Trying to publish daily: Writing isn't intro

This is the intro for a series of posts about things I’ve learned while trying to publish daily. I’m experimenting with a board of post-its to organize my writing, inspired by Save the Cat. I intended for this to be the third part of a series of three posts, but I just kept adding post its and now it’s looking like 9 posts.

I’ve been trying to publish1 daily. My goal is to publish 100 posts in 20 weeks. Or was it 100 posts in 100 days. I flip flop between the two depending on how motivated I am meaning how much sleep I had the night before.

These posts about what what writing isn’t should be posts 28, 29, and 30. I wrote about writing when I was ten days in and twenty days in. Now I’m approaching 30 days in. One thing I learned: trying to write a lot leads to thinking about writing a lot which leads to writing about writing a lot. Not ideal, but it’s fine.

Even though I knew it might happen, I still mix up writing daily with publishing daily. Writing daily is straightforward. Open a notebook or doc and put words down. Publishing means the words will be public, so they should be revised to keep people from wasting time, and then there are logistics to it too.

Malcolm Gladwell sums this up:

Writing is not the time consuming part. It’s knowing what to write. It’s the thinking and the arranging and the interviewing and the researching and the organizing. That’s what takes time. Writing is blissful, I wish I could do it more.

I’m starting to understand. Writing and getting into some kind of flow is fun, but there’s a bunch of other stuff that’s part of the process and some that has to do with publishing. I’ll try writing about them here. Lately I’ve been thinking about finishing posts each day, instead of building up a backlog of sort of finished posts.

Here’s an outline of the this section, showing the next three posts I’ll write2 (and a preview of two more sections that I’m hoping will also be three posts each).

  • Section 1: Writing isn’t

    • Part of writing

      • Outlining

      • Playing with post-its (The Board)

      • Editing

    • Part of publishing

      • Adding excerpts

      • Adding links

      • Adding images

    • Not part of anything, but important

      • Thinking about what to write

      • Reading about writing

      • Tinkering

  • Section 2: Focus, Systems, and Routine

  • Section 3: Time, Location, Tools

  1. And daily I wonder if there’s a better word than “publish”, because I think of scientists who get published. It’s means something more than typing ‘jekyll build’ and uploading it somewhere.

  2. Maybe this can be a part of… is there a word for a novella-length non-fiction book? Non-fictionella. Or I guess some are called handbooks.

Design Sprints and The Board

One section in Save The Cat is called “Chairman of the Board” and talks about a screenwriting tool called “The Board”.

Have a great piece of dialogue? Write it on a card and stick it on The Board where you think it might go. Have an idea for a chase sequence? Deal up them cards and take a looksee. And talk about creating a pressure-free zone! No more blank pages. It’s all just little bitty index card-sized pages. And who can’t fill up an index card?

Thinking about a collection of cards sounds pretty close to the cliche UX portfolio image except with index cards instead of post-its. There’s plenty of creativity in UX, but designers follow some kind of process to their work. Design sprints break the design process down into steps that a team can follow to select an idea and prototype the solution to a problem. Each step acts like a function, something goes in and something else comes out based on the input.

  • Understand: Existing knowledge goes in and is appended to everyone’s knowledge

  • Diverge: Knowledge goes in and many ideas come out

  • Decide: Many ideas come in and the best one comes out

  • Prototype: A storyboard goes in and a clickable flow comes out

  • Test: A clickable flow goes in with users and valuable feedback comes out

I’ve participated in design sprints and used it as a process to follow on solo projects. I’ll be thinking about structure and process as I go along. It’d be good to have ideas broken up by how much time I’ll have for the day.

Each post can have one thought. That might be how I need to break things down. I’m going to try creating a board for some posts I’m writing to see how it goes. First, I need to finish reading this chapter.

On writing daily, style, and clarity

I really enjoyed this post by Ryan Holiday: Why do you write so much1? Nobody has ever asked me why I write so much. Maybe that can be a goal. Recently, it’s certainly crossed my mind. “What’s the point.” Sometimes I’ll read things I’ve written recently and I wonder how long it’ll take until it’s worth reading. I believe in the system — just not all the time. Most of the time, though, I do. If I publish2 100 things, I’ll be better than when I started. I think it’s going to start taking some deliberate practice.

One technical communication class sticks out to me. First, it was with one of my favorite teachers from college. Who believed in me enough after I graduated to hire me to build her portfolio site (she was a freelance writer). Anyway, I can’t remember what the class was called. But we did some deliberate practice. Most helpful were exercises about cohesion and coherence in writing.

Up to that point, coherence was stressed in English classes or for writing assignments in other subjects. But in these writing exercises, we would get lists of sentences and analyze how rearranging the sentences could emphasize or confuse points. I really got to see that there are many ways to write the same sentence, but some can be much clearer than others.

Here’s the book: Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace. For some reason, it’s over $50 new and not available on Kindle. But I found my old copy at my parent’s house and brought it back to New York. I’ll have to take some time to review it. Maybe I can share some examples of good sentences. And eventually create my own.

While we’re at it, here’s another link from Ryan: 44 Writing Hacks From Some of the Greatest Writers Who Ever Lived. A great collection of writing tips from Ryan Holiday. He’s got a new book out that I’ll try to check out soon. I enjoyed The Obstacle is the Way and have tried using some of the techniques in the past year. Though I could use a refresher.

I listened to Ryan’s appearance on The James Altucher podcast. He talks about finding someone better, the same, and worse. And explains how important each one is and why.

There’s an interview with Frank Shamrock. You’ve gotta find someone who’s better than you, because they show all the things you don’t know. You have to find someone who’s as good as you, so that you’re challenged at your level. That’s sort of how you generate strength. You have to have someone who’s less than you, who’s not at the same level as you. Who you are in turn teaching. So you’re cultivating humility because this person is so superior to you, you’re cultivating confidence because you’re challenging and hopefully besting this person who’s your equal, and then you’re also paying it forward and articulating what you’re learning to this other person. One of the best ways to learn something is to try to teach what you know to someone else. And *wait I don’t understand this so I have to go back to the material. *

Anyway, I’m a couple weeks into this writing project and here are three things working for me.

  1. Just two crappy pages. Or making sure to separate writing and editing. The first draft will be bad. It’s important to get to the first draft. A lot of times, the final draft won’t be good either. I’m subscribing to the lessons in Show Your Work. Getting the misses out of the way and all that. I’ll get better and this is part of the process.

  2. Writing by hand. There’s something to being able to write on something that doesn’t let you check your email or look up… anything in the world. I think it takes longer up front, you write slower than typing, but being able to focus deeply might be worth the trade off. And it feels cooler.

  3. Setting a timer. A lot of this stems from the success I’ve had using a timer for things like design sprints. If I write different sections against a timer, I’m able to get a draft of a portion done. Then move on. Even if it’s not done I can move on and evaluate later whether I want to come back to that or if it’s just a dud.

  1. I found this post in Keep and it was mostly complete. Already wrote about the “Why do you write so much?” link in another post, but it’s fine. I’m realizing it’s fine to link to the same things more than once, because it’s unlikely that anyone’s reading every. single. post. And if you are: thanks for the support.

