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Thursday, December 17, 2020

Content First

Was thinking about content this morning, while trying to go to sleep, and failing.  Happens a lot lately.  What, you, too?

Back in the 1990s, I was a full-charge secretary.  I spent much of my time typing correspondence and some articles for newsletters.  Typing, not doing data entry, which is what I've basically done for the last couple decades. Back then, there were two popular word processing programs, WordPerfect and Microsoft Word.  And they had two very different philosophies about content creation, philosophies which are still influencing us today.

I was a WordPerfect guy, and at the time, WordPerfect (5.1 for DOS by the way) was the most popular word processing software.  Arguably it still is, since nobody does word processing as such much anymore. Microsoft being MS, came out with Word, I'd suppose because they needed one of their own.

I wasn't around for the creation of WordPerfect.  But WP felt to me like it was created for all those folks who'd been typing for years, professional typists, back when typing was a skill with both hands, not an accident with your thumbs and spell-check.  Typing was up front.  Creating content was the first thing you did, and in many cases the last thing and all you did.  WP did a fair amount of predetermined formatting, including full justification, and you could just go with that and have a perfectly serviceable letter come off the printer -- at least in a world where "letter quality" meant looking like it came out of a decent typewriter.

If I wanted something bold or underlined, I could certainly go back later and bold it or underline it, check spelling and capitalization, use different fonts, create headers and footers and such. But content creation came first.

MS Word (in my view as a WP guy) started from the other end.  Pick your fonts, headers, footers, formatting of various kinds.  Define your paragraphs, sub-paragraphs, sub-sub-paragraphs.  Insert pictures and graphs and clipart and borders and-and-and... and after all that, if you had any time or space left, type a little content.  Yes, I'm being snide, I'll say that freely. But I wouldn't say I'm being inaccurate.

The result was a lot of contentless content, a lot of more or less wordless, worthless works.

These days, pointing that out is like arguing about preferences for PCs or Macs.  Few seem to have a use for either.  And hey, I'm old enough to talk about something I did in the 1990s, so many didn't bother to read this far anyway. I'm typing this in a Blog, which is ancient tech these days, too.

But seriously. What do we have for content these days?  We talk about the Death of Print Media, and maybe that's happening. But that's text printed and distributed on paper, with all the troubles that go with that. Paper has it's place and it's advantages we should talk about sometime. The business model, certainly, is falling apart. But that business model is vastly changed from when newspapers started.

And it's still text. Still the "written word." Still "long-form content," with all the thought and research and consideration and preparation that entails.  (Present company excepted; I just started typing.)  It still has value.  Add a picture, if the picture adds value and meaning and information. But start with the words.  Start with the content.

Newspapers had headlines, sometimes huge "lurid, large type" headlines. But those would hopefully be followed by actual content, explaining what the headline means, who did what when and where, and how they did it.  Not why, why ain't news, that someone said "this is why," that's maybe news.

News.  There's a word for ya.  Everyone wants to be a Journalist. But Journalist had a particular meaning from particular circumstances.  There's a perfectly respectable job called News Reporter. Tell folks Who What When Where and How, you're a news reporter.  And don't get me started on "unbiased Journalism."  Oops, too late.

Way back when I was a wee tot, it was hard to travel to other countries, or even to other states or cities for most people.  (Still is, but we pretend it's not.)  Someone got the opportunity to travel to someplace "exotic," they might keep a Journal of their travels, and send occasional excerpts from their Journal to a paper back home for publication. That'd be a Journalist. They'd be sharing their own experiences and their own impressions and their own, very personal, feelings about that place and time and those events.  Biased?  Of course.  There is absolutely no such thing as "unbiased Journalism."

Then there's news reporting.  Respectable, honorable, ancient profession.  Who did what when and where, and how they did it, and often what people said about it. By definition, if you're doing it right, it's not particularly biased. If the writer is expressing their opinion, then it's Opinion, not news reporting.  Perfectly legit to give an opinion, while making clear that's exactly what it is.  There's usually a page or two devoted to exactly that in a "newspaper" of whatever format.

