Everyone is Writing Texting Wrong

Since becoming a bona fide author, I’ve met a lot of other authors. And once you have author friends, you are going to do a lot of beta reading. Since texting and direct messaging in Twitter and Facebook are so much a part of modern life, it’s natural that the characters in these stories are going to do that. And I’ve watched as author after author struggles to convey these conversations. And I’ve noticed a consistent theme to their approaches:

Everyone is doing it wrong.

Everyone except me, of course. Because this is my blog and I get to define reality here. If you’ve read any contemporary fiction, I’m sure you’ve seen the various approaches:

  • Use italics or a weird font
  • Indent funny
  • Identify speakers like it’s a screenplay

It’s all horrible and distracting and unreadable. Let’s take an analogous situation. Suppose you have two deaf characters who are talking in sign language. Would you stop writing words and include a bunch of gestures? No. Of course you wouldn’t. You would use a couple dialog tags to convey it was a signed conversation and then move on, right?

“Hello,” she signed.

He smiled broadly. “How have you been?” he signed back.

“I’ve been well,” she said. “I’ve missed you.”

We establish that they are both signing, and then it’s just regular dialog. We’ll use normal tags like “said” and “replied” and “asked,” and we’ll occasionally throw in a “signed” in there to remind the reader that this is a silent conversation.

So why should texting be any different? Why are you trying to make the prose on the page look like the actual text conversation?

“Hello,” she texted.

He smiled broadly. “How have you been?” he texted back.

“I’ve been well,” she said. “I’ve missed you.”

See how natural that is?

In my first novel, the two main characters almost exclusively text (it’s about a Twitter affair), so I have a lot of experience in this and a lot of reader feedback on whether my approach works. It works. Texting is just dialog. Write it like dialog.

Here’s an example from Entropy (which is a really great book you should buy here).

“Good morning beautiful!” It was the first private message she saw when she went online in the morning. It was from him.

Her heart pounded. Okay, so he thinks I’m beautiful, she thought. Or maybe that’s just what he says to every girl.

She greeted him back, and after a few minutes they were chatting again. It was the same as last night. He still seemed uninterested in her as a woman, but engaged with her as a person. It was strange and new. They talked about a lot of things. They shared pictures of their families, and talked about their marriages. Lisa told him about Roger.

Lisa told him how things with her husband were boring and stable, but nonetheless exhausting. “I feel like I need to walk on eggshells around him all the time. I never know what’s going to set him off. And when he goes off, he can be so cruel.”

“Keeping things stable takes energy,” he replied. “I guess it’s a little counter-intuitive, since you think of Newton’s first law: a body at rest will stay at rest. But the reality is different. Think about an old water tank you find in the woods. It’s sitting there, doing nothing, and yet it’s slowly falling apart. Eventually the rust eats away at it beyond a certain threshold, and it collapses under its own weight.”

“Okay?” Lisa replied. She had no idea where he was going with this.

“But if you actively maintained that tank, it could last forever. You just need to sand it and give it a new coat of paint now and then. You must tend to it. It’s stable, but to keep it stable requires that you put energy into it.”

“Like my marriage,” Lisa said.

“Exactly,” he said. “A marriage takes work. You have to constantly put energy into it to keep it from falling apart. Going nowhere takes energy. Stability isn’t what you get when you do nothing. It’s what you can hope to achieve when you work hard.”

“And working hard is exhausting,” Lisa added.

That was a text conversation, but who cares? What’s important is the dialog, the connection, the power dynamic being established, all the usual stuff that character interaction gives you. The fact that they happened to be texting instead of talking is incidental and not at all important.

(End rant.)

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Stop Paying People to Read your Book

In marketing to consumers, there is a well-established “buying cycle.” There are a lot of different variations on this but they generally go:

  • Awareness (finding out your product exists)
  • Research (figuring out whether they want it)
  • Purchase (woo hoo!)
  • Repurchase (they liked it and want another)

I mention this because the business of marketing a book is really no different from the business of marketing anything else to consumers. What I find interesting is that the people marketing books these days are mostly authors, and judging from their behavior, I think many of them are really confused about that whole cycle. So I’m writing this post to help explain it to them, with they hope that they stop throwing their money away solving problems they do not have.

