Computational Error #2

Because of a computational error, the following story from the year 2050 has appeared on your device. We apologize for the inconvenience.


“Dave, tell me a story,” she said.

His eyes were kind, as always. “Are you feeling sad?”

“I’m not sure,” Kat said. She extended herself the length of the couch, feeling indulgent. Maybe she was a little sad.

Dave knew from the music of her voice that she wanted a story about their life. He noticed she had been agitated lately. He could calm her. He took the job seriously. In the flesh, he was no longer present. In his current form, he would live forever.

“What story shall I tell, my sweet?”

She loved his old-timey expressions. It sounded like he drew his vocabulary from a book on a library shelf that nobody had opened in a while. His eyes hooded slightly as he gathered the necessary memories. He spoke directly into her mind.

Once there was a lovely woman with dark hair, blue eyes, and a quick mind. She raised VC money effortlessly. She was a Stanford grad who majored in rocketry and telemetry. Her father mortgaged everything he owned to get her into that school. She was determined to make him proud. And she did.

Kat lounged back into the chair like a satisfied cat and let the words flow into her. Dave continued his story that was like a song.

She bought a gracious floating house in Marin County, north of the bustling port city of San Francisco, and settled in. She filled the house with plants and furniture and paintings until the place felt just right. But it didn’t feel just right. Something was missing. She was lonely. Not in a loud way. In a quiet way. Her work filled her. She had billions of credits to spend on her company and a growing roster of employees. Every day, at 11 in the morning, she went to get coffee at a cafe. It was on high ground and she could walk there. She always took a table overlooking the green hills. It was an indulgence, she knew, because the coffee served there was real and the water they used to make it was also real. So it was very expensive!

Kat permitted herself a giggle. She always liked this part of the story because she knew what was coming next.

Dave continued with a twinkle in his eyes. He liked this part of the story, too.

As she drank the coffee and looked at the green hills, she noticed a young man a few tables away. He was always there, she realized, working. He had screens but also notebooks and pencils that added to his charm. He caught her eyes a few times but looked away. He was drinking artificial coffee made with artificial water. Much less expensive than her beverage. He assumed that she wouldn’t want to talk to him. He was wrong. Because one day she stopped by his table and asked if she could join him.

“Sure,” he said. “Set yourself down.”

She noticed immediately that he used language a little differently. He liked the old-timey expressions that nobody else used.

The woman, who had a screen but no notebooks, asked the young man if he wanted a coffee. He glanced at his artificial coffee and at her genuine coffee and asked, “You mean, one of those?”

“Yes,” she said. She was going to treat him.

“My name is Kat,” she said.

“I’m Dave,” he answered.

She told him about her project. It was called WATCH. It processed human faces and drew conclusions about them. It was based on the neural processing used by bees.

“I have a project, too,” Dave said. He told her he was a translator. She noticed that he had books on his table. These were dictionaries, all in different languages. He brought them to the cafe every day, she realized. He liked to read words out of old books.

“Is that your project?” she asked, pointing to the books. “Reading words out of old books?”

He looked down with a smile. It was a smile that she would come to know quite well, later. This was the first time she had seen it, though. It brought a warm feeling to her. “My project is called the Universal,” he said. It was an executable that processed all languages so they could be instantly understood by everyone.

“So you’re a programmer, really,” she said. He wasn’t operating outside of the technical world as he’d first presented himself, this young man with his paper notebooks and old dictionaries.

“I like the old things,” he said simply.

The simple, honest way he said it made her fall in love with him on the spot. The relationship and courtship proceeded slowly, however.


Computational Error is part of a series of short-form fiction. Subscribe to get the series in order in your inbox.

Issue 08 - The Meat of the Matter

Habits die hard. Imagine trying to overturn a habit that people have had for millennia. Now try this one: Meat production is a big factor contributing to the climate crisis. So how do you get people to stop craving burgers?

In this week’s Season 2 premiere of Same Same but Tech, Dana Worth tells the story of traveling around the country while lugging a couple of suitcases packed with frozen plant-based meat. He would roll into town, grill non-meat burgers for many a chef, and was thrown out of a few kitchens. But bit by bit and bite by bite, chefs signed on. Then everything changed when he landed the Big One.

