Writing away the start of the day

Unexpectedly, I accidently worked to a point where I’m now 5 posts ahead of the next publication date on The Lindahl Letter. The entire week 75 post just came together and got recorded in the last two days. It was something that I had been thinking about for some time and maybe I was just ready to finish that block of writing. A lot of times during the process of creating something I’ll have a good idea of the finished product before starting the writing or design process. Currently that means that podcast recordings are complete between now and July 1, 2022. For the next five weeks something will go out every Friday. One of the things I’m planning on working on today is just editing and reworking that series of 5 posts. That could create a scenario where the audio recording the text is not 100% aligned. I’m ok with that result if it means that typos and other grammarian concerns are addressed before publication. 

My efforts to transition to writing more research note based weekly missives is well underway. Every week my attention gets focused on a topic that I’m learning about and writing about. To that end I’m creating original content and sharing it out as part of the ongoing The Lindahl Letter series. Within that framework the content has to stay focused and be geared toward providing a unique perspective within my own breadth vs. depth combination. Really digging into the upcoming research notes and putting everything I can into their creation will be important. The series of posts between week 79 and week 86 need to be really rock solid contributions. 

  • Week 79: Bayesian optimization
  • Week 80: Deep learning
  • Week 81: Classic ML algorithms
  • Week 82: Classic neural networks
  • Week 83: Neuroscience
  • Week 84: Reinforcement learning
  • Week 85: Graph neural networks
  • Week 86: Ethics (fairness, bias, privacy)

Oh that desktop clutter abounds

A bit of clutter has made it to my desk. It’s Sunday morning and I should be editing two different Substack posts. They are mostly drafted and otherwise complete, but need a bit of editing to really help bring the prose to the next level worthy of publishing. Recently, I have actually written a few weblog posts that just did not make it to the actual weblog. Sometimes that happens during the course of supporting an expanded writing routine. When I’m writing in the morning and sitting in front of my Dark Base Pro 900 housed computer I follow the workflow pretty well. At the point where the post is done I generally post it. When I’m sitting on the sofa with my Chromebook and just writing a bit that workflow breaks down and we end up with a few weblog posts that get written, but never get shared. I have zero plans to go back and sort out which ones need to be posted and which ones have already been posted. For all practical purposes those posts are simply lost to the weblog. 

This one will probably make it online given that I’m writing at my desk and well aware of the publishing routine at the moment. It is top of mind. Somehow I managed to get a bunch of peanut shell crumbles on my desk. It is seriously everywhere that it could be on the desk. I considered for just a moment using a can of compressed air to rapidly move the mess from my desk. In that case I guess the mess would have been moved to the floor near my desk. I’m going to get a wet cloth here in a few minutes and work on that mess. After that mess is sorted out, I plan on returning to editing on those two different Substack posts that need to be cleaned up. Tomorrow is the day that I need to record audio for both of those posts to get back up to a healthy backlog of 4 Substack posts ready for distribution. 

Notes:

Yesterday via Paramount+ the streaming service we watched a film called The Lost City (2022) and it was a passable two hours of adventure storytelling. To be fair on this one I was not really satisfied or dissatisfied with the movie.

Working fullscreen: I’m editing the “Substack Week 73: Symbolic machine learning” post to prepare it for audio recording tomorrow or potentially later today. It took about 20 minutes to edit the post. I did end up increasing the zoom from 150% to 200% during this editing effort. This post ended up getting a bit meta instead of remaining directly focused on the topic at hand. I’ll go with it this time around. This post is now ready for podcast audio recording.

Editing the “Substack Week 74: ML content automation” post took a little bit more effort. That post is now ready for recording as well. My writing efforts this morning were productive.

A bit of regular blogging

Today I have a few hours blocked off to engage in a bit of writing and creating. Based on a review of the recent stats it looks like the Substack posts are working well enough. My draft of the week 73 Substack post is mostly complete. Drafting went well enough Friday into Saturday on that one. I’m going to rework it a bit here in a few minutes after finishing this post. It seemed like a good idea to just go ahead and do a bit of regular blogging right here before jumping back over to working on that post. Recently, I have been more likely to work on academic efforts and less likely to just produce a bit of stream of consciousness style prose. That seems to be a developing trend. I’m trying to avoid it becoming a pattern. 

