Per Se

Compared to Brooklyn Fare: My other 3-star Michelin experience was at Brooklyn Fare. It’s sort of like comparing apples and oranges. But like very expensive apples and oranges you would gift in Japan. I mean, if you couldn’t compare apples and oranges then people wouldn’t have favorite fruits.

I really enjoyed both. Per Se had more traditional fare.

I always wanted to go to French Laundry. I was saving up to go in 2008 when I had an internship at IBM in San Jose. Then I just never went.

That means when I moved to New York, I always wanted to go to Per Se. I just never went. It was nice to get to Per Se. (My girlfriend took me for my birthday—no need for me to save up this time.)

Oysters and Pearls were amazing. Here are some pictures of that and some other dishes:

They close out with dessert. A lot of it.

It’s the best service I’ve had. One of the waitresses described their movement as “the Per Se dance”. The job seems to be some mixture of not being noticed most of the time and looking great when you are noticed.

It’s not stuffy in there at all. It’s great. They seem to understand it’s a special occasion for many people and help to make it feel special.

One of the best meals of my life.

Why didn't I start doing this sooner — HN

I was reading an HN thread about “why didn’t I start doing this sooner?” It seems like these were popular:

  • Meditation

  • Fitness

  • Nutrition

  • Sleep

I’ve been pretty good about the last three in the past (except meditation). Lately I’ve let each slip a little bit and I can feel it. My energy’s not where I want it to be.

Here are the steps I’m taking to get my mind and body back in shape. It’s not ideal trying to establish multiple habits at the same time. However, I’ve worked out consistently before, eaten clean before, and had good sleep hygiene before. It’ll be as simple as hopping back on three wagons at once.

Fitness: Compound weights in the morning. Otherwise, follow the couch to 5K program. 3 miles is pretty much the upper limit for the amount of cardio I’d want to do. Cardio makes me feel good in the euphoria sense. Weightlifting makes me feel accomplished. Running will be as much for the mental benefit ast it is the physical. (Weightlifting seems better for physical health. Aesthetics are probably 90% in the kitchen and 0% on Seamless.)

Nutrition: Speaking of. I’m going to eat and drink less. Again, I know what’s worked for me in the past. I know what to do here, I just need to execute.

Sleep: I’ll aim to work out in the morning. During the day, I’ll lower my caffeine intake. At night, I’ll swap screens for blue blockers earlier. Then spray or drink magnesium. And read fiction.

Then there’s a fourth wagon that’s currently a bunch of plywood right now. I’ll learn how to meditate. I’ll start with Headspace. I listened to 10% Happier last year, which got rid of my skepticism of meditation. Now it’s time to actually apply it.

Oh yeah, ‘writing regularly’ showed up in a few responses. Gladly I can say it’s something I currently do which I’ll continue.

Sunday Journal Issue 04

Monday — July 25: Set up posts for the week. Created docs with Jekyll headers. This is a step beyond the spreadsheet and will help me focus. It’s taking the first step for every post this week.


Sunday — July 31: Okay creating all the docs didn’t work as well as I thought. It ended up creating the situation before where I would get posts 90% of the way and not finish it. I think I end up wanting to jump to the next post because it’s ready to jump into.

It sounds stupid but creating the Jekyll headers makes for good start and end points. It’s more fun to start posts than to refine and finish them. If I’ve set up seven files ready to just blab into, it’s tempting to go ahead and do that before finishing things I’ve started.

I also just had a lot of very fun birthday events. Which I have no qualms about prioritizing over this writing project. In lieu, of actual posts1, here are some pictures from different celebrations. First, a birthday dinner at Per Se:

I’ll write a separate post about Per Se (spoiler: I loved it). It was a treat2 from my girlfriend. Our birthdays are a week apart so we had a joint celebration at Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club in Brooklyn:

It’s such a cool space. We played one pretty serious game of shuffleboard as people were trickling in. It’s a great game if you’ve got competitive friends. Then the friends came in, drink bracelets came on, and any serious competition goes out the door. Along with any notion of seriousness at all. Great time.

And not a celebration at all but I walked by this Suicide Squad takeover:

So well done.

The celebrations continue so this week might not be much better for sticking to the writing schedule. I feel good about making it to 100 posts in 100 days — it’ll just take a little bit of catching up after these next few days.

  1. If you’re going through the archive, there are posts dated this week but they were posted a few days after.

  2. ‘Treat’ being a severe understatement.

Friday Links Issue 07: Routines

The key isn’t the routines but having a routine at all. My theme this week seems to be looking at more routines. Mostly triggered by reading this post on time management at Khan Academy. From David Hu’s response1:

I start by journalling 1 page on: why, what, and how. I come up with 1 “wildly important goal” that I schedule my day around.

I’m pretty sure I met David in 2012. We happened to be eating next to each other at Work at a Startup. I remember realizing after the fact that I had read a few posts he wrote. The one that was probably fresh in memory was about his experiment in daily idea generation.

That reminds me of James Altucher’s concept of becoming an idea machine.

Take a waiter’s pad. Go to a local cafe. Maybe read an inspirational book for ten to twenty minutes. Then start writing down ideas. What ideas? Hold on a second. The key here is, write ten ideas.