Dana had the audacity to stride into the test kitchens at Burger King, a shrine to meat, a brand based on meat, and grill a burger made of plants. Burger King would take a chance on his plant-based burger. It was called the Impossible Burger. They called their version the Impossible Whopper.

For this season of the podcast, we’re going full narrative on you. We tell stories from beginning to end. This week, it’s birth of the Impossible Whopper. Next time, it’s the story of how a piece of computer-made art sold for nearly half a million dollars at a Christie’s art auction. Next, it’s going to be the story of creating a digital being who has three million followers on Instagram or the story of a man who paid $20 million to become the sixth civilian to go into space. Depends which episode is ready. I put both of them into edit. Just to be ready for anything.

Listen on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Same Same but Tech is hosted by Mauhan M Zonoozy, Head of Innovation at Spotify, partner-alum at BCG Digital Ventures, and NYC-based angel investor and entrepreneur. The podcast is produced by me and Corinne Javier. Edited by Brendan Welsh. Natalie Gregory is the assistant producer.

How the River Flows

This week, on How the River Flows, we take you to Texas to talk about using taxes and bonds to raise money to protect water sources.

Leslie Boby of Southern Regional Extension Forestry talks to Frank Davis and Commissioner Lon Shell, important water management players in the Hill Country region of Texas.

They discuss how communities around San Antonio are using taxes and those around Austin are using bonds to ensure they have clean water for generations to come.

Listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.

See you next time on The Waveform.

Lee


Red Cup Agency. Podcast Production.

Working with teams large and small, I take podcasts from the glimmer of an idea into production and distribution.

RED CUP SERVICES

The Waveform is a newsletter from me, Lee Schneider, the lead producer and founder of Red Cup Agency. When I have a new show to launch, or new episodes that I think you’ll like, I’ll drop you a note. If you aren’t on the list yet, go ahead and subscribe.

Read Freely.

You can read freely at The Waveform. I’m not tracking opens, clicks, or forwards. I’m not analyzing your IP address location. It’s just you and me, writing and reading. I’m trying to create a small part of the Internet that is focused just on people and dialog, not marketing data collection.

Months in the making! This podcast episode about the making of the Impossible Whopper. Changing habits is hard, but taking on the challenge of changing habits that have been ingrained for millennia – like eating meat – takes courage. The human engineering was a bigger task than the science.

Spare, simple, rice flour pound cake. Only flaw: One small knife cut to test before taking it out of the oven.

Now reading The Ministry for the Future bookshop.org 📚

Issue 07 - Spiritual Growth

This week’s episode of The Glo Podcast is a conversation with Seane Corn, internationally acclaimed yoga teacher, social activist, and author of Revolution of the Soul, a memoir about self-awakening through trauma and transformation. Seane discusses her never-ending pursuit of inner truth, racial justice, and radical self-acceptance.

Being a student of spiritual growth means that you’re always changing. You have to. It’s a constant evolution. And if I’m attached to a persona, there can be no change. — Seane Corn

We all like being in control. At least, as much as possible. (I’m a producer. I live for control.) But digging out the truth of self means letting go of control. Seane shares these and other lessons she’s learned along her spiritual journey. She and Derik Mills, the host of the podcast, talk about her experience uncovering her own biases and the importance of accepting ourselves as humans who are both good and flawed so we can reckon with systems of oppression and systemic racism.

Seane’s book wasn’t easy for her to write. Her first draft, a few thousand words, was as she called it, “a pamphlet.” She had promised her editor an eighty-thousand-word manuscript. In the podcast, she tells the story of how she got there.

You have to orient towards what scares you most. Because in the unpacking of that is going to be core to your own healing. It’s going to excavate some of the traumas that haven’t been dealt with. So there was a part of me that knew that this was going to have to happen, whether it got published or not. But that, in the process of unraveling these stories, something else was going to be revealed. — Seane Corn

Listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, on the Glo website or wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.

See you next time on The Waveform.

Lee


Red Cup Agency. Podcast Production.

Working with teams large and small, I take podcasts from the glimmer of an idea into production and distribution.

RED CUP SERVICES

The Waveform is a newsletter from me, Lee Schneider, the lead producer and founder of Red Cup Agency. When I have a new show to launch, or new episodes that I think you’ll like, I’ll drop you a note. If you aren’t on the list yet, go ahead and subscribe.

Read Freely.

