Latest Posts

(Note: posts are lightly edited and likely to have typos)

  • 20220602

    Had some personal things come up recently that distracted from my daily routines, but once again I am hoping to be getting back to more regular journaling! My brother is visiting me at the moment so that may distract a bit however. Thinking a lot about how I want to structure my time and habits for this summer. There are a lot of research papers that I want to read so I want to come up with a system that makes it clear which ones I want to read and makes it easy to pick up them up and write out thoughts that I have related to them so that I can not have that happen in a vacuum. I think having them printed physically and placed somewhere is going to be the right call ultimately, but I still don’t really like how that is restricted to being in a certain place. Maybe I have an “on the go” folder that I have easily accessible and make a habit of packing and unpacking it wherever I go so that I have it and it’s never out of sight in my backpack. Something like that might be good as having papers digitally does not have them obviously available to you (although maybe some sort of homescreen widget that displays them could emulate this? Still need to unlock the device to see this, whereas a folder makes it obvious by default that the papers are the sole purpose of that folder being there).

    Daily Listening

    I listened to this Massive Attack album for the first time in the summer of 2015 (7 years ago!) when I had started venturing into my musical tastes and following various top charts on rateyourmusic. I didn’t really get it back then, but it sounded quite nice to me now. I’m not sure what prompted me to want to listen to it. Well, actually I realized it was because I had seen something about Banksy which reminded me that I had read somewhere one of the Massive Attack members was maybe Banksy or had influenced Banksy. For whatever reason this must have got my mind recalling various impressions of the album from all that time ago and got me wanting to revisit it. I realized immediately I messed up when I first listened to it by using my laptop speakers and not my headphones (I have a memory of playing it on my laptop at my family’s cabin that summer). The way the bass comes in on the first track (you really need headphones to experience this) just lets you know what sort of ride you’re in for, and I’m glad I can appreciate that ride now.

    Daily Reading

    Finished the first Series Of Unfortunate Events book a while ago and have been reading The Essence of Software by Daniel Jackson. So far it has been a really enlightening read about design and how to think about software from a design standpoint. I think it’s providing some useful frameworks that I can and want to apply to my research software that will help make it more accessible to me (when I need to use parts I haven’t used in months and forget what I was thinking when I made them) and to a potentially wider community when I release it.

  • 20220524

    Started going on morning walks with my partner around the neighborhood which has been a pleasant experience and nice routine to add before starting the workday, especially since the weather has become so pleasant now. Many people are starting to plant their gardens or tend to the perennials that have begun to bloom (I think they’re perennials, but I’m no flower expert). I’m not sure why I haven’t thought of adding a brief walk to my morning routines. I think maybe knowing I have a commute makes a walk feel redundant since I’ll have to be outside to bike anyways. However, there does seem to be something special about going on walk that isn’t intended to take you anywhere except for out and about. It probably won’t be all that pleasant when it is dark out (and cold) during winter, so maybe it’s best to just cherish it while I can and replace it with something like reading when it is no longer so.

    Daily Listening

    This Bossa Nova album.

    Daily Reading

    Finished the Jim Morris autobiography and then started the first book in A Series Of Unfortunate Events: The Bad Beginning.

  • 20220523

    I realized I haven’t been doing my weekly task tracking for a few weeks now. I partially got caught up in end of semester business and travels, but also started filling out my task sheet without much thought, which I think was defeating the purpose of it. I want to iterate on it in some way for this summer to ensure that I make progress towards the things that I want to be; namely figuring out where to apply for internships, my dissertation, and some side hobby whether computer science related or not. I’d like to be doing something artful like making music or drawing. Perhaps both! So, point being that I need to work on a system to help keep myself accountable to doing these things and not making them feel like chores.

    Daily Listening

    A daily mix of bossa nova from spotify.

    Daily Reading

    No reading today unfortunately.

  • 20220522

    I’m learning that now that I’m getting older and, despite being a PhD student, having some more disposable income it is absolutely worthwhile spending money and effort to reduce discomforts that significantly distract you from doing what you want to be doing. With the temperature in the 90 degrees (F) I was realizing that I absolutely need to get a window air conditioning unit to not be miserable. I’m not really sure how I was able to cope in the past. Maybe I felt it was excessive to have in the past and that since AC didn’t exist I would be fine, but that is ignoring how differently lives were lived in the past and the strategies they used which I am likely unaware of. The point being, a relatively small capital investment can effectively unlock a lot more out of you by enabling you to be comfortable and not distracted by it. I recall not being able to sleep from the heat, and now it seems silly to know that the heat can be disruptive to me and all that I have to do to prevent that is to spend some money. Seems like a pretty easy decision.

    Daily Listening

    Really like the end of this song.

    Daily Reading

    Some more of the Jim Morris Autobiography. Similar thoughts to yesterday.

  • 20220521

    The thoughts in the reading section occupy most of what I was thinking about through the day. Still figuring out how I want to spend my summer! As much as Tim Ferriss can irk me, I thought this video provided a practice that is probably helpful to do.

    Daily Listening

    Some Saba.

    Daily Reading

    Read more of the Jim Morris autobiography. He has some pretty interesting speculations about the future of the universe. Namely following the idea in evolution that it is not the species who are competing to survive, but the genes they carry. Instead of genes we think of memes as the idea form of them that spread and compute to survive, and Morris claims that intelligence is the ultimate goal of the universe and that humans are just one vessel on its journey, and maybe robots/AI we make will be the next step. Pretty far out! Makes me want to learn more about evolution and this perspective on genes. Not really sure what to make of the philosophical implications if this is to be believed. One thing that is weird is that there is a presupposition that humans will create the next step in the goal for more intelligence, but we seem to have some ability to steer what we do and thus could choose to not to that and do something else. But perhaps its an inevitability because of something innate about us. Who knows. Maybe its fun to think of ourselves as vessels of something beyond us, and we can just be grateful to be a part of the ride. 🤷🏼‍♂️

  • 20220520

    Been a bunch of miscellaneous happenings over the past few days. Hoping to get back to a more regular journaling ritual now!

    It really feels like summer is coming into full swing now. All done with grading for the Calc I course I was TAing and back from my brother’s graduation. The trees and plants are all vibrant and green. And of course it is getting hot and humid. Spring seemed to have rocket by.

    I’m looking forward to seeing what I can accomplish this summer. I have a smorgasboard of ideas that I want to explore and need to figure out how I want to allocate my time ot them. Some books in computer science, some side projects, and figuring out what I want to do with my future. Much excitement to come!

    Daily Listening

    This bossa nova album.

    Daily Reading

    Still reading the Jim Morris autobiography and should be done with it relatively soon. I’ve been really enjoying reading people’s accounts of their lives where they are pretty honest about how things really went. Jim Morris is not as good of a writer as Oliver Sacks (which is a hard bar to beat), but the material and content of his life is so relevant and interesting to me that it has been a breeze to read.

  • 20220516

    I’ve been thinking more about what the future of AI might look like. This recent result from Deepmind. In brief it is a neural network that can both act via a robot and play digital games as well as caption images. It’s the first example that I have seen of an agent performing multimodal tasks with the same architecture (and learned weights!) for all tasks. In a way it feels like artificial general intelligence is not that far off. If there is an exponential growth curve to the ability of AI, then things could change very rapidly in the next few years. How to define and measure this growth curve is difficult. As far as I am aware there is no well defined equivalent of Moore’s Law or Metcalfe’s Law for AI. So it is a bit hard to draw any comparisons. This Kurzweil chart may simply suggest that its the underlying compute power that matters; in which case then Moore’s Law is the exponential for AI as well. The success of recent very large networks suggests also that maybe scaling network size is all that really matters as well too.

    I have a lot of thoughts related to this. I think a lot of people are brushing this under the rug and goalpost shifting just beyond AI’s current capabilities. Chess was hard and now its easy, Go was hard but now its easy, Atari was hard but now its easy, etc. These are just games and doing anything real that humans can do is hard. I wonder if we lack humility as a species to recognize that perhaps our intelligence isn’t that great and what we’re doing is just playing various games ourselves that we convince ourselves are nontrivial. I suppose we will find out soon enough should the exponential be believed.

    Another thought is whether or not that are natural limits to the capabilities of extreme intelligence that we just aren’t aware of. I think we assume a superintelligent AI to be absurdly powerful, but maybe it can’t do much more than we can already because of limitations of physical reality. It’s hard to state what these might be, but trying to imagine something mystical about an AI as a concrete reality is useful. Consider for example having an AI that can see through my phone’s camera. If I show it a burrito I order it will not be able to know how it was made without knowing the process of how it was made or what I ordered (even then it could be an error in receiving something different). This seems like something trivial that a “superintelligent” system should be able to figure it out, but without more information it cannot. Maybe with sufficient sensors it could do on the fly X-ray type imaging, or maybe it can communicated with other AI systems that are aware of how this burrito was made. Maybe its a part of a global computer that can trace the entire supply chain of production that went into making this burrito. Are these feasible things that an AI can figure out how to do? I don’t know.

    I recently learned that Norbert Wiener advocated against AI systems and used Mickey Mouse and the brooms in Fantasia . Mickey has a simple task that he wishes to automate, but it quickly gets out of control and needs an even more powerful authority to step in. However, we don’t have any authority to step in and help us if our AI systems run astray. It’s a chilling thought, because it seems extremely plausible. The more prevalent powerful AI systems become then the more likely such a mishap is to happen. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

    Youtube recommended this video to me about printed circuits. What was most interesting to me right away was seeing how PCBs were originally manually designed and then quickly replaced by computerize design methods. Got me thinking about how we bootstrap tools to make more powerful versions. With computers this seems to be a neverending process that results in more and more powerful machines. We used our most rudimentary computers to help us create more effective computers and then we made better software to help us make better computers. We’re at the point where we use AI to design computers which we in turn use to make better AI. The more sophisticated the computers, the more sophisticated the tools that are required. I think there’s some nice general idea/theory here about tool development, but it was interesting to become aware of this pattern.

