Food I ate in 2016

Like plenty of people, I take pictures of my food. A friend asked once, “Do you ever even look at those pictures later?” Well, now’s my chance. I looked at each month and picked a picture from a meal I enjoyed. Here we go.

January: Toki Underground — Washington D.C.

Man I want these noodles again. For all the food in New York and all the noodles we had in Japan, this bowl was probably one of the best things of food that I had this year. We had a D.C. trip in the works and added this after seeing it on Michael Pollan’s Cooked on Netflix. Just kidding, it was on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives.

February: BBQ — Nashville
My girlfriend pulled the Master of None move on me and surprised me with tickets to Nashville the day before the flight. Just like it looked on the show, Nashville was a lot of fun. There’s live music everywhere, and the performers are good.

March: Roberta’s — Brooklyn

Roberta’s has a separate take-out location right next door. In 2015, we had both never been to Roberta’s and thought the take-out location was the main location. We got a (great) pizza at the take-out counter and ate it on some seats set up outside. We enjoyed the meal, left, and had no idea we weren’t at the main location.

Weeks later we were looking at reviews and noticed the pictures of the place looked much different. We went back to experience the actual restaurant and it was again a great meal.

April: Smorgasburg (the Prospect Park one) — Brooklyn

I love Smorgasburg. I don’t go often enough. People love taking pictures of food here, so I fit right in. Lobster rolls seem to mark good points in my time in New York. Probably because it means someone’s visiting and we’re eating outdoors.

May: Rokurinsha — Tokyo

Just amazing. We saw this on Mind of a Chef. There was so much good food in Japan. I’d love to go back. I like going back to places I enjoy maybe more than I like going to the places for the first time.

Like my 2nd time at a good restaurant is really enjoyable. You know what to order. You can also order that thing you saw other people order that looked good the first time around. There’s no anxiety of having picked the restaurant and hoping to god that the friends you’re with enjoy it and respect you as a person for picking that restaurant. God help you if they don’t like it.

I could have written entire posts about what I ate in Japan. And I did!

June: Crab at home — Oak Harbor, Washington

I grew up in Oak Harbor and there’s a lot of Dungeness crab. It’s not known for it or anything. I somehow didn’t realize what kind of luxury this was growing up. There are just a lot of families that crab and they usually have a surplus of crab so they give it away or sell it for very cheap. (Say $5 per lobster.)

When it’s in season, my parents usually have some for me if I visit. There are few things I enjoy more than laying out a bunch of newspaper, pouring some vinegar to dip in, then ripping the top shell off and cracking the steamed corpse in half and having the off yellow fat drip on top of a bowl of fresh steamed rice. It’s further enhanced when I use the clean pinky on one hand to hit play on a random on-demand episode of Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives.


July: Random Korean dishes with friends — Financial District

I have a group of friends from California who moved to New York around the same time I did. With some of their other friends, we all became a small family to spend our orphaned holidays together.

A running half-joke was that some of them were constantly a few months away from moving back to LA. Then they’d say “We decided to stay one more year” and we’d celebrate the decision. Some of them are actually making the move out of New York now so I’ve been in the midst of the reminiscing.

Some more my best memories in New York are with them. We hang out less frequently than we used to but when we get together it’s a blast. Almost always followed by a hangover.

Bonus food place: Per Se — I wrote about this here. One of the best meals of my life.

August: Shuko — New York

Great sushi and a not so stuffy environment. They played a lot of Drake. I love this place.

September: Very Fresh Noodles — Chelsea Market

I go to Xi’an Famous Foods regularly. I might like Very Fresh Noodles better. It used to be my go-to meal after any weekend gym trips.

October: This steak — My humble abode

I love steak. For a date night in, I splurged on one of the $25-ish per pound cuts at Whole Foods. The pan was too small to hold it. Did what I could, crossed my fingers, and it turned out pretty good.

As mentioned before, lobster rolls signal good outdoor memories. These pricey steaks now make me think of great times indoors. Another time I did this was my first month in New York, away from family. It was my first time alone on Christmas Eve. Which sounds kind of sad but for some reason is a good memory almost entirely because I had an enormous steak to eat.

November: Wataru — Seattle

I was with my favorite people in the world eating amazing sushi1. Add in some sake and it’s my favorite meal this year.

December: Cleavers — Philadelphia

I spent an hour or so reading about cheesesteaks trying to pick a few places to try. Ingredients and health wise, it’s nearly the same as saying “Yeah, let me get 3 double cheeseburgers.” It’s awesome.

We were only in town for a couple days so we didn’t have many meals to spare on this. I considered the classics and read multiple top-cheesesteaks lists. Then we went to the most mainstream of the bunch.

This is not a hole in the wall local find. It’s downtown, clean, three floors, with polite service. They even have the gimmick touchscreen soda fountain with apparently every syrup to make your own creations that you usually only see in theater lobbies. Most importantly, they make a mean cheesesteak.

We went again like 12 hours later. I love Cleavers.

  1. I’ve written previously about enjoying going to nice places but maybe not having a sophisticated palate. Sometimes I don’t know if it’s worth paying for high-end sushi. For myself, I mean. I think it’s totally worth it if you enjoy it. This meal was different. The difference was clear. I’ve had toro before but I really tasted the difference this time. ↩︎

What I learned from reading and writing in 2016

“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” — Stephen King in On Writing

I read and wrote more this year than any year before. Here are some things I learned and how I’ll change my approach in 2017.

(Check out my full reading list of 52-ish books, my ten favorite books, and a recap of my writing for 2016.)

Lessons from reading

It’s okay (and probably a good idea) to quit on a book
I set a goal to average reading a book a week. Some were great, many were good, but some weren’t any fun and I wasn’t learning. I’d like to avoid those as much as possible.

Next year:

  • I’ll use the 25% point in a book as a checkpoint to consider whether I should continue or not. That’s enough to get a good sense of what the rest of the book will be like. It’s not so far that I’ll think “well I’ve gotten this far I may as well finish”.
  • I’m reducing my goal to reading 30 books instead of 52. I don’t want to feel pressured to finish for the sake of finishing.

It’s worth taking more time selecting books
Books take several hours to read, but I would take maybe a minute picking the next book. That ratio was way off.

Next year:

  • I’ll use a spreadsheet to plan my reading. Each book will have a sentence explaining why I want to read it. Reviewing the list before moving to a new book will keep me from reading too many of the same kind of book.
  • I won’t move to the next book until I’ve written about the recently completed one. Instead, I’ll re-read books about writing that I enjoy: On Writing by Stephen King, The Elements of Style by Strunk & White, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, War of Art by Steven Pressfield, and On Writing Well by William Zinsser.

I’m hoping this will motivate me to write about the books, which is important because…

…it’s worth thinking about what I just read
Writing about each book forces me to really think about it. After looking at my full reading list from this year, one thing stuck out: I wrote notes for the books I enjoyed most.

