Category Archives: Personal

Mouth Biohacking

I’m not one to shy away from random things I find on the internet, so when I came across the Scott Alexander article on a discovery in the 80s about people who don’t get cavities, my first thought was “how far is Honduras from Houston?”

So on February 28th, my friend Rene and I became the 50th and 51st people to get our normal mouth bacteria scrubbed away and hopefully replaced by a genetically modified strain of Streptococcus mutans that doesn’t turn sugar into lactic acid. A nice sabbatical jaunt.

In the 9 weeks since, no teeth have fallen out, I haven’t gotten any cavities, really the only noticeable change is that I seem to have less bad morning breath, though I still wholeheartedly recommend SmartMouth mouthwash and travel packets.

The company is working on making it more widely available without travel to another country, and if that works it will be interesting to see how long this takes to spread. Will it be adopted quickly or be like the lemon juice cure for scurvy that took 42 years to become policy? In the meantime, the weather in Roatán is warm!

If you’d like to learn more Cremiux Recueil also has a pretty good deep-dive.

The Houston Doberge Project

Every year for my Mom’s birthday lunch she has a Doberge cake from Gambino’s in New Orleans, but this year there was a Fedex snafu and it arrived spoiled. We found a last-minute replacement, but it piqued my curiosity as to better alternatives and I commissioned this survey of eight bakeries to answer the question: What’s the best Doberge cake in Houston or New Orleans? The article and pictures that follow are from food critic, travel journalist, and medical science writer Alice Levitt. I hope you enjoy the history, reviews, and surprise winner.

1885, Budapest. Franz Josef I and his wife, Elizabeth, rulers of Austro-Hungary, are attending the National General Exhibition of Budapest. There is much to see, but the emperor’s sweet tooth is pulling him toward one particular display. He simply must taste this new cake he’s been hearing about. He must find the Dobos torte.

Dobos torte?! Tell me more!

Jay Z + Me

I think it was Dustin Curtis who said something along the lines of “you can learn a lot about someone by their bucket list,” and he had posted his publicly recently. (Posting it is a great idea by the way, people will help you with it.) I began to think about mine, which was a little strange because I’ve been trying to move away from desiring things or experiences and just be more grateful in the present, but immediately a few music ones came to mind: have WordPress name-checked in a major hip-hop song, be in a rap video, and perform with one of my favorite artists (somehow).

It was less than a week later I got an email from a friend who was helping organize a hush-hush event where Jay-Z would sing his song Picasso Baby over and over 6 hours while interacting with various artists and an audience as a performance piece, and there might even be an opportunity to be one of the people he interacted with. My jaw dropped.

Continue reading Jay Z + Me


A week ago I rang in my twenty-ninth birthday and entered that twilight zone prior to thirty. It was an exciting day, I got to fly a plane, dogfight another, and do some aerobatics like a tumble, which was pretty much the coolest thing ever. Unusually for me, I managed to stay away from my computer the entire weekend, instead spending time eating, drinking, and dancing with a few friends who were also in Las Vegas. I came back online to some very sweet birthday blogs (thank you Lorelle, Austin, and John!) and of course a number of nice messages on Facebook and Twitter. All in all, extremely pleasant.

I travelled more this year than I ever have before, covering 261,077 miles in 292 days away from San Francisco (79 cities, 11 countries).

From the outside my life sometimes can appear crazy, and my 20s have been atypical in many ways, but one of the things I appreciate the most about this past year is that things have been getting less hectic overall. Much of this I attribute technology which I’ve finally gotten to a point where the majority of it in my life serves to allow me to spend doing things I love, like writing, designing, coding, learning, and less time on infrastructure or overhead.

The most interesting thing about twenty-nine so far is I’ve been getting lots of tips from people on how to end my 20s, which usually fall under “go out with a bang” from people currently in their 20s and “don’t worry it just gets better from here” from people in their 30s.

