Wisdom Teeth Extraction Tomorrow

I was supposed to have my remained 2 wisdom teeth extracted back in late September, but had to reschedule. Tomorrow, I’m set to have #1 and #32 removed. It will be only the second time in my life that I will be under a general anesthetic1. I opted for the general because, as the doctor explained, when you are 18 years told, your jawbone is like sponge, and the teeth come out relatively easy. At 42, the jawbone is like cement, and the process is more difficult.

So I’ll be asleep for it.

The appointment is first thing tomorrow morning, and the whole visit is supposed to last about an hour and a half, after which Kelly will deposit me at home.

For those who might be concerned about my writing streak–535 consecutive days and counting–I plan on getting some writing in early tomorrow before heading to my appointment. That way, it’s done, in case I don’t feel up to it later in the day. Of course, if I do feel up to it later in the day, then I’ll write more.

I hope to be online after the appointment, but I might be slower than usual in responding to email, tweets, etc. over the weekend. Now you know why.

Notes

  1. The first time was when I had my tonsils removed when I was 10 years old.

5 Writing Goals for 2015

It has taken me almost a week to catch up on various things, but I finally have some time to jot down thoughts on my writing goals for 2015. Good thing, too, since tomorrow evening at the writers group, we are discussing–writing goals for 2015. Keep in mind these goals apply to paid writing, and not the writing I do here on the blog.

1. Increase my daily average to 1,000 words per day (40 minutes/day)

In 2014, I wrote, on average 850 words every single day of the year. Since writing, for me, has become a daily habit, when I think about my goals, I think in terms of what I can do each day, as opposed to the overall big picture for the year. That’s because, getting the writing done each day is great practice, and by its very nature, builds up the word count. (I wrote 311,000 words in 2014.)

Many of my full time writer-friends aim for 2,000 words/day. Ultimately, I would like to get there, too. There’s just one problem. With a full time job, and a family, I don’t have the time to write 2,000 words every day. With nearly 700 days worth of data collected, thanks entirely to my automated Google Docs Writing Tracker system, I have data on not only how much I write each day, but how much time I spend. Based on the data, my rule of thumb is 1,500 words per hour, or 1 page (250 words) every 10 minutes.

In 2014, an average of 850 words/day would amount to about 34 minutes of writing each day. To write 2,000 words/day would require 80 minutes per day. No, my goal is not write 80 minutes/day in 2015, because I don’t have that kind of time. I’m more for an incremental approach. What’s reasonable? How about a little less than a page per day. In other words, I’d like to average 850 + 150 = 1,000 words per day in 2015.

To do that, I need to find an additional 6 minutes per day for my writing. That’s not that much, and in 40 minutes each day, I can write 1,000 words. That means producing about 365,000 words in 2015 vs. 311,000 in 2014, an increase of about 17%.

Goal 1: Average 1,000 words/day in 2015.

2. Finish the second draft of my novel

I have been hard at work on the second draft of my novel. For a long time, I struggled with it, going through 36 restarts in order to find the right voice and opening. Having finally found that, things are moving much better. I’d like to complete the second draft of the novel and send it to my beta-readers for comments before the end of the year.

Goal 2: Finish the second draft of the novel.

3. Submit 2 short stories

I haven’t done much short story writing in a while, and I want to get some stories out there. It’s been hard because I have been focused on the second draft of the novel (see #2 above), and when I haven’t been working on that, I’ve been writing some nonfiction (see #4 below).

However, I’ve been invited to some anthologies, and I have a story idea for one of them, which I have started to write when I need a break from the novel. I expect it to be a fairly short story, 4,000 words tops, but when it is finished, I plan on submitting it to the anthology.

I also have an idea for a new story that I’d like to send out to one of the magazines, a story that takes place in the same world as the novel that I’m working on. If all goes well, I’ll have that story written before the end of January, and I’ll send it off to the magazine I have in mind.

Goal 3: Submit 2 short stories.

4. Finish the baseball novella that I started in 2014

I finished the first draft of a great baseball novella in 2014, and I got started on the second draft, but gave it up to work on the second draft of the novel instead. When the novel draft is finished, I’d like to return to the novella and try to finish that up before the end of the year. I don’t know that I’ll be able to submit it before the end of the year, but I aim to have it finished, and off to beta-readers.

