Charles Paget Wade Before Snowshill giveaway

The first print run of my book CHARLES PAGET WADE BEFORE SNOWSHILL is almost sold out.

I’m giving away two of the last remaining copies via Goodreads, below. Click the ‘Enter Giveaway’ link in the widget below to enter. It’s free and open to anyone in Great Britain.

I think you might need to be a Goodreads member but I’m not sure. And if you’re not already, Goodreads is pretty great – it’s last.fm for books.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Charles Paget Wade Before Snowshill by Paul Capewell

Charles Paget Wade Before Snowshill

by Paul Capewell

Giveaway ends October 01, 2017.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

 

If you’d prefer to read on Kindle, click here to pick it up for £1.99. Thanks!

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Bookcision: Export/Download Your Kindle Highlights

When highlights are created on any Kindle device, they are synced up to Amazon’s cloud. These are then visible at kindle.amazon.com, but there is no reason to believe that Amazon will continue to provide this service forever, and our ability to work with text in that hosted browser-based environment is limited.

We wanted a way cleanly to download our highlights onto our local computers, so we created a bookmarklet that permits one to excise highlights from the book’s kindle.amazon.com page.

via Bookcision: Export/Download Your Kindle Highlights.

In the interests of, well, tinkering with little tools made by smart people on The Internet, I decided to export my highlights from a book I read recently.

I mentioned yesterday how I’ve been enjoying highlighting interesting passages from Michael Palin’s diaries on my Kindle. This, being from a large book, is now quite a long list of highlights – usually a reference to a project of his, a place he visited that rang a bell, or just a particularly sweet or poignant observation.

tc-store3

More concise is my collection of highlights from Leigh Alexander‘s recent book, Breathing Machine. Leigh is a videogames journalist, and after reading a few of her pieces on Animal Crossing and some other stuff, I found that she’d recently released a short collection of memoirs recalling her childhood, adolescence, and the holding hand that videogames and the Internet provided her throughout.

Basically, if you’re a human being of a certain age (late twenties, early thirties?), and you grew up with computers and the burgeoning web, you’ll probably get a kick out of Leigh’s book. You can actually listen to Leigh reading an excerpt of her book via Soundcloud if you like – I recommend it. It’s always good to hear an author read their own words when they’re autobiographical.

I’ve used the above Bookcision tool to export my highlights of Leigh’s book, which can be found below. I’m not too sure what use these highlights may serve to anyone who isn’t, say, me, but I figured I’d try out the tool anyway. Out of context highlights might not even make much sense, but the lines tickled or interested me for whatever reason. Enjoy:

Breathing Machine, A Memoir of Computers

by Leigh Alexander, Thought Catalog

The first time I ever heard and remembered Beethoven’s Ode To Joy was at the start screen of one of these games, blaring at me from the tinny speakers. I’m not ever going to forget that.
LOCATION: 20224 – 20424

It was the broken games I truly loved. They all had weird version numbers (1.1.3?), and were stamped all over with the aliases of dejected bedroom weirdoes asking you to mail in five dollars, sometimes plaintively, sometimes cynically.
LOCATION: 20738 – 20973

The more legitimate games had copy protection: they shipped with special red plastic lenses, or code wheels, or guidebooks with letter puzzles, and you needed them to unlock the software. This felt like its own kind of mystery-work
LOCATION: 22744 – 22975

I watched it all happen: grinding plastic teeth, the pages still gleaming with black spit.
LOCATION: 24969 – 25059

I pulled a map of Manhattan out of my grandmother’s National Geographic magazine, and pasted it on the wall of my playroom. I printed out screenshots from Hotel Caper, and made pretend dossiers of the villains I would chase down once I arrived there.
LOCATION: 25523 – 25780

The marketing to kids around video games had begun to take a distinct turn, then: glossy magazines full of bright laser grids, skateboards, spiked hair. Raaaadical. We believed in the neon-nineties vision of the future, where we were basically just about to get hoverboards and become heroes.
LOCATION: 25905 – 26204

It was in our plans, our notes, our basement boxes full of junked motherboards. The plans felt real.
LOCATION: 26786 – 26886