I’ve tried this on and off. I always enjoy the results and will think about making it more of a point to do this regularly. The ten ideas can be about anything. And if I’m out of list ideas then I can write out a list of ten ideas for future lists. There’s always something.

David also encourages blogging, particularly for interns. He shares his mentor’s thoughts on the benefits of blogging:

raises the market value of interns

great practice for shipping work into the real world – blogs are mini products, and getting familiar with moving past the “it’s not ready to ship” inertia is invaluable”

possible that a community will spring up around the post – might be invited to speak at a conference as a result

Blogging has been good for me. It’s still early to see where this current blogging project will go, but in the past it’s definitely been helpful professionally. Lately I’ve been writing about books I read, so this last link is Paul Edwards’s guide on reading: How to Read a Book (PDF).

Edwards explains his approach to reading non-fiction while making sure to understand and retain the information.

Instead, when you’re reading for information, you should ALWAYS jump ahead, skip around, and use every available strategy to discover, then to understand, and finally to remember what the writer has to say. This is how you’ll get the most out of a book in the smallest amount of time.

I had a sneaking suspicion that reading one page at a time on my phone randomly throughout the day isn’t optimal. I’m going to try reading a book with these tips in mind. I’ll probably write some book notes and something tells me they’ll end up on this blog in some form.

  1. I met David in 2012. We happened to be eating next to each other and we shook hands at Work at a Startup. I remember realizing after the fact that I had read a few posts he wrote.

Stray book notes

I keep hearing about this approach to writing, though it’s slightly different from person to person:

  • Tweet: Ideas they’re thinking about writing about

  • Blog posts: The most popular tweets become blog posts

  • Book chapters: The most popular blog posts become book chapters

I’m not currently active on Twitter and I don’t have any plans to write a book. All I’ve got is these blog posts, baby!

I have a bunch of Kindle highlights. Some are from books where I plan to write full book notes posts. Others, not so much. And some are somewhere in between. I’m going to try writing short notes on a few different books.

It’s sort of like starting with other people’s tweets. If I finish writing about that excerpt and still feel like there’s more to say, then I might bump that book up my queue of full book notes to write.

  • Highlight: Someone else’s good idea that they already wrote about that I’m thinking about writing about

  • Blog post: The highlights I enjoy writing about most become full blog posts.

  • Book chapter: lol

Let’s see how this goes.

Here’s one from Creativity Inc.:

As Joe Ranft said at the time, “Better to have train wrecks with miniature trains than with real ones.

Pixar’s miniature trains are a little different. This wreck, in particular, was a two million dollar short film to put a children’s book author through a bit of a try out. It might not always be called prototyping, but the same underlying principle is everywhere: creating a safe environment to take risks and fail. You can learn without using up as many resources as a full project.

That gets to the idea at the start of this post. A tweet lets you gauge an idea. If it turns out to be an awful idea, you can always just tweet through it.

A blog post doesn’t require the investment of a book chapter. Even if you’re revising over and over (or not1) and using a copyeditor, it still won’t take up the resources a book chapter would take to write. And it won’t mess up the larger narrative of a book.

Here are some thoughts on blogging from Scott Adams (creator of Dilbert) in How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big:

The main reason I blog is because it energizes me. I could rationalize my blogging by telling you it increases traffic on by 10 percent or that it keeps my mind sharp or that I think the world is a better place when there are more ideas in it. But the main truth is that blogging charges me up. It gets me going. I don’t need another reason.

Posting to this blog is slowly becoming something I look forward to each day. I’ve written consistently in the past and looked forward to it—but it was mostly private. Knowing I’ll share things I’m writing forces me to be a little more thoughtful as far as structure goes. And writing something that might be helpful, interesting (on a good day), or both (when the stars align) to others.

I’m energized when I start writing and a little drained by the time I finish a post for the day. It’s never quite where I want it to be, but I know it’s time to move on (or it’s already the next day entirely). Looking at the collective whole of the past couple months, written a little bit at a time, and knowing there might be a tiny bit of good in there—that’s what charges me up.


What would this look like if it were easy?

I was listening to the Tim Ferriss podcast today, in an episode where he discusses caging his monkey mind along with many other things. (He’s being interviewed rather than interviewing someone else.)

  • He talked about the success of the podcast and mentions it as part of his long term vision. Speaking with and learning from top performers probably doesn’t get old.

  • He says at a certain point it’s sort of ridiculous for him to think that he needs to interview more people. There’s certainly enough information in the first 150 interviews to learn from and apply.

  • Hypothetically, he could crowdsource questions then send the best questions and a microphone off to the person he’s interviewing. Then they’d record and send it back. He’s actually pretty much done this and some of the results have been very good.

  • He discussed whether he would create a book or something similar that would compress the knowledge shared through his podcasts.

  • This made me think about the books I’m reading. A lot of the books have the same information and the studies cited start showing up across multiple books. It’s similar to noticing an author is doing the rounds on different podcasts.

As for a single takeaway from the episode, he says he constantly asks himself this question:

What would this look like if it were easy?

