Just blogging along over here

This is my third weblog post in as many days. You might be ready to call it a streak. Right now I’m on a little vacation from Twitter for the weekend and this has actually increased the amount of time that I would spend writing. I’m spending some of that extra time and focus on trying to figure out where to map out the next set of my writing endeavors. Getting a solid roadmap setup for the next 90 days of writing output will be a really important part of the puzzle. Moving into the new year I’m going to have to refocus on finishing up some AI related content roadmapping for the 3rd year of The Lindahl Letter. I’m really close to sending off the first two years of that content to an editor. I’m hopeful that massive tome of delightful written content ends up distributed in print later this year or potentially early next year in 2023.

This morning my productivity has been pretty good so far. I was able to get a good portion of next week’s Substack post written. Tomorrow I should be able to finish up the draft on that one which will keep me roughly a week ahead of the publishing deadline of every Friday. Recording the audio for the November 18, 2022 podcast was easy enough. I’m still not a big fan of how the Audacity audio editing software changed up the menu’s recently. Within every single podcast editing experience I run a noise reduction transform to remove room noise, a noise gate to remove anything small, and a loudness normalization to help make the listening experience better. Outside of those audio transforms I of course try to edit out any of the major breaths that show up during the recording of raw audio for a podcast.

My weekend routine is really driven by that writing, editing, and recording pattern to meet the drumbeat of that Friday at 17:00 hours publication deadline.

Those early morning writing hours

A tree with leaves starting to turn colors

During the flight back from Orlando, Florida, I had started to collect my thoughts and write an essay about my trip to Disney World. Apparently, those words just would not show up to the part and that document remains in the false start files. Maybe I will be able to finish cleaning up that post at some point. I was really surprised that during the flight no writing really happened. For some reason I just was not in the mood to produce epic prose. I just did not want to sit down and write. Without question the reason for that probably has to do with being tired from a very busy week. 

This morning I returned to my writing routine at 0530 hours. Things moved along and the post for week 91 was edited and audio recorded. A huge update to the Audacity software was required before that audio recording could get under way. I almost gave up on recording a podcast this week and thought about moving back to just regular posting on Substack. I think it might even be possible to switch back over to my weblog and host the podcast that way. That is something that I might test out again tomorrow. It has been some time since audio files were added to my weblog posts which could be picked up as a podcast. It certainly would have the right RSS feeds to get picked up. One of the reasons that almost two years ago now I started using Substack was to let them manage the platform elements of the newsletter. Everybody at the time seemed to be getting into Substack. Over the last couple months that seems to have started up again. More and more people seem to be starting Substack newsletters. I have never tried to charge for my weekly post. Sometimes I do wonder if a paid subscription model might end up with more viewership. The quality would be the same of course. 

Today involved watching a ton of football on the television. That should afford me the time to sit and write while the game is on and I certainly had time to think about a few things. What did not happen was a bunch of writing on my Pixelbook Go. It is another example of where I had the time to write, but for some reason the words did not flow. That probably means I should mix things up a little bit and work in some different ways.

Oh those problematic strings of words

I’m spending more time working on the weblog than usually gets put into that platform in the last few years. This is one of those things that happens in waves and typically just happens based on a point in the cycle and not for any real empowered reason. Within the backend of the site it has 2,561 total posts that go back to the early 2000’s. A few of the essays I wrote back during my college years are worth updating at this point. Most of that content was just the beginning of things as I sort of booted up to the writer than I am today. Most of the time I can now power through a block of prose with very little editing required. My base writing state is now passable to just dump online without a lot of clean up. That probably should be more exciting than it actually seems to be for me at the moment. Sometimes without a doubt when I get into a hurry or am not paying attention to what is being written things will go horribly wrong in terms of grammar and style concerns. I’ll get the idea out, but the construction of the words bringing it forward can be highly problematic. For the most part, the main thing that happens is that word will be missing. 

