[syndicated profile] kottke_org_feed

Posted by Jason Kottke

Matthew Betancourt

Matthew Betancourt

Painter Matthew Betancourt paints these miniature works of art inside the covers of Altoids tins. Aside from the playfulness and cuteness factor, I love that he uses the bottom half of the tin as a palette and it’s displayed along with the finished painting. You get to see the process along with the work. It’s something that Betancourt plays with even more on his Instagram account, where he displays subject, palette, and finished product all in one go:

Matthew Betancourt

(thx, brandon)

Tags: art   Matthew Betancourt

Meanwhile in London

Apr. 25th, 2019 03:31 pm
[syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed

Posted by John Scalzi

There are massive skeletons floating over crowds of humans while Charles Darwin looks on approvingly. As he would.

Also, I have an event tonight at Forbidden Planet here in London at 6pm which you should come to if you happen to be in the area.

That is all. Tomorrow in Budapest!

[syndicated profile] askamanager_feed

Posted by Ask a Manager

Way back in 2012, someone wrote this to me:

Thank you for writing this amazing blog. Its a great resource for learning all the things that are and aren’t acceptable at work that I don’t think I could have learned anywhere else. Thank you especially for the post about how having or not having professional parents influences your own career. It was interesting to see all the different backgrounds people come from and how it still influences them.

So my question is, commenters on that post mentioned that there are “common sense” things that people who grew up in professional households know and things that people who didn’t make do at work that could make them appear “rough around the edges.” Would it be possible to give specific examples of these things?

For instance, Tax Nerd wrote that people who are from blue collar backgrounds often feel they have to work 8 hours at a salaried job even when it’s not busy because they’re more used to having their time managed, and that’s something I definitely do. In my mind, I know that that it’s the amount of work I accomplish and meeting deadlines that’s important and that working 15 minutes less once in a while when it’s not busy is okay, but it still makes feel very uncomfortable. So, would it be possible to talk about what other things are not acceptable at a blue collar job, but would be okay at a white collar job?

We tackled this back then, but I saw this come up on Twitter recently and thought it could be useful to explore again. So, readers, what are your thoughts? If you have personal experience with moving from blue collar environments to “professional” office environments (that terminology is terrible; why don’t we have better?), I’d especially welcome hearing from you.

what cultural things do you need to know to succeed when you’re new to white collar work? was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

[syndicated profile] opinionatedgamers_feed

Posted by Chris Wray

This is the fourth installment in our series called Games That Deserve a Reprint.  This article walks through #5 to #1.  These are the games with a high degree of consensus among us: in fact, it took at least 6 … Continue reading
[syndicated profile] terribleminds_feed

Posted by terribleminds

Set an even longer time ago in a galaxy far, far away, BioWare’s 2003 Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic wowed players with its compelling characters, lightsaber customization, complex morality choices, and one of the greatest plot twists in both video game and Star Wars history. But even for veteran studios like LucasArts and BioWare, the responsibility of making both a great game and a lasting contribution to the Star Wars canon was no easy task.

Featuring extensive new interviews with a host of KotOR’s producers, writers, designers, and actors, journalist Alex Kane weaves together an epic oral history of this classic game, from its roots in tabletop role-playing and comic books, to its continued influence on big-screen Star Wars films. Whether you align with the light or the dark side, you’re invited to dive into this in-depth journey through one of the most beloved Star Wars titles of all time.

“Alex Kane has written a fine book about how one the best video games ever made was created. Darth Revan, HK-47, the lost planet of Sleheyron, a charming story about Ed Asner—it’s everything you’ve always wanted to know about a truly fascinating game.” —Tom Bissell, author of The Disaster Artist

“Vigorously researched, accessibly written, and—most importantly—total fun from start to finish.” —Blake J. Harris, author of Console Wars

* * *

Take a leap of faith

When BioWare inked a deal with LucasArts to make Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, the two companies had never collaborated before. But the folks working at Lucas were big Baldur’s Gate fans, they wanted to make the Star Wars RPG of their dreams, and they took a massive risk to make it happen. The ancient setting was weird, the art felt a tad unfamiliar, and all of the game’s characters were new, original creations. Had fans not embraced the game the way they did, it might have been a creative and financial disaster. Instead, it became one of the most beloved and influential stories in the history of the Star Wars license.

