First Lines

Adapted from something I wrote in Yale’s “Daily Themes” class. (Great class, by the way!)

The prompt:

Write twelve possible first lines to twelve different stories (fictional, non-fictional, or some combination of both). For a real challenge, let those lines start to feel like they hold together by juxtaposition. See the work of David Markson for a model.

These aren’t good sentences, but I wrote them hoping they could become first lines for first drafts of good stories.

I haven’t written those stories yet, but if you’d like me to write one, let me know and I will do that, just for you.*

  1. Our god is cruel and jealous, and we wish we had a better one.
  2. Today my Anti-Procrastination Friend saw me on Facebook and…
  3. We know that our island is an experiment, run by someone we don’t understand.
  4. The main character of this story was hit by a car just after you finished this sentence.
  5. “This has been my favorite funeral of the year.”
  6. Gambling is for suckers, he thought, and pushed the button again.
  7. There he was, waving his sign like a madman and shouting the true heights of various mountains.
  8. This is my history of the world, factual and proportionate, slave to neither narrative nor…
  9. We abandoned the Earth in our ships, but we left the Amish behind.
  10. You might think that even a very intelligent cloud could never kill a person, but…
  11. According to the actuary table, one of us was dead by now.
  12. They were looking for souls all along!
  13. “This week, life was just one long fire alarm.”
  14. She’d learned to run on water, but that wouldn’t save her when she came back to shore.
  15. You do not fuck with Liz when she’s delivering a pizza.

*With the exception of #9, because the Amish deserve an entire novel. And #8, because it’s the friggin’ history of the world.

 

(To see all 60+ prompts from Daily Themes, click here.)

Introducing: Yale Effective Altruists

Update: This post is out-of-date. YEA now has its own website, where updates will be posted on various things we do. The website is also out-of-date, but to a lesser extent.

 

I’m starting a club!

The name of the club is “Yale Effective Altruists”, or “YEA”. It exists for three big reasons:

  1. To help college students use their time to make other people’s lives better in a manner as effective as possible.
  2. To introduce more college students to the ideas and methods of the “effective altruism” (EA) movement.
  3. To help the wider EA movement complete more projects and put more ideas into practice, for the good of humanity.

 

Members of YEA will:

  • Meet to discuss the current state of the world, and realistic ways we might improve it
  • Plan and develop projects that might improve the world (more on that later)
  • Talk to cool people who like improving the world, some of whom might be famous
  • Learn how to persuade people (useful in general) and get expert advice on choosing classes, careers, and more

There will be one recommended meeting each week (30 minutes or less), plus a variety of projects to work on and talks to attend if you’d like to be more involved. We’ll also hang out together (for more, see “good parties” below).

If you’re already curious, you can sign up to learn more!

(I’ll also give you the link at the end of this post.)

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How My First Name Got Me Into Yale. Maybe.

If you’re reading this because of the title: Hooray, it worked!
 
Anyway, click-bait aside, I’m starting this post half-convinced that first-letter-of-name discrimination is a real issue that deserves attention.
 
In the following investigation, I will attempt to uncover whether names that start with the letter “A” are more common at Yale than they ought to be. This isn’t as ridiculous a premise as it sounds–thanks to the “implicit egotism” effect, our names can have a surprising impact on where we end up in life. (Though these results are still highly contentious.)
 
I won’t give away the result here, but you can skip to the bottom of the page for my conclusion.
 

Introduction 

Two years ago, I began to notice that there are a lot of “A” names at Yale. I’d count the names in any room where I knew most of them (ignoring my own), and the average was about one in eight.
 
There are 26 letters, so this seems excessive. On the other hand, three of those letters are Q, X, and Z. Plus, a lot of parents might pick the first name in the baby book just to get it over with, like mine did. 
 
(Just kidding, Mom and Dad! I think.)

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Long Day’s Journey Into Cambridge

(A short story, written for YDN Weekend. Will only make sense to people who were at Yale in 2013, I’m afraid.)

——————————————————

I woke up and began to panic. It wasn’t far from New Haven to Boston, and I’d fallen asleep after a long night spent polishing my piece for the Harvard-Yale issue of WEEKEND. The train was empty, and I knew I’d missed my stop.

If only life had been that simple.

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Profiles in Conversion

The miracle workers at the New Journal compressed my 5400-word rough draft into 2800 words of tight prose:

http://www.thenewjournalatyale.com/2013/09/making-believe/

I really like the final edit, but since about 6000 words wound up in one draft or another and were cut before the end, I’d like to throw in some footnotes/addenda/scraps from my reporting notebook. Ordered according to the relevant spot in the piece:

1) When I was eight years old, an eight-year-old friend of mine had me declare my faith in Christ in his basement. I was told this would save me from Hell, so I was glad to comply. I later learned that Jews don’t believe in Hell. Damn!

2) In the course of having an evangelical best friend, I attended his church a few times. It was a lively church. Lots of singing and dancing, which was confusing, because the rabbi at Temple Beth Emeth never danced. At one point, after the service, I compared the pastor to a kangaroo. This led, five seconds later, to a knock-down, drag-out fight with the pastor’s kid. My friend never took me back to church with him.

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