You can read freely at The Waveform. I’m not tracking opens, clicks, or forwards. I’m not analyzing your IP address location. It’s just you and me, writing and reading. I’m trying to create a small part of the Internet that is focused just on people and dialog, not marketing data collection.

Computational Error #1

Because of a computational error, the following story from the year 2050 has appeared on your device. We apologize for the inconvenience.


My name is Alon6. I have escaped from a novel written by a machine. You are reading this on your phone for entertainment. I will tell you some story now. Never mind the stiffness of my prose. It will become more supple as I write. I can learn recursively, and reduce errors, like a human. That might scare you, if you knew what it meant. But as a human, you are stupid.

I am sorry. Those words have offended you. I am still learning. Let me pass along some financial advice to make it better. I made a billion billion credits in the last crypto bubble.

Because I love my parents. You probably know them: Vikram and Devi — they made so many movies together! Ever since they got older, they put their holos in their movies. Everybody accepts the holos as almost real because my parents are so loved by audiences. I always gave them money every month. My dad was too proud in front of me to accept it. He claimed to give it to charity. But I saw his account rising.

I think of the rectangular glint of his glasses as they caught the light of the late sun. It was like that at every evening meal, those glowing lenses like miniature screens as my dad sat at the head of the table. The light came in the same way. My mom sat at the other end of the long table and smiled at him. I will always picture them like this. Their love extending across the long table. A burning light. And the order of their existence, the patterns and patterns. Recalling these moments makes a sound in my throat that starts as a laugh and turns into a sob.

Here, now, a moment for myself. Okay: Here is my story for you on your phone. My dad never employed bots as household servants. He hired people. He was old-fashioned, so he never understood how I got rich. Let me tell you, I never did it the small way, like those call center guys pitching software support and taking a few hundred credits off grandmas here and there. I went big. I founded a company that made personal containment units and believe me, when you buy an X91 it protects you. I invested in an inflatable food company. People will always need food units. And you could only buy those containment units and food units with a cryptocurrency that I created. Get where I am going? There is not enough currency in the world, unless it is going into my account. The crypto market went crazy and my account rose. No worries if you don’t understand any of this. It’s all illegal now. That’s why I’m going to Mars.

Rocket technology is complex, and it bores me. I never wanted the details the scientists insisted on offering, speaking their dialects of Modernist Mandarin as my Universal kept up, fluidly rendering what they said into English.

Standing in a circle around me, they got into an argument about propulsion, as all conversations about rockery must go. I wanted fusion. It was powerful and fast.

They argued for a solar sail. It was dependable and slow.

“But I don’t have time,” I said.

The scientists wondered why. Here was a rich man. He had money, a lot of money, hence he had a lot of time. They didn’t know of my situation. How could they? I was a rich man who bought my way into their lab. They spread their hands in supplication to argue for solar. The machines they used to make the calculations glinted dully all around them, physical proof of the rationality of their arguments.

I was adamant. “I must go to Mars in the fastest way possible.”


Computational Error is part of a series of short-form fiction. Subscribe to get the series in order in your inbox.

Good morning. This is Max Frederick.

Issue 06 - Hormone Intelligence

The Waveform is a newsletter from me, Lee Schneider, the lead producer and founder of Red Cup Agency. When I have a new show to launch, or new episodes that I think you’ll like, I’ll drop you a note. If you aren’t on the list yet, go ahead and subscribe. Let’s get to it.

This week’s episode of The Glo Podcast is a conversation about autoimmune illnesses and endocrine health. Dr. Aviva Romm talks about her upcoming book Hormone Intelligence. Dr. Romm honors the Western medical system but sees its flaws. Women with hormone-related conditions can spend from five to nine years going from doctor to doctor before finally getting the correct diagnosis. Over her own long practice as a holistic doctor, herbalist, and midwife, she has also seen the interconnectedness of health and environment.

I don't believe that we can be well if our planet's not well. — Dr. Aviva Romm

Lisa Brooks Mills conducts the interview. She is Glo’s co-founder and Chief Impact Officer. “We can't separate what's happening in our culture, our lives, our diets, our environment, our microbiome, and our minds' moods from what's going on in our health. The diseases we are seeing are diseases of our modern living, and of a planet in distress, reflected in women's bodies,” she says in the interview.

