With so much info out there, I’ve recognized something important: The more we need to learn, the less we need to memorize.

Memorizing it all is too much

It’s no secret that information online get overwhelming fast. Everything on social media streams, news sites, career-related info sites, e-commerce stores, and whatever else Google throws at us, it all adds up. Yet we’re expected to keep up on it all, whether for our social lives or our jobs.

We’re well beyond the point where one person can know it all. More info is added to the Internet every second than we could ever imagine.

The bitter part is, even if we could learn it all, we likely wouldn’t use all that knowledge anyway. Most news articles I’ve read brought a moment of clarity, a second of catharsis, and then nothing again when I flipped to the next one. I rarely needed that info once I let it go.

So the question you’re likely asking, and have asked yourself many times before, how do I effectively keep up? Remembering it all clearly isn’t the answer.

Memorizing, thankfully, also isn’t needed

Think of remembering online info like remembering a map of your town. You don’t know each road off the top of your head – but if someone gives you enough details about any area, you’ll know right where to look on a map. So if someone wants to know where a church is and tells you some nearby roads, you’ll know just where to look and give them directions.

  • Take quick notes: skim through books and articles, only stopping to copy info to use later. For most of my web development books, I take quick snapshots of useful code snippets, remembering their basic uses and not the specifics. I personally recommend Evernote but there’s many other tools out there.
  • Sort out useful resources: If you’ve got tons of useful links, organize them to more easily find what you need. This can be through color-coded documents, Excel spreadsheets, or you can get ambitious with a searchable, filterable data table for anything you find.
  • Skim and highlight eBooks: Reading ebooks on computer or tablet devices saves lots of time, since all the info’s at your fingers. But this also means you can suffer information overload very easily. So find an e-reading tool to quickly highlight passages, add notes, and if you’re lucky, export your notes to new documents. The only tools I know now to do this are iBooks and using a Kindle Paperwhite, but often only for certain book types. Otherwise, you may need to resort to screenshots or copy-and-pasting.

The major takeaway for the next time you’re reading online is this: don’t worry about remembering it all. Instead know where to look when you see a chance to use it. Keep the source in the back of your mind, save it with something like Pocket, or simply write it down. Worry more about locating info than remembering it.


There were many things in my semester abroad that intrigued or fascinated me, but only a few that flat-out confused me. Italy’s biggest mystery was the Mystery of the Exploding Bike.

The Explosion that Makes Almost No Sense

It started on a regular day in Florence, Italy, just taking a stroll, when I suddenly passed by a pile of ashes, metal parts, and dust next to the sidewalk. It was right where citizens usually park their bikes, so my first thought was somehow a bike caught fire and burned into the street.

Definitive diagnostic research from me staring for a couple moments concluded a bike probably exploded here.

First I was upset I didn’t see the fire, I also realized there were lots of confusing clues around the explosion site. The biggest was from looking at the bikes lined up next to the one that blew up.

These are the bikes lucky enough to see the cool explosion, at extremely close range too.

All these bikes, while still technically standing, got burned pretty badly. Their seats were charred, the ground around them also burnt, and huge chunks of their bodies were disintegrated. This means the first bike’s explosion must’ve been so big it scalded all these too.

I’m no expert in Italian engineering, but I still can’t wrap my head around how an explosion from one scooter could have enough power to reach the length of four other scooters. Unless some combustible wine bottles were in the trunk, it’s a stretch.

Now it Makes even LESS Sense!

It gets even weirder with the direction of the explosion. In the many times we’ve seen cars blow up in movies, the explosion goes out in a pretty even, circular shape right?

Look closely at the ground in the next picture. There’s only damage in one direction, and it goes directly towards the other bikes. It barely even goes over the bike lane into the main street.

One theory: the explosion had a vendetta against all the other bikes.

I first thought that all the bikes simply caught on fire, but that wouldn’t explain why the bikes get progressively less burned as the move away from the destroyed one. The explosion is still my best theory.

So this explosion, not only is it oddly powerful, it’s also oddly focused in one direction. And I mean only one direction. On the other side of the bike, the nearby car had no damage other than a melted bumper, despite being just a few away.

One would at least expect someone to be yelling over the damages, in Italy or in America.

For some added weirdness, notice that even though the ground isn’t scorched around this car, the trunk door and rear lights are badly damaged. This raises even more questions:

  • Was the fire’s sheer heat strong enough to do this?
  • How did the rear lights around the trunk door melt, but the glass right between them come out just fine?
  • How is that old man in the red car not been staring at all this while waiting at the light?
  • Do insurance companies in Italy cover these kinds of phantom explosions?

