Stop right now and create a Brag document

Julia Evan’s Get your work recognized: write a brag document may be a little too long, but her advice is bang-on.

I don’t recall exactly when or why I started a yearly “Accomplishments” text file (stashed in Dropbox), but it undoubtably helped me in my career. Briefly, at the time of your annual performance review, it’s difficult to remember all that you’ve done over the past year. And, most importantly, it’s not your manager’s job to remember either. Keep an ongoing list of what you’ve contributed — to products, administrative, and otherwise — and you’ll have a better and easer to write review.

It’s also handy for when you need a self-administered pat on the back. (And for that reason, it’s not a bad idea to keep it going in retirement, too.)

Do it. Seriously.

Book Review: Rim of the Pit

I don’t read many novels, but when I do it’s most often a noir-ish mystery story. I was attracted to this book in particular because its author is a conjuror who has written a classic textbook that I really admire.

gordon meyer holding book cover

The story is a bonafide classic “locked room” mystery, which adds an extra element of intrigue, and as it says in the book’s introduction, makes the story more of a “howdunit” instead of a “whodunit.”

The story, having been published in 1944, definitely has some dated references, such as a describing someone as resembling “an island of William Bendix entirely surrounded by Robert Taylor.” I’ll refrain from quoting the references which are decidedly not politically correct in today’s world. But in my opinion, these cultural artifacts don’t distract from the story, but instead cement it into a specific historical and cultural period. This is important, as the story takes place in real-time and modern readers must remember that certain technologies and practices are simply not available to the characters.

The book’s prose is wonderful and, if you’re so inclined, offers many rabbit holes to explore. Here are just a few of the new words, or delightful turns of phrase, that I enjoyed:

  • According to the O.E.D.,gibber, as a noun, does not predate (1604) gibberish, the adjective. (1557). Surprising!
  • “Her face still showed traces of a beauty which must have been flamboyant in her youth, but she had fought age with the wrong weapons.”
  • An impassioned speech aimed at skeptics — “Some men steal. Doesn't show everybody's a thief. Doesn't even show the thieves dishonesty all the time. Come right down to it, the fact that some mediums cheat is positive proof of another world. Before a medium can fake a phenomenon, that phenomenon must have happened. Can't imitate anything that doesn't exist.”
  • “Snatching at a straw and swallowing a camel.”
  • Dottle is the remaining plug of unburnt tobacco and ashes left in the bottom of a tobacco pipe when it has been smoked.
  • “Every trade marks a man. Mine is science. If that means anything at all it means becoming the slave of logic. An honest scientist spends his days fighting the will to believe, until at last he ceases to have any control over his own opinions. He follows logic as inevitably and as helplessly as water runs downhill. He can no longer believe anything because it is pleasant, or because everyone else does. Neither can he refuse to believe anything because it contravenes the theories on which he has based his entire life.”

Did I solve the mystery before the book revealed its secrets? I did not. But honestly, I didn’t even try. I never do. (I love the feeling of not knowing.) But if you’re the type that wants to outsmart the author, I assure you it’s possible with a careful reading and clever thinking.

Rim of the Pit is part of the American Mystery Classics collection, and I bought my copy at Mysterious Bookshop in NYC. However, you can obtain it from the Amazon or wherever fine books are sold. I predict that you’ll enjoy it.

Book Review: A Firehose of Falsehood

This 2023 publication by Terry Kanefield and Pat Dorian is subtitled “The Story of Disinformation.” It’s a stunning sequential art book that, quite seriously, should be required reading for every American — especially those who vote.

gordon meyer holding book

The book traces the history of disinformation as a form of warfare all the way back to about 500 BCE and Darius the First of Persia. From there it describes The Arthashastra, an ancient Indian Sanskrit handbook describing disinfo and propaganda techniques that are remarkably familiar in today’s world.

And speaking of familiar, the discussions of Stalin, Hitler, and Mussolini will send chills down your spine. (Of particular note, “Drain the Swamp” is a slogan direct from the Italian fascist himself.)

The concepts of fascism and conspiracy get bandied about a lot today (with good reason) but if you’re not exactly sure about what they mean, this book will bring a great deal of clarity. (I also loved that it brought in the works of my sociologist homeboy Max Weber.)

