Notebook Blog Month

I’m going to try an experiment in June: writing lots of short notebook-style posts, roughly in the style of David MacIver’s notebook blog. I’ve been thinking of testing whether this format works for me for ages, and it seems like a good time to finally do it.

I crashed most of my writing routines in late 2019 by getting a new job with a long bus commute and dropping my monthly newsletter for a while to readjust. That was the main engine driving new post drafts, so once that crashed the blog went with it. Then 2020 came along and crashed everything else. I’ve been doing a lot of weird half-baked physics stuff but not really writing anything up properly, and I’ve sort of forgotten how to by now. This is my attempt to flywheel up some writing energy again, starting with some easier raw material than badly organised physics notes.

If I like it I may continue with something like this, if not I’ll probably go back to the newsletter format. Or combine both somehow? Don’t know yet.

Anyway… I’ve made a list. I’ve dredged through old drafts and newsletter notes and incomprehensible shower-thought emails to myself, and managed to pull together 50 topics I could potentially write about. And I’m going to make quick low-res attempts at a bunch of these. Some of these are pretty constrained in scope anyway, others would be a serious research project to do well, but either way I’ll just sit down for an hour or two and see what I can bash out in that time. I might also veer off the list if any good ideas come up during the month.

My goal is 20 posts but I’m not going to beat myself up if I don’t get there. I don’t have a good sense of how difficult this is going to be, and the idea is to have fun rather than kicking myself through a miserable obstacle course. Ten would be fine.

I wanted to call this Shitty Blog Posts Month, which is a funnier name, but I’m trying to wean myself off this sort of self-deprecation. It is quite likely that many of the posts will be shitty, given the time constraints. But I want to avoid the whole thing of saying ‘oh I’m not really trying, look I’ve labelled it ‘shitty’ and put it on a blog called Drossbucket, don’t judge me’. That was very effective several years ago for getting past my defences and starting to write at all, but I don’t need it any more.

OK, here’s the list. There’s no meaning behind the order, I just came up with a whole load of ideas and then randomised the list afterwards. In practice I’m likely to do a mix of the ones I’m most excited about and the ones I can phone in quickly, but I’d also be interested to know which ones look appealing to people – it’d be more fun to write for an audience!

Edit to add: I’m crossing these off as I do them. Also if I have more ideas I’m adding them to the end after the original fifty.

  1. Cognitive dancing! cognitive style! followup post
  2. Pullman – alethiometer/marionette theatre essay
  3. Debugging resources – just a list of blog posts etc people suggested in that twitter thread.
  4. The way mathematicians name variables is actually good and not bad. Notes from November: “I had a good thought about… something… but lost it before I opened this document 😦 Possibly it was connected to that John Cook thing David Chapman mentioned about how everything in probability is P… was connecting it to that thing people say about meaningless variable names in mathematics. I don’t think this is such a big deal because mathematical symbols end up richly saturated with meaning when you use them… they tend to represent recurring concepts not arbitrary bags-of-crap like in programming.”
  5. Bret Victor Kill Math
  6. Mane 6 as Mitford sisters
  7. Talking About Machines Kindle highlights
  8. Examples only
  9. Whiny post about why I find debugging hard
  10. Redraft Wittgenstein newsletter stuff as post
  11. “Neoliberalism”
  12. Something on ‘accountability’ narratives e.g. that Meaningness gluing goldfish crackers to ceiling example.
  13. I don’t like the ‘bullshit jobs’ classification, too binary. Attempt to bullshit out a better taxonomy.
  14. Programmer envy
  15. Old ‘fragmentation’ draft
  16. Something about that vague thing I was just thinking about on intellectually understanding vs viscerally understanding – the visceral one feels a lot ‘more real’ so it is really tempting (coming from a sort of rational worldview) to think there is a clean theory behind it. whereas actually that visceral sense is coming out of the background of previous engagement with the thing, which is complicated and specific, and isn’t ever going to resolve to a clean theory. need to sort out what I’m even trying to say.
  17. Do something with all those Tasic postmodern mathematics notes I made
  18. Bristol bridge walk tweets in blog post form
  19. Rewilding physics
  20. Too many cooks spoil the global section
  21. Marx on alienation speedrun. Feel like I should know what he has to say but I can’t be arsed. So set a timer for one hour to research and read, then write up what I find.
  22. Pebbles and sheep as an example of the middle distance thing. If they are an example of the middle distance thing. Write the post and find out.
  23. Something like Dan Luu’s ‘HN: The Good Parts’ post where I dig out comments I really like from various places. or maybe exceptional comment threads? i dunno.
  24. Rubik’s cube learning notes
  25. Write out that twitter thread on McGilchrist/Derrida/whatever with some words between it
  26. Thinking on the page’/ writing, fast and slow
  27. Old draft on my dislike of ‘thin’ technical terminology
  28. Trailing clouds of glory’ ramble from August 2019 notes
  29. Crackpot time 3
  30. That thing I was thinking about in the stationery aisle in the post office. Something like ‘most stationery is ambiguity reduction’. Is it true? Write the post and find out.
  31. Some shit on going all out on your natural strengths vs getting to mediocre on your weaknesses.
  32. Worse than quantum mechanics. (PR box and Piponi’s machine are both ‘worse than QM’ in some way. Is there any deep connection there?)
  33. Something to do with the banana’s indexicality post
  34. You Are Not An Artisan thoughts
  35. David MacIver’s book prompt notebook post thing
  36. Taste
  37. Pretentious essay on The Waste Land and oddly satisfying videos
  38. Close to the Machine Kindle highlights
  39. The Well Wrought Urn / Heresy of Paraphrase
  40. The middle distance post comments are good enough that I could probably make a post by summarising them.
  41. Seven Types of Ambiguity Kindle highlights
  42. diff mcgilchrist.txt chapman.txt
  43. Two types of symbols bit from McGilchrist
  44. Keep your identity embodied and *maybe* also illegible.
  45. Five jobs meme: post-PhD edition
  46. Ben Hoffman on LW has a good comment… somewhere… about how we end up doing ‘accidental deliberate practice’ on things we already like, e.g. improving writing by monologuing in your head while walking. Find it and give more examples.
  47. Practical Criticism book thoughts
  48. AU where Derrida trolled mathematicians instead and writing/speech became algebra/geometry
  49. Bristol study hall – what it is + why it’s good
  50. ‘Eating fog’ (Namib desert beetle)
  51. Having opinions in public
  52. Motive power
  53. Universities are still good
  54. Dig out that Garfinkel pulsar thread and do something with it
  55. Doing things on purpose
  56. Some rambling thoughts on visual imagery