A Forever Mystery

To this day I can’t think of a rational explanation for how a bike could explode with such a powerful, yet limited, range. The best one I have is that the spirit of a baby fire bull was born in it, breathing a short-range fireball on the other bikes before fleeing.

Then I realized this makes no sense. I would’ve seen the fire bull’s tracks leaving the scene.

So the Mystery of the Exploding Bike in Florence will, at least now, remain unsolved. But may that’s a good thing. Digital living gets us used to having easy answers available, so having someone that defies all this is refreshing. It even gives us a sense of wonder, reminding us there’s still some things we’ll never really know. These are things like the meaning of life, the nature of reality, why Internet Explorer is still taken seriously by some people, or just little things like how a bike in Italy exploded.

Something forever unexplained is basically the same as magic, so if not knowing something brings is a little magical, I’m fine with that. Ignorance can be more than bliss, it can be a blessing.

March 02, 2015

Short Posts Are Okay

This is a reminder to everyone, especially me, that just because something you write online is short doesn’t make it bad. If anything, in today’s Internet, shorter is better.

People are always flooded with info, so they want their info to be short, sweet and fast. Have one key idea and make it easy to read. Even with longer posts, the big idea must be right at the very top, short and clear.

Many think longer posts must be better, since long posts send many messages about the writer: being intelligent, well-spoken, hard-working and thorough. It doesn’t look like you’re oversimplifying or skipping big details.

However, short posts send good messages too. Messages more important in today’s internet.

You know your message well enough to say it simply. As Einstein would say, that’s a sign you really understand it. You know people are busy and don’t want to waste their time. You’re confident your post will be good without overcompensating by piling on more content. Simpler ideas and content are more shareable, which is always an asset today.

It often takes more skill to make a short post as good as a long one. So keep your short post writing muscles strong. It doesn’t take as much time as writing long posts, so you have fewer excuses not to.

Short post writing done right doesn’t mean a lack of intelligence – it means focused, efficient intelligence. Without that, intelligence today doesn’t have much use on the Internet.


How does one connect cartoons, Canada, ice sculptures, and giant thought bubbles in one post? If that got your attention, please read on about my trip last week.

First, I’m a Wannabe Creative

This story starts with a big disclaimer: I’ve have a secret desire to build my career off a creative and quirky personality. You heard me, I basically want to be Matthew Inman.

As you can tell from my below sketchbook doodles, this dream refuses to die. But when I try to take the extra step of tracing and maybe coloring my sketches on my computer to boost their quality, I hit a mental block. I’m not sure what creates it, but it always keeps these characters stuck in their paper pages and away from the digital limelight.

Several examples sketches from my sketchbook.

With that sad fact about my life cleared up, the real story can begin.

A Weekend Visit to a Canadian Festival

All the above was in my head during a weekend visit to Canada one week ago. The main focus of the trip, in addition to riding ice slides, eating beaver tails, sleeping in a hostel once was a prison, and ice-skating along a 8-km-long canal, there was the Winterlude festival. Specifically, the part with the cool ice sculpture art.

Sadly, getting to this amazing art was not easy due to a 15-minute walk through below-zero winds and piling snow. After one minute of this I realized I’d left my hat and protective face mask behind, which made the weather that much worse.

When we arrived at the park where said art was , I’d forgotten what it was like to feel my own face – but I did learn the feeling of my legs and teeth chattering so hard they may break apart like ice.

Once we finally arrived at the somehow colder-still park, though, seeing all the ice sculptures on display made the trek worth the pain. I could describe how amazing they looked with the artists’ attention to detail and when they were backlit by colorful lights below the night sky – but thankfully my fingers weren’t so frozen that I couldn’t take pictures. I invite you to see the pics below and let them blow your mind.

Ice sculpture of an eagle being formed by a hand making an eagle shadow.
Ice sculpture of two children reaching up to pet a dragon.
Ice sculpture of a woman holding an umbrella while dancing in the rain.
Ice sculpture of an angel reaching out to the viewer.

What Ice Sculptures Have to do with Creativity

You may be wondering, “Okay Max, cool ice sculptures and all, but what’s that have to do with being creatively frustrated?”

After walking back to the hostel and making sure no limbs had frozen off, I realized that going to those sculptures was actually very similar to my creative struggles. When I think about doing the work to trace, edit, and present my drawings online, my mind imagines all the work is like that walk to the park was: so difficult and uncomfortable that I can’t even start it.