My dad let me have a hand-me-down Powerbook laptop when I was eleven or twelve. The thing I remember most about this machine (besides its role in keeping my innermost thoughts, my diary, across years of secret and now-defunct Word docs), is how when I stroked its screen with my fingertip, a bright prismatic comet would appear, a temporary wound opening up and leaving a fading, smoky contrail in its place.
LOCATION: 28323 – 28745

its role in keeping my innermost thoughts, my diary, across years of secret and now-defunct Word docs),
LOCATION: 28471 – 28574

things I didn’t really understand: viruses, made by impossibly-distant master architects.
LOCATION: 30218 – 30321

I quietly fell in love with the cloistered and quickly-obsolescing Powerbook, disconnected and safe.
LOCATION: 30636 – 30736

I loved experimenting with it. I could make those robot-voices say anything I wanted, without fear of reprisal, which was new.
LOCATION: 31182 – 31308

Many of the adventure games of my childhood knew that your average person, wrestling with an invisible system, would eventually type vulgar words, and so contained provisions to chide you if you cursed. The strangely-pitched robot voices had no such reservations.
LOCATION: 31309 – 31572

I found a primitive old program somewhere on the Powerbook called America Online. An early version, maybe even the first one. I knew it was for getting to the Internet, though I didn’t know exactly how, what. I was dimly aware it needed some kind of connection to something else, and that I couldn’t just load the program from where I would be bundled with my machine in bed. This did not, of course, stop me from trying. I believed in magic, of course, and wasn’t technology as mysterious as fantasy? The stuff of sprawling paperback novels where the veils between worlds blurred, and you could become a hero in a strange land just by accidentally touching something, by being in the right place at the right time, by knowing the right word to open a previously-unseen door. I’d breathlessly load the America Online program on my monolithic Powerbook, in the dark of my room. Three pictures would pop up on a loading screen: a skeleton key, a logo, and… a globe, maybe? I can’t remember. In my memory they become coarse alien buttons, indigo unreality. I know for sure there was a vein of lightning that moved from one icon to the next, always stopping before reaching the final third. ERROR. I knew. I knew something was missing, but I continued to try regardless. I knew the difference between the real and the imagined and chose to ignore it. What if I pressed something at exactly the right time? What if I found a hidden panel of some kind on the hardware itself, like the time I found a terrifying reset-knob within a pinhole on the Powerbook’s back, pressed it with a paperclip and evinced a dissonant chiming song that I’d never hear again? What if I held my breath, what if I counted, kept my eyes shut. What if I prayed. Nothing worked. Because I had no connection, that image of a key struck by digital lightning would always be where my adventure would end.
LOCATION: 33352 – 35399

before reaching the final third. ERROR. I knew. I knew something was missing, but I continued to try regardless. I knew the difference between the real and the imagined and chose to ignore it. What if I pressed something at exactly the right time? What if I found a hidden panel of some kind on the hardware itself, like the time I found a terrifying reset-knob within a pinhole on the Powerbook’s back, pressed it with a paperclip and evinced a dissonant chiming song that I’d never hear again? What if I held my breath, what if I counted, kept my eyes shut. What if I prayed. Nothing worked. Because I had no connection, that image of a key struck by digital lightning would always be where my adventure would end.
LOCATION: 34602 – 35399

Dialing modem. A sequence of guttural, choking shrieks, a hiccup, a pause, some single eye in the hardware fluttering as if it contained an insect. Shrill chirps, a nebulous staticky monster croaking to get out. Just when you think it’s done, it screams again.
LOCATION: 35808 – 36089

I’d be crouched by the modem in the dark. It’d be late. It’s not that I wasn’t supposed to be awake. I was 13 years old, and no one could really tell me when to go to bed. I’d started nurturing the spark of an idea in my casing that no one, really, ought to tell me anything, anymore.
LOCATION: 36917 – 37236

The first time I was allowed to use Internet newsgroups, it was like suddenly noticing it was dark enough to see stars. All at once, a startling array of possibilities seemed to erupt in front of me.
LOCATION: 37719 – 37918

Flee back into late-night, then, my little hands strangling a shrieking and green-eyed modem-animal, smothering it with blankets and pillows so that no one would hear it and send me back to bed. It connects. The part that was missing when I was younger is now present,
LOCATION: 40029 – 40304

At the crux of my adolescence I was delilah@alexander.terranet.com. I could never-ever forget it, the secret name that let me interlope among Usenet boards like rec.arts.poetry, alt.music.nirvana, and rec.arts.sailormoon.
LOCATION: 40883 – 41156

