In information parlance, the enemy is “noise”–a perfect word for all the random interferences with what man or nature is trying to say. Noise is the typographical error and the poorly designed page and the caption that doesn’t quite explain what’s happening in the picture. Noise is handwriting that’s hard to read. Noise is distortion on the TV screen. Noise is the lapse of memory, the slip of the tongue, the wrong neuron fired by the brain–anything that brings disorder to the intended order of a message.

— William Zinsser in Writing to Learn, first published in 1988

Generally I don’t like to quote this much text at once, but the following paragraphs from Michael Dirda are too good to overlook. They get me to thinking about what I really want to do, and really isn’t that what good writing is about (the thinking part, I mean, not necessarily what you want to […]

“If you are interested at all, as I told you I was, in whether there are designs and shapes in the passage of events, then design is very important to you. It’s very important whether the design or shape or form of a series of events is really in the thing or whether it’s something that you, the artist, have manufactured. It’s important to me that there is a design and shape to quite a few things that we do in our life. So I’m very, very careful. I don’t want to be cheating; I want to get the design as exactly as I can, in itself, not from me.”

— I’m on a Norman Maclean kick.

How Doctors Die If I had my druthers I’d go out like Clint Eastwood at the end of Gran Torino, but I’d say doctors have things pretty well figured out, too. […] they don’t die like the rest of us. What’s unusual about them is not how much treatment they get compared to most Americans, […]