What a roller coaster of a year for this blog. I went from updating daily to updating rarely, from knowing little about blogging to knowing too much about blogging. By “too much,” I mean that I’m still not ready to commit Word Salad Spinner to a regular goal or update schedule yet. Promising myself to deliver 1,250 words a week helped me stick to deadlines. But now I have actual deadlines to deal with, and I’m less inclined to write more essays about how a random short story counterpoints the surrealism of the underlying metaphor or whatever. Moving forward, quality over quantity. It’s still a period of transition, is what I’m saying. As Word Salad Spinner chronicles the journey of a writer, there will be a lot of transitions.

Here’s a quick overview of 2017:


Why Vietnam Loves the US

I learned a fair bit about the world through my research at The Borgen Project. “Vietnam is now a fan of America” is my favorite discovered fact, and the one I share most often with people interested in my charity work. The article digs deeper than that statement, however, becoming of my favorite pieces:


Here’s an interesting tidbit for you search engine optimization aficionados. My original title and SEO key phrase for this article was “Why Vietnam Loves America.” For the published article, I suppose The Borgen Project had more faith in the good ol’ US no A. This implies that even minor changes to word choice can impact your Internet traffic. It also implies that online articles will gravitate to the same limited word choice to cater to audiences with the same limited word choice. But now I’m just being a grump. This article turned out great! Spread it and enjoy!

The Rise of South Africa’s Instagram Influencers

Of all the articles I submitted to The Borgen Project, this one had the least amount of edits. I just keep getting better and better at this!


As I only counted three minor edits to my original article, here’s my lesson of the day: all your hard work will pay off, in some form, even in unexpected forms. Keep that sentiment in mind through the holidays. Merry Christmas from Word Salad Spinner.

How Safe Spaces Help Children in Extreme Poverty

This is another article where I took on an argument to convince myself before I convinced my audience. The piece brings good insight to a heavily politicized debate:


I’m ashamed to admit that a lot of my editor’s changes involved word tense. But this final version changed verbs like “became” to “have become” to positive effect. Past perfect tense signals that these safe spaces help children to this day as opposed to a long time ago. It’s a subtle improvement, and I thank my editor for it. I’ll have to watch for when newspapers pull the same trick on me.

I also need to introduce audiences to niche concepts like “safe spaces” in these kinds of articles, if only so my editor doesn’t have to introduce them for me. While I still like this article, the first sentence may as well read, ‘Webster dictionary defines safe spaces as…” Then again, if I want to seem less like a lazy high school essay, the onus is on me to write better shit.

How Argentina Lowered its Poverty Rate in 2017

This was another article that, during the writing process, felt like too broad a topic. But I brought matters down to their clearest elements, and created something that’s a good primer on the subject. I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoy it now:


If you’ve read any Borgen Project articles, you’re certain that the organization’s a fan of capitalism. I suppose all that time soliciting donations got us interested in maximizing profits. I follow the party line on a lot of their points, but recent news stories involving the FCC, EA, and my own job has made me wary of businesses. I expressed that sentiment in the second half of this article. To their credit, the Borgen Project let that section stay in, resulting in a well-rounded and honest piece. If you’re submitting to a website, don’t be afraid to break from their doctrine… they might need a break as much as you do.

“Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi” Analysis and Review

Much like Luke Skywalker himself, I’m called back to my old quests. I spent the past few months, away from my wheelhouse, writing articles for The Borgen Project. This path opened a lot of doors for me, and opened my heart in surprising ways. My research on poverty found complexities in the simple, and discovered both good, and evil, in unexpected places. Yet my heart will always belong to Star Wars.

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It is I, C-3PO. You probably don’t recognize me because I replaced my red arm, for some reason.

I started out dismissive towards Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. Yet it only took me a few re-watches until I loved and adored the movie. I still have mixed feelings on Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. But I found a lot to like when I saw it a week ago. So why try to fight it? My Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi Review and Analysis is that it’s FUCKING AMAZING.

This analysis excludes the first act of the movie, which is shaky and slapsticky and plodding and almost embarrassing. The Last Jedi is not perfect. I, stubborn and slightly illogical, still think Return of the Jedi is a better movie. Nothing will surpass Episode VI for me until a new Star Wars episode makes me cry. But yes, the last 2/3rds of Episode VIII: The Last Jedi are such an engrossing, madcap adventure, equal parts hopeful and cynical, that no weak start can keep it from being great. You may think you’ve got Star Wars mapped out at this point. This film will reignite excitement over the incoming flood of Star Wars films from an ever-expanding empire. If you hated how much the previous two movies borrowed from the original trilogy… well, Disney’s at least smarter about ripping off George Lucas here.

In a weird way, Episode VIII’s triumphs not only undermine Episode VII and Rogue One, but the entire franchise in general. Rampant, massive spoilers abound after the porg.

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4 Reasons Why Women’s Education Leads To Less Poverty

This is the most solid Borgen Project article I’ve written to date. It’s timely, comprehensive, and includes a clear call to action at the end. I hope my future blog posts imitate this model:


My editor took a few direct quotes from my sources, slightly rearranged the words, and put them back into the article. The ideas are still (technically) attributed, but now it looks like my analysis of the topic as opposed to an expert’s insight. This makes the concepts easier to grasp. School trained me to over-attribute my work. I’ve learned that, as long as I’m still respectful of intellectual property, I can express a lot more freedom in educating an audience.