Stand in front of the fridge, a monolith that sighs in your face. Engage the microwave. Eat too much, guiltily, standing up, half in and half out of cabinets, ravenous teenage appetite knitted tightly with the pains of all kinds of growth. Meticulously leave no sign of your presence; erase your data, no debt to be accountable for later. Run up the stairs, two at a time.
LOCATION: 42657 – 43029

The modem screams and howls as always, but there’s no one to hear it right now. There’s just you, watching the tiny rectangular window that promises you a connection is being made. Dialing, establishing, testing, whatever the phases, you hold your breath.
LOCATION: 43225 – 43494

You opened your little Eudora mailbox and prayed for something to be there. You usually had one piece of mail. Sometimes two. On a good day there would be three, and you’d meditate with anticipation upon the black bar that stuttered along, telling you about download progress. 1 of 3. 2 of 3. 3 of 3.
LOCATION: 43562 – 43869

A trawl through Google Groups’ uncomfortably long-lived archives while researching this book reveals that young Delilah took the title of alt.destroy.the.earth with an excess of seriousness and chastised everyone involved.
LOCATION: 44235 – 44464

Through the rec.arts.poetry board I met an older man, 30 or 31 years old, if memory serves. At the time, such an age seemed incredibly old, such as to give me pause. Nonetheless I chose — nobly, I felt at the time — to overlook such mortifying superficialities and pursue what felt like a romantic correspondence with this fellow poet, who was so old. Surely a fellowship in Internet poetry was more important than anything else.
LOCATION: 45672 – 46142

I had a little reservation, though — what if my new Internet boyfriend was, like, old like my Dad? At fourteen, thirty-something seemed like practically my Dad’s age! What if, I wondered, he had gray hair? Surely his body wasn’t the smooth, abstracted elfin landscape of my dolls and my fantasy comics; at his age, surely there were paternal ruffs of hair and flesh. Maybe even a beard.
LOCATION: 46683 – 47117

Eventually the fellow poet and I began to escalate into arguing about something. I can’t remember why, and I can’t remember what it is I said, only that he chastised me for being immature, and I replied something to the effect of, “well, of course I am, I’m only fucking 14.” To his credit, he was mortified, apologized profusely, said something like he “meant no disrespect,” a sentiment that confused me at the time. He said he’d thought I was “at least in college,” and as I distinctly recall, he wrote, “me and my middle-aged ass.” Well, I thought, and now you know, and everything is all right and we can go back to saying sweet things to one another, and a little note from you in my Eudora Mail inbox after school. But the fellow poet stopped replying.
LOCATION: 48237 – 49127

Several months later, Old Guy surfaced on the poetry newsgroup again, presenting something I read distinctly as a whimsical love poem. It referred to his “whiskers” (aha, I thought, I was right about the horrible old beard), and contained the phrase “hop all over your back.” I read the poem closely to see if it might be about me, Delilah, but no evidence presented itself.
LOCATION: 49666 – 50068

I liked the college student better, anyway. Recently I had the sudden whim to Google the first and last name of the romantic poet, which I still remember. I found the very grey-bearded author of a lot of pro-life books with web copy focused on “taking responsibility for the sex act.” It can’t be the same man. It just can’t. I also Googled the college student. Now he’s a music journalist. Wicked.
LOCATION: 50457 – 50930

When is the last time you said “www” out loud, ‘double-yew double-yew double-yew-dot.’ Unironically. World Wide Web. The phrase is so quintessential to the lexicon of the modern West that it’s funny to go hey, wait, let’s pin that down — World Wide Web. Some spider-kin network that spreads around the entire world. How far did the Internet’s fuzzy-legged arachnotendrils reach when I was 14? 16? Not the whole world. Not even every house I knew in suburbia had the Internet, at first. That phrase, that innocently-spoken World Wide! was a promise of potential, not reality.
LOCATION: 51334 – 52039

And the early Web was a simulacrum of reality, a dim Western fantasy of virtual space cobbled together from chunky, artifacted graphics. You browsed the web with Netscape Navigator, like a starship captain (modern browsers still bear the rust taste of frontier spirit, with names like Explorer, Safari). Primitive chat lobbies were called things like The Meeting Room, the Lobby, the Cafe, as if you were always, always entering a real place, there to meet real people.
LOCATION: 52060 – 52529

Sign my guestbook, they begged. Guestbooks. Little virtual visitor’s logs. At one time it seemed almost every website had one. Now, none of them do.
LOCATION: 53516 – 53671