But walking that walk in Canada showed what the results of that struggle usually are. For all that work you get amazing sculptures that, no matter how much work and cold weather one must endure, are worth the amazing feeling of seeing the result.

While I idled in my jail cell before enjoying the Canadian night life, a thought struck me: If the work of walking to a park in sub-zero Canadian weather was worth seeing those sculptures, wouldn’t drawing my cartoons on my computer be worth overcoming my creative block too?

It took a while to find an answer to this, but the eventual one was “Yes.”

I’ve known this answer for a while now, I’d just forgotten it at college when my future career ambitions took a vice-like grip over my brain. But I was more than happy to do the work and take those risks in high school, as this drawing I made before shows:

A cartoon drawing of myself with lots of different ideas and concepts in an over-sized thought bubble.

Another great, and likely embarrassing example, of this are some posts I made on my first ever blog. They were extremely long and philosophical, had needless image editing, and were probably never read by anyone. Yet I still enjoyed making them – they were worth the work.

So with all the other things I can thank Canada for, I can also thank them for some extra inspiration to beat the creative block stopping my mini-dream of being a digital creative. I beat it in high school, so why not again?

I’ll likely never be Matthew Inman, but I can keep trying, right?


As Internet law requires, I’m required to write either a review of something from 2014 or some expectations for 2015. I’m going with a checklist of new resolutions for the coming year.

If anything, this list only applies to the first half of next year, not the whole one. After graduation my life, and so many others, will change so drastically it’ll require some whole new resolutions. But that’s a post for the end of May. For now, these are the resolutions of a student facing their impending doom college graduation next year!

New Things to Learn

With most coming grads, there’s death sprint to learn some last-minute skills. This happens when we actually start looking at what skills employers want to hire, realize we haven’t been learning them enough, and rush to learn enough to put them on our resumes before sending them out. Thankfully, no one’s being crazy and just lying to save time.

So the first part of my 2015 checklist are some skill loose ends to tie up. Going by my interests and what’s in demand, as well as this swell video I found, I’m aiming mostly for web development.

Improving jQuery and Javascript skills are first, which are what drive interactivity and general awesomeness on most web pages. There’s also Bootstrap, a popular framework that makes making web pages very fast and easy – it’s very widely used, so that’s obviously there too.

One area where I’m deviating is with PHP and MySQL, the languages that let web pages have dynamic content and interact with databases. This is outside my comfort zone, and most of my understanding, but is also extremely useful since it’s a foundation for making web applications. But it needs pretty strong understanding of basic HTML and CSS first, so I’d caution my fellow soon-to-be-grads from jumping into it too fast.

There’s also jQuery frameworks, like Angular.js and Backbone.js, which essentially make it faster and easier to make web pages interactive. But after a little study, they seem too complicated and far-reaching for anyone not working almost solely in web development. They’re maybe something to learn later on.

Career Tasks to Obsess Over

What kind of graduation year would it be without scrambling everywhere to find employment? There’ll be internship and job applications flying everywhere soon, but mainly, lots of networking.

Bonus points for students who’ve never done any serious networking before this coming semester, you’ll enjoy it the most. I’ve managed to get some good networking in before, but that only helps so much when faced with the fiery pits of unemployment prospects. Now’s the best time for a serious networking resolution, since companies know we’ll be on the job market soon.

It’s not just about networking and cover letters anymore. Employers research online presences too, like personal websites and social media accounts. Students who have sloppily maintained their presence, like making stupid and unprofessional posts, or simply not worked on it, like not making their own website, will probably get knocked from many potential jobs. So I’m resolving to keep working on both of mine and pray someone offers me a job over Twitter. It won’t happen, I’ll just keep praying for it.

If you think the job market is good enough to not worry about this, I’ll leave you with this completely true tweet:

Fun Tasks to Relax With

Even as a student, not all time is spent working and studying. For the potential 15 minutes a day not working or pretending to sleep regularly, we should resolve to set aside for play.

I’m aiming to keep my fun tasks short and sweet this last semester. The biggest ones include:

  • Talking more walks and unplugging more from the Internet. My philosophy is that when all your work is done on a computer, all your free time should be away from it.
  • Do more reading. These consist mainly of thought-provoking articles clipped from websites, graphic novels, the disturbing yet intriguing comment sections from news sites, political news, and anything new Dan Brown publishes. Standard nerd reading fare.
  • Drawing! At this point I don’t need, or want, to write about how much I love drawing.

