New job

I’ve waited to make the announcement on public social media, but I’m not waiting any longer. My days of daily journalism are numbered. In fact, I can count them on my two hands with fingers to spare.

Starting later this month, I’ll join BNP Media, a business-to-business publisher out of Troy, as editor of National Driller. As you might guess, it focuses on the drilling industry, specifically water drilling but also touching on other areas. I’ll set the agenda for coverage, manage contributors, cultivate more contributors, and find ways to grow and improve the product. I’ll reach out to and try to engage readers using social media. And, I think I’ll have fun doing it.

If you think reading stories about drilling sounds dull, try reading years of Kwame Kilpatrick coverage and Martha Stewart columns. No different. I’ve worked at The Detroit News for almost five and a half years. It’s past time for a change and this is it.

Plus, it’s a day job. Years ago, I went to college to improve my lot in life. At the time, I was working a lot of night shifts. Well, professional life in my chosen field has meant more night shifts than I care to count. My schedule had improved somewhat lately, but still could be unpredictable. A 9-5 or 8-4 job means more time with my girls (both of them, at the same time).  I already know I have Christmas off. This year and next, and the one after. And that’s not something I could say working at a newspaper.

It’ll be a big change.

I wish my ink-stained newspaper brethren the best. I learned a lot and it was fun while it lasted. I’ll always have a soft spot for newspapers, but it’s time for me to move on.

Clash phase

I’m too young to be an original The Clash fan, so I won’t even front. The group form ed when I was 3 years old, and I was 6 years old when the seminal London Calling came out.

Lately, though, I just can’t seem to get enough. I jam to The Clash at home doing the dishes. I rock out in the car. I just emptied my Shuffle, and filled it with The Clash to take on runs. Is there nothing this band can’t make better?

Enough yet?

I’ve had Combat Rock as long as I remember. And, really, that 1982 album was the first I exposure I remember. Rock the Casbah got high rotation on MTV (two asides: it’s my ringtone, and if you put that song on at a party in 100 years, like Groove Is In The Heart,” it’ll still rock the joint.) A few years ago I ripped London Calling and Sandinista! from our library. Somewhere along the way, I picked up the UK and U.S. versions of The Clash, the eponymous debut. This month, I bought Give ‘Em Enough Rope, their second, and the Clash on Broadway retrospective.

The only original studio release I don’t have is Cut the Crap, which apparently is as well regarded and received as Pink Floyd’s The Final Cut. I may leave that one.

Phases of rotation

Like I implied, it’s a phase. I go through periods where only one artist or album will do: Steve Earl, Wilco, !!!, Minus The Bear, whatever. Rush and the Wilco release Sky Blue Sky were recent hooks. Now, The Clash gets a turn.

I have been through enough of these phases to learn to enjoy the current one and eagerly anticipate the next one. But, until that happens, I’ll strap on my earbuds and run mouthing the words to Brand New Cadillac, ’cause you definitely don’t want to hear me sing.

And, back again

I’ve had this blog for about 7 years, and taking time off is the easiest way to avoid burnout. Now, if only I could get myself back into the habit.

Meh, whatever. People are human. Humans created the concept of time. What they missed was a mechanism to build more of it into a single day. Anyway, I’m going to make another go of it, so you’ll likely see more in this space soon.

Carmen Verdusco, 1995-2010

Carmen

Carmen

Carmen Verdusco, beloved cat and cherished companion, died today at home surrounded by family after a long illness. She was 15.

Carmen was born in summer 1995. She came to live with the Verdusco family that August, after turning up on the porch of brothers Mike and Jeremy in Lansing, Mich. At the time, she fit in the palm of a hand.

In her kitten years, she enjoyed chasing and eating bugs, and attacking the feet of sleeping people. Over the course of an eventful life, she lived many places, including Lansing, Okemos, Ypsilanti and, briefly, Saginaw, Mich.; and Ocala and St. Petersburg, Fla. Most recently, she called Royal Oak and Huntington Woods, Mich., home. In each place, she never failed to find a warm sunbeam cast on a comfortable spot.

She will be fondly remembered for her stable companionship — she always had the time to sit through a movie or provide a reassuring purr in sad times, fetching wadded balls of paper, and her penchant for cat treats and rolling in catnip with abandon.

Carmen is survived by owners Jeremy and Kisha Verdusco, and their daughter, Rachel, whose love for Carmen could barely be restrained, and countless extended family and admirers.

Sloshing through 2010

My New Years resolution was simple: Drink more water.