It makes sense that I’d write about books I enjoyed. In part, the books are more valuable because I captured my thoughts about them.

One of the worst uses of time is reading a nonfiction book1 without applying the principles. It’s easy to tell myself “At least I’m learning something.” I’ll agree with the conclusion then take exactly zero action based on the principles in the book.

Next year:

  • Before starting, I’ll think about what I’m hoping to learn through reading.
  • When finished, I’ll write about how I’ll apply the principles.

Fiction is fun and that’s valuable
Some people don’t read fiction and go as far as saying it’s a waste of time. I’ve always thought it was a good use of time but my actions didn’t reflect that. I read maybe one fiction book per year from 2011-2015.

I’m glad I made an effort to read more fiction this year. I’d rather laugh out loud reading one of Simon Rich’s short stories than read another conclusion based on the marshmallow experiment.

Next year:

  • I’ll read more fiction without worrying about applying anything at all.

Lessons from writing

Finish the first draft quickly
It has different monikers—down draft, vomit draft, two crappy pages. All serve as good reminders to keep your editor hat off. You have to generate a lot of ideas to get to any good ideas.

Next year:

  • I’ll do my best to avoid editing while writing. I started setting up a folder structure (in Ulysses) with subfolders named vomit draft, revision, and finish and publish.

Revising is where learning happens
At the start of the year, I sent out a newsletter explaining why I wanted to write more. It holds up better than most of the writing I did the rest of the year. Why? Well, you can’t edit newsletters after the fact, so I spent a lot of time revising it.

I could write mindlessly for 10 minutes then post the raw output every day2. My writing wouldn’t improve much by doing that. Malcolm Gladwell describes it like this:

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.

Blank pages are bliss and pressing ‘Publish’ is satisfying. Combined, it’s very easy to skip re-writing and editing.

Next year:

  • I’ll let my drafts sit for at least a day and revise everything that I post.

Consistency is key, but it doesn’t have to be daily
Posting daily was hard. I tried for 100 days and won’t do it again. I learned to enjoy the process but the output didn’t provide value to anyone. Hitting ‘Publish’ on a rough draft didn’t magically make it less rough.

When I reviewed the whole project, it struck me that 75 posts in 100 days would’ve been fine too. Even 50, because nobody’s going to read all of it. It’s hard enough to get someone to read any of it.

Next year:

  • I’ll try posting twice each week. That feels sustainable. If I have more time in a week, I’ll add to a backlog for the weeks where I have less time.

Good writing takes thought. It’s hard to think when in a full sprint. You can do a lot of thinking when taking a stroll.

In 2017, I’ll continue following King’s advice to read a lot and write a lot. By the end of the year, I might even be a writer.

  1. By nonfiction, I mean business/self-development books that are specifically suggesting you take action in some way. ↩︎
  2. When publishing daily, I did this on way too many mornings. ↩︎

Reading 52 books in 2016: Recap

In 2016, I tried to read a lot and write a lot. (I explained why in my post about writing in 2016.) “A lot” is relative, of course. My goal was to finish 52 books in the year1. Before getting to the full list, here are some thoughts from completing this goal.

(Also check out my recent post about my ten favorite books from the year.)

I should be pickier with the books I read. It’d be better to read half as many book chosen with more care. Not all the books were great. A few weren’t very good at all. There’s a certain type of self-published book that I’ll try avoiding next year.

Immediate sign: links in the book to “more content” that open up to pages blocked by mailing list sign ups. It’s a little too transparent. If you won’t put a ghillie suit on your marketing channel at least toss a camouflage shirt on it.

I should read more broadly. The books that strayed from my usual reading topics2 were the ones that I enjoyed most. Particularly fiction and narrative nonfiction. It makes sense that those were the most entertaining because they’re written to be entertaining.

I should take the time to write book notes. Along with being pickier, I should take the time afterward to review what I read. I’ve found so much value in writing thoughts about books during or after reading. Being active in thinking about what I’m reading increases my enjoyment of the books.

If I don’t write things down, it’s hard to remember any specifics from a book after a few months. Sharing these thoughts (hopefully) helps create value for others.

(As for extra value, carrying the zero… I made $0 from affiliate links in 2016 but I’ll keep the dream alive for 2017.)

30 minutes here or there adds up. Something that struck me when I first started browsing through Audible was the time estimates. Most books clocked in under 10 hours and were sometimes as low as 4 or 5 hours. Reading is much faster than listening so it wasn’t too hard to find enough time in 30-minute blocks through the week.

A minute here or there adds up… poorly. Nearly every book I buy is in Kindle format so I read on the iOS app often. Sometimes that means reading a page or two while standing in a line. It’s useless compared to reading that page or two while undistracted as part of a larger block of time.

How to read a book. Check out this PDF by Paul N. Edwards. After practicing some things there, I was a much more effective reader. Next year I’ll continue trying to be more thoughtful during reading.

I can continue the pace. I don’t read quickly. I tried reading instead in place of the time that would have gone to social media or social news. Which was way more time than I would’ve guessed.

Listening to an audiobook feels different. I listened to more this year than in past years, but didn’t count them in the full count of 52 books. Listening to audiobooks is just different. It doesn’t go as fast but you can just have it just go on for hours at a time.

It’s better for certain books and worse for others. I like shorter books that I can listen to repeatedly. Essentialism and 10% Happier are books that I’ve listened to multiple times. Same with Eat that Frog. This year I listened to Grit by Angela Duckworth 3 or 4 times.

I tried a couple novels3 but I think they’d probably be better for long highway commutes instead of walking commutes. Long-form podcasts are good here because of the rambling. You can go in and out of podcast conversations. It’s like being at a group dinner at a very long table, sitting between a few different conversations.

Here’s the full list of books that I read this year. Highlighted titles link to book notes. Also check out my ten favorite books from this year.

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport

Nicely Said: Writing for the Web with Style and Purpose by Nicole Fenton, Kate Kiefer Lee

About Face: The Essentials of Interaction Design by Alan Cooper, Robert Reimann, David Cronin, Christopher Noessel

Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle that Defined a Generation by Blake J. Harris

Happy Money: The Science of Happier Spending by Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton

Wireframing Essentials by Matthew J. Hamm

User Story Mapping: Discover the Whole Story, Build the Right Product by Jeff Patton, Peter Economy

Work The System: The Simple Mechanics of Making More and Working Less (Revised third edition, 4th printing, September 1, 2014) by Sam Carpenter

Apprenticeship Patterns: Guidance for the Aspiring Software Craftsman by Dave Hoover, Adewale Oshineye

Dark Force Rising: Star Wars Legends (The Thrawn Trilogy) (Star Wars: The Thrawn Trilogy Book 2) by Timothy Zahn

Disrupt Yourself: Putting the Power of Disruptive Innovation to Work by Whitney Johnson

The Wild Diet: Get Back to Your Roots, Burn Fat, and Drop Up to 20 Pounds in 40 Days by Abel James

