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Nine months of daily musings

Another month has passed. It is hard to believe that I have been writing a musing each day for nearly a full academic year. If I remember correctly, I ended last month somewhat frustrated that I was experiencing writer’s block and that I was writing too many introspective musings. Let’s consider how this month went.

I certainly enjoyed writing the first piece of the month, which was an April Fools Day musing. I’m not sure that mediocre humor is a new genre for me, but it was good to be able to extend that approach to a full piece. I particularly enjoyed writing the long paragraph of corrections. I did find that I kept going back and updating that musing. I’d rather be able to leave them behind when I finish. I also think it was successful as an April Fools Day piece, since a few folks were clearly confused.

This was also a month of milestones. I hit the anniversary date of my first posted musing [1]. I reached my 300th musing [2]. For the first time ever, I made a decision to re-post a musing after extending it [3]. I made my first offer to someone else to choose a topic for my next essay [4]. I got a nice indirect compliment from one of my sons: My friend says that your musings are one of Grinnell’s hidden treasures.

Since I’m now a year after the original essays, Facebook is having fun telling me what I wrote about a year ago. It’s somewhat interesting to see the difference. The early essays and musings seem to have taken two main forms: things I needed to write anyway (e.g., a description of the department for prospective students, a letter to the president about POSSE, a speech for the Duke TIP program) and stupid introspective musings about the process of musing. A year later, it appears that I am continuing with introspective musings, but they are generally more about various aspects of my life. I’m also writing many more open-ended musings to help myself think through issues [5].

Speaking of introspection, we should see if I posted fewer purely introspective musings. Let’s see … I would count the musing on making good choices, the latest entry in my series on achieving and maintaining inbox zero, a quick note on other kinds of writing I do [6], and this musing [7]. I achieved my goal; four is much better than I wrote in my eighth month.

Two musings were quite short. I had fewer days in which I felt that I had time to give the daily musing the attention it deserved. There were many evenings in which I chose something that I thought I could write about quickly, rather than something I really wanted to muse deeply about. Of course, I also found that I misestimated in a lot of cases. I’d say This will only take thirty minutes and then find that I’d (a) written more than I had expected and (b) taken over an hour to write. It could be that I write slower when I’m tired. It could be that I was being more consistent in using Grammarly and the Hemingway App. I may be that I’m spending a lot more time looking at other resources and even thinking more carefully about what I’m writing.

I’m still not sure how I’ve changed as a writer. I pay more attention to my writing quirks [8]. I’d prefer to start thinking more globally about my writing, putting into practice the many principles I learned from Joe Williams and reflecting more carefully on word choices and sentence structures. Strangely, I feel a bit less creative. I may be doing another Duke TIP speech this month [9]. A year ago, I was able to quickly come up with a structure for the speech. Right now, I have no clue what I might say [10]. I’ll have to sleep on it.

I feel increasingly uncertain as to who is reading these musings. I’d assume that by this time, it would be almost no one. Nonetheless, I do get occasional notes from folks or hear from my children about friends who had read musings. Terrifyingly enough, someone told me that Dean Latham reads these on occasion [11]. Am I still comfortable not knowing who reads what I write and assuming that it’s my family and a few others? Yeah, I think so. I do miss the frequent comments from David Feldman and the occasional comments from Harley McIlrath, though [12].

What are my plans for the coming month? Well, we have two more weeks of classes, then finals, then the start of summer research. I’m likely to be pretty damn busy. I should not plan too many significant things. Maybe once I hit June, I can start writing profiles again; I’ve delayed those much too long. I should try to get a few more essays on C and Unix out for my students. It’s almost certainly time to write An introduction to SamR’s Assorted Musings and Reflections, but that will probably have to wait at least another month [14].

As always, we’ll see where my muse leads me. I’m hoping that she helps me find the energy and enthusiasm to move these musings over to a Jekyll site and, perhaps, to rename them as SamR’s Assorted Musings and Rants. Stay tuned!


[1] If my first musing was over a year ago, why is this musing titled Nine months of daily musings? Because I took the summer off, so I’ve been counting since I restarted in late August.

[2] What special about 300? Since we’re a decimal culture, multiples of ten seem to have import and multiples of 100 seem to have particular import. I’m looking forward to reaching a multiple of 1000.

[3] I added more questions and answers to the CS FAQ. It did not seem appropriate to create another document.

[4] It was a gift. They have not redeemed the gift yet. I wonder when they plan to do so.

[5] Or maybe that’s what the POSSE essay was intended to be.

[6] Arguably, that note wasn’t long enough to be introspective.

[7] Self-referential musings are always fun.

[8] I write I think too much. I am much too fond of starting sentences with However. I frequently insert perhaps to avoid taking a stand. I start way too many sentences with and. I use a number of in my writing a number of times. And there are certainly others.

[9] Sam checks. There’s a message in my Inbox Bankruptcy box that says that the ceremony is May 5. That’s more than enough time.

[10] They did say I don’t think you need to write a new one, unless you want to. It will be a new group of students & families. But I’d still like to improve the speech.

[11] I have sent him links to some of the musings, so he knows they exist. But I assume that he has no time to read what I write.

[12] David still leaves the occasional comment, but I haven’t heard from Harley in weeks.

[14] I included a reference to an endnote 14 when I wrote this musing, but I forgot to include the endnote. I wonder what I intended to say.


Version 1.0.1 of 2017-05-01.