By the end of 2009, I had already committed myself to running two marathons in 2010, the Trail Marathon and the Detroit Marathon. I also committed o being the best father I can and to being more organized and, in general, on top of things. (That last goal has been perennial, with mixed results.) Beyond those lofty ambitions, I reasoned that any other goals for this year should be simple with a relatively high yield, benefit-wise.

Water’s about as elemental as it gets. Hydration’s important, whether training for distance running or sitting on the couch of doom.

My friends know me for my love of coffee (hence the napkin-stained theme of this blog). I defend the habit with science that shows coffee doesn’t dehydrate and the fact that my go-to style is strong and black, so daily consumption amounts to almost no calories — not that I worry. It’s the at-least-it’s-not-a-Frappuccino argument. And it’s a valid one. Yet, I know deep down in my Buddha-mind that if coffee and water were both streams leading to enlightenment, water would carry me there quicker. Which brings me to beer, my other great liquid love. Drunken Master aside, beer isn’t carrying anyone to enlightenment. Still, beer, like any alcoholic beverage, dehydrates the drinker. Not good. Particularly during marathon training.

Regardless of my passion for both, drinking either effectively comes with the opportunity cost of not drinking water. That’s not to say I plan to give up either. I don’t. But, as I commit to drink more water, the others get crowded out a bit. That’s the plan.

Besides having other preferred beverages, water doesn’t do much for me taste-wise. When I drink water, it’s usually fizzy or flavored or both. I can’t exclude fizzy water from the resolution; really, I embrace any liquid that gets me there. But I also need to learn to love plain ol’ agua. That ain’t easy for me, but I try.

How have I set out to fulfill this resolution? I start the day with coffee, which isn’t water, but gets me conscious. I follow my morning joe with at least 16 oz of water. Later, when I get to work, I drink another 16 oz before I allow myself to drink more coffee. That 32 oz is probably 20-some more ounces than I would fit in before I made this goal. And Mrs. Blocletters, bless her, just got me a fancy stainless-steel water bottle. I think it holds 20 oz, so that’ll help.

So far, I give myself a B-. I’ve forgotten the second 16-oz glass a few times, but overall, I’m doing swimmingly. Here’s hoping I can keep it up.

A programming note

This site will be going dark for a few days beginning sometime today. I’m changing domain registrars, and just couldn’t find the time to do so before it was too late to prevent a domain disruption. The site should be back up, Now with Go Daddy!, by early next week. See you then.

Update: Apparently, Go Daddy was wicked-quick in grabbing my domain from Network Solutions, so it doesn’t look like there’ll be any interruption. I’m sure my two readers will be thrilled.

Ambient awareness

I just finished this piece in the New York Times Magazine, and had a few thoughts. Essentially, it takes a sociological view of how sites like Facebook, Twitter and the like affect our lives. It focuses on the news feed aspects of these Web services, and what it means to have the lives of all our friends — close and tertiary — pushed out to us like ticker tape.

Mrs. Blocletters signed up for Facebook before I did, and I probably wouldn’t have joined nearly as soon if she hadn’t. But, like the iPhone (and, coincidentally, partly because of the iPhone), it’s taken a prominent role in my digital life. I get a big kick out of reading updates on others’ lives, which seem at the same time superficial and intimate. I enjoy writing status updates, and have even taken praise for the quality of my statuses (though I’m not sure what criteria one might use to judge).

Why?

What do I care that a former coworker is getting new glasses? Does knowing what friends think of the new “90210” show — a show I’ll never watch — enrich my life? Not exactly. But Facebook has helped me keep connected with people from jobs past, and even reconnect with some I’d lost track of. That has value in lives like mine (and those of many other Gen X- and Gen Y-ers) where work is prominent in, if not the center of, social interaction.

Facebook also allows me to, in effect, swim in the conversations of people I see regularly. I see current coworkers and we’ve already cut through the initial few minutes of catch-up conversation. I don’t have to ask, “What did you do over the weekend?” I already know, so we go right to, “Did you enjoy that movie?”

Status updates are part reverse Hallmark card and part haiku. It’s interesting to me, a people watcher, that friends share their workaday experiences, and insightful to see the words they use and try to glean the subtext.

As far as my own updates, the article I linked to sums it up: “The act of stopping several times a day to observe what you’re feeling or thinking can become, after weeks and weeks, a sort of philosophical act.” As a headline writer by trade, I find it oddly fulfilling. I’m trained to read a thousand words and boil them down to five. Status writing uses the same toolkit.

I re-read the last few weeks of my updates while writing this — an interesting exercise in itself. A life in small, easily digestible, cartoon balloons. My updates, like those of my “friends” (whether close or casual), are by no means a full account. Still, they convey a bit of me, and for most people, that’s more than enough.