Happy Oughto Oughto Day

Long ago, when the Muddled Calendar was actually present around here (dang, I hope I have the code for that still), one of the Muddled Faithful suggested that February 2th (pronounced twoth), or 02/02, should be celebrated as oughto, oughto day. It is the day you think of what you ought to do.

In the words of a person known only as Funkmaster G-Force:

Its the 02-02-2005 day, or aught two, aught two. We could make it oughto oughto day ,as in Jerry ought-to ought-to have the Monster Within wrapped up by then, or we oughto oughto make this a beer drinkin holiday.

While FGF’s definition made it more of a deadline, I’m unable to achieve that level of planning so I use it as a New Year’s follow-up. In the 31 days since January 2th, you can get a good idea what sort of vector you’re on, vis-a-vis resolutions for the new year.

Here’s how I’m doing:

Weight: Right on schedule. Five weeks, five pounds. I realize they are the easiest pounds, but I’m still stoked.
Bike miles: WAY behind. The rain is partly to blame, not getting into shape as quickly as I thought I would is another factor.
Writing every day: Ugh. I have to just shake off the way the world is going to hell and write my stories about people in worlds going to hell.
All the other resolutions: I… don’t remember what they were. I’m sure I’m doing well at them, though.

3

The Young Writer Responds!

Followers of this sprawling mess of a blog will recall that a few days ago, I responded to an offer from someone who claimed to be a young writer looking for work. I get a lot of these requests, and generally they’re from robots. So when I respond to these messages, I am responding to an email spammer. That can make me rather flip. Apparently it also makes me sound Canadian.

Turns out Cliff is real! And he wrote back! And… he was pissed off. And he hates Canada.

Anyway, in fairness, it’s only right that I present his response here.

Hey man,

Not sure what life did to you that made you this way, but its unfortunate. Bottom line is i’m not a very experienced writer, but I one day wanted to try to make some money doing what I love. I know that day is not close, and likely there are some stages in between, one of which is gaining experience wherever I can and just getting my name out there.

So to keep it short, I knew the best way to try to gain experience was to offer to write for free, and since really i’m just looking for experience and to get out of my comfort zone a bit, I’m open to write about pretty much anything. So I made a catch all template and compiled a pretty decent list of websites that in some regard I thought were cool or at least decent enough to attach my beautiful and regal name to, and reached out. I’m sorry I didn’t personalize the reason for Muddled Ramblings making the cut in my template, if I did it might sound like this

Hey Virgin,

I think your site is pretty cool. I’ve always been a fan of blogs that are about nothing and everything at the same time, that contain good writing, and manage to post at least somewhat consistently. I thought maybe my writing, although not on the level of yours (I guess it’s easy to write well when no other humans will talk to you), might be close to a decent enough caliber to get published on your site. I have lots of ideas, but probably the one that’s going to fit best with your site that looks like actual poop, will be a recent interaction I had with my new puppy that deals with me pulling a piece of feces out of his rectum while not in the process not getting and excrement on my prized nike boots. What do you think, would you be into that kind of shit? (see what i did there, with the double entendre for shit, get it, I’m like the Jay Z of crap puns, wink emoji, hehe)

Anyway, hope you’re doing well in Manitoba Quebec or whatever fuckin canadian shit hole you probably hail from, and if you’re not, well i’m sorry about that, I know the effects of inbreeding sometimes manifest later in life.

Tootles,

Cliff
#MAGA

OF COURSE I had to reply. Like moth to flame, I am compelled to fling myself at boorishness. I have to admit, had I looked up #MAGA before I wrote my reply, I might have answered differently — and his letter only reinforces my opinion of those who chant that mantra. Anyway, this is my response:

Ah, Cliff,

You see the thing is that you sent your query to an address known pretty much only to email spammers. I get offers like yours all the time, and they’re invariably from article factories where people are paid to shovel out shit promoting whatever product the factory is marketing that day. Forgive me if I assumed you were one of those. The fact I responded at all is an indication that your pitch was better than most, however; there was at least the glimmer of humanity in it.

Crafting a pitch letter is difficult, but you need to keep in mind whom you are competing against: shit factories and spammers. Links to articles set off the spam alarm, while offering to write is shit-factory move. Personalization is key, as you point out yourself, and is also a good chance for flattery: “I really enjoyed your episode about…” In fact, your response, underneath the anger, contains the seeds of an excellent pitch. Beautiful and regal, even.

Writing and marketing are very different skills, but it pays to have a thick skin when doing either of those things.

I’m glad to hear you’re writing for the love of it, and I wish you success. I’m not sure what it was about my message that flipped your switch — ironically, I thought my reply was most likely to bring a brief smile to a tired shit-factory marketer before being thrown in the trash, as much of the humor was at my own expense. Perhaps next time I’ll try to make it more clear who my assumed audience is. Had you responded with something approaching a civil tone, we might have been able to work something out. I’ve never had a guest writer on the blog, but the idea was starting to appeal to me.