    Daily Listening

    I’ve settled on really liking these two tracks from this future funk album. (one two)

    Daily Reading

    Read a bunch of Jim Morris’ autobiography while waiting at graduation events this weekend. Very interesting reading a more firsthand account of events that happened at Xerox PARC that are also from a more tools building side of things than the user side that Alan Kay focused on.

  • 20220512

    Traveled back to Minnesota for my brother’s graduation. My travels to the airport were unusually pleasant as I had impeccable timing for each step; the red line arrived right as I walked up to the platform so I walked continuously onto the train and then was able to walk continuously onto the silver line bus that goes to the airport from South Station, and then there was no wait for security and I walked continuously through to the gate. Actually I detoured before I got to the gate to look at the big planes since I was in the international terminal and I enjoy looking at the big planes (a simple pleasure is looking at large industrial feats of engineering). I was fortunate to see the Hawaiian Airlines A330 that flies the longest domestic route in the US from Boston to Honolulu. They were running late and were doing maintenance on one of the engines; I watched them lift up both of the side panels to do something. I wasn’t sure if anyone was on the plane as the gate was completely quiet so I imagine they boarded the plane and then found something that needed to be looked at. I monitored the flight and saw that they did end up departing almost 2 hours late. It was nice to recall my flight to Hawai’i, also in an A330 but from Minneapolis, and to imagine the feelings of the passengers as they leave the busy world of the northeast to the more relaxed island life. I miss looking out at the ocean and thinking about how I’m just in this small isolated world on the island thousands of miles from anywhere else. A nice reflective head space.

    Daily Listening

    Here’s another future funk track I enjoyed of many more from this artist.

    Daily Reading

    Read a TON of On The Move during my travels back to Minnesota. I’m really inspired by all the people that he meets and how sincere their interactions are, which all stemmed from a desire to understand more about the world and how that knowledge can help to make it better. I’m especially interested to read books of Stephen Jay Gould as they became good friends and Oliver speaks highly of him (plus Stephen Jay Gould’s expertise is a hobbyist interest of mine!). It’s inspiring to me to want to reach out to people with shared interests and work as then you can have good connections with people you otherwise may not have. You just need to put yourself out there and be authentic. If it’s meant to be it will happen, and your life will be better off for it.

  • 20220511

    Met up with a friend who I met virtually over the pandemic via a mutual friend for the first time as he was in Boston for a conference in western MA. We walked all over Somerville and Cambridge visiting the Zuck’s favorite pizza place in Harvard square as well as going to the great ice cream place Toscanini’s. Always nice to walk around and have great conversation with someone, although I am quite sore from having worn bad sandals!

    Daily Listening

    Been Jamming to this album.

    Daily Reading

    Busy day so no reading.

  • 20220510

    Every time I visit a medical center I am reminded of how little the software designers seem to consider the user interaction. The place I visited had just migrated their software and the patients had all sorts of complaints as did the staff in trying to figure out what to do. Feels like there’s a huge disconnect between the developers and users and its frankly quite frustrating to witness.

    It’s impossible to not see the inefficiencies at play in medical settings and makes you want to get involved to help improve it. I’m sure only then can you realize just how monumentally hard it must be to make positive changes since I’m surely not the smartest or remotely first person to make this observation. On the bright side we’re only getting better at figuring these things out so hopefully we can see even more improvements over time. I can’t imagine what it must have been like pre-computer to try to go to different hospitals and coordinate care.

    Daily Listening

    This song has been sticking with me.

    Daily Reading

    Read a good chunk of On The Move while waiting 40 minutes for my doctor (while in the appointment room!). Lots to reflect on. His friend, the poet Thom Gunn, he described at intentionally choosing a life of leisure and only working minimally to sustain this life which enabled him to be “intense” about reading. This piqued my interest as it is a potential lifestyle I have considered. I’m just not sure if I would be able to find it fulfilling as I am not a world class author (at least not yet 👀) and I would feel that I am not giving back enough to the world. Reading is taking from so many others contributions and it feels wrong to only do that without giving back in someway, and writing is one way to do so. He was also very different from me in many ways, namely being a commune dweller in San Francisco since the 60s and being immersed in the drug culture. Oliver Sacks offers a different perspective by following a life that is pretty intensely dedicated to his work and writing. I think the interested thread between the two is that they both chose to live their lives intentionally and did not try to follow some common path; they did what interested them and became increasingly unabashed in what they did. I just need to figure out what that looks like for me.

  • 20220508

    Figured out my housing situation from a random opportunity that came out of the blue from another graduate student. The place is super nice and is an upgrade in almost every way from my current situation. The only downgrade really is that the view is not as nice as what I currently have, but I’ve been pretty blessed with my current situation in that regard. I think what I am most excited for is a kitchen that far more than 1 person can comfortably be in as well as in unit laundry. No more quarters!

    The Formula 1 Miami Grand Prix felt very American. Quick shoddy construction of a track around a stadium and manufactured beaches and yacht clubs to give it a more luxurious feel. I don’t know why this is such an American thing to manufacture illusions of grandeur, but it has never really not been a part of America. You visit the mansions of Newport and they’re trying to illicit Versailles and other european mansions without trying to have any character of their own. Pure fabrications to attempt to build a status and vibe by mimicking those who have it. I the other US grand prix in Austin feels a lot more normal as its a great track with no attempt to cultivate any sort of strange atmosphere other than racing. It’s cheap to attend to and makes no attempt at exclusivity. Maybe it’s just a Miami thing. I’ve never really been there so I can’t really comment, but I wish America could try to be more authentic to itself instead of continuing to being this strange kitsch culture.

    Daily Listening

    A daily mix of music that Spotify changes daily (duh) so I cannot share it, but it was all pretty dream pop based.

    Daily Reading

    Finished The Rings of Saturn. The book wraps up with a discussion on the proliferation of silk production through the world and how various european powers tried to industrialize it or prevent the industrialization of it in various ways. I think it was the French who had an official who opposed it as he felt that it would remove a large portion of the laboring class from their current position, and that this would be problematic since the army drew their best musketeers from them. It was interesting to see how these officials considered potential changes to the working culture and what downstream effects it would have on their nation as a whole. We see various forms of this happening today. In the US it is subtle in the various ways people are encouraged to perform various tasks (military recruitment and advertising although is a little sketchy - the hollywood and video game ties in particular). In the late 1700s and early 1800s the germans got caught up in the craze, but it ultimately failed to catch on. A century later the Nazis tried to bring up silk production again because of the purity of the silk they could produce which was now being tied to the cultural purity. Sebald was good at drawing various connections like this to events across time and it was pleasant to read in general.

  • 20220507

    Not too much thoughts besides whats going on with what I wrote below.

    I have been thinking a little bit about why Mercedes hasn’t been at the top again in Formula 1 so far this year. There a few reasons I think: 1) new regulations shake up a lot of the grid since some people will figure things out that work much better partially by chance since the search space is so large, 2) cost caps restrict their ability to put as much into R&D, 3) they have less wind tunnel time with the new regulations to test aerodynamic concepts since they won the constructors championship last year (teams get successively more wind tunnel time based on how low they are in the constructors championship as a means of helping to balance the competition), 4) They may just be in the decline of their organization. Sustaining a high level organization is difficult over time especially in organizations with high turnover since the culture is difficult to sustain.

    I’ve liked to believe that the way they run their organization is above and beyond how the other teams do it and that should manifest itself in how they perform. I think the fact that they are still competing in the top group of teams indicates that they are doing things right and I think how well they can turn this season around will be their true test since they have to face some adversity now.

    Daily Listening

    Some new Bossa Nova

    Daily Reading

    Read a good bit of On The Move. It’s interesting to see how his thoughts/recollections are changing as he grows older in his retelling of his life story. He was someone who set the California squat record of 600 lbs when he was younger and then now had a hiking incident in Norway and needed some fairly extensive surgery to repair the damage to his leg. It’s weird seeing how someone who was so strong suffer from such an injury. He described how this was his first real face with his own mortality and he was in his fourties! Perhaps he was more reckless earlier in life because he had no events like this happen to him. My experience has been different as I’ve had both a nontrivial knee injury (torn PCL) and anaphylaxis already in my life which has led me to be far more cautious overall. I try to ease this caution a little as I think it has led me to restrict myself too much, but at the same time being too reckless is dangerous. Hard to find the balance.

  • 20220506

    Been a little off of my journaling routine as the semester wraps up and I’m making a note of this to remind myself to be more disciplined about ensuring I get to it each day.

    I watched The Straight Story last night with a friend remotely. It’s probably the most normal David Lynch film that I have ever seen and I’m very curious how he got attached to it. The film was very subtle and I don’t want to say too much for those that would want to watch it, but I think I would mostly summarize the film as a mediation on aging. It also made me think about the collective traumas brought on after World War II that were collectively ignored and stuffed away. It is stranger now that almost all veterans of World War II are dead now and this collective trauma is now manifesting in second order ways through their descendants and how the trauma shaped their lives.

    I’ve been thinking about how there are so many terrible things going on in the world that are literally just ignored in some fashion because it is so hard to think about. I don’t think it is healthy overall for the world to just ignore these things. For example, the war in Ukraine right now is often discussed from strategic levels, but the everyday effect this is having to the millions of people on the ground there will be largely ignored as all collective traumas seem to be. Ignoring these things seems to be subtly enabling them to persist and make those engaging in it perhaps justify it because it is a thing that is done and not talked about. Perhaps its also ignored because it seems like such an insurmountable problem to address. I’m not really sure.

    I think the best that any individual can do is strive to be peaceful, patient, and generous with those who you interact with each day. I believe that small acts of kindness and selflessness lend themselves to greater order changes on a societal level. People engage with others in ways that they perceive is the right way to engage with others. When someone has a pleasant interaction with you that tends to brighten up your day and encourage you to have a pleasant interactions with others. Obviously it is tremendously difficult to measure anything like this, but based on my intuitions and interactions so far in life this seems to a simple and free thing that anyone can do to create a better culture.

    Daily Listening

    Classic Marcos Valle Bossa Nova

    Daily Reading

    Almost done with The Rings of Saturn. I started the Jim Morris memoir earlier this week too and am pretty surprised at the type of person he was growing up (pretty reckless teen and big boozer) so I’m curious to see how he transitioned in his life and what remained the same. I’ve come to find value in reading memoirs as you can see how others made their way through life which can help show you “oh I can do something like that”, which is a powerful idea.