My focus this year will be on simplification and streamlining. As in many years past, I find I’m the most balanced when I take time every day to read, especially in the morning, and as an additional resolution this year I’m trying to watch a film every week recommended by friends. (So far have seen My Fair Lady, Casablanca, King Corn, and American President.)

All birthday posts: 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40.


This is the tenth year I’ve blogged my birthday: 19, 20, 21, 22 (this one is funny), 23, 24, 25, and 26, 27. Wow… I don’t think I’ve ever done anything for ten years in a row before.

The public awareness of blogging comes and goes every two years, but for me it’s been a rock of intrinsic goodness that I keep coming back to. I think that’s why I love working on the platforms around it so much.

I was on the road a lot this year, covering about 190k miles over 245 days. (An average velocity of 21.6 mph.) I spent longer stretches in the same place, and often to places I had been before, which was nice for starting to appreciate the character of a given place. (52 cities and 12 countries.)

It was also one of my most productive years yet. The big resolutions from last year — launching Jetpack, Jazz Quotes, three major WordPress versions — all were completed, and as the team at Automattic grew and matured I was able to focus my time a lot more, even finding time to start coding again and switch (back) to Mac after 8 years on Windows.

In my twenty-eighth year I want to focus more on friends, family, and loved ones, something I’m running late for by doing this blog post, so will wrap this up now and see you all more later in 2012. 🙂

Reminder: In lieu of gifts, I’m trying to raise $28,000 to help bring clean water to Africa. It’s ambitious but I think we can do it. Please chip in!

All birthday posts: 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40.


Today is a fun day — 2011-1-11 (not 1:11 PM anymore, I’m a slow writer) and I’m turning 27. This is the time of the year I always look back, and from last year’s resolutions I actually did pretty well. I was able to simplify a number of areas of my life, including reducing the number of computers running in my place. I bought my first apartment and remodeled it. I slowed down my eating by chewing more, a vignette that made Tim’s new Four Hour Body book. Redesigned this site. I didn’t bike at all, but walked a ton. I started exercising with a kettlebell over the summer and was pretty consistent about it until last month, with some noticeable improvements in strength and energy. Got all the old photo galleries imported going all the way to 2002.

I petered out on Farscape, and didn’t display my photography anywhere in print, so a wash there. I spent a week in the woods with Beau at Tracker camp. I joined the board of the non-profit Grist, and was able to expand charitable donations to cover more organizations than previously, including Charity: WaterFSFApacheArchive.orgSamasourceEFF, and GAFFTA. I had a tweet go viral and end up on Time and CBS (I still need to blog about that), and a blog post about shipping go viral and get over a hundred thousand visitors. (With an interesting traffic pattern too — lots of Twitter and Facebook like you would expect, but 92% of the traffic from the long tail or blogs like Daring Fireball.)

Speaking of launches, was lucky to hit all the big ones I had planned in the beginning of the year in that abbreviation-coded list: VaultPress, new Akismet, mobile WordPress apps for every platform, themesAudrey Capital, WordPress Foundation. Also hired 28 new Automatticians, added 7.2 million blogs to, and had 38 million downloads from

This year, along lines of simplifying, I have six main goals:

  • Increase the release frequency of core WordPress, I think we can hit our goal of three major releases this year. (Only did one last year — 3.0.)
  • Keep reading the New Yorker every week, and hopefully work in a few more books every month.
  • Launch a new jazz-related site I’ve been working on sporadically.
  • Finally upload my un-uploaded photos for 2005-2010.
  • Keep exercising regularly. (The first time I have a health-related resolution, if you believe it!)
  • Launch secret new thing, code abbreviation JP. 🙂

It’s not a resolution, but I think I’m going to spend a lot more time in Houston in 2011. As for some other stats: 208 posts here on (up Y/Y for first time since 2007), 535 posts on my moblog, 4,456 comments, and posted 2,432 photos. The top five posts were 1.0 Is the Loneliest NumberWildcard DNS and Sub DomainsThe Headers of Twenty TenChange OS X Computer Name, and Sonos vs Squeezebox, but most of the traffic was to the home page. My top emailers were Toni, Rose, Paul, my Mom, and Raanan with 3,028 emails between them. I sent 10,813 emails to about 2,228 people.