The title of the book is a succinct and accurate description of the MAGA corps techniques. The authors define it as below, but this could also be an apt summary of CNN’s Kaitlan Collins’ 2023 “town hall” with Donald Trump:

“The firehouse of falsehood is a rapid and continuous stream of lies that overwhelms the listener. The liar exhibits a shameless willingness to tell contradictory and outrageous lies. It’s a way of undermining truth by making it impossible for anyone to focus on the facts.”

The book also lays out the facts and activities of the Russian “Internet Research Agency,” which flooded American social media with pro-Trump (and anti-Hillary) stories, memes, and lies to influence voters. (A fact well-established and covered in the book’s extensive notes and bibliography addenda.)

Reading this book can be quite disturbing, but it helpfully tries to soften the feeling of dismay by providing concrete suggestions and tactics for not only identifying disinformation, but countering it too.

The graphic format of the book makes it a quick and approachable read. I loved it, and I hope you’ll consider picking up a copy. I got mine from Quimby’s via their affiliation, but you can find on the Amazon too, naturally.

This is apparently the first publication from First Second Books / World Citizen Comics, and it’s so well produced that I look forward to more of what they have to offer.

Nerdwax works

I don’t recall exactly how I came to be aware of Nerdwax. Perhaps it was an Amazon “people also buy…” ad, or maybe it was mentioned by some other blogger. I know for sure it wasn’t via the TV show Shark Tank, which apparently is how the product got its footing after a humble beginning.

But however it happened, I’m glad that it did. I’m also grateful that I somehow decided to take a leap of faith and try it out. I can’t explain any of this, as it certainly seems like a product that is not only unnecessary, but unlikely to actually work.

If you’re not familiar with it, NerdWax is a treatment that keeps your eyeglasses in place on your nose. It’s that simple. If you don’t wear glasses — or perhaps heavy glasses — this might seem like a non-problem to you. Even if you do have glasses that slip down your nose, it’s certainly an issue that’s not an important thing to solve. But you address it, you will be glad to have it resolved. Trust me.

Nerdwax, you see, actually works. And how it works is right there in the name. It’s a soft, colorless waxy substance that you apply to your eyeglass’ nose pads or bridge. Just a tiny smear of it, and that prevents the glasses from slipping down your nose, even when you’re sweating and moving around.

I had two concerns about the product, aside from the obvious one that it seemed like a joke. (Again, it’s not.) I was worried about side effects — perhaps not as severe as those chronicled in The Jerk — such as whether the wax would irritate my skin or cause acne? (It does not, at least for me.) Secondly, would the cost/benefit ratio be favorable? Truthfully, the jury is still out about that one, but I’m growing more fond of the product every time I use it, so the answer is approaching “maybe.”

Nerdwax, which I purchased via Amazon (not sure if it’s available in stores), comes in a slim lipstick-style tube. You apply it with a single swipe to where your glasses contact your nose. It goes on so thinly and quickly that, at first, you’ll question if anything is happening at all. But you’ll know that the application worked when your glasses stay put in a magical sort of way. If slipping glasses sounds like a problem you’d like to solve, set aside your skepticism and give it a try. I’m glad that I did.

Book Review: Hard Case Crime

For the last twenty years, Hard Case Crime has been publishing gritty and fun novels. I don’t remember when I first discovered them — it may have been at the beloved Kayo Books in San Francisco — but after that first book, I was totally hooked. The stories are sharp, smart, and always interesting.

In celebration of their anniversary, Hard Case Crime has released a new compilation of short stories. “Death Comes Too Late” is the title. If you would rather not commit to a whole novel, this would be a great way to sample their world.

If you’re looking for another recommendation, “Somebody Owes Me Money” is the sort of fast-paced, intricate story that you’ll immediately want to read again, as soon you finish it. But I’d be completely remiss if I didn’t also suggest that you consider “The Colorado Kid.” By far, my favorite mystery story not written by Robert Parker. (It’s by Stephen King — yes, that Stephen King — but don’t let that color your assumptions about the story.)

Even if you’re not at all interested in fiction, at least check out the remarkable original covers that Hard Case commissions for each book. You can feel the love and respect for the genre in each one.