My winter season recap edition of prose

About a week ago on Tuesday, December 20, 2022, my immune system was defeated by the onset of some flavor of SARS-CoV-2 in Kansas City. Our drive back to the house in Denver to set up a quartinee fort was pretty uneventful. It has been almost a week now and I’m just now mentally clear enough to sit down and write in a stream of consciousness fashion. Sometimes people talk about a fuzziness or a loss of concentration that happens and it was certainly a factor. The first couple of days brought chills, fever, headache, and some type of respiratory crud. It knocked me off my writing game for a solid week and a couple days in that stretch I mostly just stayed in the same spot. Really the only lingering system was a loss of taste which is hard to describe to someone, but is really a bummer of a thing to experience. Mentally I know what the orange slice or my espresso shots should taste like, but everything is dulled and muted. That new taste experience continues and I’m hopeful it will slowly cease over the next couple of weeks. 

We made the best of the Christmas season for sure, but it was one where I lived my best quarantine life and stayed in the guest room. Fortunately, nobody else in the family at the house came down with anything which is really wonderful. That includes the dogs as well who were super happy to see us, but did not come down with anything. It was a Christmas full of cold and snow on an epic and pretty large national basis. A massive winter storm swept the nation with talk of massive changes in temperature. Denver had a 47 degree drop in temperatures across a two hour span for a totality of things getting 75 degrees colder. We had negative temperatures for two days and it was miserably cold. The aforementioned dogs did not think it was funny at all and were lightning quick to pop in and out of the house for the minimal amount of required business. 

Things have now warmed up and as you can tell by this brief missive of somewhat lucid prose I’m back at the keyboard working on some things. On the brighter side of things 2023 is almost here and this next week will be one of reflection and intellectual adventure. I’m going to be able to spend some time trying to focus now and review my five year writing plan.

Oh those pesky routines

Shifting back into a routine of writing some daily observations down took just a bit of effort. Giving up writing in Google Docs and switching to mostly writing in the Microsoft Word application involved changing up my routine. This very document can be opened online or I can continue working out of this Microsoft Word application on my main desktop computer. Given that right now the main stretch of productivity that I have as a writer is at the start of the day this setup works out well enough. Right now for some reason it is the first couple of hours of the day where I’m able to produce solid prose and push things along. In the evening, I’m not able to compel myself to spend time writing. Sometimes that is problematic if I’m not able to be fully productive during that early morning writing session. No capacity for catch up really exists.

Yesterday it had seemed like a good idea to use a large book to raise up both of my computer monitors by a few inches. I’m going to give this new elevated viewing solution a few days to see if I got the height correct or if it needs adjustment. My Dell monitors simply don’t have that much height adjustment on them and I wanted a better ergonomic setup where my eyeline was looking just about the middle of the screen from my current chair configuration. I’m still rocking the Scandinavian Designs WAU desk chair in blue. Overall the chair has worked out well enough, but it has always been a place holder while I try to convince myself to buy a Herman Miller chair for my home office. That will probably happen at some point in the not to so distant future.

All of those pesky routines are the ones that drive my productivity forward on a daily basis. Waking up before everybody else gets up and starting to write is the key part of that routine. A lot of other things get pulled into that pattern. Sometimes it is cleaning up my workspace or something else that pulls my attention, but that is all about using a distraction to procrastinate. The main mission from the desired routine is to produce words. Today that attention got focused on this weblog post which oddly enough was about the very routine that produced it.

Welcome to June writing

Yesterday a Substack post was released and now the backlog stands at 4 recorded episodes which should take us out to July 1, 2022. Right now I should be working on writing the July 8th titled, “What is post theory science?” I’m a little over 100 words into that writing effort and things have seemed to stall. Earlier I dropped a couple videos demonstrating how to record podcast audio on Audacity. They were single cut videos of recording straight into editing. Nobody seems to be watching either of those two videos. That happens sometimes on YouTube. It is a very feast or famine sort of platform in terms of views. I really should keep writing here in this window for a bit, but I’m probably going to hit publish here in a few seconds and send this very short missive out into the world of the blogosphere.

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. 

My desk is cleaner than usual

It turns out that sometimes during periods of stress I clean my desk a bit during the day. It happens a little bit at a time. Right now my desk is cleaner than usual. When I switched out the Studio RTA executive glass desk for this desk that fit in the window it was a big change. I had been using that “L” shaped executive desk for well over a decade. It would have lasted forever unless something broke that tempered glass. This wooden desk is a little bit different. Taking it apart for the first time reminded me of just how different the process was. We actually added four brackets to the underside of the desk to reduce wobble. Sometimes our hundred pound dog Rocky runs into the side of the desk and I was afraid that it would tip sideways and plunge my monitors to the floor. Adding the brackets was pretty easy. It will require dealing with 16 more screws the next time this desk is moved, but it is worth it to get that extra piece of mind that the desk is stable. 