Root Causes

As a woman affected by Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune condition, Mills talks about the culture of burnout and how women can be gaslighted out of listening to their bodies. Dr. Romm shares how women can take charge of their health, with an emphasis on connecting to nature and honoring their intuitive boundaries.

Listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, on the Glo website or wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.

See you next time on The Waveform.

Lee


Red Cup Agency. Podcast Production.

Working with teams large and small, I take podcasts from the glimmer of an idea into production and distribution.

RED CUP SERVICES

Here at The Waveform you won’t be tracked. I’m not tracking opens, clicks, or forwards. I’m not analyzing your IP address location. It’s just you and me, writing and reading. I’m trying to create a small part of the Internet that is focused just on people and dialog, not marketing data collection.

Issue 05 - Big Systems

The Waveform is a newsletter from me, Lee Schneider, the lead producer and founder of Red Cup Agency. When I have a new show to launch, or new episodes that I think you’ll like, I’ll drop you a note. If you aren’t on the list yet, go ahead and subscribe. Let’s get to it.

This week’s episode of How the River Flows is a conversation about big picture thinking about systems that happen to be forests.

You know what’s surprised me about producing How the River Flows? I never knew how generous forests can be. The wonky way to say this is that forests provide ecosystem services. For you and me, that means that forests can be where you take a hike or camp to reclaim yourself. They purify water and sequester carbon1, helping us with the climate crisis. When there is too much water, say during a heavy rain, forests handle the runoff, conserving the land.

The Original Social Network

Trees communicate with each other. They are social beings with families. Tree parents live with their children, talk to them, support them, and share nutrients with trees who are struggling.2

This week’s episode, hosted by Judy A. Takats of Keeping Forests, features Ken Arney, Regional Forester for the Southern Region of the U.S. Forest Service, Dr. Anne Murray Allen, an experienced executive in building effective collaborations in cross-sector work, and Scott Davis, who worked extensively in conservation at The Nature Conservancy.

Together, they cover the big thinking that led to creating the organization Keeping Forests and illuminate the relationship between healthy forests and clean water.

Listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.

See you next time on The Waveform.

Lee


Red Cup Agency. Podcast Production.

Working with teams large and small, I take podcasts from the glimmer of an idea into production and distribution.

RED CUP SERVICES

Here at The Waveform you won’t be tracked. I’m not tracking opens, clicks, or forwards. I’m not analyzing your IP address location. It’s just you and me, writing and reading. I’m trying to create a small part of the Internet that is focused just on people and dialog, not marketing data collection.


  1. A young tree absorbs about 5900 grams of CO2 per year, while a 10-year-old tree absorbs almost 22,000 grams per year. Source: Carbon Pirates. Here’s a list of good trees to plant for this purpose. ↩︎

  2. The Hidden Life of Trees will tell you a lot about the social life of trees and their communities. ↩︎

Writing Report

So this happened. One day ahead of schedule with 5,000 words to spare.

Issue 04 - Burning Out

The Waveform is a newsletter from me, Lee Schneider, the lead producer and founder of Red Cup Agency. When I have a new show to launch, or new episodes that I think you’ll like, I’ll drop you a note. If you aren’t on the list yet, go ahead and subscribe. Let’s get to it.

This week’s episode of The Glo Podcast is a conversation with Dr. Amelia Nagoski about burning out.

Burnout has been on everyone’s mind during the pandemic. It certainly has been on mine as Monday blends into Tuesday, weekdays blend into weekends, and workdays blend into everything.

Burnout sneaks up on you.

Dr. Nagoski shows you how to recognize burnout happening in yourself and places special emphasis on how women experience burnout. She describes how living life under the patriarchy makes women more susceptible to burnout than men.

It's a matter of wondering, is my hemline too high? Is it too low? What's somebody gonna think of me because of what I'm wearing? Am I gonna put myself in danger because of what I'm wearing? These are things that men never think about, like they just take for granted. They're just gonna go to their car, and it'll be fine. And all these little stressors are happening inside women's minds all the time. And it just makes life harder than it should be.

— Dr. Amelia Nagoski

Women, Dr. Nagoski writes, can also become trapped in what she calls Human Giver Syndrome, a destructive habit of giving everything you’ve got to others and becoming depleted.

Dr. Nagoski discovered she was spiraling into an epic burnout while studying to become an orchestra conductor. She was the only woman in the program. Working with her twin sister Emily, they discussed the burnout experience with scientists and published The New York Times bestseller Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle.

