A Funny Thing About Jim Boulton’s Ball Four Audiobook

I am currently reading Jim Boulton’s 1970 baseball smash, Ball Four. I’m listening to the audio book. So far, it’s great. But there is something particularly funny about it that makes it even better.

Most audio books these days use professional voice actors or narrators to read the book. Occasionally, the author will read their own book, but with few exceptions (Neil Gaiman or Mary Robinette Kowal, for instance), authors aren’t always the best choice as readers.

Jim Boulton reads his own book, Ball Four. He is not a bad reader. In the context of the book, he’s actually pretty good, because it’s him telling stories about his days playing baseball. But for nonfiction books, voice actors typically play it straight. The funny thing about Boulton’s narration of Ball Four is that he sometimes cracks himself up with what he’s written. So he’s reading his book, gets to a funny part, starts laughing, and has to pause, or re-read a sentence after the laughing has stopped.

I love it! It comes across as so genuine that you can’t not laugh yourself. The genuine emotion that his impromptu laughter brings to the reading makes it that much better.

Great Baseball Writing

I recently finished reading Sports Illustrated collection Great Baseball Writing, which gathers about 60 articles from over the last 60 years, all on baseball. It was a fantastic book, and I loved every minute of it. Of course, with nearly 60 articles, some stand out more than others. Here are a list of my favorites, along with the header description included with each article.

“Spring Has Sprung” by Frank Deford (April 10, 1978)

It’s Opening Day, so buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack, remember to hold the label up, and please, please tell me Who’s on First.

“The Ballad of Joe Moock” by Steve Rushin (June 29, 1998)

Sailors have the Bermuda Triangle; the Mets have third base. When the author composed this epic tribute, the New Yorkers had, in 36 years, employed 112 different men at the hot corner, none of them all that hot.

“The Transistor Kid” by Robert Creamer (May 4, 1964)

When Vin Scully came to Los Angeles with the transplanted Brooklyn Dodgers, he was a stranger in alien corn. But he soon became as much a part of Southern California as the freeways.

“The Bird Fell to Earth” by Gary Smith (April 7, 1986)

For one fairy-tale year, Mark Fidrych was king of baseball, but the reign ended far too soon.

“The Left Arm of God” by Tom Verducci (July 12, 1999)

He was a consummate artist on the mound, the most dominant player of his time, yet he shunned fame and always put the team above self. On the field or off, Sandy Koufax was pitcher perfect.

“At the End of the Curse, a Blessing” by Tom Verducci (December 6, 2004)

The 2004 Boston Red Sox staged the most improbable comeback in baseball history and liberated their long-suffering nation of fans.

“Benching of a Legend” by Roger Kahn (September 12, 1960)

The prideful struggle of an aging Stan Musial to prolong his career–a painful experience for everyone involved–was poignantly recounted by one of the most astute observers of the game.

“Still a Grand Old Game” by Roger Kahn (August 16-30, 1976)

Touring the baseball world, the author of The Boys of Summer found that the national pastime retained all of its charms, whether played in suburbia, the Ozarks or at Chavez Ravine.

“It’s Gone! Goodbye!” by Tom Verducci (September 22, 2008)

Before a wrecking ball took its cuts at old Yankee Stadium, the walls of this American monument spoke and shared a few final secrets

I really enjoyed all of the long pieces, but these 9 were outstanding. So much so, that I am now a subscriber to Sports Illustrated. In a bit of serendipity, my niece was raising money for her girl scout troop selling magazine subscription. Sports Illustrated was one of them. So: two birds, one stone.

Running on Empty

In recent months, I have not only reached my peak capacity, I have exceeded it. At any given moment I can run on afterburners, but that is not sustainable. Indeed, too long and everything begins to fall apart. My level of busyness reached its climax this past weekend, and on the long drive home from New York, I decided I needed to slow down for a while.

Here is a list of just some of the things I have taken on, or been working on regularly for the last several months:

  • A big implementation project at the day-job, set to rollout the last weekend in October.
  • A presentation for Capclave
  • A novel draft
  • A novella draft
  • A short story for an anthology
  • Articles for The Daily Beast
  • An editorial for Analog
  • A technical advisor for a neighbor’s company
  • An interview on productivity for Forbes
  • The SFWA reception
  • The Little Man’s baseball team
  • Volunteering at the Little Man’s school library
  • Volunteering on the Little Man’s school’s STEM committee

I’m sure I’m leaving some things off, but you get the idea. All of this is my own fault, of course, and I take responsibility for that. It has had three negative side-effects, however, that I have been struggling with:

  1. Added stress to meet each commitment
  2. Longer recovery time from illness. This cold I’ve had is lingering, probably due to the fact that I have not been slowing down.
  3. A dramatic decrease in real productivity.