  2. It still feels weird to say “publish” when it’s just posting something to a blog. Mostly because I think of scientific journals when I hear “publish”. So maybe I’ll say ‘post’.

Directives and applying what you read

At times I feel like I’m writing the unofficial Tim Ferriss podcast blog. Like old SNES strategy guides where some would have stamps on the cover with “Unofficial” styled like a confidential stamp. To make it seem edgier.

Listening to different podcasts in the same category, you can get a sense of who has a new book or product coming out. They do the rounds. Earlier this year, Cal Newport was appearing on a lot of podcasts to promote Deep Work1. Recently, Ryan Holiday has been on a few different podcasts to talk about The Ego is the Enemy.

In Tim’s latest podcast, he asked Ryan about his reading habits:

If you’re not leaving a book with a… now I’m doing X because of this […] You’re not achieving anything. You just spent a week reading a self improvement book. But tell me what you’re gonna do with this information. That’s what you’ve constantly got to do. Whatever you’re reading whatever your thinking is.

Okay, I’m now going to put this thing into practice. It doesn’t have to be a huge thing, it can be the smallest possible thing. But if you don’t leave with some sort of actionable thing, you’re really just deluding yourself.

You can read a book about Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. That doesn’t make you any better at it. It’s only if you try that out on the mat against another human being that’s going to lead to any real improvement.

Derek Sivers writes a lot about the books he reads. When I started adding books to my wish list, a lot of the choices came from recommendations in Derek’s book notes. He’s also started to write about directives. Distilling things he’s learned into summaries answering the request: “Just tell me what to do”.

When I’d tell my friends about a great book I’d just read, they didn’t want to read it. They didn’t want 300 pages of anecdotes, explanations, and supporting arguments. They’d say, “Just tell me what to do.”

I realized that for some things, I also don’t want the full 20-hour explanation. I’d be happier with just the conclusions — the actions — the directives.

I’m happy with my current reading pace, but I’d like to practice digesting books how Ryan and Derek do. Trying this on some books I’ve read this year:

For each book I read from now on, I’ll try thinking of a specific directive that I can apply deliberately.

  1. Which I still need to write book notes for. I was trying to make a one page site and it grew out of scope. It’s still the most influential book I’ve read this year. That project is something I need to simplify and finish.

Docs to Jekyll

After knocking my head against the wall a few times, I think I have a pretty good system now for going from Docs to Jekyll. I’m really happy about this.

Here are the steps for writing a new post

  • Title the document with the same name I want for the final file that I’ll use in Jekyll

  • Add the YAML frontmatter (for new docs I usually just make a copy of an old one)

  • Write in Google Docs using its formatting options. (I don’t write Markdown.)

When I want to build, I do the following

  • Download the directory from Drive (by default it’s a zip of .docx files)

  • Run a shell script to convert .docx to Markdown using Pandoc1

Here are my favorite things about it

  • As mentioned, I can write with Google Docs for formatting. Links are just links instead of taking up half an entire line showing URLs with Markdown.

  • Oh yeah, and footnotes work. I can write footnotes with the cmd+alt+F shortcut. And I don’t have to fumble around with thinking about where to place the markdown footnote tags.

  • When filling links in, I can use the research panel (ctrl+shift+cmd+i) in Google Docs to add links without switching tabs. Anything to keep me from browsing and getting distracted.

  • There are good Markdown extensions for Google Docs but I haven’t had luck doing batch conversions. This seems to solve that.

Some things I’ll worry about when I get to them

  • Streamline the image process. It’d be nice to have the images pasted directly into Docs. Maybe I can do a combination of pasting the image in Docs and adding the corresponding URL below it in Markdown so it’ll appear in the converted file.

  • Try a code block and figure out how to fix it. I imagine it won’t work that well at first but I’m not too worried yet, because I don’t have plans to write about anything code related for a while.

  • I can’t build the site from Docs. That’s a positive for me because having terminal or IDE leads to tinkering which distracts from writing. But I can get to where I feel something is complete. Instead of thinking “I’ll fix these links and images when I get to the real Markdown files. Then the almost finished files pile up. That’s what happened with about a dozen of the first 20 posts.

I’m pretty excited about this but we’ll see if it holds up for the rest of this project.

  1. The shell script also does a few string replacements in cases to deal with inline style tags and images. This might get a little hairy if I include code blocks but I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.

All the books I've read this year

One of my 2016 resolutions is to read one book per week. I haven’t been pushing toward the goal explicitly but I read pretty much every day. We’re approaching the end of June so it’s a good time to go ahead and count my progress. I’ll be able to see if I should be more aggressive about this.

I reviewed my Kindle history and I think I got all the books so far here. On an episode of the Tim Ferriss podcast, Derek Sivers talks about his reading and his book notes. He talks about how books are filled with stories but if you trust someone enough and they’ve read the book you can probably get by with what they learned. So he has directives.

So here’s my list of books1 with a “Just tell me what to do” summary.

  • Happy Money: Spend money on experiences.

  • Miracle Morning for Writers: Write in the morning before you’re distracted.

  • Persistence in Writing: Don’t ignore physical and mental health.

  • Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh_t: Tell a story, no matter what genre you’re writing in.

  • Smarter Better Faster: Set stretch goals and use S.M.A.R.T. goals to reach them2.

  • Sleep Smarter: Work out in the morning and disconnect two hours before you want to sleep.

  • Simple and Sinister: Every day, do 10 sets of 10 swings, 10 total Turkish get-ups.

  • Anything You Want: Focus on helping people.

  • The Coaching Mindset: Ask good questions instead of giving ‘good’ advice.

  • The Serious Guide to Joke Writing: Consider other perspectives.

  • Effortless Reading: Cycle different types of books and you don’t need to finish them all.

Okay I’m going to do a separate post with the rest of the directives because it’s taking much longer than I expected. I keep going into my highlights to think of a good directive. Here’s the rest of the list, without directives.

  • Lifelong Writing Habit

  • Disrupt Yourself

  • Work the System

  • Nicely Said

  • Deep Work

  • On Writing Well

  • The Miracle of Morning Pages

  • The Coaching Habit

  • The Wild Diet

  • Apprenticeship Patterns

  • User Story Mapping

  • Triggers

  • The Choose Yourself Guide to Wealth

  • Non Obvious

  • 59 Seconds

  • Console Wars

  • Fiction

    • A Knight of Seven Kingdoms: All I learned is that I should tell everyone you know that watches Game of Thrones to read this book.

    • Star Wars — Heir to the Empire: Read more Star Wars books

  • Re-read3

    • The One Thing (re-read):

    • Smartcuts (re-read):

    • Masters of Doom (re-read):

    • War of Art (re-read):

  • Unfinished

    • Wireframing Essentials

    • About Face

    • Do More Great Work

  • Audiobook

    • The Magic of Thinking Big

    • Content Inc

    • Soft Skills

I read about 28 books. I’m on pace to finish 52 by the end of the year. I recently switched to fiction for nighttime reading so the list so that should be reflected in the list I write4 at the end of the year.

