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Thirteen months of daily musings

It’s the end of the month [1]. I have achieved another milestone [2]. Since it’s the end of the month, it’s time to step back and reflect on what I’ve learned from musing this month. In the past month, I wrote 31 musings [4], therefore averaging a slim fraction more than one per day. Here are the titles of the musings, at least according to my notes.

Best of breed?; Game night; A report from the Grinnell summer 2017 letterpress workshop; A report from the Summer 2017 CS Department Workshop; A new CSC 151, revisited; It seemed like a good idea at the time; Another unposted rant; Musing too much (or too little); Missing a musing; Placing incoming students in Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science; Breakfast in the Marketplace; Another good rant ruined; Which role has priority: Department Chair or Tutorial Advisor?; Local, national, and global; Shadow; The Big Sick; Thank You; The meaning of ROF; Ridding myself of random stuff; What happened?; The eclipse; Getting rid of stuff; Being nicer; Begin nice; Wrapping up; Dreading September 1; Browser expectations; A biography, of sorts; Thirty years; and Why Scheme?.

So, what can I take from all of that? I was clearly busy in August, since there are at least four workshop reports included. I may have written too much in each of those reports. While I didn’t get to many more of the overcommitted and nibbled to death by ducks series, I did experience the constant pressure of having more tasks than I could reasonably handle. That pressure led [5] to a long streak of days in which I got no musings posted. I made up for it with a day of musings. But it wasn’t that I was making it for my readers; I was making it up for myself. As I’ve noted [6] I learn from writing. I even enjoy it. And there were topics I wanted to think about.

I spent the last week of the month trying to write shorter musings. In doing so, I was reminded about the difficulty that I have writing shorter musings. Even for short musings, I find myself going off to the Interweb or my filesystem to look for followup information, detouring off on other topics, and more. I do need to find ways to be more concise, or at least to spend less time writing.

I find myself struggling with my rants. The more I think carefully about situations [7], the less I find that I should rant. It’s probably okay to make certain administrators and trustees the targets of rants, since they make the high level decisions. But too many of my rants seem to target those who are asked to carry out those decisions [8].

Unfortunately, when I try to explain why I’m not ranting, it seems that it’s even worse than when I do rant. In one case, I ended up making large numbers of changes, but the core of the rant is still clear. In another, I found that I had to cut out about 3/4 of the musing, not least because it ended up being a critique of some really nice work by students. It was also clearly an instance in which I am struggling as a writer. I was trying to write about the ways in which I react less positively than I would like. However, in trying to show how I react, I ended up being quite negative. That’s clearly something that I have to work on.

Does that mean that I’m reaching the point that I need an editor? Perhaps. Perhaps I should learn to be more of my own editor. As I said, I’m going to try to think more carefully before ranting [9]. It’s clear that I fail miserably at the genre of Explaining why I should not rant, since it just ends up as a rant. Now is not the time to work on that issue, mostly because I don’t have time. So I’m just going to avoid that genre.

Did I learn anything else this month? I’m hearing more and more casual mentions of my musings when I talk to people. I may not be getting many likes or comments or retweets [10], but it does seem that some people are reading. I don’t know whether or not they read daily, once in a while, or only when someone sends a long a note of the form Can you believe what Rebelsky wrote today?, but people are reading. That’s probably another reason I’m starting to feel that I should moderate my rants. It’s one thing when my only readers are family members, friends, a few students, and a few more alums. It’s another when my readers include people with whom I work regularly and who do not necessarily share the privileges I have of being a tenured faculty member [11].

What am I planning on writing this next month? I remain busy and have a lot of writing responsibilities as part of my normal work, so it is likely that I will continue the informal series of Sam posts and comments on things he wrote in other contexts. I’m going to try to keep my musings short (and quick for me to write). I have some other ideas, but I’ll write about those in another musing.

I wonder what I’ll learn from writing this month? I hope I’ll be able to keep it up as a daily activity.

[1] This month is August 2017, in case I forget in the future.

[2] Or perhaps millstone [3].

[3] Is the millstone around my neck or around my readers’?

[4] Plus two more today.

[5] I know that some people write lead, but I’m 99% sure that’s incorrect.

[6] Although I can’t recall where.

[7] Or, perhaps more accurately, the more others help me think more carefully about situations.

[8] Surprisingly, many of those folks have started to ask me to complain more about the things they have to deal with. Sam, could you please write about what a PITA this is? I won’t mention what those things are, other than to suggest that software is often involved.

[9] I realize that my rants are popular among some portion of my reader population. I’ll think about how to keep those folks appropriately satiated.

[10] That is not intended as a request that you comment, like, or retweet. It is simply an observation.

[11] I do have many long-term readers who are staff members and who I often count as friends or who I feel I have a strong relationships with; in most cases, we are either Facebook friends or Twitter co-followers. But it sounds like the number of staff who read and who may not know me as well is increasing. The number of students and alumni who read may also be increasing.

Version 1.0 of 2017-08-31.