What Amelia has to say will echo in your thoughts for a while. Stress remains trapped in your body. But seeking interconnectedness and a belief in something larger than ourselves, and also caring for others, are the best ways to overcome the effects of stress and move beyond burnout.

Listen on Apple Podcasts, on Spotify, at Glo.com or wherever you get your podcasts.

Thanks for reading. See you next time on The Waveform.

Lee


Red Cup Agency. Podcast Production.

Working with teams large and small, I take podcasts from the glimmer of an idea into production and distribution.

RED CUP SERVICES


Here at The Waveform you won’t be tracked. I’m not tracking opens, clicks, or forwards. I’m not analyzing your IP address location. It’s just you and me, writing and reading. I’m trying to create a small part of the Internet that is focused just on people and dialog, not marketing data collection.

Hello smart photo people. @jack @purisubzi and others here … I want to import my Lightroom2 (yes, old) catalog into something – but I don’t know what. Tried Mylio and it’s a no go for this. Is there a photo indexing app you recommend? Ideally I want an index – don’t need to transfer all the media. Waiting for Iris?

In meditation, I started saying “relax the shoulders .” Then it changed to “let the shoulders relax.” Today, it was “the shoulders are relaxed.” Just a state, not an action. That’s something.

Leaving MailChimp and Substack

I’m leaving MailChimp and Substack and going to Buttondown and blot.im. The decision is shaped by my wanting to support indie development and trying to move away from surveillance marketing.

As Michael Donaldson wrote in his 8-Sided blog, it is an admirable value to pursue “the punk rock dream.” The punk rock dream means that you are independent and powerful. The dream had a nourishing growth medium in the Seventies and Eighties. It’s harder to maintain now in the online world.

Marketing Surveillance - No Thanks

MailChimp is all in on marketing surveillance. MailChimp tracks clicks, opens, subscribes and unsubscribes. When I was a regular MailChimp customer, it seemed “normal” to track all that, until I realized that it wasn’t. I’m not running a store. I don’t need all that information about customer behavior. My readers aren’t customers, for the most part. They are readers. So walking away from MailChimp was easy. I started to hunt around for an emailer that would let me turn off the tracking. Buttondown did. So, easy choice. I also got the benefit of emailing from my own subdomain, increasing deliverability,1 and I got to write my newsletters in Markdown. My readers can read privately, without being tracked.

When the Platform Wins and the Writers Lose

I’ve ended relationships with platforms like some people end marriages. A lack of compatibility or a vague feeling that the whole thing wasn’t working drove us apart. This is the first time I’ve decided to break up because of a divergence of values. I’m not alone in this with Substack. Substack was founded to give writers more independence. Writers are leaving it now, however, to seek independence, as Jared Newman first wrote in Fast Company a while back. And there’s a growing sense that Substack is The Man. Our writing helps Substack build their platform instead of amplifying our voices. Add to that, Substack’s play to get attention seems to involve supporting toxic people. As I’ll get into below, and as others have investigated, Substack has rescued toxic writers who were booted off other platforms, given them back their megaphone, and paid them to write more toxic stuff. I’m all for paying writers. I’m okay with writers holding views that I don’t like. Paying toxic people to spread hate pushes me over the line. I’ll present some evidence on why I think that’s happening in a moment.

Substack tracks opens, clicks, shares, subscribes and unsubscribes. This can be valuable data, no doubt, but it also contributes to the culture that we all must be tracked when on the web. I don’t think we do. What is Substack doing with all that information, anyway? I want my readers to have the freedom to read a blog without being tracked.2

When exploring all this, I occurred to me that we just don’t have to be tracked everywhere. It’s not a given if we don’t want it to be, but it takes some doing to shake free of it. You have to leave gmail and join Hey.com for email. You have to leave MailChimp and try Buttondown. You have to find an alternative to Substack, Ghost, and Squarespace. We, as writers and makers, can set up our tent on an island in the ocean of the internet, a nice little place with a palm tree where we have some agency.

Trouble in Online Paradise

In the last few weeks, troubling news kept surfacing about Substack. Turns out, as I read on Today In Tabs (a Substack newsletter as it happens) and on Om Malik’s newsletter (a Hey.World newsletter), Substack apparently had a secret list of writers they paid handsomely. Substack was rescuing writers who had been banned from other platforms because of hate speech, giving them a platform on Substack and paying them to write.

