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Another month of daily musings

Topics/tags: On musing, long

We have reached the end of another month of daily musings. And is my wont, I will use the last musing of the month [1] to reflect back on the experience of musing for that month or about broader issues with the experience of musing.

Much of this month got consumed by my reactions to the College’s new marketing campaign [2]. I don’t feel like counting how much I mused about that campaign or about related issues. As I said recently, it’s time to put the campaign behind me. But I will put in one parting shot: The Crane Metamarketing report of a few years back paints the obituary of the horrendous No Limits campaign with the following pithy quotation.

With No Limits, we were governed by fiat. There was an attempt to give faculty, students, and staff the impression that they were being consulted; in fact, that attempt had zero impact.

I wonder what they’ll say about the tripartite campaign in three years?

This was also a month in which I gave up on reporting on my weekly time logs [3]. In part, it was that I didn’t find myself with much new to report. In part, it was that I had other things to write. My summer is disjointed enough that I’m not sure that it’s worth restarting the a week in Sam’s life musings, but I may consider it at some point. Or maybe I’ll just do a month at a time.

It was a mixed month in terms of writing experience. I started the month with a rambly piece on language which had a weak organizational structure. One of the first comments I got was Great piece! Perhaps content is more important than structure. I followed that with a short biography. In that case; I realized that I sometimes have difficulty with concision [4,5]. The biography was short. But the surrounding text grew and grew until it was a normal-sized musing.

I wrote (or rewrote) three different talks this month, including a speech to graduating CS majors (and a few near-majors) in the class of 2018 and yet another speech to Duke TIP award recipients. I also wrote up my notes for a panel at reunion. I’ll post those notes tomorrow. Rewriting the talks was a problematic experience, particularly in the case of the Duke TIP talk; it feels like I was writing better two years ago than I’m writing now. Am I exhausting my creativity in writing the musings? Have I perhaps fallen into a rut in how I write? Or are there other issues at play, such as general exhaustion. I’m not sure. It may be worth trying a few different types of musings to exercise my writing skills.

I ended the month feeling a need to focus on short musings. Perhaps that can be the change in approach; how well can I write and edit short, pithy musings? We shall see.

As in past months, I find that musings kept getting delayed. For example, I drafted much of the musing on alternate EOCEs on May 8. I didn’t end up releasing it until May 16. Why? Because all the damn marketing stuff occupied my brain in the meantime. I posted a new introduction, but I’d started writing that introduction during spring break. If I count correctly, that means that the introduction was delayed by nearly two months from original sketch to final release. And, while I did post a profile of Andrea Conner before she left Grinnell, I’m pretty sure that I took notes for the tribute back in March when it was announced that she was leaving. At least I got another profile posted!

Then there’s a musing on textbooks that I’ve worked on three or four separate times. Each time, I write a few more paragraphs and then realize that I can’t come up with a good conclusion. So back in the queue it goes. I guess that’s not quite the same as the delay from a draft or plan to a release, but it’s still a delay.

I wonder how things stand with regards to the number of musings in the past year. On May 31, 2017 [6], I posted musing #342 which, not surprisingly, reported on a month of daily musings. This musing is #648. That’s 306 musings in a year. I’ve posted a musing each day for the past month. Last month I was 310 ahead of the previous year. How have I fallen further behind? Ah, here’s what I wrote at the time.

I had at least two days this month in which I was too tired after doing my regular work of the day to post anything and a few more in which I just wrote something short. I made up for that with at least an equal number of days in which I posted a second musing. If I count correctly, there were thirty-eight musings this month.

Seven extra musings make it hard to stay ahead if I’m only posting one musing per day. If I keep to that rate, I won’t feel like I’m falling behind a year from now [7]. I just wonder when I’ll find that I’m closer to 365 musings ahead of a year ago. Possibly not until December.

Back to the more important topic: What effect has musing had on me? As I noted as I ended my rants about marketing, writing about our marketing issues potentially made me grumpier rather than happier [8]. And, as I noted above, I’m not sure that daily writing is making my writing any better. Nonetheless, I like having written. I like having a repository of my thoughts. I like planning what to write. so I’m going to keep musing.

Postscript: I’ve started to find it useful to look at the tally of potential topics in my virtual notebook. I realize that no one else really cares about these data, but I enjoy putting them together [10].

I added a new category called added recently. That category is an attempt to add new topics near the top of the stack, but not at the top of the stack. The hope is that I will clear through some other things before I get to them. I also realized that I had some forthcoming musings that were hidden in various indices, which I gathered together and labeled from elsewhere. There were also surprisingly many which seem to have been plans for things I like. I’ve created a new category for those which I call Reviews.

And, as I always say, at some point I may find a way to rearrange these. But given my plans for the next few weeks, which include running a code camp, it’s unlikely to happen before the next end-of-month musing.

Category                     Last Month      This Month      Change
--------                     ----------      ----------      ------
for specific dates               2               4             +2
musings w/substantial drafts     9               8             -1
"high priority"                 36              39             +2
delayed rants                    3               4             +1
added recently                   0              15            +15
gathered from elsewhere          0               5             +5
almost immediate (?)             7               7             
new "soon", teaching             6               6          
new "soon", other               18              18          
new "soon", short, teaching      9               9             
new "soon", short, other        28              27             -1
old "soon"                       8               8             
new, but no so new              29              29             
series: fun books                4               4             
reviews                                          7             +7
series: anniversary musings      3               3              
series: addiction/organization   2               2              
old forthcoming musings          5               5             
more from csc 281                5               5             
"quick (?)"                     23              23             
general                        129             127             -2
Grinnellians you should know    69              69             
other people                     9               9              
topics to revisit               12              13             +1

More than a year’s worth of musing topics [11], including thirty or so new topics [12]. If I keep going in that direction, I’ll never write about everything I’ve planned. I’ve already figured out that I’m not sure what all of the notes in my notebook mean. Perhaps some will disappear when I rearrange. Perhaps I’ll even find duplicates. But there’s currently no worry about me running out of topics.

[1] Or, on occasion, the first musing of the next month.

[2] I considered marketing fiasco and marketing masterpiece. I’ll just stick with campaign.

[3] At some point, I gave up recording the logs. But I’ve started again because I did promise my Dean that I would tell him how much time I spent on each activity this summer.

[4] Or is that conciseness?

[5] People who know me know that I always have trouble with concision.

[6] It took me a month to realize that I wrote 1997 instead of 2017. I’ve fixed that now.

[7] If I keep up until that point, I’ll just have reached 1000 not-quite daily musings.

[8] Okay, that’s not quite true. There are times I revel in curmudgeonliness [9].

[9] Isn’t there an aphorism about that? If I recall correctly, the saying is Curmudgeonliness is next to G-dliness.

[10] Obsessive and compulsive are positive character traits, right?

[11] 446, if I count correctly.

[12] About a dozen aren’t strictly new topis; they were in some lists of forthcoming musings but just not my main lists. I’m still counting it as an increase.

Version 1.0 released 2018-05-31.

Version 1.1 of 2018-06-30.