Now, I'll grant ya, newspapers and other outlets are owned by people who want to make money. And there's some owners who lean on their outlets to push their own agendas. Been happening since Gutenberg. Sure, there's the Hearst papers, and the newer clones. Most of the founders of the US owned printing presses, seems like.  Feel free to check my math on that, though.

We have TV, we have various media resources via the Interwebs, some of which are TV-ish, as blogs and such are newspaper-ish (some with more "ish" than others) in terms of the technical style of the content. But look closely. How much of that YouTube channel isn't actually content?  How much is gee-whiz graphics and chatter and what they used to call hail-fellow-well-met?

Non-video websites (rare as they are anymore) are more of the same, seems to me. Plenty of graphics and borders and pictures, and yeah, video.  Lots of "Hi there, I'm such-and-such..." and pictures of their pets and their lunch.  And not much to say, really.  They give their opinions, and don't make much effort to say that's what they're offering. Or they basically offer nothing much. "Lorem ipsum" in 40-point bold italics.  Very pretty, I suppose.

Let me declaim my disclaimer here.  This is rambling and somewhat incoherent. To quote a Robin Williams bit, "That's not writing, that's just typing!"  But it's conceivable I have a point.  And it's a point about paper, certainly, but also YouTube and Twitch and all the others like them, and it's about blogs and podcasts and what-have-you.

Please, create content.  Start with content. If you need a picture or a graph, add one. Don't turn your work into an illuminated manuscript.  We haven't fallen that far quite yet, I hope.

If it's Opinion, say so, if it's Journalism then be clear to yourself and everyone else that's exactly what it is.  If you're going to provide news then provide news, and not Journalism and not Opinion. And be proud of being a News Reporter if that's what you're going to do. Don't let anyone or anything turn it into something else.

Start with the Content.  Worry about the Pretty later, if you have time and think it's important. But do that part in privacy, and wash your hands after.

Further Deponent Sayeth Not.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Episode 20200911 -- We Should Talk More Episode Zero


Episode Zero for the new We Should Talk More podcast with Lady J.

Show Theme "Hot Swing" from Kevin MacLeod of Incompetech.com.

Comments via the https://www.speakpipe.com/grizzlysgrowls

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Tuesday, June 16, 2020

GG20200616 -- Eugenics by G K Chesterton Part 2 Chapter 8 and 9


"Eugenics and Other Evils," by G.K. Chesterton, published in 1922.

Chapter 8 -- The End of the Household Gods:

"The only place where it is possible to find an echo of the mind of the English masses is either in conversation or in comic songs. The latter are obviously the more dubious; but they are the only things recorded and quotable that come anywhere near it."

Chapter 9 -- A Short Chapter:

"Round about the year 1913 Eugenics was turned from a fad to a fashion. Then, if I may so summarise the situation, the joke began in earnest. The organising mind which we have seen considering the problem of slum population, the popular material and the possibility of protests, felt that the time had come to open the campaign. ... But as a matter of fact this is not the first chapter but the last. And this must be a very short chapter, because the whole of this story was cut short. A very curious thing happened. England went to war. This would in itself have been a sufficiently irritating interruption in the early life of Eugenette, and in the early establishment of Eugenics. But a far more dreadful and disconcerting fact must be noted. With whom, alas, did England go to war? England went to war with the Superman in his native home."

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Tuesday, June 9, 2020

GG20200609 -- Eugenics by G K Chesterton Part 2 Chapter 7


"Eugenics and Other Evils," by G.K. Chesterton, published in 1922.

Chapter 7 -- The Transformation of Socialism:

"Socialism is one of the simplest ideas in the world. It has always puzzled me how there came to be so much bewilderment and misunderstanding and miserable mutual slander about it. At one time I agreed with Socialism, because it was simple. Now I disagree with Socialism, because it is too simple."

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Tuesday, June 2, 2020

GG20200602 -- Eugenics by G K Chesterton Part 2 Chapter 6


"Eugenics and Other Evils," by G.K. Chesterton, published in 1922.

