Always working beyond the last point of thought

Today was one of those days where I spent a lot of time chasing things along. Certainly that can happen from time to time. Right before we went out for dinner the latest issue of my Substack post went up promptly at 17:00 hours.

Every Friday at 17:00 hours a Substack post goes out. I’m getting really close to 104 consecutive weeks of posting. Two years at anything is a real habit for sure. Closing out the last few posts has been much harder than I expected it to be based on the previous run at things. My writing routine is pretty much bulletproof. I wake up just after 05:00 hours on both Saturday and Sunday and devote those early hours throughout the weekend to writing really solid content. Everything throughout the week builds up to that point and writing the final product is about getting to done and clicking publish.

Earlier today I decided to take a bit of a vacation from Twitter throughout the weekend. That should be easy enough to accomplish. Instead of looking at that application I’m going to focus my attention on old school blogging. Getting back into the habit of sitting down and collecting my thoughts at the end of the day could be a great thing to do for the next few days. Maybe after all those thoughts are collected I’ll be able to capture a wellspring of adventure.

Striving for a trajectory of growth

Yesterday some consideration was given to the idea of transitioning to a very old school method of writing weblog posts. This might be the moment that I’ll flip the switch and write in a slightly different way as things mover forward. Sitting down with pen and paper affords a certain opportunity to sling words without the direct consequence of them being published. Twenty years ago, I just sat down and wrote whatever came to mind without any degree of self-censorship. Returning to that framework of writing might not be entirely possible, but it could be one of those things that would make sense. That would mean writing about whatever mundane things or grand considerations that come to mind at the point of the writing exercise. At the very end of the day, I used to just sit down and write and drop whatever came to mind onto a site hosted with a Microsoft FrontPage backend. That for those of you who do not remember was a WYSIWYG editor that produced HTML pages as a final product.

Back in those days my grammar, spelling, and overall editing was lacking. Those things have improved over the years, but still have a way to go as with all things we can work to refine our knowledge, skills, and abilities to grow along the way. Perhaps that is the great debate of our time. It’s the questions of striving toward a trajectory of personal and professional growth or living within the moment and simply sustaining things as they are. This same question is asked of both companies and people. Coming out of high school it was strongly suggested that I spend time in college. At the time, I had two choices that stood out on that front. I could have attended the local community college or gone to one of the state colleges. Either way would probably have moving things along in generally the same trajectory. Back in 1999 the cost of college tuition was a lot lower than it currently happens to be and I’m not entirely sure the services being offered are that different.

Anyway, back to the question at hand really about the nature of striving for a trajectory of growth. We have come so far as a society in general and the nature of changes to our civil society have changed the social fabric in what I broadly consider positive ways. We have a lot more knowledge available to people, science, and medicine. That growth did not come without problematic situations, conditions, and challenges. Looking back on the last 50 years, 100 years, and 200 years things within society have changed a lot and core to that change is technology. I’m not sure today is the day that I have enough time to really sit down and write about the changes to civil society as we approach the intersection of technology and modernity. We have a very real approach of a couple potential singularities that will have profound effects on the nature of our social fabric and how we view civil society in general. Those very real watershed moments have the potential to change things profoundly and we are not particularly ready for those events.

We will however keep moving along and striving for that perfect possible future as we work together toward pathing that allows for personal and professional betterment. At the very heart of that social compact that we share remains some things core to the freedoms that we need to generally work together toward that end of personal betterment. At the moment, I should take a bit more time to write about community and draw these arguments out with support and logical extension. That however is not entirely practical as the day is grinding to a start. Sunrise is still about 30 minutes away, but I won’t be able to capture that entire block of time and use it for writing. Other obligations are about to step in and separate me from this work processing document. That is the necessity of things that require time and are commitments outside of the opportunity to write freely at the start of the day. Commitments stack up over time and that seems to be a central truth of adulting.