That’s how he got to the crowdsourced podcast idea. Most of his interviews aren’t on that extreme end, but they’re still very streamlined. He said a lot of people get to two episodes and quit. He knew if he tried to create a slick, heavily produced podcast, he’d probably stop at two episodes also. A podcast where it’s two people talking pretty much just needs to be mono and loud enough.

This episode sounds like audio pulled off a video recording and that had minimal effect on how informative it was.

Each podcast has a structure. He allows the conversation to flow but he asks similar questions. He’s interested in rituals. He’s curious about what people do first thing in the morning. If they write, what their process is. If they’re particular about nutrition or fitness, he digs for the underlying principles.

He mentioned something I heard in Grit about routines1: there’s some overlap between routines but there isn’t one single best routine for everyone. The key is having a routine at all.

(And probably meditation.)

What would this blog look like if it were easy? For starters, the writing would be better and it would write itself.

Until then, I’ll keep chipping away at the hard things.

  1. In Grit, Angela Duckworth talks about the book Daily Rituals. The audiobook version of which was produced by… Tim Ferriss.

Friday Links Issue 06: These will be doorstops

I went to a workshop about effective presentations earlier this week. We went over storytelling and its power to make things memorable. This reminded me of something Steve Jobs said to John Lasseter:

“I’ll never forget,” Lasseter says, “Steve Jobs was kind of waxing poetically about things and he said, ‘You know, at Apple when we make a computer, what’s the lifespan of it? Maybe three years. In five years it’s a doorstop. Technology moves so fast. If you do your job right with Toy Story, this thing could last forever.’”

I first read this quote in Creativity Inc., which I want to write some book notes on. I want to improve as a storyteller, whether it’s speaking or writing.

In How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big1, Scott Adams has a chapter going through certain skills that can be added to your skillset as multipliers. One of them is public speaking and another is business writing. Some of the tips from the book can be found in his blog post, ‘The Day You Became a Better Writer’:

Business writing is about clarity and persuasion. The main technique is keeping things simple. Simple writing is persuasive. A good argument in five sentences will sway more people than a brilliant argument in a hundred sentences. Don’t fight it.

Presentations have a lot in common with effective writing. Good stories, simply told.

Alex Hogue2 writes about online privacy—I’m not sure if that’s the best way to describe it. But Alex takes technical topics and writes entertaining pieces on them. Alex recently wrote about stalking your Facebook friends on Tinder.

Cut to me in my room. I’m about to try and “do hacking”. Around me are two computer monitors, two laptops, and no friends.

Alex Hogue writes about doing hacking. Plenty of people write about the same topics but Alex’s have been the most entertaining, by far. Here’s an earlier post on graphing when your Facebook friends are awake.

I wrote about Angela Duckworth’s Grit a few times this week. Duckworth is a MacArthur grant recipient and she talks about Ta-Nehisi Coates, another grant recipient, and his description of writing:

The challenge of writing is to see your horribleness, on page, to see your terribleness, and then to go to bed, and wake up the next day, and take that horribleness and that terribleness and refine it, and make it not so terrible and not so horrible, and then go to bed again, and come the next day, and refine it a little bit more, and make it not so bad, and then go to bed the next day and do it again, then make it maybe average.

You know, if anybody even reads what I’m doing, that’s a great day.

I’m working on getting the horribleness and terribleness on page regularly. Then I’ll write entertaining things, even for technical topics. I’ll put together good, five-sentence arguments with a chance of being read. After all that, maybe I’ll write something that has a chance of lasting forever.

  1. Which I’ll also write notes on.

  2. Creator of

Muji paper magazine notebook mini

I used to buy Muji storyboard notebooks in New York—I mentioned them in this design sprint post from 2014. I mentioned that they’re “somehow only $2” and I guess it actually as too good to be true because they discontinued them in US stores. Last year I emailed to hopefully get the online equivalent of “oh yeah we have some in the back”:

We are truly sorry, but MUJI USA does not carry Recycled Paper Magazine Notebook at this moment. Please accept our apologies for any disappointment. We would update new items at our best. Please check our online website often. Thank you for your understanding.

No luck. On the Japan trip, we were walking through Muji near Tokyo Station and I was excited to see these storyboard notebooks—they’re somehow only 100 yen. They’re perfect for Crazy 8s (PDF).

I picked up four. I’ll share some sketches in the future. First I have to do the sketches. I want to figure out what the index page for this blog should look like. I’d like it to live on beyond 100 posts so some kind of categorization will be good.

Very Fresh Noodles and other pictures from the week

Here are four photos from this week.

First, a look at my lunch yesterday. Very Fresh Noodles in Chelsea Market. I originally planned to only post this picture, but I didn’t think I’d have enough to write about to go with it. If you like Xi’an Famous Foods, it’s about as good for a few bucks more. Which is about what to expect from most things in Chelsea Market.

This is from last weekend. Korean BBQ with a few friends on one of their terraces. Grilling is one of the things I miss most about living in California and Washington. The only other non-commercial grills I’ve been around in New York: (2013) shared grill at Brooklyn Bridge Park in Brooklyn for 4th of July, (2013) grill the size of a large dinner plate at… somewhere in Brooklyn.