Chapter 6 -- The Eclipse of Liberty:

"If such a thing as the Eugenic sociology had been suggested in the period from Fox to Gladstone, it would have been far more fiercely repudiated by the reformers than by the Conservatives."

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Tuesday, May 26, 2020

GG20200526 -- Eugenics by G K Chesterton Part 2 Chapter 5


"Eugenics and Other Evils," by G.K. Chesterton, published in 1922.

Chapter 5 --The Meanness of the Motive:

"Now, if any ask whether it be imaginable that an ordinary man of the wealthier type should analyse the problem or conceive the plan, the inhumanly far-seeing plan, as I have set it forth, the answer is: "Certainly not." Many rich employers are too generous to do such a thing; many are too stupid to know what they are doing."

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Tuesday, May 19, 2020

GG20200519 -- Eugenics by G K Chesterton Part 2 Chapter 4


"Eugenics and Other Evils," by G.K. Chesterton, published in 1922.

Chapter 4 -- The Vengeance of the Flesh:

"By a quaint paradox, we generally miss the meaning of simple stories because we are not subtle enough to understand their simplicity."

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Tuesday, May 12, 2020

GG20200512 -- Eugenics by G K Chesterton Part 2 Chapter 3


"Eugenics and Other Evils," by G.K. Chesterton, published in 1922.

Chapter 3 -- True History of a Eugenist:

"He does not live in a dark lonely tower by the sea, from which are heard the screams of vivisected men and women. On the contrary, he lives in Mayfair."

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Tuesday, May 5, 2020

GG20200505 -- Eugenics by G K Chesterton Part 2 Chapter 2


"Eugenics and Other Evils," by G.K. Chesterton, published in 1922.

Chapter 2 -- True History of a Tramp:

"He awoke in the Dark Ages and smelt dawn in the dark, and knew he was not wholly a slave."

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Tuesday, April 28, 2020

GG20200428 -- Eugenics by G K Chesterton Part 2 Chapter 1


"Eugenics and Other Evils," by G.K. Chesterton, published in 1922.

Part 2 -- The Real Aim

Chapter 1 -- The Impotence of Impenitence

"The root formula of an epoch is always an unwritten law, just as the law that is the first of all laws, that which protects life from the murderer, is written nowhere in the Statute Book."

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Tuesday, April 21, 2020

GG20200421 -- Eugenics by G K Chesterton Part 1 Chapter 8


"Eugenics and Other Evils," by G.K. Chesterton, published in 1922.

Chapter 8 -- A Summary of a False Theory:

"I have up to this point treated the Eugenists, I hope, as seriously as they treat themselves. I have attempted an analysis of their theory as if it were an utterly abstract and disinterested theory; and so considered, there seems to be very little left of it."

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Tuesday, April 14, 2020

GG20200414 -- Eugenics by G K Chesterton Part 1 Chapter 7


"Eugenics and Other Evils," by G.K. Chesterton, published in 1922.

Chapter 7 -- The Established Church of Doubt:

"Let us now finally consider what the honest Eugenists do mean, since it has become increasingly evident that they cannot mean what they say."

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ADDITIONAL NOTE: Check out what Chesterton had to say about news reporting.  Sounds a bit familiar, huh?

 


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Tuesday, April 7, 2020

GG20200407 -- Eugenics by G K Chesterton Part 1 Chapter 6


"Eugenics and Other Evils," by G.K. Chesterton, published in 1922.

Chapter 6 -- The Unanswered Challenge:

"Dr. Saleeby did me the honour of referring to me in one of his addresses on this subject, and said that even I cannot produce any but a feeble-minded child from a feeble-minded ancestry. To which I reply, first of all, that he cannot produce a feeble-minded child. The whole point of our contention is that this phrase conveys nothing fixed and outside opinion."

