The Other End of Sunset

Monday, April 26, 2010

The women of the page

Stop what you're doing
cause I'm about to ruin
the image and the style
that you're used to
--Digital Underground
Usually I blog from a plane. Not this time! No, I'm not writing from a plane, but rather from a breakfast place. Specifically, from the 101 Cafe in Hollywood. I recommend it if you find yourself in Hollyweird. It's inside a Best Western, has been open forever, and is a good place for people watching.

The service stinks. A lot.

But the food comes quickly -- actually, so quickly that I wonder if it is all precooked… or maybe pre-extruded. But it's still good! There are always loads of tragically hip people having a cup of coffee, in sunglasses, black clothes, and a necklace or two.

// Note: Every generation goes through a "dress for tragedy" phase, and it always makes me laugh… even when I was dressing for it. The black on black on black look, often with eyeliner, is a staple of teenagers and twentysomethings. What is it about being young that makes the world look so insufferably grim? //

Usually you can watch a few celebrities, for varying definitions of "celebrity", while you eat. Today, for example, one of the actors from the TV show "Sons of Anarchy" is at the table next to me. Sadly, he looks not at all like a biker in real life. Nor is he tragically hip. Just a guy in a sweatshirt reading the LA Weekly.

Well, it is, after all, the year of the hoodie…

Doesn't it make you feel better?
-- Nine Inch Nails
Allow me a slight digression. I was watching the Olympics this year, and I saw several advertisements for a drug that treated "bipolar depression". Several questions spring to mind. If bipolar depression is different from unipolar depression, how do the drugs differ? Why is the drug treating bipolar depression, not bipolar mania? Perhaps mania would look too "fun" for the ad, not serious enough?

And what audience was the drug manufacturer hoping to reach during the Olympics? Do people who have "bipolar depression" enjoy short-track ice skating races, vicariously feeling the round-and-round-getting-nowhere as representative of their lives? Or perhaps ski jumping works better, with some odd suicidal connection of jumping off a house?

Really, what are those ads supposed to do? Such silly things keep me up at night. And now, perhaps, will keep you up as well, a bit…

You're a dream for insomniacs,
prize in the Cracker Jacks
All the difference in the world
is just a call away
-Soul Asylum

It's an odd day, here Chez Douglas. April 27th is Jeanne's birthday. She'd be 49. That's today, just in case I get this post lost in editing-Purgatory. I'm headed up to Seattle to give a talk. (And, now, by the way, I am at an airport, though not on a plane. yet.)

JR's birthdays aren't as hard for me as the anniversary of her death. I can't remember what we did for her birthdays, when we were together. I remember the last birthday, very clearly.

I remember the first one as well. It was before we were a couple. She mentioned that she liked a particular type of steak in a joking work conversation. So I sent her a mail-order box of steaks.

I'm hilarious, I am.

Now, it would have been especially funny, except that I forgot to sign the present. So the UPS guy delivered a box of meat from an anonymous admirer.

Might have moved from my goal (charming, quirky, and sweet) straight into creepy. I mean, who sends meat anonymously?

Oh, well. It worked out.

But she didn't let me live down the "anonymous meat" for years.

But I don't remember the middle birthdays. I can't remember what we did when we were both healthy and having fun.

How sad is it that I've lost touch with the real parts of our lives together -- the parts that are day by day, full of love and light. I can only find the painful ones, the cancer, the darkness, the tears.

It seems unfair.

When the first breath of Texas
comes in view
--Indigo Girls

I got trapped at the Austin airport coming home from SXSW this year. A bunch of us had iPhones, and nobody had signal. The AT&T airport network was totally swamped, I guess.

Luckily most people who I talk to regularly had my Google Voice number, so I could text them, listen to their voicemails, etc., over my network connection.

Thus, I was able to feel semi-connected to the outside world. Judging from the expletives emanating from those nearby, that feeling wasn't widely shared.

Way to go, Google Voice team!

I'm a winner, I'm a sinner.
Do you want my autograph?
I'm a loser, what a joker!
I'm playing my jokes upon you,
while there's nothing better to do

Now, why is it weird, Chez Douglas? (I know, you were wondering…)

I got married a few weeks ago. Yup, SL and I finally did it!

The wedding was lovely, if I do say so myself. I think it's safe for me to say so, since I had quite little to do with making it come together. We got married in our living room. I designed her wedding ring -- I'm pretty proud of how it turned out. My wedding ring is great -- it's simple, beautiful, and comfortable to wear. How perfect is that?

Our friend Christine performed the ceremony, with her fresh-off-the-back-page-of-Rolling-Stone reverend title in hand. We had three songs in the ceremony, all performed by a friend who has multiple Tony awards for her Broadway performances (wild, huh…) SL walked down the aisle (escorted by our Brown dog) to "Amazing Grace". The ceremony was broken in half by "What a wonderful world", and we exited to "How sweet it is to be loved by you". We had readings by SL's dad and The Lawyer. We had a free-form section where SL and I said something to each other -- her's was scripted, mine wasn't, but both were compelling.

Then we had a party at a local bar with a load of our friends -- I was blown away & honored by the people who traveled to come hang out with us. One of the highlights of the party was the 5 foot tall Peacock (statue, not real) that was on top of the wedding cake. Apparently, they had to do structural reinforcement of the cake to keep him from falling over. We named him "Bailey", in honor of a famous defense attorney -- feel free to speculate as to why the name is apropos and why we came up with it!

