If the 70’s were “the

If the 70’s were “the me decade” and the 80s were “the decade of greed” the 90s and 00s should both be called “the retro-throwback, rehash everything while not coming up with anything new decade.”

I caught myself tonight listening to Nico, which is new to me, and I figured (probably like others that discovered Nick Drake in the past couple years) that it must also be new to the world, as in new music. CDnow shows the artist behind Nico dead for 14 years. Nick Drake has been dead for almost 30 years.

What’s wrong with music today when I hear the Strokes for the first time and think “what is this? some Ramones cover band from 1978?” and I can hear someone’s 30 year old music and think it was recorded a few months ago. I guess I can’t wait until something truly new comes out.

I see that Columbia’s “six

I see that Columbia’s “six degrees” study is making the rounds again.

I got an email as part of this experiment back in November. It was a name in new york city, a writer I’d never heard of. I know a few working writiers in NYC, so I sent an instant message to an old friend. “She was my boss when I used to work at (failed dotcom I forgot the name of).”

Aha! I was two degrees from this stranger.

I went back to the email, followed the obscure login and password instructions, filling in lots of sensitive information. It was for science, so I figured it was worth it. At the end of the long series of forms, there were some cryptic instructions about giving more emails. “What emails?” I thought. The one of the next degree, or the person I’m supposed to contact? “Where’s the help file?” I wondered. I closed my browser, re-read the email, but still nothing. I went back to the site to try it again, determined to put my friend in nyc, the first degree into the field at the end. Upon entering my user/pass, I was confronted with an error screen that said something to the effect of “sorry, you can only log into the system once, thanks and goodbye.”

I searched the site, found two contact email addresses, one for the project, the other leading to the principal investigator. I fired off a long, descriptive email, noting where I got confused, why I got confused, and what help/changes would remedy the situation.

All I got in return were two bounces from the columbia mail server for “user not found on this system.”

Talking about the project with another friend that ran into some difficulty, it sounded like new columbia study wanted to disprove the six degrees theory. It’s too bad they’re collecting faulty data and getting faulty results.

SF Gate’s Morning Fix newsletter

SF Gate’s Morning Fix newsletter (sign up here) is the best thing to arrive in my inbox each morning. It’s one guy basically blogging the SF Chronicle newspaper, with a sharp wit and sharper tongue that in my opinion trumps comedy central’s Daily Show in terms of laughs and smarts. Not only is it a cheeky look at today’s news, it also offers historical tidbits about San Francisco, a word of the day so obscure you’ve never heard it uttered, best bits from the news, and his replies to reader email. Today’s fun fact was exceptionally good, since I’m a fan of Anchor Steam Beer, and had no idea those folks in Anchor Brewing jumpsuits wandering around Potrero owe their thanks to a former appliance king:

In 1965, Fritz Maytag, heir to the washing machine fortune, invested his inheritance in a bankrupt brewery that was nearly 100 years old. Ten years later, Anchor Brewing Co., with its Anchor Steam Beer, had a nationwide cult following. Maytag is credited with launching the microbrew revolution.

…and I’m off and running.

…and I’m off and running. I spent about four hours writing today, getting almost 1,200 words written in that time. Introductions are always the hardest part I find, but I think I did a good job creating a brief overview of everything I want to cover, with enough sneak peeks to entice readers to follow the text. I’m hoping to turn in the first 20 pages, or about 6,000 words by Friday, and I feel confident I can make that goal. The hardest part seems to be blocking everything out and getting the words to start flowing.

I guess this is my first paid, professional writing gig, and it boggles my mind to think it’s actually happening. I spent most of high school and college struggling through english and literature classes, and I distinctly remember my SAT and GRE verbal scores being lower than classmates that didn’t speak english as their first language (thank god I aced the math and analytical portions). I never liked sitting through english classes, and hated being forced to write and read on command.

There was an interesting post at Kuro5hin the other day, by a high school student wondering why he couldn’t just keep a weblog to learn the finer points of english and grammar. I’ve found that practice does indeed make perfect. If I had to point to one thing that allows me to write well today in comparison with my college-aged self, it’d have to be email. After seven years of churning out thousands of words a day, I’ve grown a lot as a writer. Keeping a weblog here and with MetaFilter has also helped, especially in terms of learning how to make a point and structure an argument. Maybe blogs have a place in education, I know just the daily act of writing has immensely helped with expressing myself.

Tomorrow I turn over a

Tomorrow I turn over a new leaf, by doing what I’m calling “lose weight/gain a book.” (LoWeGaBoWriMo?)

I’m working on a few book deals right now, but the first one starts in earnest tomorrow morning. I have a chapter in an upcoming usability title due in a few weeks, and to force myself to unload all the ideas in my head I’m sticking to a schedule. When I wake up, I’m going running, showering, then writing for two hours every morning until the 50 pages are done.

Although I’m not a morning person, it’s when I can get the most work done. Getting the painful time out of the way early was key, I’ve tech edited a couple books, which I used to put off until the end of the day. Cursing my keyboard at 2am, wanting to go to sleep but being forced to meet deadlines wasn’t the way to do it, so I’m going with the morning schedule. The running part is another little thing I need to force myself to do. I used to run 5-8 miles a day in college and this upcoming march will be five years since I completed my first (and only) marathon. Although the marathon was painful and I wouldn’t do it ever again, I used to enjoy 10k and half marathon races on a fairly regular basis. I’ve run a couple times a week for the past month, and I think it’s time to get serious.

I have a good feeling this schedule will work for me, it’ll allow me time to relax in the evenings, give me time in the afternoons to complete the freelance work I’m doing, and get me into a rhythm I can hopefully put to use on my other book projects.