Hey there! You're reading the inaugural issue of Mere Being, a monthly letter about my work.
I've been wanting for a while to copy Craig Mod's "two main newsletter" structure. He's got a weekly-ish letter, Ridgeline, and a monthly letter, Roden. Ridgeline's a little tighter than Roden, and is mostly about walking. Roden's about everything – what he's working on, what he's thinking about, what he's doing, and any little bits that don't quite fit into other newsletters. I've been writing my own weekly-ish newsletter, Simpler Machines, for about two(!) years now, and while I'm still finding out what it's about it's settled into "something about programming." I do a lot that's not software related, though, so I've been wanting a little more space to write about that.
I got hung up for a long time on wanting to have an introduction letter to Mere Being that's as elegant as Craig Mod's invitiation to Roden Explorer's – that explains what "Of Mere Being" means to me with as much art as Mod explains his relationship to James Turrell and the Roden Crater.
I gave up. There is a whole story, a whole artistic coming of age and everything, but that's going to have to stay a story for another day. Instead, I'm going to share the poem and then I'm going to tell you a couple of things about Wallace Stevens.
Of Mere Being
The palm at the end of the mind,
Beyond the last thought, rises
In the bronze decor,
A gold-feathered bird
Sings in the palm, without human meaning,
Without human feeling, a foreign song.
You know then that it is not the reason
That makes us happy or unhappy.
The bird sings. Its feathers shine.
The palm stands on the edge of space.
The wind moves slowly in the branches.
The bird's fire-fangled feathers dangle down.
There are two things you should know about Wallace Stevens.
For almost his entire life, including the period where he was writing his most important poems, he was the vice president of an insurance company. He worked on insurance during the day, composed poems in his head on his walk to work, and wrote them down at night.
Every day, he walked the same two-point-four miles, from West End to an office in Asylum Hill. You can take the same walk if you want, the next time you're in Hartford. It's marked with thirteen Connecticut granite stones, maintained by the Friends and Enemies of Wallace Stevens.
Last month was a "daytime" month for me. Taxes, business expenses, lots and lots of coding. I expect more taxes and administrative work this month, but probably more writing than coding.
I published five articles/newsletters to Simpler Machines.
- Build your own Vim configuration
- Career advice for engineers who aren't supposed to exist
- 13 User Research Tips for Platform Teams
- Nouveau Shamanic Programming
- How I write code
"Career advice for engineers" has gotten the most traffic, probably because it got a bit of resharing on social media. "Build your own Vim configuration" was moderately successful in terms of opens and shares but has already started getting search traffic. Neither of these should really surprise me at this point. The writing I do that people really like is the "engineering personal essay" stuff, and the crunchy technical things have the best SEO.
The other big news on the work front is that I started testing Fathom Analytics and I'm happy enough with it that I'm going to take out Google Analytics once I've got a full month of stats in Fathom. That link is a referral – I'll get paid if you sign up through it – so I'm not unbiased here, but it's simpler and more accurate than Google Analytics so if you've been thinking about switching already you should go for it.
Last: A few nights ago we watched Vibes, a Jeff Goldblum romantic comedy adventure that's pretty clearly a Ghostbuster's knock off. It made $1 million dollars on an $18 million dollar budget and the Rotten Tomatoes numbers are dire but it's honestly pretty fun– I'd watch it again right now. If you're a Goldblum fan and want to watch him being weird and sexy for an hour and a half you'll be happy.