Writing a book, it turns out, requires a similar leap; nobody’s going to write the precise thing you want to read, so you might as well be the one to do it. Don’t let your fears get in the way of that.

Seize inspiration

KotOR’s artists, design leads, and writers didn’t just look to the Star Wars films and the paintings of Ralph McQuarrie when it came time to carve out their own little place within that universe. They also looked at Y2K-era cinema, Dungeons & Dragons, and other rich sources of inspiration. Get messy. Read books you didn’t plan on reading; learn about stuff unrelated to your subject matter; see how writers you admire craft their most effective scenes and sentences. Your favorite Star Wars game owes a huge debt to M. Night Shyamalan: Who knows what might spark your next great idea?

Set a new course

Maybe you’re neck-deep in a second draft, things aren’t going as well as you’d hoped at the outset, and you just read a book you can’t get out of your head. Maybe now you feel completely stuck. Don’t be afraid to toss everything out and start fresh—just this once. All that work you did to get to this point still matters; it’s what got you here. But that thing I said about inspiration? It can strike at any time.

Long after I signed the contract to write a KotOR book for Boss Fight, I read The Art of The Last Jedi, The Disaster Artist, and some other great behind-the-scenes books, and suddenly I was in crisis mode: I didn’t just want to write a book about the game itself—I wanted to write the untold, human story behind it. A journalistic account drawn from fresh, oral-history-style reporting. No one had ever written about the making of Knights of the Old Republic at length, and I needed to tell that story. My editors were extremely supportive; they were thrilled to hear I was finally writing the book I wanted to write, even if it meant throwing away 15,000 words.

Interview some folks

Not every writer is an outgoing reporter type who wants to put on pants and go be social somewhere that isn’t Twitter, or even pick up the phone. Still, talking to people can be an invaluable resource—for nonfiction, for novels; for fact-checking and research; for figuring out things like dialogue, rhythm, and voice.

In my case, I wanted to tell the true story behind my favorite video game, which also happens to be a great Star Wars tale, so my book was either going to live or die on the basis of how successful I was at getting the folks who made it to talk to me. When I wanted to hear about the thinking that went into the creation of fan-favorite characters like HK-47 and Darth Revan, I called up writer Drew Karpyshyn and concept artist John Gallagher and asked them about it. Do all the research you like, and make your own observations wherever possible, but don’t forget to reach out to those who know more than you.

Trust (and cherish) your editor

I come from the frantic, fast-paced world of online journalism. I write about games and Star Wars a lot, and in order to do so well and continue to be paid for it, I have to turn in clean, focused, informative copy as fast as humanly possible. Book publishing is different; it moves at a geologic pace. And, I tell you what, you’re probably not going to produce a perfect manuscript on the first try. I would’ve been utterly lost without the help of Gabe Durham and Mike Williams, my editing duo on the KotOR project.

Writing a first book—perhaps especially one you’ve already signed a contract for in advance—is hard work, and it’s a learning experience from start to finish. You’re not Atlas shouldering the weight of the world. Give your editor a call, and trust that they know what they’re doing. I won’t pretend that writing is anywhere near as challenging as, say, shipping a role-playing game set in the world of George Lucas’s grand space opera. But you don’t have to go it alone.

* * *


Alex Kane is a journalist based in west-central Illinois. He has written for Polygon, the website of Rolling Stone, StarWars.com, Variety, and other publications. This is his first book.

Alex Kane: Twitter

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic: Amazon | Boss Fight Books

Apr. 25th, 2019 07:18 am
[syndicated profile] floggingbabel_feed

Posted by Michael Swanwick

.


Some time ago, I contributed a story to Shadows of the New Sun, a festschrift honoring Gene Wolfe. I began "The She-Wolf's Hidden Grin" by taking the first paragraph of Gene's novella "The Fifth Head of Cerberus" and performing a reversal--turning the two brothers into sisters, summer into winter, north to south, and evening to morning. Then I proceeded to write what I think of as a feminist Gene Wolfe story. If a rather horrific one.

I was quite pleased with how it came out.