Smarter Faster Better: The Transformative Power of Real Productivity by Charles Duhigg

Nobody Wants to Read Your Sht by Steven Pressfield

The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever by Michael Bungay Stanier

Game Over: How Nintendo Conquered The World by David Sheff

The Miracle of Morning Pages: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About the Most Important Artist’s Way Tool: by Julia Cameron

Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days by Jake Knapp, John Zeratsky, Braden Kowitz

Sleep Smarter: 21 Essential Strategies to Sleep Your Way to a Better Body, Better Health, and Bigger Success by Shawn Stevenson

The Elements of Style by William Strunk

Anything You Want: 40 Lessons for a New Kind of Entrepreneur by Derek Sivers

Kettlebell Simple & Sinister by Pavel Tsatsouline

A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms (A Song of Ice and Fire) by George R. R. Martin, Gary Gianni

Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

The 4-Hour Chef: The Simple Path to Cooking Like a Pro, Learning Anything, and Living the Good Life by Timothy Ferriss

Save the Cat by Blake Snyder

Comedy Writing for Late-Night TV by Joe Toplyn

The Umbrella Man and Other Stories by Roald Dahl

The Last Girlfriend on Earth: And Other Love Stories by Simon Rich

Spoiled Brats: Stories by Simon Rich

Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari, Eric Klinenberg

You Don’t Know JS: Up & Going by Kyle Simpson

Ant Farm: And Other Desperate Situations by Simon Rich

Free-Range Chickens by Simon Rich

Elliot Allagash by Simon Rich

Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday

You are a Writer by Jeff Goins

Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual by Michael Pollan

Hard Thing About Hard Things by By: Ben Horowitz

But What If We’re Wrong?: Thinking About the Present As If It Were the Past by Chuck Klosterman

The Choose Yourself Guide to Wealth by James Altucher

The Total Money Makeover: Classic Edition: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness by Dave Ramsey

Flash Boys by Michael Lewis

The Serious Guide to Joke Writing by Sally Holloway

What in God’s Name: A Novel by Simon Rich

The DC Comics Guide to Digitally Drawing Comics by Freddie E Ii Williams, Brian Bolland

The DC Comics Guide to Pencilling Comics by Klaus Janson

The DC Comics Guide to Creating Comics: Inside the Art of Visual Storytelling by Carl Potts, Jim Lee

How to Write Funny by Scott Dikkers

Show and Tell: How Everybody Can Make Extraordinary Presentations by Dan Roam

Shut Your Monkey: How to Control Your Inner Critic and Get More Done by Danny Gregory

The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande

Sick in the Head: Conversations About Life and Comedy by Judd Apatow

Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers by Timothy Ferriss, Arnold Schwarzenegger

Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder (Incerto) by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

We Learn Nothing: Essays and Cartoons by Tim Kreider

  1. It wasn’t exactly a book each week. Varying lengths made it so some took around 3 days and others were a couple weeks. Also, I would have 2 or 3 going at a time. Ideally that was one non-fiction and one fiction book. In reality though, it was pretty much two pop-psychology books at a time. ↩︎
  2. They’re likely to be displayed cover-out in airport bookstores. I love reading these books the same way I love reading productivity blogs. It feels like I’m accomplishing something just by reading. In 2017, I’m going to be more proactive about actually applying ideas from what I read. ↩︎
  3. People seem to frequently recommend novels for audiobooks. That’s how I was first introduced to them. Actually it was my coworker in 2008 recommending books on CDs. I never gave it a shot. ↩︎

Writing in 2016 and looking toward 2017

“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” — Stephen King in On Writing

In 2016, I followed this advice. I wrote a lot1. I read a lot2. He’s right, my writing improved. I’m horribly aware that I’m still not a good writer. I’m becoming disciplined, though. I can sit down and write. It’s like getting to the battle in the first place. Good enough for Joaquin, good enough for me.

Here’s a recap of my writing in 2016, month to month.

January: I had a mailing list for design sprints and sent out a couple newsletters. I was inspired by Julie Zhuo’s Write in 2016. The first one captures why I wanted to write so much this year. I already wrote regularly—and privately. My goal was to publish in 2016.

The second had links to things organized under headings reflecting the design sprint process.

I stopped because my days are filled with design and I didn’t want to try filling every nook of free time with it either. It also took forever to edit, knowing that I wouldn’t be able to edit after sending to subscribers. Unsurprisingly, in re-reading these newsletter issues I’ve found they’re better than most of the stuff that I’ve written lately. Likely because they’re more focused and I spent more time editing.

February, March, April: I was writing things here and there. Mostly I tinkered with a web app that cycles through my book highlights on an interval timer and lets me free write thoughts about that highlight. A lot of time went into this so it might be worth revisiting. Or at least sharing screenshots. It was a good way to get into a flow state but probably not worth the sheer number of hours3 I was spending here when I could’ve got 80% of the effectiveness with separate tools.

May: I started my goal to write 100 posts in 100 days. Then I went to Japan for two weeks and didn’t post. It was like spotting The Resistance a couple touchdowns. Traveling to Japan gave me plenty to write abou—like getting to see the Ricochet vs. Will Ospreay match.

June: I tried out different writing systems and learning what worked for me. I tried timing things, using different text editors, different pens and notebooks, and whatever other tools were out there. Just about every week I decided I found the absolute best method possible and the search could end.

July: The dust settled on my system and I was mostly writing in Google Docs and converting them to Markdown for a Jekyll blog. (The end result can still be seen if you hit index.html directly.) I outlined some posts and actually actually went through editing and revision for some posts.

August: My deadline for 100 days was in August. Over the course of the previous two months, there were a bunch of unfinished drafts. I also had posts I wanted to close out with that seemed important in my mind. I mostly just finished the unfinished drafts. Then I never got around to the ‘important’ posts.

I finished the 100 posts and haven’t stopped patting myself on the back for it. Individually, none of the posts are any good. Collectively, well it’s not good either. Still, I’m proud of it.

September: I took a few weeks off posting, then I tried daily posts for a few days. Some just had a few pictures. And it wasn’t like it was a profound image or anything. (This Mise En Place post was okay though.) Oh yeah, and I moved things from Jekyll to WordPress, here’s why.

October: Make, Show, Learn. I bought an iPad and started drawing. I started writing weekly posts to track my learning progress with the idea that I’d also do a weekly video. I got away from that. I’m not exactly sure why and I’ll re-evaluate soon. Making short videos still seems very much worth putting effort toward.

November: More weekly posts and I think I had some good things going here. Particularly the Michael Jordan to Gucci Mane sequence. These posts were taking multiple hours to put together. Though I think they were the most fun I was having with my writing this year. And fun is something I should prioritize heavily considering this is a side project that I want to be sustainable.

December: Continued with weekly posts but I also broke topics into standalone posts. This let me create single posts from book notes instead of having them as sections in the weekly post. For example, here’s one for Tools of Titans.