The latter might seem strange, but when I look at the data, sure enough, things are going down, not up. I suppose it depends on what you define as being productive. But think about how a multitasking computer works. The more things that are running at the same time, the slower they tend to run. Take writing for example. Here’s a look at the last 90 days of my writing:

90 days of writing
Data from http://open.jamierubin.net

My 7-day moving average word count–which is my personal benchmark for writing–has generally hovered around 900 words/day. You can see from that orange line that there has been a downward trend. Indeed, as of this morning, my 7-day moving average is just over 500 words! That’s a pretty significant decrease. I am still writing every day (443 consecutive days and counting), but I’m not writing as much. One reason is less time because of all of the other things I am doing. Another reason is exhaustion. By the time I get to my writing each day, I am wiped out and can’t do it for long.

Another example comes from my daily activity, which is mostly walking. I try to get in between 7-10 miles of walking each day, because it is really the only exercise I get. I walk everywhere I possibly can. And I walk 3 times during the day at work just to get in the exercise. But lately, my numbers for walking are way down.

90 days of steps
Data from FitBit

The red line represents my 7-day moving average for the same period as the writing chart above. Aside from the slight downward trend, what is most striking to me is that earlier in the summer, that red line was up closer to 15,000 steps/day, as opposed to 9,000 steps per day. Again, a big reason is that I hesitate to take the time to walk when I have so much other stuff on my plate.

Recharging my batteries

On the drive home from New York, I was thinking about this and thinking about ways I could recharge my batteries, and continue to do the things I enjoy doing. I have come up with a four guidelines for myself, some of which I have already put into action.

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My Requirements for a To-Do List App

For most of the year, I have been trying out different to-do list apps to see if there is any that fits me well. So far, the search has been a little disheartening. The closest match is still Gina Trapani’s Todo.txt, but even there, I’ve modified my behavior somewhat in order to meet my own quirk requirements for a to-do list app. Meanwhile, I have tried just about every other to-do list application out there, from Todoist, to Remember the Milk, to Toodledo, to Clear, and everything in between. Nothing quite fits. My problem with most of these applications is that do a few too many things and those extra things impede my ability to manage my to-do lists.

Since I may not be the only one experiencing these issues, I figured I’d list out my requirements for a to-do list application, and then describe how I’ve modified my current system to support these requirements.

My requirements

1. The list be stored in an open format. Todo.txt uses a plain text file, which is stored on Dropbox. That is about as open a format as you can get. Many apps have APIs and I’d count that as an open format, but even APIs require additional time to write the code needed to extract data. Plain text is plain text.

2. Priority is by list order.  A lot of apps allow you to add a priority to a to-do item. Adding these has always seemed like an extra step to me, and a difficult one because you can’t always see everything on your list when setting priority. It also doesn’t work nearly as well for reactive work. As some of what I do is reactive and some is proactive, my priority system is simple: The thing at the top of the list is the the highest priority, and as you go down the list, you get to lower and lower priority. Changing priority should be as easy as changing the order of the list.

3. One list to rule them all. Many to-do apps allow you to manage multiple lists, perhaps one for home and one for work. Or one for each project. This works against me. My time is one continuous flow that is not broken into projects. The very next thing I will be working on may be in a completely different project or context for what I am working on now. I only one list and I want everything to show up on that list. Having to change lists when I change projects just slows me down.

4. Easy archiving. When I finish something, I want it to drop off my list, but I also want it stored somewhere so that I can see everything I’ve completed. That “done” list can be pretty helpful at time.

5. Accessible anywhere. I need to be able to access my to-do list from anywhere.

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10 of My Favorite Going Paperless Posts

Since I’ve given up the regular schedule of posting my Going Paperless posts1 I thought it might be interesting to go through the 120+ posts I’d written and choose my 10 personal favorites. These are the posts that I had the most fun writing and that I also think are among the better posts I’ve written, both in terms of quality and subject matter. Your mileage may vary. Here they are, from most recent to least-recent:

  1. Quick Tip: How I Do a Daily Review in Evernote (February 5, 2014)
  2. A Primer for Going Paperless in 2014 (November 26, 2013)
  3. A Framework for Searching in Evernote (October 29, 2013)
  4. My Paperless Cloud (July 9, 2013)
  5. Digitizing Old Letters (June 11, 2013)
  6. How I Title My Notes in Evernote (March 5, 2013)
  7. A Day In the Life of a Paperless Writer (September 18, 2012)
  8. Automating the Creation of Meeting Minutes Using IFTTT and Evernote(September 11, 2012)
  9. Creating a Digital Version of Your House Using Evernote, Penultimate, and Skitch (June 26, 2012)
  10. Tips On How I Use Evernote to Remember Everything (May 8, 2012)

Do you have any favorites? Let me know in the comments.