  1. I’d love to keep this list updated and add links to book notes that I write for any of them. I think I can write notes for 15 or so at least. Nearly all of them are heavily highlighted already.

  2. His examples in the appendix of how he used stretch and S.M.A.R.T. goals to write the book itself were so meta and so metal. So the appendix was my favorite part of the book.

  3. You can forget entire books given enough time (and that amount of time isn’t that long). There are books I remember enjoying but can’t recall specific passages. I’m going to try to re-read more books. For the rest of the year, I’ll try to re-read 4 books. To be determined. I’ll write a post once I decide the books I’m going to re-read. Obstacle is the Way is on that list.

  4. If this 100 day project doesn’t drive me to some point where I’m fed up with writing and shun it forever or for months.

Friday Links Issue 02

It’s Friday evening and I have a weekend with no traveling. Three hours into any flight and this sounded like gold. Now that it’s here I wonder what I was looking forward to so much. Here are five links I enjoyed this week.

Ryan Holiday answers a question he’s probably asked pretty often: Why Do You Write So Much?

I have become a much better writer as the result of committing to produce more. There is only one way to improve at a craft–and it’s putting hours into it. I consider what I write online to be practice. An opportunity to interact with an audience and challenge myself to continually improve.

The 10,000 hour rule is pretty well known but I know that it has to be 10,000 good hours. Right now I’m just trying to establish the routine of writing and sending it off to the world. That’s what this 100-day project is about. I’m committing to produce more.

Then I’ll focus on deliberately improving. Whether that’s working on mechanics, structure, longer pieces, or challenging myself to write about deeper topics.

Technical writer Tom Johnson answers a similar question: Why I’m So Visible

I should have focused on a topic outside of myself. This is partly why I don’t mind expending energy to write about topics in technical communication. Tech comm may not be something I lie awake at night thinking about, but it at least focuses the topic away from memoir.

I’m working on this. I’ll focus more on specific topics instead of rambling about myself. You know, eventually.

Stocking Stuffers: 13 Writing Tips From Chuck Palahniuk

When you don’t want to write, set an egg timer for one hour (or half hour) and sit down to write until the timer rings. If you still hate writing, you’re free in an hour. But usually, by the time that alarm rings, you’ll be so involved in your work, enjoying it so much, you’ll keep going. Instead of an egg timer, you can put a load of clothes in the washer or dryer and use them to time your work. Alternating the thoughtful task of writing with the mindless work of laundry or dish washing will give you the breaks you need for new ideas and insights to occur. If you don’t know what comes next in the story… clean your toilet. Change the bed sheets. For Christ sakes, dust the computer. A better idea will come.

With my programming hat on, the pomodoro technique has given me mixed results. For writing, it’s been a little more effective. Breaking the big blog of time into intervals helps if something is already outlined. As far as stepping away and letting things simmer on the backburner, it works just about every time. Now I just need a duster.

I started writing 1.000 words a day exactly one year ago

You don’t really think you can skip today because you’ll do twice as much tomorrow, right?

This is a reddit thread with /u/moebius23 who shared tips for writing daily after writing 1,000 words daily for a year. Then he did it again for year two. After I finish this 100-day project I’m planning to write something similar. There seems to be a lot more content about writing for your novel every day than there is for, say, blogging1. (Which is pretty much what I’m doing.)

Tim Ferriss: On The Creative Process And Getting Your Work Noticed

If you wake up on Saturday morning and go surfing to decompress for the week, that is different from having to wake up at six every morning Monday to Friday and take investment bankers out to surf.

Another week, another Tim Ferriss link. I started this writing project inspired by one of his podcast episodes. I like a lot of what he writes, including this article on the creative process. Something Tim asks a lot of guests is, “What’s something that you’ve changed your mind about in the past year or two?”2

Cal Newport’s So Good They Can’t Ignore You kickstarted me changing my mind about exclusively following your passion. A few years ago, I believed that was, say, top 3 for best things to do to be successful. Then I realized how incredibly lucky I am that one of my passions in middle school (making things on the internet) panned out to be a pretty good career decision.

Even now, trying to write more, I have more of what Cal calls “career capital”. I know what it’s like to have someone from security drive to your formerly-a-military-barracks building to scold you for installing Skype. And I know what it’s like to hear Mickey Drexler over the office speaker system throughout the day.

Side projects following your passion will always be more fun than work. Even if your passion becomes your work. Because then your passion becomes work. And that’s great, because then you can improve and excel. But it’s a mistake to expect it ever to be as fun as when you were photoshopping your friends’ heads on things to post to your GeoCities site.

  1. Actually, there probably is a lot of stuff on working on your blog every day. But I’m guessing it’s about things like SEO, WordPress plugins, commenting, guest posting, mailing lists, and building a readership. First, I really want to buy into having some kind of content worth sharing.

  2. It’s great because people so rarely change their minds. A couple years ago, I read Think and Grow Rich or How to Make Friends and Influence People and there was a passage about how fruitless it can be to try changing someone’s mind. You can’t win an argument trying to change their mind during that one, single argument. Realizing how true that is was an aha moment for me and has probably saved me from a lot of dumb arguments.

Twenty days in

Okay so I’m twenty days into this project. Twenty posts looks like a lot more than then. Like it’s starting to look like a project instead of something I sort of am thinking about doing. Here are some unorganized thoughts.

  • I planned to have themes for every two weeks (ten posts). It ends up feeling like a stretch for certain topics1, so I’ll continue with trying to have themes but will shoot for five posts.

  • I want to start doing more deliberate practice through some writing exercises. Maybe I’ll type out articles I enjoy, like *Hunter S. Thompson typing out *The Great Gatsby. Except it’ll be me re-typing Grantland (RIP) articles.

  • People use the Seinfeld example so often to talk about persistence and habits. Just a pet peeve to see because he never said it. I like the sentiment around it, but I end up questioning accuracy of other stories in a book when that is passed off as fact.

  • I’m trying to post daily, not just write daily. I’m getting better at estimating how long it will take. Grabbing excerpts and organizing things takes longer than I expect.

  • I’m trying different systems and they all work, some better than others. It might be worth tracking what system I used for each post, but I’m worried about going down a quantified rabbit hole.

  • I haven’t told many people about this project at all. I’m posting by finalizing things in a local Jekyll instance. I haven’t been syncing it daily. I imagine I’ll just post them all when I get to #50 or maybe even just the very end.

  • Jekyll gives me the urge to re-check previous posts to make sure they built properly. There’s an argument for using WordPress. I’ll write a few posts about the logistics of all this.

  • Then again, I’m figuring out a pretty good system for Docs and Jekyll. I can just type the Markdown in Google Docs, making sure to use > to mark excerpts and using the <http://> Markdown shortcut to quickly mark TK’s. (They’ll show up as broken links in Jekyll so I spot them quickly.)

  • If there’s a system I need, I think it’d be to somehow have an ongoing list of things to look up when I have free time. Like here’s a list of things. Find matching sources. Find an excerpt. Find the corresponding image. Then they’d update live in the Google Doc.