Strangely enough yesterday was actually a really big Google keep day for me. I took a ton of notes of things to work on and things to write about in the future. Sometimes that happens when I end up in a reflective mood. My notes are a wonderful little roadmap to producing future content. For those of you who do not take writing topic notes, it is a method of keeping track of things that could be promising without investing a ton of time into them immediately. My massive “Substack Posts” Google Doc has all the posts written so far and the backlog list which is functionally a collection of notes that goes out to 120 total topics. At this point along the journey, I have written posts 1 to 73 within that backlog. Right now I’m still working at a pace where one or more posts are being produced each weekend. Each one of those posts is just a written set of research notes cataloging my journey to better understand a topic. To that end my research notes are essentially provided free of charge to an audience on Substack. 

My plan is still to take all that content and drop it into a 2nd edition of The Lindahl Letter book when the 2nd full year of publishing is complete. I’m not entirely sure Substack as a platform will last forever and memorizing the content in an actual printed publication format is not a bad method of persevering things along the way. Sure the content is available to people for free who want to consume it that way and as a book for people who prefer to read it in that format. That is just a part of the process and adventure along the way. I had done all the setup for posts and the pre-work on a bunch of posts up until the last post that was completed. I have now staged the posts up until week 104 which will be a big 2nd year of posting recap. 

At the two year mark I’m planning on moving away from machine learning posts into just generally covering artificial intelligence and producing research notes related to a planned set of academic articles. That means that it is possible that weeks of ongoing coverage of something being worked as an academic article could be distributed. That is probably a good method to really dig deep into a few topics along the way. One of the things I have worked pretty hard to avoid is producing coverage of the same topic over and over again. Somebody who sat down with the book later on will see an ongoing coverage of topics and not encounter a repetitive reading experience. One of the things that I have really tried to avoid along the way is providing weblog-like coverage within The Lindahl Letter which would end up blending this type of content with that more research note type of coverage. I’m sure a blending of the two types of content would be possible, but that is not really the intended vibe.

Thinking about the nature of civil society

A bit of time was committed to thinking about the sheer volume of Substrack newsletters I’m receiving right now. It’s enough that I’m not reading all of them right now. They really seem to show up in waves at this point. During the course of that pondering activity I took the time to unsubscribe to a bunch of different newsletters from restaurants and online catalogs. The amount of email I’m getting was simply taking up too much time on a daily basis. Deciding how to spend our limited amounts of time is an important thing to consider. My regular writing routine is pretty straightforward. Each day my Fitbit watch wakes me up by vibrating instead of being a loud alarm sound. I get up and either drink a cup of coffee or two shots of espresso. After letting the dogs in and out of the house, I sit down and look at the blank page and begin the process of writing. That is the desired outcome of my daily routine. The steps really are to wake up, get coffee, manage dogs, and start writing. 

Sometimes this regularly scheduled writing routine works well enough. I start to consider the world and within that process I’m tilting at my own personal windmill known as the perfect possible future. To that end, I ponder the world as it is and try to figure out the best possible path forward. Within that pathing is how I view a lot of things like the intersection of technology and modernity. We stand at a very unique point in the totality of our civilization. We will probably see the singularity in our lifetime where technology moves beyond a resting state to a state of pure motion. That means some level of self-sustaining technology will occur as the intersection of technology and modernity occurs. Within that eclipse of possibility and technology the other side of things will be distinctly different. It is something that is probably going to happen and it is not as well understood as it should be right now. 

I spend a lot of time thinking about the nature of civil society. My considerations include how communities of practice, circumstance, and interest will change within the intersection of technology and modernity. At the very core of our social fabric that brings civil society together we may see things changing within a layer of technology that did not exist before and could rapidly change. This week the researchers over at Google’s DeepMind have claimed to be close to artificial general intelligence (AGI). Those types of claims are what make me really sit back and think deeply about things that will be different. It makes me wonder about how civil society will change.