Here’s a typical basket for me at Trader Joe’s. I used to go on a weekly run but now it’s about once a month. I promise I’m not one of the heathens that puts their basket on the ground and kicks it forward the entire length of the line—meaning the entire perimeter of the store when it’s busy. It’d be odd to kick a 10-lb sled around without the store.

A day or two before Manhattanhenge and not the right time or place for it.

Sort of about affirmations

“Projects tends to rot if you leave it alone for a few years, and it takes effort for someone to deal with it again.” — John Carmack in the release notes for the Doom source code

I found the source for an app I made in 2014. It uses Grunt as its build system and I actually only had to kick the tires around for half an hour to get it running locally. The database still exists, so a lot of my thoughts for about 4 months are still in there.

I’d like to put together a better demo clip. Right now I’m pumped to see that this app still even works so enjoy this GIF where nothing is legible.

I can’t remember how long this took. Here are some stray thoughts explaining what it does:

  • You log in with your Twitter account.
  • A timer on the right has two bars. One shows what I recall being one minute intervals. The bottom one keeps track of I’m guessing 25 minutes.
  • The left side has an ideas list. You would fill that with a few words describing a writing prompt.
  • So you’d open this app up, choose one of your ideas, then start writing.

As far as tech goes, I made it to learn Angular. It also uses Firebase for storage and authentication.

I wanted to build a tool for writing daily. The prompts list has a default template that I’d usually use to kick off daily writing. It has some questions like “What made you laugh1 recently?” There was a misc. section that I would write affirmations in. “I will work for Google.” — Me, like 50 times.

At the time, I shared this with maybe 5 people, tops. Two years later, I’m at Google as a designer on Firebase.

So, yes, I think affirmations work and I don’t worry too much about if it’s science, psychology, faith, or anything else.

  1. These are by far the most entertaining things to read in my backup.

Stray thoughts: 4K Monitor

This week hasn’t been the best as far as my writing goes. This will be the first edition of stray thoughts. I’ll write things that come to mind. There will be minimal editing. This will be the form my cop-out posts will take.

I got a 4K monitor (U28E590D on Amazon) during Prime Day.

  • My laptop can’t drive it at full resolution at 60Hz.

  • Well, it can.

  • Well, it sort of can. The monitor can do picture in picture. Then I plug an HDMI cable in and a DisplayPort cable into my laptop. The laptop thinks two monitors are attached. I thought it’d be okay but it just gets a little funky trying to display things in the center of the screen.

  • I had a mount for my previous monitor. It doesn’t raise high enough for it to make sense to mount.

  • I like Infinite Jest, please roll your eyes somewhere else.

  • The other books are Starting Strength and The Animator’s Survival Kit.

  • I won’t be writing book notes on any of these three books anytime soon.

  • If you look closely at the chart on the monitor you might see I’m getting upwards of 5 viewers.

  • For half a second, I considered whether it’d be worth it since it’s a TN panel. Then I remembered I run f.lux at nearly all times and colors don’t matter much.

  • I’m a heavy f.lux user. I can’t wait for a future Paperwhite to have some kind of amber light. I’ll jump on it.

  • I’m a light blue light blocker user, but I’d like to make it more of a habit to put them on at night.

  • Then I could sleep at a consistent time, and maybe get up and write things that aren’t bulleted lists of random thoughts.

  • I listened to Simon Rich on James Altucher’s podcast (2014). More on this later, I think, because he shares a lot of thoughts about writing.

  • Based on that podcast, I bought a Simon Rich book and a Roald Dahl collection of short stories. More on these later, also.

  • I will go ahead and post this. I’ll fix typos in the morning.

This isn’t quite a one-sentence post for the sake of posting, but it’s close. Thanks for bearing with me.


I planned to write about focus today. I knew that by looking at my writing schedule spreadsheet. But looking at the schedule reminded me that I needed to upload yesterday’s post to my server. Then I tried making a gulp task to handle deployment. Then thirty minutes went by. All before writing a word down about focus.

Now I’ll write about distractions. The key to focusing is identifying distractions and learning how to avoid them.

Location, location, location

Distractions come from having other options. People build cabins and go on retreats to cut out other options. When I’m bored at home it seems like there’s nothing to do. When I’m trying to write, there seems to be tons of things to do. I can clean. I can read. I can eat. I can cook because I want to eat.

So I don’t write much at home. This might be different if I could have other locations within my home. But I rent a shoebox in New York. My desk is on the wall at one end of the apartment. My bathroom is at the opposite end. From my desk, I could probably read the ingredients on the toothpaste tube if I squinted enough.

I write at coffee shops when I can. There’s not much else to do there. A lot of other people are there to work on things also. They want to be alone but with people. In, like, not the super depressing way.

I’ve been trying to write in parks. The people watching can be too good. I mean, just hanging out at a park relaxing is a thing. I’ve done that alone. It doesn’t work for me.

I’ve tried writing on buses and subways. This works surprisingly well. I actually focus on the writing. And on the subway I don’t have Internet access. Which, of course, is the ultimate distraction.