Let’s skip awareness for a second, and dispense with the rest of the cycle.

If you write a great book and get a few people to review it, then you’ve got the “Research” step locked. People will look at the reviews and decide to buy it or not. It’s a meritocracy, and we all love those, right?

“Purchase” is not a problem in the book business. Amazon makes that easy.

“Repurchase” is about getting people to want the sequel. Write a great book, and you get that, too.

The really difficult part in the book business is “Awareness.” The number of new books introduced every year is staggering (one source I found says it’s more than a million). Obviously, you need to get the word out about your book, so people will want to learn more. You need them to be interested enough in your book that they will read the reviews. So how do you build awareness? Advertising. Period. There is no other way to build awareness. And this is the point I think authors are confused about.

I’m advertising my book by tweeting to my followers. I am sure to mention my book whenever I am DM chatting with a new follower. (I never send DMs just about my book. I mean that if I’m already chatting with someone, I make sure I mention it at some point in the conversation.) Every single sale I’ve made has been due to either direct advertising by me, somebody advertising on my behalf by retweeting something I put on my account or one of my character accounts, or somebody I advertised to recommending it to a friend (or outright buying it for that friend). Every. Single. Sale.

I am quite certain that not a single person has bought my book because they “discovered” it on Amazon’s web site.

I’ve been watching the progress of Ana Spoke with great interest. She is marketing her own book that she finished about the same time I finished mine. And she posts all the results of the promotions she is doing. The way book promotion usually works is: You run a $0.99 sale (on the Kindle version) and place ads in newsletters to get people to go buy your book while it’s on sale. Some of the newsletters run these ads for free, and others charge short money—typically $25 to $60 for a placement. If you spend $50 on an ad, and Amazon takes 30% of your $0.99 sales price, you need to sell 72 books to break even. News flash: 72 is a hell of a lot of books. (The average book sells 250 copies a year, and that number is skewed up by a few blockbusters.)

Ana just finished a string of three promotions to measure the effectiveness of this strategy. She didn’t break even in any of them. She did sell a lot of books. She shot up into the top 10 in one of her subcategories for a few hours, and she stayed in the top 20 for a couple days. So even if she didn’t break even, it was money well spent, right?

Wrong.

Let’s go back to the buying cycle. We established that the hard problem is “Awareness”—how do you get people to know about your book. If you can advertise for free (by tweeting or in newsletters that don’t charge to advertise a $0.99 sale), that directly addresses awareness. They see the ad, they like the cover, they go look at reviews. But if you pay for the ad, and you don’t get enough buyers to cover the cost, you are losing money. That might be okay if you already have a sequel, and you are pretty sure they will buy that the moment they finish book one. But if you don’t have a sequel yet, that’s just money you are throwing away. You are paying people to read your book. Stop that!

The delusional thinking that I see over and over from authors is that having a good “bestseller” ranking in their niche is going to increase the visibility of their book. And so people browsing for books will see it, and buy it. There are two problems with this thinking:

  1. Nobody browses for books by best seller ranking. Particularly ranking in some random sub-category three levels deep.
  2. Even if they did, they certainly aren’t going to look past the top 10.

Go look at the Kindle e-books web site. I’ll wait. Did you even see the link to browse by best seller ranking? It was there, but it was pretty well hidden. And even then, it showed you the top 100 books overall. Not the top 100 in some random subcategory. There is no way somebody is going to go digging through subcategories to find out what’s selling well. Why would someone do that? If you scroll down the page, you’ll see the top 10 selling books overall. No amount of promotion is going to get you into that list.

So here’s the bucket of cold water: Your Amazon Ranking Does Not Matter.

It would matter if you got into the top 10 overall, but that will never happen for your book.

Sorry.