Thinking about sports trading cards

Yesterday, at the Target store I picked up two boxes of the 2021-22 Upper Deck, “NHL Star Rookies Hockey Trading Card Blaster Box.” This one is a nice box of sports trading cards to pick up as it has exactly what it says it has in the box. Those boxes each contained 25 star rookies from around the league. It’s not a wild box of trading cards to break open where something super valuable might be in the box. This is a predictable box to open like opening a complete set box. In the late 1980’s and 1990’s opening packs of trading cards was a big part of my adventures. A lot of those cards that were opened and sorted are sitting behind me right now in my office. Unfortunately, the vast majority of those cards were from what they call the junk wax era of the hobby. Overprinting did help get the cards into every grocery store and make the hobby accessible to anybody at a very low price point. 

These days getting sports trading cards is a very different proposition. I have active collections of ungraded Kansas City Royals and Kansas City Chiefs autograph cards. A lot of them are on card autographs, but sometimes I just buy them for the look and end up with on card stickers. Those cards for the most part I keep in a binder that I can look at from time to time in my office. My larger active collection these days includes graded George Brett cards. I have been slowly building a complete vertical of common George Brett cards in PSA/BGS. I generally don’t chase the insert and one off cards, but sometimes they are very tempting. All three of those collections are very targeted and are not the kind of thing you would get from opening a single pack of trading cards. For the most part my current collecting efforts involve watching and participating in auctions. Generally, I’m just hoping things sell at the lowest possible price point. 

My bidding strategy is highly transparent. On eBay I generally will just place a single bid for the maximum value I’m willing to pay for the sports trading card up for auction. That pretty much means that my bids to wins ratio is not very close. I put a lot more bids in on items as the first or a very early bidder and sometimes I win that auction and most of the time somebody else outbids me to win the item. That is an outcome that I’m perfectly comfortable with occurring. It lets me pretty comfortably watch and understand the bottom of the market. As a hobby, this is one where I don’t really want to be in the top end of the market. Some of the sales at the highest end are shocking. Please keep in mind that I’m a buy and hold collector of sports trading cards. I still have the vast majority of cards acquired during my collecting efforts. When I get cards graded it is generally just for my personal collection to make long term storage better. 

When the grading card companies lower prices I’ll submit a block of autographed cards mostly to have them authenticated and put in storage capsules for my personal collection. I just like having graded cards. They do take up more space at about a 1:20 ratio compared to just raw cards in a box. However, I enjoy bringing them all together into a collection. That is the value they have to me as a set of things. For the most part they are just a reminder of memories of specific players and moments in sports that bring me some type of joy. They are the kind of distraction that a solid hobby brings you from the normal routines and practices of day to day efforts.

A bit of birthday writing nonsense

I’m all set to sit down and write today. Today started out a few minutes early. My alarm was set to go off a few minutes earlier. That was a part of my big plan to sit down and do some typing this morning. Anything that could be done to avoid getting to the business of writing was pretty much done. I’m talking about a solid 30 minutes of just nonsense. Even just now I took the time to edit that last block of text down to fit into a single Tweet size format. Avoiding the process of getting into a bit of writing seems to be the order of the day. 

Hitting the return key to get to a new paragraph does not seem to have helped out toward a better set of pathing. Maybe I need to begin to consider the very nature of things. Digging deeply into the safety of philosophy might be the way to unlock this bit of writing. At this point, even a bit of editing occurred for the above prose. Yeah, I stopped typing and went back to read this partial page of nonsense. That pretty much means the first block of text has been edited twice already which is beyond what is required for sure. Maybe it is time to try to move on to a new paragraph and see if things move in a positive direction in terms of writing. 

Yesterday a 24 pack of Rabea Massaad Jim Dunlop branded guitar picks showed up at the house. Oddly enough FedEx noted that this package was delivered on Friday, but it must have gone out as a delivery to one of the neighbors. Thankfully it showed up yesterday. I’m not entirely sure I’ll ever need 24 total guitar picks. A lot of them will have to be misplaced to need to buy more at this point. I did not need to buy a variety pack to see what guitar pick would be the best for my everyday playing experiences. I have been pretty happy with the previously mentioned guitar picks. The only real wear or damage I have done to the ones I’m using each day is to slowly make the logo disappear. 