Goal 4: Finish the baseball novella that I started in 2014.

5. Look for additional opportunities in nonfiction writing

2014 was a breakout year for me in terms of nonfiction writing. I wrote for The Daily Beast, had a virtually viral article for 99U, wrote an editorial for Analog, and wrote my favorite article of the year for SF Signal. I love writing nonfiction, especially on technology, or science fiction history, and I’d like to be able to do more of it in 2015. So I’ll be keeping my eyes open for additional opportunities to write nonfiction in the coming year.

Goal 5: Look for additional opportunities in nonfiction writing.


Those are my writing goals for 2015. Have goals you want to share? Drop them in the comments.

Back at the Day Job

I think there is a universal law that says the longer the vacation, the faster it goes by and the harder it is to go back to work. We were off for a total of 23 days–just over 3 weeks. Today we were back to work, and the kids were back at school.

When I am on vacation, I completely disconnect from the day job. No checking email, no thinking about projects. Nothing. I’ve gotten very good at this. So when I got back to the office this morning, I had over 900 emails awaiting my attention. I quickly whittled that down to 140 that I actually had to read, or at least skim. By the end of the day, I’d sent nearly 50 email messages, knocked a ton of items off my to-do list, and in general, felt like I had a good first day back.

My new work laptop had arrived, but was still being imaged. It’s a high-end beast, 16 GB of RAM, a large SSD, and I was looking forward to getting it it setup (often a multi-day process), but it probably won’t be ready until tomorrow or Wednesday.

It was also good to see my coworkers (those that I could see–many I work with are in L.A. area) although I spent a lot of time behind closed doors today, either in meetings, or working on things that have been waiting for me.

Overall, good to be back. Lots of work ahead this year, which seems to be the case every year. I remember in the year leading up to Y2K, the workload seemed to increase dramatically. “It’ll ease up after January 1, 2000,” we were told. But it’s only gone up every year since.

Can you believe it’s now Y2K + 15?

The “Instant Classic”, Revisited

Once upon a time1 I wrote a post2 titled “Instant Classic” in which I bemoaned the misuse of the term “classic” in the phrase “instant classic.” I wrote,

“Instant classic” is an oxymoron, right?… A just-released comedy can’t be a “classic”. The reviewer needs to go back to reviewer school.

This was an example of me, in the youth of my blogging, trying to sound clever and cynical, but also, genuinely believing that the term was being misused.

I write today in recognition that I was wrong.

In the years since, I have come to learn that the term “classic”, or “classical” means “of the highest class” as opposed to what I thought it meant–something that was old and revered. In this sense, an instant classic is something that a review deems at once of the highest class (of quality, presumably).

Long time readers have probably noticed fewer rants today like those from 2006. I like to chalk this up to the wisdom I’ve gained that I am far from a know-it-all. I’d further add that I’ve found on many occasions, this one not withstanding, I have been wrong in my judgments and observations. I expect this will continue until the day I die, but I am trying harder to recognize when I’ve bene wrong and call attention to it. Fair’s fair.

Notes

  1. November 2006, right here on this blog.
  2. I wonder how many people can say that they have been blogging consistently for 9 years.

20 Apps and Services that Made Me More Productive in 2014

I am often asked about the apps and services I use to get my work done. Last February I listed many of those apps and services in the How I Work interview I did with Lifehacker. With 2014 now in the books, I put together a list of the apps and services that I felt made me more productive throughout the year. They are listed below alphabetically. I’ve included the general functional area of the app or service in parentheses after the app name.

1. Alfred (Automation)

Alfred is a productivity application for Macs (sorry Windows and Linux users) that makes it easy to automate routine tasks and provides shortcuts and tools for all kinds of functions. I use it dozens of times a day in small ways. Sometimes it’s as simple as performing a quick calculation. All I do is active Alfred (Option-Space) and start typing my calculation.

Alfred

All I have to do is press ENTER to copy the result to the clipboard. No opening another app, no waiting. The windows pops up in whatever app I am working in and disappears when I’m done. I can do a lot of other things with it Alfred, from quickly starting applications, to carrying out complex automations. But for me, it is the small things that Alfred really helps speed up: Looking up contacts, searching iTunes for song, looking up the spelling of a word, etc.

