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On Writing (Anywhere)

Today I received a note from a Twitter egg that read, “what papers have u published in this area. very interested to find out more” Putting aside the lack of punctuation and that it was a response to a pithy two-year-old observation on the questionable usefulness of “groundbreaking” academic studies, it’s a very good question. What papers have I published in my current area of oil and gas exploration? None. Depressingly none. Not that I haven’t begged and pleaded with management, only to be rejected by the lawyers citing proprietorship, confidentiality, etc.  Welcome to the world of frontier exploration, upstream of the upstream business, where concepts aren’t even embryos but their constituent molecules floating in space seeking purpose. We’re the ones who painstakingly forage for and wade through data and hypotheses, winnow them, pick the good stuff (we think) and synthesize all into a geological play model to test with a well. It is sad that we give nothing back to the terabytes of published literature gathered and analyzed, but never let it be said we don’t write. We’re always writing – summaries, studies, reports, white papers, proposals, authorizations, you name it – and 75% of it doesn’t see daylight inside our organization. What an exciting place to be, I just can’t talk about it. There’s your answer, eggdude.

Speaking of “can’t,” there are also the physiological roadblocks. Pity our modern hand joints, for they are overused and poorly upkept things. Keyboarding, mousing, smartphoning, driving, cooking, lifting, hauling, bicycling, strumming, holding, how do our bodies adapt to rapidly-changing requirements? Or they don’t, and we’re prescribed painkillers and steroids, which explains our latest drug problem. Now that the base of my left thumb has been relocated to its rightful position and is also bionic following a bicycle accident at the end of 2015 (it took a year and three doctors to figure out what was wrong, yay American healthcare), it’s important that I resume writing here.

While I am very vocal on some social media, it just doesn’t feel right. All of it. I don’t want to speak solely into a purposeful mishmash of walled garden and popularity pageant with little user control. When you have the Twitter A-list and Promoted Posts, and the real conversations happen in secret Facebook groups, something is fundamentally wrong. For instance, South Asian Americans have never needed Sepia Mutiny as a well-moderated but open and searchable blog more than since January 20th 2017, but it is an extinct resource. A former mutineer countered that “Sepia was then. There’s a profusion of new desi media now. To me, the hardest thing is figuring out how to cut through the noise of too much desi media.” It’s wonderful that there are so many more outlets now and, as for “cutting through the noise,” that’s a failing of currently-available search engines, not an abundance of media. There’s a lot of everything out there, including meaningful conversations. That is a good thing but something doesn’t click: We no longer have easy access to archived information, moderated conversations and the communities that form and thrive on them. If we want to openly converse and organize around the concepts of science, reason and progress instead of whatever your uncle read on crazyunclebait.com and threw up on FB, I submit one way is to get back to long-form writing. The kind that forces us to work through our thoughts, share our work and tell our stories so that others may benefit and give back. Or write and who cares who reads it.

This year, I’m running a new experiment: keeping a diary. Nothing fancy, one 6″x8″ page a day. On some days I maunder into the next day’s space and on others I can barely muster “Tired, must sleep.”  The point is I have to write at least one word a day. I also write in my mind as I walk, and wish there were a brain-wave transcription device. The journey between brain and tongue, pen and keyboard is often too long. Hence the diary, and the notebooks in office, purse, living room. Write now. Rearrange later.

In the seventeen years I’ve kept this blog, the highest activity followed disasters (9/11, Bush II, the second Gulf War, Katrina, the BP oil spill). And here we are at President T. rump. Or Fear and Low-Grade Depression in America, as I refer to the whole heartbreaking debacle.  There’s something to be said about open writing at a time when hate incidents against people who look like me are on the rise. It’s either “You’re stupid” or “We need it,” and both answers are terrifying. Without science and women’s rights, I am quite literally nothing. So, how can I stay quiet?

I write because I can; it’s a privilege considering those who cannot or aren’t allowed to. I encourage you to do so, too, I’d love to read it. Write what you would want to read in the papers and magazines, anywhere. No one ever died from too much information and perspective, but they did from not having access to a lot of it. Hi, blog, my old friend, it’s nice to be back.

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