Thomas Jefferson: Lifehacker

On Saturday, on a whim, we drove down to Monticello to visit the home of Thomas Jefferson. One of the many things I like about living in this area is the rich history. We can drive north to battlefields at Gettysburg, or we can drive south and visit the unique home of Thomas Jefferson. So on Saturday, we gathered up the kids and hit the road at 9 am. Google Maps told us the trip would take 3 hours on Interstate 95. It suggested taking Route 29, which would take only a little over 2 hours. It failed to mention the beautiful farm country we would pass through.

None of us had been to Monticello before, and I was particularly excited about it. I love history, and have a special place for American history. Within that special place is a niche reserved for colonial history, which I adore above almost all else, perhaps because I was living in New England when introduced to that history in school.


Wandering the grounds of Monticello was a treat. The weather was perfect, the skies clear, and as we walked the grounds, I kept thinking to myself: Jefferson walked here. He walked here. I remembered a similar feeling I had once, a decade earlier. I was walking on the campus of William and Mary, and happened to be reading a biography of Jefferson at the time, when it occurred to me that I was walking past the very dorm that the biographer said Jefferson stayed in while at the school.

We had a tour of the house. Our guide took us through it and I was amazed my Jefferson’s attention to detail. Jefferson was, like Benjamin Franklin, a lifehacker. The clock he made that mounts the front door made it easy to tell the day of the week. While standing beneath the portico, you could look up and see the wind direction marked on the ceiling, by a clever mechanical connection to the weathervane on the roof.

Jefferson’s “book room” made me green with envy. The shelves were full of books (at the time he sold his collection to start the Library of Congress, he’d amassed 7,000 of them). The books in the room were all the same titles and editions that Jefferson had in his collection. In two glass cases were book that Jefferson was known to have handled himself.

Jefferson had even considered that books get moved, and made it easy to do so. Each shelf was an independent unit that could be removed. A board could be be nailed over the opening without removing the books, and the box could be placed in a wagon for transport.

There were other clever touches to the house. Pocket beds kept the rooms spacious. Jefferson had a pocket bed between his study and his sitting room, so that he could get out of bed and start working right away. He had a revolving door in the dining room with trays for food to make the transport of food to the table quick and efficient. He had wine dummy’s built into the sides of the fireplace. He used narrow staircases to conserve space.

At the end of the tour I asked the guide if she knew of anyone who had seen Monticello and decided to replicate it for their own home. In fact, she had. She told me about someone in Pennsylvania who had done just that. It makes sense. It is a house designed for a reader and a writer. It is a house designed by an early lifehacker.

Jefferson was a lifehacker in other ways. He wrote more than 19,000 letters, and used1 a device that allowed him to write one letter, and automatically make a second copy. It is for this reason, apparently, that we know as much as we do about his life. He also invented a revolving bookstand which could hold 5 open books at once. Try switching that quickly between 5 books on a Kindle!

The trip reminded me that I eventually want to get through Dumas Malone‘s 6-volume biography of Jefferson someday. Six books on Jefferson! That biography would not fit on Jefferson’s clever bookstand in its entirety.

For more pictures of our trip to Monticello, check out the pictures on Google Photos.


  1. But did not invent.

First Impressions of My Karma Go

On Friday, I received my Karma Go, a WiFi hotspot device that I ordered back in September, and that just began shipping last week.

Karma Go
(Roughly, the actual size.)

A Karma Go is a device that provides Internet access wherever you happen to be. This is useful if you happen to be working in a park, or a hotel for which you don’t want to pay outrageous Internet access fees. It’s “pay as you go,” meaning you only pay for the data you use. And the system is built with sharing in mind. Another Karma Go user can use my Karma WiFi to access the Internet. They don’t use my data; they use their own data. What’s more, each time a new Karma user access my device, I am credited with data. Win-win.