  • 20220503

    Made a nice wok dinner for some friends last night. A side dish of small potatoes that I think could have been seasoned a little bit more as well as a variation on this eggplant dish that I’ve made a few times now. I think I nailed the sauce in the eggplant dish as it tasted absolutely incredible, and the potatoes made for a good side. It’s nice to be getting more and more accustomed to the wok and feeling good about what I am making (making food that tastes good is a great function to optimize 😋).

    Daily Listening

    Still coming back to Daphnis et Chloé

    Daily Reading

    A little bit of this dog and frog cartoon before bed.

  • 20220501

    Bit of a lazy Sunday which was nice. The weather was good again so I took the opportunity to hammock in a nearby spot I had been meaning to try. It turned out to be pretty good and I was able to get a few snoozes in while reading and I did some offline journaling for a change. Nice to have the warmer weather becoming ever more consistent, its surprising how much the changing of the seasons can improve your mood - I’m at least much more cognizant of it now.

    Daily Listening

    I think this was on a discover weekly playlist for me a while ago and I rediscovered it. Very pleasant.

    Daily Reading

    A good chunk of On The Move. The medical profession is strange in that they are so exposed to people going through traumatic health issues every day, and to cope with it they have to take on a detached air about it or seemingly risk going insane. It’s weird because you would want your doctor to have sympathy for you, and they do, but from a professional point of view where they won’t be traumatized if you die, but instead wonder what could have been done differently (if anything could have been done at all). I feel like I would like to bring this up with a doctor and hear their thoughts on it, but that might not be the best conversation to have as the patient of one. In any case I’m incredibly grateful for the medical community and all its advances as I am sure almost everyone has benefitted from it.

  • 20220430

    Drove out to western MA for a day trip to visit some of my friend’s old haunts. The first stop was a quaint used bookstore. It’s located in an old mill alongside a fast flowing river that was fun to watch while we enjoyed a little snack after perusing the bookstore. I actually found a copy of a collection of stories/essays curated by Daniel Dennett and Douglas Hofstadter that I had wanted to read, and also a Thoreau book that I have heard good things about.

    Afterwards, we went to Puffer’s Pond and hung out in a hammock to enjoy the peaceful quiet of being away from the city as well as the warm weather. Meant to do some reading, but we instead took a nap and chatted.

    We went into Northampton for dinner. I was surprised at how much bigger Northampton was than I had expected it to be. I had visited UMass Amherst as a prospective grad school and really enjoyed the area, but I must have only visited Amherst which I had recalled to be pretty small and charming. We got ice cream afterwards and walked around a bit before heading back to Somerville.

    It was real nice to get away from the city for a day and have some peace and quiet. Hopefully going to be doing more of this over the summer.

    Daily Listening

    This album has been some pleasant background listening.

    Daily Reading

    No reading, but that’s a little more understandable given the traveling.

  • 20220428

    Set two new PRs today squatting: a partial squat (not fully deep) with 245 lbs and then I was able to do 4 reps of 225 lbs (maybe more impressive sounding if you consider that I’m 6’ 4” so I literally have more work to do in a very real physics sense). This was a big deal for me as it was being able to squat 2 45lb plates on either side of the barbell sine I started training in January. It was a really nice feeling to have finally achieved this goal that I had set for myself, and now improving feels less imposing. I have no intentions of lifting crazy heavy weights; this is more about getting strong and learning how to have the right mental state to deal with discomfort in the short term for longer term gain. I was reflecting on how earlier in my training I didn’t have the mental toughness about this that I now have; I used to fail squats because I didn’t have the confidence to make it, and now I have the ability to power through when it feels like I could fail, but in reality just requires me to focus more on where the weight is positioned and what muscles I am using in my body. It was really great to have this realization and notice this improvement about myself and I can only hope that it transfers to the other difficult things I want to do in my life.

    Daily Listening

    Some tracks a friend shared with me that I like: one two three.

    Also a beautiful track from my discover weekly.

    Daily Reading

    Little bit more of The Rings of Saturn - I’ve only got about thirty pages left to go!

  • 20220427

    “Went” to a really cool series of talks that were at the Hot Topics in Computing Seminar at MIT (description of event here). James Morris was the main speaker and I cannot recall if he was mentioned in The Dream Machine or not (he was! I just paged through my copy and it took less than a minute to find a reference to him). He gave a really interesting talk on what he thought made breakthrough research in computing and I took a lot of notes on it. One thing that stood out to me was how he thought it was important to pay attention to exponentials and ride the wave with them. I have seen this before with Moore’s Law and Metcalfe’s Law, but I don’t think I have seen someone talk about how both of them in tandem enabled the recent AI breakthroughs: Moore’s Law gave the compute power necessary and Metcalfe’s Law gave the data available on the internet needed to train these models.

    He also talked about Second System Syndrome, which is when some group makes a successful system they get a lot of money to make a version 2 that is better in every way, and these second systems almost always fail due to overreach. It’s a classic tale of flying to close to the sun it seems and is important to learn from.

    Butler Lampson (another Dream Machine name) also talked and the two principles he built his mini talk around were 1) use the product you are building to put yourself in the feedback loop of improving the product and understanding how changes you make affect the usability of it, and 2) some things just take time to come to fruition. A good idea might exist but it may not have the right environment for it. This was true of AI in the 80s.

    Dave Gifford then talked very briefly and the one thing I want to highlight that he said is that it is a very good skill to develop to be able to see “false failures”. To know when something failed because the environment was bad, as Butler said, and did not fail because the idea was bad. Conversely, you want to be able to know if the failure was because the idea was just plain bad too! It can’t always be that the environment was bad.

    Daniela Rus was the last speaker and she gave examples of how autonomous vehicles have been and continue to be an idea that is good, but the environment is still not there for it. She said that robo taxis are a long way off and that you should not trust your Tesla autopilot interestingly (not sure what to make of that since I don’t know if there is any bad blood here). She also said that new big ideas just take time to come to fruition and take years of work to realize.

    All in all it was a really great experience and I’m still in awe that I’m alive to overlap with these pioneers of computing and not just be able to listen to recordings of them, but to listen live to them (granted I was virtual, but I could have biked 20 minutes to MIT!). It’s been really special to have these experiences for me. Partly because I look up to these people as great inspirations for what can be done, but also for how short of time these things were done in. It’s inspiring because it makes you want to imagine what sort of things we will be able to do in our lifetimes building off of their foundations given that they were able to do so much in so little time. Doug Englebart’s “Mother of all demos” is always referenced at things like this and it makes me wonder what a mother of all demos would look like today to showcase what will be commonplace 60 years from now.

    Daily Listening

    Still just a lot of Magdalena Bay. I don’t like this album nearly as much, but it still has some hints of what was to come for them.

    Daily Reading

    Finally back to a little reading - read some of The Rings of Saturn before passing out as usual.

  • 20220426

    Bit busy today so I’ll leave my thoughts with what is below.

    Daily Listening

    I think I shared this a few days ago, but I’m pretty settled this is my favorite version of this particular song from the ballet. I think it’s really the harp that does it for me. It feels muddy on other versions, but here it is magnificent.

    Daily Reading

    Three days without reading! I think I actually need to wake up earlier to be able to ensure I get some reading done in the morning. Maybe I’ll just axe wordle from my daily routine since I’m not sure how much enjoyment I’m getting from it or whether it is just a chore at this point. Worldle and Globle continue to be joys though!

  • 20220425

    Still feeling like I am busy all the time, but not spending time on the things that I would like to be doing. I think I need to remedy this by making a physical board that I see and interact with each day. The daily task tracking journal method is great for making sure I do certain things everyday and holding me accountable to that, but it inherently fails for things that I don’t intend to do every day, but still want to do. So perhaps I need one that operates at a weekly scale to ensure I make progress on these non-daily activities? I’ll try it.

    Daily Listening

    Besides playing one part from Daphnis et Chloe I just kept listening to this album. It’s like candy to my brain fo some reason so I’m just embracing that. Still can’t get over how good the transition from Dawning of the Season to Secrets (Your Fire) is.

    They also have sick videos. This one is just goofy and fun, and this other one makes really really cool use of GANs. MAkes me want to try my hand at some neural art.

    Daily Reading

    Once again no reading for social reasons 😬

  • 20220424

    A friend of mine hosted a brunch where she prepared all the food for it which was very nice and tasty. The gouda scones were a particular highlight for me; I had never known that you could have cheese in scones which was game changing for me. Nice to be able to sit outside with others and socialize. It still feels a bit alien because of the pandemic and its really strange to think that there was a time where we never even blinked at this thought of quarantine/lockdown/isolation. The pandemic has been steadily seeping into culture as it has now been going on long enough to appear in literature as other forms of media. This has been a strange part of getting older: seeing the events that we have lived through appear in the media we consume. When you are growing up it feels as if everything is in a form stasis. Everything is a certain way and that’s just how life us, but then you grow up and learn how dynamic the world is. It can be scary, but also empowering because we have the ability to chart our story in life.

    Daily Listening

    Been really enjoying triplets of songs lately. This is a spotify album rec that was a big hit for me and these three tracks have great transitions between them + some really great moments. I think the house vibe in Dawning of the Season is my favorite followed by its transition into Secrets (Your Fire) (one two three). This track at the end is also great.

    Daily Reading

    Busy social day so no reading 🙃

  • 20220423

    Been exploring cappuccinos lately as a slight change from having just black coffee. I think I still prefer black coffee as the unadulterated taste is the best part to me. Any additive flavors seem to try and compensate for bad beans (which I can understand with bad bean, but seems wasteful of the bean’s natural flavor). Sometimes mixing things can help to accentuate flavors and perhaps a really good cappuccino does that (this exploration was started by having a pretty good one from Tamper cafe).

    Daily Listening

    Still vibing with Daphnis et Chloé.