I’m still enjoying a Nespresso Vertuo coffee pod each morning. That is part of an effort to mix it up from my normal routine of two shots of espresso. Sometimes it is better to just accept the routine and really work toward making the most of it compared to trying to mix things up. When it comes to writing and shifting from waking up to getting things done in the morning that is something that is probably wholesale true. The desired outcome is to sit down with reasonably good posture and engage in the act of typing on my mechanical keyboard to produce prose. That is the aim of the activity. It is the desired result of the writing process.

Focused purposeful writing

My writing is starting to happen in blocks that could be Tweets, “Ok links to week 68 of The Lindahl Letter have been posted to both Twitter and LinkedIn. Last week I wrote, but did not record audio for week 71. This morning I wrote the first half of a double issue for week 72.”

My goal for this week is to be really focused on purposeful writing. All my communications are going to be edited and rock solid this week. It feels like my ability to write lately has required more sustained focus. Something is different for sure, but it is not apparent.

Today is probably going to be a day of working on tasking and knocking things out. Normally my productive window is early in the morning hours, but today I’m going to have to be ruthlessly focused on getting this done during a 5 hour block of time.

Writing generally begets more writing

Today started off well enough. I finished a draft of a new post, “Substack Week 71: What are the best ML newsletters?” Assuming things go as planned I’ll work on a bit of editing tonight and tomorrow morning. That will take the post from editing to audio recording late tomorrow morning. I have been trying not to record right after waking up. Apparently sounding slightly sleepy when recording a podcast is frowned on by the listening public. I’m successfully staying 4 weeks ahead of my publication commitment for The Lindahl Letter. For the most part each Friday my backlog is deprecated by a single post and a new post is being created on the following Saturday and Sunday. That routine and pattern has been working. At some point, I’m sure the backlog will diminish a bit. This summer I’ll have a couple of weekends where writing is probably not going to happen. 

Overall I’m back on the writing bandwagon with a 5 day weblog publishing streak going. Getting to the point where the habit of writing is at the forefront of my daily routines is a good place to be. Writing generally begets more writing. I really do want to start my day with an hour of typing and working on writing. 

Several days have gone by without my social media applications being installed on my Google Pixel 5 smartphone. On a side note to that thought, I’m considering upgrading to the Pixel 7 when it comes out and just skipping the Pixel 6 edition altogether. That being said, I have found that not being able to look at Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram on my smartphone does cause me to use those platforms a lot less. A long time ago when phones were just for calling and texting I used websites on a desktop computer or my laptop. My efforts now are focused on just checking those websites at my main Dark Base Pro 900 housed computer. They will get checked at a specific time and place of my choosing. Notifications are not going to be allowed to drive my attention to something. Only my specific interest in a thing will drive my attention to focusing on it and that is a key distinction to consider. 

Focusing on accomplishing a deeper degree of work is an important part of the puzzle. I don’t want my focus and attention pulled away from the things I have deemed important. That is one of those things that helped me realize that focus on connections and effort has to be foundational to my planned actions. 

We have connections with people. A few of them last the test of time. They are with us even after we part ways. Sometimes a song, feeling, or just happenstance can trigger that connection to resurface. For me, hearing the lead singer of Harvey Danger always makes me think of one person. It happens every time and neither the context nor the occasion will shake that connection from coming to the forefront of my thoughts.

A very welcome Friday

Last night watching the Colorado Avalanche play hockey required me staying up way past my bedtime. Thank goodness that it is already Friday and the weekend will be here shortly after a few hours of working. Playoff hockey has a different level of energy in the building from the fans watching the Colorado Avalanche and from the players. It’s intensity personified. Things during the game get very loud and people get really excited about watching the game and cheering on the Avalanche. I’m more reserved, but that does not mean it is not an experience to appreciate. The game last night ended up going into overtime which was way past my bedtime. My day started at 0530 hours the next day of course. The day has just happened to start off a little bit slower than it should have started. 

