J.D. Moyer

beat maker, sci-fi writer, self-experimenter

Category: Metaprogramming (Page 1 of 19)

Activity Audit – Where Does All The Time Go?

At some point everything drops …

December and January brought more freelance coding and database work than expected, but now I’m in a quiet stretch. It’s given me the opportunity to experiment with my ideal schedule. That is, working on writing and music as much as I want to, without a heavy load of client work. For the moment (and as long as I’m comfortable with how much I have in the bank) I can pretend I’m a full-time artiste.

It’s fun! I’ve been writing fiction in the mornings (with more optimism these days–I recently had another story accepted for publication at a pro rate, bringing me that much closer to SFWA active membership). In the afternoon I head to the studio and make beats, or work on Loöq Records, or do whatever needs to be done around the house. Pretty much my ideal weekday schedule.

But large swaths of unstructured time can be dangerous. I’ve had similar opportunities in the past, and squandered them, losing whole days to video games or trying to read the entire internet. Those of you who are self-employed may be able to relate.

A few years ago, in response to my own “Where does all the time go?” question, I ran an “activity audit,” a detailed analysis of all the activities in my life that require work/effort. After listing all the major activity areas (database/coding work, fiction writing, music production, household/parenting, etc.), I asked myself a series of questions about each activity.

Honing on in the what, why, and how for each activity gave me a great deal of clarity. It also improved my focus throughout the day (especially my ability to resist distractions), and helped me decide what to do each day, and in what order.

In the long run, the activity audit was more effective than any other productivity technique I tried, like locking myself out of certain internet sites, or depriving myself of coffee until I’d started writing. If I’m clear on my purpose and intended direction in life, and how the things I spend my time on fit into that picture, distractions are less of an issue. I still use quotas and have production targets, but I don’t rely on those for motivation.

Here are the questions I asked myself in regards to each activity:

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Five Things That Made My Life 10% Better (Each)

Our new puppy, a possible #6? We’ll see!

I used to make myself miserable in ways that turned out to be easily fixable. Sometimes it took ten, twenty years to see the obvious and do something about it. But that’s not even exceptionally slow. Many people go through their whole lives suffering huge amounts self-inflicted misery.

Here are the major quality-of-life improvements that have worked for me, so far:

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New 6-Week Experiment: Living With a Disability


On the evening of Dec. 9th I stepped off my skateboard the wrong way and broke my foot (three fractured metatarsals — see above). Thinking it was just a bad sprain, I took a Lyft home and rested on the couch, watching my foot swell up to alarming proportions. Come Monday: doctor’s office, x-ray, a compression splint, the threat of screws and surgery. But after many scans and tests, I managed to dodge a bullet. No surgery required, just six easy weeks in a cast.

So, it’s my turn to learn. What’s life like with reduced mobility?

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How To Be Less Racist


In the United States and Europe, racists are coming out of the woodwork, freely expressing views that were considered taboo only a year ago. Concerns about terrorism and economic security (some valid, some exaggerated) are amplified and directed broadly at people of color, most of whom have nothing to do with terrorism or the availability of jobs. This racism was always there, but it’s more dangerous now that it’s moving into the mainstream (including aspects of our federal government). Some of the dangers, specifically, are harassment and violence against non-whites (including police violence), voter disenfranchisement, and deportation of immigrants (some legal, some undocumented, many if not most vital to our national economy).

Other problems with open racism include social discord and a divisive sense of “us vs. them” pervading our national consciousness. More severe, dystopian outcomes of open racism might include internment camps for Muslims, reversals of civil rights protections, harassment or murder of civil rights activists (including journalists), use of lethal force against peaceful protestors, or even “ethnic cleansing” scenarios (genocide). Big problems, in other words.

I guess one potential benefit of racist attitudes being openly expressed is that it opens the door to conversation, debate, and the potential for attitudes to shift. That’s the purpose of this post: to influence those who might feel racist but are open to non-racist perspectives.

I’ve been reading some Alt-Right blogs and trying to better understand where this racism comes from (I won’t say which ones, because attention and web traffic fuels these hate blogs). From what I’ve read so far, the Alt-Right openly-racist/white-supremacist perspective looks something like this:

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How To Prevent Stress Spirals

Supercell by Kelly DeLay

Supercell by Kelly DeLay

Rough week, in a first-world-problems sort of way. Upgraded my Macbook Pro to a 1T internal SSD. Restoring from my SuperDuper backup didn’t work, so I had to install macOs Sierra and migrate. That meant no more support for my old M-Audio Firewire 1814 audio interface. No problem, I’ll order a Focusrite 18i20, a great piece of gear with great reviews, and documented to fully support Sierra. Got it Fedexed, unboxed the beautiful thing, spent half a day unplugging and replugging my rack (and lots of dusting). Seemed to work, except no audio AT ALL from Cubase. Okay, maybe it’s time to make the leap to Cubase 8.5. Paid for it, downloaded the 9GB installer, installed Steinberg’s latest. Tried to activate. ELicenser crashed. Tried the 35 troubleshooting steps I found on the Cubase forum. No go. I’m out about a grand so far on this “upgrade”, and no audio.

And those are just a few of my 99 problems.

Anxiety is the modern scourge. Humans in 2016 have complex lives: more information, more complex decisions, more decisions. We have it good, better than ever, global poverty plummeting, most of us with access to enough food, basic healthcare, shelter. One’s chance of dying a violent death is lower than ever. But we’re plagued with anxiety because our minds are racing, decisions are hard, and everything feels like it needs doing at once.

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How to Think About Your Career

It’s possible to have a career without really thinking about it. Nothing wrong with that. I’ve had at least three-and-a-half accidental careers so far.

  • I started doing computer support and database design right out of college, just a few hours a week, at my dad’s friend’s company, learning as I went. Ten years later I was the Senior Database Administrator for the San Francisco Symphony, and I still do freelance db work to this day as my main source of income. But none of my friends ever remember this, because it’s so boring that I never talk about it.
  • My record label business partner wanted to start a weekly happy hour at an art gallery. I thought it was a terrible idea. The ayahuasca-snorting gentleman he initially partnered with to throw the event got a little squirrelly and they parted ways. I reluctantly stepped in, and under our management we had a decade-plus run as one of the biggest dance music events in San Francisco, lines around the block, written up in international guide books, DJs from around the world eager to play to our crowd.
  • I had no interest in DJing. But we needed to promote our album. So I learned to DJ at my own party, trainwrecking mix after mix. Spesh put me through DJ bootcamp and I got a little better. Soon we were headlining the biggest dance clubs in San Francisco, voted among SF’s Top DJs in the Nitevibe poll, on the cover of The SF Weekly, and touring in Europe. But eventually I quit because I don’t like travelling, or listening to hundreds of promo tracks to find the few good ones.
  • I started a blog in 2009. I can’t remember why. Probably to practice writing, to express myself, to share my ideas. Eventually some of my health posts (about sleep and artificial light, about the paleo diet) got popular. The blog hit a million views. CNN interviewed me. A TV show The Doctors flew me to Hollywood to be a guest. I experimented with advertising. Then I wrote a post about how I regrew some of my hair by intensively massaging my head, and things went crazy. Views through the roof, readers begging me to make instructional videos, asking for personalized advice. Should I take up hair regrowth coaching? I thought about it. Maybe I could help Tim Ferriss regrow his hair, or Prince William. But I’m not patient enough to be a coach, and I didn’t want to be the hair guy. Or another paleo guy. So I made it clear to my readers that though while I would still write the occasional health post, the content of this blog was much broader (systems for living well, self-experimentation, the creative life).

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