    Daily Reading

    Read a bunch of On The Move while hammocking. His life continually fascinates me and how explicit he is about how he tells his story. He learned that he wasn’t meant for doing research work when he messed up and lost materials that had taken 10 months to gather. Makes me feel better about myself for not realizing my proper niche sooner as its hard to find your niche. He had so many interesting encounters with people which were largely intentional on his behalf. It’s also interesting just how much he wrote in journals. Definitely makes me feel like I’m on to something about bettering myself and my thinking by writing a lot and I’m trying to do more physical writing for the benefits discussed in The Extended Mind. There was also a cautionary tale about physical problems later in life from lifting weights beyond your body’s natural limits so I will need to be cognizant and careful to not overdo it as I explore strength training. I’m a few hundred pounds away from what they were lifting though so I’m not that concerned for the moment.

    Also read some of The Rings of Saturn before falling asleep.

  • 20220422

    I’ve really been enjoying looking out my window each morning and watching the trees come to life as they all bud and spread their leaves. It’s a welcome symbol of the return of warmth and the ability to tread outside comfortably barefoot in sandals or crocs. The return to the time of idle lounging in a hammock and reading after a day of work. Of sitting at a table outside sharing a meal with friends. It is so nice to be greeted by the approach of summer. I shall miss this view dearly. At least our new office has an incredible view so I won’t be entirely deprived of such sights after moving.

    Daily Listening

    This series of three tracks (one two three) from the Ravel Ballet Daphnis et Chloé. All incredibly beautiful and filled with moments that just make your feel transported to another world. The first minute and a half of the second is such a wonderful build up. Not too rushed and not too slow. Simply magnificent.

    Daily Reading

    A good chunk of On The Move - I really love how explicit Oliver Sacks is about his journeys and how he got to the opportunities he had and how he thought about them. So many times you try to understand how a person came to be the way that they were and they try to romanticize their past without telling you how it actually was. Oliver does this and doesn’t shy away from the parts he is ashamed of. We need more people like Oliver.

    I think I was a bit too tired to follow this episode I was reading in The Rings of Saturn, but it was a sort lost in time recollection of some people connected to The Troubles and how they would stay in these decaying buildings and slowly retreat into the last habitable places of the building. The house and people he stayed at with had advertised their B&B 10 years ago and he was only their second guest in all that time. One of the family members was building a boat with no prior shipbuilding experience or any intention of using it all. It was a strange world that these people inhabited. It made for some nice meditative before bed reading.

  • 20220421

    Hit a new PR while squatting today and I think I could have comfortably done even more. Perhaps I’ll try tomorrow. It’s hard to tell, being an inside observer, if doing this heavy weight lifting routine has change my attitude in any meaningful way and if I am more perseverant with hard activities. I’d like to think that I am, and I think the benefits from feeling physically stronger are very nice. Biking is noticeably easier which I especially appreciate for the hill on my way home.

    One mundane daily thing that I’m trying to improve is better use of my idle time. I’m reading quite a few books/articles at the moment, but I haven’t made it super easy to jump into one with this idle time. The main reason behind this is that there is too much friction to open one of the books or articles as it feels psychologically easier to read some news or something open a messenger app and talk to someone. I’m trying to think of what systems would help make this easier. In a fixed environment I was thinking that printed articles pinned to a board would be nice as they would be clearly visible to give you the signal of what it is you are reading/want to read and provide an obvious simple physical action to start reading them. I’m not sure what a good thing to do for a book would be, and the annoying thing about this is that its fixed to a specific location. A step in the right direction at least. Books seem more intimidating to dive into since they’re bigger and it feels like any progress you would make could be more easily made with a longer period of time sitting down with it. This is just a bad mindset around it and I’m just trying to acknowledge it in order to move past it. Points being: I don’t think I use my idle time effectively and I want to read many things so I need to make low friction systems to read during idle time.

    Daily Listening

    This classic dreamy song from the Cocteau Twins.

    Daily Reading

    Read a bit out of On The Move. Reading things from people in the medical field can always be a little existential anxiety inducing as they recount stories of people in great health going 0-100 with some health condition and dying shortly after diagnosis. I’m sure these cases are exceedingly rare and stick out in the minds of these people for how traumatic they are, but the reminder that the status quo of our health is not permanent is a hard fact to accept.

  • 20220420

    I’m helping my brother with strategy for this airline manager tycoon that he plays. Currently we are concerned with figuring out: given an airport that we own and various routes from that hub, what planes should we buy and how should we schedule them to maximize profit? I haven’t wrote up the formalisms of it yet, but it seems to be an actually quite hard two-level optimization problem where once you have decided what planes to buy you then need to decide how to schedule them optimally. It’s been so far just resting in the back of my mind while I’ve focused on other things, but it’s a neat problem! I’ll hopefully share a writeup about it more some time in the future. I feel like this is something that I would have no idea how to tackle if I wasn’t at my current level of mathematical ability so I’m glad I can at least understand how to setup the problem. I used to be interested in similar sorts of problems way back in highschool FIRST Robotics, so it’s fun to get a chance to work on them even if just for a game.

    Daily Listening

    This vaporwave album that features Boston on the cover.

    Daily Reading

    Bit of a busy day so I didn’t get to read at all.

  • 20220419

    It’s been quite nice to have leaves coming back on the trees around here. I’m really looking forward to being able to walk around without layers of clothing. To hear the sound of the wind through the leaves while reading a pleasant book in my hammock. It’s a nice perk of having seasons in that we can always look forward to the next change of activities as the weather changes. Changing seasons give us an externality to help change ourselves as we can associate past identities to different times connected to how the weather was. Island fever makes a lot more sense with this idea in mind as your daily weather is almost always the same. It will be hard to feel like a different person when you have little observable change in your environment. This is also why traveling is interesting; you are rapidly changing your environments which can allow for some rapid changes in yourself as your old habits are literally left in their old places and new ones are forced to be formed.

    Daily Listening

    This Nine Inch Nails song that was in Twin Peaks: The Return.

    Daily Reading

    A bit of both On The Move and The Rings of Saturn. These two travelogues plus the Tyler album Call Me If You Get Lost are definitely making me want to get out and see the world and document my travels!

  • 20220418

    Been working on trying to work on the mindset of having more energy to doing more things each day. For years I’ve talked about many things that I would like the be doing - the languages I would like to speak, the music I would like to be able to make, the books I would like to read, the stories I would like to write, etc. The only thing holding me back from doing these things is myself and in particular my lack of habits that help to make doing these things automatic. I’ve been trying to find the right habit to get myself doing something musical each day. I think I have been too vague and have a goal this week of just playing a scale each day to get myself at least with fingers on the keys for a minute. I can slowly start to add on to these over time as the new ones become automatic. Habits can make you feel like you have more energy because you feel off if you don’t do them each day, and maybe that’s the trick. Maybe I have made too many habits that feed this loop of feeling lethargic. Hard to say for sure, but I know habits are the place to start.

    Daily Listening

    Heard this interesting take on a Bossa Nova classic.

    Daily Reading

    I started a book called On The Move; A Life by Oliver Sacks. My advisor had recommended it maybe two years ago as an enjoyable read plus as a way of seeing how one person sorted out what they wanted to be doing in their life and how they did it. I really flew through the first 30 pages and unfortunately had other things to get to, but I’m really looking forward to reading more of it. Reminds me how the right book can be so easy to read and also put you in a good mental state. I also read some more of The Rings of Saturn which continues to be great bedtime reading.

  • 20220417

    I flew around Peru with a friend in Microsoft Flight Simulator since my sister and brother-in-law are in Cusco and will be hiking to Machu Picchu. Flying around it made it clear how extremely crazy it is that it even exists; it is not like Neuschwanstein where it is built on an easily accessible hill. It’s on a ridgeline that is surrounded by very tall mountains! Also astonishing is how high the surrounding area is - much of it at or near 11,000 feet! Astonishing that people can live there. They must breath so easily when they come down to sea level (which is not that far west as the bird/plane flies). Microsoft Flight Simulator in VR continues to be a great joy. I remember dreaming about playing this game early in the pandemic while watching trailers and now here we are almost 2 years with the game. Very grateful for the many talented developers who made it a reality.

    Daily Listening

    I’ve had this observation with the two recent Tyler, The Creator albums where I find them ok when they first release, but then really come to like them some number of months later when I listen to them again. So I was enjoying CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST quite a lot.

    Daily Reading

    Read some Infinite Jest during the day and then some of The Rings of Saturn at before bed. Infinite Jest is tough to form opinions of. The best thing I think of describing it so far is Daniel Pinkwater for adults with Proustian level observances? The Rings of Saturn is really pleasant. Makes me want to go on a loosely directed walk and write down my observations and thoughts as I go about it.

  • 20220416

    Trekked out to the Harvard arboretum since we had really nice weather during the day. On the way we both were in want of more tea so we stopped at Mem Tea in Davis Square and each got five bags; I’m looking forward to sharing my with my office mates as I’ve got a bunch of steepers now! We were pleasantly surprised by blooming cherry trees at the arboretum which seemed to be a really fortunate coincidence as they bloom for such a short period of time. It’s an aesthetic that I have always enjoyed a lot - perhaps because the Japanese art around cherry trees is so pretty. I have a Lego Bonsai Cherry Tree in my room that can have either regular green leaves or cherry blossoms and I leave it with the cherry blossoms for a perpetual bloom. Perhaps there is merit to changing it to have it blossom periodically from the green to appreciate it more.

    We walked around Jamaica Plain and admired the really nice old and expensive houses along the hills of the area. We talked about how it feels like Jamaica Plain exists in its own little world that seems really nice to be in if your world is contained within it, but getting out of that world can be tricky (transportation wise it is a bit of an island to reach). We rewarded ourselves with some sushi from a place called Sweet Rice. We ordered enough to have it come out on a little sushi boat which is always an appreciated touch. Very good sushi and nice to have at the end of the day and satiate our hunger for the long trek back to Somerville.

    Daily Listening

    Listened to this fav album of mine while hammocking with a friend in the Harvard arboretum.

    Daily Reading

    I read a bit of Infinite Jest riding the subway and then managed a few pages of The Rings of Saturn before drifting off to sleep in the evening.