According to TripIt, which I love and use constantly, I was on the road 227 days out of the year, traveling 122,066 miles across 59 cities and 17 countries.

27 is a really awkward age — I’m not young anymore but still before the looming 30. It’s inbetween. That said, I think 2011 is going to be a year where a lot of things come together and a lot of the foundations laid down in 2010 (and when I was 26) come to fruition.

This is the ninth year I’ve blogged my birthday: 19202122 (this one is funny), 2324, 25, and 26.

Only in New York

Last night around 10:15 decided to head out for dinner, and somewhat randomly picked the Cuban restaurant Guantanamera because it was nearby. Sat down in a booth near the bar, facing the band, and ordered some mojitos. Over the din of the other diners I thought “hey this house band isn’t half bad.”

Within a few minutes of listening it became very apparent that beyond “not half bad” they were actually really remarkable. What a treat! Ordered a steak and sank in, letting the music (and mojito) flow over me. A half hour later a lady from one of the front tables got up to sing with the band — which isn’t always a good thing. They started on The Man I Love and it was sublime. The song started out as a ballad but then they kicked it up to a fast afro-Cuban beat, and the singer scatted over the beats for a good 4-5 minutes. It turns out it was Janis Siegel of the Manhattan Transfer! I felt particularly fortunate as I had been bummed to miss the Manhattan Transfer show at the Montréal Jazz Festival in June, but here, of all the most random places, was one of my favorite members performing at a small family joint in Midtown West.

Janis sat down after one song but a string of similarly talented musicians came in and out of the band until the restaurant started to close down. I didn’t recognize any of them but the music was so good. 🙂

There was a recording device above the band that was collected by a fellow who I caught up with outside the restaurant as he was hailing a taxi. His name was Paul Siegel and he’s the co-president of Hudson Music which is a music education group (with a website powered by WordPress). I learned the percussionist leader of the house band was Pedro Martínez and Paul follows and records him several times a week at different venues. Apparently Guantanamera is a long-time musician hang-out where even folks like Eric Clapton sat in with the band.

Only in New York.

I Miss School

Just like they say youth is wasted on the young, I think I squandered school when I was in it. The idea of having no responsibilities except general edification seems like such a luxury now. When I had it all I wanted to do was hack around on the web. Now that the vast majority of my hours are hacking around on the web, it’s a huge luxury to just sit and read for a bit.

Part of that, for me, has been learning how much I don’t know. My search for learning in the past few years is why I’ve attended so many conferences. Events are usually a terrible medium for communicating information, at least how most of them are run, and most of their value is human connections. In the past years I’ve been to a few TED-style ones that were entertaining in their fast-paced format (15-20 minutes per presentation, musical or theatrical fluff to break dense ones up) and the curiosity they sparked by nature of being short and incomplete: TEDMED and EG. The format does become tiresome and exhausting after a while though, too short, and like pizza I appreciate the talks more once they’re on (TED has one of the best post-conference experiences, and a big inspiration for Also check out which also has amazing content.)

So while events are a brief hit, most of my pleasure from learning comes these days from books and highly interlinked websites. Wikipedia is the canonical example, it can be so blissful to be lost in a web of great content, like a choose-your-own-adventure of information, stumbling from link to link and always ending up someplace you didn’t expect.