Now Lightspeed Magazine has reprinted my story. You can red it online here. Or (and I think this would be the wisest course of action), you can go to the magazine here and wander about.

The magazine's editors asked me to "also remind readers that the entire issue is available for purchase for just $3.99, and/or that you can subscribe for just $35.88/year." So... done and done!


And today's extract from the Image Book is . . .



"Giantess"


Above: For those who came in late, my latest novel, The Iron Dragon's Mother, will be published in 60 days. To draw attention to this fact, I'm serializing the Image Book I made to help me imagine a strange world for the book.


*
[syndicated profile] kottke_org_feed

Posted by Jason Kottke

In a recent interview, Noam Chomsky gave a short summary of how the modern Republican Party coalition between the rich and the religious, white working class was built, decade by decade.

They have a primary constituency, a real constituency: extreme wealth and corporate power. That’s who they have to serve. That’s their constituency. You can’t get votes that way, so you have to do something else to get votes. What do you do to get votes? This was begun by Richard Nixon with the Southern strategy: try to pick up racists in the South. The mid-1970s, Paul Weyrich, one of the Republican strategists, hit on a brilliant idea. Northern Catholics voted Democratic, tended to vote Democratic, a lot of them working-class. The Republicans could pick up that vote by pretending — crucially, “pretending” — to be opposed to abortion. By the same pretense, they could pick up the evangelical vote. Those are big votes — evangelicals, northern Catholics. Notice the word “pretense.” It’s crucial. You go back to the 1960s, every leading Republican figure was strongly, what we call now, pro-choice. The Republican Party position was — that’s Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, all the leadership — their position was: Abortion is not the government’s business; it’s private business — government has nothing to say about it. They turned almost on a dime in order to try to pick up a voting base on what are called cultural issues.

Same with gun rights. Gun rights become a matter of holy writ because you can pick up part of the population that way. In fact, what they’ve done is put together a coalition of voters based on issues that are basically, you know, tolerable to the establishment, but they don’t like it. OK? And they’ve got to hold that, those two constituencies, together. The real constituency of wealth and corporate power, they’re taken care of by the actual legislation.

Cory Doctorow’s translation of Chomsky’s remarks is even shorter and, not surprisingly, much more entertaining:

Chomsky lays out the history of the GOP from Nixon’s Southern Strategy, when the party figured out that the way to large numbers of working people to vote for policies that made a tiny minority of rich people richer was to quietly support racism, which would fuse together a coalition of racists and the super-rich. By Reagan’s time, the coalition was beefed up with throngs of religious fanatics, brought in by adopting brutal anti-abortion policies. Then the GOP recruited paranoid musketfuckers by adopting doctrinal opposition to any form of gun control. Constituency by constituency, the GOP became a big tent for deranged, paranoid, bigoted and misogynist elements, all reliably showing up to vote for policies that would send billions into the pockets of a tiny rump of wealthy people who represented the party’s establishment.

Appealing to those fears and issues has been very effective and has been joined in recent years by conservatives and conservative media eroding trust in many of America’s familiar institutions, such as the scientific community, journalism, and government (some of which erosion, to be fair, has been self-inflicted). Keep in mind that as recently as 10 years ago, Republicans believed in climate science until their constituency (aka the wealthy industrialists) steered them away from that path.

What’s the corresponding explanation for the Democratic Party? It seems to me that their strategy over the past 40 years, aside from a blip or two here and there, has mainly been in reaction to the much more organized and single-minded Republican strategy.

Tags: Cory Doctorow   Noam Chomsky   politics

Did I not mention?

Apr. 25th, 2019 07:55 am
[syndicated profile] rkirstein_blog_feed

Posted by Rosemary

Yes, the larger-sized edition of The Steerswoman is up and live!   It seemed to take an inordinately long time to show up, after I approved the final version.  Even after they told me it was live, all I could see on Amazon.com was the older, smaller version.  And then I started poking around Amazon, […]
[syndicated profile] daringfireball_feed

Posted by John Gruber

John Moltz returns to the show. Topics include AirPods 2, Samsung’s Galaxy Fold debacle, the trove of iOS 13 and MacOS 10.15 leaks reported by Guilherme Rambo, and the future of iTunes.

