Fragile but

Jason Isbell lyrics

Day two of working alone. Half productive. Often terrified. But, you know, just staying at the desk or at least reading hard when distracted, something slithers forward. It’s mid-afternoon and a grey sky outside looks peaceful. Soon I can relax and I might eat in or pop out, and I might have a glass of red, and I might watch Proxima or Lost Bullet or ZeroZeroZero, all dark and hopefully truthful and smart.

Lexicon Big Year: June 26


June 26: Poole’s word for the day is a bewitching one: haecceity (apparently pronounced as “hike-evity), which had usage long ago as “the property of being a unique and individual thing” or this-ness. Matters are confusing. Haeccity isn’t the same as essence or quiddity, but is more specific, and Poole puts it thus: “How do you describe the dogness of your dog, or the rockness of that rock?”

Someone read to me the word sunder, which means “split apart.” Most often we see it as sundered. Uranium atoms fission in a reactor. Should they sunder?

Source: A Word for Every Day of the Year by Steven Poole.

Another week


I’ve always found bamboo fascinating and snapped this image in Japan last year. It encapsulates the latest week of the Writing Big Year, a week after I’d said I’d try to lift hours to 54 per week, 42 of them on nothing but the core manuscript. Well, the week proved to be impossible to stare into and make sense of. We’re about to do our first pack carry hike (in the Little Desert, a marvellous place, but oh, it will be cold) for a long time and I’ve had to buy boots and try to prepare the legs and toughen up the feet. Two grandparenting efforts rather than the usual one also sapped time and energy. None of these impositions was anything less than wonderful, so complaining is beside the point, but my week’s hours only hit 37, and I only managed 22 hours (that is, three hours a day) on Reactor. Next week will only be three days (four days of hiking), so I’ll hang out for early July to push harder.

Writing Big Year: Performance numbers

44/28 performance numbers

4 weeks into the new Big Year. Should I sing or weep? I’m aiming for 54 hours of writing work in an average week, with 42 hours being on the nuclear book. I’ve achieved 44 hours/week overall, a shortfall of 20%. I’d give that a B+ (there was an interstate driving trip). Core book writing, however, sits at 28 hours/week, a third under the 42-hour target. Call it a C rating.

Let’s see if I can lift this week to the 54/42 numbers, eh?

Lexicon Big Year: June 16


June 16: Steven Poole’s forgotten/rare word for today is quop. Who can resist saying quop? First seen in a 1382 bible, used by James Joyce in “Ulysses,” it means “to wriggle, throb, or pulsate.” Poole: “An invaluable word to know at Scrabble.” Quop, quop, quop.

My word? Sounding almost the same, quip is seen in books but never, in my experience, spoken. It means “a witty remark” or, as a verb, to make such a witty remark. Quip, quip, quip.

Source: A Word for Every Day of the Year by Steven Poole.

Monday, June the Fifteenth

June 15

Outside, at 11 AM, gum trees sway in wind under sun-split clouds. I woke early and enjoyed mild quiet streets, feet pounding concrete. I decided to simulate lockdown, so, after a recorded stretching session and shower, haven’t been out. Work palette: Chapter 3 editing, Israel drafting, Japan finalization, reviewing albums, daring to start a new chapter on outlier reactor designs. In the wings: catch-up research books, Bosch Season 6, a book on birds within humankind’s history. Left-field music, louder than usual. Black bitter coffee. No lunch (fasting). All is well.

Writing Big Year: Another baffling mosaic


Yesterday and the day before felt like I was walking ankle-deep in treacle. Slow, effortful steps. I’ve begun to write up the beginnings of Israel’s dalliance with nuclear energy while it pursued bombs. The key early period just before World War II, and then during that War, and then just after it, is shrouded in mystery. I had plenty of notes on plenty of data, probably much of the good research done on the topic, but I hadn’t realized until now that none of my core historians had managed to pin down what happened when. These eminent historians baffled the reader with prose without elucidating. It’s taken me two unenjoyable days to sort out the mosaic of information and to be clear in my own mind what happened, in all likelihood. Now I can steamroll forward. It’s 4 PM and I’m looking forward to a glass of red.

Writing Big Year: Curve shape

Mood shapes

There doesn’t seem to be any way around it: the flow of my writing work over last month and this month has soared and plunged, rocketed and fizzled. No rhyme nor reason to one day compared to the next. Note that I’m talking about deskwork writing, but the same phenomenon, albeit less extreme, has taken place in my general life. Moments of raw joy. Evenings when I need a drink.

For July, I commit to finding peace at the desk. An undulating, not serrated, work performance chart.

Peel back the curtain

Car Seat Headrest lyrics

That’s all we ask for, that we occasionally “pull back the curtain” and see something no one else has. Back in Melbourne, we’ve surrendered once more to lockdown, awaiting Covid-19 test results tomorrow after the mildest of cold symptoms in Sydney. I’m working hard, though not always at the pointiest edge. Purposefulness pervades.