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Saturday, April 4, 2020

A Comment on Comments

Was just going through my post Comments, seeing if there was anything I needed to know about.  Trouble is, what they call "comment spam" is intended to look just like a normal comment, so it gets passed through and posted.  And some comments are preliminary to comment spam, testing to see if a blog has wide-open comment settings with no moderation, so they know if it'd be an easy place to spam whoever reads the blog.
I don't have anything exciting to offer, so I doubt many people read any of this.  Also, much of the "content" is just transcribed automatically from my Libsyn blog for my podcast.  The podcast may be interesting, but the post is just the shownotes from the podcast and a link to the 'cast itself, certainly nothing you'd call an Article or an informative Post.  So when I see a comment about what a wonderful article I wrote... yeah, not so much.
I did scan through all the comments, and for those of you who (may have) actually intended to comment, thanks.  Sorry there's so much crap that I can't be sufficiently sure yours ain't to be able to post it.
If you're a comment spammer, you're boring and annoying me and your posts have entered the bit bucket, never to be seen again.  Take it elsewhere.
(sigh)
 -- Griz

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

GG20200331 -- Eugenics by G K Chesterton Part 1 Chapter 5


"Eugenics and Other Evils," by G.K. Chesterton, published in 1922.

Chapter 5 - The Flying Authority:

"It happened one day that an atheist and a man were standing together on a doorstep; and the atheist said, "It is raining." To which the man replied, "What is raining?": which question was the beginning of a violent quarrel and a lasting friendship."

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GG20200324 -- Eugenics by G K Chesterton Part 1 Chapter 4


Finished editing this, then forgot to post it.  (sigh)

"Eugenics and Other Evils," by G.K. Chesterton, published in 1922.

Chapter 4 -- The Lunatic and the Law:

"The modern evil, we have said, greatly turns on this: that people do not see that the exception proves the rule. Thus it may or may not be right to kill a murderer; but it can only conceivably be right to kill a murderer because it is wrong to kill a man."

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Friday, March 27, 2020

More Hope Every Day

Was trying to explain to a friend on Second Life what I think I know about what's happening with COVID-19 and "flattening the curve."  Seemed to come out fairly clearly, so I wanted to share it here.

Do notice the disclaimer about two-thirds of the way down.  Applies to the whole shootin' match.  You get solid info from a pro, disregard me and go with what they tell ya. ...

If a few very lucky things happen, they might manage to make a usable vaccine quickly enough for some of us.

They have one vaccine they've done initial testing on, looks pretty good.  But they did a new kind of vaccine, nobody knows yet how to produce that sort of vaccine in large amounts. There are other people trying to modify measles vaccine to work on this virus.  Measles vaccine is easy to make a lot, they've been doing that for decades.  But will it be effective enough against this virus?  Don't know yet.  It takes time to test vaccines, to make sure they actually help, and that they don't do more harm than good.

And no, it's not measles vaccine, it's the same style of making vaccines.

The vaccine basically hands a piece of the virus, or a crippled version of the virus, to the body to tell it, "This is bad, and it's coming, make the stuff you need to get rid of it."  Often it works, often well.  But it's not magical, it's getting the body to do what it does before the virus shows up.

As for a cure, it's easier with bacteria. Viruses are harder.  And I'm not a doctor, you now know basically all I do. ;-)

Every time they treat one more person, they learn more about how to treat people.  So assuming there are enough healthcare professionals still able to work, they should be pretty smart on this stuff by the time we get past that big bump in the graph.  And every day they don't have to treat you and I and the other folks stuck in their homes is another day they have to find better ways to beat this stuff.

I'd never lie to you.  I don't want to give false hope.  But that doesn't mean there isn't any.  There's more hope every day.  Just need more days.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

GG20200317 -- Eugenics by G K Chesterton Part 1 Chapter 3


"Eugenics and Other Evils," by G.K. Chesterton, published in 1922.

Chapter 3 -- The Anarchy from Above:

"A silent anarchy is eating out our society. I must pause upon the expression; because the true nature of anarchy is mostly misapprehended."

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Tuesday, March 10, 2020

GG20200310 -- Eugenics by G K Chesterton Part 1 Chapter 2


"Eugenics and Other Evils," by G.K. Chesterton, published in 1922.