  • I’m planning to continue to 100 posts. Only 1/5th of the way there and I’ve felt like stopping more than I would’ve thought. But I want to see this through. Something good will come of it. I know it. I mean, I’ll learn something. Even if I end up learning that writing for 100 days straight isn’t very useful. I’ll at least have some ideas for a better way to approach learning to write.

  • Some resources I’ve enjoyed: The Tim Ferriss podcast (an episode inspired me to kick off this project, so it’s always top of mind), I’d Rather be Writing (I graduated from a human-centered design program that was previously a technical communication program. A technical writing blog is really interesting and seeing an acronym like DITA gives me PTSD except instead of intense flashbacks I get flashbacks of intense boredom. His blog about technical writing is more interesting than reading documentation, I promise.), Reddit /r/writing but then I end up looking at a bunch of Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire stuff.

  • Writing seems like it’s mostly learning to not be distracted.

  1. This doesn’t bode well for any book-writing aspirations. But, hey.

Who and how?

I really liked The Obstacle is the Way so I went to one of Ryan Holiday’s talks1 for The Ego is the Enemy. He checks and responds to his own emails, so I asked about writing and he pointed me to a recent Quora answer he wrote: What are some tips for aspiring writers and journalists to succeed in today’s media market?

I’ve been really interested in sort of the logistics side of writing. In a sense, I care a lot about what kind of kind of pen Steven King uses, when that doesn’t matter all that much2.

Ryan’s tips were a great reminder for me that successful writing goes far beyond how you write. What you’re writing about is more important. He says it’s important to ask two questions:

Who am I saying this to?

How are they going to hear about it?

I’ve realized that I don’t have answers to either of these for a lot of the posts I’ve written. I’ll try to keep these questions in mind as I continue writing. For this post, 1.) I’m saying this to other people who want to write and 2.) they’ll hear about it after visiting my 100 posts3 and clicking through a few links.

Because if it doesn’t have a shot, if you don’t know who that shot is supposed to be in front of generally, then you’re just journaling. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but don’t blame anyone else if that begins to feel lonely or onanistic.

Sometimes it does feel like I’m journaling. Except knowing it will be publicly accessible. Which is a bad in-between: the best public writing probably isn’t someone’s journaling4, and the most interesting journals certainly aren’t public.

  1. I took a good amount of notes so I’ll write a post about it. I also plan to write a post with book notes about The Ego is the Enemy and another post with book notes on a re-read of The Obstacle is the Way. During the Q&A at the end of the talk, he had good answers to some questions that I want to write about. Just want to jot them down here so I can refer to them (then hopefully link to them in the future): What are your thoughts on imposter syndrome? Many successful people have huge egos, how do you separate the two?

  2. Though I think improving as a writer involves writing regularly. Logistics are important for having a routine and drive my interest at the moment.

  3. Affirmations, baby!

  4. But there are certainly good things like this: Draymond Green Finals diary, Part 24, Andy Greenwald Craves Herr’s Potato Chips at Inopportune Times

The Miracle Morning for Writers

These are book notes for The Miracle Morning for Writers by Hal Elrod, Honoree Corder, Steve Scott, and S.J. Scott

I read The Miracle Morning last year and really enjoyed it. Of course, I woke up at 6am for a couple weeks after that and then it trailed off. But I still have kept some of the ideas from it about establishing a morning routine. I have a Kindle Unlimited account1 and saw The Miracle Morning for Writers.

Affirmations are a tool for doing just that. By repeatedly telling yourself who you want to be, what you want to accomplish, and how you are going to accomplish it, your subconscious mind will shift your beliefs and behavior. You’ll automatically believe and act in new ways, and eventually manifest your affirmations into your reality.

My favorite advice on affirmations comes from Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert. In his book, How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big, he explains how skeptical he was of affirmations. And essentially says hey, they work. (Here’s a blog post that’s a few years older than his book talking about mostly the same thing.)

I feel weird recommending affirmations to people, because I felt weird doing them. I also think they really worked. Reading the section on affirmations in The Miracle Morning for Writers was a good reminder. Most would agree that setting goals is important and reviewing them is crucial to reaching them. From what I could tell, affirmations work because they’re a way to explicitly review your goals on a regular basis.

2You often hear that we got to the moon with computers that were about as powerful as graphing calculators. We3 didn’t set a course for the moon and then put the shuttle on rails. The computer constantly calculated and adjusted back in the proper direction. Affirmations allow you, every day, to quickly check course and make sure you make the small adjustment.

You’re working on a section and realize you need to research a fact, so you hop on Google, and then you think of something related to social media. Next thing you know, you’ve spent the last 15 minutes watching cat videos on YouTube.

The internet is a black hole. Given enough time, starting anywhere I’ll end up at the 2001 Slam Dunk Contest. I bought a Chromebook to try and avoid distractions. It still has a web browser4 so of course that entire black is available and I need to be careful.

Some things I’ve been trying to avoid distraction that are effective:

  • Writing longhand in a composition notebook (This is also why reading on a Kindle is nice)
  • Turning wi-fi off
  • Setting a timer
  • Giving up

I’ve been trying to separate writing from things that aren’t writing:

To quote Bill Gates, “Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.”

Okay, so I’m not going to dig into whether he actually said that or not. There’s a similar quote that I can’t find the proper attribution for either, “People overestimate what they can do in one day and underestimate what they can do in a year.” I guess you can only believe in one of those sayings.

People pack their days to the brim so that any time they’re doing something it feels like they might be better served doing something else. Then they don’t find time to write, work out, or work on whatever other project they know is important. And you can forget the importance of consistency. Writing for half an hour a day adds up significantly over a year. I’m doing this project because I know that if I keep at it, I’ll have a body of work. It might not be worth reading, but it’ll be there. And it’s a step in the right direction.

Does a writing location really matter? I think it does. Where you decide to write has a direct impact on turning it into a permanent habit.

I’ve been trying to find a location for writing. Anywhere-but-at-home seems like the general location. But I think it’d be good to pick one of these coffee places nearby to make it a permanent habit.

He recommended that instead of starting with a novel, a new writer should take an entire year and produce 52 short stories, one for each week. In Bradbury’s view, it’s impossible to write 52 bad short stories.

This goes back to creating things on a regular basis and knowing the amount of work you can do in one year. Over this year, I’ll be writing 700 Crappy Pages, the sequel to 52 Bad Short Stories to Tell in the Dark.

The problem is this: When you start and stop a dozen projects, you’re not completing a single thing. In fact, you’re teaching yourself that it’s okay to quit whenever a project becomes challenging or boring.

Real artists ship. It’s satisfying to finish things. Unfortunately, it happens to be satisfying to start things too. You get that rush starting things and announcing goals to the world. The same payoff isn’t always there, though. Finishing is hard. Being able to share something of that helps others is in most cases better than keeping to yourself.

There’s always a slog where you know how far the end is or you might not even see the end in sight at all. Then there’s a slog when you can see the end but it’s not quite as close as it appears. It’s important to push through all of this. When it gets challenging, that’s probably where you’re starting to learn the most.