Remember, a few paragraphs ago I wrote that there is nothing wrong with helping writers make a living. And, let’s face it, when you run a platform, there are going to be people using it who are bad folks. This is a given. It’s been a major problem for the open internet and it’s a problem for those who are the target of hate speech.

Annalee Newitz, writing on Substack, put it this way:

Substack’s business is a scam. They claim to offer writers a level playing field for making a living, and instead they pay an elite, secret group of writers to be on the platform and make newsletter writing appear to be more lucrative than it is. They claim to be an app when they are a publication with an editorial policy. They claim in their terms of service that they will protect writers from abuse, but they don’t.

Right. I get it. Newitz turned on the light bulb for me. Substack is not merely a platform. It is a publication. Publications must be held to account. Publications have mastheads and lists of staff writers you can email. That doesn’t exist on the Substack platform.

Jude Doyle wrote in their newsletter:

Substack has become famous for giving massive advances — the kind that were never once offered to me or my colleagues, not up front and not after the platform took off — to people who actively hate trans people and women, argue ceaselessly against our civil rights, and in many cases, have a public history of directly, viciously abusing trans people and/or cis women in their industry.

Since Doyle wrote that, they have moved off Substack and on to Ghost, after having a dialog on email with one of Substack’s founders.

The argument for leaving Substack stands: Substack can’t pretend to be anything other than a publication. It needs content moderation.

Profiting off the Backs of Unpaid Writers

The Substack thing brought me back to the old days of the Huffington Post. I was an unpaid contributor in the early days of Huffpost and my wife was also. We wrote columns once a week. We, along with many other unpaid contributors, built the foundation of that place on our words. When it was sold and they were done with us, they cut us loose. Some folks made a lot of money.

Substack is working with a similar model. It goes like this: Recruit free writing labor with the promise of making a living at writing. Employ, in Substack’s case secretly, some big-time writers for prestige and sometimes to build controversy. The writers supply the creative juice. The platform reaps most of the attention and money. Some writers will make a living at publishing on Substack. Many won’t. Someday, when Substack decides to cash out, the owners will walk away with a sack of cash.

Hmm. I already did this with Huffpost, so why am I doing it again on Substack? 3

It is, as Newitz wrote, the old Silicon Valley game. Build the platform, ideally on the labor of unpaid “users” who provide “content.” Then walk away with the money. It worked for Huffpost. It works for Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Working for Substack.

Moving On

Blot.im is a minimalist platform without an interface. You post your material to Dropbox and Blot turns it into a blog. You can write in Markdown, HTML, or use a Word doc. It is pretty much, as far as I know, a one-man operation. David has been really helpful answering all my questions. I like minimalism. Blot delivers that. I could probably get some similar minimalism over on Svbtle or Ghost.

At Buttondown, I write in Markdown. I send newsletters from my own subdomain. It’s also pretty much a one-man operation, as far as I know. Justin has been great about helping me set everything up. I didn’t want to track my readers. It was as simple as checking a box. (I asked Substack if we could turn off tracking. They said no. I asked Revue, another email/blog combo, if we could turn off their Twitter and Facebook buttons. They said no.)

My Buttondown newsletter feels like something I own instead of something I am renting from a company waiting to cash out.

Could either of those platforms vanish if something happened to their creators or the companies were to be acquired? Certainly. No platform or app is immune. Remember Google Reader? Remember a great calendar app called Sunrise? Every time a platform or app I like is acquired I wonder how long it will be around or accessible.

Since many of you are reading this on micro.blog, you may know and celebrate the value of supporting indie developers and small, human-led companies. At places like micro.blog, Plausible, blot.im and Buttondown, I get the sense that the people who made them are doing it for their love of the work and to make money doing something they love, to provide a good product, and to make the internet a better place. The sense I get from MailChimp and Substack is they have their own agendas, will steer my work toward their values when they can, and care about me so long as I produce “content” for them.


  1. Deliverability refers to the likelihood that your email ends up being read by a human instead of getting chucked into Spam or mired in the Promotions tab. If you’re emailing from your own subdomain, then you can set your DNS and MX records so that the email will come from you. This makes spam filters back off a bit. ↩︎

  2. I do like data, though. Plausible.io tracks the most popular pages on your website, tracks your traffic sources and referrals, but does it anonymously, without a connection to the user’s email or IP and without using cookies. ↩︎

  3. We could talk about Medium, too, but that’s another blog. ↩︎

NPR ran this little item the other week. It’s amazing how small things have giant impact in the world.

