Friday 5 | Click-worthy Links

Wireless Computer Mouse with Wheel

Here are 5 more places online worth checking out:

  1. Everyone loves reading banned books, right? They’re a little dangerous and we all love a little rebellion from time to time. But there are some banned books that make the list leaving everyone scratching their heads. Here’s a list of 10 such banned books. Would you have guessed any that were on this list?
  2. Okay. I know that I go on a bit about Kurt Vonnegut, and that some of you don’t care about him because you’ve never read his books and don’t plan to. Whatever. Just read this little biography written by one of this lifelong friends. Then like him. Come on. I like him. You should too.
  3. Picture a bookstore employee breaking into your home one night and placing the books from your shelf into a box and taking them back. That bookstore is Amazon.
  4. When you dive into a book, do you want to bring a friend? Or is reading a specifically anti-social experience? Here’s a thoughtful exploration of how readers approach collaborative reading platforms.
  5. As a lover of both science fiction and bite-size reading portion, I kind of love this list of the greatest science fiction quotes ever. *LANGUAGE WARNING* for the less than expletive-friendly among you.

Enjoy!

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My Messy Desk Under Fire

voicemail

I’ve written before about the chaos that is my desk at work. Unfortunately, disorder does not stop at my desk, as I discovered to my detriment earlier this week.

I was cleaning out some old voicemails when I came across one to which I had not previously listened. Being in marketing at the bookstore, the majority of voicemails that I get are from companies wanting to pitch me ad space on their respective newspaper, magazine, internet site, or whatever. Occasionally, I’ll get a wrong phone call meant for the marketing department of Baker Publishing Group, the parent corporation for the bookstore where I work. But the voicemail that I discovered was different.

Here’s how it starts:

“Hi Josh. My name is Sue Shellenbarger. I’m the work and family columnist for the Wall Street Journal. I came upon your blog while I was researching a column and I read a delightful post. It was about your cluttered desk and you wrote just a really sweet piece about how your job requires you to think outside the box and if a little bit of clutter helps you to do that, then so be it. That’s exactly the viewpoint I’m trying to get into this next column of mine…”

The date of this voicemail is from just over a month ago.

I was crestfallen. I missed a huge opportunity!

I might have been quoted in the Wall Street Journal. My blog may have been mentioned or linked to Sue Shellenbarger’s article. But I didn’t catch her voicemail until it was a month too late to do anything about it.

The point of the blog post that Sue had mentioned was that clutter can help creative types like me do our creative thing well. And while I love being creative, being disorderly, and living in chaos, my voicemail-missing lifestyle has proven that I’ve been experiencing too much of a good thing. There needs to be some order, some priorities amid the chaos so opportunities like free promotion in the world-famous Wall Street Journal don’t pass one by.

So would you like to know what I’m doing today? I’m going to clean my desk. I’m going to get organized. And I’m going to email Ms. Shellenbarger at the Wall Street Journal and compliment her on a fine article (read it here) and apologize for not contacting her sooner.

If you are messy like me, please learn from my mistakes. Accept your mess only if it does not keep you from life’s opportunities.

Two Years Down

On this day two years ago, I published my first blog post. I didn’t know what I was doing, what I expected, or what would happen.

Seriously, how do I get someone in Greenland to read my blog?

Seriously, how do I get someone in Greenland to read my blog?

The perspective of two years has taught me that what I am doing is writing, what I can expect is to put my buns in a chair and type until I’ve got something to read, and what happens is pure magic.

I recently heard that the difference between an author and a writer is that authors write for paychecks while writers write because they can’t do otherwise. Since I have no paychecks coming in from my blog, I suppose this puts me in the second camp. I don’t know what it makes you when you give out paychecks to the people who read your work. Desperate, I guess.

And so I won’t be doing any big money giveaways on my blog this year. Neither will I begin charging you for reading it. Because I believe that there is already a two-way value in my blogging. I benefit from putting my buns in a chair and typing until I discover what I mean to say. And you keep reading it for whatever reason you keep reading it. Why do you keep reading it, anyway?

I’ll tell you what. Let’s make a deal about my blog. I’ll continue doing it with the hope of getting better and you keep reading it in hope of the same. Deal?

Thanks for sticking with me this far!

The Reading List After a Writers Conference

ffw-logo-shadowI recently had the good fortune to attend Calvin College’s Festival of Faith & Writing, a three-day conference that draws thousands of writers from all over the world. They always have a great line-up of speakers and I am super glad that I was able to go (Thank you Baker Publishing Group!).

One of the things that I have learned by attending writers conferences is that writers tend to talk about specific books and authors as though every good writer has read them. If reading these books is a prerequisite to being a good writer, I’ve got some reading to do.

Here’s that list:

And then there are the books that are either written by the speakers or recommended by the speakers. I have a feeling that writers would do well to read these too:

bird_by_birdAs you can see, it is quite a reading list. At the very least, I should probably read Bird by Bird and something by Flannery O’Connor lest they kick me out of the next writers conference I attend. We’ll see about the rest.

Have you read anything on this list that you’d put at the top of my stack?

Do you think I’m missing a book?

I am a home builder.

The weather in Michigan has been deceptively warm of late. And so, drawn in by the lies of sun and shooting buds, my wife and I have adjusted our garage for change of seasons. While I was off at a writer’s conference over the weekend, my wife swapped the snow-blower for the mower in the corner spot, traded snow-shovels for rakes, and swept out the detritus of winter from the garage floor. So while she did all the hard work by herself, she saved the final (and only fun) adjustment for me.