  1. I signed up for a free month of Kindle Unlimited which of course converted to a paid one and just kept it. Oldest trick in the book and it worked on me perfectly.
  2. I can’t take credit for this analogy but I also can’t remember or figure out where I got it from. If you recognize it from somewhere, please let me know.
  3. “We” as in me saying “We really need to shut them down in the 4th quarter.” with my hand sitting in a bowl of Cheetos.
  4. Some would say it is a web browser.
  5. Somewhat related — I love how Medium handles TK Reminders.

Washington Square Park

Washington Square Park is one of my favorite places in the city. Maybe my favorite place. Any time I’m away from New York for any amount of time, I like to drop by Washington Square Park as soon as I can when I return. I’ve had a lot of good times there. With people: taking my girlfriend there on our first date, bringing visiting friends there, and chatting with friends I met in New York. Without people: eating lunch, preparing for interviews, reading, trying to be a photographer.

When I first moved to New York, I stayed at an Airbnb on a sofa in a three bedroom apartment. Those were the days. The trio was pre-gaming and someone brought in a brown bag. As far as what was inside, my first few guesses were wrong. He pulled out a few falafels. “Man… Mamoun’s… so good.” And the roommates nodded and unwrapped theirs.

I jumped from that Airbnb to another sofa through Airbnb. I left shortly after their dog peed on that sofa, but not because I had too much dignity or anything. I just found a longer sublet to stay at: one-month sublet in Stuy Town. My first day in Stuy Town, got takeout at Vanessa’s Dumplings and collapsed on the bed there. I’ve never felt so happy to have a private room. It was the day before Thanksgiving.

After that sublet ended, I found another one-month sublet on Macdougal, a block from Washington Square Park. I signed the lease and nodded yes to the following verbal agreement to tell the neighbors I’m house sitting. If they ask.

I picked up some lunch nearby and found a table to sit at in Washington Square Park. It was cold and I remember the park being empty. Or at least empty enough that I remember it being entirely empty. I can’t remember it ever being empty after that. That was the first time I ate a Mamoun’s falafel.. so good.

Japan Trip 10 of 10: More As Seen on TV

Check out my first post about some places we visited in Japan that you can check out in better-filmed things on TV or online.

Sushi Yasuda

It was like teleporting into the Parts Unknown segment. The restaurant looks the same as when it was filmed. Yasuda say he misses New York, where he lived for 27 years. He misses walking around the city and still loves his annual visits. Also, he’s very happy to take pictures flexing with customers.

Nishiki Market —Mind of a Chef

David Chang described it as one of his favorite places in the world. There’s a lot to see. (Though you can also see the end of a different journey at a sushi counter at any high end restaurant in many cities.) Nearby Pontocho alley was great too.

Tsukiji Market — Jiro Dreams of Sushi and like every food show with a Tokyo episode

I have a separate post with more about Tsukiji Market. We did go to the market but we didn’t get into the auction. One of my favorite places on the trip.

A bento box on a bullet train — A Cook’s Tour

Train stations have all sorts of food. On the way to Kyoto we saw a couple businessmen with bento boxes full of seafood. On the way back we made sure to pick up some boxes of our own. We tried a beef cutlet sandwich and a beef bowl.

Then I tried checking the train speed with Snapchat’s mph filter. The highest we hit was 171 mph.

James Altucher podcast: Gary Gulman and better, same, and worse

Gary Gulman was a guest on James Altucher’s podcast. I’ve seen him at the Comedy Cellar a couple times and really enjoyed his sets. In the most recent set I saw, he talks about a Netflix documentary about the team that came up with the postal code abbreviations for each state. He goes into great great detail of mundane things. I like it1.

James mentions a concept he heard about picking people in your field. Have someone around that’s better than you, have someone around that’s the same as you, and have someone around that’s worse than you. (At that certain skill, not as a human being.) Gary Gulman finds it interesting and says it sounds about right. He has a lot of comedians he looks up to and then the ones about the same to be depressed together with.

In my life, I’ve seen the importance of each of these sets of people2.

I’ve had cases where I’ve been around people that were much better developers than I was3. It was inspiring and a great way to know what’s possible. It’s that idea that nobody was running 4-minute miles and thought only like gazelles could do it. Then Robert Bannister broke that barrier and a bunch of other people broke it the following year, knowing it was possible. Having people around that will show you what you can do is important.

Right now I’m helping a friend learn web development. On the feel-good side, it’s rewarding to see that I’m really, actually able to help someone. It’s nice to be able to answer questions and know he’s thankful for it. And then it’s super rewarding seeing him update his site on his own with a little JavaScript that I know he’s learning on his own. On the practical side, it gives me empathy for a beginning developer which is valuable since I design developer tools. And it helps me solidify my knowledge.

Senior year in EE, I was in a class that was half undergrads and half grad students. One of the grad students was named Ram and he made everything seem easy. He’d get stuck on figuring out some value for IC layouts. Stuck in the sense of someone spilling a can of soda and not really cleaning it up properly and then you step in that spot and need a little extra mustard when lifting your foot up then you’re done with it. Ram would pause, open his post-it flagged textbook exactly to the spot, do the hand motion indicating speed reading, nod, and then continue, no longer stuck.

I would then stay at the computer lab for 3 more hours working on the same problem. It’s great to have people around the same skill level because you can complain together about how Ram is fucking up the curve and we can’t compete with someone named after a computer component.

  1. Something I don’t like: I’m writing on a flight and we just hit turbulence and the attendant started speaking super freaking fast. You gotta put the slower speakers on this thing.

  2. In trying to improve as a writer, I don’t really know many writers. I’m not surrounded by them. I know of writers that are better than me. But not really any that are the same or worse.

  3. At work, I’m surrounded by extremely bright people. Every day can feel like imposter syndrome at its highest level. There are a lot of people saying everyone has imposter syndrome. Even Barack Obama. I like that people are talking about it more, but I don’t think everyone successful has it. I’ve definitely met very smart people who knew it through and through pretty much to the core. I don’t think Brock Lesnar ever thinks “I don’t belong here”. Masters of Doom talks about John Carmack recognizing that John Romero was a better programmer and wanted to learn from him. But it doesn’t sound like he didn’t think he belonged. Ok, so my two examples are 1.) a former UFC and WWE champion and 2.) one of the most influential programmers ever who can present on stage for an hour without moving his feet. I don’t have a point anymore.

Japan Trip 09 of 10: Tsukiji Market

“Too late.”


Huh? It was 3am, it couldn’t be too late.

“Fish? Fish market? It’s too late.”

I guess it was too late. We didn’t get into the tuna auction. That’s one thing. 3:15 wasn’t early enough. Not even close to early enough. That might be because the market is closing and moving so people are really trying to visit in its current location. Still, there’s a ton to see later in the morning. Or when morning starts, because 3:15am is still the middle of the night to me. That’s the kind of time when I wake up and think about all the spooky things about 3am and then go back to sleep.

We thought about going the following night, but there was always the chance that we wouldn’t get in again. Planning around something where you have to wake up at 1:30am and actually head out can really put a wrench in a schedule1. We decided not to go.

Outer market

There’s an outer market with plenty to see. I think if you plopped the outside market somewhere else in Tokyo or any other city in the world, it’d get a good amount of traffic. I bet the more oblivious visitors have no idea there’s an inner market, because this was cool to see on its own. Lots of vendors. Meaning lots of different things to eat.