Overall my personal website seems to be functioning pretty well after the move to the new server. The hosting company completely changed the configuration and server. The amount of traffic to the site is not overwhelming by any measure, but the increase in speed in terms of loading times is noticeable to me. We will see if Google scores it differently across the various indexing efforts. An independent loading time test is always a good way to figure out if an improvement occurred. The heaviest part of the page is the banner image for sure. Removing that image would speed up the overall loading times of course, but that would be less fun so for now it is staying up top to provide an esoteric boost for the overall page. 

One of the writing process related things I try to avoid is exactly what just happened. I pull up one of these word processing documents in Google Docs and try to work from start to finish. Just now I stopped after the last paragraph and went and set up a new post on the weblog with keyword tags and all the goodness. Obviously, that is a disruptive act as it takes me out of the flow of writing. It generally spells the end of the writing event that was occurring and shortly after that I end up posting whatever was written. The order of events should be to conclude the writing routine of creating words before trying to prepare for publication. While I’m considering bad writing routine habits I have been publishing without proofreading again for the last few posts. Instead of taking the time to go back and read the content and do a little bit of grammarian style wrangling, a copy and paste exercise to publish the words occurred. 

Overall my writing has reached a point where the first draft is not terribly off putting in terms of quality on the first pass. That does not mean that I have reached a point where editing is not required of course. Even with the helpful suggestions from Google Docs along the way a few things slipped into my stream of consciousness that could be improved with a little editing. I can say that the active suggestion and editing elements of Google Docs have improved over the last year. They can be a bit distracting if you are really in the groove of writing at a solid pace of trashing the keyboard. Generally, I end up going back to catch and fix the things that pop up along the way which creates a series of little disruptions in my writing routine. It would be better in terms of writing flow to work with all of them at the end of the creation process.

Creating more opportunities for creativity

Things seemed to start awfully slow this morning. Two shots of espresso from the Nespresso machine happened and a bit of St. Vincent’s music played on Pandora. It could have been a joyous May the 5th. Instead things just seemed a little bit dull. One of the things that I have been working on to help improve my focus has been removing the social media applications from my smartphone. At the moment, I cannot even check Twitter on my phone. That effort may be helping me avoid small bursts of what feel like focused attention, but are not examples of having spent quantifiable amounts of energy on solving actual problems. Really it is just an example of really digging into and enjoying a distraction. That is probably the worst potential outcome of expending time and focus without getting anything in return for it outside of the satisfaction of being distracted. Instead of allowing my focus to drift into those types of things I have removed the temptations. You can imagine this caused a shift to the only things left on my smartphone which happen to be email and the Google News feeds. Fortunately, my email filters keep that pretty well under control and the top 5 news articles Google thinks I should be reading don’t shift around all that often during the day. Effectively I’m increasing the amount of time where I need to be present with my surroundings and creating more opportunities for creativity. 

We will see if in practice this move to focus has a quantifiably good outcome. I can generally trend my written output over time and it is pretty easy to see spikes in productivity compared to breakdowns in the creative process. All of my focus on this effort is really about trying to create more opportunities for creativity. I’m looking to find those moments of focus and nurture them into more prolonged sessions that ignite that spark of creativity. Sometimes you are just going to know it’s time to make things happen. Those points in time where the door is open and all you have to do is walk through it and take advantage of endless possibilities. You have to protect those moments of pure creativity and really try to lean into making the most of them you possibly can given how fleeting the best moments are over time. Most of this rambling series of thoughts are about trying to recognize two things in practice. First and foremost, build a pattern of purpose driven efforts that result in a defined writing routine. Second, you need to have a realistic mechanism to capture the energy from those times outside of the normal routine when the spark of creativity shows up. 

My writing routine involves waking up between 0500 and 0530 hours and spending time in front of the keyboard without interruption or other obligation. On the weekends my ability to really dig in and spend a few hours practicing the habit of writing first thing in the morning is a known commodity at this point. In practice on that one I’m 70 weeks into The Lindahl Letter publication on Substack without disruption. That is a pretty example of a writing practice becoming a definable and repeatable writing routine. I’m still working on translating more of that output into academic articles. Sometimes it feels like I’m in a perpetual literature review within the machine learning and artificial intelligence space. At some point in that cycle I need to veer off the literature review path and begin a journey into some type of new frontline research on a topic worth examining. That is what I’ll take a look at exploring this weekend.