2. Audible (Multitasking)

Audible is the Amazon-owned audiobook service for which I have a platinum membership, which gets me 2 audiobook credits per month. How, you might ask, does Audible find its way onto a list of apps that have made me more productive?

These days, when I am asked (with increasing frequency) for my best time-saving tip, I tell people that for me, it is audiobooks. With Audible, I can multitask in ways that I was never able to do before. For example:

With limited time in the day, I get my chief exercise by walking. During the week, I walk 3 times a day, a short 2 mile walk at 10 am, a 3-4 mile walk during my lunch hour, and another 2 mile walk around 3 pm. I do this regardless of weather. This gets me about 7 miles of walking in each day, which is pretty good.

And while I walk, I listen to audiobooks.

Since I started listening to audiobooks in February 2013, I’ve been able to get through more books than I thought possible with my workload, and domestic responsibilities. I’ve also come to enjoy many of the narrators I’ve encountered, and that had led to me to try books that I might not otherwise have attempted.

I can also listen to books at times when I wouldn’t ordinarily be able to read a book:

  • While doing chores around the house
  • While driving. During our drive to- and from- Florida last month, I listened to a grand total of about 30 hours of audiobooks. That’s just during the drive.

The multitasking effect of listening to audiobooks has probably been my single biggest time-saver in 2014.

3. Boomerang (Email)

Boomerang is a plug-in service to Gmail that allows you to “boomerang” email messages. That is, get them out of your inbox and have them returned after a specific amount of time or condition.

For example:

  • If I have an email that I don’t need to take action on until next week, I’ll boomerang the message until next week. It will disappear from my Inbox, and then reappear (with a boomerang tag) next week.
  • If I send an email to someone, I can have boomerang remind me of the email if the person has not replied within a set time period. It acts as an automated tickler file.
  • I can schedule emails to be sent a later date.

Here’s an example of what Boomerang looks like in action, integrated with Gmail:

Boomerang

There are plenty of options for me to choose from, and I can create custom options as well. I typically use the “Tomorrow morning” and “In 1 week” options.

Boomerang also has a nice feature where it will suggest a time based on a date it finds it the email message. For example, if I received an email inviting me to a podcast and asking me to reply by a certain date, Boomerang will detect that date in the message and automatically provide a suggested time to Boomerang the message:

Boomerang invites

All of this works seamlessly from within Gmail. It is my key application for keeping my Inbox at or near zero.

4. Buffer (Social Media)

Buffer is a service that allows you to schedule your social media updates and send them out through multiple channels. I’ve been using Buffer for well over a year. It is my primary method for posting to Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. It allows me to easily schedule posts throughout the day, so I can multitask. If I find an interesting link reading my news feeds early in the morning, I can Buffer the link so that it gets sent to all of my social media outlets later in the afternoon. I might be in a meeting or heads-down writing code, or something else, but because the posts has been scheduled ahead of time, I don’t need to take any action. Buffer does it all for me.buffer

Here’s an example of what my Buffer queue looks like this morning:

Buffer example

You can see the times the posts are scheduled for in the red boxes.

Buffer makes it easy for me to keep my social media updated, and to schedule things throughout the day so that I can focus on other work.

5. CrashPlan (Backups)

CrashPlan is a cloud-based backup system. It backs up all of our computers to the cloud and does so in real time so that once it is installed, we never have to think about it. There is no limit to the amount you can back up. We currently have over 500 GB of data backed up in the cloud.

The files can be restored from anywhere, and the restores are easy. I’ve used CrashPlan once to do a disaster recovery, where a disk died and I needed to restore everything. And I’ve used it countless times to restore a file here or there.

Mostly, CrashPlan, like insurance, gives a peace of mind that if my hard disk blows up, my data is secure.

Continue reading 20 Apps and Services that Made Me More Productive in 2014

Blog stats for 2014

With 2014 officially over, I can report the final blog stats for 20141. The blog had a remarkable 1.3 million page views in 2014, and more than 600,000 visitors. I’m stunned when I consider those numbers. I can still remember the days when my blog got about 30 pages views per day. In 2014 that was up to an average of about 3,500 page views per day.