All in all, a great Saturday.

And the start of many more.

Is it raining?
Is it snowing?
Is a hurricane a' blowing?
-- "Charlie and the chocolate factory"

But I still see Jeanne's face in my life. I see a woman who looks like her, or someone who dances in that cute little shimmy she used. I hear a joke she'd have loved, or I see some news story about LSU.

Bits and pieces of her are drifting away from me.

I finally updated an old computer that we shared. I removed her user account -- I'm pretty sure she won't need it anymore.

I don't want her to drift away. I want to resist, to fight, to hang on to every scrap of our life.

But I can't. One of my friends told me that I hold on to JR's memory too tightly.

Although I understand his point, he's wrong.

I find myself grieving both for her loss, and for my loss of memories and artifacts of her.

I wish I could hold her memory more tightly, not less.

He's wrong.

It's one of those I told you long ago
--Elton John

It's an ill wind, blowing no good

Rings as hollow
as a high school cheer
--Chagall Guevara

Welcome back, my OtherEnders. I was at a cool entrepreneur event in LA (LaunchpadLA) a couple of weeks ago, and was chatting with someone over drinks. In the course of the conversation, he said "Hey, you haven't posted anything on your blog in a while. Whenever I read it, I get this weird sense about the world."

Now, I don't know what that weird sense might be, but he's right, I haven't posted in a long time. I have a few half-written posts in my Dropbox -- my favorite storage tool ever -- and I'm going to try to get them out over the next few days. So, sorry for the flood of Sunsets about to hit your RSS feed. And each of them will be shorter than usual. Keeping them short minimizes my desire to write another paragraph, and add another lyric, and ... keep editing forever.

So, a short post...

The first one is about email. I got a set of questions after my last post (which was about meetings), about how to communicate outside of meetings. So, rather than answer them individually, I'll answer them here. And, since it's my blog, I'll use myself as an example.

Not surprisingly, if you want to reach me, email is the best way. I do have a phone (as you know from my earlier post on Google Voice), but I don't like to talk on the phone. So, if you want me, send an email.

Thus, this post is about email, in general, and, specifically, that which is sent to me.

On topics like this, people vary widely, so this will be very idiosyncratic.

Who's that writin'?
John the Revelator
--classic gospel hymn

// Note: For those of you playing the home game, I can't take credit for the John the Revelator lyric. I picked it up, sadly, from the Sons of Anarchy television show. Great show, cool bikes. And pretty good soundtrack music. I'd like to say I knew this classic from the dusty recesses of my brain. But that would be a lie. Back to work. //

Email, as a general medium, is a quite poor way to hold long conversations. Tools like GMail's threading view -- where the emails are grouped together by topic, automatically -- help by keeping context together.

But real conversations are rich communications -- intonation, physical position, motion, facial expressions, cultural knowledge are all used in our understanding of someone else's speech.

Obviously, on email, most of these things don't translate. For example, your intonation doesn't come across -- so it's hard to figure out which things you're serious about, and which things are asides. And, as we all know, jokes really don't translate well to email.

These limitations make email a terrible way to hold long, involved conversations, especially controversial conversations.

Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge email user -- even in my current, confused work status, I get hundreds of emails each day -- so I'm not going to suggest we ditch email entirely. And, as a result, I've developed a system for dealing with my mail. I'm not saying it's the perfect way, but if you're trying to reach me, here's the user guide.

First of all, be brief. Don't channel my blog, nor your inner novelist. Be brief. Did I mention be brief? Writing more than a page to tell me what you want to tell me usually means you don't really understand what you're writing. You are probably providing too much detail, not summarizing enough -- and it makes it far more likely that I won't read the entire mail. Rewrite, over and over, until you get to the core message.

This is somewhat akin to the elevator pitch for a company. Brevity helps.

Again, half as long
--A River Runs Through It

Be clear in what you want from me. I talked about being clear in the ask in a previous post, so I won't belabor it here. Any more than I already have, that is.

And use the technology for what it does well. Put your additions/comments/questions inline -- if I ask you a question, give me an answer next to the question. If the answer is next to my question, I don't have to skip around the note finding what I asked, and what you answered, etc. Yes, it's lazy, but it takes me less time to parse an email that uses inline comments… which makes it more likely I'll make it all the way through.

And, while talking about questions, try to ask me yes or no questions when possible. You are going to get an answer far more quickly if I can hit "r" (for respond, you do use GMail keyboard shortcuts, yes?), and type "yes".

I have some fantasy of answering all emails within a day. I don't even come close. But I send off yes/no notes pretty quickly. I will answer your email containing long answers, but it will take longer. And if I really disagree, it will take me a long time -- because I'll want to think about why I disagree.

In general, the longer I take to respond, the more likely that I disagree with whatever you said. Sorry.

However, if you haven't heard from me in a while, send me a reminder. It's ok to nag me, I don't mind. I will feel guilty, but I'll probably stop whatever I was doing to read and respond to your nag.

And I apologize in advance for my overly long slow responses!

It's been a long time comin'
--Crosby, Stills, and Nash