Monthly Archives: February 2016

“I lost my job today”

I ran across this post on Facebook from Mike Rowe. If you don’t know who Mike is…he was host of Dirty Jobs on the Discovery Channel for years and now is sort of a freelance media personality. He’s always been focused on the everyday guy, which is refreshing in this media age of celebrities who are celebrities for no apparent reason. For our purposes, though, this underscores the role of writing in everyday life and challenges assumptions about a guy who “relies on a strong back and good hands to make ends meet.” Mike shared this post on his own FB page from a fan of his, Jake Welch.

The original FB post can be found here.

From Mike Rowe’s Off The Wall

One of the more annoying stereotypes that plague hardworking people, is the persistent assumption that a man who relies on a strong back and good hands to make ends meet, does so in part because he can’t express himself in writing. Of all the things I admire about this post, which I just plucked from my wall, I’m most impressed by the way it utterly debunks that foolish and unwarranted perception. Beyond that, I can only hope that re-posting it here will increase the odds of Jake Welch getting hired on with all due speed. Someone in the oil business would be damn lucky to have him…

Jake Welch
January 28 at 6:36am ·
I lost my job today.
There it is. Technically, I found out this would be my last trip on this rig nearly a month ago. Worked the whole hitch with the knowledge that when my feet touch solid ground today, I’ll receive a phone call or email to terminate me. This is the oilfield in 2016. I am not the only one. In fact, I am in the company of tens of thousands who will now sit down at their kitchen table for the modern equivalent of cutting out newspaper listings. I spent over five years on this rig, made friends from all over the world. I’ve turned wrenches alongside those who trust me with their lives, and I with theirs. There are few other careers that result in the kind of bond between crew. And after these five years, I’ll see very few of them ever again in my life. And it breaks my fucking heart.
So, now I fly home and turn the page. Because there’s no other way. I was raised to be a man of action; not to sit with my head hung low and wait for someone else to put the pieces back together. My wife and I will do that together, with the support of the greatest circle of friends and family we could ever dream of. I don’t want a single “I’m so sorry” in the comments of this post, or anyone’s condolences. Please, hang on to them. It’s not about my own pride, or dignity. It’s simply that I am grateful for the life I have and the opportunities before me. There are people blindsided by horrific tragedies every day, and mine is not one of them. Offer your apologies to those individuals, as they could surely benefit more than me.
We will move forward because it’s all we know. And if it gets harder before it gets easier, then so it shall be. I’m admittedly a little anxious about what the future holds, but I am unafraid. This month at work has been the most challenging period I’ve ever worked through, and it has served to demonstrate the strength of the woman who holds my home together in my absence. Everyone says their significant other is the greatest on earth; as they rightly should. But I will tell you without a shadow of doubt, that my wife is made of something very few would even understand. She is my better half, and I would not have lasted two minutes offshore this trip if not for her guidance and support. I work to be everything a real man should be, and part of that means appreciating that sometimes he is not strong enough to take the world on alone.
Here’s to pouring a glass with my family and friends who’ve stood by my side every day, and to getting back on the rails. It simply is what it is, and it’s time to move on. The world is full of compression ignition engines and screaming turbochargers, waiting for a worthy hand on the throttle. I am that man.

Please, Stop Calling it a Hack

Have you used a lifehack? How does one exactly hack life? Chances are, you’re not a hacker. Using a binder clip in new and mind-blowing ways does not bestow a title upon you held by the likes of Kevin Mitnick and Sandra Bullock’s character in The Net. You just used a trick, a tip, or one bullet of listicle clickbait to use something in a different way.

Ushered in by the wildly popular Lifehacker blog (which I readily admit to reading), the term hack has come to replace a variety of words meaning tip. Perhaps it’s a desire to be hipster and ironic, or frame everything in terms of technology, or perhaps as Nikil Saval of the Pacific Standard called it in 2014, the “cult of self-optimization:”

Life-hacking wouldn’t be popular if it didn’t tap into something deeply corroded about the way work has, without much resistance, managed to invade every corner of our lives. The idea started out as a somewhat earnest response to the problem of fragmented attention and overwork—an attempt to reclaim some leisure time and autonomy from the demands of boundaryless labor. But it has since become just another hectoring paradigm of self-improvement.

To be sure, the underlying rationale for a “hack” is productivity, and even the cupcake-eating hack is about eating smarter, not harder (and maximizing the amount of cupcake you can get in your mouth with the least amount of mess). Yes, leave it to the lifehackers to turn something as innocent and joyous as eating a cupcake into an exercise measured in input, output, and waste.

When we move from tips and tricks to hacks, we introduce the assumption of “you’re doing it wrong.” Think of every single one of these lifehack lists as the annoying IT guy in your office who makes you feel incredibly stupid when you ask a simple technology question. I’ve been eating cupcakes for over 30 years and I don’t find anything particularly wrong with how it’s done. I know the different keys on my keyring without painting them in nail polish. I was a straw through the inverted tab of a soda can when I was a teenager, well before any clickbait list instructed me to.

So my quarrel is with both the word and the assumption. Calling something a hack doesn’t make it any more useful or chic than it was when it was a tip or a trick; in fact, it’s the etymological equivalent of a hipster flannel shirt and scarf. Likewise, it carries the pretentious assumption that it is inherently better while at the same time being fashionable before it was cool – think of George Costanza indignantly eating a Snickers bar with a knife and fork. Hacks are for the computer security world. Outside of that realm, it’s only short for hackneyed, and it most certainly is.

Finally, I’ll leave it to the folks at RightThisMinute.com to put a slightly more blunt spin on this.

How To Be a Good Copyeditor

There was a time when the title “Editor,” at least in terms of writing, had to be further clarified. Substantive Editor? Copyeditor? Proofreader? These were the days when editing killed a lot of trees and men stuck press credential in their hats.

Ok, perhaps not that long ago, but it does seem that way sometimes. With the advent of online content management, blog accessibility, and digital publishing, “editing” can be a catchall term covering an amalgam of skills. As a professional writer hiring an editor, you need to clarify what sort of expertise you’re getting. This has consequences for the student writer as well. If you’re faced with writing and revising a term paper, you’re going to want to approach revision as though you are wearing multiple hats, rather than covering all your editing bases in one pass.

I use the following graphic with my composition students. It’s a good representation of how the editing process can be segmented for maximum effectiveness.

Editing as a fluid process

Editing as a fluid process

There are four basic phases:

  1. Revision
  2. Substantive Editing
  3. Copyediting
  4. Proofreading

I’ll cover Revision and Substantive Editing in my next post, so let’s look at Copyediting and Proofreading for now. While the temptation may be great to do both in one pass, the distinction is necessary, especially if you operate under the “Work Smarter, Not Harder” mantra. Think of copyediting as clarifying the voice of your paper–how the sections and paragraphs come together to represent your ideas. A copyeditor wants to make sure the paper’s readability is maximized. Focus on clarity and consistency. Proofreading, on the other hand, about clarifying the look of your paper–typos, grammar mistakes, basic stuff. That should come as the absolute last step, when you know your content and flow are solid, and you just need to put that final inspection to be sure you don’t do something stupid, e.g. confuse there, their, and they’re.