Exploring these spaces was half luck, half skill. You found the sites you wanted by ambient clicking, a zen-like pilgrimage through forum signatures and sidebars. Or you could use primitive search engines, of which there were many: Lycos. Metacrawler, dominated by a graphic of a giant hairy spider, Dogpile, Excite, Infoseek, Alta Vista.
LOCATION: 53692 – 54030

Each service would return a different sequence of results than another, and so you would visit all of them in sequence, type in what you wanted to find, never able to expect the same recommendations.
LOCATION: 54051 – 54250

before I realized it was pronounced GEO CITIES, like cities of the globe, and not Geocities as in rhymes with curiosities.
LOCATION: 54896 – 55028

(Uniform Resource Locator, and if that isn’t a Holodeck-era acronym I don’t know what is)
LOCATION: 55251 – 55354

You can remember the first truly horrific image you ever saw online, can’t you?
LOCATION: 63156 – 63242

A man wincing, his face pinched and deformed, seeming to warp against the barrel of an executing gun. A woman spread out in a bathtub, gripping her stockinged thighs, a fount of amber bile arcing as vivid as carved stone from one of her orifices to another. Thirty seconds of a .avi file — a naked woman on all fours blinking doe-like from a dark hotel bed. No, wait, a young girl. Younger than young. Oh, my god. Sick. Sick.
LOCATION: 63263 – 63695

Did you seek it out, the sensation of the bottom dropping out from your guts, the wondering is it real and can they really and who the fuck? Did you stumble into it entirely by accident, or through the sin of completely unguarded curiosity?
LOCATION: 63716 – 63977

Just a picture of me, smoking, late teens, fully clothed, was pornography to someone. My socks were worth money. This is what I had learned about men and sex from the Internet by the time I had graduated high school.
LOCATION: 76339 – 76555

Internet boyfriends and girlfriends, intimacy with the convenience of distance, intimacy that never has to be challenged by the responsibilities of reality.
LOCATION: 79691 – 79847

I wrote other students’ papers for them in exchange for baggies of weed, and spent what felt like an interminable length my life on a quaint campus, in a tiny room, online, all the time.
LOCATION: 80595 – 80788

In the gaps between playtimes, you could occasionally glimpse all our comparatively-powerless, childlike lives: Old enough to drink, but still living with our parents, or with someone who acted as parent. I knew far too many teenagers getting money and gifts from adults they knew online, via arrangements that seemed passionately dysfunctional and dark and beyond my ken.
LOCATION: 84669 – 85041

By the new millennium our idea of wizardry had little to do with capes and wands, and everything to do with black leather, wearable tech, and the glamour of lightning-fast fingers weaving spells across glass and light, or the kind of cascading ASCII sigils, green-glowing on black, that I remembered from my childhood devotionals to the Apple ][e computer.
LOCATION: 87551 – 87907

The first computer-centric kids’ cartoon I can remember was ReBoot, which started airing when I was adolescent, featuring the stunning innovation of CGI animation, the first show of its kind. People “went in the game,” became characters, lived humanoid lives inside of mainframes.
LOCATION: 88239 – 88540

The first thing people make in an online world, when they can make anything, is a house. In Second Life’s heyday, West Coast millennial dream homes sprouted all over the place like mushrooms: Seaside modern architecture with swimming pools, glass fronts, arcing ferns, natural wood. In a place where any ideal can be built, a depressing aspirational median emerges. Inside the house, all users put a chair. Why, Yee poses, do virtual worlds need chairs if virtual bodies never need to sit down?
LOCATION: 98671 – 99172

Writing on trains

The morning view from my Cologne-Copenhagen sleeper service – not inspiring, perhaps, but certainly unusual

 

I am in a little sleeper cabin on a train to Chicago. Framing the window are two plush seats; between them is a small table that you can slide up and out. Its top is a chessboard. Next to one of the chairs is a seat whose top flips up to reveal a toilet, and above that is a “Folding Sink”—something like a Murphy bed with a spigot. There are little cups, little towels, a tiny bar of soap. A sliding door pulls closed and locks with a latch; you can draw the curtains, as I have done, over the two windows pointing out to the corridor. The room is 3’6” by 6’8”. It is efficient and quaint. I am ensconced.

Jessica Gross writes for The Paris Review on trains, on a train.