I like where I’ve landed in December and I’m going to continue with this in 2017. I haven’t shared my work beyond like a dozen close friends, so my entire readership is 3-4 of them.

2016 was a year of finishing and posting my writing. 2017 will be my year of sharing more effectively4. I’ll have to learn some promotion. But I’ll also keep doing what’s been working: reading a lot and writing a lot.

  1. Compared to previous versions of myself, not compared to Stephen King. He likely deleted more words this morning than I wrote this year. ↩︎
  2. Again, compared to previous versions of myself. Some people read a book a day. ↩︎
  3. Probably a few dozen hours. I wouldn’t say they were wasted though. I was trying to learn a JavaScript framework so, I mean, it was good for learning. ↩︎
  4. I’m going to re-read Show Your Work in search of sharing ideas. ↩︎

No idea? Unimportant idea? Obvious idea? Write anyway

Tim Ferriss says one of the best things about building his podcasting platform is that it allows him to meet and talk interesting people. (Joe Rogan says the same.) They’re top performers in their respective fields, but many guests write in some form. Ferriss often digs into their approaches to writing. Here’s some advice in Kevin Kelly’s chapter:

Write to Get Ideas, Not to Express Them “What I discovered, which is what many writers discover, is that I write in order to think. I’d say, ‘I think I have an idea,’ but when I begin to write it, I realize, ‘I have no idea,’ and I don’t actually know what I think until I try and write it. . . . That was the revelation.”

(Check out Kelly’s 1000 True Fans.)

I’ve seen this principle in other fields—in design you sketch to generate ideas. Design sprints have activities like crazy 8s1. There are always people who think they’ll have nothing to draw. No way they’ll have 8 things. Sure enough, the timer starts and ideas come out.

Sometimes it doesn’t seem as clear that writing anything is one of the best ways to generate ideas for writing.

Write even if you have something unimportant to say. On 10 Minute Writer’s Workshop, Tom Gauld is asked “What’s the worst advice?” He was quick to answer:

“There was a British playwright who said ‘Never write unless you have something important to say.’ Which I just thought maybe if you’re really a confident person full of opinions that’s a great piece of advice. But I think most writers are constantly worried that what they have to say isn’t worthwhile. And I think you just have to try saying it and hopefully something will come together.”

Sometimes you’ll find something important to say after writing a couple pages of unimportant things. Other times something unimportant to you is really important to other people. Derek Sivers wrote about this in Obvious to You, Amazing to Others:

But I continue to do my work. I tell my little tales. I share my point of view. Nothing spectacular. Just my ordinary thoughts.

One day someone emailed me and said, “I never would have thought of that. How did you even come up with that? It’s genius!”

(Check out my other post about that Sivers link.)

This blog wouldn’t exist2 if I only wrote when I have something important to say. One day I hope people find something amazing in it.

  1. Fold a piece of paper a couple times and then once the other way and you’ll have eight boxes. Set an interval timer for one minute and draw a different idea in each box. ↩︎
  2. Bringing up the eternal question: does this blog exist if it has no readers? ↩︎

My favorite books in 2016

I hit my goal of reading one book every week in  2016. I’m writing a post about the good and bad things about doing that. I wrote about my progress 6 months in and 9 months in.

Here are ten of my favorite books this year. Here’s the rough criteria:

  • Which books do I want to re-read?
  • Which books did I follow through on with my actions?
  • Which books did I enjoy reading the most at the time?

Finally, you know what they say: don’t judge a book by a blogger’s poor drawing of the author.

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World
by Cal Newport

I started the year reading this book. It got me thinking about the importance of blocking time. It also set me off into being a lot more conscious about how I use social media, how I deal with boredom, and thinking about focus as something to practice.

All of that led to action this year. I took breaks from social media and social news. I started meditating and will continue practicing that next year.

Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt
by Michael Lewis — (My notes)

I picked up Flash Boys because I listened to a Malcolm Gladwell podcast and he said he admires Michael Lewis as a storyteller. Looking at my full list, the books I enjoyed most were the ones that weren’t business/self-development related.

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance
by Angela Duckworth — (my notes)

I listened to Grit 3 or 4 times and it’s reminded me how beneficial the practicing difficult things is.

Spoiled Brats: Stories
by Simon Rich

I spent a few weeks reading every book Simon Rich has published. I heard him as a guest on James Altucher’s podcast and checked out some of his stories in The New Yorker. I laughed out loud regularly while reading Rich’s work. I’d love to have that ability someday.

A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms
by George R. R. Martin

During a Game of Thrones season, it’s so easy to eat, breathe, and sleep theories. Dunk and Egg are referenced often so I thought it’d be good to actually read the book with their story. Can’t recommend it enough. Particularly if you want a taste of George R. R. Martin’s writing but don’t want to commit to reading the main series.

Sick in the Head: Conversations  About Life and Comedy
by Judd Apatow

I bought this thinking it’d be something I read in short chunks over the next year. Instead I’ve been setting aside hours at a time to read it. It’s a collection of interviews by Judd Apatow. The fascinating thing is that the interviews range from recent ones to all the way back to when Apatow was in high school. We know how these people turned out. It’s great to see them talk about their dreams before they happen.

But What if We’re Wrong: Thinking About the Present As If It Were the Past
by Chuck Klosterman — (my notes)

Westworld started a few weeks after I finished reading But What if We’re Wrong. So I basically haven’t stopped thinking about simulation theory. Add in a percentage of Joe Rogan podcast discussing how our brains work and I don’t know what to believe anymore. Our minds are powerful. That’s just a few pages of the book and the rest is just as good.

How To Write Funny: Your Serious, Step-By-Step Blueprint For Creating Incredibly, Irresistibly, Successfully Hilarious Writing
by Scott Dikkers — (my notes)

I read a few different how-to comedy books this year. This was the most recent that I read but I also think it was the most relevant to what I want to do. All the books have the same conclusion: writing jokes is hard work. Next year I’ll really sit down and try applying the methods from the books.

(I also really enjoyed Comedy Writing for Late-Night TV. When I was growing up, my dad used to watch Jay Leno every morning taped from the night before.)

Ego is the Enemy
by Ryan Holiday — (my notes)

The Obstacle is the Way really helped me a couple years ago. I was stumbling while trying to reach some career goals. It helped me look at setbacks as challenges to learn from. Ego is the Enemy has been helpful for my current stage of career goals.

Anything You Want
by Derek Sivers — (my notes)

I admire Derek’s views on work, business, and happiness. When picking people whose footsteps I’d like to follow, he’s near the top of the list.

My book notes make up the majority of things I write for this blog. It’s almost entirely inspired by Derek’s book notes.

The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance
by Steven Kotler

Flow means things are going right—adrenaline means something has gone wrong. This book is about action sports athletes and flow. First, action sports make for good stories. I don’t have aspirations to be one of those athletes, but it’s been valuable knowing how to reach flow and understanding how it can improve work in all fields.