Today happens to be the default Star Wars day. I’m not sure if we will end up watching one of the movies today with a bit of popcorn, but that is certainly possible. Outside the clouds are creating a gloomy scene. I’ll take the rain of course. Rocky of course will seek out any mud that happens to show up in the yard. I sat down to write for a bit today after attending the Colorado Avalanche game last night. As you can tell my initial writing today was a lot more tactical than strategic in nature. It seems that my focus dipped into the blocking and tackling part of my day. Naturally, I would prefer my focus to be on pathing to the perfect possible future. Sometimes that does not happen and you end up working on the things in front of you.

My attention and efforts were focused elsewhere

Yesterday my publishing streak on this weblog ended. Writing streaks come and go along the journey. Two seperate blank documents were opened yesterday and neither of them inspired any typing at all really. One was even opened up on this workstation running Windows 11 Pro. Oddly enough this installation has done pretty well. It was installed on June 29, 2021 which is quickly approaching a one year anniversary. Generally my operating system installations do not last that long. Installing new operating systems happens fairly often or at least it normally does. My last computer case made that very easy to achieve. It had a swappable drive at the top of it that let me easily wholesale switch from Windows to Linux during the booting process. That process also allowed for the option of just installing a new operating system at any time. This go round is a little different. Within my Dark Base Pro 900 computer case Windows 11 Pro is currently installed on the single onboard M.2 drive. 

Right now I’m using 3 media creation workflows. First, a podcast creation workflow that involves Audacity and recording audio each week. Second, I’m using a Focusrite with Pro Tools to work with audio recording from a guitar. Third, I have everything setup for recording for YouTube including OBS and a couple other video editing tools. Mostly I sit down at my workstation and engage in the process of writing every morning at the start of the day. That did not happen yesterday of course, but that was more a function of mood than a problem with the actual mechanics of writing. I just could not bring myself to sit down and clear my mind before beginning the writing process. My attention and efforts were focused elsewhere.

Writing inherently is about the creative journey

Right now 4 weeks of The Lindahl Letter are ready to go out: March 11, March 18, March 25, and April 1. Tomorrow morning a few hours will be spent working toward the next edition. One of the unintended consequences of switching to a podcast variant within Substack is that finality comes the moment the audio is locked. Taking the time to read the Substack post and then edit that audio down to be ready for upload pretty much creates a locked-in moment. Something would have to go wrong before I went and opened up the audio to make changes to what was created. That means for the most part on Sunday when I’m satisfied with the content I do one final major edit during the audio recording process. Nothing really helps you catch small errors in a draft like reading it out loud and then listening to it back while you are also reading it. I did stop formatting my footnotes into an APA style. At some point, I’ll probably switch back to that format as I prefer it for publication and beginning with the end in mind makes sense. From a practical perspective it just takes a lot longer and disrupts my flow while I’m working to jump back and forth between style guides and deeper thoughts about the subject at hand. 

We will see here over the next few weeks what will happen within the writing process. Some of the upcoming topics will deserve some deep consideration and might need about 20 hours of preparation time. Most of the time I have a pretty good general understanding going into the research rodeo and then I can build out my arguments in a very rapid way. Sometimes developing the foundation takes a good amount of time. Within the context of The Lindahl Letter it is ok to write about the process of building up research and collecting ideas so that helps compared to the more formal process of reviewing literature that goes into writing journal articles. Writing inherently is about the creative journey and the output. Very rarely do people sit down to create prose strictly for communicating an idea to distill a purpose more widely. Most of the time writing is not trying to get the listener to do something or compelling some type of agenda. Most of what gets created is about communication from a writer to a wider audience. Sometimes it is just about a writer putting words to a page that are really not going to an audience at all. 

This functional journal for example is entirely written from the perspective that I’m just collecting my thoughts and moving along. Only during that big year of writing where I was working toward producing a million words in a single year did each post start off considering the reader. Most of the time I’m just writing based on the ideas at hand. The journey is the valuable part. If somebody happens to enjoy the prose that was created, then it was a secondary benefit of the process.

Powering through with positive intent

Handling those times where things do not line up well or don’t go exactly right is one of those things that requires something more of you. Normally I’m driving forward by the power of my convictions to achieve a perfect possible future. I really do believe that tomorrow has the possibility of being better than today. Sometimes events happen or things go sideways that test that belief system. Right now my emotions are clouded with a bit of that which has opened the door to some deep questioning on my part. Within that moment considerations of retreat or defensive postures come to the forefront of my thoughts. Powering through with positive intent and a belief in a better future becomes much harder. I’m watching it snow right now in the middle of March and thinking about what action I need to take toward a path of personal growth. A week ago my thoughts were very clearly focused on a bountiful future of fun writing projects. It’s interesting how a few things can change my perspective. Normally I’m pretty good at compartmentalizing my writing from other efforts. Today is one of those days where that mental separation of things seems to be failing.