I wonder if there could be some sort of metric for writing that told you the ratio of time-to-create versus time-to-consume. On Twitter it’s basically 1:1, you can craft and consume a tweet in a time measured in seconds. For this blog post, it may take me an hour to write it and 5 minutes to read (not skim) it. You can work your way all the way up through 8-10,000 word essays, and books that may take years and years (or a lifetime) to create. The higher the ratio, the more potential for learning and self-improvement. (I wonder how you would measure the Wikipedia which has taken lots of people a little time.) I could easily spend four hours a day surfing hundreds of posts in Google Reader, most of them that took a few minutes to create. It’s a sugar-rush of content that crashes after an hour or two and leaves me empty and hungry. A great novel or book feeds my soul. That’s why I love the Kindle — it has helped me read again.

Top Emails and more, 2009 Edition

As I like to do every year, here are the top 10 people who emailed me this year:

  1. Toni Schneider — 914
  2. Maya Desai — 672
  3. Mom — 475
  4. Raanan Bar-Cohen — 284
  5. Barry Abrahamson — 276
  6. Rose Goldman — 256
  7. Jane Wells — 193
  8. Michael Pick — 185
  9. Donncha O Caoimh — 179
  10. Alex Shiels — 167

Email is my most frequently used social network, so it’s always interesting to see the trends.

This year I got 11,459 emails consider “important” by my script, or about 34 a day, and 53,030 “other” emails, excluding spam, mailing lists, and junk.

For the first time, I’ve decided to take a look at my outgoing emails as well, of which there were 9,101 of to 2,087 unique people, and here’s that list. These are less accurate because an email can be “to:” multiple people, or cc:s, but only ever From: one person, so the stats aren’t entirely correct for the to-list.

  1. Toni Schneider — 524
  2. Raanan Bar-Cohen — 450
  3. Maya Desai — 428
  4. Barry Abrahamson — 243
  5. Rose Goldman — 212
  6. Alex Shiels — 203
  7. My moblog post-by-email address — 148
  8. Michael Pick — 139
  9. Support — 123
  10. Andy Skelton — 108

I obviously need to email my Mom more. Here are my posting statistics:

Posts Avg. Words Total Words Avg. Comments Total Comments
2002 482 105 50,800 2 980
2003 559 130 73,009 3 1,723
2004 1,108 49 55,025 5 6,594
2005 703 43 30,485 9 6,343
2006 340 65 22,173 10 3,662
2007 360 56 20,408 16 6,091
2008 314 48 15,368 21 6,636
2009 182 80 14,675 23 4,280

My number of posts went down, but more words per post, so I’m posting less but meatier things. I made 391 comments myself last year, and it fell off rapidly after that. I would like to get more regular commenters next year, maybe by making the comment form more obvious on the photo pages. Photo pages draw the most repeat traffic.

I’m curious about travel stats, but haven’t gotten annual report from Dopplr yet.

Here were the top posts for 2009:

  1. How P2 Changed Automattic
  2. The Way I Work, annotated
  3. A Day on Necker Island (gallery)
  4. Starting a Bank
  5. 6 Steps to Kill Your Community
  6. New Spring Design
  7. Sun, Oracle, WordPress, and MySQL
  8. Elissa’s Wedding (gallery)
  9. WordPress Party Pictures (gallery)
  10. Visiting Shindo Labs (gallery)


Today is my birthday! It is also, if you write it the right way, a palindrome: 01-11-10. (Hat tip: Mike Adams.)

Twenty-five was a very good year. I started out with a lot of goals and actually made progress or accomplished most of them, as well as some things I didn’t anticipate. Of my 14 resolutions last year 10 of them are solid or at least had significant improvement, while the things I never do I still didn’t do: Spanish, cooking, exercise. (I might post a more detailed review later.) The thing I’m most happy with this year has been quantity of reading — I’ve read more in the last year than the past several years combined, and have also started keeping up with periodicals (New Yorker, Economist, Atlantic, Wired) pretty much every issue which has helped me feel much better informed about the world. The most significant device to me in 2009 wasn’t the iPhone, it was the Kindle.