4 thoughts on “Notebook Blog Month

  1. andersshh May 31, 2020 / 8:12 pm

    3) sounds useful.
    4) I would like to hear more about what a meaning is and how it works. Is a meaning like a script with slots? Is it like an association where it calls up a memory?
    9) I would love to hear more about what debugging is
    24) sounds interesting
    27) what does the continuum between thinness and thickness look like? Do people build their ideas out of thin things in different way than they build out of thick things?
    41) sounds fun

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lucy Keer June 4, 2020 / 11:52 am

      Thanks! Hoping to get to the debugging posts depending on time, though I’m not sure how much they’ll say about what debugging is. More how to not be totally incompetent at it (something I am struggling with).

      Your thickness/thinness continuum question is interesting – will have a think about that. Not sure whether I’ll get to that one or not but 43 is also related.


  2. Malcolm June 1, 2020 / 1:37 am

    Juicy to me: 1 4, though I sort of feel like the abstract here was enough? But maybe there’s more juicy bits 5 9 11 – I am confused about neoliberalism 12 – I legit bought some goldfish crackers inspired by that example but haven’t yet decided if I want to waste a working bulb by gluing socks to it, or use a dead bulb 😂 13 – this seems both like fun and potentially important 16 – seems juicy and very related to Iain McGilchrist’s hemisphere model, which itself would probably fascinate you a lot – have been meaning to mention it to you for awhile given relevance to cognitive decoupling 17 – nervously tentatively curious about postmodern mathematics. That and “19 rewilding physics” remind me of Fritjof Capra’s The Turning Point, an excellent book on physical and systems thinking that I’ve been reading. Fleshes out some of the history-of-rationalism-busting-itself that Meaningness talks about Re 21 – I don’t care about the content but I am considering building an app for speedruns like that. Would be open to chatting about it. Re 23 – this also seems like a neat format and resonant with what lots of us have been doing on twitter lately with excessive QTing 25 – oooh, you have thoughts on McGilchrist. Yes, I’m interested in that! 42 – McGilchrist & Chapman – most exciting for me for sure. I have thoughts on this. Here are some of them: …happy to chat about this also! 43 44 46 50

    That was fun! I’m excited to read these 😁🤩

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lucy Keer June 4, 2020 / 11:48 am

      Thanks! Genuinely laughed out loud at the goldfish cracker bit!

      Intrigued by the speedrun app, been busy this week but would be interested in chatting soon 🙂

      I’ll take a look at your Roam stuff on McGilchrist – I’ve read some of your twitter stuff. I’m not sure you’re going to like what I have to say about him! I’ve got a lot out of the book but my rough take is ‘too much western romanticism’

      But I need to read more carefully to be sure of what I’m saying, so I’m not sure that the McGilchrist/Chapman diff post is going to happen this month.


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