Brought to you by these fine sponsors:

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[syndicated profile] daily_illuminator_feed
The Fantasy Trip Decks of Destiny The Fantasy Trip Legacy Edition has shipped to the Kickstarter backers and is now in stores . . . which means it's time for the Decks of Destiny expansion! Or expansions, because there are so many different card decks packed into the upcoming Kickstarter campaign. Steve has been working on these cards for months, and we're almost ready to launch the Decks of Destiny campaign under the Warehouse 23 account on Kickstarter.

What's inside the Decks of Destiny campaign? Characters, treasures, rumors, and more! How much more? Lots, including new megahex tiles compatible with the tiles in the Legacy Edition box. We're putting a lot of energy into The Fantasy Trip this year, and everyone is having a great time creating new support for this returned classic roleplaying game. Follow Warehouse 23 on Kickstarter today so you don't miss out on the Decks of Destiny!

Phil Reed

Warehouse 23 News: An Announcement From The Secret Masters!

Illuminati Coins are here! Missed out on the Kickstarter? Need more sets? Ready to join the conspiracy? This set of custom metal coins work with any game . . . or may be used for any number of other nefarious purposes. Just note we are not responsible for any failed bribes. Get yours today at Warehouse 23!
[syndicated profile] askamanager_feed

Posted by Ask a Manager

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. Coworker calls me “mama” because I’m pregnant

I am currently 18 weeks pregnant with my first child. I work remotely on a team made up entirely of remote workers. It’s a small team of all women, all of whom have kids or even grandkids, and we are very close and friendly. It’s definitely a professional environment (and being the youngest member of the team by far, I try to stay very professional) but we also share stories about our weekends, pictures of our pets, etc. and I like that.

I told my coworkers the news a couple weeks ago and they are all very excited for me. Each meeting or call seems to start with a report on how the baby and I are doing. I am totally comfortable with this and it has been an easy pregnancy, so it’s been simple enough to give a little soundbite that I’m feeling fine and everything is going well without getting into details of ultrasound pictures or symptoms.

One coworker is very nice but she is a little awkward. She keeps asking me “How is mama feeling?” Alison, I HATE being called mama, even among friends and family. It feels infantilizing and puts an emphasis on my new role as a mother which is only one part of my life, especially with coworkers. If this were a friend, I would have no problem telling them not to call me mama, but it’s a coworker so I have mostly just ignored it. I don’t mind ignoring it either, but maybe that’s weird too! Any advice or scripts for handling this with a minimum of awkwardness?

Ugh, yes, it’s weird, but there’s always someone who seems to want to do this.

It’s perfectly to say, “Oh, please stick with Beth. Thanks!” Then follow up with a subject change to minimize the awkwardness, if you want to.

If that doesn’t work (although hopefully it will), then you may have to repeat it: “I’m still Beth. Please call me that instead.”

For what it’s worth … you might be totally fine continuing to share those regular updates in meetings and calls, but you also might reach a point in your pregnancy where you want more privacy (especially if you have any complications). It can be easier to shut that down now than try to do it down the road — so it might be worth a “from here on, I’ll let you know if anything changes.” Or not — some people are fine with this level of sharing — it’s just something to keep in mind.

2. Why are employers and candidates held to different standards in hiring?

Why do recruiters do the opposite of what is expected by candidates, then cry that there is a talent shortage? For example, I am expected to customize a resume and cover letter for each specific job application to ensure that either the person reading my application can see how I’m qualified, or a computer algorithm doesn’t automatically reject it. Meanwhile, I get extremely generic messages from recruiters (regarding relevant positions) on LinkedIn only that my profile “intrigues them.” Why should I reply when they made zero effort to customize their message to me, and why do recruiters think this is acceptable when they expect applicants to do the opposite?

Well, you don’t need to reply to recruiters who send you obvious form letters if you don’t want to! Those recruiters tend to be going for numbers over quality, and in a lot of industries (not all, but many) might not be worth your time anyway.