.j.

3

The Ten-Album Meme

This meme ran around Facebook for a while, and it was so popular even I saw it. If this list looks familiar to you, it’s because I’ve already posted a version over there. It was a fun exercise, though, and worth expanding a bit and sharing in more intimate environs. After some thought I’d probably change some of these, but it’s not just a list of albums, it’s a list of memories, of little stories set in a time long ago.

The challenge was, without too much thought, to list ten albums that influenced you as a teenager. But “teenage” spans an enormous amount of time in terms of changes to who you are. In those few years I changed more than in all the years since. So I limited myself to my first teen phase: The time when I got my first radio and my first record albums, but before I traveled to England for a year — which was an entire phase of my teen life all by itself.

So here’s the list I came up with over in Facebook land:

Pink Floyd, The Wall — I’ve come to like other Pink Floyd albums much more, but this was was a gigantic concept album that told a story. Isn’t this where we came in?

Electric Light Orchestra, Out of the Blue — A big, ambitious album that needed the double-LP-sized canvas to carry its imagery. Kids these days don’t get the experience of opening up that super-glossy double album to see neon spaceships. Night in the City (oh, oh, oh) Madness at midnight.

BTO, Four Wheel Drive — Fuck yeah. This album spanned my various teens and carried me into adulthood. In a car, loud.

Steve Miller Band, Book of Dreams — I still had dreams of making my own synthesizers when that came out. While my friends were all about “Fly Like an Eagle”, this is the album that did it for me.

Eagles, Best Of (So Far) — That record belonged to my sister, and for a while it was the only pop album in the house, permanently installed on her clamshell record player. (By the end of that album’s life, there were two pennies taped to the tonearm of the record player.) You might think that such repetition would scar a guy, but honestly, while the world seems intent on hating the Eagles these days, I think they wrote some pretty good songs.

Fleetwood Mac, Rumors — More storytelling. I had no idea at the time what disfunction in the band created this magic, but this was the second pop album in the house, followed immediately by the Record Club Deluge. When Tusk came out I was dismayed, as was the world, but historians will revere the latter over the former. Yet the album was not just beautiful music, it was well-constructed, gently moving your mood from one place to another.

Kiss, the album with “Detroit, Rock City” on it — Pompous, giant guitars, the first album that got mom to tell me to turn it down. “Beth” was also there, but come on. If I had this in my digital library I’d listen to it right now.

Robin Trower, Bridge of Sighs — Memorex sponsored the “Blank Tape Special” once a week, playing an entire album starting with “hit the record button… now” followed by a pause to give time for the leader to pass over the heads. (Can you imagine that happening today?) Late at night, headphones on, half asleep in a beanbag chair, letting that bass do its magic. The next morning I wasn’t sure just what I’d heard, but I knew it was great. It took a long time for me to actually hear the music. I kind of went into a trance whenever I put it on.

Boston, Boston — The solid wall of sound. I still hum those tunes. I met a girl named Mary Ann in Wallingford, and that song became the story of my life.

Sex Pistols, Never Mind the Bollocks — I save this for last, but of all these albums it had the greatest impact. At a party in West Hagbourne the album came out and they thought it would blow me away, but it was already part of my vocabulary. This album changed me almost as much as it did the recording industry. Of the ten listed here, this one shaped my view of the world the most. After Punk went mainstream (*ahemRancidahem*) I turned to Riot Grrl for my musical anger.

There you have it.

I have subsequently thought of many albums that could arguably be on the above list, albums I listened to many times, from ABBA to ZZ-Top. But these are the ones that came to mind first, so I’m riding with them.

1

Young Writer Looking for Opportunity

Recently I got this email:

Hello,

My name is Cliff and as I’m sure you’re busy, I’ll be brief. I’m a young writer trying to gain recognition for myself. Having recently started a sports blog called [redacted because this is probably spam] with a group of like-minded friends from college, I personally aspire to write about more than just sports.

That said, I would love an opportunity to contribute some of my own work for Muddled Ramblings in a non-paid role, as I think I can provide some great work for you and hope there is an opportunity for me to do so. Hopefully you can use someone with my particular set of skills on your team, as I’m willing to jump in wherever I can help out. I’m a pro with WordPress and blogging and a quick study when it comes to content management systems.

Here is a more recent piece I wrote on the USSSM:

[redacted because this was probably spam]

I can write about absolutely anything and would greatly appreciate the chance to work with you. I am eager to expand my topical range and make new connections.

If you’re the wrong person to speak with, I apologize and would appreciate you forwarding along my information to the right person.

Best,

Cliff

I get these from time to time, and because they are so misplaced, sometimes I reply. I always hope that somewhere on the other end there is someone who appreciates the answer, even if it does them no good. I fervently hope that someday I’ll even get a response. Maybe this will be the time. Anyway, here’s what I wrote, complete with grammatical errors:

Hi Cliff,

OK, maybe.

