Our Capabilities

Writer John McNally posted on FB he was going to finish a story that day.

Today’s goal is to sit down and write a complete draft of a story that I’ve been unsuccessfully toying with for two years. I’ve written three different openings so far, as much as 25 pages of new material, countless revisions, and then last night I saw the ending: it’s a detail from an unpublished novel I wrote in 2002. The process is a messy, shitty one, but I don’t know a better one.

I’ve known John for 25 years and this was unusual. A story taking years to finish is normal. It’s probably one of the reasons why his stories are incredible. His collection, Ghosts of Chicago, is phenomenal, the work of a short story master.

The odd part is the self-imposed, publicly stated deadline. Much later that night / very early the next morning he posted an update.

Done. 4,000 words on the nose. The ending I thought I was going to use? I didn’t use it. But thinking I was going to use it unlocked the story.


As he posted yesterday, getting a story on paper is a messy business. It requires a discipline he has been sharpening for about 40 years. My guess is he found the epiphany, he discovered the elusive ending that’s unexpected but plausible.

John is a morning writer. A grinder. He’s at the keyboard every morning. Yesterday’s writing session must’ve lasted 20 hours. That’s some discipline.

After my morning FB scan, I stopped by Seth’s blog and read ‘There is more than one solution to your problem (and your problem is real).’ That’s some serendipity.

Falling in love with your solution makes it incredibly difficult to see its flaws, to negotiate with people who don’t agree with you, to find an even better solution.

But of course, the problem is real. The dissatisfaction or inefficiency or wrong direction isn’t going to go away merely because we deny it.

It’s amazing how much we can get done when agree to get something done.

Our Capabilities

Meaning What One Says

‘Come, we shall have some fun now!’ thought Alice. ‘I’m glad they’ve begun asking riddles.— I believe I can guess that,’ she added aloud.

‘Do you mean that you think you can find out the answer to it?’ said the March Hare.

‘Exactly so,’ said Alice.

‘Then you should say what you mean,’ the March Hare went on.

‘I do,’ Alice hastily replied; ‘at least— at least I mean what I say— that’s the same thing, you know.’

‘Not the same thing a bit!’ said the Hatter. ‘You might just as well say that “I see what I eat” is the same thing as “I eat what I see”!’

‘You might just as well say,’ added the March Hare, ‘that “I like what I get” is the same thing as “I get what I like”!’

‘You might just as well say,’ added the Dormouse, who seemed to be talking in his sleep, ‘that “I breathe when I sleep” is the same thing as “I sleep when I breathe”!’

Carroll, Lewis. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass (with the complete original illustrations by John Tenniel) (pp. 29-30). Digireads.com. Kindle Edition.

“If you cannot say what you mean, your majesty, you will never mean what you say and a gentleman should always mean what he says.”

‘The Last Emperor’ Reginald Fleming Johnston

Meaning What One Says

Goats No More

Our goats (Daisy and Millie) are gone now. Both had CAE and Daisy started wasting away this year (probably not related to CAE). It was ignorant of me to bring goats home without doing some basic research — and demanding a blood test. I just went with what I knew back in the 80’s when I last cared for goats.

Georgie is gone too. Medication and diet changes couldn’t stop his thyroid problem.


Goats No More

Effective Minimum Dose of Exercise

The final group was assigned to interval training, using the most abbreviated workout yet to have shown benefits. Specifically, the volunteers warmed up for two minutes on stationary bicycles, then pedaled as hard as possible for 20 seconds; rode at a very slow pace for two minutes, sprinted all-out again for 20 seconds; recovered with slow riding for another two minutes; pedaled all-out for a final 20 seconds; then cooled down for three minutes. The entire workout lasted 10 minutes, with only one minute of that time being strenuous.


Effective Minimum Dose of Exercise

Seth: Measuring The Right Thing

And then generals starting measuring body count…

When you measure the wrong thing, you get the wrong thing. Perhaps you can be precise in your measurement, but precision is not significance.

On the other hand, when you are able to expose your work and your process to the right thing, to the metric that actually matters, good things happen.

We need to spend more time figuring out what to keep track of, and less time actually obsessing over the numbers that we are already measuring.

Numbers (and the magic of measuring the right thing) by Seth Godin

Seth: Measuring The Right Thing

Don’t Believe Everything You Think

Tim Ferriss’s podcast with BJ Miller is required listening. Dr. Miller specializes in palliative (a word I only learned this year) care.  The bullshit ends when a human enters the The Zen Hospice Project where the doctor practises. The doctor’s description of the flower ceremony at the hospice left me weepy.

The end is coming up on me faster than I’d like, and this podcast is a good reminder that I need to focus on the right things. What will my final thoughts be? They certainly won’t be concerned with a fucking server in New Jersey.


Don’t Believe Everything You Think