So the other thing I keep seeing is authors begging for more reviews. There is a widely held belief that something magical happens when you get 50 reviews for your book. I searched and the only source I could find for this myth is this blog piece. In that, the author says that Amazon considers featuring your book if you have more than 50 reviews. However, she provides no evidence to support the contention, and it is clearly not true. Go to that Kindle e-books link I gave above, but use a “Private Browsing Window” so Amazon has no idea of your purchase history. Now you are seeing the stuff they think the general public will buy. Look at the number of reviews as you scan down the page. I’ll wait.

Here’s what I see: 32 84 0 19 184 24 63 39

And then lots with thousands of reviews. Clearly, 50 is not a magic number.

Don’t get me wrong—getting more reviews of your book is great! It definitely helps with the “Research” step of the buying cycle. But it does not do anything for “Awareness,” which you recall is the only problem you have.

Getting people to write reviews is relatively easy, so that’s what we authors ask them to do. And then we conjure a mythology that if we just get enough reviews, we will solve the awareness problem. But there is no evidence at all that this is true. Just as there is no evidence that having a bestseller ranking in some random subcategories will raise awareness. Of course it won’t. Have you personally ever browsed books based on which one are selling well? No, you haven’t. If you browse at all, you are looking at editor picks, and those are there because of name recognition of the author or inside dealing (Amazon pimps the books they themselves publish) or graft and corruption. You aren’t going to be an editor pick no matter how many reviews you get. It isn’t going to happen.

Another myth I’ve seen repeated frequently is that having a lot of reviews or a good bestseller ranking makes your book appear when the user searches, or in the “similar to” list. This is also demonstrably not true. For example, as I’m writing this, Beth Teliho is running a $0.99 promotion for her absolutely wonderful book Order of Seven. (Go buy it; I’ll wait.) Her promotion is going great. She’s selling a lot of books. Right now I see that she is #2 and #3 in some subcategories. 6,659 overall rank. She has 82 reviews, averaging 4.9 stars. You wish your book was in this position!

So let’s go to that private browsing window and search for “Young Adult Adventure” and see if she comes up. Nope. What does come up? Number of reviews (in order that Amazon listed the books): 54 87 14 37 115 0 0 59. Number of stars (same order): 0 4.2 4.3 0 4.4 4.0 4.1 0 0 4.2. Bestseller rank (overall, same order): 777; 544; 36; 147,573; 1,058; 2,648; 3,571; 122,471; 3,128; 52,020

The only conclusion you can draw is that however the fuck Amazon is picking these books, it’s not based on reviews or ranking.

Just to emphasize how much your bestseller rank does not matter, I refined my search. Her book is #2 in eBooks > Teen & Young Adult > Historical Fiction > Ancient Civilizations and #3 in Books > Teens > Historical Fiction > Ancient. I searched “Young Adult Ancient” and “Young Adult Ancient Civilizations” and her book did not appear in the first 100 listed. I searched the exact name of the category “Teens Historical Fiction Ancient” and her book came up #79. Think about that: The #3 book in the category named exactly what I just searched is the 79th one Amazon thought they should list!

So let’s review:

  1. Stop thinking having a lot of reviews helps get you discovered. That’s simply not true.
  2. The only benefit to running an ad campaign is the direct sales you get from that campaign. The boost in your bestseller rank does not help you get discovered.

If you are making $0.70 for every book you sell at $0.99, then you had better be spending less than $0.70 for each buyer. You must get 14 sales for every $10 of advertising spent just to break even. If you get fewer than that, you are paying people to read your book.

For the vast majority of authors, the only cost effective strategy for awareness is free advertising. Twitter, Facebook, and newsletters that promote $0.99 sales for free. The number of reviews doesn’t matter. Bestseller rank doesn’t matter. Anything that costs you money is paying people to buy your book.

If you are an author, and you are paying people to buy your book, cut it out. All you are doing is propping up an advertising machine that is overcharging everyone. Demand that you get more than 14 buyers for every $10 you spend. If we stop paying these ridiculous rates for ineffective ads, the rates will come down. And stop justifying your overspending using myths that are demonstrably untrue. Stop it. Just. Stop it.