But your larger point stands: Candidates are expected to put energy into things that employers don’t. Part of that is because recruiters need to convey the same message to enormous numbers of people, and form letters make sense for that. (It doesn’t make sense to write a personal rejection note to all 200+ people you might be rejecting for a single position; a form letter is going to convey what needs to be conveyed pretty effectively.) And part of it is that your materials will actually be more effective when you customize them, so it’s in your own interests to do it.

But part of it is also convention. There are a bunch of double standards in hiring that are rooted more in convention than anything else. For example, your interviewer can be late to the interviewer or check her phone in the middle of it, while it’s typically going to be really frowned upon for you to do that as a candidate. And you certainly couldn’t get away with sending employers a list of instructions for interviewing you or simply announce the time you will meet with them, while some employers do exactly that.

So yeah, there are double standards. Some are eye-rolly but not worth the capital it would take to fight them. Others are worth pushing back on.

3. I want to ask for a promotion four months into my new job

In negotiating my current role, the compensation I was offered was deliberately anchored to my previous package, a simple 10% on top of my previous salary. Frustratingly, my recruiter revealed this without my permission, which I feel was unfair because firstly, my previous company had implemented a company-wide pay freeze for over a year. I was told I was deserving of both a higher salary and promotion but they simply didn’t have the budget. Secondly, during the period I was searching for a new role to get the promotion I desired, I was offered senior roles more than once. However, I felt the companies weren’t the best environments for me to develop so I declined.

When I was negotiating my current package, I did bring up these points, but it came down to them simply not being willing to hire me in a senior role as they didn’t think I was quite there, so they refused to budge on either level or salary, adding that they expected me to progress fairly rapidly. I figured something was better than nothing so accepted regardless.

As my probation period comes to an end, I believe I’ve demonstrated myself to be performing at a senior level and would like to again request the promotion. I like my job and don’t want to go through the upheaval of starting somewhere new after just four months, but I can’t help but feel like I’m being short-changed, which is making me feel very dejected, especially as I see peers with less experience leapfrog my progress. How do I broach this subject during my probation review and find an outcome that suits us both?

Oooh, I don’t think you can. You can’t really ask for or expect a promotion after only four months, unless there are very unusual circumstances (like that you ended up doing a different job than the one you were hired for). They told you clearly four months ago that they didn’t think you were at a senior level, and it’s unlikely they’ll have changed that assessment in just four months. Plus, you accepted their offer for this role at this level — it would be operating in bad faith to resent being expected to stay in it now, when it’s been such a short time. Typically a year would be the earliest you could bring this up.

What you can do, though, is to ask your boss about how things are going generally, and whether she thinks you could realistically be on a path to move up to a senior level in time, and whether it’s something she’d be open to talking about once you’ve been there a year.

4. Should we send a graduation announcement to my husband’s boss?

My 45-year-old husband started his current job four years ago, at the same time he started college. He already had years of experience in his field and the college degree was a personal challenge. He graduates in May.

His company is small, less than 50 employees scattered across the country, and the CEO is his grandboss. The CEO’s wife heads up the home office with a small group. All other employees travel extensively for work. My husband has been pushing for a promotion after several successful large-scale projects. He’s had a small promotion and a raise since he’s been there, and they’ve paid for him to take several professional development courses and obtain certifications. His degree relates directly to the work he has been gunning for (but is not required to do said work).

I think we should send his boss and grandboss graduation announcements as a kind of nudge towards that goal. My husband is concerned it’s too personal but he’s on the fence. If it makes a difference, the announcements are standard fair, no photos, but have the chancellor’s crest for the university. As an idea of the company culture, they send out signed cards from the CEO and his wife and gifts to employees for most major holidays (typically things like company logo wear, specialty food items, and restaurant gift cards). He’s on a first-name basis with his boss and the CEO’s wife, but when speaking about/to the CEO it’s (Full Name). I certainly wouldn’t send them a baby or wedding announcement, but I feel this directly relates to his job. What’s your advice?

I wouldn’t, because a lot of people feel obligated to give gifts in response to graduation announcements (or read that expectation into them). I’d rather see him just send them both a note with the news, including thanks to them for supporting him in that work if they did (and definitely if they paid for any of his courses). But ultimately your husband knows the culture there best, and you and I should both defer to him on what feels right!

