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.

Watching that writing topic backlog grow

I turned on my Pandora internet radio this morning and listened to some music. Next week I should be able to listen to records again. Setting up my record player again will just require a piece of furniture to be moved from the garage back to my office. Most of my records are stored in alphabetical order. It would be pretty easy to listen to them one and a time and discard any that do not make the cut. Generally speaking my record collection ballooned in the last few years. Some of the records in the collections I bought to see if that band would make the rotation. A few of them were just not something that I enjoyed listening to very much. Sometimes a band goes in a different direction between albums. 

A pretty decent 7 day streak or so occurred where my writing was on point. Prose was produced on a daily basis with a certain degree of quality. You cannot take for granted those productive writing streaks. Part of stoking the daily habit of writing is sitting down at the keyboard and engaging in the practice of putting thoughts to paper. You have to sit down and put in the work to make things happen. I do feel that writing is something that the more you practice and refine your style the easier it becomes to produce. Yesterday was an example of running into a wall of slowly grinding progress that stunned even me after all these years. It was like a wall descended and surrounded every ounce of productivity I had. Sure it would have been the right plan to just fight through the wall and produce a page of prose. That just did not happen. Time faded away and sure enough the next day arrived. 

That very next day was today and within that arrival was an opportunity. Today I woke up with a degree of awareness that could be really good to focus on a problem or task. Part of that will require me to focus on what article from my 5 year writing plan will be up first and should be getting consideration throughout the week when I’m not tinkering with posts from The Lindahl Letter. During the course of one of my more productive writing streaks last year I did produce a 14 paper list of upcoming research papers. To help ensure those topics get some attention I’m going to add all 14 of them to the backlog for The Lindahl Letter. Right now that publication is outlined and planned until the 2 year anniversary with 104 topics. The addition was made and now that list is up to 118 topics. Making that addition really did mark the phase 2 expansion of The Lindahl Letter to focus on academic topics that I’m interested in spending time considering. 

Not only is keeping a solid writing topic backlog about making sure that I stay on track in terms of productivity, but it also helps keep to a research trajectory. One of the things that I have realized along this journey is that the cycle and routine of academic life helps keep things on track. You have conference due dates and other writing commitments that help keep things moving along. For me I do all of my writing on a daily basis for the explicit purpose of moving forward toward that perfect possible future. My efforts are really driven from a degree of personal motivation. I write because the act of writing is fulfilling.

A bit of weekend editing and tinkering

This morning I spent some time writing the first 1,000 words of a Substack post about, “Touching the singularity.” That will end up being published during week 62 of The Lindahl Letter on Friday, April 1, 2022. Writing about the intersection of technology and modernity is something that I have been working on for decades. Tomorrow morning or potentially this evening I’m planning on refining that essay to a point where the audio podcast version can be recorded. One of the consequences of moving to a podcast audio recording of my Substack posts is that it inherently creates a locking point for the content where no more tinkering can occur without breaking the synchronization between written and spoken word. Sure I can go back and clean up a few small typos. Most of the time the act of reading the essay out loud will help you catch the more common typos and errors. When it does not sound right when spoken out loud then it is probably something that needs a bit of grammarian consideration.

One of the benefits of returning to my office after the floor renovation was completed is that my routine of writing every morning and turning out pieces of inspired prose has returned. Surely you have noticed my return to publishing longer than average sentences after consuming a few shots of espresso. A lot of time this week has been spent really digging into my writing plans and thinking about what needs to be completed. All of that effort is grounded in the idea that if I only had a small amount of time left, then what efforts are the most important and should be prioritized. I’m pretty sure a decade ago it would have been writing a full and complete investigation of the intersection of technology and modernity and just how that would impact civil society. However, future me did not put that weighty tome into the 5 year writing plan this week. 

Pivoting to an update on the old weblog recovery would be prudent at this point. Overall it looks like all the written content is file, but my media files are just gone. I’m not entirely sure how that ended up happening. Fixing or relinking older WordPress images after a migration is a topic people seem to write about. To get to that point, I’m going to need to figure out where a valid backup copy of the images is stored and then work on the fixing or relinking part of the equation. I’m starting to wonder if no valid backup exists. Several methods of backup have occurred over the years, but none of them have been helpful. Currently a new backup method was turned on which should prevent this situation from happening again. This really is not the first time that a migration or event has crushed out all my images from my weblog.