  • 20220414

    Stir fry technique needs to be improved when tossing a dish with a sauce; I managed to hit myself a bit and thankfully not burn myself. The seasoning of the wok has definitely had its effect at making it nonstick! I fried this eggplant dish I’ve done two times now and the first time I did it on my wok the eggplants stuck to it while frying, but now they all moved freely. It’s great fun to stir fry things and I’m so far very happy with getting the wok!

    It’s a strange week as a few friends of mine in the program are getting their PhDs. It’s bittersweet because I’m happy for them, but sad because this signals that they won’t be here next year. It’s also strange because it signals such a transition will be coming for me as well soon. Reminds me, in a way, of Sebald’s writings about Dunwich. How things can seem static, but are changing over time. This makes me muse about the different scales that this occurs on - plate tectonics being one essentially incomprehensible to us and stellar evolution even more incomprehensible. But somethings change so quickly that the change is more normal to us. Melting ice for example, or a meal right before consumption. We’re used to change in some context, and perhaps our comfort with it is related to how quickly the change occurs for any given thing? We cannot delay our hunger so we must be at ease with consuming new meals each day, but we can’t do much about the decay of our land or the sun, so we just have to forget about it and pretend it isn’t happening (which we can do because it won’t affect us in our lifetimes. Any given generation of people will not have to worry about it in the future until some point where things start to decay in ways that we probably cannot understand now. Hard to think about and maybe better to not think about?).

    There was an interesting dialogue in The Sopranos about death: “Why were we given the ‘gift’ of knowing that we will die?”. Tony claimed to be ok with dying so long as it was for a heroic cause, but I wonder how much he sincerely felt that or if it was a superficial belief that is within his code of honor. Part of what has made The Sopranos so interesting to me is how it shows Tony say things to his therapist that contradict his true feelings but are only said because they are “what you do” to his code of honor derived from the mob of what is just. It reminds me of how Samurai acted based on what I read in the Hagakure. Holding onto one of these creeds as a way of answering the question of death seems to me to be a bit fake as you’re not really addressing the question and just accepting what someone else thought about the subject. I think it’s just how people allow themself to cope with the idea. They accept some piece of information that for the most part does not really affect them (when are you going to die a heroic death? It just sounds nice to say) which allows them to put it in the back of their mind and live their lives.

    Daily Listening

    These two tracks (one two) in particular have stood out too me from an algorithmic recommended EP.

    Daily Reading

    Some more of The Rings of Saturn. Learned about an incredible palace that Kublai Khan had constructed where Beijing is in the present - apparently the best judged quality evergreen trees where imported wholly from many miles away to make the palace. It’s too bad we don’t have any real way of seeing how it actually was. Also had this poem recommended as a meditation on the natural dissolution of life with Dunwich as a metaphor.

  • 20220413

    Been trying to work on my squat form more as the weights get heavier. Your spine can rotate near your pelvis if you go deep in your squat, which over time can create problems with your spine so in addition to giving you less power since the weight isn’t distributed effectively. So, you have two incentives to do it right which has been tricky to focus on when you can’t see exactly how your spine is shaped during your squat.

    It was a super lovely day with highs in the seventies! Got lunch spontaneously at a pizza place we enjoy and ate outside. Been having more positive thoughts/mindset about my research so I’m working to capitalize on that and make it a self-reinforcing activity where I do more and then document my progress in a way that is clearly visible to me (experimenting with open notebooks I keep on my desk). This way by seeing what I have done I can more clearly position myself in the greater context of what I am hoping to achieve. Trying to take lessons from The Extended Mind in that our physical environment helps us to think better!

    Daily Listening

    A very Cocteau Twins type song from the same album as yesterday.

    Daily Reading

    A bit of The Rings of Saturn. We shifted from Chinese history back to Dunwich (which has quite literally been eroding into the sea for centuries - which is interesting because it would look static if you visited it any fixed point in time, but radically different probably even a year apart). I forgot how we got into this side story about the Chinese history and then recalled it was simply just because there was a railcar that was original for a chinese emperor (don’t recall the specific title) to reach their summer hom here.

  • 20220412

    First day I was outside for a good chunk of that had really pleasant weather aside from a rainy bike ride in the morning. I was even able to walk around with shorts!

    Had a really nice conversation with a friend over lunch about how we should determine our life goals. The sort of consensus we came to was that you shouldn’t have a fixed goal for your entire life, but rather that you should have a dynamic goal that you iteratively update as you learn more about yourself and whatever brings you genuine joy (however you define that). Relatedly we talked about type 1 and type 2 fun and sort of felt that type 2 fun may just be deliberately lying to yourself to convince yourself that you enjoyed it. We think that maybe if you are enjoying enough of what you are doing during a type 2 activity then it may be more of a deliberate lying in the sense that you are lying to yourself about the hardship you endured. That might not be such a terrible thing as enduring hardship can bring about future gains in a delayed gratification sense. Anyways its a little difficult and even uncomfortable to think about what really drives us.

    Another related aspect we talked about is how another method you can use to determine what you should do is assign your time at $100/hour and only say yes to things that are worth more than that. I think it is sensible from the perspective of picking tasks that make you money (eg don’t grade assignments for $25/hour in a one off - you can use that time better), but it may breaks down when used in other contexts. The professor suggested buying pre-made meals that are cheaper than this price as one example (which is maybe just the professor justifying this to themself? Those are expensive meals you can allow yourself!). How do you assign a price value to cooking? You probably are not making that high of quality of meals, but maybe you enjoy cooking? How much do you factor in your enjoyment? Even worse is considering hanging out with friends? This easily lends itself to comedic sketches:

    “Sorry I’d love to see you, but right now you’re only a $90/hour friend!”

    The time pricing model can be helpful, but it does not seem to be a sufficient method for making all decisions in your life.

    Daily Listening

    This track in particular was in my head a lot.

    Daily Reading

    A bit social and busy with work so no reading.

  • 20220411

    For the first time in a long while I was in bed when I was supposed to in order to get up at 7am as I want to! I had been doing a lot of ruminating yesterday about my systems/processes as a was feeling demotivated at work and chose to pursue why I was feeling that way. I think it is because I haven’t had a good system for myself that makes knowing what I should be working on a frictionless activity. Perhaps pursing more of a Getting Things Done approach could be helpful, but I recall having found translating my work to that format to be a bit difficult. I probably just didn’t try hard enough or commit enough to it to make it work before - or I just need to adapt it to the type of work that I have. Anyways I spend too much effort trying to figure out how I should be spending my time and it would be better to have actions I need to be doing identified and structured in such a way that it is obvious what to do and obvious to me while working on them that that is what I should be doing.

    Daily Listening

    This classic Men I Trust song + video. Does anyone capture the melancholy of our age better than them? Another for good measure… and why not one more!

    Daily Reading

    More The Rings of Saturn - it’s a short book so I’ll probably finish it this weekend.

  • 20220410

    This formula 1 season has had quite an interesting start. It’s nice being a Mercedes fan to not have them dominating for once, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they find their stride and make it happen during this season or maybe next year. I believe they have the best team organization/culture and I think their dominance reflected that. What is interesting is whether or not the culture will survive and continue this long as these things tend to rise and fall as people in the organization leave. The test is how well your culture can survive these changes and continue.

    Had great skyscapes yesterday - I need to setup a simple system of including images in these posts as that would really help tell a story of how the natural world influences my thoughts.

    Daily Listening

    I was listening to a “Chill Mix” from spotify and heard this Mac Miller song that I actually liked quite a bit - I never would have imagined that about myself, but I guess I never was actually open minded enough to consider listening to him.

    Daily Reading

    Read some of The Rings of Saturn before falling asleep. I didn’t realize that Joseph Conrad was Polish and that his family had a rather traumatic past in Russia with his family being exiled to Vologda - a city in northern russia with notorious bad climate and living conditions. I also learned that he was friends with Roger Casement who, himself, had quite an interesting history as well that I had never heard of.

  • 20220409

    Somehow slept nearly 11 hours despite going to bed at 11pm the night before - guess I must have really needed the sleep! Still, I had wanted to get up early to read and take care of some logistical things before going to view an apartment and then hang out with a friend for the rest of the day. Such is life!

    Apartment showing was a bit of a bust, but we had a really great lunch afterwards at NU Kitchen Somerville. I had a pesto-chorizo sandwich that had pretty small portions, but somehow left me reasonably full for longer than I had expected it to; so, fair enough to them for having sized it that way (it was really really good too).

    Went for a nice walk around a new part of Somerville that I haven’t been around before and saw a lot of nice houses. Also nice to see budding flowers on plants and trees around the city. As much as my allergies despise it, I do appreciate the aesthetic and signs of life after the winter (which was pretty mild, extremely so by Minnesota standards).

    My friend made these really good garlic-feta omelets that we had with a garlic bed along with a cheese + apple plate and pumpernickel bread with strawberry rhubarb jam - mildly bourgeois by thats not so bad! I partially got pumpernickel because of the Toto Wolff meme, but it was really good - especially with the cheese and jam!

    Daily Listening

    Been listening to this album a bunch lately. Not The Time and Pacify My Heart are my standouts.

    Daily Reading

    I didn’t read anything today unfortunately, but the night before (which I missed journaling for) I read a good chunk of Infinite Jest. It’s a bit of an anxiety inducing book which I think it’s intending to capture? Not sure how much I enjoy reading it so far, but Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn continues to be a nice treat before bed.

  • 20220407

    Watched the Twin Peaks pilot for the nth time with a friend. I’m astonished by how I still things even after having seen it so many times and how it helps me understand better the overall story that’s being told. I’m hoping to do a complete (my first) rewatch of the series now and I’m especially excited to see what I think of The Return now. I suspect I’ll like it a lot more now as usually Lynch content takes multiple viewings to fully appreciate. It’s also so cozy to be back in the world of Twin Peaks. It’s something that has brought me so much joy over the past few years. The donuts, the coffee, the misty clouds and beautiful douglas firs of the pacific northwest.

    And if yoooooouuuuuu caaaaaaaaaan believe it, it’s a Friday once again!

