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.
- Cognitive dancing! cognitive style! followup post
- Pullman – alethiometer/marionette theatre essay
- Debugging resources – just a list of blog posts etc people suggested in that twitter thread.
- 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.”
- Bret Victor Kill Math
Mane 6 as Mitford sisters
- Talking About Machines Kindle highlights
- Examples only
- Whiny post about why I find debugging hard
- Redraft Wittgenstein newsletter stuff as post
- Something on ‘accountability’ narratives e.g. that Meaningness gluing goldfish crackers to ceiling example.
I don’t like the ‘bullshit jobs’ classification, too binary. Attempt to bullshit out a better taxonomy.
- Programmer envy
- Old ‘fragmentation’ draft
- 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.
- Do something with all those Tasic postmodern mathematics notes I made
Bristol bridge walk tweets in blog post form
- Rewilding physics
- Too many cooks spoil the global section
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Rubik’s cube learning notes
- Write out that twitter thread on McGilchrist/Derrida/whatever with some words between it
- Thinking on the page’/ writing, fast and slow
Old draft on my dislike of ‘thin’ technical terminology
- Trailing clouds of glory’ ramble from August 2019 notes
- Crackpot time 3
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.
- Some shit on going all out on your natural strengths vs getting to mediocre on your weaknesses.
- Worse than quantum mechanics. (PR box and Piponi’s machine are both ‘worse than QM’ in some way. Is there any deep connection there?)
- Something to do with the banana’s indexicality post
- You Are Not An Artisan thoughts
- David MacIver’s book prompt notebook post thing
Pretentious essay on The Waste Land and oddly satisfying videos
- Close to the Machine Kindle highlights
- The Well Wrought Urn / Heresy of Paraphrase
- The middle distance post comments are good enough that I could probably make a post by summarising them.
- Seven Types of Ambiguity Kindle highlights
- diff mcgilchrist.txt chapman.txt
Two types of symbols bit from McGilchrist
- Keep your identity embodied and *maybe* also illegible.
Five jobs meme: post-PhD edition
- 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.
- Practical Criticism book thoughts
- AU where Derrida trolled mathematicians instead and writing/speech became algebra/geometry
- Bristol study hall – what it is + why it’s good
‘Eating fog’ (Namib desert beetle) Having opinions in public
- Motive power
- Universities are still good
- Dig out that Garfinkel pulsar thread and do something with it
Doing things on purpose Some rambling thoughts on visual imagery