Notes

  1. But not the posts themselves. They’ll still come from time-to-time.

Stan Musial’s Recipe for Derek Jeter’s Success at the Plate

In a 1976 Roger Kahn piece on Stan Musial that I just finished reading, I was sort of floored by a comment that Musial made on the state of major league hitters at the time. Musial started out by praising Pete Rose, and then went to express embarrassment that many major-league hitters were hitting in the .200s. He said,

There’s no excuse for that. You know why it happens? They keep trying to pull everything they see, even low outside sliders. You can’t do that. Nobody can. If you’re a major league player, you ought to have pride. Learn to stroke outside pitches to the opposite field. That’s part of your job. A major league hitter is supposed to be a professional.

(Emphasis mine.) Jeter became famous for that inside-out swing of his that could put a ball into right field (or occasionally into the right field porch at Yankee stadium). It’s almost as if that set of instructions was written with Derek Jeter in mind, although how could it have been? Jeter was only two years old when Musial made the statement. Still, I think it captures perfectly what Jeter did at the plate for 20 years. It’s almost certainly a big part of why he ended up with 3,465 lifetime hits, and a lifetime batting average of .310.

Coming to New York City on Monday

I will be roaming New York City for most of the day on Monday. Strictly speaking, I am in town to attend the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) annual reception, which takes place Monday evening at a fancy penthouse in Manhattan. But it turns out I was able to do a few other things as well.

For instance, I was contacted by some folks at Forbes to do an interview on productivity for a series they are doing on the subject. They asked if I was going to be in New York City any time soon, and I said, well, actually… So I’m being interviewed there on Monday morning.

I’m having dinner with an editor1 on Monday evening. In between, I’ll be wandering about, looking for quiet places to sit and get some writing done. Or maybe just checking out the city. It’s been a while since I last wandered about Manhattan.

I am there in my capacity as a writer and technology blogger, and I think that’s a pretty cool reason to be in New York City for a day. Maybe not quite as good as attending a Yankees playoff game, but I’ll take it.

Notes

  1. If the 20-year old version of me could read those six words he’d probably faint dead away with excitement and disbelief.

My Picks for the MLB Post-Season

Kansas City won in an epic duel last night, and I was very happy to see that, because I wanted to see the Royals make it to the playoffs. I remember the 1985 series, George Brett, and the Kansas City glory that year, and it would be fun to see them go all the way this year1. Earlier int he week, I mentioned that I wanted to see Kansas City win on Twitter:

So here are my picks for the rest of the playoffs. Keep in mind these picks are based on the match-ups that I would most like to see. These are not based on sabermetrics, or even gut instincts.

Wildcard

  • Kansas City over Oakland
  • Pittsburgh over San Francisco

As I said, with the Yankees out of it, I’d love to see Kansas City go all the way this year. This isn’t a dig at the Orioles (for whom I held season tickets for five seasons) and I’m sure many people around here would like to see a Beltway Series. But I want to see KC make a run.

ALDS

  • Kansas City over Los Angeles (Angels)
  • Baltimore over Detroit

I haven’t been able to stand the Angeles (for no good reason, I admit) since 2002. And I really would like to see the O’s win their division battle. Sorry Magnum.

NLDS

  • Washington over Pittsburgh
  • Los Angeles over St. Louis

It’s nothing against St. Louis, but I’ve found that, in the dozen years since leaving Los Angeles, I’ve grown retroactively fond of the Dodgers. Besides, when I think of St. Louis, I always think of Dizzy and Daffy Dean.

Washington, of course, is my current home-town National League team, and I was at their first playoff game (against St. Louis) a few years back.

ALCS

  • Kansas City over Baltimore

In 7 grueling games.

NLCS

  • Washington over Los Angeles

Also in 7 grueling games. Because in the fall, true baseball fans want the game to linger as long as it possibly can. Frost on the grass and the last hints of summer still in the air. Although, truthfully, if the NLCS is a good series, I’d be happy with either outcome.

World Series 2014

  • Kansas City over Washington

The Royals, with one of the lowest payrolls in baseball, paid a hair over $1 million per win in 2014. It’s the second lowest of the playoff teams still remaining. (Pirates paid $884,000 per win in payroll.) The Dodgers have the highest cost per win ($2.5 million). But the Nationals are just about averages at $1.39 million per win. It would be nice to see two teams with average or below payrolls win, sure. But I just really want to see Kansas City go all the way.