Gross recently raised with Amtrak the notion of a writers’ or artists’ residency on one of their long-distance trains, something that various institutions as diverse as universities and Antarctic bases offer.

I can’t say I’ve ever written chunks of the next great novel on trains, but I’ve certainly been receptive to that feeling of being cut off from the outside world – in a kind of suspended animation, almost. This feeling can also be felt on a sufficiently long plane ride.

It provides for a very effective writing-inducing atmosphere. I’m guilty of jotting down my thoughts and reflections, whether in a notebook or an app – possibly a run-down of recent events or, heaven forbid, some snippet of fantasy fiction about the redhead across the carriage.

My only experience of a sleeper train was hampered somewhat by mid-summer, mid-European temperatures, and a delay which meant my long-anticipated entry to the service was around midnight, leaving me creeping over snoring, anonymous bodies and trying, in vain, to visualise my surroundings in the dim light.

Providing much better surroundings for a good scribble, therefore, is the long-distance train ride during the day. What could be better than the gentle rock of the carriage, as Gross notes, and the constantly evolving scenery whizzing past outside. I get tingles of wanderlust just writing these words.

After some feedback on the above article, Gross noted on Twitter that perhaps a British equivalent service could offer artists’ residencies too. We only have a couple of overnight sleeper services here, from London to the south west and the Highlands of Scotland. But I agree with Gross: whether it’s on a sleeper service or just one of our longer routes, I think it’d be a great idea.

You can read a lot more about Amtrak’s residency program here: Inside Amtrak’s (Absolutely Awesome) Plan to Give Free Rides to Writers – The Wire

UPDATED 24/02/2014

Having made some enquiries, I was pleased to hear from Virgin Trains that they are considering a similar plan to that above. Their communications manager told me:

Would you believe we are currently in discussions with an artist who we hope will take that very title. It would be more along the lines of capturing the essence of our operations (focusing on our staff and customers). So slightly different to the Amtrak idea albeit I imagine the views from our windows in Cumbria would certainly inspire.

Excellent! I wonder if any other British train operating companies (TOCs) have considered this sort of scheme? I’ll update this post with any further updates.

UPDATED 27/02/2014

The latest TOC to respond is Eurostar who say that, although they love the idea of an artists’ residency, they only have a very limited number of complimentary press tickets at their disposal, and so would struggle to justify such a scheme. Here’s hoping they can figure something out with an artist who would make it worth their while.

How to be a smarter reader | The Guardian

via How to be a smarter reader | Oliver Burkeman

Some tips on reading smarter. I like most, if not all, of these tips, so I wanted to de-construct them a little.

Pursue ‘targeted serendipity’ Pick each new book at random, and you’ll end up with plenty of duds. But if you stick religiously to the same authors or genres, or rely on Amazon’s recommendation engine, which makes suggestions based on past purchases, you’ll never expand your horizons. Choose a middle path: use a recommendation site such as Whichbook, which filters books based on numerous sliding scales – “funny/serious”, “optimistic/bleak”, “no sex/lots of sex” – without knowing which specific titles you’ve previously read.

I find this one interesting as I do get stuck in ruts of either not being able to find anything of interest to read, or only ever wallowing around the same kinds of circles. That being said, I very rarely read fiction, and I find that reading non-fiction tends to lend itself to hopping from one interest or subject to another. This allows for following references and inspirations and reading for background and context.

Stick to print Quite apart from the romanticism in the smell and feel of “real” books, there’s some persuasive psychological research to suggest that we grasp their content of paper books better and faster than ebooks’. This could be because we subconsciously use physical cues to store information: whether something’s on the left or right page; how many pages are under your right thumb, still to be read, etc. In one British study, children who read only on screens were three times less likely to say they greatly enjoyed reading. It’s also been argued that the blue light emitted by tablets may seriously interfere with sleep and health.

This one I find very contentious and actually disagree with it. I could write ten thousand words on my feelings towards the print/e-ink argument, but that’s for another post. In short: I find reading an e-ink Kindle is very much akin to reading a printed book. So much so that I often find myself with confused muscle memory when moving between Kindle and book (I’ll ‘wish’ I could highlight a passage in a book to save it or define a word, for example.)

Read first, talk later The web offers countless opportunities to join a worldwide, 24-hour book group, such as Readmill, an e-reader platform that lets readers have conversations in the margins. But there’s much to be said for more limited devices – paper books, say, or basic Amazon Kindles – that make it harder for your attention to wander. As the new media thinker Clay Shirky, no Luddite, puts it: “Tell me later who else liked it. Show them to me, introduce them to me, whatever – not right now. Right now I’m reading.” Make reading and discussing two distinct activities.