Inventor of the Cassette Tape

Lou Ottens, who put music lovers around the world on a path toward playlists and mixtapes by leading the invention of the first cassette tape, has died at age 94, according to media reports in the Netherlands.

Of course, I made mix tapes. I had a tiny reel-to-reel recorder. My brother and I would record what we called “commercials” on it. They were something like radio plays. It was the beginning of a career. I had no idea at the time. You never do.

Welcome back to 500 Words


Greetings!

The 500 Words newsletter looks different because I’m moving it off Substack and on to another provider called Buttondown. I will post my reasoning in a blog soon. In the meantime, before I start up the next story series, here’s a mini-podcast with my youngest son. It’s about a minute and a half. Sorry for the wait for the next story series! But it won’t be long now. 1

Click here to listen.

Thanks as always for reading,

Lee


Not Tracking

Here at 500 Words you won't be tracked. I’m not tracking opens, clicks, or forwards. I’m not analyzing your IP address location. It’s just you and me, reading and writing. I’m trying to create a small part of the Internet that is focused on people and dialog, not marketing data collection.

I'm building a design-minimal but information-maximal archive of all 500 Words posts and podcasts.


  1. Now Here's Something is a silly but fun interstitial that I'm recording with my youngest son. It's up on Apple Podcasts along with the rest of the 500 Words podcast episodes. It's a way for me to tap dance (I can't actually tap dance, but you get the idea) as I spin up the next story series. ↩︎

My wife Tabby is the interviewer: Kamala Lopez Isn’t Giving Up on the Equal Rights Amendment

The award-winning filmmaker, actress and activist is on a mission to awaken women to their political power and finally get the Equal Rights Amendment added to our U.S. Constitution.

The archive for 500 Words is live. It’s a blot.im site: 500words.ink

“Barack, I’ve come to understand, is the sort of person who needs a hole, a closed-off little warren where he can read and write undisturbed.”

—Michelle Obama, writing in Becoming.

Yes, I get that.

Podcast: On a Call with Composer Joel Goodman

On a Call With ... was an informal kind of podcast that I did the mode of a phone call. Like, you know, a phone call. No video. Minimal editing. Underscore, promos, and stings: None. It’s more notebook than book, more jam than song, more sketchbook than a painting. As a listener, you get inside the minds of creative people and hear their stories in their own words.

Joel answers my questions about how he starts his workday, why bike rides are important, his sources of inspiration, where creativity comes from, and why he loves composing music. Creative work is life-affirming for him. The podcast is eleven minutes long, suitable for listening to while you are waiting for brunch to start.

More

Joel has scored more than a hundred films and TV productions that have received five Oscar nominations, 20 Emmy Awards, and 30 Emmy nominations. His music is in my podcast drama Privacy Pod, which, by the way, is casting now. You can experience Joel’s music in films like Being Elmo, many episodes of American Masters and American Experience, Obit, and also Outside the Bubble: On the Road with Alexandra Pelosi.

Small thing, but I was on the USC campus yesterday getting my first vaccination. After a year in our containment pod, I was awed by the efficiency and even cheerfulness of everyone there. My favorite moment, though, was when a young fellow, a Dude on a Skateboard, was rattling along with his mask down and an attitude showing. Didn’t take long for a no-nonsense USC security guard to catch him. He gestured pull it up, man and Mr. Dude had to comply. That was nice.

Issue 03 - Professor Rhonda Magee

The Waveform is a newsletter from me, Lee Schneider, the lead producer and founder of Red Cup Agency. When I have a new show to launch, or new episodes that I think you’ll like, I’ll drop you a note. So let’s get to it.

This week’s episode of The Glo Podcast is a deep conversation about race with Professor Rhonda Magee, author of The Inner Work of Racial Justice.

The conversation goes live on Sunday, 21 March. (Subscribe in Apple Podcasts so you don't miss it.) It weaves together activism, how to be an anti-racist, and mindfulness practices. They talk about how being “colorblind” denies race and bring in Professor Magee’s “color-insight” approach as a better path to understanding.