The first thing we tried was grilled scallop. We walked into the market and saw a woman grilling skewers with scallop topped with sea urchin. The contrast in texture is nice. Though uni probably contrasts with everything that’s not a sauce texture-wise.

Some kind of squid roll with cheese inside: I mean, if you like squid and you like cheese this is going to be a hit.

Mochi stuffed with various fruits: Not exactly a seafood market exclusive but still good for my mochi craving. I went with strawberry.

I went back to get another one of the scallop and uni things. on the way there we saw a couple people doing something where there was a crab shell with a scallop with an oyster with fish roe and also crab miso2. they take all of that and then they blow torch it.

Tamago on a stick: I wish I tried this. I don’t know if that’s really what they refer to it as. but there was definitely a long line for this. When we walked by it we were on our way out and, more importantly, stuffed to the brim.

The actual market

We figured out that the actual market is past a gate. It looks shrunken aircraft hanger, especially with all the different vehicles moving around. In the somewhat open lot in front of the market, scooters go by you in all directions. Then there are these things that look like a person is standing and steering a keg. Like a flatbed keg. You gotta stay alert.

With it being such a tourist hot spot, it’s easy to forget that so many people are actually working. The inner market still functions as a place for professionals to buy fish more than a place for tourists to buy their souvenirs.

Right outside the hangar, type building (but still inside the gate), there are about half a dozen long buildings and each of them has probably 8 restaurants and almost all of these serve sushi. Almost exclusively between 6am and Noon. Breakfast sushi.

You could spend a few mornings here no problem. Especially if you enjoy photography. Everything is photogenic.

I’ve seen pictures of the tuna and read how much they weigh and thought I had a good sense of their size. Walking around, I saw pretty big chunks being cut up and was starting to get a better sense of scale. Then I almost bumped into a tuna head on the ground and thought I was seeing some kind of mistake. The thing was huge. Its body probably was being cut into huge blocks and then into medium blocks then smaller all the way down to a small slice sitting on a ball of rice.

Walking around was like seeing one of your omakase meals getting it scaled up to Costco size. Along with the tuna, your single slice of geoduck turns into a seafood sausage shop. That piece of uni turns into rows and rows in a big wooden box that seemingly retires as a pencil container at Muji. That mussel gets some HGH (as muscles are wont to do) and turns into a shell bigger than my head. Then there are crabs of all sizes with all sorts of shell patterns I’ve never seen. Your plate of grilled squid has been enlarged to cover a dining table.

It was too late to get into the auction but just in time to see something incredible.

  1. Plus the auction is supposedly twenty minutes. I realize that if I got in I’d probably say, “Best 20 minutes ever.” I’m being a hater.

  2. Crab miso has nothing to do with miso soup. It’s crab fat or crab innards or crab mustard or crab guts. Whatever you prefer to call it all I care about is that I prefer eating it. Just about perfect.

Japan Trip 08 of 10: Rico! Osprey!

Ever since we booked tickets to Japan, I wanted to go to a New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) show. In the past year, I’ve slowly, somehow gotten back into wrestling1. It was a pretty big part of my childhood. The extent of my knowledge is that AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura are from NJPW. And that they’re closer to NXT shows size-wise than they are WWE shows. I’ve wanted to go to an NXT show so this would be close.

Getting tickets was a more complicated than expected. The expectation being you go to, say, Ticketmaster Japan and order with like 8 clicks. Not quite. After giving up on the machine at the convenience store, we asked a hotel attendant if he knew anything about tickets for the show. When or where it was. He made some calls, wrote things down, wrote them down again phonetically, and explained that we’d need to go to the box office. Early.

I’m not entirely sure how ingrained in Japanese culture pro wrestling is. Before leaving, we asked the hotel attendant if he was familiar with NJPW, and he replied about the same as you might expect a friendly hotel attendant in America to: I know some characters because my friends watch.

After getting to Tokyo Stadium2, we saw a gigantic gigantic line. Like hundreds of people long. For a second I thought that was for the wrestling show. Then I remembered it was a wrestling show and knew that definitely wasn’t the line. (It was for a Giants/Tigers game — think Yankees/Red Sox.)

The Tokyo Dome reminds me of an old Hulk Hogan video tape that we had with some of his matches. I won’t even say it was the best of compilation. Because if it has a match with Hulk Hogan and Stan Hansen in Tokyo then I can think of five bigger leg drops without much thought. but it always gave me the impression that wrestling was huge in Japan.

2000-seat Korakuen Hall is great venue. The only other wrestling show I’ve been to is Monday Night Raw, which was in the 18,000 seat Honda Center. Korakuen Hall is the size of a large high school gym. I understand why people say NXT shows feel so cool because of the small venues.

I was surprised how… normal everybody looked in the crowd. A couple guys in suits. It’s not still real to them.


I knew the Bullet Club was some kind of nWo-type faction with better shirts. I didn’t expect them to be a bunch of cowards. Pretty much doing a good job being heels. I can picture AJ Styles there. He’s the right size and it’s pretty apparent what people mean when they say Vince McMahon is a body guy. NJPW doesn’t have as many guys with that kind of body type.

The matches

There were a couple of matches involving 8 to 10 people. Good matches usually aren’t composed of random people put together as teams. These weren’t good matches, But I was happy to see all the different characters. Wrestling is different in Japan but heels are heels and the baby faces are baby faces and it was pretty clear who’s who.

There weren’t many promos being cut and there wasn’t much story progression. From what I gather could gather, most of the matches were part of an ongoing tournament, sort of like King of the Ring.

The match

Ricochet and Will Ospreay wrestled and it was the highlight of the night. They brought the house down. Meaning the crowd clapped vigorously. I mistakenly thought this kind of match was routine for NJPW main events.

Afterward, I was trying to find highlights from the match and started to the tweets and articles about how great the match was. Later followed by former wrestlers arguing amongst each other about whether it was a good match or not. My two cents: it was awesome3. I’m a casual fan. My girlfriend is the girlfriend of a casual fan, meaning she watches more wrestling than anyone probably should. It was one of the highlights of the trip.

  1. I’d say it was a pretty major part of my childhood. Pre-Monday Night Wars, I thought it was real. I was into it through the Monday Night Wars and slowly stopped watching. In the ticket office line, we happened to be standing in front of another group from New York. One of them had just about the same story: they’ve gotten back into wrestling in the past year or so and came because it’s supposed to be like an NXT event. There must be dozens of us.

  2. The area around the Tokyo Dome was pretty cool also. It was sort of an amusement park and mall mashed together.

  3. Especially when a guy about ten rows back yelled, “THIS IS AWESOME.” and got the chant going. He was absolutely right.

Japan Trip 07 of 10: Cheap eats

Beef bowls at Matsuya and Sukiya

I was looking for a beef bowl. And I knew that Yoshinoya was available in California so I didn’t want to get that. (Similar reason for not going to an Ippudo.) We had just finished at Nishiki Market and getting some yakitori in Pontocho Alley. We wanted a little bit more food so we wandered around trying to find shaved ice. We had a place in mind but didn’t have our compasses straight so we got turned around a few times. And we realized we still wanted something savory. That’s when we ran into a Matsuya.