In some ways I’ve nested a lot in the past year, including the oh-my-goodness scary commitment of buying my first place, but at the same time I’m still addicted to movement. I saw the excellent movie Up in the Air recently and related to it more than I was comfortable.

I’d like for twenty-six to be an infrastructure year, laying down the groundwork for things to come. No open source resolution like last year, but here’s what I’d like to focus on in 2010:

  • Minimize and simplify, try to de-cruft and streamline as much as possible, particularly with regards to physical possessions.
  • Move, which hopefully is a good opportunity for the above.
  • Eat, hopefully not too richly, and stop when I’m full. (I have so much trouble with that, I love food and I’m a completionist.)
  • Watch Farscape from start to finish, since my sister gave it to me for Christmas.
  • Bike and walk, more than drive.
  • Learn more about captology.
  • Showcase my photography, in print, somewhere.
  • Redesign, this site, because it’s fun. 🙂
  • Talk more, with the people I love.
  • Eliminate “sort of” and “kind of” from my speech.
  • Launch, launch, launch. (Code for me: JQ, OT, NA, MT, BB, UL, MA, VP, NT, 5L, 20, 70.)

This is the eighth year I’ve blogged my birthday: 19202122 (this one is funny), and 23, 24, and 25. Whew. Here’s to the second quarter century of life.

All birthday posts: 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40.


Today I am a quarter of a century old. To be honest I never thought I would be this old, it was a number beyond where I could imagine or visualize but the last few years have just gone by in a blur and here I am, 25 years young and finally able to rent a car without paying an age penalty.

Following up from the open source resolutions, here’s what I’m going to aim for this year in no particular order:

  • Learn a language where WP has a big impact (probably Spanish).
  • Take more videos, post at least 2 a month.
  • Post 10,000 photos in 2009.
  • Post at least one book a month I’ve enjoyed.
  • Don’t try to do everything myself.
  • Redesign! (And get back up in the search engine rankings for “Matt” on Google.)
  • Post more personal stuff. (Like this.)
  • Spend more time working with and coaching other young entrepreneurs and startups.
  • Donate to 5 Open Source projects that touch my life daily.
  • Learn to make/prepare one food item a month.
  • Launch, launch, launch! (Real artists ship.)
  • Get people to capitalize WordPress correctly, and stop using the fake mis-proportioned W. 🙂 (Here are some correct ones.)
  • Print my favorite picture of another person every month and send it to that person in a picture frame.
  • Reinstate WordPress Wednesdays and make it easier to do an amazing photoblog with WP.

(Hat tip to Boris Mann, Benji, Niall Kennedy, John Roberts, Titanas, Network Geek, Avinash, Kirb, Julie, Mark Jaquith, and Kabatology for the resolutions.)

This is the seventh year I’ve blogged my birthday: 19, 20, 21, 22, and 23, and 24. If you had asked me 7 years ago where I would be today I couldn’t have imagined all of the amazing things that have happened, the incredible people I’ve met, and the communities that I’ve become a part of. Thank you. Here’s to the next 25.

All birthday posts: 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40.

Top Emailers 2008, etc

As an update to last year’s post:

  1. Toni Schneider — 1,052
  2. Maya Desai — 826
  3. Mom — 659
  4. Raanan Bar-Cohen — 452
  5. Donncha O Caoimh — 424
  6. Barry Abrahamson — 386
  7. Mark Riley — 222
  8. Jane Wells — 218
  9. Ryan Boren — 200
  10. Andrew Ozz — 197
  11. Matt Thomas — 193
  12. Liz Danzico — 148
  13. Mike Hirshland — 144
  14. Heather Rasley — 139
  15. Joseph Scott — 129

I’ve expanded the list to 15. A lot of the same folks at the very top, but new faces in Liz and Jane from 2.5 and 2.7 usability cycles. Also three people on the list have changed their domain in the past year, just like I did. It must have been a year for that.

