Reading Virginia Woolf

Read and subscribe to this thing where it was originally published, over at that other place

photo by Jordan Holmbeck, via Unsplash

I like this image because it’s obscure — that is, covered over > concealed > clouded > unclear. It is a lighthouse out of reach — which feels right to me because I’ve lately been re-reading Virginia Woolf’s astonishing, masterful novel To the Lighthouse — which I’ll also be teaching in September. See below for details.

I haven’t…


Well, it’s happened to me at last. Slave to internet fashion that I am, I’ve gone and started a newsletter over at Substack. I’ve cooked up a fancy name for it that basically translates into “whatever I’m interested in at the moment.” You can read it for free over there, of course, but here’s the first edition:

Happy Valentine’s Day! Or at least, it’s Valentine’s Day as I’m writing this. No doubt I will be sending this some other time, as it’s 0643 right now and my kids are almost certainly going to interrupt my morning writing time before I…


There may be a way, but is there a will?

My last longread for FastCompany.com, How Software is Eating the Military, looks at how software-based weapons, information systems, and other infrastructure are changing the ways we go to war. Here’s a bit more on putting the story together, and some other implications for the future of the military.

Northrop Grumman mechanical engineer Phil Lo holds a Universal Payload Adapter he designed (photo courtesy of Northrop Grumman)

The smiling face in the photograph above is Phil Lo, a mechanical engineer who works for Northrop Grumman. He’s credited with the design of the little piece of metal alloy he’s holding, which is known as a Universal Payload Adapter, or UPA. I like this picture in part because Lo’s grin is…


I posted this advice to another blog a few years back. Posting it here now for posterity, and whatever it’s worth to any other entrepreneurs.

A young entrepreneur I met recently asked me how to think about advisory boards and I ended up writing him a long email, which forms the basis of this post.

The biggest value-add I can impart here is a piece of advice that was passed along to me by an associate at the VC firm that funded my first startup, and it’s this: define success for each of your advisory relationships. Don’t just sign someone…


Military technology ultimately has people on either end

I recently did a longish piece for FastCompany.com that I really enjoyed reporting and writing. But, as ever, I was left feeling like I had more to say. Here, in case it’s of interest to anyone other than myself, are some additional thoughts about the story, and about putting it together.

A US Naval Special Warfare unit conducts entering-and-clearing training in an abandoned hotel (found on Flickr)

Having spent a lot of time over the last ten years working in Silicon Valley, one of the things I want to do with my writing is put a more human face on any technology stories I might do. The piece I just did for Fast Company, on the…


This is not about talking to your kids

image courtesy of Donnie Ray Jones

Attention, media (and various other people): Providing alternate narratives to fake news is like talking to four-year-olds. If you say to a four-year-old, “Don’t do that,” all they really hear is the “do that” part. And they comply.

It doesn’t work to just say no. To more effectively change the behavior of a person so short, you need to redirect their attention toward some other activity, preferably one that’s happening at their altitude. And you need to make it compelling. You need to show them something more fun than pulling their brother’s hair or emptying the cereal box onto the…


Existential crises and why writing is a trip

Not so long ago I found myself in a Slack conversation with a friend who’s begun to do more writing lately. “Writing is hard,” we both agreed. I was a capital-W “Writer” for a long time. Though it’s been a few years since that was true, I too have been leaning more toward some form of that pursuit again, and I found myself sharing some thoughts in Slack that — in part because I’m excessively fond of quoting myself — I thought I’d share (and expand on) here as well.

Writing is a trip. I didn’t study writing (or much…


It ends today

Back when I made my living as a writer, one corner of my kitchen counter was reserved for a stack of yellowing newspaper and magazine clippings that I absolutely had to get around to doing something with in the near future. Actually, it wasn’t a corner of the counter, it was a three-foot-long space, on a counter about two feet wide. That’s six square feet of clippings, piled anywhere from two to five inches high, depending on the week and the weather. …


Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Game

Originally written for Shut Up & Sit Down. Republished here for fun.

Indianapolis is a city generally known for auto racing and being the birthplace of America’s first 20th-century outlaw. Every August, though, it hosts almost 50,000 people who care little for either of those things.

They come for the sweet aroma of freshly punched cardboard counters, for the textured heft of rank upon rank of miniature figures, for the piles of weird dice slimed with the cast-off condiments of terrible convention center food, and for the sight of dozens on dozens of costumed geeks, scantily clad and otherwise, who’ve…


Or, why it’s good to have a hypothesis at all

I was reminded today of the idea of the Minimum Viable Hypothesis. I think I first saw this on the blog of James Shore, an early practitioner and proponent of Agile Development (he wrote the book back in 2007, after all).

On his blog, James talks about devising a test that you’ll trust if it comes back negative, as a way to see whether your product idea is viable for a certain market segment. Then figure out the cheapest and fastest way of performing this test. This is your MVH…

Mark Wallace

Mostly a writer. Contents: “architecture, nature, alcohol, space travel, rock ’n’ roll” and boyreporter.com for past work

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