It doesn’t have english signage like you’d find at Yoshinoya or Sukiya. You order from a vending machine. All these places have beef bowls, but it seems like the other choices are where things get different. Matsuya had Dan Dan Noodles on the menu. I’ve had cheap Dan Dan noodles before that weren’t great. These weren’t that. These noodles were delicious. It’s one of my favorite dishes because my parents call my brother Dan Dan.

Takoyaki at various places

Takoyaki are octopus balls. They seem to be served super hot. In most cases, you order them either at an outdoor stand or through a store window. We tried them in Akihabara, Osaka, and in Tokyo. They’re not deep fried but that might be amazing. Instead, they start with a griddle with a bunch of golf ball sized holes1. They drop a few cubed pieces of octopus in and then fill it with batter. Then they just go down each column turning the balls until they’re cooked through.

It’s covered with sauce and bonito flakes.

Curry at CoCo Curry

We had curry a few times. They’re all over the place. And plates of curry with pork or chicken cutlets are only 600 or 700 yen. It’s great. I really love curry. Major comfort food vibes. I think I’ve said that I could eat curry every day in the past. I had it probably three times in a week and have changed my mind. I still love the stuff. But it’s so heavy. I had it on the plane and one morning in Tokyo before heading to Muji (which was huge and I’d also like to write about in some way).

This curry was better than what we got on the plane. I can get about the same in New York, but for a few more dollars. That’s how I felt about a lot of the cheaper eats. If you’re sticking to the main portion of the menu, you can get something similar in America for a little more money.

Mister Donut

Oh boy. My friend recommended Mister Donut. It was one of the places we seeked out on the first morning. Then it was available in Kyoto Station and we dropped by every day. Then the streak became a thing and there was one near our second Tokyo hotel so we kept going. There were still plenty of donuts with green or in shapes that didn’t seem like things we’d see in America so we kept going.

Their signature donut is this thing that looks like it could be one of Akuma’s bracelets. The normal one is glazed or frosted. The real champ here is the matcha one where each sphere is cream-filled.

There were matcha cake donuts half dipped in chocolate. And chocolate cake donuts with some kind of matcha glaze.

There was a round donut but instead of being jelly-filled, it had red bean, some kind of matcha2 cream, and a small square of mochi. I hope they call it Mister’s Matcha Mochi.

There was a French cruller half-dipped in chocolate that I couldn’t get enough of3.

  1. Somewhere, there’s a manufacturing belt with a bunch of molds in it then that belt turns reaches a fork and the molds go on separate tracks. One gets filled with molten iron and then other gets dimpled then the tracks come back together onto the same belt where they’re eventually sprayed alternately “golf ball molds” and “takoyaki griddles”.

  2. For all these matcha-optioned donuts, there was no matcha latte. That said, having I really enjoyed having an iced cafe au lait with all the matcha flavored donuts.

  3. As I’m writing more, I’m getting a better sense of when a footnote seems appropriate. I don’t currently have the posts dated. And if I’m writing something very time specific, then it might be better in a footnote. For instance: I’m currently writing this on a plane. And I bought a cruller at Dunkin’ Donuts in the airport before this flight but it just wasn’t the same. Now, I’m not giving up completely, because the flavor was there. It was missing the crisp outside and soft inside. I think this might have had more to do with the ‘in the airport’ part of that sentence rather than the ‘Dunkin Donuts’ part of that sentence.

Japan Trip 06 of 10: Five more thoughts

Here are some more thoughts on my trip to Japan.

I didn’t know the language: I thought this was going to cause more issues than it actually did. Especially not being able to read anything. There are enough English subtitles on the more important portions to make things manageable. Plenty of restaurants have english menus — many more have pictures you can use when ordering. At the Tsukiji gate, I was able to just type things into my phone to ask what time to come back the next day. And at a yakitori place I was able to ask if beef tongue was available.

NJPW show: Never would’ve guessed that’s what we were walking into. They basically express their excitement through how quickly they clap. And then you’ll hear a lot of accented “Rico!” and “Ospreay!” scattered throughout. It was a little bit of work trying to figure out how to get tickets. There are guides online saying you can just get them at a convenience store. Using these without reading Japanese is pretty hard. Or maybe I gave up too quickly. As far as I could tell, there was an option for viewing the help tutorial in English but no option to use the search and ordering interface in English.

We chatted with one of the attendants at the hotel and he made some calls to explain things. Go to Tokyo Stadium and there will be tickets at the box office. It opens at 4pm but there will be a line so get there earlier. Somehow, this all actually worked. It seemed like people reserved their spots in line with newspaper or something. But there were plenty of tickets to go around.

Fushiri Inari temple: I went with my parents to the Grand Canyon before. I had seen photos of the Grand Canyon before. You hear “pictures don’t capture it” for a lot of things, but rarely do things live up to that. The Grand Canyon did. I’ve never felt that kind of impact from just looking out at something.The torii gates at Fushiri Inari felt similar. But I guess at a different scale. Or I’m not sure what the word is to describe the difference in feeling. Walking through it felt like nothing I’ve experienced before. There are a lot of gates.

Arcades and crane games: I think we spent around $60 total in various crane games with nothing to show for it. Something I hadn’t seen was the style of crane game where there’s one big item to win. I learned you can’t really plan to win this with one go. You put the 500 yen in and get a 6th try free, and then you try planning different moves to eventually get that one item.There was also this sick setup of my life in 3rd grade.

What you can learn about UX from bidet UIs

I ordered a Chromebook — first impressions

I’m not sure what it was that really triggered things but I ordered a Chromebook last night1. I’ve wanted a lighter laptop for a while. My main (well, only) personal computer is a 15” MacBook Pro. I’ve had it for about three years now. It’s portable. I’ve traveled with it. I’ve used it to write in coffee shops.

It’s not super portable, though. I think twice before taking it anywhere. I have the same laptop at work and have brought both to travel before. That was a little ridiculous to carry in a backpack.

I’m thinking a Chromebook will feel better. The MacBook feels big sitting on an airplane tray. I was thinking right now that anything that might help me establish a writing routine will be worth the investment. Also I had some Amazon credit2.

Anything to help me focus3. This goal to write 100 somewhat-daily posts is becoming more serious as I’m starting to get a little bit of momentum.

One of the biggest distractions when putting posts together is the urge to tinker with the blog. As in writing HTML/CSS. It’s a pretty modern distraction for writing. It wasn’t like you could alt+tab over in your typewriter to go adjust the final book binding and presentation.

Having separate computers for writing and for editing/polishing and doing HTML/CSS things might be overkill. But I think it’s worth a shot. That’s why I ordered a Chromebook.

First impressions after about 15 minutes of use4

  • I like it. I think it’s going to be exactly what I wanted it to be: a writing machine. Which happens to be what I want to become.

  • Happy to see that developer tools work and I can do some JavaScript in the console. I’m not sure why I thought it might not work.