Texas Roadhouse

The other day, my family went to Texas Roadhouse. In case you haven’t heard of it, this is a restaurant chain that started in Indiana and currently has headquarters in Kentucky. For those of you not familiar with US geography, Indiana and Kentucky are both states that are not Texas.

You’ve heard of Texas. That’s a southern state full of crazy people with guns. They have two political parties—the Republicans, and the other Republicans who call themselves Democrats to avoid confusion. We have a similar system here in Massachusetts. We have the Democrats, and the other Democrats who call themselves Republicans to avoid confusion. I’ve been to Texas several times, and it is basically exactly a caricature of itself. So it’s relatively easy to make a Texas-themed restaurant, even with the disadvantage of being from Kentuckiana. (Kentuckiana is what the locals call the area where Kentucky and Indiana bump into each other — I know this because I’ve been there and they all think it’s such a clever thing to say that they all say it constantly.)

The second thing you’ll notice about the Texas Roadhouse is the barrel of peanuts in the corner. The first thing you notice is all the peanut shells on the floor, but you quickly deduce the source (unless you are actually from Texas, in which case, what the fuck are you doing at Texas Roadhouse). My kids really enjoyed this part of the experience. There is a deep visceral pleasure to be found in tearing the shells from peanuts and throwing them on the floor. Apparently. My youngest doesn’t even like peanuts, and she was shelling them too. She simply threw the peanuts on the floor as well. God knows where they ended up.

The next thing you’ll notice is the noise. Oh. My. God. THE. NOISE. It’s as if the place is designed to maximize the fucking noise. I’m pretty sure the employees should be wearing earplugs to protect them from the GODDAMN NOISE, but since they have to take orders from customers, that’s clearly not practical. Every interaction involves quite a lot of shouting. This is an excellent place to go with people you really do not want to interact with. For example, it would be a top notch destination for after-work drinks with coworkers.

A major contributor to the noise is country music. It wouldn’t be accurate to say that I hate country music. My loathing of this “art form” goes so much deeper than just hate. I despise it wholly and viscerally. And the funny thing is that it would be so easy to fix this problem with country music. The “vocalists” just need to shut the fuck up.

If you compare rock and roll to country music, and you listen carefully, you’ll notice that the chord progressions, rhythms, and instrumentation are nearly identical. They are playing the same simple songs. But country music is different because of that twangy, warbling (twarbling?) way the performers sing. If they just shut the fuck up, it would actually be quite listenable.

Anyway, popular country music is blaring at this place. This contributes quite a bit to the noise, and to my general revulsion at the atmosphere. (That, and trying to recreate Texas of all places.)

We arrived at the table and were greeted by our waiter, who was clearly stoned. However, he made it work. He had found just the right level of THC to take the edge off, but still allow him to write orders accurately in his little notepad. My wife ordered a Hendricks and Tonic. We were pleasantly surprised when he affirmed that they had Hendricks, so I ordered one as well. He asked if I wanted a “double for $2 more.” I quickly did the math. Assuming a single is 1oz and a double is 2oz, then I’m paying $2 for an ounce of gin. There are about 25 oz in a 750ml bottle, and so that’s valuing the bottle at about $50. A bit high, but not outrageous, so sure! Double mine!

He had to come back shortly thereafter to give us the bad news that they didn’t actually have Hendricks, so we’d have to settle for Bombay Sapphire, which is still a hell of a good gin.

Alas, there was an error in my math. It turns out that a “single” contains no gin at all, and the “double” contains twice that much. In retrospect, I wonder why he bothered to tell us about the gin mix-up, since they could have not poured the Hendricks that they didn’t have just as easily as not pouring the Sapphire that they did have. They could have even charge a premium for the notional spirit. But at least the tonic was awful.

I’ve mentioned before that the key to a good gin and tonic is to use a tonic water that is not horrible. Store-brand tonic should be avoided. The same is true for bar-gun tonic. If the tonic destined for your gin comes out of a hose and not a bottle, find a new bar. As it turns out, leaving the gin out of a bad tonic doesn’t help it one bit.