5. Putting Klingon fluency on a resume

I am a polyglot and like learning new languages. My current count is six (two fluent, one semi-fluent, three basics). A wonderful part of my CV, which many friends and employers agree, is a world map where I have every country highlighted where a language I know is spoken, and it easily covers a third of the world.

Now I started learning Klingon on Duolingo for fun (they also have High Valyrian), and my level of understanding is getting comparative to other languages I can understand. Is this a thing I could put on my CV, or would it only appear negatively?

I wouldn’t list Klingon on its own without other languages (unless you were a field where it would clearly be a plus, although I’m having trouble thinking of what those might be), but if you’ve already got a bunch of languages on there, I don’t think it would be a problem to add it. That said, I’m not convinced it’s going to strengthen your candidacy in any appreciable way; you clearly already have impressive language skills without it. But some hiring managers will see it as a fun thing that shows personality.

(For what it’s worth, I wouldn’t normally recommend including a graphic like a map on a resume or a CV. If you’re getting interviews for the jobs you want, then feel free to ignore me, but typically I wouldn’t use that sort of graphic on a resume. I’m not going to reject a good candidate over it though.)

coworker calls me “mama,” why are employers and job candidates held to different standards, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

10:32

Apr. 25th, 2019 03:41 am
[syndicated profile] walterjonwilliams_feed

Posted by wjw

Implied Spaces

Ten hours and thirty-two minutes of auditory pleasure await you!  The Implied Spaces audio book has been released, and is available at your local store or online in the usual places.

Apparently the book has been available for a while, but as I’m only the author, I was left to find it on my own.

Security

Apr. 25th, 2019 02:01 am
[syndicated profile] dr_drang_feed

Posted by Dr. Drang

Today I spent some time with Keyboard Maestro, the Numbers app, a shell pipeline, and—you weren’t expecting this—the Social Security Administration. I managed to avoid some tedious data entry.

It started with my going to the My Social Security site to make sure my earnings records were correct. The SSA sends reminders to do this every once in a while, and like most people, I have usually ignored them. But last year I learned that my earnings and contributions for 2016 had not been recorded, and I had to jump through some hoops to get it corrected, so I’m now more diligent about checking.

After confirming that my earnings history was correct and complete through 2018, I started thinking about benefits. I’m 58, and retirement is not that far in the future. I wanted to check out a few retirement scenarios, varying my retirement age and projected earnings between now and then. There used to be an online benefits calculator that would incorporate your earnings history into its forecast, but I couldn’t find it today. Instead, I came across this page, which requires you to enter all your earnings history into a series of fields in a long HTML form.

SSA benefits calculator

If you have earnings going back to 1951, I salute you.

I have almost 40 years of earnings, and there was no way I was going to tab-type-tab-type my way through all of those numbers. So I wrote a short Keyboard Maestro macro to do it for me:

KM macro for entering SSA earnings

Ignore the definition of the earnings variable in the first step; we’ll get to that in a bit. The important thing is that earnings is a multiline string with each line representing a year’s earnings. For me, the list starts in 1980 and continues through 2018.

The macro loops through the lines in earnings. For each line, it

  • puts the line into the variable amt;
  • types a Tab;
  • pauses for a quarter of a second; and
  • types the amt string.

The pause is in there to make sure the focus has moved to the next field before typing the amount.

These are exactly the steps I would have gone through had I filled in the fields by hand. The key to running the macro successfully is to make sure the cursor is blinking in the 1979 earnings field before invoking the macro. Ten seconds later, all the necessary fields are filled with no typos.

Let’s go back now and see how I filled the earnings variable. The numbers came from the earnings history page that I started on, which looked like this (apart from the values, of course):

SSA earnings history

This is an HTML table with years. The values I wanted were in the second column, which I couldn’t select by itself. So I selected the whole table and copied it into a Numbers spreadsheet to do some editing.

You’ll note that we need to enter the numbers in the benefits calculator in chronological order, but the earnings table is in reverse chronological order. So the first order of business was to sort the spreadsheet by the first column. After that I was free to delete the first and third columns, leaving me with a single column of the numbers I needed. Except…

The values in the remaining column have dollar signs and commas, and I was afraid that Numbers had interpreted them as strings when I pasted them in. But, mirabile dictu, Numbers did the right thing and interpreted those values as numbers. So all I had to do was set the style for those cells as a generic number type, with no commas and no currency symbols. Then I copied the column and pasted it into the top step of the macro.

