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Another month of daily musings

Topics/tags: Meta-musings, long

Once again, it’s the end of another month of daily musings. More accurately, it’s the end of another month of approximately daily musings. I’m pretty sure that there were a few days in which I failed to post a musing and also a few days in which I ended up posting two musings instead.

I started the month with three primary goals for the musings. First, I promised Michelle and some subsets of my sons that I would try not to rant this month. Second, I suggested that I might try to re-read Joe Williams’ Style: Toward Clarity and Grace and start to edit my musings more actively. Third, I would muse weekly about my efforts to reach inbox zero.

Did I succeed?

Let’s see.

I was unable to completely avoid ranting. It’s hard; I’m a curmudgeon and have a lot to rant about. If I count correctly, I ranted thrice this month. I ranted about an absurd suggestion that a high-school class in programming might substitute for a class in a non-native language. I did not feel that rant could wait another month. I ranted a bit about the new UWyoming marketing slogan, The World Needs More Cowboys. That rant generated a bit of followup commentary on my misunderstandings about cowboys [1]. And I ranted about file management software that chooses to delete files. At least I didn’t rant about my job.

In reading that first rant, Michelle noted that it felt less like a rant and more like a straightforward explanation of why programming is not a reasonable substitute for a foreign language. But it feels like most of my rants can be explained that way. Complaints about our new campaign? That’s just an explanation of why poor grammar does not adequately represent Grinnell College. Complaints about our font choices? It’s an explanation of straightforward design principles [2].

In any case, three rant-like musings is a comparatively small number. I’ve almost certainly accumulated some topics to rant about. So in the next month, I’ll post a variety of rants. Don’t worry; I’ll write more than just rants. But I expect a higher ratio of rant to non-rant.

Where was I?

That’s right. I was reflecting on my three goals for this month. The first was to avoid rants. I mostly achieved that goal. The second was to apply Williams’ principles to my writing. I did not have time to achieve that goal. I’m putting it off until September. The third was to post regularly about my progress toward inbox zero. I didn’t quite manage a weekly post, but I did try to keep up. Although I haven’t reached a steady state of inbox zero yet, I do seem to have developed some better email habits.

What else happened this month?

I continued to discover amongst my readership people who I never expected to read my musings. One was a colleague who hasn’t worked at Grinnell in a decade. Another was someone in town [3]. And a few more alums reached out to let me know that they read the musing [4].

I posted the first musing in a while that included an image [5].

Not surprisingly, the code camps were the most frequent topic of the month [6]. If I count correctly, eleven of this month’s musings related in some way to the code camps. Although we’re done with the code camps, I’m likely to post a few more related musings. At the very least, I’m going to post a draft of my next report on the code camps.

Oh! Here’s a fun thing. I’ve mentioned in the past that my Web pages frequently show up high on Web searches for some terms. That means that I’ve started to get messages from link hucksters [7] related to my musings [8]. Here’s one.

Hi Samuel,

I noticed you have a link to the Hemingway Editor on your site - and I just wanted to tell you about one of our guides which you might also like.

Our section on writing better blog posts [URL elided] covers the basics like brainstorming ideas and improving readability (which obviously the Hemingway Editor helps with too) to optimizing headline length and tweaking for search engine visibility.

Perhaps you could add a link to this as well? If your users find the Hemingway app useful then chances are they’ll also get value from our guide.

Please let me know your thoughts.

Thank you in advance.



Tom Howard

Community Manager

That’s about it for this month. What are my writing plans for the coming month? It’s definitely a month of transitions. I’m wrapping up my summer research. I’m getting ready to start my fellowship at UIowa [9]. I have a bunch of summer projects to attempt to finish and some early-fall projects to start. So, um, I’ll probably write a bit about these various projects. I’ve already promised to rant more [10]. I should continue my quest for inbox zero. Finally, I expect that some of my work on the new course will end up being a regular topic of musing.

We shall see.

Postscript: I’ve been making it a practice to end the end-of-month musings with a data dump of notes on my notebook [11] of forthcoming musings. Given the amount of time I put into the end-of-month musing, I’m never sure whether the data dump would be better presented as a separate musing. But, well, it’s even less interesting than my normal end-of-month notes, so I am reluctant to excise it from this document and place it elsewhere.

Every month, I say that I might rearrange the list of forthcoming musings in the coming month. Last month, I started tagging new forthcoming musings [12]. This month, I started moving some forthcoming musings to the tagged section. It wasn’t a systematic process. At times, I moved and tagged whole sections. At others, a few suggestions caught my eye and I moved and tagged them. In any case, I’ve made some progress. Once I’ve made a bit more progress, I do have plans to muse about the ways I’m tagging the forthcoming musings. Next month, I might even gather more detailed data about the tagged musing.

Category                     Last Month      This Month      Change
--------                     ----------      ----------      ------
for specific dates               4               8             +4
musings w/substantial drafts     8               0             -8  
tagged topics                   26              64            +38
"high priority"                 30              22             -8
delayed rants                    3               0             -3
added recently                  15               8             -7
gathered from elsewhere          5               5             
almost immediate (?)             7               7             
new "soon", teaching             6               5             -1
new "soon", other               18              18          
new "soon", short, teaching      8               8            
new "soon", short, other        27              26             -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                        126             124             -2
Grinnellians you should know    69              69             
other people                     9               6             -3
topics to revisit               14              14 
CHANGE                                                         +9

Whoo! I’ve only added nine forthcoming musings. I’m still moving in the wrong direction [14], but I’m doing so at a decreased rate. And, as I suggested last month, once I make some more progress on moving topics to the tagged section, I’m likely to find a lot of topics that are worth dropping.

Postscript: Wasn’t I trying to track how far ahead of a year ago I am? Let’s see … the monthly musing of a year ago was musing #399. This musing is #705. I’ve written 306 musings in a year. That doesn’t quite sound daily. I guess summer wasn’t when I stopped musing. Perhaps it was early fall. Given that last year’s end-of-August musing was #432, which suggests that I wrote 33 musings last August, I expect that I will continue to fall behind this month.

Postscript: In case you are wondering, the musing with an image was the one on Pig Latin.

[1] It turns out that a reasonably large percentage (about 1/4) of cowboys were African-American, in part or in whole. And being a cowboy is a hard job that requires lots of dedication.

[2] E.g., Design for readability. Emphasize the most important information.

[3] What do my musings suggest about the College to people in town who don’t know me well? I do have a disclaimer at the end, but there’s still some sense that I serve as a stand-in for example of a Grinnell faculty member.

[4] It appears that I have a relatively large group who read but don’t comment. That’s fine.

[5] Do you remember which one it was?

[6] It’s unsurprising because we offered two code camps this month and also did the preparation for those two camps this month. Code camps were always on my mind.

[7] Or whatever you call them.

[8] Messages from link hucksters are not a new occurrence. I’d say that I get at least one Please add a link message each week. The messages often ask me to update Web pages that are a decade old.

[9] For those who’ve been asking: No, I don’t plan to start wearing Herky clothing.

[10] What’s that recommendation? Write less. Rant more. That sounds right.

[11] Notebook may not be quite accurate. It’s an electronic document. But I use it to store many of my notes about potential musings.

[12] You can read more about the basics of the tags in last month’s musing.

[14] At least from some senses.

Version 1.0 released 2018-07-31.

Version 1.0.1 of 2018-08-02.