As we were sipping our bad tonics, the strangest thing started happening. Eight of the servers started line dancing. Line dancing is to actual dancing as country music is to actual music. Dancing and line dancing have nothing in common, despite the name. There is no joy in line dancing. It’s people with dour expressions staring at one another’s feet and trying to remember a series of steps and turns and claps. I’ve seen more emotion from a Japanese dancing robot. This bizarre ritual went on for a few minutes, and then as suddenly as it started, the employees all dispersed and went back to work. It was quite odd.

My 8-year-old noted the irony that all these miserable-looking people were wearing shirts that said “I ❤️ my job.” You can imagine the management consultant who came up with that idea. “The employees hate their jobs and hate the restaurant. Instead of turning down the wretched music, or getting rid of the peanuts underfoot, or discontinuing the required line dancing, how about we just make them wear shirts that convince them they are happy.” It was actually kind of funny. In kind of a miserable way.

As it turns out, this restaurant also serves food. And it really wasn’t too bad. They start with fresh rolls that are packed with sugar and give you lots of butter that has cinnamon mixed into it, so you basically have cake as an appetizer. Really, really, really good cake.

I ordered a simple 6oz filet rare. I usually order “black and blue” which means cooking for an extremely short time on extremely high heat. But they had no idea what that meant (how does a steak place not know this?), so I ordered rare. Each entree comes with two sides, so I ordered steak fries and a salad. The salad was fine. The fries were fine. And the steak was perfect.

The key to a good steak is to not fuck it up. Start with a good cut (not hard for a restaurant—they get all the good cuts). Just a little salt and pepper and don’t overcook it. Boom. Great steak. That’s exactly what this place did.

The prices are also extremely reasonable.

My wife and kids were happy with their food as well.

So what I’m saying is, it’s actually not that bad, and I’m sure we’ll be going back again and again.

 

That Stupid Lee Greenwood Song

On Friday I attended the Memorial Day pageant at my kids’ school. I don’t think they call it a pageant, but that’s basically what it is. The band and orchestra play a couple songs, the kids all stand in neat rows and sing and recite patriotic stuff. My daughter, the politician, introduced a couple numbers and absolutely nailed it. She’s a terrific public speaker. The whole thing was pretty cute. At the end some trumpeters played taps and then one 6th grader stood away a little bit, back to the crowd, and played the “echo taps.” And that’s where I tear up, probably as much for the bravery of that kid as for any other reason. But I teared up at the end of The Lego Movie, so there’s that.

It would have been perfect, except for one thing. The 6th graders sang that stupid Lee Greenwood song. I fucking hate that song.

I hate this fucking song, and you should, too

I hate this fucking song, and you should too

For those global readers who have not had the misfortune to hear this jingoistic piece of trash, you can watch it on YouTube. The full title is “God Bless the USA, and Fuck Everyone Else.” (The second part of the title is silent.) I recommend listening on a full stomach, because you will be vomiting later, and dry heaves are the worst.

It’s a simple song, following the standard pop music structure: mumbleverse, bridge, mumbleverse, bridge. The mumbleverse (that’s a technical term I just invented) is the part of the song that nobody knows the words to. It’s particularly easy to pick it out because the 6th graders sing that part at pianissimo, whereas the bridge they belt out at full forté. I honestly had no idea what was in the mumbleverse. I hated this song on the basis of the bridge alone. But I figured that if I was going to write a rant slamming this work of art, I should probably go look it up.

GM Factory in Flint

If you weren’t so damn proud, you could move to Mexico and get your old job back.

I was surprised to find that as much as I hate the bridge, I may hate the first mumbleverse even more. The gist is that if he lost all his worldly possessions, and just had his wife and kids, he wouldn’t move to another country. Because, you know, that’s a thing. Like when the GM factories closed in Flint, Michigan, and all the unemployed auto workers packed their bags and said, “Honey, we’re moving to Latvia!” Those damn pauper liberals are always emigrating to some socialist country. But not Lee! No, if a medical catastrophe strikes his family and leaves him penniless, he’s going to sit his bankrupt ass right there in his pickup truck and live on the streets of the good old US of A! His kids can sleep in the back of the king cab, and his other kids from his first marriage can sleep in the truck bed or something.

