Readings: John Grisham on Writing, Lying Pants, Frog Census

A few short reads for today:

1) “Dreams of a Desk Job” [New York Times] – from laying asphalt to selling underwear, John Grisham explains how, one day, he just started writing:

Writing was not a childhood dream of mine. I do not recall longing to write as a student. I wasn’t sure how to start. Over the following weeks I refined my plot outline and fleshed out my characters. One night I wrote “Chapter One” at the top of the first page of a legal pad; the novel, “A Time to Kill,” was finished three years later.

This is a fascinating op-ed. I really like John Grisham’s conclusion:

I had never worked so hard in my life, nor imagined that writing could be such an effort. It was more difficult than laying asphalt, and at times more frustrating than selling underwear. But it paid off. Eventually, I was able to leave the law and quit politics. Writing’s still the most difficult job I’ve ever had — but it’s worth it.

2) “Are Your Pants Lying to You? An Investigation” [Esquire] – a short, but informative piece explaining that not all brands of pants fit the same. I like the author’s frustration:
This isn’t the subjective business of mediums, larges and extra-larges — nor is it the murky business of women’s sizes, what with its black-hole size zero. This is science, damnit. Numbers! Should inches be different than miles per hour? Do highway signs make us feel better by informing us that Chicago is but 45 miles away when it’s really 72? Multiplication tables don’t yield to make us feel better about badness at math; why should pants make us feel better about badness at health? Are we all so many emperors with no clothes?
3) “Is That the Croak of the Pickerel?” [Wall Street Journal] – could a frog census be really important? This finding seems a bit haphazard:
A good frog census is important. Frogs have sensitive skins, so their changing population helps scientists track pollution, disease and other ecological maladies. Other research has indicated a sharp and somewhat mysterious decline in amphibians around the world, which helped spur the American census.

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