I hadn’t a chance to use it much until yesterday morning. I was working from home, when my Internet access suddenly went out. We have Cox for our Internet provider, and they are about the best Cable company/Internet provider I’ve ever had. Our access is very fast, and rarely goes out. Yesterday, however, it was out for 90 minutes. Cox was great about getting the service restored, but in the meantime, I had work to do.

That’s when I remembered the Karma Go.

I fired it up. It can support up to 8 devices connected to it at once. I only connected two: my desktop iMac, and my work laptop. For the next 90 minutes, I was able to work as seamlessly as if my Internet connection had never gone out.

How’s the speed?

The Karma Go uses Sprint’s network for its Internet access. They say that you can get download speeds of 6-8 Mb/s, including highs of 25 Mb/s. Upload speeds are around 3 Mb/s. The speed seemed fine to me yesterday.

Under normal conditions, when I am using Cox at home, my upload and download speeds are about the following:

Speed Test - Cox

When I tested my Karma Go this evening at around 5 pm EDT, I got the following results:

Karma Go Speed

That seemed plenty fast for the kind of work I was doing. I wasn’t streaming video (although at that speed I could have). I was writing code, sending email, uploading images. Oh, and since I forgot to disable CrashPlan, I was also backing up my iMac in the background. This was using two devices. I was plenty satisfied with the speeds.

Data usage

Since you pay as you go, it’s important to be able to monitor your data usage. Karma makes it easy. You can see your day-to-day usage from any web browser:


Better still are the mobile apps that allow you to look at your usage. Using the iPhone app, I can see my usage hourly, daily, or monthly. Here is the daily view:

Karma Usage

Karma prices data at $14/1GB; $59 for 5 GB; and $99 for 10 GB. If you don’t use it, you don’t lose it, so the data is entirely under your control. Moreover, you can get data credits when other Karma users connect to your device


So far, I’m very happy with my Karma Go. It saved my bacon yesterday, and allowed me to continue to work when I would have otherwise been dead-in-the-water. As someone who depends on Internet access to get my work done, I think that the Karma Go will prove to be an invaluable tool in getting things done, where I happen to be.

Karma gives its users a code that allows others to get a $10 off a Karma Go device. If you are thinking about getting a Karma Go, and want $10 off, you can use this link. You can find the specs for the Karma Go here.

Going Paperless: On the Qualities of Useful Paper

If Sherlock Holmes lived in a paperless world, he might have said,

When you have tried to eliminate all paper, whatever remains, however improbable, must be useful.

In the years that I have been on this journey to go paperless, I’ve found that there is some paper that, no matter how much I’d like to get rid of it, I still find useful. In the last year or so, two types of paper have managed to survive, and recently, I have given up trying to get rid of them. Like a virulent strain of bacteria, these have survived my attempt to banish them, only to come back stronger.

As I have often emphasized in these posts, going paperless is an ongoing and evolving process. I will never be completely paperless until the rest of the world is completely paperless–something I very much doubt I will see in my lifetime. Going paperless means process the paper I do get, and minimizing the paper I use, but there are still a few places where I find paper useful.

1. Moleskine notebooks

In the last few months my primary method for taking notes has reverted to paper. I use an Evernote Moleskine notebook to take notes in meetings, and on phone calls1. If I watch a video on YouTube, I’ll jot the notes down in my Moleskine. I’ve found a renewed fondness for scratching out the notes with a pen on paper, but it is not this fondness that drives my use of the notebook: it’s my memory.

A page from my Evernote Moleskine notebook

I have found that, as I’ve grown older, I remember things far better if I write them down as opposed to typing them out. I’d read articles that discussed how handwriting had good cognitive benefits, but until I tried it myself, I wasn’t convinced. Of course, it could entirely be a placebo effect, but I feel like I better remember my notes when I write them out in a notebook, than when I type them via a keyboard2 Actually, this makes sense. Back in college, I wrote all my notes for lectures and reading in a notebook, and on later typed them into Microsoft Word 5.5. for DOS3. I was younger, but writing the notes, followed by typing cemented them in my mind.

