July 2020

I’ve been writing a lot this month. I keep a daily journal which forces me to write at least 750 words per day, and I’ve well worked this into my routine. But I’ve also started keeping an agenda which allows me to reflect on my day as it’s happening, which means I no longer feel like I need to reflect on my day after it has already happened… which has left me with a habit (writing) with no real target (formerly, my feelings).

The great news is that I’ve been able to mostly convert this habit into planning and writing: articles, letters, creative endeavors, personal manifestos. Some of these I even get around to sending out!

One such is an article on The Gauntlet, which I’ve titled: The Album Gauntlet: Over-Engineered Music Appreciation. This is a very in-depth explainer of how I keep track of the albums that come across my desk, and it now means that I no longer get to mysteriously reference “The Gauntlet” in the statistics section of these monthly update without only, like, three people knowing what it’s referring to.


I published another blog post with tiny reviews of songs which came out recently, which you can find here. Here’s the playlist:


As for programming projects, I spent some time writing a CLI for moving records around playlists for The Gauntlet. In its current form, I don’t find it very useful, but I’m glad to have written the procedures that I could “easily” port into some other alternative interface for Spotify which better fits The Gauntlet.

My fiancée and her friend are working on an online store, so I’ve started working on the Shopify theme and all the bits and pieces that will have to go around it. I’m still trying to decide how deep the business end of things need to go — for example, I’m considering forming an LLC for a few reasons. It’s easy (though relatively expensive), it affords a retailer certain protections, and it’d be nice to form it as more of an umbrella that I could use for whatever I want. Also, then I’d have my very own LLC, which would be pretty cool and is something I’ve wanted for a few years now.

At some point Linode emailed me a surprisingly large account credit for some reason unbeknownst to me, so I’ve taken the opportunity to finally start migrating failbetter off of my terrible old hosting provider. The first step of this process was getting a modern Drupal install on a modern stack as our staging site.

As part of my work to start migrating the content to the new server, I accidentally took down failbetter for about 20 minutes. Thankfully, this was the middle of a weekend, so I was able to dive in, diagnose, and fix the issue, but still: this crash is emblematic of why I want to move to the new platform in the first place! As my own personal post-mortem, I celebrated my ability to dive in and fix the issue without panicking about it. Well, without panicking about it too much.

And, of course, I’ve been beginning the process of actually using that new failbetter server. It’s at a currently unguessable URL, but someone’s bot still found it and tried to register an account! For now, I’m beginning the slow process of redesigning the site; hopefully more news on that front next month.

Also, this sort of blends into the “reading” section below, but I’ve been reading Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs by Abelson, Sussman, & Sussman. It’s mostly things I entirely know, but the second I find myself beginning to skim a bit, I’ll stumble across a new concept that makes me think for a while. As such, a lot of my hobby programming time has been taken up crafting my own implementations from or inspired by problems presented in the book.


I started The Sweet Spot: How to Accomplish More by Doing Less late last month and finished it early this month. There were some good nuggets of wisdom here, and I’ve used to to completely reorganize the way I handle the things I need to do every day. That being said, reading it was not fun at all. Not only did each chapter give me more and more homework, it was hard homework — to evaluate myself and my relationship with the world. Not a very fun project to work on at the end of a work day!

I also read The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa. It was pretty good, and many descriptions of it online don’t do it justice. It’s not satisfactory to call it Orwellian, unless “Orwellian” means “any novel with an all-encompassing State in it.” It had some very poetic moments, but this was at odds with its translation, which I sometimes felt sacrificed poetry for strict transliteration. Without spoiling too much, nothing in this novel ever really gets resolved, which is both frustrating and a suppose a little thought-provoking.

Finally, I decided to start re-reading Consider Phlebas by Iain M. Banks. I’ve already read it, and fairly recently — within the past, what, four years? — but the Culture series brought me a lot of joy, and it’s interesting to read this novel now with the perspective of the rest of the Culture’s backstory now wedged somewhere in this brain.


This month, failbetter published a gripping short story, “Little White Seas,” by Therin Alrik. We also published a haunting poem by James Braun, “The Singing House.”

Some other stats

This month,

  • I typed 870,000 keys (+50,000) and clicked 227,561 (+60,391) times. (I’ve been playing cookie clicker.)
  • I listened to 2095 songs (+109).
  • 27 albums escaped from the Album Gauntlet (-6).
  • I wrote 24,030 words in my personal journal (+1152).

That’s it! Thanks for reading. Feel free to get in touch with me any time at joewoods@fastmail.com.