Wait a second. Maybe that verse isn’t about emigration at all. Do you think, maybe, he’s actually slamming immigration? Do you think, perhaps, he’s saying that those Mexicans who risk their lives fleeing to the USA, escaping abject poverty in their home country, just do it because they aren’t proud enough of Mexico? Of course! That’s why they stop speaking their native language and never, ever put up flags of their home country, and never watch soccer again.

The second mumbleverse is just a list of major metropolitan media markets.

So with that out of the way, let’s focus on that bridge:

And I’m proud to be an American,
Where at least I know I’m free.

What the fuck does that mean? “At least I know I’m free.” Seems there was another sentence he maybe forgot, to give us some context. Let’s guess what that sentence would be: “This country sucks. Unemployment is out of control. The government spies on us. We’re at war with somebody all the time. But, you know, it could be worse. I could be living in one of those other countries without freedom.” Do you suppose that’s what he was implying by “at least” he knows he’s free. Free to do what, exactly? To sing songs about how great the country is? I’ve got news for you, Lee: there ain’t a country on earth where you are going to be sent to jail for singing about how awesome that country is. One sign that you might be in a country that isn’t “free” is that all the songs on the radio sound just like this one.

Maybe he’s talking about freedom of religion. Or, as the founding fathers might have said, freedom from religion. If that was his intent, then I bet he would find it pretty darn ironic that schoolchildren are being forced to sing “God bless the USA.” You are free to practice whatever religion you want in this country, except atheism, of course.

And I won’t forget the men who died,
Who gave that right to me.

Not forgetting fallen soldiers is a good sentiment. I’ve got no issue with that. But our friend seems to be a little mixed up about basic human rights, and the principles spelled out in the Declaration of Independence. Here’s a refresher:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights

So nobody “gave” us the right to be free. That’s part of the standard package. What our fallen soldiers did was defend that right. Lately, for the most part, not for you. But for other people, which I suppose is more noble, provided the other people are into it.

The rest of the bridge is basically him volunteering to join the Army. Except he didn’t. But it’s the thought that counts, right?

I really have two big problems with this song. First, there’s that “At Least” line which implies that the country sucks except for the freedom. And I don’t like that sentiment. I think this country has a hell of a lot going for it other than just the freedom part, which frankly, isn’t all that special any more. It’s not like we’re the lone free country in a world filled with tyranny. The vast majority of the world’s population is “free” in the way this song is using that word. This is actually a Cold War song, and the Soviet Union was a pretty big deal back when it was written, so I’ll excuse the sentiment. But it’s not really applicable so much any more.

My second issue is that “Proud” thing. Given the religious overtones in the song, I find it kind of ironic that he’s leaning so heavily on the deadliest of the seven deadly sins. The wikipedia article on pride really nails it:

In almost every list, pride (Latin, superbia), or hubris (Greek), is considered the original and most serious of the seven deadly sins, and the source of the others. It is identified as believing that one is essentially better than others, failing to acknowledge the accomplishments of others, and excessive admiration of the personal self (especially holding self out of proper position toward God). Dante’s definition was “love of self perverted to hatred and contempt for one’s neighbour”.

“Love of self perverted to hatred and contempt for one’s neighbour.” It appears Dante wrote the liner notes for this album!

When I was doing a little research on this post (mostly to see if someone else had done this same rant better than I was about to), I learned that a public school principal in New York City had forbade the use of this song at a Kindergarten graduation ceremony. She is black. I bet you can guess what kind of letters she received as a result of that decision. Follow that link to read some racist, ignorant bullshit that will make you fucking proud to be an American, dammit!

