mailboxes in rural Colorado

My brother and one of my sisters are pretty much the only people who write physical letters to me.

My mom used to, but she passed away almost nine years ago.

I challenge you to write to me. Just one letter or postcard.

If you leave a comment on this blog post, I’ll see your email address* and contact you for your snailmail address. I’ll send you a letter or postcard, and you can write back.

Just once.

No strings, no obligations.

Why? It’s fun to get a hand-addressed hand-written letter in the mail.

* No one else will see your email address.

If you liked this post, you might like this one and this other one.


Not OK to talk about

Today, it’s bad form to say anything about gender that was the popular view twenty years ago. But it’s very acceptable to criticize religious choices.

Thirty years ago, socially acceptable norms of discussion were the complete opposite.

There seems to be a rapid change of pace in what’s OK to talk about and not talk about.

And then there are areas that are never acceptable.

Many years ago, I was flying to California with a leader I respected — and respect — a great deal. The flight allowed us to talk more freely than our normal daily work life would ever permit.

He mentioned how some people needed just a few tweaks to their personal style for their image to be improved. But neither he nor I could ever mention those tweaks to those style-deficient individuals.

That would be crossing the line.

Heather and I have several years of experience at the game of parenting. We’ve learned a few things during that journey. But the opportunities to share those lessons are few. We fear accusations of being proud or not understanding the other side.

Lead by example” only has so much impact. Sometimes a deficit and later a positive change need to be spoken about.

Thankfully, there are always outspoken individuals. If it weren’t for them, change would rarely happen.



Today’s world seems to be marked by deeper and wider rifts than ever. In my short lifetime, it’s worse than I have ever seen it.

As a kid, I remember the Vietnamese and Russians being our mortal enemies. They were a world apart from my suburban existence, so I never thought that much about them.

Nowadays, Republicans are mortal enemies of Democrats — and vice-versa. European nationalists are sometimes not on speaking terms with their Muslim neighbors.

What can be done about this?

An even better question is, what can I do about it?

Here are a few ideas to help build bridges and not fences. (And please feel free to voice your own ideas in the comments section.)

  1. Think of someone that you see each week who you’d not normally talk with. Strike up a conversation by asking a simple question. “What has been the best part of your day so far?”
  2. There’s a person who you see every week who believes differently than you do about something that’s important to both of you. In a very nice way, ask them, “What influenced your decision to think that way?”
  3. You see that person who makes your blood boil again. (Let’s call them, “Adolph.”) Think of something about Adolph that is amazingly good. If you can’t do that, talk with someone you respect who knows Adolph well. Ask that respected friend to share one awesome thing about Adolph. Then think about that thing the next time you see Adolph. Go so far as to say, “Adolph, I heard from [respected friend] about your ability to [do something amazing]. Tell me more about that!”
  4. Think about that thing someone does that drives you crazy. Think about why they do that. Their reason might make total sense.
  5. Think about what you do that might drive others crazy. Stop doing it.

Lost in translation

thank you card, written weirdly

Most English speakers would read this thank-you card as “TNY-HKO-AOU.”

The designer who created this lovely card was not a mother-tongue English speaker. According to the ever-trustworthy Wikipedia, traditional Chinese scripts were and are written top-to-bottom. (Nowadays, horizontal and vertical both work.)

The designer of this card was a traditional Chinese thinker.

But I have to say, the Santic Garments Weaving Co., Ltd. was very nice to include a thank-you note with the bike shorts I recently got. Bonus… the thank-you card text was bilingual (Mandarin Chinese and English).


Different interpretations

three book cover designs for Nineteen Eighty-Four

I love going to bookstores. Since much of my professional life has been spent doing graphic design, I love seeing how other graphic designers interpret the themes of books.

Lately, Nineteen Eighty-Four has been a popular book in the United States. The current political situation has caused some to think of the world depicted in that novel. (You’ll get no commentary on me about that, at least at this point. I’m really burned out on politics.)

I enjoyed finding three different paperback versions of the novel on the bookshelves of The Tattered Cover. Each one is very dissimilar. And they have three varying price tags: $9.99, $16 and $17.I did not take the time to discover the creators’ names, but I’d guess that there are three different artists.

I did not take the time to discover the creators’ names, but I’d guess that there are three different artists.