Here’s what the day-to-day stats looked like:

Blog stats for 2014

I haven’t tracked RSS traffic as closely as I used to. But when I looked this evening, I found that RSS traffic added an additional 425,000 page views. That brings the grand total to about 1.75 million page views in 2014. That is about double of what I had last year.

Thank you to everyone who comes to the site. I am grateful to have such a wonderful audience. I’ll do another post on the most popular posts of 2014, but right now, I have to give the kids a bath.

Notes

  1. Caveats apply. The stats come primarily from Google Analytics. The RSS stats come from Feedburner. All stats must be taken with a grain of salt.

Another view of my writing in 2014

Yesterday, I posted a heat-map infographic of my writing in 2014. Here is a more traditional view of what it looked like to write every single day of the year.

Writing in 2014
Click to enlarge

I averaged 853 words/day in 2014. That’s the equivalent of about 34 minutes per day spent writing. And since I wrote every day in 2014, that amounts to about 207 hours of writing time in 2014.

I’ll have more to say about my writing plans for 2015, but you’ll have to wait until I get home. The final leg of our drive is today, and we hope to be back home (after 3 weeks away) this afternoon.

 

The last blog post of 2014

I am spending New Year’s Eve in a hotel in the wilds of North Carolina with the family, the second of three legs of our long drive home from Florida. Tomorrow, January 1, we finally get home.

I still have a few “year-in-review” posts to write, but I am too tired from driving to work on those from the hotel room. All I want to do right now is wait for the kids to fall asleep so that Kelly and I can finish watching Going My Way1. Fortunately, I’ve already gotten my writing done today. Indeed, as I mentioned earlier, I wrote every single day in 2014. That makes me happy.

It is already 2015 in several time zones. Happy New Year to everyone, regardless of what time zone you are in. Stay safe! See you in 2015: Also known as Marty McFly’s future!

Notes

  1. It takes us, on average, 3 nights to watch a movie these days for a variety of reasons, all of them amounting to energy levels at the end of the day. Today is Day 3 of Going My Way and I’ve been looking forward to watching it all day. Yes, I’ve seen it before.

For New Year’s: Check Out My Brother-in-Law’s Jose Cuervo Ad

My brother-in-law, Jason Ashlock, put together this cool ad for Jose Cuervo. They did it by:

Play[ing] “Auld Lang Syne” by spinning 57 tequila-filled bottles in a hand-cranked carousel next to re-engineered Shop-Vac connected to a gramophone.

After my 7 hour drive today, I could use some tequila. Here’s the ad:

You can read more about the ad over at Ad Age.

I wrote every day in 2014: Here’s an #infographic

As of today, my writing streak stands at 528 consecutive days. The overall number are 671 out of the last 673 days, but I have written every day since July 21, 2014. I began this back in late February of 2013, and since today is the last day of 2014, it means that I have now written every single day in 2014. I put together an infographic to illustrate what this looks like:

Writing 2014 Infographic

The infographic show my writing by day for each week in 2014. It is color coded as a heat map, with “cooler” colors representing low word count days, and “warmer” colors representing higher word count days. The totals are the totals for each week, which are color coded in proportion to the total of the days of the week.

From this, you can see that I wrote a total of 311,354 words in 2014. That is fiction and nonfiction and does not count blogging. If you want to include the blogging I’ve done here, you must add 233,788 words to that. Fiction/nonfiction plus blogging totaled 545,142 words in 2014.

The infographic allows me to easily spot trends in my writing. For instance, I had a fairly cool period in weeks 5-10, followed by a fairly hot period weeks 18-27. Cool again weeks 40-44, and then back to warm weeks 47-51.

It also gives an interesting look at my writing on each day of the week. The totals at the bottom are averages per day for that weekday. On average, I wrote 934 words/day on Monday, my most productive day of the week. Contrast that to Wednesdays, where I averaged 760 words/day.

I try to write at least 500 words each day, but if I don’t hit 500 I don’t sweat it. Circumstances are sometimes out of my control. Still, I’m pleased that I managed to write every day this year. If I had managed to write exactly 500 words every day, that would have been a total of  182,500 words. That I wrote nearly twice that amount (well, 1.7 times that amount) makes me happy. It also helps set a baseline for next year.