Also for fun here are some yearly posting stats courtesy of Alex’s queries:

Posts Avg. Words Total Words Avg. Comments Total Comments
2002 360 139 50,190 1 390
2003 429 168 72,359 3 1,287
2004 990 54 54,257 6 6,236
2005 624 48 30,090 9 5,963
2006 313 70 22,010 11 3,503
2007 334 60 20,267 17 5,919
2008 302 50 15,206 21 6,493

As you can see I’m doing fewer posts with fewer words than ever, but getting more comments. At this rate I’ll be down to 40 words per post next year. Yay brevity. 😉

Working on collating some travel / WordCamp stats.


A few weeks ago I twittered I was heading to the bank to wire money for a life change. People got excited, and assumed I was buying a house, fancy car, plane, company, jewelry… it was really amusing to see where people’s imagination went. I’m afraid the truth is much less exciting, at least to other people. I was wiring money for the domain I’m on now, How did this come to be?

Around the beginning of the year I was going through a spreadsheet for international domains, listing all the different countries, and I spotted .tt. I noticed they did the top-level thing, not or something lame like that, and I wandered over to the 90s-era NIC site for Trinidad and Tobago. I did a search for “” and was utterly shocked that it was unregistered!

Now I’ve been at for 6+ years now, but quite honestly the .net threw people off. I can’t tell you how many times media coverage has misspelled my domain name, usually with .org or .com. The .org guy was a little wacky, but eventually he let the domain expire and I picked it up. But the .com guy was a little more damaging — he had a somewhat active and well-designed site, it just focused mostly on pictures of harajaku (sp?) girls. People assumed this was me and I had a weird Asian fetish. No matter how many times I contacted him, he never got back to me about a price for the domain, or a mutual link, anything. I had also thought about something like, but I think that’d be way too expensive. It became more obvious that probably wasn’t going to be a domain name for the ages.

Back to, it was unregistered but to register a domain in Trinidad/Tobago you have to do an international wire to their bank, they don’t accept credit cards, and the cost is 500/yr for the first 2 years. (Which is probably why you don’t see too many.) The cost is much higher than an unregistered .com, but you can easily spend 1-10k on a good .com and this was way cooler, so the price seemed reasonable. It’s a 5-character domain, the same length as a single-letter .com. So about two weeks ago I went to the bank, wired the money to their foreign account and then… didn’t hear anything for a week. At first I wondered if I had been scammed 419-style, but then I got an email from their admin that everything was set up. 🙂

I originally wanted to launch the new domain with a new design, but knowing that yesterday’s post would get a ton of links it seemed like an opportune time to make the jump. Switching over took 2 seconds, I just updated my siteurl and home options in WordPress, and I shortened my permalink structure to remove the day, and it started magically redirecting all my old links to the new ones.

If you can, don’t forget to update your blogroll links, though old ones will continue to work forever. Not everyone would consider moving domains a “life change,” but it is to me. I’m looking forward to many, many years at

2007 Resolutions

  1. Not be so late with things like resolutions.
  2. Make my writing shorter. Because… nevermind.
  3. Read 2 offline books a month.
  4. File taxes on time.
  5. Do 3 major releases of WordPress.
  6. Get Wii tennis score to 4000.
  7. Eat more regular meals.
  8. Release 3 new Open Source projects.
  9. Normalize sleep schedule.
  10. Throw out clothes I don’t wear, junk I don’t need.
  11. Keep inbox in the single or double digits.
  12. Stop trying to do everything myself.
  13. Take it to thirteen.

Resolution Recap

Like Tantek, I found I didn’t seem to make any public resolutions in 2006, so because of my awful memory I don’t have any idea what I hoped to accomplish last year. Anyway I thought it would be interesting to make a progress report on the resolutions I made two years ago.