Oh that writing plan collected some dust

Yesterday I spent some time thinking about my research trajectory and where my writing efforts should be placed. Intellectually I know that I should use the conference cycle to help motivate my writing efforts and keep them on a tight publishing schedule. Over the last few years that has not really happened in a consistent way. I have written and put together content for a series of talks, but I never finished taking that content and putting it into a journal article format or working it into a conference paper. That is probably one of the first things that should be on my writing plan that is in the process of being reworked. My writing schedule works and I turn out content every week. That is a proven effort at this point. It has worked for well over a year within the machine learning content space. All of that content exists in a well contained Google Doc with weeks 1 to 104 planned out for Saturday delivery. At the start of the year, I did take the first year of that content and put it into a manuscript form and it was edited by a professional to make sure it was ready to be shared in print. That cycle will continue until the end of the 104 planned posts. 

Please keep in mind that my writing plan is not a theme of the year or anything like that. It should be an organized and thoughtful research trajectory from the start to the finish. The other constraint that I put on it is to very clearly view it as a measure of what I could do with the time that I have in front of me. If I only had 5 years to muster up writing efforts, then what should that time be spent on and the most important things should be closer to the beginning of the journey than the end of it. Time is incredibly unforgiving and before you know it from our perspective things will move along with or without the time being put in at the keyboard to create resplendent prose. Within the moment we know time is about to pass, but we have the ability to only elect action or inaction. 

My 5 year writing plan as of March 3, 2022:

  • Year 1 – Heavy ML focus for the rest of 2022
    • Finish writing a collected series of ML/AI essays on Substack and combine them into a manuscript, “The Lindahl Letter: On Machine Learning Year Two.” This manuscript should include both years one and two. 
      • Weekly Substack posts
      • Manuscript generation at the end of the year
      • Will need to be edited by a professional before the print edition goes live
    • Rework last years speaking engagement talks into academic papers. This could be one combined paper or potentially 5 different papers depending on how the initial effort shapes up.
      • “What is ML Scale? The Where and the When of ML Usage.”
      • “The ML scale problem: Thinking about where and when to use ML, ROI models, synthetic data, repeatable frameworks, and teams.”
      • “Applied ML ROI – Understanding ML ROI from different approaches at scale.”
      • “Demystifying Applied ML – Building Frameworks & Teams to Operationalize ML at Scale.”
      • “Figuring out applied ML: Building frameworks and teams to operationalize ML at scale. V3”
    • Rerun the MLOps Github research and turn that content into a paper
  • Year 2 – For 2023 I want to pivot into studying sentiment analysis and modern polling methodologies. At this point, I will have written 104 essays on ML/AI and should probably refocus on a specific topic that is material to ML/AI, but adjacent to it as an area of research. It’s possible by 2023 that quantum computing will be a huge topic for research and will end up getting some attention as well.
    • Automated sentiment analysis paper
    • Sentiment analysis and machine learning essays for Substack
    • Modern polling methods essays for Substack
    • The breakdown of modern polling paper
  • Year 3 – 2024 will include a return to writing about local government administration and technology. It will be 20 years since earning my master of public administration degree. By this time my writing should be as crisp and focused as it will ever be and my perspective on technology will be well considered from my previous work on ML/AI. 
    • Technology and local government administration
    • The intersection of public administration and technology
    • How technology influences the practice of governing 
    • How government uses ML/AI technology
  • Year 4 – 2025 will probably be the year where quantum computing has broken down modern encryption frameworks. 
    • Changes and uses in encryption technology
    • Encryption and society
    • Quantum encryption
  • Year 5 – 2026 is going to be a year where my backlog should be highly full. The previous 4 years of this writing plan should have created a ton of leftover writing works.
    • A reflective work on ML/AL
    • Did open source MLOps technology survive?
    • Did the serverless trend pan out in the cloud?

Working out that writing plan

Right now I’m working to figure out what is next on my writing plan. Obviously, the future content for the Substack is well planned out. My backlog goes out to post 104 and I’m currently publishing week 58 this Friday. For the most part that gives me a pretty solid cut and what will be included in the first two years of The Lindahl Letter. Eventually that will get put into a manuscript and published. It will be an expansion of the year one publication that is already out in the wild. Getting into the habit of producing machine learning or artificial intelligence related content every week was easy enough. Figuring out a solid list of academic papers to work on each week has been a little harder. Several false starts and sketches of papers exist, but none of that has really translated into the production of conference or journal papers. Throughout the rest of 2022 that is where I’m going to put a lot of my energy.

That list of 104 topics gets stored here for posterity:
https://www.nelslindahl.com/the-lindahl-letter/