By day, Adam Rogers covers science and miscellaneous geekery as the Articles Editor at Wired magazine. By night, he writes about drinking. In his new book, Proof: The Science of Booze, Adam looks at humanity's relationship with alcohol, and the science behind the complex reactions that cause many of us to find refuge in the occasional drink. But that's for after work — we spoke with Adam to learn about his favourite work methods and gear.
Picture: Celine Mikahala Grouard
Location: San Francisco and Berkeley Current Gig: Articles Editor at Wired. Author of Proof: The Science of Booze One word that best describes how you work: Sporadically Current mobile device: iPhone 5, iPad 2 and Kindle Touch Current computer: 13-inch MacBook Air at home, 13-inch MacBook Pro at work
What apps/software/tools can't you live without? Why?
Evernote. Mendeley. Dropbox. Feedly.
In the old days, I kept manilla folders full of torn-out pages from magazines and journals, and a few sorted files on things I knew I was keeping track of for future stories. Now that mostly happens in the cloud. I follow, to varying degrees of intensity, a few hundred RSS feeds — losing Google Reader was a serious blow to my workflow and my life — and Feedly now seems the least-worst way to do that. Evernote has mostly replaced the journals I used to keep notes, quotes, and clippings in. I bought a leather cover and used to swap out paperbound journals; now I tend to use a 7x9 gridded Moleskine for that, and for notes at work. Plus my Evernote has a bunch of maps and history I'm interested in, everything for my book that wasn't my notes or journal articles, and is in general a tagged version of that old manilla folder — including an Evernote folder called, prosaically, "story ideas".
Some of my peers use DevonThink for the same thing, but I could never figure out how to get it working and realised that I was procrastinating by trying to learn. Plus I don't trust the artificial intelligence thing, frankly. If the computer can make the connections, let the computer write the story.
Because I cover science I like to wade around in journal articles. A bunch of applications do that; I like Mendeley because, again, it will cloud across all my various gadgets, and I got it when it was still a scrappy upstart. So now I'm wedded. Evernote and Mendeley made my book possible, and Dropbox made sure I always had access to my notes and didn't worry that I would lose all my work.
For phone interviews, I'm a fast enough typist to take notes with my computer. But in person, I use a notepad. Specifically, the Reporter's Note Book number 801 from Stationers in Richmond, VA. As far as I can tell, they don't have a website [Editor's note: You can find a similar notepads on Amazon — but not quite the same.]. You have to call them to order (but they're very friendly). It measures 4 inches by 8 inches so it fits in the inside pocket of a jacket, has red Gregg-rules, and has cardboard covers so heavy that when doubled over it won't wilt or sag while you write on it. Also, it's not recycled paper. I use Uniball Micro disposables because I love the way the grip feels and I like the thin line, but the rollerball ink bleeds across and through recycled paper. No good.
I write in Word almost exclusively, though I hear the siren call of Scrivener.
I have two pairs of headphones. One is a small in-ear set from Klipsch that I wear on aeroplanes, and the other is a big over-ear one, Koss.
What's your workspace setup like?
At work, I have a split keyboard and a TrackMan Wheel propped up on a block from my childhood building block set so the ball is at the top instead of at the side. Otherwise: repetitive stress pain in my elbow. It looks… goofy. Let's be honest. I have a monitor and then my computer to one side — that monitor is usually all comms (email, HipChat, Twitter) while the main window is work.
I have a desk at home, but that's a big mess. And I rent a desk in a co-working space in Berkeley where I keep almost nothing, but take my laptop and another TrackMan, plus a folding computer stand that props the laptop screen up higher. And I bring a Bluetooth keyboard.
What's your best time-saving shortcut/life hack?
I really should get one of these.
What's your favourite to-do list manager?
I rarely make to-do lists — only when I have a lot of things to do and a short time to do them. Sometimes I use Reminders on my phone, especially for recurring things like paying my co-work space rent or changing the water filter in the coffee maker. Usually, though, my to-do lists are on scraps of paper, or in one of those reporter notebooks.
Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can't you live without and why?
I have a little LED torch on my keychain that, honestly, is just about the most useful thing I've ever owned. It finds the keyhole when the porch light it out, locates LEGO that have gone missing under couches, double-checks nothing has gotten left under barstools…
Also I have a tiny measuring cup from Good Grips designed to be read from above instead of the side. I had to mark the 3/4 oz point myself, but now it's my go-to for drink mixing instead of fiddling around with jiggers (even though jiggers are lovely).
What everyday thing are you better at than everyone else? What's your secret?
I am a very, very fast reader.
What do you listen to while you work?
First choice is silence, but that's not always feasible, especially when I'm working in a coffee shop instead of an office. That's when I wear the headphones. I have a long playlist of music to write to — I can't have any lyrics, and jazz and classical don't get me in the right frame of mind. So it's a lot of techno and EDM, basically. Music that sounds like it was written by computers for computers.
What are you currently reading?
Whoof. Um… I just finished The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker and Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie, both very good science fiction. About to start Finite and Infinite Games by James P. Carse. I read a lot of magazines, often in great gulps — Chemical and Engineering News, Aviation Week, Nature, Science, IEEE Spectrum, Popular Science. Greg Rucka's comic book Lazarus is big for me right now, as is Brian K. Vaughan's Saga. The website Punch is pretty exciting to me these days — smart thinking about booze, not just reviews of the newest bottle of whatever. Also Deadline.
Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?
Introvert. But I've been faking extroversion for a long time and now I'm pretty much in character.
What's your sleep routine like?
Since having kids, my sleep routine is not mine to own. My preference would be to go to bed at about 2AM and wake up around 11 or noon, putter all day, and then write from about 11PM. But… no. Not gonna happen. So I try to be in bed by 11. If my sons don't wake me up, the alarm clock does.
Fill in the blank: I'd love to see _________ answer these same questions.
Ben Blacker and Ben Acker, writers of the Thrilling Adventure Hour.
What's the best advice you've ever received?
From my dad, after we watched the movie Shane: "Remember: There's always someone faster. You just have to be more accurate."
And then this, from my friend Matt Bai, on book-writing: No book sells. Your book will not sell. So don't let anyone else tell you how to write it so that it will sell, because they don't know. And when it doesn't sell, and you're looking at it on your bookshelf, you want to be able to say, well, at least I wrote the book that I wanted. Because otherwise you'll think, well, if I had written the book I wanted, maybe it would have sold.
Is there anything else you'd like to add that might be interesting to readers/fans?
I buy an awful lot of alcohol, so to keep the bottles from taking over the house a friend of mine and I bought a bunch of 350mL bottles with caps — basically half-bottles — and now for the obscure mixers and stuff you'd never use more than a half-ounce of at a time, we split and share most of our haul. Saves space.
Also, when you're writing a book about alcohol, it becomes tempting to drink whatever you're writing about while you're writing. That doesn't work. At all.
We've asked a handful of heroes, experts and flat-out productive people to share their shortcuts, workspaces and routines. Every week we'll feature a new guest and the gadgets, apps, tips and tricks that keep them going. Want to suggest someone we should feature or questions we should ask? Let us know.