    Daily Listening

    Still in the mood for Spirit of the Beehive so that’s what I listened to!

    Daily Reading

    A little bit of The Rings of Saturn. He talked about finding this Sailor’s Reading Room in Southwold, UK which is open 7am to midnight everyday except for Christmas (this no longer appears to be true). Few people visit and it is filled with sailing memorabilia among a lot of sailing documentation. Seems like it would be a pretty interesting place to visit and peruse their archival material to see what was preserved. Also impressed a place can exist and be open like that for so many hours! Must have some very dedicated people that run it.

  • 20220406

    I was thinking about, biking to the concert, what would happen if my phone died. Would I be able to find my way home? I was imagining getting lost on a whimsical adventure in which I would encounter all sorts of strange characters over the course of the night trying to get home or be taken off in Alice in Wonderland type twists where I end up in strange worlds. It’s a bit like the one off episode trope in TV shows where you learn more about a character by following them through a strange circumstance like this. Ted Lasso did this brilliantly with Coach Beard recently. Might be fun to try writing a short story about this sometime. In actuality the ride was very straightforward and I didn’t really need to use my phone at all to reference where I was going. A large part of this is that I’m just increasingly familiar with the area around here and can at least find landmarks pretty easily. But going on a whimsical adventure would have been fun!

    Daily Listening

    Spirit of the Beehive - but live! (I was standing right behind the person that filmed this so this is a pretty accurate pov of what I saw)

    Daily Reading

    No reading - just tired chilling after the concert.

  • 20220405

    I’ve been doing daily meditation again now (I think I already wrote this) and I’ve definitely found it to be helpful in starting my day. For example I had a presentation to give which usually makes me pretty anxious to the point that I can’t really focus on work too much beforehand, but today I was able to work pretty much as normal until I had to give the presentation. I feel like I’m just in general more aware of my mental-state and any given moment and can do micro adjustments to be more how I want it to be.

    There’s something more generic here to say about returning to a practice after a significant time away. I’ve meditated a decent amount before, but I don’t think I ever achieved the sort of awareness that I now have throughout my day and I think somehow the time away helped me to see this more clearly. There’s something about time that allows your brain to process various ideas you have been exposed to and then when you revisit them you see them in a much clearer view. Another example is returning to old concepts in math that I have learned and didn’t ever quite get and now they seem obvious.

    Another slightly related thing is thinking about provenance in the world; thinking about how things came to be the way they are. Omar Rizwan, someone I learned about in connection to Dynamicland, has this great idea that data should have provenance in the sense that you should be able to understand exactly the process that led to that given data. This helps to clarify ambiguities and ensures that you are able to verify that the process is doing what was intended to give the result. Maybe it isn’t and this can then lead to clarifications and better understanding of what was meant to be given. Research papers could use a lot of this as so much as left unstated as “general practice”. Open sourcing code and having reproducible scripts is a great step forward for this, but there are no clear standards and there are still differences in machines that you run the code on. (I can’t train a trillion dollar parameter network on my machine, and on a more mundane level sometimes the code won’t compile when I follow the instructions). Anyways, I relaly like this idea and want to do my best to ensure that my creations have provenance. In a way this journal is a sort of provenance about who I am! This was (in different terms) literally a part of what I had intended it to be so I have written documentation of my interest in this idea 😉.

    Daily Listening

    Once again mostly just nature soundscapes although in the evening I did listen to a few Neil Cic mashups.

    Daily Reading

    Slowly, but surely now with The Rings of Saturn. It’s so meandering that its hard to remember what I read or if there was even a coherent narrative. I may also just have been too tired to really read! It was especially confusing because the thoughts were about times spent in The Netherlands while the author was walking along the English coast.

  • 20220404

    I was thinking about why human factors are studied so much in industries like aviation or manufacturing and not in other industries such as teaching. Perhaps its being talked about as something different, but pretty much everything I’ve read or seen in my knowledge work experience is that its almost completely ignored. The reason I thought of this being because of is that industries like aviation and manufacturing need to care about it otherwise people get injured or killed because of poor human factors. Human factors essentially acknowledges that we’re just sophisticated apes and do not act rationally all the time. The point is to accommodate for that irrationality so that we don’t cause problems for ourselves. As an example, I’ve seen a few episodes of the show Air Disasters were accidents happened because one pilot wouldn’t tell the other about some issue or concern because of the social dynamics between them - irrational thinking.

    While we don’t risk people getting injured by following poor human factors practices, we ignore potential productivity/quality improvements in our work because we don’t care about it enough. We don’t teach how to effectively take notes, we don’t teach how to effectively present information, and we don’t effectively use technology to convey complicated ideas. I’m sure there are ongoing research projects to address some of these, but a bigger gap is implementing the best ideas as standard practice. Even simple things like how to prime your mindset at the beginning of a day could be big boons for potential productivity. Or how to recharge when stuck. The point isn’t to give robotic procedures to further control us, its to acknowledge our biology/psychology and come up with guidelines to enable us to get the best out of ourselves. The point rather is that we are not robots, and our working procedures and environments should reflect that. The idea of nudges is a bit like this.

    Daily Listening

    Didn’t listen to much besides some nature soundscapes while working.

    Daily Reading

    Only read a little bit of The Rings of Saturn before bed, but the walking tour ruminations were nice to calm my mind before sleeping.

  • 20220403

    Pretty busy day between sleeping in, talking with some friends, going to the gym, and then preparing for a presentation I have this week. It was a pretty busy weekend, but I’ll be able to make up for that with a more relaxed one next weekend. Plus I have a reward in seeing (knock on wood) Spirit of the Beehive on Tuesday night. I need to make sure that I get back into reading daily as that is a habit too valuable to ignore.

    Daily Listening

    An old Stereolab track that vibes well with me.

    Daily Reading

    3 days in a row without reading 😬 I have been exceptionally busy, but that is not really an excuse.

  • 20220402

    I’m trying to start back into some form of daily meditation as that sort of mindfulness practice can really help you to keep the mindset you want to have. For example I have anxiety and have been working to mitigate its influence on my life as much as possible. I use headspace and I looked to see if they had anything about it and naturally they did. The one I went with was pretty short and it was weird because at first it brought a lot of my anxieties to the surface, which made me feel pretty anxious - seemingly not really what I had wanted from this and I started to feel some regret from having picked it. Trusting the process I kept with the meditation though and I am glad that I did. It transitioned from this awareness stage to one of releasing the tension in your body that had built up around the awareness. Doing this release step really did help me to feel less of the anxiety and become more comfortable with the events that were driving it. It was an eye opening experience for me in our embracing the anxious feelings is uncomfortable, but you can do it in a way where you acknowledge the feelings and can them let them go through this meditation process of tension release throughout your body. This must sound silly to read, but it worked for me and I’ll take that.

    I had another similar epiphany while doing squats. I’ve noticed that my core is the biggest bottleneck to lifting heavier weights and I realized something that’s been bothering me for a few weeks that I hadn’t been able to understand. When I get to my lowest point in the squat its hardest for me to start getting back up, but once I reach a certain point it gets very easy. My core was really important at the beginning part of the push to get back up and I wasn’t exactly sure why that was. I did notice that my balance was not resting my weight on my heels but rather the middle of my foot. You want the balance on the heel as that allows you to push up with your legs. I realized that while I have squat shoes that help to deal with a lack of ankle flexibility, my ankles are still not flexible enough to be able to have my balance on my heels in my lowest spot. So, now I know the next big thing that I have to work on in order to lift heavier weights. I’m not in any rush to lift heavy weights as I care more about doing it right to avoid injury + I still get a solid work out as is. But I like understanding all these various components that come into play to do a good squat - it really is a meditative practice in itself, which, to me, is another desirable quality of it.

    Daily Listening

    I think I linked this album but this track keeps sticking with me.

    Daily Reading

    Once again a busy day so no reading - need to be more mindful about making time for it!

  • 20220401

    We had a string of nice weather days and then when a friend and I went for a walk along the Charles we got blasted by wintery wind! The rapidly changing weather has provided some really pleasant skyscapes though so at least we had that to enjoy. Watching the patterns of the waves from the wind was enjoyable as well. I always think about how Monet does such a good job of capturing the impression of waves on our minds. Sparse signal recovery and some science about our visual cortex suggests that our minds can’t really hold the complexity of waves in our minds so its interesting to just watch its complexity in real time. I think a helpful exercise to understand this is to look at the water and then to turn around and try to draw it from memory. There’s no hope of doing it! But you can do your best to capture what your impression of the water was, as that’s what you’ll remember from it.

    Daily Listening

    Spotify has decided I should be listening to more Modern Jazz and I’m not opposed!

    Daily Reading

    Social day so no reading 😞

  • 20220331

    Busy day so see below for thoughts.

    Daily Listening

    Another rendition of Daphnis et Chloé conducted by the great Leonard Bernstein with the New York Philharmonic. Not sure if I have a preference between the two I’ve heard. I think the other one from the Berlin Philharmoniker felt more appropriate as the Bernstein one felt a bit… Americanized?

    Daily Reading

    Some more of The Rings of Saturn. Interesting musings about fishers that essentially lived and camped out on the east english coast, and then on the massive populations of herring and some scientific questions of whether or not they could survive out of water as they would always turn up dead in nets. The reason for this being rather that they would become ensnared in the net and die hours before being hauled in (or something like that). It’s great meandering reading to distract a brain before falling asleep although it can be pretty thought provoking and energizing as well.

  • 20220330

    I read this blog post of a professor who my advisor’s collaborate with. I really liked it and in particular I really liked the message in this video that he shared. In short it talks about how we often have much better taste in a subject before we can make things that are quality within the subject. For example I think I have pretty good taste in music, but the music I make is not very good (yet). The point in this message is that you have to spend time making many things first to build up your skills to become an expert in the material. This can take years! You just need to trust the process, create a lot of things by doing consistent work each day, and trust the process and results will come.

    I also chatted with a friend last night and learned about how taffy machines are actually quite complicated! The proper mixing of taffy can be thought of mathematically and analyzed. A professor at UW Madison actually dove into the patent history to understand how they solved the problem then, and then offered a mathematical solution to the problem. Here’s a good entry article and here is an academic article on the subject (I have not read the latter).