The earnings extraction part of today’s work will never have to be done again. In the future, I can just add lines for earnings in 2019 and beyond.

This is obviously not a macro I’m going to be using more than once a year, but now that I have it, I can fill in the benefits calculator fields easily and accurately. It’s not a great savings in time, but it is a great savings in frustration.


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[syndicated profile] raptitude_feed

Posted by David Cain

Post image for Work Like the Client Is You in Two Years

When I had a job, it was easy to know how much work to do in a day: somewhere between as much as I could, and as little as I could without someone calling me out on it.

Now I’m my own employer, and that clear standard for “a respectable day’s work” is gone. I’m constantly negotiating with myself over how hard to work, when to tackle the trickiest tasks, and when to take time off.

I realize that many people, both employees and self-employees, don’t have this problem. They work as hard as they reasonably can every day. These people get a lot done, and face problems of burnout and obsession, rather than lack of productivity.

This article is not for them. It’s for those of you who perpetually struggle to get the important things done, especially when there’s flexibility in what and how much you do on a given day: entrepreneurs, novelists, inventors, or really anybody aspiring towards something that may or may not happen.

If you were a purely logical being—think of Data, the android from Star Trek—you’d always do the most sensible (and valuable) next logical step: write the next chapter, finalize the current build, call the next lead.

But you’re not Data from Star Trek. You’re a fearful ape living in an absurd future. The Next Logical Step often entails a big decision, a point of no return, exposure to criticism, or some other emotionally daunting prospect.

So you balk on doing the Next Logical Step today.

Instead, you do something that feels productive in some general sense but does not move your goals forward: processing email, clearing your desk, or doing “web research.”

Generally speaking, bosses help people work more like Data, by steering you back towards the NLS before you develop a complex around it. They carrot-and-stick you through the more daunting steps, for better or worse.

But it’s hard to serve simultaneously as the shrewd manager and the thankless grunt, given their diverging impulses. The one that prevails tends to depend on mood, which for many of us tends to darken at the thought of tackling a crucial, looming NLS. Thankless grunt wins out, cleans his desk and calls it a day.

One surprisingly effective way to navigate this problem is to pretend you’re working for someone else. I’ve had some of my most focused, rewarding workdays by pledging my efforts to an imaginary client. (I call her Sally.)

I treat all my work as though Sally has hired me to do it. My daily to-do list is essentially a work order. I write down how many hours I logged on each thing. I charge a lot, I like to imagine, so I’m determined to make those hours valuable.

This solves several self-management problems immediately. Firstly, I always have to know what I’m trying to do with a given hour, because a client is on the clock. When I’m working for Sally, it makes no sense to “work on” an article for the afternoon. All my efforts must be connected to a real-world deliverable—a draft, a published piece, a module for my online course. There must always be a clear finish line, and I have to stay aware of how much time it’s taking to get there.

Treating my hours as billable keeps perfectionism from bogging things down. I know Sally would rather I take an hour to complete a task to “good enough” standard, than spend five hours courting perfection without even finishing the damn thing.

Sally isn’t necessarily watching me work, but I need to work as if she were, because she’s getting a freaking huge bill and will be very much aware of what I’ve provided for her investment. My old self-defeating tricks—interrupting myself with websites or email, keeping a dozen browser tabs open, cycling through my three favorite smartphone apps—become absurd.

There’s an intrinsic pleasure in working a tight, killer hour for Sally, and delivering something pleasing and profitable for both of us. It makes me want to get better and better at what I do, becoming capable of more every hour (and commanding a higher rate).

Not every hour I work is a “client” hour. If I’m just playing around with article ideas, or learning a new application, Sally’s off the clock. I don’t charge for everyday email and other administrative stuff, which makes me want to minimize those low-value activities (rather than indulge in them) so that I can get back to doing the stuff that deserves compensation.

I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of this way of working. I now get more done in a couple of hours than I used to in entire days.

The approach has one significant flaw, however: Sally doesn’t really exist.