Chapter 2 -- The First Obstacles:

"Now before I set about arguing these things, there is a cloud of skirmishers, of harmless and confused modern sceptics, who ought to be cleared off or calmed down before we come to debate with the real doctors of the heresy."

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Tuesday, March 3, 2020

GG20200303 -- Eugenics by G K Chesterton Part 1 Chapter 1


"Eugenics and Other Evils," by G.K. Chesterton, published in 1922.

Narrator's Introduction:

For the next few paragraphs I will speak for myself, to set the stage for G.K. Chesterton's book, and to suggest why I believe it is still an important book.

I think G.K. Chesterton explains his book rather well in his introduction, but it might help to start with a sense of the time in question. Chesterton started work on Eugenics and Other Evils in about 1910, but it was not completed and published until 1922. In his own introduction he talks about the period before and after "The War." The war he refers to is now called World War One.

We now have a distaste for the word Eugenics, largely driven by events in World War Two. But at the time this book was published, Eugenics was lauded to the skies as a wonderful idea, and Chesterton was nearly the only person saying in writing that Eugenics was in fact evil. A case could be made, and has been made, that today, though the word Eugenics is avoided, some practices that are in fact Eugenic practices, and some sciences that are in fact Eugenic sciences, enjoy great popularity and engender great public enthusiasm. To which practices and which sciences I refer, is left as an exercise for the reader.

To the Reader:

"...It was a time when this theme was the topic of the hour; when eugenic babies (not visibly very distinguishable from other babies) sprawled all over the illustrated papers; when the evolutionary fancy of Nietzsche was the new cry among the intellectuals; and when Mr. Bernard Shaw and others were considering the idea that to breed a man like a cart-horse was the true way to attain that higher civilisation, of intellectual magnanimity and sympathetic insight, which may be found in cart-horses...."

Part 1 -- The False Theory

Chapter One:

"The wisest thing in the world is to cry out before you are hurt. It is no good to cry out after you are hurt; especially after you are mortally hurt."

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Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Eugenics by GK Chesterton - the Promo


I'm going to be reposting my old recordings of G.K. Chesterton's "Eugenics and Other Evils."  I heard the other day that the idea is making a comeback.  Again.  And Chesterton said what needed to be said rather well.  He could make a point, stick it in your gut, and make you chuckle when he did it.

And, sad to say, it does need to be said.  Again.  Coming soon to a podcast near you.


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Sunday, February 2, 2020

Something of a Disappointment -- BlackWeb Bluetooth Keyboard review.

Got myself a new keyboard to work with my Amazon Fire tablet.  I've had a Bluetooth keyboard to use with the thing, which requires AAA batteries periodically and which is small but not as small as I'd like.

This one is from Blackweb, and is advertised as a "magnetic" keyboard.  Don't think it is, I think the tablet case that came with it is magnetic and the keyboard has metal inside to be grabbed by the magnets.  Not sure, doesn't matter.  I wanted this one because it's USB rechargeable, and about the same dimensions as the Fire so it'll (more or less) fit in the same case conveniently.  Sounds good, right?

Yeah, well...

When they were managing to squeeze the keyboard into that small of a space, while they did a "full" QWERTY keyboard for all the letters, they put the punctuation in non-standard locations, just to fit it all in.  I've been a touch typist since, say, the late 1980s.  It's cramped-but-fine for letters, but my fingers expect the punctuation to be in The Usual Places.  So I type my letters, stop and figure out where the heck they put the single-quote or the dash, figure out which function key to use to get that characters to type...

Which, sad to say, makes the keyboard pointless and worthless.  If I want to take forever to type something while mobile, I can use the on-screen keyboard.  Or I can use my existing Bluetooth keyboard, which is inconvenient to carry around, and inconvenient what with the battery thing -- but is a usable keyboard.

This was a somewhat clever idea, but the execution sucks.  E.g., I tried to type this on my new keyboard.  Had to stop, didn't feel like typing till 3 am.  If one was -not- a touch-typist, it might be something you could get used to.  But if you're not a touch typist, why buy a keyboard to carry around?