  • I don’t have plans to load Linux on this or anything. I can see why it might eventually be tempting/helpful for when want to make some HTML/CSS updates and finish off posts5.

  • On the other side, I’ll have the itch to figure out how I can do some development straight in ChromeOS. I think that will involve either a web IDE like Cloud9, SSHing into a server, or using remote desktop in some way. On the plus side, this blog runs on Jekyll so it might be somewhat straightforward.

  • The first thing I’ll need to get used to is keyboard shortcuts. Just need to remember they’re closer to Windows shortcuts and there’s no Command key.

  • The thing I’m missing a lot already is Ctrl+K, Ctrl+A, and Ctrl+E for deleting the rest of a line, going to the beginning of the line, and going to the end of the line. With a quick search I can see that there are some shortcuts with the Chromebook’s ‘search’ key that will let me select to end and things like that. I think I can get used to it eventually.

  • The keyboard feels good physically. I don’t think it’s hampering my typing speed at all.

  • The microphone works well enough for dictation to work in Google Docs. Also, if you haven’t tried dictation in Google Docs, you should. It’s incredibly accurate.

  • I read that it has good build quality. It does feel like it’s durable but I think that has more to do with it being plastic. However, I’m very used to MacBook build quality and it can’t compare. It’s an unfair comparison that I was making.

  • 11” screen is totally fine. It’s not like I write in a full window with full line lengths. And the browser can go full-screen so it’s plenty of space for what I need. We’ll see how that goes beyond 15 minute impressions. I’m excited to use this thing.

  • The shortcut for an em dash is to press ctrl+shift+U then typing 2014 and pressing the spacebar. You’ll see fewer em dashes from me, starting right about now.

It’s been a joy to use so far. I’m slowly building out a list of posts I plan to write and when I’ll post them. I won’t go as far as calling it an editorial calendar yet. This post is quick impressions, I’ll write something with one-week impressions, and then something for one-month impressions.

Oh yeah, it’s an Acer Chromebook 11.

  1. I ordered using Prime Now, so I actually got it this morning. I had to buy a gift certificate with awards points. Something about Prime Now that I’m not sure how it works is tipping. There’s a note that says the delivery people don’t know who tips are from or what amount. Maybe they get a bulk payment every paycheck? This seems like a test and that I’m failing and am a bad human being. Is the point of tipping to let them know you, specifically you, appreciated it or is it like charity where some think it means less if announced to the world. Anyway, I’m tipping $5. I noticed the suggested tip is higher than my last Prime Now order because the price is higher. But I mean. It weighs two pounds. I’m buying this thing specifically for its lightness. I’d tip more for a $40 grocery order.

  2. Which isn’t a really valid point about anything at all because you can buy just about anything on Amazon. It’s not like it’s a Starbucks card and I’m saying I made it a venti since I had the credit lying around.

  3. Aka anything to have a new gadget to play with.

  4. With images added way after 15 minutes of use

  5. There would be the added step of having to restart and boot into Linux to do that. Which would be good for separating writing and tinkering.

Japan Trip 05 of 10: Ramen

Ramen is one of my favorite things to eat. I’ve said that I could probably eat ramen every day. I’ve changed my mind on that. While I like eating ramen (and other food), I’ve never gotten really nerdy about food.Andy Greenwald does a much better job explaining that New York has too much tonkotsu. I should appreciate what we’ve got available. It was good to try different kinds of ramen.

Ichiran: We had one of the more interesting eating experiences at Ichiran. There are a few locations and we went to the one in Roppongi. You get a tickets from a vending machine (not as novel as the first time, but always fun) and then sit in booths. Each booth faces the kitchen, but there’s a curtain with a small opening at the bottom. So you can see torsos moving but not much else. If you’re a tourist with no idea what to do next, someone will duck down to explain how things work. Very friendly. I can completely see how regulars can go through without speaking at all. Select noodle type, richness, spice-level, other toppings, and you’re good to go.

Rokurinsha: I wrote about this in my As Seen on TV post. Really enjoyed this place. Completely worth the wait (about 25 minutes in our case). There was food I enjoyed but knew I could get about the same in New York. This wasn’t on that list. The broth is exceptional. They only serve tsukemen. Most New York ramen places offer it but don’t specialize in it.

Gyogo: Most photogenic of the bunch is the burnt ramen from Gyogo in Kyoto. Their specialty is burnt ramen. I know some other ramen places do burnt leeks for flavor in their ramen, but Gyogo broth comes out nearly pitch black. It doesn’t taste as burned as I expected based on the color. Tasty though. We ordered some of their pork belly. Reminds me of the best parts of tocino without being overly sweet. Really worth trying.

Ten days in

I’m ten days in on this project and happy with the progress. There are some struggles, sometimes I’ve thought “What’s the point?” There’s always the reality that there might not be a point. Nothing at the end of the rainbow. But you just have to trust the process. Two crappy pages a day.

Then there are days where it’s a joy to write. Those days seem to come after a good night of sleep.

I do notice that I jump around a lot more when I’m typing compared to when I’m writing longhand. And that could be the charm of morning pages.

I’ve been writing pages in the morning. But I haven’t been doing my Morning PagesTM.


Here are some non-software tools I’ve been using for writing:

  • Composition notebook

  • Dr. Grip

  • MacBook

  • Chromebook

Here’s the software:

  • Google Keep

  • iA Writer

  • Focus@Will or random Spotify tracks found by searching “white noise” or “study music”1.

  • Google Docs

  1. I absolutely cannot write with music I would want to listen to. Sometimes I’ll write with a podcast on. It fills the gaps and might be good while free writing to queue things up. Like in high school I remember seeing a video of a rapper freestyling and being impressed that he could rhyme with random words the crowd would give him. Eventually I realized that the automated prompts can make it easier. Before trying to sit down and write, I was tinkering with Vue.js and… I was going to write the rest of the tech stack and actually it doesn’t matter exactly what I was using. But I was seeing if I could put together something that would let me write timed things based on my Amazon highlights as prompts. Then I got sort of too deep in the weeds and the tinkering became the thing, instead of the writing. So I was programming before and after work and happened to be programming at work at the time also. I got burnt out. I’m still curious about that idea though, because when I tried out a couple of the prototypes, I wrote a lot. They might be good for writing book notes. I tried something where it would give me 8 highlights from a book and then cycle through them. I wanted to see if I could do something where after the first sequence, it would discard the text from the bottom 4 (based on word count) and then you could add to the survivors, then discard half again until you were left with the one idea that you still have thoughts on. I also tried a thing where it would give me one highlight from two separate books and I would write about them together, forcing myself to think about the intersection. Some of the results were interesting. And I wanted to try something with timed writing that would just take you through different steps. There would be a pause button, but there would be no rewind button. You’d have a certain time to write an outline, then you’d have another time block divided up equally (or maybe you could specify what percent goes to what bullet point) and then you’d write each section out, then you’d get another round through, and then you’d be done. By the end, you’d have your first draft. It almost certainly wouldn’t be worth posting anywhere. But you’d have a good idea of if you have a good idea. All in, say, 20 minutes. I should try this out just using a timer. Maybe I can do that actually on the flight I’m currently on. With Bit Timer.