That doesn’t usually matter, but when my mood approaches the low end, it can be hard to sustain the fantasy. The cranky, scared-ape part of me knows there isn’t really anyone to please, or disappoint. There’s nobody paying my expensive hourly rate, and nobody to fire me if I spend the morning watching fast food reviews on YouTube instead of finishing vital tasks.

However, I recently made a subtle but significant adjustment to this strategy, and now it no longer depends on fantasy.

Instead of working for Sally, I now work for Me in Two Years.

I’m 38 years old, and my star client is 40 Year Old David.

I can picture him even better than I can Sally. I’m even more loyal to him, more determined to reward his trust in me.

And unlike Sally, he is absolutely real, or will be very shortly.

Working for him confers all the same benefits as working for Sally. I still need to stay aware of what my time is actually creating in the world. I still need a very good reason to work on anything other than the Next Logical Step. It still feels absurd to get lost in online diversions, aimless nitpicking, and low-value administrative crap.

Just like with Sally, his interests are closely aligned with mine, but he’s not me. He’s a little older than me, a little more serious, and a lot less tolerant of shoddy work and wasted time.

I want him to regard me as a professional, so I’d rather tough something out today and get it done, than embarrass us both by trying to give him the runaround. He’s not stupid, so I can’t be either.

Most compelling of all, in two years I will be him, and will either be enjoying or suffering the karmic fruits of my efforts today.

If you’re struggling to get yourself to do the vital, difference-making tasks on your list, work like the client is You in Two Years.

Why two years?

Two years is enough time for a few big, valuable projects to completely change your life, if you work on them like a high-value professional.

It’s also a short enough period that you could completely squander it without really noticing.

You can easily picture the two corresponding versions of You in Two Years.

There’s the one who was lucky enough to have a killer contractor who was worth every penny and more, who really understood what was at stake, who really put themselves in their client’s shoes.

And there’s the one who’s pretty much where you are now, just older.

Work like the real client is you in two years. Because it’s true.

***

Photo by Simon Abrams

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Posted by John Gruber

Microsoft:

Microsoft Corp. today announced the following results for the quarter ended March 31, 2019, as compared to the corresponding period of last fiscal year:

  • Revenue was $30.6 billion and increased 14%

  • Operating income was $10.3 billion and increased 25%

  • Net income was $8.8 billion and increased 19%

  • Diluted earnings per share was $1.14 and increased 20% […]

“Demand for our cloud offerings drove commercial cloud revenue to $9.6 billion this quarter, up 41% year-over-year,” said Amy Hood, executive vice president and chief financial officer of Microsoft.

Azure is way up, but Office and even Windows are up too. Satya Nadella’s Microsoft is doing really well, and to me seems well-positioned for the future.

(One amusing side note: The press release was obviously written in Word and exported to HTML. Just look at the source. The items in the bullet list (which list is not an <ol> but instead a bunch of <span> elements) start with a Unicode middle dot followed by a space, then 7 consecutive non-breaking spaces. Microsoft is still Microsoft.)

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Posted by John Gruber

Eric Schmitt, David E. Sanger, and Maggie Haberman:

Ms. Nielsen left the Department of Homeland Security early this month after a tumultuous 16-month tenure and tensions with the White House. Officials said she had become increasingly concerned about Russia’s continued activity in the United States during and after the 2018 midterm elections — ranging from its search for new techniques to divide Americans using social media, to experiments by hackers, to rerouting internet traffic and infiltrating power grids.

But in a meeting this year, Mick Mulvaney, the White House chief of staff, made it clear that Mr. Trump still equated any public discussion of malign Russian election activity with questions about the legitimacy of his victory. According to one senior administration official, Mr. Mulvaney said it “wasn’t a great subject and should be kept below his level.”

Unsurprising, but jaw-dropping nonetheless. On the one side: hostile actions from our most dangerous foreign adversary and the integrity of our nation’s elections. On the other side: one man’s ego.

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Adventures in Mamboland

"Jazz Fish, a saxophone playing wanderer, finds himself in Mamboland at a critical phase in his life." --Howie Green, on his book Jazz Fish Zen

Yeah. That sounds about right.

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