The official change of seasons at the Mosey household does not happen until we pull out the Super-Prize.

The Super-Prize is the name of our daughters’ outdoor Little Tikes playhouse. It got this name at this time last year when we told our oldest that we had a “surprise” for her outside.

“A Super-Prize?” she asked. And the name stuck.

Anyway, my wife thought to grab the camera when the Super-Prize was almost complete, so forgive the sad showing of the work in progress and focus instead on the adorable girls in the pictures.

Also, when I said that the weather in Michigan was deceptive, I wasn’t kidding. I just looked at the forecast for the next couple of days and somehow snow has crept back in. Grrrr.

Friday 5 | Click-worthy Links

Wireless Computer Mouse with Wheel

Here are 5 more places online worth checking out:

  1. Agatha Christie is best known for writing mysteries. But did you know that she is the subject of a real-life mystery herself?
  2. Can it be true? Brick and mortar bookstores are actually on the rise?
  3. Here’s some beautiful satire between an author and his publisher’s marketing department. This would never happen in real life, right?
  4. Some people are big fans of that distinctive “used book smell”. If you aren’t one of them, try the trick from this list of cool uses for old dryer sheets.
  5. A retraction of one of my earlier links. I was too quick to jump on the “books bound in human flesh” bandwagon. I won’t make that mistake again. I promise.

Enjoy!

On the Origin of Traffic

car_in_trafficWhen you are stuck in traffic, have you ever felt like the fates are manhandling your emotions? There may be a good reason for that.

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the origin of the word “traffic” is a bit of a mystery. But one possible source, and the one that I’m going to believe simply because it feels true, is the Vulgar Latin “transfricare”. To break that down, “trans” means across and “fricare” means to rub (also where we get the word “friction”). The idea being of something rubbing across something else, or literally being handled roughly.

I like this because if you’ve ever driven downtown in an unfamiliar city, there is no more apt way to put how if feels than “handled roughly”.

There are other possible (and honestly more likely) origins for traffic. The word may have come to us from the Arabic word “tafriq” which means distribution. But what kind of fun is that?

So the next time you are sitting in traffic, getting annoyed by the closeness of the cars hemming you in, just think about the rough origin of the word. Maybe you could pretend that instead of getting manhandled, your emotions are just experiencing the touch of inexperienced masseuse. Let the rough handling work for you and release your tension with the sound of a car horn.

After all, honking your horn in busy traffic may not move the cars around you and faster, but it should allow you some tension release.

Drive safe out there!

21 Inexpensive Ideas to Fill an Easter Basket Without Candy

My wife and I were musing the other day about Easter baskets for our girls. Our oldest is three and is able to appreciate the idea of an Easter basket. And if we do a basket for the eldest, we should do one for the youngest (almost two) as well. But after a few disastrous experiments with Halloween candy, neither of us relish the idea of packing their Easter baskets full of candy. And since all the grocery stores seem to sell are bunny-themed diabetic starter kits, I started looking around for other basket fillers.

I didn’t have to look far though. My bookstore, Baker Book House, has at least twenty different things that would be perfect for parents concerned about their kids’ sugar intakes. And so, here’s the list:

  1. dimplesbooks
  2. stuffed animals
  3. bouncy balls
  4. bubble mix
  5. puzzles
  6. card games
  7. activity/coloring books
  8. coloring supplies
  9. rubber stamps
  10. sidewalk chalk
  11. movies
  12. an_easter_carolCDs
  13. toy cars
  14. stickers
  15. pinwheels
  16. play dough
  17. bracelets
  18. hair accessories
  19. a slinky
  20. bath toys
  21. trip coupons (ex. carousel ride at the mall, a library or bookstore, etc.)

I’ve spoken with management and we’re going to put together a few pre-packed Easter baskets filled with stuff from this list. So if you don’t have time to do hunt for all these items yourself, swing by Baker Book House and pick up one of the pre-made baskets. Otherwise, you can pick from these ideas to supplement a basket of your own design.

Do you have any ideas to add to the list?

Man Skills (That Every Gender Would Be Better Off Knowing)

Yesterday, I wrote a brief defense of my testosterone.

9780800722296Today, I thought I’d share a bit about a related book that was just released from Jonathan Catherman through Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. The book is The Manual to Manhood: How to Cook the Perfect Steak, Change a Tire, Impress a Girl & 97 Other Skills You Need to Survive.

One of my favorite Deep Thoughts by Jack Handy (an old SNL feature from my teenage years) said that “it takes a big man to cry, and it takes a bigger man to laugh at that first man.” I love it because it pokes fun at the stereotypes around gender roles.

At first glance, The Manual to Manhood seems to reinforce these roles. Though the target audience for this manual is male youths, the knowledge and advice within are applicable to nearly everyone. Even the entry on “How to Meet a Girl’s Parents for the First Time” could well apply to meeting anyone’s parents for the first time, boy, girl, or other.

As a father of girls, I am going to use this book in two ways. One, I’m going to brush up on any skills in which I find myself lacking. And two, I’m going to teach my daughters these things. After all, it isn’t just men who get flat tires, go on job interviews, or have bad breath (all of these topics are covered). I’d love for my kids to be the one in their group of friends who is equipped for anything. And if they show up a guy at the things that guys are stereotypically supposed to know, that’s just fine by me.

The book is laid out with attractive images and simple-to-follow instructions. Be sure to follow the link to read a bit more about the topics covered. It’s a pretty comprehensive list.

And though the editorial copy at the of the book description states that “the world needs confident and capable young men,” I’m sure that it could do with confident and capable people of all kinds.