Honorable mentions

  • I finished Save the Cat, which I put on hold for probably a year. It really made me think about structure in any writing and how systems and formulas fit into anything creative.
  • I started being a less dumb with money this year and some credit goes to Happy Money. It explains the best tactics to spending money with a focus on increasing happiness.
  • Smarter Better Faster got me to really set high level and low level goals. It’s not the first book to talk about it but it resonated this time around and now am quick to remind myself to review a high level goal when I’m stuck during a low level goal.
  • 10% Happier is the best audiobook I’ve listened to. It got me to try meditating and it’s one of the things I’ll really focus on next year.
  • I’m finishing up Tools of Titans. It’ll probably be at the top of next year’s list.

Make, Show, Learn Issue 10

I’m at The Met right now1. I thought it’d be good to try a change of environment. On Saturday, I spent most of the day at home. It was snowing outside but I wasn’t snowed in or anything. I spent a few hours writing about the tools I’ve started using from Tools of Titans.

Friday night, I tinkered with the site2. I added feature images to the front page along with book covers for some of the book notes posts.

I probably should’ve done that a while ago. I also added a mailing list signup so feel free to be my first subscriber.

What will I send out to the mailing list? It won’t be every single post. I need to build up the courage to post those to Twitter.

When I was posting daily, I could always rely on two weekly posts to add shorter things to: Friday links posts and the Sunday journal.

These weekly issues are basically the Sunday journal. And I can definitely find five links to write about each week. The mailing list should capture new things I added to the site for the week.

Ten thousand, one thousand, but first, ten. Here are three links I’ve linked to before). They’re top of mind again after seeing two of them referenced in Tools of Titans.

First, Ten — Seth Godin

1,000 true fans — Kevin Kelly

The ten thousand reader rule — Shawn Coyne

All of them talk about audience sizes to aim for. They work together. You won’t reach 1,000 or 10,000 people without finding 10 willing to share. When you reach 10,000 people reading for free, not all of them will be willing to pay. When you can find 1,000 people willing to pay for anything you make, you can quit your day job.

But for me — first, one.

Oh yeah, I’m at the Met
I brought my iPad to draw some things. My drawing has been aimless the past few weeks so I started reading Keys to Drawing again. I’m still practicing sizing things properly. It’s something I can at least evaluate on my own by comparing to a photo.

I was drawing some of the statues in the American wing. I realized if I’m practicing sizing, the shapes can be pretty simple.

I looked up and noticed the left-most statue was way too short.

I’m still having a hard time drawing what I see. Adding on to fix that.


I tried drawing Cleopatra.

Well, a statue of Cleopatra.

I was a little self conscious drawing on an iPad in public. Then I realized I probably would’ve been self conscious with a sketch book too.

Then I remembered the eternal words of Don Draper:

“I don’t think about you at all.”

And I remembered the tourists aren’t thinking about what I’m doing at all. So many things are insignificant. It can be sad or it can be freeing. It’s up to you. Jerry Seinfeld has some tips for dealing with that.

Some other drawings
I’m writing a post going over my ten favorite books from the year and am trying to draw each author. Some have come out better than others.

That’s all for this week. One Sunday post left for this year! I’ll also try to finish a couple more Tools of Titans posts and the top-10 books post I mentioned above.

If I really push, I’ll finish a post about reading 52 books in 2016. It wasn’t as hard as I expected. Most people could do it by changing time spent reading whatever feeds or social news sites into time reading books. It also wasn’t as valuable as I expected. A lot of books weren’t great and I finished some for the sake of finishing them. I’d rather spend more time picking 26 books and digesting them properly.

  1. Well, I at least started writing this there. But I’m finishing it at home instead of in front of sculptures. ↩︎
  2. Maybe I shouldn’t mention I spent Friday night staring at a screen to wind down after a week of work staring at a screen. ↩︎

Tools I’m using

Note: I’m writing a few posts about Tools of Titans. Check out the rest.

I finally finished Tools of Titans after a couple weeks. It’s a quick 700 pages if there ever was such a thing. If you like Tim Ferriss’s podcast you’ll like the book. Each chapter is a summary of wisdom from his podcast guests. Ferriss took about an hour of content from each guest and distilled the conversation into 2-4 pages of actionable material.

A complaint I see often about nonfiction books—specifically business or self-development—is that they take 20 pages of actionable here’s-what-you-do content and then stretch it out with 180 pages of anecdotes1. Tools of Titans is the opposite. It’s packed with here’s-what-you-do and has some shorter anecdotes. Longer stories remain in the hundreds of hours of podcasts.

By the end of it, I had over 200 highlights. I reviewed my highlights2 and starred my favorites and got it down to 23 highlights.

For older book notes post, I used to pick five highlights and write a blurb about each. I was always worried about over-excerpting. And 23 would be way too many excerpts for a single post.

More recently I’ve picked three highlights and written separate posts for each. I can go a little deeper on individual ideas.

Tools of Titans has so much I want to share. I’ll try both approaches. I’m working on 3 individual posts around single quotes. This post will be the collection of shorter blurbs. Here are a few ideas from the book that I’ve started using in the past couple weeks.

If you’re replaying some bullshit in your head and notice it, just say, “Thinking, thinking” to yourself and return to your focus.

Done consistently, my reward for meditating is getting 30% to 50% more done in a day with 50% less stress. Why? Because I have already done a warmup in recovering from distraction: my morning sit.

Picking meditation back up: Adding some more percentages, the first time I practiced meditation with any ounce of seriousness was after listening to 10% Happier by Dan Harris.

Eventually I got a headspace account and got a decent streak going. But one skipped day here and there turned to three skipped days.

Tools of Titans has recommendations of all kinds. Enough people in the book meditate (78 results in the book for ‘meditation’) that it’s lifted into power tool status among the rest of the toolbox.

I’ve begun meditating daily again. This time I’ll have a few more tips that I can put in place to help it stick.

Kelly elaborates on the rationale of zero drop: “Don’t systematically shorten your kids’ heel cords (Achilles) with bad shoes. It results in crappy ankle range of motion in the future. Get your kids Vans, Chuck Taylors, or similar shoes. Have them in flat shoes or barefoot as much as possible.”

Wearing my Vans again: While meditation is like a forklift in being a power tool, some recommendations are more like Command hooks. Advice as simple as “wear these”.

The forklift takes practice, but I can grab the Vans from my closet and put them on today. You’ll likely find a lot of small things from the book that you can apply immediately.

Wim takes cold to terrifying extremes (his retinas froze once while swimming in a lake under sheets of ice), but you can start with a cold water “finish” to showers. Simply make the last 30 to 60 seconds of your shower pure cold. Among others in this book, Naval Ravikant ( page 546 ), Joshua Waitzkin ( page 577 ), and I now do this.