Not quite as bad a purchase, a full-sized keyboard from WalMart's generic brand Onn.  I have three half or non-functional keyboards in a pile to throw out, and I needed something more usable and reliable -- which for me implies a wired keyboard.

So what do I think?  Well, it's a keyboard.  I can touch-type on it just fine.  The characters and punctuation are in the places my fingers expect.  Mostly.

Instead of the home-end-insert-delete and such keys being three across / two down, they're two across three down.  So I have to stop and look where the heck those keys are when I want to use them.  Designers.  Hate 'em.  Tis enough, twill serve.  But for a touch-typist it's a pain in the butt.


Saturday, January 4, 2020

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

I don't feel verbal right now.  You folks on the Spectrum know what that's like.

My employers have decided to make changes with the beginning of the year.  Because it's January, and you change things in January, so let's change things.

Being on the Autistic spectrum, I deal with change about as well as you might expect.  Extreme stress, anger, severe depression.  They dropped the bomb on the big change for me today.  Because I work on Saturday.

I won't be working on Saturday anymore.  That's not the big change.

I've been working for this company for over ten years, after a prior job, doing the same thing, ended when my employers packed up their carpetbags and left town.  "Displaced worker."   I originally took the job with the promise that it would never require sales.  Never.  They didn't keep that promise, and I stayed, because I'm an idiot.  Or at least I'm Autistic, and while I suck at sales (as is to be expected), I suck more at job seeking.  Social skills are kind of important for job hunting, doncha know?  If you doubt that, don't make any eye contact at your next job interview.

So, in the last few years, they moved all of us to work-from-home.  They gave various arguments, but I suspect it's just cheaper for them, given we pay for the electric and network service for what has to be treated as their office space in our homes.  They had me taking calls on maybe 10 different inbound programs.  Thought I was doing well, and then...

Today they announced I'm being taken entirely off all inbound work and doing full-time outbound til God-knows-when.  Basically sales.  Full time.  M-F 9:30 - 6.  Sales.

"Hey, let's have the Autistic guy do sales, that'll work out swell!"

I know it's not because they think I'll be good at sales.  I know it's because they do not value my talents, skills, or decade of experience.  Effectively, they said so in writing.  (Another story I may tell you sometime.)

Ideally, I'd now go looking for a new job and get out of this.  Except it's northern Minnesota in January, and I don't drive.  And I'm over 60.  And while being Autistic makes me mind-bogglingly ill-suited for this job, it also makes me either ill-suited for other jobs or at least a hard sell.  Because they can always hire a younger, non-Autistic person.  And as I mentioned, I'm not a good salesman.

And you know, simply because I've done This Thing for  These Guys for so long, I'll get offer after offer to do the same damn thing, which is a painfully bad idea.

The one talent of mine they really could have used came a few years ago, when they decided to do a podcast.  I saw that mentioned in the company newsletter, and I emailed them to point out I had (at that time) nine years of experience as a podcaster.  Even talked to the main communications guy about what was needed.

Did I mention I'm not a good salesman?

They picked someone else to do the podcast, who had never ever done a podcast.  But she'd gone to college, and they (also college grads) understand people like themselves.  And I don't know, but I'd bet she's not on the spectrum.  They did four episodes over a three year period... and stopped.  You know that rule-of-thumb where if you haven't done at least five episodes, you haven't started podcasting?  They don't know that one.

I know why it failed and what needed to be done differently.  But they haven't asked, and they're not going to.  In my more cynical moments (and it's hard to get more cynical), I suspect someone in the C Suite said "we should have a podcast!" and someone else got stuck with the unwanted project.  Now they can say, "Well we tried, and it didn't work."  Not Invented Here, laissez faire capitalist version.

So anyway, change.  Deep dark depression, excessive misery.  Not considering "a permanent solution to a temporary problem."  But those of you on the spectrum know how it feels when it becomes so urgent to Do Something that you can't do anything, can barely move, can barely breathe.

So, I slept all day.

Change.