Getting my handwritten notes into Evernote

Just because I’m writing the notes in a notebook doesn’t mean they don’t find their way into Evernote. I use Evernote’s Scannable app on my iPhone to pull my handwritten notes into Evernote. Here is the same page of notes from above captured in Scannable:

Continue reading Going Paperless: On the Qualities of Useful Paper

  1. And because I will almost certainly be asked, I use a Pilot G-2 0.7 pen to write in my Moleskine
  2. Of course, this is me. Things might be wired differently for you.
  3. Still my favorite version of Word.

DC17: Washington D.C.’s Bid for the World Science Fiction Convention

I live in the metro Washington, D.C. area, and I would love to see the World Science Fiction Convention come to our area in 2017. DC17 has a bid for the convention, and the August 10 deadline to receive mail-in votes is fast approaching.

Personally, I can think of 3 reasons why I’d like to see the World Science Fiction convention come to D.C. in 2017, and I’ll list them in order of increasing importance to me.

1. It’s local! It would be great to have a Worldcon in my home town. While I love traveling to other cities for Worldcon (San Antonio was blast, and I’m really looking forward to Kansas City next year), I’d be lying if I said it would be nice to attend a Worldcon at home. Of course, this is a great benefit for locals, but it still means that everyone else coming to the convention has to travel.

2. It’s Washington, D.C. But you get to travel to Washington, D.C. I’ve lived in the area for over a decade, and I still think its history is well worth visiting. Playing in the Senate softball league on the National Mall, I would occasionally look up to see the Washington Monument, or the Capital Building in the background and think: I’m playing ball in a place where Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt once walked. We’ve got the Air & Space Museum, the Library of Congress. We’ve also got the Washington Nationals. And in the surrounding area, you can find Mount Vernon to the south, and Gettysburg to the north.

3. It’s being run by the folks who run Capclave. The most important reason I want to see the World Science Fiction convention here in the Washington, D.C. area is because it is being run by many of the same folks who run Capclave, my regional science fiction convention. I have been going to Capclave ever since I began selling stories. It’s become my favorite science fiction convention, and I look forward to it each October. I’ve written about my time at Capclave at lot: here, herehere, and here, to list a few time. A big reason I enjoy is because of the hard work of the people who put it together. They get great guests, great panelists, they draw crowds of diverse, engaged, interesting, and fun people, and we spend 3 days talking about science fiction, what it means to us, and how it impacts us.

If you are so inclined, grab a ballot for site selection and cast your vote by mail before the August 10 deadline.

L.A. Stories

I lived in L.A. from 1983 – 2002–almost 20 years. I come back to L.A. for work every now and then, and it is always an interesting experience, one that fills me with mixed feelings. A lot of things have changed about L.A., but a lot of things have remained the same. Cities evolve. Santa Monica looks very different from the days that I worked here1. People seem to stay pretty much the same. On the east coast, if you tell someone you are a writer, the response if often the reasonable, “What do you write?” or “Have you ever been published.” In L.A. the response, more often than not, is “Do you have representation.” I hate stereotyping, but “Do you have representation?” is stereotypical L.A. for me.

Some things never change–or change so slowly that it is impossible in a human lifetime to notice the change. There is, for instance, the Pacific.

The Pacific

Through a quirk of memory, I can often remember where I was when I read a particular book. I can recall fondly, driving from the Valley to Pacific Palisades and sitting on a park bench overlooking the Pacific and reading William Gibson’s Idoru back in 1996.

I have worked at the same company for nearly 21 years, something virtually unheard of today. It’s funny how often I see TV shows or movies or commercials that take place at the Santa Monica pier. Folks: for 8 years, between 1994 and 2002, my office practically overlooked the pier. Walking home from dinner with good friends tonight, I took a detour and walked past the pier. The view of the entrance to the pier at night has been made famous by television and movies, but it is something that I look at with a wistful eye to the days when I worked in our Santa Monica office.