Today again I’m misbehaving and writing out of a Google Doc instead of that Microsoft Word document that is supposed to be my daily writing home. It turns out that I really don’t want to continually write out of the same document every day and that I really do want to open up a blank document on a daily basis and begin writing from a fresh starting point. That is problematic in terms of collecting things together in the end for publication purposes, but it may very well be something that I’ll need to live with going forward. I had successfully switched over for around 30 days and then that habit fell apart the first time that I was a little bit tired and just opened a word processing document on a whim. It was that moment of tired whim that got me back over here into Google Docs. It is entirely possible that I prefer the editing features in Google Docs and maybe just got used to them over time. One solution to the problem would be to try to add the next missive to the end of this document and see if I could at least keep all the words together. 

I did manage to break down the problematic posts in the writing plan to get to 104 issues of The Lindahl Letter. At some point, I just had to accept that a couple of the topics were going to just end up being shorter than I had planned on allowing them to end up. A few of the topics have one central person who contributed to them and are super straightforward. During my planning sessions I should have tried to zoom out a bit or maybe picked different areas of focus where a bit more coverage would have been possible. I have been (for better or worse) in the habit of writing weblog type missives for the last 20 years. I’m probably not going to stop doing that at any point. Some of them never get posted, but the daily habit of sitting down and offloading some thoughts into some type of word processing document, notepad, sketchpad, or just a pad of paper is probably going to keep happening. The part of it that I find the most confusing is that I tend to go back to Twitter a few times a day and it has also become a part of my daily routine. 

My efforts recently have been on reducing my response times to alerts and notifications to help focus and be present. That is key moving forward. It is probably one of the reasons that my early morning hour writing plans have been so successful as nobody is pinging me or creating alerts at this time of the day. Even corporations and application teams tend to slow down the attention seeking during the hours when people are commonly sleeping.

A few updates on word processing

I thought it would be fun to get some logos made for The Lindahl Letter. After updating the banner logo on Substack I realized that it broke the link for all previous banner logo posts. Fixing that mistake required updating about 40 posts to include the new banner logo one at a time. I’m guessing that the way the Substack database stores the background banner needs some time of update to prevent this type of previous image link breakdown. It should probably contain a warning at the very least that says if you update this image you are going to break all the older posts that reference the previous image. On the brighter side of that problem nobody really seemed to notice the broken links. I’m probably the one that immediately goes and checks the Substack site after things are published to make sure nothing went wrong.

It took a couple weeks of working on making the switch from Google Docs over to Microsoft Word. Currently, in that journey I’m now doing ok working out of the desktop application for Microsoft Word. I have a document setup for writing daily content and one for Substack posts. Both of those documents can be accessed from the Office 365 interface as well if necessary. I just have had a really hard time adjusting to the online version of Microsoft Word. It’s just not as usable as Google Docs. All those recent articles about Google mining my writing were enough to get me to make the switch. We will see how long this technology shift lasts and I’ll provide some updates along the way. It’s entirely possible at some point I’ll just write academic articles in Overleaf and not use either of the word processing systems. I’m wondering how many academic writers just work out of the LaTeX editor. For that syllabus PDF creation effort, I created the content outside of Overleaf and just used it for typesetting of the content.

Most of the time my writing efforts are about creating something in one application and then moving it somewhere else for distribution. That in and of itself is an interesting and probably unnecessary process. I’m not sure exactly why I have not just moved to creating the content in the place where it will get published.

Switching back to Microsoft Word

Given that Google is apparently data mining my efforts writing in a Google Doc every day I should probably shift over and work out of Microsoft Office 365. This word processing document that I’m working out of right now is actually a .DOCX file that just happens to be opened out of Google Docs. It would not take very much effort to move the files over to the Microsoft side of things.  

Hold on just a second here while I make the switch.  

I went out to Google Drive and download the entire novels directory as a zip file. After extracting all those files into the downloads directory, I went ahead and loaded them into the Microsoft OneDrive backup folder for this computer. That took just a couple of minutes to accomplish and now for the first time in a long time. I think it was last year when I was typesetting the “The Lindahl Letter: On Machine Learning” manuscript. I used to work out of Microsoft Word as my primary word processing system for years. Gradually I made the switch to Google Docs and was pretty happy with it until the recent reports of the strangeness related to tracking people. I don’t know if Microsoft is even remotely interested in the things that happen in Microsoft Word. At some point here in a few minutes I’m going to open this document up using the online interface for Office 365 to see how that goes. 

