© 2009 Rex Jaeschke. All rights reserved.
Dear friends and colleagues, welcome to the first posting on my personal blog.
A World of Publishers and Writers
As A.J. Liebling wrote, "Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one." Of the many millions of people having access to the internet, a significant percentage of them have decided that as they can easily create their own blog they too can be publishers and writers. Unfortunately, having something worth publishing does not appear to be a prerequisite.
I arrived in the US in August 1979. Very soon after, I recognized that for a product, idea, or person to be successful in the US [and maybe in most countries] packaging was paramount with substance being a distant second. If you can't get potential customers to look at your wares—typically via some flashy advertisement, scantily clad woman, or other promotional vehicle—the quality of those wares is unimportant. And, as best as I can tell blogging and social networking provide the masses with tools to promote themselves—and to do so shamelessly.
Without substance, you don't get many repeat customers for your products but with a potential customer base of 300 million one-time customers here in the US [and many more if you can sell to the world] you can still do a lot of business., For example, take the prestigious [and fictitious] legal firm of Dewey, Cheatham, and Howe, which has been screwing over its clients since 1902! Of course, with substance as well as attractive packaging you literally can "write your own ticket".
Regarding setting up a blog, it is very easy; once I got the software installed, I had a reasonably decent mockup operational within 30 minutes. But what to do after you have played with all the dazzling features? The blogosphere is littered with "publications" having only a handful of entries, fewer than 5 followers (excluding family members, who are "required" to subscribe and to appear interested), and with very long delays between posts. Once the novelty has worn off, most bloggers simply run out of things to say, assuming that is they had anything to say to begin with.
So, does the world need yet another blog? And if so does it need one from me?
Why I Want to Blog
I enjoy writing [I really do], I like reading good and clever writing—George Bernard Shaw, W.S. Gilbert (of the team Gilbert and Sullivan), and Oscar Wilde come to mind immediately—and I've even been known to take an English grammar book on holiday! [That coupled with the fact that I have a copy of the US Constitution by my bed might make me rather odd but then I never was accused of being normal.]
Instead of writing about work-related topics, I've decided to push myself into other areas. However, that doesn't mean I intend to write about things I'm not familiar with. As many of you know, from about 1990 to 2005, I worked only halftime, and after some four years of working more than fulltime since then, once again I am back in part-time mode. As such, I have a very full life outside of my work and I'll draw topics from that.
With this blog, my goals are to do the following:
- About once a month, write and post a substantive essay.
- Share my perspectives with friends and colleagues in a manner not possible during phone calls, emails, or short in-person visits.
- Stimulate discussion and encourage lively interaction and constructive criticism from my readers. (Yes, dear reader, I mean you specifically.)
- Take responsibility for my words and set a reasonable example of writing.
- Set a respectful tone and discourage knee-jerk reactions. The world definitely does not need more flaming/ranting on blogs, in emails, or other public forums.
- Be informative, educational, and, hopefully, a little entertaining.
- Do my bit to improve the quality of the blogosphere. You can't improve the process if you don't participate, right?
I see no reason why any of my postings will need to be published in a hurry. To that end, it is very likely that I will write each one over a period of weeks or months so it can be fully baked before its public debut. I certainly plan to have at least two people—with whom I don't always agree—review each one before it is posted. That way, most—if not all—of my errors, missteps, and faux pas will have been detected and fixed.
A Few Rules
This is a personal project; at this time, I do not plan to announce this blog to the world, just to invited guests like you who might be interested readers and possible respondents. And while I'm open to suggestions for topics, style, and so forth, ultimately it's my blog. If you don't like the rules, you can always invent your own game just as I'm doing with this blog. After all, we can all be writers and publishers now!
- Although I encourage you to submit comments, they will be moderated. Specifically, they will only appear on my blog once I have reviewed and accepted them. The reason for this is to eliminate spam and other malicious postings. It is also to guard against knee-jerk and potentially offensive replies. If ever you should disagree so much with someone's writing or speech that you "just have to dash off a rebuttal that very instant", then it is highly likely you will embarrass yourself more than them once everyone reads what you wrote while so overcome with emotion. [Regarding emotion, I am a Vulcan.] In such cases, by all means write the response but sleep on it for at least a night if not two or three. Make sure your brain is in-gear before you press the "send" key.
- When you submit a comment, I expect you to be responsible for what you write. Specifically, you must use your real name and email address. I can assure you that the comment, "Rex, thou reeky, flap-mouthed clack-dish!!!", posted by someone calling themselves "Aphrodite" or "JuliusCeasar" will be rejected, whereas the same comment from a reader willing to put their real name behind their words will almost certainly make it through the process.
- As you write comments, remember that more than a few of my intended readers have never lived in the US, and that their native language is not English. I say this not to try to confine your or their responses in any way, but to remind you that "normal is relative". Not everyone drives on the right, writes a date "month/day/year", has Christmas in winter, or uses the term college to mean a 4-year university.
- In order to help me improve the quality of the blogosphere, if you have an English-language spelling checker please run it over your responses and add grammar checking if you can. It has often been said that, "You are how you dress." or "You are what you eat." I'd add to that, "You are how you write." Try to set a good first impression.
- Above all, have some fun and don't be intimidated, especially if English is not your first language. Enthusiasm and a willingness to engage in constructive conversation count for a great deal. And if you learn something in the process that's great.
Several years ago, I came across the following poem by the great American statesman and inventor Benjamin Franklin. It so impressed me that I memorized it, printed a copy, and taped that to the edge of my computer screen where I can see it every time I write.
"If you would not be forgotten
As soon as you are dead and rotten,
Either write things worth reading,
Or do things worth the writing."
According to some readers of my technical materials, I have been writing "things worth reading", and more than a few of the readers of my travel diaries have reported that I've been doing things "worth the writing." As such, I am encouraged to try to bring the same success to this blog. I look forward to hearing from you. And, as the dwarfs sang in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, "Hi Ho, Hi Ho, it's Off to Write I Go."
[For some background on Rex's introduction to English and writing, see the link "Rex on English and Writing" off to the right, under "Useful Information".
Thanks much to John, Scott, and Tom for their help in getting this project launched.]