From 2018 to 2021 I experimented with writing a monthly newsletter to track what I’d been reading and thinking about that month. Same sort of stuff as the blog, but normally a bit earlier in the thinking process. I’m currently not doing this (my main current writing experiment is a notebook blog), but I got a lot out of it and may go back.

I originally got the idea from The Monthly Newsletter as Thinking Tool by moridinamael, and mainly find it useful for the same reasons as he does: it provides a bit of healthy pressure to get something finished every month, it gets me to take better notes on what I’ve been doing, and most importantly it gets me to actually think new thoughts instead of just rolling the same old ones around my head again and again. As he puts it:

Your thinking on a given topic will “advance” in a way that it otherwise wouldn’t. You’re forced to finish and polish the stubs of thought processes that you may have thrown in. (A lot of this finishing and processing is happening subconsciously throughout the month. If you know you’re going to have to share it at the end of the month, your brain will give you something worth sharing. Without that pressure, your thoughts just tend to continue on, going in circles for years without ever resulting in anything useful to even yourself. Or at least, mine do.)

I’ve cannibalised these newsletters pretty heavily for blog posts, so there is a fair bit of overlap between the two, but also a lot of extra fragments that didn’t make it to the blog.


I had a break from the newsletter, then moved it to a Substack for a bit.


December: Lark Rise to 2020

Notes on Flora Thompson’s Lark Rise to Candleford. Year-in-review stuff: blog, newsletter, physics.

November: non-local boxes

Non-local boxes and negative probability.

October: making it up and writing it down

Navel-gazing about the newsletter format. Philip Pullman’s Daemon Voices.

September: Flex and Slop

Cognitive decoupling and banana phones. Brian Cantwell Smith’s On the Origin of Objects, and his ideas of ‘flex and slop’ and ‘the middle distance’.

August: the shitpost-to-scholarship pipeline

The shitpost-to-scholarship pipeline. Definitions of entropy.

July: the dog ate my newsletter, and chalk streams

Rushed infodump on chalk streams as an excuse note for not writing a proper newsletter.

June: Call for perturbations

Like a call for papers, but looking for new things to do instead. Solstice of Foundations summer school thoughts.

May: mucking around with negative probabilities

Dan Piponi’s negative probability toy model and an interesting way of decomposing the result (warning: this explanation is a mess, read the blog post instead). A few quick notes on The Master and His Emissary.

April: Back to the rough ground!

A month off my RSS feed and Twitter, and what I read instead. Wittgenstein thoughts – overlapping of many fibres, vagueness. Gowers on Wittgenstein and mathematical definitions. Ryle’s Knowing How and Knowing That.

March: Thinking Is Good, Actually

Turkle and Papert on bricolage again. Getting Anki hype. Grudging admission that thinking is actually a good thing and not a bad thing.

February: Eureka Factor leftovers

Highlighted bits of The Eureka Factor that didn’t make the review. The Agre/Empson quotes from December again.

January: physics workshops and more confused Derrida ramblings

The Basic Research Community for Physics. ‘Intermediate work’ between physics and philosophy of physics. More notes on Tasić’s Mathematics and the Roots of Postmodern Thought. Another attempt at understanding wtf Derrida is talking about.


December: Bell’s theorem and end-of-year review

Mermin on Bell’s theorem. A weirdly similar pair of quotes from William Empson and Phil Agre. Lots of end-of-year navel-gazing about the newsletter, learning physics, etc.

November: Brain scans and postmodern mathematics

Vladimir Tasić’s Mathematics and the Roots of Postmodern Thought. The Radon transform. More than two types of mathematician.

October: Close Reading

Long rambling braindump on Empson, Derrida, the New Critics, and baroque music. The Cognitive Reflection Test.

September: Negative probability braindump

Pretty much what it says. A few other links at the end.

August: Lazy low-effort links edition

Derrida, Rousseau, Rameau. Wave momentum. Miscellaneous links.

July: Test my website

Website testers wanted. Donald Schön’s The Reflective Practitioner. Huw Price’s Time’s Arrow and Archimedes’ Point.

June: Incorrigibly Plural

Apples and sheep. Para-academia. Dreyfus, Heidegger, Eddington.

May: The Constructive Loaf

Quantum mechanics on phase space. Time-frequency analysis and musical notation. Arcane Wigner function lore. Matthew Crawford’s The World Beyond Your Head. SimCity. Some links.


Cognitive decoupling followup. Popper, Deutsch and critical rationalism.


The Thing Structure of Clusterspace and the symbol grounding problem. The Spekkens toy model and an interesting extension. Rényi entropy.


Initial test newsletter. Negative probability and Merleau-Ponty.