Finishing showers cold: At the end of showers I’ve started finishing with cold water for about a minute. I’ve started looking forward to it. In the morning, it wakes me up. At night, it signals that it’s time to wind down. If anything, it makes the minutes getting dressed afterward pleasant because everything feels so freaking warm in comparison.

One frequent pattern is listening to a single track or album on repeat, which can act as an external mantra for aiding focus and present-state awareness.

Tools of Titans has a lot of internal links. It’s easy to jump back and forth in the Kindle version. If someone else does something similar, there’s a link to that other person’s chapter. If the pattern is prevalent enough—like meditation—it gets its own standalone chapter. These chapters were among my favorite.

I’ve listened to a single track on repeat while working in the past. So I started doing it again lately and went back to the same song I used to use: Weezer’s “Only in Dreams”. Which apparently is one the band’s most hated songs.

The A.V. Club’s Kevin McFarland wrote about this along with an excellent description of the song itself:

Restarting from the initial crawling pace at the song’s beginning, the sound builds, and relentlessly keeps building—the band slowly but surely moving up a mountain toward the summit. First the guitar strumming picks up, then Sharp’s bass shifts into double-time, and then Wilson’s ride strikes on every beat. Two guitar lines emerge, pushing and pulling off each other, both awash in distortion, rising louder, the tension drawing out seemingly forever, until finally Wilson slams his loudest five snare hits, and the greatest Weezer guitar solo emerges, an avalanche anchored by the ever-present bass line

It’s perfect for working to.

Even if you consider yourself a terrible writer, writing can be viewed as a tool . There are huge benefits to writing, even if no one—yourself included—ever reads what you write. In other words, the process matters more than the product.

Continuing with morning pages: I actually started again after reading How to Write Funny a few weeks ago. Tools of Titans mentions morning pages a few times. Morning pages have helped me get there.

My current ideal solo morning is a workout followed by morning pages. Something from The Miracle of Morning Pages (my notes) is the importance of stopping after filling three pages. Anything over is indulging.

The key is being disciplined in that hard stop. It means it’s time to get more focused. My hard stop is 25 minutes. I start a text file on Monday each week and write in it freely.

I review the pages for ideas to write about. This goes against the original Morning Pages guidelines—best that they’re not read by anyone, including yourself. However, it’s been working well for me in trying to write 2-3 posts each week.

If I sleep poorly and have an early morning meeting, I’ll cancel the meeting last-minute if needed and catch up on sleep. If I’ve missed a workout and have a conference call coming up in 30 minutes? Same. Late-night birthday party with a close friend? Not unless I can sleep in the next morning.

Working toward prioritizing health: Ferriss really captured what it means to prioritize something. Health in my head has been a top priority but my actions haven’t reflected that. Instead of exercising, I was more likely to write, read, or stay in bed.

Since started this book, I’ve been more consistent with morning workouts. In the next year I’ll remind myself to take a look and see if my actions are reflecting the priorities I set in my head. Health will be near the top.

Tools of Titans is a perfect book to end the year with. in preparing and planning out next year.

I think 2017 will be amazing. 2017 will be amazing.

2017 will be amazing. 2017 will be amazing. 2017 will be amazing. 2017 will be amazing. 2017 will be amazing. 2017 will be amazing. 2017 will be amazing. 2017 will be amazing. 2017 will be amazing. 2017 will be amazing.

(Another tool in the book: affirmations, baby! Though the titans would probably advise that I be a bit more specific.)

  1. I don’t share this complaint mostly because stories provide so much value. They’re entertaining and are really what make lessons stick. This is why you need to learn things firsthand sometimes. You don’t think that problem you had hasn’t been written about? Of course it has, and there’s probably good information for preventing it in the first place. But you wouldn’t have paid attention anyway because you needed a more powerful story, your own failure, to align it to. I just watched Arrival and there’s a part where she’s trying to explain her point and then just ends up telling a proverb and the military guy is like “ohhhhhh”. ↩︎
  2. I highlight pretty liberally. This is a rare time that I went back through all my highlights from a single book and reviewed them. I really need to do it more often to digest things. I did it during one session on a stationary bike. Now that’s… a valuable exercise! ↩︎

Star gazing

In Tools of Titans, a couple of Tim Ferriss’s guests mention the benefits of looking at the sky once in a while. I liked BJ Miller’s description:

“Then you start looking at the stars, and you realize that the light hitting your eye is ancient, [some of the] stars that you’re seeing, they no longer exist by the time that the light gets to you. Just mulling the bare-naked facts of the cosmos is enough to  thrill me, awe me, freak me out, and kind of put all my neurotic anxieties in their proper place.

Ferriss himself says “star therapy” is part of his nightly routine.

In Sick in the Head, Judd Apatow has his collection of interviews with comedians—titans in their own right. Apatow talks to Seinfeld about feeling irrelevant compared to everything else going on in the world. Apatow asks how he gets over feeling like a drop in the ocean. Seinfeld embraces it:

You look at some pictures from the Hubble Telescope and you snap out of it. I used to keep pictures of the Hubble on the wall of the writing room at Seinfeld. It would calm me when I would start to think that what I was doing was important.

What situations and decisions seemed very serious in the past ten years? A lot. College finals seem magnitudes more important than they actually ended up being.

Years later, how many of these situations had repercussions matching the perceived weight at the time? A few. A few end up laughable in hindsight. There’s value in striving for excellence daily, but not to the point of anxiety.

Too many moments in too many days seem overwhelming. They’ll be forgotten in a few weeks, not to mention months or years. Just completely forgotten. You can’t get upended by everything. There’s value in recognizing a thought and letting go if worrying won’t help—in most cases it won’t. You can practice that.

That practice can start by looking at the stars.


Make, Show, Learn Issue 9

The year is coming to a close. If I stick to posting issues on Sundays, there are 3 left: December 11th, 18th, and 25th.

I want to do some annual recap posts. Those can be long and should be written in parts. So I’m trying something this week. Every day I’ve been trying to do morning pages. I just keep everything in one file and add to it every morning for at least 25 minutes. Right after getting to the gym.

It’s because I read about morning pages again in How to Write Funny (check out my book notes). Everyone has slightly different takes on morning pages. I’ve started writing them with some idea that I’ll review them in the future for ideas.

Sundays are my time to review the morning pages from the week to figure out what I’ll take through to rewrite, revise, and post in the following week. I’m supposed to pick two topics.

I’m writing this on Thursday, so I have a few days of morning pages. It currently says 3038 words.

Here are some things I wrote about:

  • Cheesesteaks (I was in Philadelphia last week)
  • Flow (Still in mind because I read Rise of Superman a few weeks ago)
  • Tools of the Titans by Tim Ferriss
  • Healthy, wealthy, and wise (a life audit)
  • Sick in the Head by Judd Apatow and how it’s sort of been like tools of the titans of comedy
  • There are a few topics to write about from Sick in the Head: Make it shorter, make it funnier; Jon Stewart; Different time periods; Jerry Seinfeld and insignificance
  • As long as you get 7 hours of sleep
  • 10 favorite books of 2016
  • Reviewing morning pages
  • Mental diet part 2
  • Do I have the discipline to write about one or two things each week?