Writing in a standalone application and not just a tab within Chrome is a stranger feeling than I expected this morning. Now that I have the Office 365 web interface pulled up, I now remember why I abandoned this worked processing interface and went over to work out of Google Docs full time. This interface is just visually clunky and unrefined by comparison. The design aesthetic is just so much better out of the Google Doc. I am going to give working out of this interface a try for a few days to see if my feelings about it change over time. Maybe I will get used to the experience and be able to handle working out of the Office 365 ecosystem for work processing.

Planning to write and writing about plans

We watched “Thor: Love and Thunder” (2022) on an IMAX screen yesterday. That theater had not changed in a number of years. It was a throwback to the times of yore. Ok, I just wanted to use yore in a sentence. Those very seats could have been in that theater a decade ago the last time I visited. A lot of the larger format screen theaters now have reclining seats that are a bit bigger and a lot more comfortable. These seats could have been from the original installation of the IMAX screen. You won’t find any spoilers here about the movie or a review really. My expectations were for the movie quality to be inline with the previous Thor films. It was within the envelope of expedited Thor adventures. For the most part in the dozens of Marvel based films very few terrible ones exist. They are a window into that world and they provide that adventure. It’s pretty consistent. That is probably one of the reasons the films have done so well at the box office since the original Iron Max (2008) film was released. 

I’m starting to wake up now which took just a few minutes to achieve today. For some reason I’m running a little slower than usual as the day is starting to pick up steam. The sun is rising and the weather seems to be lining up well enough for the back part of this trip to Kansas City. Taking a bit of time to think deeply about where exactly you are in the writing journey is good. Maybe you have a detailed writing plan with a list of upcoming things to work on like an extra awesome backlog of pending adventures. You can certainly extrapolate that out to a map looking set of expectations and plot yourself as a location defining where you are in terms of that journey. That would be one way to go about and it would be interesting. My research trajectory and writing plan are well documented. Somebody else could pick up my work and keep moving along if for some reason I faltered. 

We have now spent the morning considering Thor films and visualizing the writing journey. For the most part this week  I have been working on a bunch of different content related to machine learning. The production quality on weeks 80 to 104 needs to be tip top to make sure the end of the last section of this year’s physical publication of “The Lindahl Letter” is really high quality. Based on my writing plan I’m going to pivot to writing academic style articles after that point in the writing journey with  snippets of that output ending up being published on an online basis. Generally, that will change my writing output to shift from a series of Substack posts being combined into a final collection at the end of the year to a more complex content production process. Academic articles can certainly be broken into sections and that will allow me to publish them in parts along the way. It will create a scenario where I’m sharing content on the same topic for several weeks in a row. Given that I won’t know the exact duration of a topic in that format the forward looking guidance will really be on the next 5 topics, but the coverage of those topics could very well end up taking months. It should be an interesting turn of events in the evaluation of my Substack style writing.

Rain and a morning of writing time

Today I’m going to be able to spend some time working on that “introduction to machine learning” syllabus. It’s an 8 part series and getting the tone and content right is very important. Today feels like it could be an all in Twitter day. Maybe I’ll end up tweeting the day away. That is a possible part of the vacation efforts to  get up early and write on a daily basis. So far along the way I have managed to get up and spend a bit of time writing each day. Having enough time to get past the basic stream of consciousness writing part of the session and move into working on more complex things does help the process. The entire morning today until lunchtime has been set aside to work on things. Strangely enough, about 130 words this morning I’m ready to abandon this post and just shift over to working on a section about deep learning. 

A bunch of thunder just occurred and then it started raining. It’s an early morning rainstorm. One of the big differences between Kansas City and Denver is the way the weather arrives. Something about the mountains changes how storm systems arrive around Denver. We don’t really see multiple fronts or the interesting things that happen from the process of storm fronts running into each other. Yeah, I diverted my thoughts from writing about deep learning to thinking about the weather happening outside. It is nice to sit down and write with a bit of rain in the background. I can hear it all over the house here. Outside the rain is falling and the roof, gutters, and the pavement all have unique sounding responses to that weather phenomenon. Sure I should try to get my focus to shift to something else, but it does not seem like that is going to happen. Maybe I should just lean into this one and try to increase the velocity. 