You vs. the internet

Ben Orenstein, a developer at thoughtbot, says conference speakers need to be more interesting than the Internet. If the internet is the final boss, asking people to put laptops away is like a cheat code. It works, but wouldn’t it be more satisfying to be the most interesting thing in the room? Otherwise, why bother being a speaker?

When writing, it’s just you and the internet.

Go offline: When using a computer to write, you have the entire internet at your disposal. You can turn the wifi off. You can even unplug the router. Or set it on a timer.

Stay offline: This starts to get into what writing really is. A lot of it is in the thinking. In Deep Work, Cal Newport suggests separating offline work time and online work time. If you’re in an offline time block and something comes up that requries the internet, write it down as a task for your next online work block.

I do something like this by adding comments in Google Docs. They act as a todo list when I go into finalizing a post—done during an online time block.

I want to try splitting an hour like this:

  • 15 minutes online: Set up some links, excerpts, and outline.

  • 30 minutes offline: Write and fill it in. TKs/comments for everything else.

  • 15 minutes online: Edit, finish up links, images, and upload the post.

My system to focus

First, I select an animal to sacrifice. Here are my preferences in order of effectiveness.

Know what I’m working on: A schedule helps. Before creating a schedule, prioritization helps even more. If you’re working on the most important thing, you won’t waste time thinking that you could be working on something else.

Remember, you can be great at anything—but not everything.

Know what I’m supposed to write: This involves thinking, organizing, outlining, working with index cards, and other things that aren’t writing.

Write somewhere else: I wrote some of this on the bus. There’s not much else to do. I try to disconnect, at least partially.

Have coffee ready, use the restroom: And other small logistic things. This is really identifying reasons to get up during a time block and preventing them from happening.

Answer a few questions: Something I really enjoyed in Smarter, Better, Faster is the set of questions Charles Duhigg goes through before reading through a research study. I’ll paraphrase it.

Now: What do you plan to do?

First: What’s the first step?

Distractions: What issues might you run into?

Solutions: What can you do to avoid those issues?

Success: What does success look like for this task?

Steps: What’s necessary for success?

After: What task comes after this one?

Put on some tunes: Or white noise and sounds of the forest. I use focus@will, Spotify, or various iOS apps.

Set a timer: I’ve tried using the Pomodoro Technique. It seems like, without fail, I lose focus before the 25 minutes are up. Yes, it sounds ridiculous saying I have a hard time focusing for 25 minutes. But focus requires practice. I’ve been trying 15 minutes lately and it seems to be working better. I’ll work toward increasing this.

I’d like to build a trigger

In the Art of Learning, Josh Waitzkin describes a system for creating a sense of calm. His website provides a summary (and also a clip from the audiobook):

To create your own catalyst for peak performance, first identify the one key activity that is most relaxing for you. Then shape a simple routine comprising this and four to five additional personal relaxation methods you know work for you. Practice this routine daily for one month during down time to entrench a calm state of mind.

With the routine in place, he describes the next step of substituting the relaxing activity for a performance activity. A sense of calm is helpful in stressful situations. You then work to compress the routine into a few minutes that you can do anywhere.

Sitting down to write isn’t exactly a performance situation. It’d be great to apply these steps to build a routine that triggers a state of focus.

In the meantime, I’ll continue with the usual: sit down in a coffee shop, set a timer, and then listen to recordings of coffee shops to drown out the coffee shop noise.

Creativity is like breathing — Oatmeal

I really enjoyed this comic about creativity by The Oatmeal. (And also enjoyed the article I found it in: Tobias Van Schnieder: Creativity is like Breathing.)

You inhale things by reading and watching and listening to different things you enjoy. Then you exhale through creation. Inhaling or exhaling for extended periods without doing the other can lead to bad things.

Example of inhaling too long: Part of this 100 Posts, 100 Days project came from thinking about how many books I was reading. I realized I was reading these books without applying things. I’ve described it as inhaling the same way you house food at a buffet without enjoying each individual dish. Without applying, I wasn’t really learning anything.

Example of exhaling too long: in that Oatmeal post, Matthew Inman talks about working on a comic1 for five days without leaving the house. I can’t think of anything quite like that. (Though I could see it happening if I were self-employed.) There was a time earlier this year that I was working on a small app for myself to review book highlights. My actual work was pretty intense at the time. I was programming for a few extra hours each day. I was burning the candle at both ends but with the candle in a trash fire. (Though relative to other stories on burnout, it wasn’t so bad.)

I’m more balanced right now. This blog is a good outlet for exhaling and a lot of it requires inhaling. And it’s different from my day job, which I’m guessing is also a good thing.

If I can figure out how that web app works, I’ll show how. Actually, I’ll try to fire it up.

  1. His very moving strip about a plane crash.

Teaching one thing at a time

I wrote a couple issues of a design newsletter earlier this year. I’ll eventually talk about why I stopped. Actually, I can do that right now: writing an email was sort of scary because you can’t edit once it’s sent out. Eventually I’d like to have a mailing list again so I’ll just need to get over that.