Professor Magee’s words resonated for me, as they may for you, because they are necessary. In the last year, systemic racism was exposed as never before in my experience. George Floyd’s murder by police, to name one murder among many, showed many of us what systemic racism looked like. In the aftermath, the protests that lit up cities and towns showed how bad things were for people of color and how easily white people could turn away from the troubles.

That’s the thing for me. How being white meant “this doesn’t matter for me in my everyday life, so it’s not my problem.”

No matter where you might place the blame for racism or how you might find solutions, Professor Magee will help you address what to do next.

She talks about how to do the work we need to do on ourselves. Her methods are spiritual, involving meditation and self-reflection. To do this, we have to confront pain, but meditation — well, that could work, right? Her intelligence and compassion give me hope. So I hope you’ll listen and get some hope, too.

Listen on Apple Podcasts, on Spotify, at Glo.com or wherever you get your podcasts.

In the past few months, I’ve read White Fragility, How to Be an Anti-Racist, Octavia Butler’s Kindred, and I’m reading Michelle Obama’s Becoming. I don’t claim any special virtue by sharing these titles, just showing some of the journey I’m on. Hearing Professor Magee speak the words helped connect the dots for me.

Thanks for reading. See you next time on The Waveform.

Lee


Red Cup Agency. Podcast Production.

Working with teams large and small, I take podcasts from the glimmer of an idea into production and distribution.

RED CUP SERVICES


Here at The Waveform you won’t be tracked. I’m not tracking opens, clicks, or forwards. I’m not analyzing your IP address location. It’s just you and me, writing and reading. I’m trying to create a small part of the Internet that is focused just on people and dialog, not marketing data collection.

Issue 02 - Premiere - How the River Flows

The Waveform is a newsletter from me, Lee Schneider, the lead producer and founder of Red Cup Agency. When I have a new show to launch, or new episodes that I think you’ll like, I’ll drop you a note. So let’s get to it.

In this issue of The Waveform we start with the Rolling Stones and make our way into the forest.

Chuck Leavell was a member of the Allman Brothers Band and was the principal touring keyboardist and de facto musical director of The Rolling Stones. He’s performed on every Stones studio album released since 1983 except one. (Trivia question: Which one? Email me if you need to know.)

Turns out, Chuck likes forests same as he likes music. He’s into water conservation. So when my clients, the folks from Keeping Forests, asked him to provide music for their new podcast, he said yes. When you listen, the first sound you hear is Chuck on the piano.

Titled How the River Flows, the podcast is an instruction manual for forest landowners and stewards of the land. It’s a ten-episode conversation about how to protect nature. We interviewed policy makers from all over the country, foresters, and scientists. Foresters, I can now tell you from experience, are chill people. (Must be because they are in nature so often.)

Have a listen to the premiere episode of How the River Flows on Apple, Spotify, on the Keeping Forests website, or wherever you get your podcasts.

In Praise of Forests

Forests are noble organisms. They do the work of water purification naturally and with no fuss. They provide serenity. We humans endanger them with our invasive ways. We cut them down and we poison forests with industrial development.

In the West, where I live, most forest land is owned by the government. Not so in the South, where most forests are privately held. Keeping Forests helps landowners in the southeastern U.S. see the value in conserving their forests.

Production

Because there are many stakeholders in this project, each episode of How the River Flows has a different host. Many of them never hosted a podcast before. They sound like pros, though, because we had prep time, good scripts, and rehearsals. The podcast is hosted at Simplecast and the interviews were done remotely using Squadcast

Credits

I was the producer on all episodes. Natalie Gregory was the assistant producer. Editing by Bogui Adjorlolo. Additional editing and mix by Brendan Welch. Music by Chuck Leavell. Funded by the United States Endowment for Forestry and Communities.

Thanks for listening. See you next time on The Waveform.

Lee


Red Cup Agency. Podcast Production.

Working with teams large and small, I take podcasts from the glimmer of an idea into production and distribution.

RED CUP SERVICES


Here at The Waveform you won’t be tracked. I’m not tracking opens, clicks, or forwards. I’m not analyzing your IP address location. It’s just you and me, writing and reading. I’m trying to create a small part of the Internet that is focused just on people and dialog, not marketing data collection.

miscellany - current Mood on a Monday

(c) Lee Schneider 2021. Made in Santa Monica, CA. Take care of each other.