An open letter to people who write open letters.

Dear you,

So you're probably a blogger or something. Maybe you write long posts or notes on Facebook. Whatever. You got your feelings hurt, your theology dinged, your outrage barometer exploded, you're angry at some person in a position of leadership or fame, or your traffic needs propping up. There's a trending topic, maybe, and you're going to chime in and get you some hits.

Shut up.

The world isn't lacking more ill-informed opinions from people not directly involved in events. It isn't lacking the observations of observers twice removed. It isn't lacking your feelings-based take on a situation. It's drowning in them.

It isn't enough to have read somewhere else online proof of what you're going to say. It isn't enough to have had one single experience that you interpreted a certain way and are now convinced beyond a doubt that your interpretation was perfectly accurate and that it isn't at all possible that you might not have ever ful…

You could drink from a toilet, but why would you?

You can drink your water from the faucet or from the toilet. Both will quench your thirst, but you might have some problems from the latter.

With this idea in your mind, let me tell you that it's OK to block people, refuse to visit certain websites or information sources, and even keep their comments from reaching you on social media or blogs.

I stumbled upon a brouhaha regarding a generally loathesome blog (located nearby, in Montana!), and a call to block the blog's social media accounts and stop visiting the blog. I knew for sure what I'd see in the the second and third generation comments (those that respond under an initial comment).

1. "By telling people to do X, aren't you doing X?" This is the equivalent of thinking logical superiority has been achieved by you when your teacher tells you and your classmates to be quiet, and you call her out for talking in order tell people to be quiet. Go claim your trophy, little buddy.

2. "It's not a good i…

I see that the words are in English, but they make no sense.

I attended an event recently. I'm not going to tell you too much about it, other than it was a kind of public awareness humanities social justice thing. I'm not looking to make specific trouble for a specific group.

I am, however, going to make some vague trouble.

Words matter. Much of the book I wrote about the pipeline protest a few years ago dwelt on the use (and misuse) of words and how that played into emotions and public understanding of what was really happening. Whether on purpose or not, we've continued to develop and perfect the ability of using a lot of words to say nothing. We're obsessed with concepts of narrative, story, and conversation, but I'm not sure why. We seem to have perfected abilities that are going to get in the way of successfully carrying any of that out.

So I'm at this local event, reading the single-fold program they provided that listed folks involved, waiting for the shindig to get started.

John Doe is the Senior Program Director …

Surviving a North Dakota winter, at what cost to you?

Since we're all gearing up for winter here in the Upper Great Plains, I thought I'd share one of the fake forms I'd created a few years ago for my Lone Prairie Magazine.

Think tax forms are fun? Then you'll love this one. You can get a PDF here.

NaNoWriMo is here.

It's National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), that special time of the year when some folks think it'd be fun to crank out a 50,000 word novel (that's about 3,000 words a day) in a busy holiday month sounds like a great idea.

Back in 2005, I was in a writer's group and we had five people that actually completed the challenge. That's actually fairly amazing, because lots of people start but not that many finish. To have so many in one little North Dakota writer's group finish was stellar.

I finished a 50,000 word novel, and it was a real dog. But I was pretty proud to have finished the thing, so I displayed a winner's badge on my blog for several years.

At the core of it, NaNoWriMo a word-count competition, not a reader's delight competition. There are some skilled writers whose NaNoWriMo novels end up a successfully published book. Mine was basically a word-count winner in which, technically speaking, the words were actual sentences that could be const…

A costume for Halloween.

A friend asked what she should dress up for as Halloween. I'm a fan of people dressing up as inanimate objects, so I suggested a Q-tip.

"I can't dress up like that," she said.


She pointed out a logical scenario in which she wouldn't look much like a Q-tip but more like a feminine product so I guess she has a fair point there.

At one of my jobs, many years ago, we were supposed to dress up for the full day at work. I wasn't thrilled because that sounded like the definition of not fun, and I imagined the walk through traffic to the nearby coffee shop for lunch. About the only costume I had was a giant red M&M costume someone had given to me. It was as bad as I thought it would be.

I mean, you try sitting in a round foam costume all day and trying to work at a computer.

I find it kind of odd how adults seem to have gone further with the whole costume thing than kids. Halloween is a weird day to run errands at stores, where you have just as g…

When an unknown shows up to enlighten your blog.

I allow anonymous commenters to respond to this blog just because I know there are people who have decent and legitimate contributions to make to a discussion that have reasons to hide their identity in some situations. I have a blog EULA as well. For the most part it works out decently.

So my post about not supporting recreational marijuana, and a sort of related post about how I do research, inspired an "anonymous" commenter to respond. I have a moratorium on responding to internet trolls, so I thought I'd better blog this before the day was over because the guy's response was classic and I'm finding, in recent months, that I take a great deal of fun in being a troll comment coroner.

Let's dissect. I used some mind-altering colors for Unknown's cannabis convenience. You can follow my dude's activity through his time stamps and by visiting the original posts. I also have his IP address, but who cares. I don't. You can go read his stuff over on R…