songs. There’s very little difference between most rock songs and, say, Baa Baa Black Sheep. Rock songs are just choppier, heavier, with some distortion thrown in. And sometimes less farm animal imagery.

My wife tells me I’ve become a jazz snob. And she may be right. I do love jazz. However, I still appreciate pop and rock music too. It just doesn’t signal the epitome of musical prowess for me. Even jazz is pretty tame, compared to some classical compositions. But at least jazz isn’t bound to pentatonic scales, based on four or five chords.

Okay: I am a jazz snob.

Maybe that’s why I cringe when someone says that so-and-so is a rock star or that what’s-her-face rocks. You mean they barely know their craft? Or do you mean they look the part, even if they are crappy at their profession? Rock stars preen, dress to look rock-ish, and try to make playing an open G chord look difficult or vicious or painful.

A jazz musician doesn’t need to prance around the stage or look the part. A jazz musician communicates with his music. She lets her instrument speak for itself. You don’t need to see a video of Mimi Fox speeding down the road with a boa constrictor in the passenger seat to appreciate her guitar chops.

No writer should have rock star status, unless said status is used as an indictment on the writer’s inability to communicate well.

So, what do you call someone great in their field? How about a great composer? Or a real good Them What Writes. Anything but rock star.

Posted in music, writing | 6 Comments

The Writer’s Toolkit: Word Up!

I have a new book to store in my Powers That Be reference shelf. This shelf holds what I consider to be the pantheon of grammar and stylistic reference material. This collection includes Garner’s Modern American Usage and Grammar Girl’s The Grammar Devotional.

And now it also displays Marcia Riefer Johnson’s Word Up! How to Write Powerful Sentences and Paragraphs (And Everything You Build from Them). This wonderful book is worth reading if only for the chapter on writing procedures.

But it’s the entire book that I find so helpful, both in the new ideas it contains, and the reminders of rules that I’ve cast aside (mostly out of forgetfulness). I found helpful hints and reminders for the Scot who works as a writer, and for the Scot who works as an editor.

I will be referring to Marcia’s work often and, in the course of this blog, please note that all future errors I make are due to my own neglect rather than Marcia’s teaching.

If you’re serious about your writing, I encourage you to read Word Up! And, while you’re honing your writing chops, visit Marcia’s website. She posts even more wonderful advice to help you become a great communicator.

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Kindle Unlimited and my dysfunctional wishlists

I am trying out the most expensive library card ever. Kindle Unlimited seems like a nifty idea. $9.99 a month for unlimited reading.

As long as the offered books are ones you want to read. That should be the tagline.

I have one public Amazon Wishlist. Currently that list contains 255 books, six of which are offered by Amazon Unlimited. Going by that one list, the Unlimited deal isn’t so good for me.

However, I also have 33 private lists, all but five dealing with books, sorted according to genre. (Yes, I know: feel free to make fun of me.) 

Oh, and that number doesn’t count the gift lists I have.

Anyway: I’m trying to figure out how much crossover there is between my lists and Unlimited. So far, it’s very low. My expectation is that Amazon will expand the Unlimited offerings. I’m sure it will, but perhaps not very quickly in the genres I’m interested in (politics and philosophy).

Still, I remain an optimist (I am, after all,  a Minnesota Vikings fan), so I will stick around for a while and see what happens. Unlimited is like my writing: I like the idea, just not the initial implementation.

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What a great theme song

Yes, the television show is dated. Yes, the show was sexist (hey: it was the 1970’s, even the non-sexist stuff was sexist). Still, what a theme song.

RIP, Mr. Garner.

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Saturday Haiku

Early morning: dark,
silent, quiet, filled with books,
coffee and poems.

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In William Shatner-ese: Must. Work. Can’t. Blog.

I’m a few days out from the Write the Docs conference. Once again, the conference planners did an amazing job. I’d like to blog more about it, but I’m under a deadline. I have 17 days to finish about eight years worth of work.

Piece of cake.

It was wonderful to see old colleagues and friends, and meet new ones. I’d love to blog about what I learned. However, I have no time for such frivolity. So, to both of my readers, let me offer you some other places to get the scoop on Write the Docs 2014. These folks did an amazing job capturing everything from the whole to the gist.

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