This one is very true. It kind of goes along with any activity which requires some concentration; any distraction can be detrimental to the activity, so it is best to reduce them as much as possible. Also, allowing yourself the time to digest something and form your own opinion on it before telling others is a habit becoming much rarer these days.

Keep it literary Last year, a controversial but well-designed study at the New School for Social Research in New York, found that reading literary fiction (Don DeLillo, Alice Munro) enhanced the capacity for empathy, and that the same didn’t apply to popular fiction or non-fiction. One hunch is that literary fiction leaves more to the reader’s imagination, forcing you to work harder to enter the emotional worlds of others. “What great writers do is to turn you into the writer,” explained one researcher. “In literary fiction, the incompleteness of the characters turns your mind to trying to understand the minds of others.”

This sounds at first rather snobbish, but I can well understand the truth behind it. As I say, the majority of what I read is non-fiction, and it tends to be so un-emotional and ‘cold’ that I’m sometimes left wanting to just soak up something a bit dramatic or over the top. That said, a lot of the non-fiction I read is made up of diaries and biographies, the likes of which can contain the most emotionally draining stories and scenarios. So although I may be missing the nuances of well-written prose, I’d say that I am still getting my fair share of human relationships and experiences.

Split your time: have a few books on the go While you’re best advised not to try to read 20 books at once, there are definitely advantages to choosing three or four at once. Have a mix of fiction and non-fiction on the go, each suited to different moods and contexts. Even bad books can help – by sending you back to the good ones. “When you’re not feeling the book in front of you, pick up something else,” writes one blogger, Leigh Kramer, an advocate of the multi-book approach. “This will either make you want to go back to your original choice or press forward with one of your other options.”

This one just rang so true to me, I was very glad to see it listed. That’s one huge benefit of having a Kindle: being able to cart around a whole range of books with me wherever I go. Sometimes I want to lose myself in 100 pages of fiction, while other times I want to live vicariously through someone’s diary. Other times I want to catch up on recent articles I’ve ‘saved for later’, and others I want to revisit a passage or reference I’ve read some time in the past. I can count on one hand, I think, the number of times I’ve picked up a book and read through it from start to finish without touching another in the meantime. It’s just not something I do, and it’s very rare for my generalist brain to allow me to soak up information from just one source at a time.

The Way I Journal: finding inspiration in Day One

I bloody love diaries.

Journals, diaries, thought books, whatever they're called, I find them fascinating. I find the process of using one very satisfying and reassuring and, what's more, I find I am very interested in how other people use them, too.

A few years ago, grasping for a final year project for my Information Management degree, I decided to study how and why people keep diaries, with a brief nod to the differences between doing so on paper and digitally. I was most interested in what made people start keeping a diary, and what made people keep on keeping a diary.

But that's all another story which I still haven't gotten round to blogging about.

For now, I wanted to draw attention to a blog post from the makers of Day One, a fabulous diary app for iOS and Mac OS X. I've been using Day One for a couple of years now, and it is my chosen method for not just keeping a diary, but maintaining one, too.

Tulio Jarocki seems to have gone from being a Day One enthusiast to a Day One community employee – and I must say I'm a little bit jealous of that. But luckily he's been doing great work, pulling together inspiration and looking at why people keep a journal. And the latest incarnation of this effort can be found in an interview with tech blogger Shawn Blanc, which is well worth a read, if you're into this sort of thing.

In reading the interview, two things struck me:

  • It asks a lot of questions which are similar to those I asked in the survey which formed the bulk of the research for my final year project.
  • I love answering questions like this, and would like to be interviewed for this project.

Hence:

Who are you and what do you do?

I'm Paul Capewell, and I work in the library of a large transport infrastructure organisation, giving my customers the information they need to do their jobs, as well as doing fun stuff with archive material.

When and why did you start journaling?

I started writing down the things I was doing when I was about 15 – initially, I think, as an excuse to play with HTML. But I also really seemed to enjoy knowing I was noting down the things I did and the places I went. I very quickly realised how good it was to know I could quickly reflect on an event with some key details to help jog my memory.

Did some specific event make you start journaling? Was it something you set out to do for the rest of your life?

