With the winter holidays nearly upon us, I’d been thinking about what gift I could give my awesome readers. And then… it suddenly occurred to me! “Hey, I’ve got this great unpublished short story called Invasion Day!”
On his tenth birthday, a boy living on the moon asks his grandpa about the blue planet glowing in the forever-night sky, and why they live the way they do.
I wrote this story earlier this year, based on a several-years-old idea from my notes, and inspired by the writing of one of my favorite authors — the great Ray Bradbury.
You can read the eBook free on Smashwords and other online retailers including Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and Scribd. I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please leave me a review when you’re finished.
Attending WordCamp always gets me thinking about ways to improve my website. With Tuesday’s release of WordPress 4.7, I decided it was time to apply a fresh lick of paint to the site. And here you have it — cleaner, darker… classier. And it looks good on mobile, too! I keep finding little things to tweak, but have a look around and tell me what you think!
I’m also excited to reveal a new and shorter web address for the blog: watchadam.blog. That’s right — no www, no dot-com. Isn’t that easy to remember? (Don’t worry, adambenderwrites.com will still get you here!)
Just for fun, here’s a list of names that I’ve called my website over the years:
Adam Bender’s Cool Stuff – I’m not entirely sure, but I think this was the name of the pointless website I made as a kid in the ’90s on Angelfire, which was a free website making tool. It had a hits counter. ‘Nuff said.
Adam Bender Interactive – During high school, I got into game development pretty hard with Klik & Play (and later iterations of Clickteam software). Anyway, my “company” was called AB Interactive.
Stridersoft – I later found people to make games with me (but I don’t think we ever actually released anything as a team). A guy on the team pitched this name and I thought it sounded cool. Didn’t realize it was a Lord of the Rings reference at the time.
Faded Wave – Once I figured out the game dev team thing wasn’t working out, the site became Faded Wave, which also sounded cool, but refreshingly wasn’t a LOTR reference. I started talking about all my projects, including a little novel called We, The Watched.
Adam Bender Writes… – The most recent iteration. The idea really was to bring my name back into it, because people were all like, “Faded Wave? Is that a hair style for balding men?” NO! IT’S NOT!
Among other things, I am a blogger. This thing that you’re reading right now is in fact a blog post…on a real-life blog! Mind blown, right?
To create this mind-blowing blog, I use WordPress, free and easy-to-use software that powers about a quarter of the websites online. WordPress has a great community that gets together all over the world. Last year, I attended and wrote about their first annual U.S. conference, WordCamp US, in my hometown of Philadelphia. WordCamp US was back in Philly this year, attracting about 1,800 attendees and a gang of dinosaurs to the party.
WordCamp was a blast, obviously. I only got to attend the second day (Day 1 was Friday and would have interfered with my day job), but I listened to a few great talks.
Dennis Hong did a hilarious and yet scary (hil-scare-ious?) talk on the dark side of democratization. The idea is that while the internet has enabled anyone to publish, this may not always be a good thing. The sheer amount of content now produced promotes skimming over thoughtful reading, he said. Also, thoughtful, well-reasoned analysis often loses out to cat pictures and emotion-based pieces that get us all riled up — and may not even be true.
While there are no easy answers, Dennis had some advice to make the internet a more friendly place. When something online angers you, take a deep breath before you share it to your friends. Be stoic like Yoda, he said, and decide if it’s worth sharing — because all you’re doing is helping the video go viral. If someone is being ridiculous online, don’t engage in a shouting match. It’s better to be patient, empathetic and take the conversation offline. If you’re creating content, it’s okay to grab a reader’s attention with a flashy headline, but make sure the content that follows is thoughtful and accurate. You can read more about all this on Dennis’s website.
I also learned a bunch of interesting facts from Maile Ohye from Google. Did you know that 65% of India — or about 864 million people — are not yet online? That’s a lot of people still to join the internet! Not only that, but 60% of the world’s traffic is still 2G. It’s important to keep these facts in mind when building a website, Maile said. Also, here’s something to look forward to next year — she said Google will be demoting mobile website that display pop-up ads blocking your view of the content! Woo! Those sites are way annoying!
Which brings me to another fun fact from Maile — 53% of visitors abandon mobile sites that take more than three seconds to load. Sounds a little impatient, but thinking about my own behavior I probably do this as well. I guess with all that democratization of content, we just don’t have time to wait around.
That was some election, huh? Last week at the NARUC annual meeting in La Quinta, California, I attempted to break down what President-elect Donald Trump means for telecom and broadband issues, at least from my perspective as as a reporter for Communications Daily. Spoiler alert: there’s still a lot of uncertainty!
Special thanks to my Comm Daily colleagues, who put together an excellent election issue… from which I stole liberally for the purposes of this panel! Also, thanks to Montana PSC Commissioner Travis Kavulla for skillful moderating and to my fellow panelists Ray Gifford, Bill Ritter and Devin Hartman for the great insights about what Trump means for energy issues.
In 1966, an indigenous Canadian boy named Chanie Wenjack ran away from the Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School. He attempted a 400-mile walk home along the railroad through freezing weather, without knowing if he was even going the right way.
Through Chanie’s journey, Secret Path— an innovative combination of music and graphic novel available on Amazon as a paperback/MP3 download — illuminates a darker part of North American twentieth-century history. Gord Downie of Ontario band The Tragically Hip wrote the words and music, while fellow Canadian and breakout comic book star Jeff Lemire drew the sequential art.
The first time I experienced Secret Path, I read the graphic novel with the music on in the background. The book is short enough to read within the album’s 41-minute running time, and is split into sections by song, so it’s easy enough to take this approach. Taken together, the music and art flow together well, with the images enhancing the words sung by Downie and the mostly acoustic folk rock bringing out the emotions in Lemire’s expressive character-work.
Since then, I have listened to the album quite a few times on its own. The music definitely can stand on its own. With the additional talent of Dave Hamelin from The Stills (another Canadian favorite of mine), Downie’s album carries the listener through the emotional highs and lows of Chanie’s walk, effortlessly evoking images of the boy’s tragic walk.
And as I listened, I found myself flashing back to the beautiful artwork by Lemire. I’ve been a fan of Jeff for some time — especially his more indie work like The Underwater Welderand Essex County, but also some of his writing credits for DC Comics including Animal Man. Lemire has a unique art style that I recall actually put me off the first time I laid eyes on it. But when I pushed ahead anyway, Lemire’s haunting compositions transported me to another world. From the first page of Secret Path, Lemire makes readers feel instantly sympathetic to Chanie’s plight. And he leaves us angry with the country that let such tragedies occur.
Angry, perhaps. But also glad that these fine creators have exposed this hidden history through such accessible storytelling. It’s beyond cool to see a project with such important purpose come together into an artistic masterpiece. What’s more, proceeds from the project will be donated to The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.
So don’t wait — take the Secret Path. It’s a road worth traveling.