Notes

  1. All of this caveated, of course, on the fact that the Yankees are out of it.

Going Paperless: The End of Our Regularly Scheduled Broadcast

All good things must come to an end. And after 2-1/2 years and more than 120 posts, this regular column has come to the end of its regular run. I stress the word “regular” because I’m sure that I will still write Going Paperless posts. They just won’t be on a regular schedule anymore, and will likely be much less frequent than they have been.

There are a few reasons I’m bringing the regularly scheduled program to an end now:

1. It’s becoming harder to come up with interesting topics each week. Doing this weekly means I’m coming up with about 50 new topics a year. It gets tough, coming up with interesting new topics each week. I try hard to only write about things that I actually do with Evernote and with Going Paperless. While there are plenty of other topics I could write about, my lack of experience with them would be somewhat disingenuous.

2. Readership has been steadily declining. Peak readership for these Tuesday posts used to come in at around 6,000 – 7,000 visits per day. This has been on a steady decline since the beginning of 2014. These days, a Going Paperless post probably sees 4,000 – 5,000 visits per day on a good day. I think part of the reason for the decline is #1 above. I’m stretching it in the topics that I cover. But part of it is natural attrition and interest moving away. It tells me it is time to move on to other topics.

3. I want to dedicate my limited time to other writing. While the Going Paperless posts have been waning, my freelancing writing has been picking up, and I want to be able to spend more time doing that, without the stress of coming up with a new topic each week. Lately, I’ve been struggling to keep to my schedule of posts every Tuesday. I’ve had a few more skipped weeks than usual, and more delayed posts as well. This is a sign that I’ve got too many irons in the fire at the moment.

So where does that leave things?

1. I will continue to blog here regularly. The blog isn’t coming to an end, just the regular Tuesday Going Paperless posts. If you like the other stuff I write here, stick around.

2. I will write new Going Paperless posts from time-to-time. I have no set schedule for this, but when I feel like I have a useful tip to share, I will share it here.

3. The Going Paperless posts are not going away. They will remain here for folks to read through and use, as will the shared notebook in Evernote.

Finally, a thank you

I wanted to  say thank you to everyone who has read these Going Paperless posts, everyone who has left a comment, provided feedback, made suggestions, and offered opinions. You have made this column what it is: a place where people can come to see how one person is trying to go paperless, and a place where the tips and tricks can be shared and discussed in a friendly atmosphere. I am grateful to all of my readers here, and while the regular Going Paperless posts are coming to an end, I hope that you’ll consider sticking around for some of the other posts I write here, and offering the same insights that you have over the last 2-1/2 years.


As always, this post and all of my Going Paperless posts is also available on Pinterest.

Last week’s post: 5 Tips for Creating Digital Baby Books in Evernote.

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My Reading at Capclave in October

It’s almost October, and in addition to the baseball post-season, it means that Capclave is just around the corner. Capclave is my local science fiction convention, and the convention I attended most frequently since 2007. I usually have a heavy schedule of programming at Capclave, but this year they’ve given me a break. I have one panel and one reading.

The panel is a shorter, updated version of what Bud Sparhawk and I presented last year on Online Writing Tools. We are tentatively scheduled to present at 4 pm on Saturday, October 11.

They also gave me a reading this year. This will be my third public reading ever, and I plan to read something brand spanking new. For those who have been following along for a while, you know that I finished up the first draft of a new baseball alternate history novella, called “Strays” a month or so ago. The first part of that novella is now in second draft form and good enough for a reading, so I will be reading the first part of that novella during my slotted time, which is tentatively set for 6 pm on Saturday, October 11.

If you’ve never been to Capclave before, it is a great convention to attend. It’s focus is primarily on written science fiction, and short fiction at that. This years guests of honor include Paolo Bacigalupi, Holly Black, and Genevieve Valentine.

Hope to see you there!

I’m Giving Ello a Try

The social network Ello has been getting some press lately, and thanks to good people, I got an invite last week, and have been giving it a try. I haven’t done much there as yet, but I see that a lot of folks in the science fiction/fantasy world are over there, too, making it feel almost like our own private social network.

In any case, if you’re looking for me on Ello (I know that the search there is awkward at the moment), I’m @jamietr, just like on Twitter.

ETA: Since I’ve been asked a few times already: I’m out of invites at the moment. If Ello gives me more, I’ll make an announcement.

Three Days in a Row of No Blogging!

So it appears I’ve gone 3 days without blogging, which I think is some kind of recent record for me, and for which I apologize. I’ve just been overwhelmed with work lately. This weekend, I escaped with the family to Kelly’s hometown, which was nice, but I also didn’t have much of a chance to get online and blog.

This is just a quick note to say that I am alive, and well, and will try to return things to normal around here.