Santa Monica Pier

The funny thing is that I saw the Pacific ocean and the pier so often that I never really paused to enjoy them. They were tourist spots, much the same way I think of the Washington Monument and the Air & Space museum today. Walking by the pier this evening, with a crescent moon overhead, I felt like I wanted to knock some sense into the 22 year old version of myself, and say, hey, sure this may be something you see every day, but do you really see it?

Moon over the Pacific

When I worked in Santa Monica, my experience was tainted by traffic. I lived in Studio City, 20 miles from Santa Monica. It often required traversing the infamous Four-Oh-Five, and One-Oh-One. I’d leave the house at 5:10 am and get to the office at 5:30, making it in ahead of the traffic. But I’d leave the office at 5 pm and get home at 7 o’clock. L.A. seems glamorous until you sit in eight years worth of traffic2.

The thing is, I met my best friends in the world in L.A. I met them at Cleveland High School, in Reseda, California. 28 years after we first met, we are still friends I went to dinner with two of them this evening3. The friends I made living in L.A. made it worthwhile. The 2,200 hours of traffic I sat in over the course of 8 years was a small sacrifice for those friends.

Steve Martin’s L.A. Story was touted as the first great comedy of the 1990s when it came out4. For all its humor, L.A. Story is probably the best movie about life in L.A. that I have come across in the quarter century since it first came out. There have been great movies about L.A. before, and since, but none of them capture the spirit of L.A. the way Steve Martin did in L.A. Story. As Shakespeare once said (according to Steve Martin):

This other Eden, demi-paraside, this precious stone set in a silver sea, this earth, this realm, this, Los Angeles.


  1. There’s a train station that is almost finished where Sears used to be on 4th and Colorado.
  2. Sitting in L.A. traffic not long before I moved back east, I once calculated that over the course of 8 years, I spent about 2,200 hours commuting. 2,200 hours is the equivalent of 1 full-time-employee for a year. A year. Think of what else I might have been able to do with that time if not for sitting in traffic.
  3. At Santa Monica Yacht Club, in case you were wondering.
  4. Writing that line makes me feel old. The first great comedy of the 1990s. The movie is 25 years old, gang.

A Story in Santa Monica

There is a new story that I have been wanting to write, but I have been so focused on the the novel that I just haven’t had the time. But I am going to try a little experiment. On Sunday afternoon, I head to Santa Monica, California for a week for work. While there, I am going to try to write the first draft of the story. It doesn’t necessarily mean taking a break from the novel–I’ll just prioritize the story first, and fill in whatever time I have left to work on the novel. Except, there’s not likely to be much “time left.” So for all practical purposes, I’ll be taking a break from the novel next week.

That’s okay with me. I could use a break. And not only do I think I have a pretty good story idea, but I finally figured out how to tell it. The voice of the story is always important to me and I can never make it far until I figure out the voice. Now that I think I have that covered, the story should good well.

We’ll see. I’ll give it a shot, beginning on Sunday and see if I can have a first draft finished by Saturday. I don’t have a title for the story yet, but my working title is likely to be “Fat Man and Little Boy.”

“So quiet in my Sekrit Writing Room”

My pal, Fred Kiesche (@FredKiesche) made the following remark on Twitter this morning,

and at once I felt guilty for neglecting to post here more frequently. So I figured the least I could do was offer some explanation as to why I haven’t been posting as much as I used it.

1. The day job has been very busy. I’ve been doing more and more project management and less and less hands-on software development, which I think shows career progress, but also means that my days are just busier. Each time I reach a new level of busyness, I feel certain that I’ve finally hit a plateau–only to discover that the trail continues on up and up. More time at work means less time here with you all.

2. My energy level has been a little lower lately. Ten days ago, I gave up caffeine cold-turkey. I did this once before, back in 2004. I gave up caffeine for over 6 years. I started up with it again in 2010 during NaNoWriMo. My relationship with caffeine is akin to how I’ve heard an alcoholic’s relationship to liquor described: I don’t want just one Coke, I want five. The only way for me to cut back is to cut it out entirely. Which I did on the last day of our vacation. I have now been caffeine-free for ten days. The headaches have mostly passed, as has the grumpiness, but I feel unusually sluggish throughout the day.

