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.

A good bit of working things forward on a Saturday

Throughout the summer so far my backlog of posts over on Substack has been working its way down each week. Right now only the post for July 22 remains scheduled and ready to go for this coming Friday. Due to some scheduling concerns I worked ahead to make sure a backlog existed. That backlog would help me avoid missing a publication date. I have a Google Doc with a future Substack publication list that goes out all the way beyond the 2 year mark. Assuming that I follow the process and work on writing a Substack post every Saturday morning and working it to a recordable state on Sunday no publication dates should ever get missed. So far I’m on a 77 week streak of hitting my publication window target. I had wanted to get closer to real time on the creation schedule. It’s entirely possible at some point that I will rebuild a backlog and work a few weeks ahead. 

I just recorded “Substack Week 79: Why is diffusion so popular?” using the Audacity software and my Blue microphones Yeti X. The first part of the post recording process is underway right now and that includes a noise reduction. I just used the tail end of the recording to get a noise reduction profile. That profile was just applied to the whole recording to reduce the ambient background noise that is occurring in the room where the podcast audio was recorded. The next effect I ran on the audio was a loudness normalization to normalize the perceived loudness across the episode. This is important for overall continuity and feel for somebody listening to the audio. You do not want anything major to jump out of the normal audio window and be just loud for no reason. The last effect I run is a noise gate to just clean up anything that might have remained after that first noise reduction filter. I like to make sure my audio is clean before publishing it out to Substack. 

Not only did I record that Substack post for Week 79, but also I took the time to record “Substack Week 80: Bayesian optimization (ML syllabus edition 1/8).” The second recording was twice as long as the first, but I used the Marantz professional sound shield on that one. Thanks to those two recording efforts my backlog is now good for the next 20 days in terms of Substack posts. 

I listened to this podcast instead of writing today

Instead of spending time writing this morning I decided to listen to this podcast. That was an almost 4 hour investment.

“Machine Learning Street Talk (MLST): MLST #78 – Prof. NOAM CHOMSKY (Special Edition) on Apple Podcasts” https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/mlst-78-prof-noam-chomsky-special-edition/id1510472996?i=1000569314505

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.

Messing around with podcasts

Yesterday during the evening I started to remove a few applications from my Google Pixel 5 smartphone. That effort started as a basic cleanup of a few applications and soon became a bit more intense. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are all now removed from my smartphone. I still have access to them from a browser at my desk computer or my Chromebook. However, they are now distinctly less accessible. I kept the communication applications loaded on my phone for now. At some point in the future, those applications might very well be the next wave of things that are going to get purged from my smartphone. For the next few days I’m going to just remove an application a day like a digital game of survivor. Generally applications get downloaded and are allowed to just sort of stay forever. 

Over the last few months the two applications I probably use the most are Pandora for streaming music and Google Podcasts. I know that people running Pandora would really like me to use it for Podcasts instead. They even changed the application byline to reflect that it is a music and podcast application. Moving my favorite Podcasts over would be pretty easy. In no particular order that would involve subscribing to the following: Sway, Bourbon Pursuit, Decoder, The MLOps Podcast, The New Yorker Radio Hour, How you livin j Piven, The Daily, Tomorrow. Lex Fridman, The Wan Show, Literally! With Rob Lowe, FiveThirtyEight Politics, Machine Learning Street Talk, and This week in Google. You can try to figure out a pattern from that mix of subscriptions. You won’t really find one as the content I elect consume is generally based on my mood intersecting with the topic they are covering. I’ll scroll along until I find something that catches my attention. 

It took me about 5 minutes to “collect” all the podcasts mentioned above using the Pandora website. Under the banner of collected within the Pandora website you can see all the podcasts. A good chunk of the podcasts that I listen to were either not on Pandora or hard to find. I even had to submit my own podcast, “The Lindahl Letter,” which in theory should arrive in 4-6 weeks on Pandora. I’m not sure actually switching over to Pandora for podcasts is going to be a possible thing to do in practice. A lot of the technology related podcasts that I listen to on a regular basis were not in the catalog of things to be collected on Pandora. I’ll give the application a try during my walking efforts over the next four weeks, but it may not work out and I’ll have to switch back over to using Google Podcasts as a primary driver.