  • Build up piano chops — This pretty much tanked. I got an upright piano for my living room and started taking piano lessons from someone I found on Craig’s List. However right before I left CNET I got this awful pain in my hand, particularly my thumb, that was pretty crippling and I ended up with my left hand in a cast for a bit. The only thing that had changed in my routine was that I was practicing a lot of piano at the time (probably too much) and the doctor recommended I stop. I lost touch with my teacher, and basically haven’t done much with it since. Mainly I use the piano these days to keep my ear up by transcribing parts of music I enjoy. (Did you know Timberlake’s Lovestoned is all pentatonic?)
  • Read more — I’ve done pretty well on this one, mostly thanks to travelling about 20x more than I used to. I’m a little bit addicted to computers, so I rarely read at home, but when forced offline I tend to tear through books. I usually carry a book in my bag to grab moments for cafes/parks, which doesn’t happen very often, but is worth having the book for the once every month or so it does.
  • Release more — This has been yes and no. is the epitome of release more, with pushes sometimes dozens of times a day, but the space between WordPress 2.0 and 2.1 is way, way too long. (2.0 is over 1.5 million downloads now.) We’re trying an experiment after 2.1 to encourage more frequent release, since the codebase is pretty much “stable” all the time since it runs live on I’ve heard about book writers who have to stop blogging to work on their book, so similarly maybe I should take a break to get some of my unreleased software out the door. On the bright side, I feel like everything currently released, from bbPress to Akismet, is getting all the tender loving care it needs, so nothing is really neglected. (Which is a bad feeling.)
  • No more mental roadblocks — This is a little ambiguous. I still procrastinate sometimes. I think what I was referring to was assuming certain resources were needed before doing something and a fear of failure. One thing I’ve certainly learned in the two years since making that resolution is that there is no causation between resources, especially money, and success. I really believe with committment and elbow grease, you can make almost anything happen.

Now to start thinking about resolutions for 2007, hopefully things a little more measurable.


About five minutes ago, the beeping stopped.

I was in Texas last week for BBQ, clouds, and a wedding. At some point when I was gone, something in my house started beeping. When I arrived home there was a high-pitched chirp about every 45 seconds to a minute, coming from somewhere in the house. Generally when things beep annoyingly it’s one of the UPSes which like to complain loudly after a power outage. The one at my desk and at the closet both had a weird light on back saying “Building Wiring Failure.” (Probably because I removed the ground plug to plug them into a two-socket extension cord.)

I tweaked the UPSes for a good hour or two trying to get them to stop beeping, I pressed the buttons, reset the circuit, unplugged them, left them off, I even flipped my master breaker. (Which reset all of the thermostats to 62, a chilling fact I realized the next day.)

Eventually, I realized the beeping wasn’t coming from a UPS at all, but rather from the smoke detector in my office. I stood on a wheeled chair and sure enough there was a 9-volt battery in there that looked pretty dead, yet it was still wired into the wall in a way I couldn’t disconnect easily. Now that the problem was identified, I just had to find a 9-volt battery (I didn’t have any) and everything would be okay.

That was three days ago. Since then, I came to live with the beep. I found that if I closed the office door and my bedroom door I couldn’t really hear it while sleeping, any more than a cricket chirping. I took calls in my living room instead of my office. Even sitting at my desk, not 5 feet from the smoke detector, I was able to get productive work done with the beeping like a minutely metronome that was hardly noticable. For days.

Engineers do this all the time. We ignore the high-pitched beeping 5 feet away from us that would drive any normal person insane because whatever gene that gives you the programming knack also makes it disturbingly easy to focus and ignore things we’re familiar with.

This is why releases are so important, they force you to clean up your house like you’re having company coming over.

Your assignment today is to take a walk around your blog, application, website, whatever you work with on a daily basis, and allow yourself to be supremely annoyed with the beeping smoke detector in the corner. Let the nagging details of what you do grind like nails on blackboard and amaze you that you have ignored for months or years something so familiar yet so annoying. Obsess about it until you can’t do anything else except fix it, and take the 10 minutes to walk to the store and get a 9-volt battery.