3. Summer schedule is chaotic. Kids are in camp, hours get shifted to cover the times that they are not in camp. During the school year we maintain a very regular schedule. Right now it is precariously controlled chaos. That becomes a little draining.

4. I’ve been doing a lot more reading. On average, I probably get in between 50-60 hours of Audible listening1 each month. In June I had over 80 hour, and July is on pace to hit 100 hours. I’ve been reading enormous amounts of nonfiction. I’ve been working my way through a period of American history that I am least familiar with (the Civil War through the Great Depression), although not quite chronologically. I find the reading fascinating, and can almost always been seeing with my earbuds in place, listening to one book or another. Of course that much reading means less time for other stuff.

5. I started reading the newspaper again. After 15 years of not reading newspapers, I started again. I started, coincidentally, right around the time I gave up caffeine, but I really think that is a coincidence. What started me up again was Doris Kearns Goodwin’s excellent book The Bully Pulpit, which describes the relationship between Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft, as well as the birth of investigative journalism. Reading about Ida Tarbell, Lincoln Steffens, and Ray Stannard Baker, and muckraking journalism jumpstarted my desire to read the papers again–although I don’t deceive myself into believing I am getting Tarbell, Steffens, or Baker in what I read. Reading the paper takes up more time, however, and is yet another thing I’ve been doing in my Sekrit Writing Room.

6. Fighting tooth and claw with the novel draft. I am still writing every day, although considerably less each day than last month. As of today I’ve written for 725 consecutive days, and will, in 5 more days, hit 730–or two years without missing a day. Novel writing is the hardest thing in the world for me. But I’m not giving up. I’m fighting back with everything I’ve got. Sometimes, thought, it wears me down to the point where I just don’t feel like posting.

7. I’m traveling more. The family recently returned from a vacation in New York and Massachusetts. On Sunday, I fly to Los Angeles for a week for work. Travel takes something out of me, and places writing high on the list of things to get done early in the day so that I don’t miss it later.

8. I feel like I don’t have as much to say as I used to. I used to post 2 or 3 times a day. Many of those posts, however, were frivolous. When I post today, I want it to be about something meaningful. So I’ve hesitated to post here to tell you what I had for breakfast, or to rant about some bad customer service experience I had. There is no originality in that, and I don’t want to bore you. Sometimes, I’ll jot down a note to write about something that captures my interest that moment, only to reflect on it later, thinking, nah, this really isn’t something interesting. I’d love to write more here, but the writer in me does not want to bore an audience.


I’ve found that this comes and goes in waves. This blog is nearly 10 years old. There have been periods of time where I posted for years without missing a day, and periods where I didn’t post for a month at a time. The pendulum swings back and forth. When things settle down in my head, things will probably resume something like a more normal schedule here, too.

In the meantime, I am alive, I am still writing, and I am still very much committed to, and appreciative of, the folks who come here each day to read what I’ve written.

36 Years from Jupiter to Pluto

Almost exactly 36 years ago, Voyager 2 made its closest approach to Jupiter. I was 7 years old, and the recent acquisition of a telescope that allowed me to see the moon, and other planets up close thrilled me. I spent what seemed like days clipping photos of Jupiter out of the local newspaper and pasting them into a scrapbook that my mom had prepared for me. I had only the barest sense of the achievement at hand–that a robotic probe had been sent millions of miles into space and was now sending back pictures of what I already knew to be the largest planet in the solar system.

The telescope, Voyager 2, and a book I encountered in the public library called The Nine Planets by Franklyn M. Branley, served as the fuel, flint, and steel that stoked my lifelong interest in astronomy, and science in general.