I get offers like your from time to time, offers that make me wonder if there is a “Cliff” or a “Betsy” or whoever. Offers from people (or perhaps robots) who have clearly not visited Muddled Ramblings and Half-Baked Ideas. People (or robots) who probably haven’t even read the name of the blog, since they still think I’m interested in, as you put it, “great work.” There is damn little great work here.

Also, your ability to be brief is not really a plus.

But I sense something different about you, Cliff. Something I can’t put my finger on, but I think the heart of the connection comes from your use of “college” and “sports”. Muddled Ramblings is no more about College or Sports than it is about anything else, but someone interested in sports who also went to college probably wrote more than one term paper in the small hours of the morning after doing keg stands and playing the travesty of a game kids are calling “beer pong” these days.

When I was a kid, beer pong included paddles.

I’m not interested in the term paper that scored you the ‘A’, that’s for Mainstream Media and big-money prima donnas. I want to hear about that time you were hammered and still wrote an essay that the professor had to confess was based on an “interesting idea”, and for that reason alone you got a ‘B’. Hell, even as I write this I’m partaking in blended Scotch Whiskey (I call it my “gluggin’ scotch” to differentiate it from actual sippin’ Scotch Whiskey, which is always single-malt. Don’t tell me how much you paid for the Johnnie Walker Ultraviolet Label; it’s still a blend, buckaroo), and you can bet these words will appear on Muddled Ramblings.

Truth be told, I’m often sober when I post to MR&HBI, but the spirit is always there.

So Cliff, if there is a Cliff, I’d be curious to see if you could share a bit of work in the “Muddled Style”. It probably won’t make your robot overlords happy writing something for such a small audience without links to their shit in the text, but hell, the robot overlords will have to get over it.

Just so you know going in, the revenue stream at Muddled Ramblings and Half-Baked Ideas is zero. Nil, nada, nix. I pay more than I should to keep it running for one simple reason: I love doing it. If you want to participate, you have to write for the same reason. For the love.

Can you do that, Cliff?

.j.

3

Knives Exclusive Patron Content (hopefully) Simplified

If you are one of my treasured patrons and you have mentioned in the past that you cannot access the TOP SECRET super-awesome patron-only content, you should have received and email from me. If you are unable to access the special content, but didn’t get an email, please let me know.

The system is much simpler, but at this time it is not overly tested. Please let me know if you have any trouble.

Knives Episode 27 Released

Actually I hit the “publish” button a few days ago, but never got the announcement out. Whups.

In this episode the group, now one larger, returns to the ruin to get the thing that’s under all the bodies. Whatever is is. We learn a little more about the woman who lends her name to the title of this episode, and a little of Bags’ history as well.

Speaking of Bags’ history, I’m giving up on the Patreon plugin for WordPress that is supposed to “simplify” the process of allowing patrons to see content others can’t. It’s just not very good, and I simply don’t have enough patrons to warrant trying to fix it. This weekend I’ll set up a simpler, manual system to allow my bestest friends in the whole world to see the backstories without the current malarkey. I look forward to the day that manually granting access is overwhelming.

Also, I’ll be posting the last, sloppiest, part of Bags’ history, so I can get to the job of posting Kat’s backstory. Once I get that out I’ll start twisting arms again to get people to spread the word so we can cross the next backstory threshold.

Read the episode!

1

That Tingly, Geeky Feeling

My day job is building Web applications you will never see. That is by design; my apps deal with SECRET STUFF.

The first aside about failure: My first Internet application is also one you will also never see, not because of secrecy, but because it failed. We made an immersive app with a rich graphical interface that allowed people to share photos and messages with a select group of friends. The core app acted as an operating system, able to discover compatible services to provide data. It flopped. A few years later MySpace and Facebook provided crappy platforms that allowed the world to shout at each other. In retrospect my biggest mistake (among many) was assuming people valued privacy.

ANYWAY, I build Web applications. But I come from a background of developing desktop apps, and let me tell you, even now the world of Web app development is ridiculously painful. Slowly, slowly, software design principles worked out decades ago are finding their way to the Web.

Another aside about a failure: A while back I created a framework that allowed the UI (still running in a dang browser after all this time) to connect to the server with such efficiency that when anyone anywhere made a change, everyone saw it immediately. In geek terms, I created an MVC system where the central model was shared by all clients in real time. It also allowed anyone to track the entire history of every value in the system. I had a great 3D interface for that I never got to implement. The system worked so well I still get misty thinking about it. It was (still is) marketable. That project was shit-canned for reasons I could have managed better that had nothing to do with the technology.

But goddammit, I’ll fail shooting for making something great over succeeding at the mediocre, and I’ve got the track record to prove it.

I may have that chance again. I can’t be too specific (sorry for the tease), but I’m pretty excited. So this afternoon I snuck out of work early to go and… work. But fun work. Perhaps a chance to take my failures and put them together into a game-changer. I’ve come close before.

1