    Daily Listening

    This song is a bop.

    Daily Reading

    Read a bit of The Rings of Saturn. He was describing a large summer house created by a rich businessperson (pretty incredible list of construction projects he was involved in) in order to incorporate themself into the higher society of England. The house apparently made it hard to discern what the boundaries between indoors and outdoors were and I thought that was an interesting design to think about; how do you design a space so that you cannot tell when you have left the interior?

  • 20220329

    I set a daily goal to do some thinking/writing physically and I think it was helpful for me during my workday. It feels a little alien to me as I don’t do this regularly, but I feel armed with the knowledge now that it really does help your thinking so that I see genuine merit to understanding how to do it better. Plus it creates a physical record of your accomplishments and thoughts as you try to understand things better. Plus it helps you build drawing skills for complicated ideas which is generically useful.

    Daily Listening

    I spent much of the day working with this on in the background. Not music, but definitely conducive to thinking and writing.

    Daily Reading

    Started reading more of W. G. Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn before bed. It’s a collections of meditations of his while walking along the english coast which are great to read before bed.

  • 20220328

    I explained some ideas that I’m doing to help my brother optimize his airline game to a friend by drawing diagrams in a notebook and it felt really good to explain things that way instead of just verbally. I’m trying to take ideas from The Extended Mind and get value from them in my daily life. Namely by trying to do more work in the world as opposed to just on a small screen where I cannot manipulate things easily with my body. Typing is a pretty limited experience and is universal to all thinking done on a keyboard whereas when writing and drawing you are doing typically unique things for different tasks (writing being more like typing, but you have a unique physical connection to a unique piece of paper - your keyboard is always the same). For whatever reason this helps our brain to reason better about the ideas we are grappling with.

    Additionally by writing and drawing ideas out you are forcing yourself to engage in conversation with yourself by putting ideas to a page. There’s an example used from Daniel Dennett (who is at Tufts incidentally) that goes “imagine a tiger, now ask yourself: how many stripes does it have?”. You likely will not be able to answer in a simple way because our imagination works differently than we we concretely conjure something in reality. For example if you were to draw a tiger then counting the number of stripes is simple.

    There’s another anecdote about Richard Feynman who, at his nobel prize acceptance, was told by a colleague that its nice to have so many of his notes saved because its a record of the great thoughts that occurred in his head. Feynman replies that the thoughts are the notes and that they did not occur in his head at all. Feynman takes the literal interpretation that his thinking was done on the paper and not in his head, and there seems to be growing evidence that there is merit to this belief (Feynman does seem like a pretty exceptional person though so I don’t think its right to say anyone can be just like Feynman by writing on paper. Perhaps looking at his notes could be useful to understanding how he used notes to think though).

    Daily Listening

    Revisited Whitney’s second album with a friend. I didn’t care much for it when I first listened when it came out and I’m not really sure why listening to it again now. I think I wanted the same vibe of the first album, but it was slightly different so that made me not like it. There’s also this single I never heard that is very solid and maybe a new favorite track of theirs.

    Daily Reading

    Just a bit of The Extended Mind before I fell asleep.

  • 20220327

    Busy day so I’ll leave the reading section as my main thoughts of the day!

    Daily Listening

    Some songs that a friend shared with me along with The Planets by Holst.

    Daily Reading

    Read a bunch of The Extended Mind while on flight back to Boston. I think it has enough in it to justify owning a copy, and mainly for the references therein and the contextualization of them. I actually don’t find the book super rigorous or convincing in certain matters, but I still like its presentation and the potential of the ideas. It has so many references that I’d like to check out and I think there’s a lot of value still in a work that compiles them like this and provides a high level overview (even if infactual!) of how they interconnect. There is a lot that does resonate well with other intuitions I’ve had so I think there is a lot of merit to these ideas of how we get value from physical spaces and our extended environment in our tools and people we interact with.

  • 20220326

    Had some big time nostalgia driving down a road I hadn’t since high school as I was on my way to a friend’s house. I’m evermore reminded of how right Proust was in describing this and I wonder how widely understood this phenomena is. We know that our brains are remarkable at associating things, but do we know why? Might be interesting to look into some research on this. It’s interesting reading The Extended Mind as it does describe some of this work. How our spaces and physical actions can influence how well we think and learn.

    Daily Listening

    No time to listen to anything!

    Daily Reading

    A little more of The Extended Mind.

  • 20220325

    A colder wintery day up north meant for some good time reading inside. Watched some of the F1 practice sessions too since I’m on break. There was a light snowfall that I enjoyed watching form spooky looking patterns as it swirled across the lake. The clouds were of varied thickness too so we could the occasional brightness contrasted the dark parts of the clouds in cool ways. On a walk along a farm field we saw a bunch of swans chilling in ponds of water that formed from the snow runoff in the fields. They all took off as we walked towards them but really struggled in the harsh winds. Made me think that they only moved because we walked by them and I wonder how small interactions like that may snowball into larger happenings for them. They have to use energy to fly away and stay warm, and they hadn’t intended to move until we were by them, but I suppose its no different than any generic predator approaching them.

    Daily Listening

    A nice set of tracks that a friend shared.

    Daily Reading

    Some more of The Extended Mind and finally finished The Mysterious Island!

  • 20220324

    Nice to spend some time at our cabin even in winter.

    Daily Listening

    There’s a new Sound of Ceres album coming out and this orchestral piece is one of the inspirations for the album - I quite liked it.

    Daily Reading

    I did a whole flurry of reading today - A chapter of The Mysterious Island, 2 chapters of The Extended Mind, and about 25 pages of Infinite Jest, which I finally started as I’m reading it with a friend.

    I wish the author of the Extended Mind was more skeptical about some of the results and I feel like theres a lot of discussion (currently) missing on the causal connections between some of the studies and the interpretations - like if you claim that walking is helping you make better decisions, how do you rule out all other possible factors?

  • 20220323

    For the first time in a very long while I had absolutely nothing scheduled or planned for myself and took the day to just read and relax. Started by journaling as usual and then read this Atlantic article that a friend sent me as he thought the “airplanes, operations/logistics and redundancy” aspects would appeal to me (and he was absolutely right!). An excerpt from a message I sent to him

    I was imagining being one of the survivors of the initial attack and wondering what your thought process is. You know you can’t shoot back into the sky, nothing you have is capable of that. What do you do? Hide? Run? All options seem futile.

    The awesome (as in the “inspiring great admiration, apprehension, or fear” definition) power of the technology at play here is truly terrifying. Especially for how detached all the American combatants can be except for the drone pilots that got to play “clean up” (how could you sleep comfortably doing their job!?). The article does a great job of presenting the POV of the american combatant so you can feel their detachment. I wish the article explained if this action had its intended overall strategic effect. All this sophistication just to ensure you could kill a reasonably large group of people.

    Dark content of the article aside, I had a very pleasant rest of my day!

    Daily Listening

    This nice house/future funk track.

    Daily Reading

    A little more of seeing the mystery unraveled in The Mysterious Island, and also a chapter of The Embodied Mind which was interesting. It talked about how studies have shown that those who are more in touch with their bodies (measured as a proxy via ability to detect heart rate) often make better decisions, perform better, and endure things for longer. I think the causal relationship is probably a lot more complicated, but its an interesting piece of the puzzle.

  • 20220322

    Read this article, A city is not a tree, from Christopher Alexander yesterday. It describes his view that a city should not be a mathematical tree, in that each unit should not only adopt roles of it’s greater physical space that it lies in. For example dedicating an area of a city to only performance arts. It’s unlikely that any given person would attend multiple of these venues in any given day, whereas in a city like New York the theaters are surrounded by schools, restaurants, businesses and probably much more. The difference being that a city like New York that wasn’t strictly planned had these organic formations that led to most spaces being multi-use. Zoning is largely to blame in other US cities for this as it literally restricts the overall use for a physical space for a certain thing. The intentions were nice in reaction to poor conditions with workers and factories in the early 20th century, but we’ve maby been too strict and done things that have led to a death of culture and life in our cities. I’d like to read a critique of this essay to get a better perspective, but my experiences in various cities make it ring pretty true.

    Daily Listening

    Found this EP randomly and have been enjoying it! It’s like its the soundtrack to a fictional early 2000’s late 90’s game and I’m a big fan of that.

    Daily Reading

    The mystery of The Mysterious Island was revealed! Still a bit more in the book so I’m wondering how much information we will be getting.

  • 20220321

    Went for a nice long walk and chatted with a friend who was remotely walking across the country - a good activity to do to stay connected while being remote! Its nice to have springtime weather coming that makes outdoor walks so much more enjoyable. Plus you get to see all the ways in which life restores itself to the environment after surviving the winter. Birds are far more plentiful, trees begin to bud, and a generic greenness starts to appear everywhere.

    I’ve been thinking more about the relations of how design choices of creations influence how the creation is used and what is gotten from the creation. In particular I have thought about this in relation to physical spaces and computers as its fairly obvious how physical spaces influence how we live, and to a lesser extent how design choices about computers and their interfaces influence how we use them and what we get out of them. I’ve had things from the architecture theorist Christopher Alexander recommended to me from various places/people over the past four years and I hope to finally dive into some of that soon to get a better grasp of it and to have a better mental framework for it. I think that is so often the value of reading widely - just getting more and more mental frameworks to understand the world with.

    Daily Listening

    Really like this track of the Sweet Trip unreleased tracks album.

    Daily Reading

    Only half a chapter of The Mysterious Island, but it finally seems like the Mystery is to be revealed!

  • 20220320

    My sister and I drafted each of our “6 week plans” today inspired by a friend of mine. The goal of the plan is to understand better what our goals are and then to come up with concrete actions that we can track our progress towards each day. We made weekly spreadsheets where we can track whether or not we did each action each day, and also write a little bit about what we did (e.g. if its read for 30 minutes we would write down what we read). We also decided to do 2 week check ins on the plan to see if the actions are working and if we would like to change them at all. The point of 6 weeks is somewhat arbitrary and to provide a longish time frame to not need to re-plan, and the 2 week updates allow for lower effort incremental updates. Excited to see how it goes!