A bit of moving along the path

Yesterday, I accidentally wrote a post for my Substack newsletter. It had been intended to be a weblog post and it was well on the way to completion when it looked a lot more substantive than it should have been. Instead of the type of stream of consciousness related content that ends up being my defacto functional journaling on this weblog this was entirely contained and structured. To that end I went ahead and crossed out a planned publication and put this one into the slot for week 67. Being able to switch things up is important as sometimes during the course of working a writing backlog you have to change up the priority and work something different. Mixing it up can help keep the content fresh and topical to current events. However, that cannot be the only consideration. The content has to be written in a way that it can remain useful even a year or five years later. 

Within my regular writing routine I have about 90 minutes in the morning that are mine to direct toward writing and sorting out the organization of my day. You could call it my time of ordering my steps along a path to a perfect possible future. Most of the time it consists of writing within a word processing document until my attention is pulled elsewhere to something else along the way. Today is an example of that routine and I’m pleased that it occurred. During our spring break trip I was not able to maintain my writing schedule. I had worked ahead within the Lindahl Letter posts on Substack. That effort actually yielded a 4 week buffer at one point. That buffer has been reduced down to two extra weeks of content. Adding the audio recording to the mix related to the podcast part of the process really stopped me from tinkering with the posts after they are completed. Within the ability to tinker I just easily move on to the next block of writing on the backlog. 

A few notes from yesterday:

After dinner I watched Star Trek: Picard, season 2, episode 2, titled “Penance”.

Before going to bed I listened to a Dream Theater album titled, “New Millennium: The Classic Broadcast 1999.”

A much slower day

Today is one of those days where letting go of things to get to a zero space is really hard. I generally try to clear my mind of all thoughts and concerns before starting the writing process. Getting to that zero space just did not happen today. The pain from the pinched nerve in my neck is not back or anything like that as a blocker. For some ineffable reason the calmness at the moment of being present remains elusive today. A little bit of chaos reigns this morning and it really did manifest with some dirty writers block this morning. We are about 100 words into the process of writing today and I’m still working to shake off that layer of doubt and plunge into the act of writing meaningful prose. Certainly, the very best way to get to that point is to keep writing and working on progressing forward. Sometimes the very act of typing and working to move forward can kick start the process. 

Today is by far a much slower day than it should be for sure. Without question the first 30 minutes of the day so far were a wash in terms of getting things done. Things feel like approaching an uncomfortable space weighted down and without clarity. Maybe within the confines of that scenario something more interesting will emerge like some time of allegory that resonated like the cave from Plato. Lofty as that goal might be it is better to strive toward something of permanence in the long run from usefulness than to accept the chilling effect of total writing false start. As you can gather from these stilted and otherwise unrefined words this second paragraph did not fare all that better than the first one today. It’s possible that the home stretch of this page will break on through to something with a deeper meaning. 

Uncertainty abounds and in its wisdom the possible dances before us. Without the possible chaos of uncertainty the path to a perfect possible future would be absolute. Variability and chaotic progress bring forward the essence of what makes us react to the intersection of the present and the path that moves us along to that perfect possible future. Within that dissonance and the choices that are made we abide the possible and strive. Perhaps it is within that dance of striving toward a future that helps us deal with the very nature of uncertainty. Taking a methodological approach with each step punctures the web of uncertainty and clears a little bit of a view into the perfect possible future, but nowhere enough to really ever be able to get a truly unobstructed view. That inherently is the dance between the now and a perfect possible future that stands as an ideal away from the pressures that confine us and raise uncertainty.

A bit of meandrous writing

Over the last two days the weblog picked up a lot more traffic than usual. I’m going to attribute that to posting on a more regular basis. It did not look like the posts were being read in order. That was a very curious thing that caught my attention. All the content here shared a common writer, but the topics being covered vary widely. I updated the “About Nels” page to suggest that new readers start with my 40th birthday weblog post. That was the post where I realized that my ability to carry a narrative thread along the way with me from post to post was lacking. Telling a really good sustained story day after day is a skill. Perhaps it is a skill that I need to learn to better master along the journey of daily writing. Getting back into the swing of writing has taken some time and things have been going well enough. I’m not talking about a solid 5 single spaced pages a day of productivity, but things are getting back to normal. 

