“Reading and writing are in themselves subversive acts. What they subvert is the notion that things have to be the way they are, that you are alone, that no one has ever felt the way you have. What occurs to people when they read Kurt is that things are much more up for grabs than they thought they were. The world is a slightly different place just because they read a damn book. Imagine that.”

This quote comes from Mark Vonnegut’s introduction to Armageddon in Retrospect, a 2008 book of previously unpublished writing by his father, Kurt Vonnegut. It’s a wonderful expression of what undergirds this site: The bone-deep belief that reading and writing are portals to wisdom and beauty and sheer unadulterated joy.

My life has been graced with writing by Henry Thoreau, Mark Twain, E.B. White, Harper Lee, Norman Maclean and Kurt Vonnegut, among others. I write, too. I was a staff writer for the University of Wisconsin-Madison for 14 years, and my freelance articles have appeared in the Milwaukee Journal, Chicago Tribune, Des Moines Register and regional magazines such as Wisconsin Trails.

More recently I’ve had jobs with less opportunity for creative writing, and I’ve felt the loss of writerly connections with readers. So I decided to use the Web as the cultural web it is by posting some of my off-the-job writing from the past few years.

The topics might seem a very mixed bag, but look again and you’ll see a streak of deceptively robust coherence running through them: One person’s struggle to discern how to spend the time we’re granted on this blue-green globe.

To wit: What do planting a tomato, thinking thrice about received wisdom, playing English croquet and reading a mind-blowing book have to do with each other? They’re all ways of expending life-time that, as Mark Vonnegut puts it, can make this world “a slightly different place.”

Ready to see if we can do it?