I was about 80% done writing issue 3 when I abandoned the project1. Anyway, I remembered that the draft some somewhere in Google Docs and thought it had a bunch of stuff about podcasts I enjoyed. It didn’t. But there were a couple other things I can use for future posts.

Then I remembered the writing about podcasts I like is somewhere in Evernote. So and I sort of found it.

A lot of people know her for her rules:

Your class can be no longer than 100 lines of code.

Your methods can be no longer than five lines of code.

You can pass no more than four parameters and you can’t just make it one big hash.

When a call comes into your Rails controller, you can only instantiate one object to do whatever it is that needs to be done. And your view can only know about one instance variable.

A lot of this is over my head, but I certainly know that five lines of code helps you focus on doing one thing.

Sandi also wrote Practical Object-Oriented Design in Ruby. I’m not a Ruby developer but I own a copy because it’s regarded as one of the best programming books out there, regardless of language. I wanted to learn Rails at one point in my life. One of the hardest things in programming is naming things. And if it’s hard to name, you’re probably not doing one thing with it.

If the simplest description you can devise uses the word “and,” the class likely has more than one responsibility. If it uses the word “or,” then the class has more than one responsibility and they aren’t even very related.

This can be applied more broadly. My favorite screencasts ( and Laravel) were enjoyable because they were short and taught one thing at a time. When I make a screencasts, I want to focus on teaching one thing a time. If I notice that the title might have and then it might be worth splitting into another screencast.

In that Bike Shed episode with Sandi Metz, there’s a Q&A at the end (it’s a recording of a live event). She answers a few questions about speaking. She really, really encourages it. It reminded me of another thoughtbot developer, Ben Orenstein. He also encourages speaking, teaching, and also blogging:

People who are in the market for a programming job should blog every day. Write about what you’ve learned so far. Don’t make the excuse that you’re just a beginner. Imagine someone who is two months behind you and write for them.

The key is writing it down when you have the beginner’s mind. You have empathy that is pretty much impossible to recreate once you gain more knowledge.

Sandi says if you learned something in the last six months, there’s probably something worth documenting and sharing with others. If it would’ve been helpful to you six months ago then it’s likely helpful to someone right now.

So I’m going to try to teach some things. But first I’ll make sure to write what I learn down as I learn it.

  1. I will not abandon this project. Note: If you’re reading this in, say, 2017 and the count on the front page is still around 37, then I probably abandoned this project.

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.

At Dunkin Donuts

"Dunkin Donuts"

I’m writing this longhand at Dunkin Donuts. I’m still a little jetlagged. Actually I’m probably a lot jet lagged. But I’m also resigned to the fact that I’m flying back to Pacific Time (Seattle) in a few days and it might be better to just stay adjusted to this current pattern.

I was just going to get a drink but on the way out I grabbed my notebook. I thought it might be good to try writing at Dunkin Donuts. Bill Simmons has mentioned that he wrote a lot of his old posts longhand at Dunkin Donuts. And he’s known for very high word counts so he was spending good time at Dunkin Donuts. Why not try it out?

Then I was immediately reminded of a podcast Seth Godin appeared on1. Someone asks what his routine is for writing daily. He says something along the lines of: you can ask the best writer in the world what pen they use but that’s beside the point. The best thing for someone else won’t be the best thing for you. (He does say he writes right in Typepad.)

That said, I’m trying to figure out what exactly works best for me. Which means trying out a few different things. So longhand at Dunkin Donuts it is. For this morning at least.

There are some good things. Being at a coffee place keeps me mindful that I came to write. Where at home I’m mindful of all the other things I could be eating, watching, or cleaning. There are a few other coffee shops in the immediate radius of my apartment. Good wifi isn’t necessary (if I’m continuing with the longhand experiment), so that adds more flexibility2.

I think I can try writing longhand for an hour and then type and edit for an hour. Though I know two hour blocks are a little unrealistic to plan for. Maybe 45 minutes and 45 minutes3? Also, I had plans to write about Japan this morning but now I’ve mostly written about writing. I’ll continue the Japan posts tomorrow. At this rate, I’ll pretty much only write about the writing itself. Which might not be entirely a bad thing. Just mostly bad.

While lying in bed this morning I was thinking about how I could go back to sleep. I did the exact worst thing and checked my phone. I had some tabs still open from last night to, again, some Seth Godin posts and James Clear posts. (Both current inspirations for building up a habit of publishing consistently.)

One of them had a Lorne Michaels quote from a Harvard Business Review interview:

What’s the secret to being creative on a deadline?

Knowing the deadline is real. That focuses people’s thinking. We don’t go on because we’re ready. We go on because it’s 11:30. There’s no getting out of it.

I don’t post because it’s ready. I post because it’s _______. I need to create a deadline for myself so that I can fill in that blank. Something important from that quote is knowing the deadline is real.

Creativity can flourish with constraints. But it’s better if those constraints are real. I can give myself all sorts of fake deadlines. And I have. But nobody is keeping me accountable. I don’t think I can get an NBC show to write for so I’ll have to do some thinking about how to create more real deadlines. I might try emailing drafts of posts to a friend every day.