The simpler something is, the easier to find happiness in it

It’s better to get pleasure from a small number of simple things, since it’s easier to do what makes you happy. As you can tell from the two sections before this one, any side happiness will do plenty of good.

Bad Things to Do Less

Considering all the enjoyable graduation tasks soon to be on our plates, my “avoid this” list is anything big that bogs down the mind. Unfortunately they’re also things I tend to do a lot, so they could be the most challenging to stick with:

  • Working with online television or videos in the background. While this can work in small doses, after a while even hearing hours of Jon Oliver ranting makes any work feel grating. This resolution is especially true for videos I’ve ready seen, since they don’t provoke new thoughts and instead turn the brain to static. No one wants this, least of all me.
  • Feeling worried about my identity. It’s a common effect of working too hard, since all work and no play can make Jack think he’s a robot instead of Jack. The “fun things to do” resolutions should cover this, though it’s harder on particularly busy or hopeless days.
  • Making negative comparisons to other people. This, along with many other traits this handy graph describes, can really hurt someone’s general success. They’re all good traits to hold onto or lose for 2015.

The traits of successful and unsuccessful people

Have a Happy New Year, everyone!


In honor of the holiday season, I took a trip down memory lane with an old cartoon sketchbook. It was surprising to see how much my drawing had changed, so I did something fun: redraw old cartoons to see what’s gotten better.

In the midst of this, I reflected on some important lessons I’d learned from my drawing over the years. They apply to my drawing in the future and life in general, so they’re worth sharing.

Avoid Being a One Trick Pony

This was my biggest drawing sin in high school. My doodles were the same head and body shapes with slightly different positions and clothes. Like many drawing books warn readers, it’s easy to get locked into a single drawing style. I definitely fell into that trap, but at least broke out of it recently.

With this quirkily dressed girl, there isn’t much to change other than giving her a better head and some attitude.

This still applies to me. A one trick pony would only study Twitter and no other social media channels. Or learn HTML and CSS without looking at other coding languages like jQuery or PHP. In any business you’d only get so far before someone with more variety pulls ahead.

Don’t Avoid Better Work than Yours

I’m not ashamed to admit I often avoided looking at better art in high school since I felt insecure. Okay, I’m fairly ashamed, but can still admit it. It’s human nature, especially when we’re younger, but thankfully that changed. Otherwise I would’ve stayed in my little drawing bubble, making the same figures over and over without improvement. Popping the bubble hurts, but it leads to improvement and is worth it.

I liked this guy’s outfit, but he needed a much better pose. I used an online drawing with a good pose as reference for the new version.

I liked this guy’s outfit, but he needed a much better pose. I used an online drawing with a good pose as reference for the new version. The biggest improvements I saw were using more shape varieties and perspectives with characters. Outside of drawing it means surrounding ourselves with work better than ourselves. Thankfully all that takes is some Twitter lists and Google searches and there’s tons of people to get inspired by. There always will be, so people have much fewer excuses to avoid this today.

Work on Something a Little Each Day

My own rule is “draw a new cartoon a day.” Otherwise I’d slack off for a whole week, try to cram seven drawings into one day, and then ignore important work. I understand binging behavior is rising, but it’s best avoided. Skills and hobbies need to grow overtime to stick and have a real impact on us.

I played around with proportions here but it’s not perfect. I’ll give you a hint: the head’s too big.

I played around with proportions here but it’s not perfect. I’ll give you a hint: the head’s too big. When I told this to a colleague two days ago, she laughed and said it requires something rare these days: focus. I know that’s hard when we have limitless distractions at our fingertips, but if the self-control is there, focus is easy to come by. Presumably.

If You Love it, It’s Worth Any Struggle

Just because I love drawing doesn’t make it easy. Plenty of times I’ve wanted to stab the sketchbook, rip my hair out, go on a horrific rampage, or some combination of the three. The same thing happens with other things I like, like coding, or often loathe, like dating. But has that stopped me from doing any of these?

For the most part, no.

Definitely felt frustrated with this cartoon of a curious guy, and the new version looks…weird. Worth another shot later.

That’s because with things we love, the end results are always worth the struggle. A good drawing is worth the holes in the sketchbook, and a good webpage is worth the hours looking for the small mistake we overlooked. Most people in Newhouse will say the hours spent researching, investigating, scheduling and interviewing are worth that final story. Whatever’s worth those struggles differs with each person, but once they’re found, they shouldn’t ever be forgotten.

Certainly explains why I’ve never forgotten drawing all this time, and look forward to improving more.