I create context. I also write blog posts:

Put Down The iPhone…

Posted: February 25th, 2012 | Author: | No Comments »

Dave Bidini Made Me Write This.

Posted: February 1st, 2012 | Author: | No Comments »

This now hangs above my desk.

I should start with a few notes about Dave Bidini, if you’re unfamiliar:
Dave Bidini was in a Canadian rock band. They were so good that the first words on Live From Here, a live album from my favorite Canadian rock band, starts with this song dedication: “This is for the Rheostatics – we are all richer for having seen them tonight”.

Dave Bidini is also a writer. A top-notch one. I’m setting out on a quest to read anything he’s written. He’s that good.
I just started “Home And Away,” his most recent book, about the Homeless World Cup.

This past holiday season was a stressful one. I was back working at Apple, staying on Long Island instead of going home, working early on the day after Thanksgiving and late the day before Christmas. Long hours, and lots of them. It was tiring. But that’s retail, right?

When I wasn’t working, I was watching Netflix or surfing the internet; there wasn’t energy to do anything else. It was right around this time that I started reading Dave Bidini’s regular columns in the National Post (might have been around the time he began writing a regular column there…). I’ve read a few of his books, listened to his band, and, last fall, saw him read from Home And Away at a soccer bar in Brooklyn — the invitation to which, after a back-and-forth on Twitter, came directly from the man himself. But the columns were different. Now, he was dropping little nuggets weekly. I didn’t have to wait for a book to be published or make the investment in multiple chapters. These were quick, short columns, little appetizers to be enjoyed in bite-sized pieces.

After a particularly long close on a Friday night and a sore wake-up on a Saturday morning in the midst of holiday craziness, I stumbled across a link Dave had posted of his most recent offering, a piece on his hat.

I liked it.

I liked it a lot.

I shared it on Twitter and a little while later he wrote back:

I got bummed out. I wasn’t writing that day. It hadn’t even occurred to me. I was tired and sore and the hours had been long. I was taking a break from writing.

I didn’t want to write.

But when Dave Bidini remembers from a few short conversations that you’re a writer, things change. Excuses disappear.

When Dave Bidini asks if you’re writing today, dammit, you drop whatever the hell you’re doing and you start to write.

At least, I did.

And I snapped back to the realization that, whatever happens, you gotta keep writing. Same way a shark has to keep swimming, you just gotta. I dropped everything and tried to write, but I didn’t have anything. Nothing happening in my life was worth documenting at that moment. So I turned my attention to a project I’d been pushing into a drawer for about a year. The project is called Bitters, and today I invite you to read a preview:

If you enjoy this preview and you want to know more as it happens, I’m keeping everyone updated through email (people who previously signed up got to see this preview about two weeks ago). If you’re interested, sign up here:

My first shot at Phoster.

Posted: January 19th, 2012 | Author: | No Comments »

If you don’t know, Phoster is an iPad app that helps you create bold, stylized posters without having an ounce of actual artistic talent, which is great, because I fit the bill there. So here’s my first attempt:


An Update on Dad

Posted: January 18th, 2012 | Author: | No Comments »

Hey everybody: an update on my father!

He returned home today (minus a gallbladder) and is in for a decently long recovery period, but he’s feeling a little bit better every day. Thanks for the thoughts, the well-wishes, the prayers, the vibes, and all the comments of the past few days. I can’t tell you how appreciative I am to have such supportive friends/family out there. Thanks, everybody.


Posted: January 12th, 2012 | Author: | No Comments »

It was a moment of panic, receiving the text:

Hey at hosp with your parents ed with chest and abd pain  ekg ok on first look just took bloodwork  he is ok will keep u posted  your mom doesnt have phone call or txt me if u want her

It’s strange living in a world where a text message can carry so much weight, cramming so much in a hundred and forty stupid, punctuation-free characters, normally reserved for “Hey, I’ll meet you in 10″ or “Which aisle do they keep the artichoke hearts in?”

I excused myself from the table where I was sitting, eating pizza and drinking wine with friends. “I have to go make a phone call. They just took my dad to the hospital.”

My aunt picked up the phone. It was her phone; she was at the hospital with them, and my mother’s phone had disappeared a week before. So she picked up the phone.

“Hey, what’s going on?”

“He’s all right, we just brought him in. Here, I’ll pass it to your mother.”

There was a second of silence, and some ambient noise as I heard her pass the phone. Then, as the handoff was being made, I heard her say to my mother, “see, I told you he’d call immediately. Thirty seconds, that’s all it took.”

A brief moment broke from panic, a moment of pride. “See, I told you he’d call immediately.”

I’ll probably never be paid a bigger compliment.

The panic came back.

“Hey, how is he? What’s going on? Is he in pain?”

We talked about what was going on. Chest pain, but it doesn’t seem to be anything major. They’ll have him on something for the pain in a little bit, but they don’t think it’s serious. Tests have gone well and they’re waiting for blood work to come back.

The panic subsided.

It didn’t go away, but it subsided. And later, once he had something for the pain, we were able to talk to him.

“How are you doing?”

“I’m fine dad, but we’re talking about you right now.”

“I’m ok. Say, have you gotten to use the iPad we got you for Christmas?”

“Yeah, dad, the iPad’s great. What’s going on with you? How are you feeling?”

“I’m ok. I’ll tell you, I was in some pain there but I’m feeling much better now. Give my regards to Kelsey.”

“I’ll do that. But let’s talk more about you.”

Apparently, the drugs made him chatty. Things could be worse.

It turns out, twelve hours later, that he should be fine. The panic subsides further and we get closer to the end of this. It’s not over, but we’re closer.

Everyday Resolutions.

