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Care carefully; book bans stumble; AI evolves; Celtic clarity: Newsletter 15 May 2024

Newsletter 44: Getting old means not giving a damn about stuff that doesn’t matter. Also, why you shouldn’t buy at Amazon’s book sale, Google and OpenAI announce great steps forward, why Joe Mazzulla is a profound philosopher, plus three people to follow and three books to read.

On not giving a damn

If you’ve had a successful career and don’t want to retire yet (that’s me), you gain a valuable quality. You learn what not to give a damn about.

As Richard Feynman wrote, “What do you care what other people think?”

As of now, I don’t give a damn about what my ex-colleagues and ex-bosses (except a few true friends) think of me. I work for myself. I don’t need to please them.

I don’t give a damn about made-up rules of decorum. I say what I mean.

I don’t give a damn about how many followers I have, or how much “influence” I have.

I don’t give a damn about the size of my network or the reach of my posts.

I don’t give a damn about the predictions I made that were wrong.

I don’t give a damn about money. I have enough saved and invested to live well, and don’t want to compromise the things that matter one bit just to get more.

I don’t give a damn about what you think of the car I drive, the way I dress, or the color I paint my house.

I don’t give a damn if you object to the dandelions in my lawn. I like them.

I don’t give a damn if my book is a bestseller or gets an orange ribbon on Amazon.

But don’t get the idea I don’t care at all. I do care.

I care about my wife and adult children’s happiness, who they are, and what they are accomplishing.

I care about the direction the world is going and what I can do about it. I also care about the direction the nation is going and the direction my town is going.

I care about my clients’ success.

I care about the difference between good, clear, original writing and worthless, redundant, self-serving, impenetrable crap.

I care about the Oxford comma and avoiding exclamation points. Deal with it.

I care what my very few true friends think.

I care about helping people be the best authors they can be — or helping them decide that being an author isn’t right for them.

I have weaknesses. I have a weakness for gelato. I have a weakness for trying to make people laugh. I have a weakness for trying to make people think. Perhaps those aren’t weaknesses after all — but I don’t give a damn about whether they are or are not. They are me.

This is a very good place to be. Giving up the things not worth giving a damn about is liberating. It lets me spend time on the things that actually matter.

I think that’s a better way to spend my time than retiring. How about you?

News for writers and others who think

Publisher’s Weekly shares a roundup of legal challenges to book bans (subscriber link). The book banners are faring poorly in Texas and Iowa, but the slow-moving legal battles are not all moving in the direction of free availability of books.

Amazon is running a 6-day book sale starting today. Before you rush out to save a few bucks, ask yourself: do you really want to support a monopoly with a long history of nonresponsiveness and lack of support for authors? Pay a few bucks more for your books at bookshop.org, a collective that sends money back to local bookstores.

Wondering how your freelance rates stack up? Kaitlyn Arford shares links to 16 open databases of freelance editorial rates.

Open AI and Google announced updates to their AI platforms. Open AI’s ChatGPT now behaves more like a human, including in generated media. Google’s Gemini AI generates quick summaries in response to search queries.

Telling the truth news: Those contractually required platitude-filled sideline interviews with sports coaches are stupid. Kudos to Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla for unabashedly stating the obvious. When asked how the Celtics reduced their turnovers in the second half of a playoff game, he said “Passing to the guys with the green jerseys [that is, other Celtics players].” Asked to clarify, he volunteered, “Literally, just pass [to the right team]. Balls are getting deflected and thrown out of bounds — just pass. That’s it. That simple.” Advice every team should follow.

Three people to follow

Shelly Palmer, whose daily updates clarify where AI is going for lay readers.

Larry Magid tech journalist and media commentator.

Rob Enderle, dean of the technology pundits.

Three books to read

Invisible Solutions: 25 Lenses That Help Reframe and Solve Difficult Business Problems by Stephen Shapiro (Mascot, 2020). Change how you look at a problem and you’re halfway to solving it.

Deep Utopia: Life and Meaning in a Solved World by Nick Bostrom (Ideapress, 2024). What if AI actually does solve all of our problems?

Exploratory Writing: Everyday Magic for Life and Work by Alison Jones (Practical Inspiration, 2022). Writing makes you think more clearly. If only we all embraced this simple principle.

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One Comment

  1. Cheers on lots, but especially the dandelions and the Oxford commas. First time in a while I’ve been able to read your posts. I’ve missed them.