Reflecting on deeper work

At the end of the day the weekend will be here. This writing endeavor got off to a slow start today. I’m still feeling rather sleepy for some reason. Even two shots of espresso from my trusty Nespresso machine have not kickstarted the day. Right now I’m using Google Keep to collect notes on things that need more coverage or I should go back and review. My new strategy is to flip the Google Keep cards to green after they have been revisited as part of this grand daily writing project. That helps me at least have some record/memory of what was included and what was not included. One of the drawbacks of writing this early in the morning is that the things that come to mind are not always on the forefront of my thoughts later in the day. When you get into the pattern of blocking and tackling the tasks that come in throughout the day it is much harder to think strategically and deeply about the form, function, structure, and assumptions (FFSA) of complex things. I know that you have to make the time for that type of analysis and review at various points in the day, but sometimes the stream of things happening prevents that type of deeper work. 

This weekend I should have a few blocks of time in the morning to really focus in and work on some things to move them forward. One of the things that has to receive some attention is the week 15 edition of The Lindahl Letter for Substack publication. My efforts to stay ahead of publication have fallen behind and the letter is about to go real time as of Saturday. That has good and bad points. It would probably be in my best interest to work ahead a little bit this weekend and try to draft content for the next 5 weeks, but that might not happen. I just might end up working real time and refining the post each work as it is being written. Part of this 52 week writing effort is to really focus deeply on machine learning and dig into practical applications. That is part of what being a pracademic is all about. In this case it would be about studying applied machine learning in the wild and in academic journals. A responsible academic working from a pracademic mindset would probably translate that into publications. In my case, I’m gearing up to do that as an outcome of the year long research and writing effort. I’m viewing it as a project designed to gain and share knowledge along the way and ultimately refine that into some type of academic article or articles.

Working along and some meditation

My renewed daily writing project seems to be going well enough. Each morning I’m sitting down in front of my main computer to create a page of prose. That computer was recently moved into a Be Quiet! Dark Base Pro 900 revision 2 case. It is way quieter than the previous one. My typing has been happening on this Corsair K65 mechanical keyboard. It is way louder than my previous one. It has been a long time since I spent a good amount of time with a mechanical keyboard. The only real sound in my office outside of music is the sound of this keyboard and it is a triumphant clickety clacking of productivity. Seriously typing on a mechanical keyboard is much louder than I remember. My office is really just me and some computer so the loudness of the keyboard is not a problem, but it is a new part of the process. It is interesting to get acclimated to working on the right side of a split screen 38 inch monitor. I have resisted moving the Google Doc window to the center of the screen so far, but that would be the more natural way to go about the process of writing at a desk with a keyboard. Having the content straight ahead would be reasonable and an easier way to work vs. always looking to the right. Maybe I’ll give that a shot this morning to see how it goes. My writing this morning has been very tactical and has not transitioned into a higher level of observation and reflection. 

Today might be one of those days where a higher level of observation and reflection is not going to happen. Things today started very slowly from the moment consciousness of the outside world occurred. Maybe this is one of those days where a bit of meditation and mindfulness might help refocus my energy and effort on more productive things. It is entirely possible that jamming along to a record on my guitar is about to happen. Getting deeply lost in the process of playing music can be just as calming as all out meditation for me these days. It is also a lot easier for me to relax into the mode of playing guitar without thinking vs. trying to relax to the point of zero space. This post is not really about the merits or practices of meditation. That could have been an interesting topic to tackle. Maybe later it will receive the attention it deserves. Part of that would be about getting to a head space where envisioning a path of stones running through a stream would be possible. Each stone in the stream reflects a step and a choice driving things forward to that perfect possible future. Moving from being like water and going with the flow to willfully making a choice to step from stone to stone in that grand flowing river of time would be at the heart of that meditation. 

Pure stream of consciousness writing can go wherever your thoughts take you. I find the best time to engage in that practice of writing to be right when I wake up at the start of the day. Sometimes at the very end of the day I can also deeply focus on that writing practice. This weblog has been full of stream of consciousness based writing for years. Most of that writing is now reserved into a private section, but new prose is now being generated daily and oddly enough being automatically shared as a Twitter thread. For the most part that Twitter thread feature appears not to really do anything besides place the content of the weblog post on Twitter where it occurs as a thing in the stream just long enough for something else to show up. Within the aggregate the Twitter feed is a never ending stream of the public square come to virtual life in a completely unmanageable sea of utterances. Nobody could sort it all out or review even a single day of the total Twitter stream at this point. Like most of the digital feeds these days the amount of content being generated greatly outpaces our ability to consume them or even acknowledge that they exist.