Thirty-six years later, New Horizons is rapidly approaching Pluto–which was a planet when I was seven, but has since been demoted. In a few days, it will pass within 7,000 miles of the planet. I am no longer clipping photos from the newspaper (although I read with relish the piece in today’s Washington Post). Instead, in keeping up with the times, I am following along with events the way all the cool kids do it today, namely, on Twitter:

Reading the article, and following along with the excitement on Twitter, I can help but be amazed by the achievements we’ve made in science and engineering. A decade ago, we rocketed a robot into space, and based on Newton’s laws of motion, shot it at point in space that would intersect with where Pluto would be nearly 10 years later. Now, we are getting high resolution images from just a few million miles away from the planet, with more to come as New Horizons approaches ever closer.

Looking at the pictures, and reading the excited tweets of astronomers and engineers, and friends, and fellow science fiction writers, I’ve been trying to think of a way to describe the feelings it has generated within me. All I can come up with is this:

I feel just like that 7-year old, 36 years in the past, who eagerly awaited each day’s newspaper hoping for new images of planet unimaginably distant, and yet appearing close enough to touch.

I am Alive, and Mostly Back from Vacation

I realize it’s been a little while since I last posted. I’ve been on vacation, but we arrived home yesterday, and I’m taking today to take care of odds and ends before heading back into the office tomorrow. Expect things to resume here as normal in the next day or two.

In the meantime, here is picture I took from a farm road in Old Sturbridge Village, in Sturbridge, MA, where we spent some time on vacation. Walking this road and lingering at the fence at the end of it was about the most peaceful time I had on my entire trip.

Farm Road
Click to enlarge

Maintaining My Reading List as a GitHub Repo Using Atom 1.0

At the end of this year, my reading list will be twenty-years old. The list has evolved over time from simple, to complex, and back to simple. But over the course of the last two decades, it has always been available online in one form or another. When I started keeping the list, it was a simple HTML page. It evolved into a sophisticated relational database. When social media sprouted, it moved into places like GoodReads and LibraryThing. But eventually, I found that I had the most flexibility, and easiest maintenance, if I just kept the list as a plain text file on Dropbox.

While I was playing around with Atom1.0 , GitHub’s open source text editor, it occurred to me that I might be able to squeeze out even more functionality from my plain-text reading list. So I created a new repository on GitHub, my reading-list repo, and checked in my plain text file. To what end?

Commenting on the books I read

I’ve often wanted to write brief comments on the books that I read, but I’ve never been happy with the interfaces of places like GoodReads or Amazon reviews. I’m not interested so much in writing a review of the book, or giving it starts. I just want to capture some thoughts.

But my list is a plain text file, and capturing thoughts about a book, given the format of the list, would make it awkward at best. It occurred to me, however, that if I had my reading list in a GitHub repository, then each time I added a book to the list, I’d have the ability to add a commit comment when I checked in the list. That commit comment could give me the opportunity to include my thoughts about the book, without messing up the integrity of the list itself.

So that is my plan. Beginning with book #609 (Colonel Roosevelt by Edmund Morris, which I am reading now), I will add my thoughts about the book as a commit comment, when I check-in the list. To see my thoughts about a book, one needs only go to the commits page for the master branch, which looks something like this at present:

Reading List Commits

One huge advantage to all of this is that I can do it all from a single place–namely, my text editor. I was playing around with Atom this morning, and after installing the git-plus package, I discovered that I never have to leave the text editor to make, comment on, and commit changes to my reading list.

Using Atom to update and comment on my reading list

It works something like this:

First, I open my reading list in Atom. I have a command line alias to do this. Just type


at the command line and hit enter. The current file opens up in Atom. I go to the end of the file, and add the book I just finished reading. (I’ll use Colonel Roosevelt as an example, even though I haven’t finished it yet.) I can easily see which files in the repo have changed and which lines have been updated or changed in the file.