My favorite is the mostly white cover, which seems the most modern. (And again, I didn’t research the publication dates.)

It’s fascinating to me how different people interpret the same thing in such varied ways. I’d guess that there must be at least 100 different covers for that famous novel, that was published in 1949.


You can’t force it

Lincoln Continental print ad

Lincoln bought the emperor’s new clothes.

This ad appeared in the February 2017 Fast Company magazine (in a very high-priced spot — the inside front cover). Lincoln paid a massive amount of money for the ad series, shot by renowned photographer Annie Leibovitz.

Agency Hudson Rouge made out like a bandit.

But Lincoln did not think about their real audience. Showing a 20-something person behind the wheel of a $60,000-ish luxury car, newly-minted from a marque typically bought by people above 60, will not make 20-something people want to buy one. Nor will it make 60-year olds who want to be 20-something want to buy one.

No matter how much the critics like the car.

Yes, it would have been appropriate for Lincoln to push the envelope in their marketing — but not so far.

Maybe they should have put kids under 10 behind the wheel — that audience will need to buy cars, eventually.


Writing vs Typing

picture of handwriting compared to typesetting

Beautiful expensive pens.

The Wall Street Journal often features luxury items that are out of the range of all but the upper .001%. The New Status Symbol? Think Ink featured Marc Newson Pens by Hermès for a mere $1,670 and the $400 El Casco Stapler.

Since I love pens, I read the article with gusto. I am not attracted to hand-made solid gold fountain pens, but I do appreciate fine art.

Besides digging into the hardware, the writers also delved a bit into why writing a message by hand is more meaningful than typing off an email.

I agree.

The article includes an interview with Tom Dixon, whose London-based furniture, lighting and interior design firm also sells fine pens and pencils. I disagreed with part of his thought in reference to those who handwrite, “Maybe superior communication is a more thoughtfully, artfully and carefully constructed message.”

When I write a personal email, I spend time going back and editing the content, such that my final thought truly says what I mean.

I do love writing letters by hand. My brother, who lives in Texas, is the recipient of the bulk of my handwriting.

As he could attest, few of those letters contain anything of great significance. But I enjoy the experience of dragging a smooth ballpoint across the back of a scrap letter-sized piece of paper. The resulting letters are more me than Helvetica or Myriad.


You can’t say that

don't talk illustrationAmerican culture has become extremely polarized. If you are even slightly on one side of a fence, it’s very hard to say anything about your issue without getting shut down by voices from the opposing side.

This current political season has made the polarization much worse. Political candidates from both sides of the aisle are harsh and often unreasonable in their criticisms of their opponents. A climate of combativeness has sucked much of the American public into that same negative vortex.

Thankfully, I have become so tired of pre-election politics that I lost my desire to voice any political opinion. I hardly listen to any news, as so much air time is devoted to the same verses being iterated in some hardly-new direction.

I’ll be glad when November 9th hits, no matter who wins.


Skip the secret sauce

My shelf of hot sauces

Superior State University (ironically named) has an annual list of banished words. This year’s list includes: conversation (as in, “join the conversation”), problematic, stakeholder, price point, secret sauce, giving me life, and physicality.

Part of my job involves putting words together to communicate the value that the company I work with offers. There’s a fine balance between being interesting and being too interesting.

Overused catchphrases can induce rolled eyes, soft sighs of pain or simply a click-away from the web page.

This year, let’s strive to write with words that communicate well, without harm to our readers.

Special thanks to the Wall Street Journal for pointing me to the Superior State University list.



A few weeks back, my car was in the shop for some body work. (An unfortunate accident had occurred that meant some repairs were due.)

I took advantage of my insurance company’s connection with Enterprise Rentals to get a quirky car to drive during the repairs — the Fiat 500L.

Overall, I enjoyed the car’s quirkiness. (It had a few quality issues, but that’s another story.)

fiat 500l drivers manualThe manual was completely worthless — a CD. When inserted into the car’s CD drive, it would not do anything except display an error message. The only way to view the contents was to bring it home and put it into a computer with a CD slot. Then a program had to be installed to make it run!

What happens when a driver is 50 miles from nowhere and has a flat tire? The compressor in the back (no spare tire) had no instructions.

Fiat — please do a little more thinking next time!