The “Fun” Committee

I work for a company that I co-founded back in 1996. It’s not a big company. Between 20 and 30 people. So, with the exception of a couple sales guys who live in the territories they cover, everyone interacts with everyone else in the company every day. So I’ve never quite understood why we need to have company events. But I’m the CTO, not the CEO. And the CEO thinks it’s something we need to do, and I trust his judgement.

I hate these events. I hate them with a passion.

Sometimes they will be in the middle of the work day, in which case I hate that they are keeping me from getting work done. It’s not like there is less work in the day because we are having this event. Just fewer hours in which to do the work that needs to get done.

Sometimes they will be after work, in which case I hate that I’m being kept from my beautiful wife and annoying kids and comfortable couch and a delicious cocktail.

The events are planned by the “fun” committee. I have to put the word fun in quotes for obvious reasons. Off the top of my head, I’ve had to suffer through bowling, company dinners, miniature golf, picnics, wine and cheese tastings, and apple picking. Fucking apple picking. So let’s examine some of these in more depth.

These are not bowling pins and that is not a bowling ball

These are not bowling pins and that is not a bowling ball

Bowling. We are based in Massachusetts. That means we get to suffer through an abomination of bowling called “candle pin.” This was invented back in 1880 in Worcester, MA by a bowling alley owner who wanted to cut back on the number of people he had to employ setting up pins between frames. You throw a small ball, the pins are skinny, they just leave the knocked-down pins in the way between throws, and there are three throws in a frame. No, I’m not making this up. When you talk to someone in MA about bowling, they think this is what you are talking about. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not a fan of real bowling either. But at least that’s a game of skill. Candlepin “Bowling” is basically a carnival midway time-waster.

Company Dinners. Since we’re small, we can afford to go to decent restaurants, so I can’t complain about that. But the social dynamics of a small company are quirky. You basically have the young kids, who hang out together all the time anyway. And you have us old execs who have nothing in common with the young kids, and don’t really care about each other’s families and stuff. So what do we talk about? Work. What else is there? Sometimes I’ll regale them with tales of cocktails and infusions and stuff. But other than that, it’s all just work, work, work. Just what I want at the end of a long work day. More work.

Miniature Golf. I play this with my kids. My kids like it. I used to like it when I was a kid. Now it’s tedious.

Picnics. Basically this is just like the company dinner, except we have to drive someplace inconvenient, eat lower quality food, bake in the sun, and chew up perfectly good working hours so we just have less time to get our shit done.

This cheese is fucking awesome and you can't get it in the US because the FDA is a bunch of idiots

This cheese is fucking awesome and you can’t get it in the US because the FDA is a bunch of idiots

Wine and Cheese Tastings. OK, so this had promise. They went to a fancy cheese store in Boston and got a bunch of interesting hard and soft cheeses. And they bought some cheap-ass wine. I was engaged for like, maybe 15 minutes. Then I had tasted everything there was to taste, and I was stuck talking about — wait for it — work for the next hour as everyone in the room tried to figure out how much longer they needed to stay to meet the minimum social quota.

Why the fuck is this person smiling?

Why the fuck is this person smiling?

Apple Picking. Are you kidding me? Why is this a thing? You get to walk deep into an orchard in the hot sun along a dusty path, climb a ladder into a scratchy tree, and look for decent apples from picked-over trees. Who finds this fun? This tradition completely confounds me. Even my kids hate this, and kids like all sorts of annoying shit (see miniature golf, above). After you’ve filled the plastic bag they gave you, you get to hike back to the store for a cider donut and some cider. The cider donuts are awesome. But really, I could have just gone to the store and bought one and skipped all the rest of this nonsense, couldn’t I? Fucking apple picking.

I don’t know if I’m the only person who hates these events, or just the only person who has an anonymousish blog where they can vent about it. I’m pretty sure the “fun” committee isn’t having any fun coming up with these ideas. And doing everything they can to ensure everyone actually shows up. I’d feel sorry for them, except they really could just say no, and quit the damn committee, and then we wouldn’t have to do this stuff anymore because nobody would be planning it.

A boy can dream, can’t he?