Until I have anything resembling a readership, having one single person expecting this might be real enough.

  1. I realized in earlier posts that looking up excerpts and links adds a _lot_ of friction when initially writing. Maybe I can just have a list of links and excerpts to look up later and have a weekly round up? That’s a little lazy but if it’s the difference between posting daily and not, then I’ll go with it.

  2. “coffee wifi” is one of my favorite suggested Yelp searches. Lots of places in New York don’t have wifi or have no-laptop seats and things like that.

  3. Update after typing this up: I set a timer for 25 minutes and was able to type the page up with a few edits. Maybe I can get it to something like 40 minutes longhand and 20 minutes typing. Also, this post length represents two longhand pages. Good to know.

A Writing Idea

Last night I got back from Google I/O. It’s the beginning of a month of travel. I have a good number of flights scheduled for May and June. It hit me that this would be a lot of time on a plane.12.

Vegas: 11 hours total

Bay Area: 11 hours total

Japan: 27 hours total

Seattle: 11 hours total

60 hours on a plane in a month. 1.5 weeks of work. Or one workaholic week. That’s the first time I’ve actually added it up. Geez.

Okay, so I’d like to write during some of that. Well, I did write for a portion of the different trips that are complete. Mostly in a composition notebook. I’ve started doing morning pages. Or some version of it. Though I can’t say I’ve been doing them as prescribed. It’s more just getting into longhand writing.

Headings to stay organized

Now I’m rambling. I tried something on the flight back from SFO to JFK, where I open to a blank page and write 4 headings.

Then I fill those in.


I did a few rounds of this on the flight and enjoyed it.

  • Helps get me started just writing. Somewhat easy to get to two crappy pages longhand.

  • Helps force me to stop writing about that topic and move to the next.

  • Gives me a good sense of whether there’s more to that idea that I can expand on.

By the end of the small section I know if I’m trying to cram a few more words into the final lines, there’s probably more I want to say. If I’m struggling to fill half a page, then hey maybe that’s not really going to work well to finish a post.

Then I turn to the next blank page and try to expand on whatever topic of the four I found most interesting.

That writing idea the title of this page is hinting at

One of the sessions got me thinking about what I’ll be writing about if I’m shooting for 100 days of writing. The idea would be to try and have themes for the week.

I also wrote this tagline:

I’m writing about whatever to learn what I like writing about.

I’ve had a personal blog with 1500+ posts. I’ve written some articles about design. I’ve been paid to write before, possibly in the least sexy way possible: at a technical writing internship writing material for the DB2 for z/OS introduction manual.

I want to get a better sense of what I really enjoy writing about most. I thought it’d be good to focus on themes. First I was thinking I’d focus on themes for a month at a time, but that was a little too long.

I’m going to try focusing two weeks at a time on each theme. I wrote a preliminary list of ten themes. Each theme will have 10 posts each then I’ll move on. Here’s that preliminary list:

  1. Japan: I have that Japan trip that I mentioned. I’ll approach this sort of like a travel/photography blog.

  2. Framer Tutorials: Framer has grown a lot since I was using it regularly. I’d like to learn about what’s possible with the latest version and give back to one of the best online communities I’ve experienced.

  3. New York: Again, approached like a travel/photography blog. I live here and want to get back to exploring it. New York, like any other place, is different for different people. I’d like to share what it’s been like for me the past three-isa years. And write about some memories. I regret that I didn’t write more about New York when everything was completely new to me. But I recognize that there’s no better time to start writing than now. Three years isn’t thirty years. There are still plenty of things that are new to me.

  4. Design dashes: I enjoyed writing about design sprints, but they’re better as a team activity. I’d like to just compress that process into a really small design dash. Cycles of sketching exercises to get some sense of what an idea might look like. And maybe I’ll take one of them further to a prototype as a follow-up.

  5. Learning: I’ve read a lot about learning in the past year or two. I’d like to apply that to drawing. I eventually would like to be good at drawing so I’ll write about the process.

  6. Wrestling: Somehow I’ve gotten back into following professional wrestling. I’ll explain how and write about some of my favorite childhood memories involving WCW and the WWF. Like Yokozuna on a forklift.

  7. Book notes: I have a backlog of books that I want to write about.

  8. UX career advice: I think I can share some insight here on how to go about preparing portfolios, finding the right type of role, side projects, interviewing, and other things like that.

  9. Writing: I think this post and the previous post could be lumped in here. Just general thoughts on writing. Probably will be self-indulgent and meta. I’ll try out different systems and talk about what worked for me and what didn’t.

  10. Scripts, comedy: Very tentative. Making someone laugh through words is difficult. It takes work. I’ll try to read some books on writing comedy and apply what I learn and see if I can write a joke or two. Along the lines of some of the old Grantland staff and Chase Buckley’s The Future is Near.

Japan will be first, but I don’t intend to write them in this order. And I’m sure some themes will change as I go along. It’s all an experiment so I’m sure I’ll iterate as I go along. Maybe 10 posts is too many for certain themes. Maybe a theme clearly isn’t fun to write.

As always, we’ll see.