Posted: January 11th, 2012 | Author: | 1 Comment »

I can’t get new years resolutions out of my head. It’s not that I’m itching to get a gym membership (I already have one I don’t use) or that I need some sort of life-affirming moment to keep me going (’cause, I don’t know, I just don’t…), but because I really like the idea of bettering yourself. I like the idea of pushing yourself to go further, of improving on something you already think you’re good at, of calling yourself out on something you’re not very good at.

I don’t like all of those things when they only come up because there’s some sense that new beginnings can only happen on January 1. I think we should be working on them all year, and that we should constantly be adding to the list. So on top of my professional resolution to work smarter, not better, I’ve spent a few days jotting down some personal goals.

Click here to check them out.

This Matters To You If:

Posted: January 7th, 2012 | Author: | 3 Comments »

I get a lot of junk mail. The people who lived in my apartment before me get even more. And I can’t remember the last time I opened any of it1. There’s a stack of it sitting here in front of me, on its way to the garbage: credit card offers, checking account offers, dog food catalogs (for one of the previous tenants), clothing catalogs, and something about bird feeders. The bird feeder one was addressed to my father but ended up here anyways, either because of a mistake at the Post Office or the bird feeder company — or maybe he’s trying to tell me that I need more birds in my life. It’s not gonna happen, dad: there’s no way I’m even thumbing through it.

I have the Internet. I don’t need more unsolicited reading material. So most of the junk isn’t even going to be skimmed out of curiosity. And I don’t touch credit card offers, because I don’t need another credit card company trying to pay for things for me.

The ones that worry me are the offers from my own bank. They arrive daily, and I get fooled sometimes, because what if it actually *is* important? And when it inevitably isn’t, it annoys me. It feels like I’ve fallen for some sort of trick. I don’t like falling for tricks.

If you’re a company and you want to get in touch with me, sending me something is the mail is probably the way to go. For whatever reason, paper mail carries more weight: someone printed it out, folded it up, stamped their fake signature on it (and paid like, what, a buck for it? I haven’t bought stamps in a while…). I get a serious piece of mail and I can tell that there’s something behind it; it takes more effort than an email, so they’re probably not doing it for nothing. But there’s a whole “Boy Who Cried Wolf” thing when I get a hundred “Important Account Information” letters a week, and none of them have anything to do with anything I consider “important.”

I’ve stopped opening “Important Account Information” letters.

I doubt I’m alone on this.

So here’s what I propose: Let’s be honest up front. If you’re sending me an offer for something, let me know. Hey, maybe I want that interest free credit card or that impossibly low mortgage rate2. If I do, and you’re writing to me about it, that’s something I want to know. Don’t leave me guessing as I try not to destroy the envelope with my kludgy fingers. But if I’m not looking for that offer, don’t try to trick me into opening it anyways. I feel like tricking someone isn’t the best way to begin a financial relationship.

Try putting this on the outside of the envelope:

I don’t know, word it however you’d like, break it up into as many categories as you’d like, make it more colorful. But show me when you really *need* me to read something and when it’s something that I might only be interested in. I’m going to make that decision anyways, so why annoy me in the process?

What’s the worst that could happen? I’d stop opening your junk mail?

1) Er, ahem: I can’t remember the last time I opened any of *mine*… I’ve never opened any of the previous neighbors’ mail…
2) ATTN: MORTGAGE COMPANIES: I am not interested in an impossibly low mortgage.

Taking My Resolution With Me

Posted: January 5th, 2012 | Author: | No Comments »

My new years resolution in mobile form:

Desktop — 1280px x 800px
Desktop — 1440px x 900 px

Smarter, Not Better

Posted: January 2nd, 2012 | Author: | 4 Comments »

New years resolutions are a kind of gray area for me. On the one hand, I think rethinking things and recommitting yourself to something is important, especially because I know that when I get comfortable in something, I can go into auto-pilot mode. On the other hand, though, why wait for January 1? Why not keep rethinking and recommitting throughout the year?

So I don’t ordinarily make specific resolutions. Instead, I aim at more general areas I want to improve. Be more active, read more, cook something new every once in a while.

This year, I’m looking professionally, and I’m looking more specific. Having thought about it for the past few weeks, I finally yesterday came to a satisfying conclusion about the whole thing:


“Better” has a lot of definitions. It’s relative. It means one thing today and another tomorrow. It’s emotional. It’s now, not later.

Smarter is well-planned, it sets the groundwork for the future, it’s logical.

For too long, I’ve been on auto-pilot. And auto-pilot dictated that I do things better, not smarter. There was more instant gratification in the decisions I made, less foresight. I don’t think I made poor decisions, but I think I did give in to what would make me feel “better” in the moment than down the road. That needs to stop.

What does that mean in my work? It means I’m not going to hold on to ideas beyond their usefulness, I’m not going to stake everything on one shot because I’m too attached to throw it out. More ideas, bigger ideas, smarter ideas. But not “better” ideas. Those don’t matter. Those don’t go anywhere. “Better” ideas aren’t definitive, because, by definition, they can still be even better…

Chasing the smart ideas, though, that’s where it’s at. Crafting smart campaigns, smart copy, and smart messaging… that’s where I want to be.

Smarter, not better.

I’m thankful for you all

Posted: November 24th, 2011 | Author: | No Comments »

I know, I know, I won’t *shut up* about my mustache. Bear with me:

My goal was $300. The deal I made was at $400, I would keep the mustache around for another month.

This morning, on Thanksgiving of all days, I crossed the $400 mark. I’m stunned. Thanks, everybody. The ‘stache is sticking around for a little longer.

(Haven’t donated yet? You still can here.)

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