Reading list in Atom

When I am ready to checking and commit the file to GitHub–and thereby add my thoughts on the book I just added–I can do it directly from the editor:

Add, commit, and push

After selecting “Add All Commit and Push” I get another editor window that prompts me for my commit comment. This is where I’d add my thoughts about the book:

Commit thoughts

As soon as I save this, the file is committed to the GitHub repo and pushed to the master branch. Anyone who wants can see it in the list of commits:

Commits list

Now I have a nice tidy way of adding thoughts about the books I read without messing up the integrity of the list, and without every having to leave my text editor. But wait, there’s more!

Subscriptions and discussions

Because the list is checked into a GitHub repository, it comes with all of the features and functions of a GitHub repo. Other GitHub users can subscribe to the repository, and get notifications when it is updated–that is, when I comment on the book I just read.

Moreover, anyone can click on a commit, and see my thoughts, and, if they so choose, add comments of their own:

Commit comments

I understand that some of this stuff is beyond what the average person might do, but I have been fascinated by the potential of GitHub for uses beyond just that of maintaining code. And when there is seamless integration, like that built into Atom, it makes it a no-brainer solution for maintaining my reading list.

700 Consecutive Days of Writing, Plus Q&A

Yesterday, I hit another writing milestone. I wrote about 1,100 words on the novel draft yesterday. That’s par for the course of the last month. But with the writing done for the day, it meant that I have now written for 700 consecutive days.

700 consecutive days

I remember when I hit 100 consecutive days and thought that was pretty amazing, and that it seemed a huge uphill climb to make it another 265 days beyond that to get to a full year of writing. Today, I am 30 days away from 2 consecutive years of writing. The writing has become so ingrained in my daily life that it is almost like breathing.

In the course of those 700 days I’ve managed to write 612,185 words, mostly fiction. During that time I’ve published 14 pieces, 4 of which are fiction, and 10 of which are nonfiction. The fact that I have published more nonfiction and written more fiction is simple enough to explain. Nonfiction comes much more easily to me, while fiction takes practice and goes through many drafts. Many drafts means accumulating word counts. Also, I have written 2 novel drafts in those 700 days, and two novella drafts. Both of which, counting the restarts and rewrites, add up to a lot of words.

It doesn’t bother me because I think of all writing as practice. I like to think that the more I do it, the better I get at it.

All of this writing takes place in less than an hour each day. In fact, on average over the course of 700 days, I’ve written 875 words/day. And according to RescueTime, which automatically captures how much time I spend writing each day, I’ve spent, on average, about 38 minutes per day writing. Add that up, and over the course of 700 days, I’ve spent 443 hours writing. If that sounds like a lot, compare it to how much time I’ve spent at the day job over the same period–roughly 4,320 hours. That’s nearly 10 times what I’ve spent writing. Put another way, or every hour I spend on the day job, I devote 6 minutes to writing.

I have picked up the pace over the last month, as I push forward in earnest on this novel draft. In the last 30 days along I’ve written over 31,000 words, and I expect that trend to continue.

Questions and answers

I do get questions from time-to-time about the streak, or about how I find the time to write, or how I organize my writing, what tools I use, or whatever you can think of, I’m going to suggest that if anyone has questions about this stuff, drop them the comments below, and I will do my best to answer to them.

What I Do in My Day Job

When someone asks what I do in my day job, I have a brief, 3-word answer: “I make software.” I used to say that I was an “application developer” but that seemed unduly pretentious. I’ve never called myself a “software engineer” because I don’t have an engineering degree. I make software. I’ve been at my day job (yes, at the same company) for coming up on 21 years. For a lot of that time, I’ve been making software.

But what does that mean exactly? If you don’t make software it might not be obvious. Certainly you use software (you are using it to read this post). But what does it mean to make software? What goes into it?

There is an amazing post on Bloomberg today by Paul Ford called “What Is Code?” It is long. I mean, really long. About 38,000 words long. Which is the length of two novellas, or an (admittedly) short novel. But it is well written, engaging, interactive, funny, and best of all it answers the question “what does it mean to make software”? If you read the article, and come through on the other side, you’ll have a very good understand of what I do every day when I am making software.