My only real goal for 2015 is to keep up the streak. I’d like to finish the second draft of the novel as part of that streak, but I’ll take what I can get.

20 favorite Twitter follows in 2014

It is clear by looking at my Twitter profile that I don’t follow a whole lot of accounts. But every now and then, I’ll find something on Twitter that stands out from the crowd. Here are 20 of the Twitter accounts I enjoyed in 2014, and I would certainly recommend them if your tastes align with mine.

People_followed_by_Jamie_Todd_Rubin___jamietr____Twitter Leo Widrich
Joanna Stern 99U
Damien Walter on Twitter Abandoned on Twitter
Michael Harren on Twitter Upshot on Twitter
Shroud on Twitter FiveThirtyEight on Twitter
QuantifiedSelf on Twitter Michael Rich on Twitter
ThinkUp on Twitter Stephen King on Twitter
Anil Dash on Twitter 27 Good Things on Twitter
Mara Wilson on Twitter Buffer on Twitter
Stacey Harmon Little Red on Twitter

Any recommendations? Drop them in the comments.

What I read in 2014

Although I have a list of everything I’ve read since 1996, here is a version which covers just this year. Orange titles are audio books, blue titles are e-books. Bold titles are books I’d recommend to others. A ^ after a title indicates a re-read.

  1. Christine by Stephen King (1/8/2014)
  2. Work Done for Hire by Joe Haldeman (1/16/2014)
  3. The Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King (1/17/2014)
  4. The Body by Stephen King (1/24/2014)
  5. The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien (2/2/2014)
  6. John Adams^ by David McCullough (2/20/2014)
  7. George Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow (3/13/2014)
  8. The Joy of Keeping Score by Paul Dickson (4/2/2014)
  9. It^ by Stephen King (4/3/2014)
  10. A Nice Little Place at the North Side by George F. Will (4/5/2014)
  11. The War of Art by Steven Pressfield (4/12/2014)
  12. From A Buick 8^ by Stephen King (4/18/2014)
  13. Stories I Only Tell My Friends by Rob Lowe (4/19/2014)
  14. Love Life by Rob Lowe (4/21/2014)
  15. 11/22/63^ by Stephen King (6/1/2014)
  16. Mile 81 by Stephen King (6/2/2014)
  17. Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King (6/6/2014)
  18. Joyland^ by Stephen King (6/9/2014)
  19. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway (6/9/2014)
  20. 2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Write More of What You Love by Rachel Aaron (6/13/2014)
  21. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving (6/19/2014)
  22. Blue Highways by William Least Heat Moon (6/27/2014)
  23. The Shawshank Redemption^ by Stephen King (6/29/2014)
  24. The Martian by Andy Weir (7/5/2014)
  25. Kiss and Make Up by Gene Simmons (7/11/2014)
  26. The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill, Volume 1: Visions of Glory 1874-1932 by William Manchester (8/16/2014)
  27. The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill, Volume 2: Alone 1932-1940 by William Manchester (9/1/2014)
  28. The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill, Volume 3: Defender of the Realm 1940-1965 by William Manchester and Paul Reid (9/17/2014)
  29. Great Baseball Writing: Sports Illustrated 1954-2004 by Rob Fleder, editor (10/5/2014)
  30. Ball Four by Jim Bouton (10/17/2014)
  31. The Innovators: How a Group of Inventors, Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution by Walter Isaacson (10/25/2014)
  32. The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien (11/1/2014)
  33. American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin (11/10/2014)
  34. Revival by Stephen King (11/20/2014)
  35. Hope: Entertainer of the Century by Richard Zoglin (11/30/2014)
  36. Fallen Leaves: Last Words on Life, Love, War, and God by Will Durant (12/12/2014) [1)
  37. Caesar and Christ^ by Will Durant (12/27/2014)

I’ve started listening to Neil Gaiman’s “author’s preferred text” of American Gods, something I last read when it first came out in 2001, but I’m not sure if I will finish it before the end of the year. I mentioned in an earlier post my 6 favorite reads from 2014. And I’ve already got quite a few books that I’m looking forward to in 2015.