If I follow my plan, I’ll grab a couple of these topics to turn into full posts. Some of the morning pages sections are longer than the others. I’ve really been diving into Sick in the Head. I thought I’d buy it and just open it up over the next few months and read an interview here and an interview there. But I can’t put it down.

So I should write some book notes for it. Particularly a Jerry Seinfeld excerpt where he talks about looking at photos taken but the Hubble telescope to remind himself how unimportant he is. We’re drops in the bucket.

I should also post something I wrote sort of as a letter to myself. If I get 7 hours of sleep then I should go to the gym first thing in the morning. This post explains why.

I should keep the 10 favorite books of 2016 in mind for a couple weeks from now. I’d like to close out with a recap of all he books I read in 2016.

I’m gonna go ahead and drop some cheesesteak photos here instead of separating it into a different post.

Here are some progress shots from my drawings this week.

Shannon Briggs drawing. This was for my post about the importance of our mental diet.

Tim Ferriss drawing. This is for Tools of Titans. I’ve drawn Tim Ferriss before so it was good to see my progress.

I’m not improving as quickly as I’d like. I need to get back to reading Keys to Drawing. I also just need to draw more. I’ve been setting time aside to write. I need to do the same for drawing.

Arnold Schwarzenegger drawing. This is also for Tools of the Titans. My drawing seems to have skipped leg day.

Lion drawings.

I wanted to draw something to represent the low roar of the city in describing walking around with Bose QC35s. I wrote a review after a couple weeks of use.

The second diet

Meta description for when I add this feature to my site—Podcast note: Shannon Briggs on the Joe Rogan podcast

Shannon Briggs was on the Joe Rogan podcast, and they discuss two diets in part of the episode. Briggs is a boxer and Rogan trains in MMA, so it’s very clear to them that what you put in your body is fuel. Briggs talks spending $100 to $200 each day at Whole Foods to feed himself and his family.

On the other end, they discuss the importance of monitoring what goes into your mind. If it’s all bad news, violence, and negativity then there can’t be good effects from that.

Mental diet is important—making good choices about what you read, what you listen to, and what you watch.

This blog acts as a bit of the best things from my mental diet. Hopefully I’m sharing meals that taste good and are good for you. Of course, it’s a highlight reel. I read and listen to a lot of stuff that isn’t as good.

A lot of it isn’t varied enough. I started stepping out of the echo chamber of tech startup, design think piece, growth hacker, productivity type of things.

Books take up a lot of the time when I’m reading. I read a book a week this year. Some were great but I was alarmed by how many weren’t memorable at all.

Podcasts take up a lot of my listening time. I’m still in that echo chamber most of the time, but Joe Rogan’s guests vary a lot in their backgrounds. What’s shared is that they’re interesting.

Shorter things, including articles and videos, come through social media and social news sites. It’d be great to somehow compare time spent reading articles and time spent reading books and the value I get out of each. I can’t make a quick guess of which ones lead to me actually changing in positive ways.

Maybe it’s more important to think holistically. As long as I keep a steady stream of good things coming in over the long haul, I’ll be in good shape. Next year, I want to be deliberate about what goes into my mental diet. I’ll be sure to share the good stuff.

Make, Show, Learn Issue 8

I’m writing directly in the WordPress editor again. Right now I have a few stray ideas in iA Writer along with a few stray drawings. I’m missing any sense of the bigger picture, though. So I’m trying to lay that out in WordPress.

In the past few weeks I’ve considered abandoning the weekly format.

I eventually want to write longer pieces that are about one topic. My approach was writing long posts made up of disparate topics. That’s what these posts have been. Then I’d slowly learn to weave things together until I really was writing about one topic each week. That doesn’t seem to be working.

Instead, it might be better to go the other way. Return to shorter posts focused on single topics. If I can’t get good at that then I won’t ever be good at writing a good section of a bigger piece.

Publishing every day earlier this year nearly burned me out. It reminds me of something I read in Judd Apatow’s Sick in the Head:

“This idea that your generation has about ‘you have to burn your material and start fresh every time’—it’s just so self-important. Not everybody’s watching everything you do, you know.” — Jerry Seinfeld to Amy Schumer to Judd Apatow

The difference between 75 posts and 100 posts isn’t actually much. Nobody is going to read everything. Even if they’re following closely, it’s the difference between writing 3 posts every 4 days and writing 4 posts every 4 days.

Nobody will be upset by the off day, especially if each post is of higher quality.

Even the difference between 50 and 100 isn’t much.

Here’s what I like about posting weekly:

  • I can handle once-a-week. Even if I’m busy during the week I know I’ll be able to pull something together and have a post ready on Sunday.
  • Nice mile markers. Even now, I enjoy going week by week and seeing how things are evolving. My drawing is improving. (My writing less so.) I have a good sense of how long a week is. It’s just nice to think in weeks.

Here’s what I don’t like about weekly posts:

  • I stopped creating book notes posts. Instead, potential book notes posts are sections in each of the weekly posts.
  • They’re too long. Even when actively trying to make them shorter, they just end up long. There are too many thoughts that the posts just come off a little scattered. Each post lacks focus. The long length also turns me off to editing at all.
  • I’m forgetting what’s in each post. When I had 4 issues, I knew what drawing was where. Now that I need two hands to count, I’m losing track of where that Gucci Mane drawing was.
  • It’s hard to share. It’s hard to do the ‘show’ part of Make, Show, Learn. Hard might be the wrong word. It’s still just a share button away. I’d love to be able to link directly to my thoughts on DHH and his appearance on the Tim Ferriss Show. I can do that with anchor tags to jump to the middle of the page, but it doesn’t feel quite right.

Here are some scattered ideas for what I can do moving forward:

  • Continue writing a weekly post. Blogging about blogging. If you’re not interested in that, you can skip it. The good thing is it gives me a dumping ground for any meta discussion. Without that, I tend to litter my other writing with those thoughts. The weekly post can be one giant footnote.
  • In the same weekly post, write about drawing. Weekly posts are nice mile markers. I can compile all the scraps and sketches and progress shots for any illustrations.
  • Write book notes posts each week. I already do the time-consuming part by reading the book. I even highlight a lot. It’s worth taking one extra step to really finish the book. I’ll go through the highlights, dedicate space to thinking about what I learned, and distill knowledge to share with others.
  • Write a podcast show note each week. I’m always listening to things, so I may as well share the good stuff.

I followed it a little bit this week.  I finished 3 book note posts for How to Write Funny. Focusing on one idea at a time was really nice. I don’t get so tempted to jump from section to section. And I can truly put the book away mentally.

I like it a lot for writing. Now I just need to get back to drawing.