Completing enough content before spring break

The first portion of this morning was spent on editing a Substack post called, “Touching the singularity.” My routine of writing on Saturday morning and finishing the editing on Sunday morning worked well enough. I was able to complete the audio recording for that post today and it is scheduled to go out on Friday April 1, 2022. Based on the current planning and scheduling I’m four weeks of recordings ahead on The Lindahl Letter. After spring break that buffer will be diminished by a couple of weeks. I’m not sure The Lindahl Letter will ever be months ahead in terms of recording. The content is not meant to be tied to a specific time and place. I’m trying to write in a more general way that really covers a topic vs. trying to provide news or observations that are time sensitive. One of the things that I do need to complete at some point is a YouTube video about the audio recording and editing process. You can probably expect a video about how I record podcast audio at some point in the near future. It has been snowing since last night in Denver, Colorado. It’s March 6th and we have several inches of snow on the ground. Being stuck in the house all day might be the catalyst to complete that video. 

I’m probably going to need to update OBS and maybe take some B roll of the microphone setup itself with my Sony ZV-1 digital camera. Given a couple shots of espresso and the right amount of quiet time I can probably record the entire thing in one shot without a script. My podcast recordings are highly scripted and produced to the point of sounding professional. At least, I think they are relatively professional in audio quality for a weekly podcast recorded at my desk for the pure purposes of adventure. Given that I’m already starting to think about the mechanics of the recording process, that video is probably going to happen. I have a couple of hours right now that are going to be spent on digging into the content presented in my 5 year writing plan. Finding solid blocks of time to engage in academic writing is something that will continue to be a priority. Really sitting down and deeply focusing without distractions is almost becoming a super power these days. It is something you have to be planful about and really make happen on purpose.

Trying to refocus

Overall my plan to put the smartphone down and not keep it with me all the time is working out pretty well. That vtech “Connect to Cell” system works well enough as an extended headset to my Google Pixel 5 smartphone that it is almost like a house phone. It is sort of weird to hear phone calls ringing throughout the entire house again like the days of yore when land lines were a common household feature. 

The vast majority of the application alerts and notices that I spent all day clearing out are not necessary. A lot of unnecessary attention was going to that smartphone each day and that was easy enough to stop. For the next couple of days I have planned time off that could be spent writing and working on a few things. 

Today I picked back up and worked a little bit on my week 30 Substack post. It needed a little bit of refinement and rework to be ready for Friday. Intellectually I know that I should spend a few minutes on the next few posts and get them into suitably completed drafts. Initially I was able to work ahead a little bit more than what is happening now, but for some reason that process broke down and I am just working on one week at a time. If the content being produced was real time, then that would make sense as an approach. The content is however planned out weeks in advance making it much easier to produce drafts in a queue instead of working in real time to be timely based on the news of the day. Maybe that is the key to unlocking a different type of content at some point in the future. I have considered turning the weekly Substack post into both a YouTube video and a weekly podcast. I’m actually curious what has stopped me from turning the first 30 weeks of content into multimedia formats. It is probably some type of weird nostalgia for the written newsletters of the past.

Getting really focused and locking in to write for a prolonged period of time seems to be illusive. I’m able to focus on topics and complete work, but I’m struggling with really spending hours working on the same thing. That is something that is going to need to be remedied before longer form prose and projects are going to get done. Part of that is just being able to sit and type for a sustained burst of 30 minutes without shifting around and working on different things. Even right now Rocky the dog is trying to distract me with growls at a reflection in the glass of the door. It is way before sunrise right now and nobody is stirring in the house. Right now is the time for me to write and for Rocky the dog to hang out in my office.

Some blocks of time

Throughout the next two days I’ll be able to work on whatever boils to the forefront of my thoughts. That is a powerful way to go about deciding where to spend your time. Right now I have the time to sit down and write without interruption. Pandora (Music & Podcasts) is playing in the background and the day is just starting. Apparently, Pandora is working to note how much they love podcasts. During the course of giving up cable and not really paying to subscribe to any news services I learned to like podcasts. Initially a lot of my time and listening energy went to the Leoverse (TWIT, TWIG, All About Android).[1] At one point, I had even trained my old TiVo box to download the Leoverse and I watched it like a television show. I still have the ability to boot up my Google Podcasts application and listen to Nilay on the Vergecast or Josh on the oddly erratic Tomorrow podcast.[2] The longest running theme in my podcast listening experience is probably the combination of Nilay and Josh. Right now Pandora has been switched off and I’m listening to the latest episode of The Vergecast and typing along. 

That last paragraph was a little bit indulgent, but that is what today is about. My thoughts and efforts can go in any direction. Nothing was planned for today between breakfast and dinner. I elected to just let my whims of the moment take me along the path to doing things today. 

Footnotes:

[1] The Leoverse is contained on https://twit.tv/ 
[2] Nilay’s The Vergecast and Josh’s Tomorrow podcast