Not really, although being able to type stuff into a computer helped, so it went hand-in-hand with using a computer every evening (after six pm, when dial-up was cheaper!). I don't think I ever intended for it to be a permanent habit; it just sort of became one.

Looking back, I can't think of where the inspiration would have come from – although the 'weblogs' of others on the web at that time would be the closest.

What is your journaling routine?

Nowadays I try to take five minutes (or thirty) at the start or end of the day to write a brief overview of the day's events. I very occasionally make a brief entry throughout the day if the mood takes me, but mostly it's a start- or end-of-the-day routine.

Do you focus on longform writing or capturing small memories of life?

Mostly long form – although not all that long form. Just, concise. For example, the whole day in a few hundred words, rather than just a thought or random episode. Sometimes the whole day in a couple of thousand words – but rarely.

Do you have a favorite spot you like to journal from?

I do really prefer to be sat at a table or desk to write my diary. Something about feeling more comfortable, and I feel compelled to write more words. That said, I'm just as happy to hunch over my iPhone and thumb a couple of hundred words in on my lunch break, or sit up in bed with my iPad.

What was your first entry in Day One?

00:02, Saturday, 11 February 2012

Downloaded Day One to try out. I've been lazy in keeping a diary lately and I'm interested in trying to make the process as frictionless as possible. I will miss pen and paper though, of course.

You mentioned previously that you journal both digitally with Day One and physically with notebooks. Why do you still keep a paper journal?

Sorry for stealing your question, Shawn. But on this subject, I kept a paper diary for a few years while I was at uni. It was partly because it was the first time in years that I had a desk to call my own, and finding great, tactile joy in a fountain pen and a ruled, spiral bound notebook.

But mostly it was because I had the time to indulge in the habit, so I could write pages and pages. It also helped me focus – being away from a computer to concentrate purely on squirting my brain out onto the paper via the nib of a pen.

How many entries do you have in your journal?

4,336 – from January 2002 to present day.

Four thousand, three hundred and thirty-six. Oh.

Much like Shawn, I've been using Day One for a year or two, but on top of this, I actually imported the entries from previous digital diaries into it as well (LiveJournal, Diaryland, and my own hand-coded HTML pages) – although I've never 'imported' handwritten entries into it, whether via transcribing or scanning.

What is your favorite or most-used feature in Day One?

Beyond the always-there-ness of the app, whichever device I have near me, it's probably the metadata that gets added without me even needing to think about it – the current weather and location. (On newer devices, it also sucks in movement data from the dedicated chip. I look forward to upgrading to an iPhone 5C.)

Ironically, even though Day One automatically records it, I do still very often make a note of the weather*, but it's really neat to have the 'correct' weather added too.

* This is probably one of my favourite elements when reading the diaries of others. I just love when diarists stop to make a brief note of the current weather conditions. It's often a lot more related to the related entry than maybe they realise. It also helps to set the scene. On that note, this is one of the best little anthologies of diary entries around – it's just annoying that it's not currently published as an ebook.

Do you write mostly on the iPhone, iPad, or the Mac?

Pretty much an equal split between the three, although after a recent restoring of my iPhone, I didn't bother reinstalling the Day One app as that's the least fun method of input (and the installation takes quite a long time as I have so many entries in it).

Now that I've recently set up my desk again, I'm back to using the Mac app more, which I enjoy. But the iPad is my most-used method of entry.

Do you follow any journal organization rules?

Not really, although I am a creature of habit and so my entries all tend to kind of read the same. I'd hate to run a predictive text bot through my entire diary; it would definitely be able to create a pretty faithful fabrication of a real entry.

Do you tag your entries?

No. This is one feature of Day One I've never bothered using, actually. The fact that it's fully text searchable by default kind of makes this an unnecessary feature for me, although I can see the potential of creating sub-diaries (like a food/dream/holiday journal) and exporting only those entries. It's something I'd like to use for a specific purpose, and I like that it's there.

It's these kind of subtle, thoughtful additional features added by the Day One team that I like – rarely 'too much', never intrusive, and just there when you need them.

Have you ever relied on Day One for something unexpected, or used it to recall details about a specific event or date?

Quite often, actually. Whether it's looking up when I did a specific thing, or the first time I mentioned a friend/book/project, I do this every few weeks. The fact that I have however many hundreds of thousands of words instantly text-searchable in my pocket is mind-boggling, terrifying, and incredibly reassuring.