Writing on the keyboard attached to this Pixelbook Go has a certain maximum speed. It is not like writing on a mechanical keyboard. The travel and return is rather limited, but still rewarding enough to make longer writing sessions acceptable. I’m actually a little surprised that I have not worn out any keys on this Chromebook. Sure the two shots of espresso help increase the velocity of my writing output, but the other element in that need for writing speed has to be the content. Sometimes you are ready  to produce content and other times that process just won’t get going and it certainly won’t have the velocity to worry about hitting maximum effort limits on a keyboard. Maybe it is the rain or the promise of several hours of researching and writing in front of me, but I’m highly reflective and ready to go at the moment. It really could end up being a day full of a bunch of tweets or I might end up producing a lot of content today.

Committing to the writing process

The only time I signed each weblog post was during the great race to a big writing year. Maybe 2023 will be the year I strive to write 1,000,000 words on this weblog again. During the last attempt at that effort things eventually broke down in the writing process. You have to be ready to really set aside two solid hours every single day to write. During those two hours that you have set aside you have to commit to the writing process without hesitation or procrastination. You basically have to defeat writer’s block up front with planning and a solid backlog. That was back in 2018 and I’m a much stronger writer at this point. I would probably write a post for The Lindahl Letter every day and about 1,000 words of journaling. That is what it would take to sustain 3,000 words per day as a functional output. I would most certainly burn down the entire backlog of writing projects that need attention. 

That might very well be my commitment for 2023. I’m at least giving it some serious consideration at this point. This post right now is the second in a row directly written and developed in a Google Doc word processing session that happens to be stored in a Microsoft Word .DOCX file that is packaged and set up for publishing as a printed manuscript. This entire document will be ready to upload for publication on January 1, 2023 after six solid months of writing daily essays and observations. Based on the first two posts it may not be all that interesting, but it will be a timely set of thoughts and essays that are ready to be shared with the world. I am at this point working toward that point of publication. That means I’m going to have to write in this document, do a bit of proofreading for overall consistency, and publish the content over on the “Functional Journal” each and every day. It will be very easy to do a basic word count of this 6 month writing effort and see how close it would be to a big year of writing productivity. 

Gearing up to write at a production level of 3,000 words per day is probably not something that will happen by accident. It will need to be a planful and sustained effort. Energy and time will need to be devoted to making that happen. Like right now I woke up early in the morning and sat down to write. Nobody else is awake in the house right now. Even the dogs went back to sleep. intellectually I know the sunrise happened outside my window, but thoughts and attention were focused right here on the screen. It is enjoyable to type on this Corsair mechanical keyboard. The ergonomics of my desk setup are decent and this early in the morning it is easy to focus on producing content. The quality, timeliness, readability, and of course relevance of this content is a different question.

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.

Spending that time wisely

The weekend is upon us with the opportunity to get some things done. A few blocks of time will exist in the morning and the afternoon on both days to spend on something. It makes me really question just how wisely I can spend the time. Generally we don’t commoditize time. I do think of some blocks of time that can be spent on something. It is trying to make sure that we are spending those blocks of time wisely that captures a lot of my focus. My writing routine helps to keep me on track for the most part. Every day at 0500 hours the alarm on my Fitbit watch goes off and I start the day. Larger blocks of time are reserved on Saturday and Sunday morning for producing prose and really digging in deep. However, you can tell from the general pattern of the routine that each day starts out with a bit of writing. 

My big plan for the day is to really get ready for a big trash pickup tomorrow. We have a few larger things that need to get sorted out. I generally feel the same way about my major writing projects. I have a few that need to get sorted out and the rest just need to be organized and worked to resolution. Sure my writing strategy should help make that easy enough. Sometimes you have to dig in and give the old writing strategy a bit of review to see if the trajectory is still sound. Producing prose for the sake of producing it has a certain amount of merit. However, working toward something more meaningful has a better case for spending the effort to get it completed. Especially if you are going to view that effort as a coin for a block of time that has to be spent wisely.