  1. Right now the meta stuff will be footnote-ish. Just got an idea: need to figure out a workflow to upload an image quickly to my domain so that I can remove the friction from including images when writing in iA Writer. I’m not the first person with this idea. Or the thousandth. One lash for every five minutes I spend tinkering with the site instead of writing. Well I’d have 3 or 4 lashes today.

  2. Okay just had another idea, to actually use footnotes with anchor tags. That seems to work okay. I find footnotes fun to read and write. This might be a crutch and help move me toward being a lazy writer. But I think the offset is that it’s fun to write them. Another few lashes to fix the styling on footnotes and also to learn how to write them in Markdown.

Two crappy pages

From a Men’s Health interview with Kobe Bryant in 2007:

MF: Do you have any training tips, aside from Olympic lifts, that you’d recommend to younger basketball players?*

Kobe: The thing that I tell them all the time is consistency. If they watch me train, running on a track, it doesn’t look like I’m over-exerting myself. It’s a consistency with which you do it, in other words, it’s an every-day-thing. You have a program, and a schedule, and you have to abide by that, religiously. You just stick to it, and it’s the consistency that pays off.*

I’ve now found the motivation to sit in a chair and type for an hour.


I want to publish one page per day.


I’ve re-read parts of On Writing a few weeks ago. Stephen King has plenty of good advice about writing, including this succinct tip:

If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.

I’ve been reading about one book per week this year. It’s not earth-shattering but it’s a good pace. What I haven’t been doing is writing.


Here are a few people who came to mind as far as inspiring me to write today, this week, and this year.

Today: On this particular day, Tim Ferris posted a podcast episode with Chase Jarvis. I also finished reading Anything You Want by Derek Sivers.

This week: I saw Robert Mion’s 100 Days of Framer, inspired by Sam Lu’s 100 Days of Swift.

I tried doing 30 prototypes in 30 days (mostly with Framer). I did about 22 days before stopping, but still learned a lot. One of the more meta things I learned is that sharing the prototypes daily meant writing about the prototypes daily. The writing itself could double the time commitment.

After seeing Robert and Sam’s prototyping projects, I was thinking of what kind of project I could try out. Then I realized that writing alone might be enough to pursue. So I’m going to try that. 100 Days of Writing. I don’t know about what. I’m not going to decide on what to write beforehand. I think I’ll settle into similar themes.

This year: Earlier this year, I read Julie Zhuo’s *Write in 2016* and decided it’d be good to try writing in 2016. I even sent out a couple posts through my newsletter to get some reps in. Then I stopped. I’m still really inspired reading Julie say that writing changed her life. So I’m going to give it another go, starting now.

I subscribe to Tobias van Schneider’s weekly mailing list and he just finished a year of newsletter issues without missing a week. He knew it wouldn’t be perfect but knew it was important to get started.

Seth Godin still posts daily. There’s value in posting consistently.


Above, I mentioned the Tim Ferris podcast. Tim and Chase talk about optimizing creative output. Chase was one Tim’s first guests, before the podcast unexpectedly became his main creative endeavor.

Early on he made it a point to take the friction out of his podcasts. He mentions a lot of people make three podcasts and then quit. And a lot of times it’s because editing becomes too big an effort. He decided his podcast would be long-form with minimal editing.

People also get overwhelmed with audio quality. Tim thought about the contexts that people listen to podcasts in. The most important things are making sure the audio is loud enough and mono. It’s usually two people talking so there’s no reason to make it harder than than it needs to be?

I’ll be posting things on for now. I’ve written things on but it always feels odd when I post things that aren’t completely design related. I won’t make it harder than it needs to be, and I feel like there will be less friction posting things on my personal site right now.


I’ll try posting daily. Tim Ferris mentions that one of his earlier goals was to write two bad pages each day:

I was told at one point, “Your goal should be two crappy pages per day.” That’s it. If you’ve hit two crappy pages each day, even if you’ve never used them, you’ve succeeded for the day. Alleviating that performance anxiety about putting down ten pages of good material, which inevitably, I think, you’re going to fail two or three times each week, allows you to overshoot that goal. And continually succeed. And sort of build that confidence and momentum.

He references BJ Fogg’s idea of tiny habits like flossing your two front teeth. That’s usually all the momentum you need to floss the rest of your teeth.


“Wake up earlier.” — Tim Ferris

Guess which episode that’s from. Yes, I wrote this mostly as a recap of his interview with Chase Jarvis. Things got away from me a bit. They mention Khaled Hosseini, who wrote The Kite Runner while he had a full time job as a doctor. I’m being far less ambitious.

Publishing every day is pretty simple once you have WordPress or some other system set up. Simple in the sense that you can write a couple words and hit ‘Publish’. I’ll try to avoid cop-out single sentence posts saying things like “Posting to keep the streak going.”

I’ll say it now: I won’t post for 100 days straight. I have a lot of travel coming up. Including a trip to Japan. I want to be present during that. How can I take selfies, search for Yelp reviews, and look at the country through the iOS camera if I’m writing?

I’ll do my best to complete 100 posts in 100 days by writing extra posts in longer sessions.

Here’s to day 1.