Bose QuietComfort 35 Impressions

For the last couple weeks, I’ve been using Bose QuietComfort 35 wireless headphones (thanks to my girlfriend!). Here are some early impressions. Summary: I only wish I had them sooner.

Some background: I’m not an audiophile. Possibly the opposite. I have no interest in accurate sound. I must be in some lower percentile of amount of music I listen to. And that’s almost always through speakers.

I mostly listen to podcasts and various tracks from apps claiming it will help me focus.

I’ll start by describing different situations I’ve used the headphones. I’m hoping you can find one that relates to you.

While walking around my neighborhood: I noticed I could listen to podcasts at a much lower volume. Then I went to cross the street and noticed that I didn’t really look both ways as actively as I usually do. Mostly because it will nearly always sound like approaching cars are far away or silent. From now on, going one-ear out when walking.

Walking around the city: I tried them out walking through soho on a rainy night. I’ve seen cocoon used frequently in other reviews for the headphones, and now I understand. They quiet the city and make me realize how loud the city is in the first place.

I pulled them off to hear outside for a few seconds, then put them on. It’s basically the in-store test, except in the wild. I’m guessing any new owner does this a couple dozen times each week. The city has a low roar.

The QC35s are built to silence those kinds of constant hums and whirs. Voices and sirens are quieted. Union Square at rush hour sounds like a side street. Everything seems just a little more calm.

In the office: My past experience was with some Audio Technica headphones. I only tried those in an office. I stopped using them when I realized they basically become tiny speakers for my coworkers to hear. No complaints so far with the QC35s.

While working out aka officially becoming that guy: I always thought it looked funny when people wore over-the-ear headphones at the gym. It still does. I’m just one of them now. There was initial shame but now I just feel a little dumb for being so judge-y. The gym is one place where you should feel comfortable doing just about whatever.

While at home: Completely silences the air conditioner. So that I can replace it with artificial air conditioner noise tracks. That’s what focus sounds like.

Battery life is good: Never been in a situation where I was running low on battery. And they leave the port exposed. This will sound stupid but maybe half the time with the cheap headphones I didn’t bother charging them because of an annoying rubber flap I needed my nails to open up.

I imagine someday it’ll bite me and I’ll be out and about without a charge, but day to day my phone will die way before the headphones do. And I rarely have issues with my phone’s battery life as it is.
The Game Gear’d version of myself would be so happy to hear about the future state of batteries.

Pairing works well: The QC35s pair quickly, have a hardware switch, and can connect to two devices at once. Now that I have a great pair, I’m realizing how bad my previous bluetooth headphones were.

There have been a few hiccups when paired to my laptop. Mostly because I leave stuff playing on my laptop sometimes and I need to walk over to pause it so my phone can take priority on the headphones.
I still see value in the ease of use the Apple/Beats W1 chip headphones will have. But I wouldn’t say it bugs me that I don’t have that.

Otherwise, I’ve quickly gotten used to the pairing process. I can do it and get out the door without much thought.

The microphone is an added bonus. I didn’t know the QC35s had a microphone at all. I’ve done quite a bit of testing with dictating through my iPad and iPhone’s keyboard and Google Docs on my laptop. Both work really well.

Being free of wires here is great. I have a Blue Snowball that I like but always feel like I need to get pretty close to it for accurate dictation. I also had a headset with a mic, but the cable gets in the way sometimes.

I also enjoy the obnoxious image of taping around my apartment pondering my great ideas as I speak freely.

Taking calls: I FaceTimed with a friend while I was sitting on a bench at The High Line. Then I put my friend’s face in my pocket and walked through the city. We continued with a clear conversation. I’m never confident in mics that aren’t sticks in front of my mouth. The QC35s seem to do the trick.

They’re wireless: Duh, but I do want to talk about it. I started using generic $16-ish Bluetooth earbuds a few months ago. That gave me a taste of what the wireless life would be like.

Then there were all the bad things. Battery life was a couple hours, I’d forget to charge them, pairing was a mess.

The QC35s solve all of that and let me stand up and walk away from my desk with…

Do I do it?

… no strings attached.

Well don’t stop now.

You can…

Go for it.
…kiss those wires…

Now. NOW

…bye, bye, bye.

Funnier morning pages

Like other creative pursuits, writing a few good jokes starts with writing a bunch of bad jokes. Dikkers lays out a few exercises for generating ideas.

The first exercise is the Morning Pages: Write for a half hour
every day, without stopping, no matter what you’re writing—and no matter how bad you think it is.

I’ve tried Morning Pages in the past in many forms. I tried, doing it longhand the prescribed way, and just typing freely.

Dikkers suggests looking back and reading old morning pages to see if any ideas are still good. This goes against the prescribed method, which would have you burn the pages before re-reading them. The point being that you’ll be deeply honest in the pages knowing nobody will read them—even yourself.

If the goal is to write jokes, you should be honest while actively thinking about what’s amusing in all these things.

I’m writing this first draft on a bus right now. Everyone looks the same. Five people in dark down jackets looking at their phones. What’s amusing about this? What would people be doing fifty years ago? What would an alien think of this? How can I exaggerate this completely?

It reminds me of Infinite Jest in how I find myself truly staring at a phone for an hour at a time, stuck on my couch. Just scrolling and reading news mindlessly.

The only funny thing right now is probably how hard you might be rolling your eyes because I just referenced something in Infinite Jest.

I’ll keep reading so I can learn how to take ideas from the walls of text that Morning Pages generate.

Something about how walls in Magic: The Gathering are the most boring cards. I haven’t seen walls this boring since I played Magic! Okay that’s a bad one. The book never says it’s easy.

The Clown vs. The Editor

Scott Dikkers was an original founder of The Onion, which has made me laugh a lot through the years. I’ve read a few comedy books and it’s always better when I have an idea of what the author’s humor is like. I really enjoyed Dikkers’s book, How to Write Funny. Now I need to put the reading into practice. This probably won’t be funny.

Throughout the book, Dikkers refers to The Clown and The Editor. It’s great imagery for remembering the different hats to wear. Or horrible because The Clown really does just make me think of It.

In Clown mode, you churn out ideas without worrying about quality. Quantity is all that matters.

The Clown, being an irresponsible clown, hands this pile of scraps to The Editor and expects him to get to work. It’s better if the scraps have been sitting for a few days. Otherwise The Editor is aware that he’s actually me, except with much less face paint.

I put my Clown hat on this week and tried thinking about anything funny about creativity. Let me get some scraps down.

There’s something funny about wanting to get in flow but never acknowledging it or it’ll knock you out of flow. There’s something funny about all the people inspired by The War of Art who write blog posts (ahem) and books that are worse versions of The War of Art. OH. The War of Art is one letter away from The War of Fart.

The Editor starts every morning wondering if he should light the scraps on fire or use it as kindling to light himself on fire.

“This probably won’t be funny.” — Me, like 40 seconds ago.