Throughout this Memorial Day weekend I’m going to spend some time reflecting to commemorate and I’m going to work on understanding how to build infographics. My base election prediction model is pretty simplistic and should be really easy to turn into a series of graphics, but those graphics would not be interactive. My ability to build graphics is generally geared toward putting them in academic publications that are very static and not designed to be a living thing that people could tinker with and enjoy. Perhaps that is the beautiful and lasting contribution of Jupyter notebooks to the social sciences space. You can share the chart creation to others for the purposes of both replication and extension. Somebody could take and tinker with what was done to produce something interesting. That is where my time will be spent at the intersection of building out my base election prediction models in some Jupyter notebooks and working toward sharing those on GitHub along the way for others to be able to work with going forward. 

One of my intellectual hobbies over the years has been trying to extend sentiment analysis to electoral prediction in ways using bots. Most of that effort was not micro-targeted; it was very macro level analysis based on tracking news media down to see sentiment assuming that sentiment was passed along to readers. One of the things that this last election cycle identified in the modeling is that the transitive property of sentiment has become weaker as a factor in any model and that political sentiment has become highly sticky. The assumption of sticky political sentiment creates a much different election modeling algorithm. We will see if it is effective in November. The trajectory of my academic work will be focused in this area for the rest of the year. I feel that is a solid place to put my efforts right now. Other researchers are focusing their attention on other things in this time of quarantine. This is where my attention will be focused and hopefully it will help me both learn better interactive infographic creation skills and it will help me share a project based on election modeling. I’m going to build all my forecasting and projection models from the ground up so they are easy to review, modify, and replicate.

Interrupted. Coffee. 

Today instead of listening to my Warren Zevon station on Pandora I decided to let a few of my YouTube subscription videos play. This does pull my attention in and out of writing in a different way than what happens during the course of only listening to music. For the most part listening to music while I write helps me focus and the music is sort of in the background and the writing is in the forefront of my attention. Watching YouTube videos tends to pull my attention from one side of the screen where the video is playing and back to the other side of the screen where I am writing. This is an entirely different setup on my Google Pixelbook Go where the screen size does not really support split screen efforts. This Dell UltraSharp 38 inch curved monitor has worked really well. The specific model I received on March 11, 2019 was the U3818DW. I’m using the built in KVM and could simply plug in my Pixelbook via USB Type-C, but my Corsair Cube works well enough for writing that is not required. 

Whoa —- my thoughts just wondered way off topic. Given that this is a stream of consciousness based writing session that is particularly surprising. I really should be listening to music instead of watching videos about guitars and traveling. If you were wondering about my YouTube journey, then let me explain it for you. It pretty much falls into three categories: 1) technology related things, 2) guitar gear, and 3) travel content.    

The Quadrants of Doing

Over the last few months I have started using a new tool to be a better reflective practitioner. The tool is as simple as drawing evenly intersecting vertical and horizontal lines. The four quadrants include a daily reflection on what I should keep doing, stop doing, need to do, and what is taking up the most time. This simple exercise has helped me reflect on the totality of my daily efforts. I thought it would be worth sharing. It will probably evolve a little bit over time, but this is where it currently stands.

Keep doing: It is worth a few moments of reflection to think about the things that are working well. Those are the things that you should keep doing.

Stop doing: Instead of keeping a stop doing list I find it easier to think about the things that are not working well and how to stop doing them. You have to think about what it would take to move something from the stop doing list to the keep doing list.

Need to do: This is the hardest part of the list to maintain. It generally involves things that were put off for some reason. They did not make it into the keep doing or stop doing lists. They are the things that may go completely ignored.

Most time doing: It is very important to figure out what things are taking up the most time. We only have so much time to get things done. Sometimes things from the stop doing list end up consuming more time than they should.