    Daily Listening

    Again did not listen to much as I spent time with the fam.

    Daily Reading

    One more chapter of The Mysterious Island, and a tiny bit of the David Foster Wallace David Lynch Keeps His Head.

  • 20220319

    Was talking with my brother about how one thing that is nice about math research is that there is no “bullshitting”. Pedantic (although perhaps of some merit) questions about the foundations of mathematics aside, we can say things definitively in math whereas that literally is not true about most anything else. We were specifically talking about Harvard Business Review cases and how they can almost claim whatever they want and that things could have been done differently to some better effect in the cases - but they could be completely wrong in their analyses and there is no way of verifying any inaccuracies! Suppose they claim a business failed at some decision because they chose x when other information suggested y would have been the better choice. This may sound plausbile when reading it, but we can not empirically recreate that situation and know what would have happened had they instead gone with decision y. It’s just the problem with counterfactuals not being logically sound (big word, but basically you cannot logically conclude how some event would have happened if something else where true instead of what was actually true - i.e. since x was true, we do not know what would have happened if y were true. This has been a problem in Medicine as it pertains to whether or not drugs will work on general populations instead of just those in the trial. The scientific method offers a pretty good solution to this problem, however, when we have the ability to test widely).

    Anyways it reminded me of something that I should be appreciative of math for. Math offers a tool set to say things as precisely as possible and doesn’t allow for you to “bullshit” when you can only speculate. Unfortunately this is fairly restrictive in what you can definitively say since it is really hard to make concrete statements about things, but familiarity with it helps one to be more skeptical when one cannot make such claims.

    Daily Listening

    Didn’t really listen to much since I have been socializing with my family! 🙃

    Daily Reading

    One more chapter of The Mysterious Island.

  • 20220318

    Traveled home to MN for Spring Break. A bit unfortunate as the Boston weather was literally in the 70s (F) and MN is going to be about 20-30 degrees colder. Worthwhile to see family though!

    Daily Listening

    Sweet Trip dropped an incredible collection of unreleased tracks.

    Daily Reading

    Finished the David Foster Wallace essay A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again. He does a great job of expressing the weird feelings around tourism and service industry jobs - I could relate after some activities I had done recently in Hawai’i. I liked it overall.

    Read another chapter of The Mysterious Island. Not much left to resolve.

  • 20220317

    Been thinking more about this textbook/manifesto that I want to try and write about a new way to teach Computer Science as a proper Science as per the view of Alan Kay. I say manifesto now too because I think it is trying to purport a different way of viewing the field than what is typically currently done. I’m really starting to see the “narrow-mindedness” that he talks about. We do seem to have gotten “stuck” in the current paradigms of computing. There very well may be good reason for that, but it is not clear to me what those reasons are and why other avenues were not pursued (because surely many other avenues were considered). I don’t think this knowledge is clearly stored anywhere? At least to my knowledge it is not so far, so I think there is value in accumulating it and telling this story to help people see the potentially bigger picture of computing, and help us collectively make better computers that can enhance our capabilities. One last detail that suggests there are other computer designs with interesting capabilities: our brain can still do much more than any computer, and with significantly less power consumption! Surely there’s a paradigm shift here that could be major.

    Daily Listening

    Another nice electronic album that spotify recommended. The track Viewfinder is my favorite.

    Daily Reading

    No time to read 😱

  • 20220316

    Had a good conversation with a friend where we talked about daily routines among other things. I liked his system where he had made a spreadsheet on a notebook page for the week that had the days as columns and rows as whether or not he had complete the goal + a little detail related to what he did to accomplish that goal. For example if it was read 20 pages a day then the entry might state what was read to do that. That way it becomes an active journal keeping clear record of what was done and not just whether or not it was done. I immediately made one for myself while we talked as I loved the idea so much, but I need to set aside some time to make some specific goals in addition to the two I know that I have - Journaling and Working out. I’m reminded that my theme for the year is sharing so I’m inclined to make this available in some way. Perhaps post a picture of it and the end of each week.

    Another thing that we talked about was when you need to buy/build a space you want that space to suit your desires/needs. This means you need to know your desires/needs for a space. Most people will probably try to figure that out at the time of purchase (if they think about it at all) which may lead them to thinking of limited things since they are trying to recall what they use a space for. My friend had the great idea to just keep track of the things he is using his current spaces for. This then ensures an objective list of activities that are known to be used and desired and then can be optimized for when looking for a space. While this is probably a bit far in the future for me, I think it would be good to start listing so that I have a lot of time to build a really good list!

    Daily Listening

    A trip to the forest.

    Daily Reading

    Slowly but surely with The Mysterious Island.

  • 20220315

    Had another JCC 552 Fellows dinner with my other advisor. We’ve now filled the window next to our door enough so that people need to crouch if they want to see in the room or peer through the gap between the pictures and the door like the Velociraptor (what a great dinosaur name btw) in Jurassic Park (it’s pretty goofy and we’re all for it in here).

    I actually want to elaborate on this tangent thought I had just now about the Velociraptor name being cool; do words become aesthetically cool themselves or because of the object they are attached to? Psithurism is a great word that is for “the sound of the wind through leaves”, which is also a great sound. I’m actually not sure I could come up with a word that has aesthetic beauty and does not, itself, refer to something that has some aesthetic value. This is interesting to me because it seems that our perception of an object influences our perception of its name as a word. A word that seemingly could have an aesthetic value beyond just what it represents. What is a word but a collection of shapes, and perhaps the shapes of the word have some aesthetic value as a whole.

    Daily Listening

    Random album that spotify recommended and was pretty good! The opening track in particular stands out to me for the orchestral parts.

    Daily Reading

    Just a bit more of The Mysterious Island.

  • 20220314

    Weather was quite nice today as Spring begins to win in the battle against Winter. I somehow woke up right at 7am (formerly 6am) which was surprising since daylight savings usually messes up sleep schedules. With the morning ahead of me I made a spontaneous decision to do my laundry and then hung around at home for a while doing my morning routine. I’ve actually been doing a great job of keeping my morning routine going so far in 2022 and I’ve been very appreciative of it. Knowing that I am sensitive to how I start my mornings and how that effects the rest of my day, I think doing the journaling of the day before (yes this is future Marshall writing, and future marshall finally met his match with daylight savings today 😴) is really nice to be mindful of what you did and thought about the previous day + helps frame your mind for how you want to spend your next day.

    Daily Listening

    More Nicolar Jaar.

    Daily Reading

    Just a bit more of The Mysterious Island. I was reflecting on how one thing that I really like in the book is that the characters have created a world for themselves on this island and feel a lot of pride in their creations. I, personally, find that inspiring to want to create my own things and not only bring them into fruition, but to be proud of them. I’ve often thought little of my creations and this book is helping me to see that this is not a good mindset to have about what I do. I should feel pride in the cool things that I make as that will create feedback loop of wanting to make more cool things.

    Read a bit of A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again in the morning

  • 20220313

    I’ve had a very social weekend which is maybe a little different from my norm where I at least spend my mornings reading and drinking coffee. I suppose I lost out a bit on the mornings to sleeping in and daylight savings, but the weekend really flew by in a good way. Today was spent catching up with a friend I haven’t talked to in a while, which was very nice, and also prepping/hosting a small dinner party where I got to make a couple dishes in my wok. I think I’m slowly learning to use it more effectively! It’s starting to look a bit mean now as it turns black, which I think looks super cool. I need to get a better cleaning utensil cause I what I have is either too soft and can’t get the caked on stuff, or too abrasive and takes the seasoning layer off. I need something in between and supposedly a bamboo brush is a nice middle ground. I’ll have to see where I can get one.

    It’s really nice hosting people for dinner parties and I look forward to eventually having a larger space to be able to host more people and arrange them better. My current apartment is a bit small for that! I would also love to have a kitchen that can fit more than 1 person comfortable so it is easier to chat as a larger group while doing the cooking (a nice thing about a wok is that the actually cooking is often very short).

    Daily Listening

    Just some classic Bossa Nova while prepping for the dinner party.

    Daily Reading

    Read a bit more of David Foster Wallace’s A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again. I really like his writing style! It actually reminds me a bit of Proust in how observational it is, just with a much more crass perspective (not a bad thing - Proust is definitely hard to read at times and not as fun as this).

    Also read about as much as usual of The Mysterious Island. I think I can see how it is going to play out now, but I’ve been wrong on my predictions so far so I don’t have too much faith in this one!

  • 20220312

    Spent much of the day walking around Somerville with a friend. Started by visiting an indoor farmer’s market where I got some mushrooms and potatoes for a dinner party I’m hosting tomorrow (gotta christen my wok with friends!). Got some loose leaf lemon-ginger tea from Mem-tea in Davis Square. We then walked over to Union Square and got some donuts and then stopped at Bow Market where we realized we could get dinner there and then eat our donuts as dessert. I tried poke there which was pretty good, but obviously the Tuna here was no match for the Tuna I had recently had in Hawai’i. I think I prefer also how they tend to season in Hawai’i as well, which I should learn more about what they do for that. We chatted quite a while there and then went back to her place where she made us tea from a special blend that the owner of the store grows and sells in very limited quantities. It was a nice mint tea that fit well with the cold windy night that the rainy day had turned into.

    Daily Listening

    Didn’t listen to this, but I was recollecting this playlist which provided some joy over the pandemic.

    Daily Reading

    Started reading David Foster Wallace’s A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again. He wrote about how he is “powerless to describe” the sound of reggae elevator music

  • 20220311

    Made my first meal with my wok. I perused for over an hour in Kenji’s new book about the wok, but I didn’t have the ingredients for any particular recipe I wanted to make. So, instead I made a mashup meal that I thought might be good - mushrooms, bell peppers, and onion served with chickpeas. For seasoning I tried to copy the sauce from the eggplant recipe of Kenji’s that I had previously made. During the meal I noticed a lot of the black char on the bottom of my wok peeling off and becoming a part of the dish in small specks which made me realize that was not the seasoning layer, but just a layer of burnt food that had then peeled off the seasoning I had done to it. So I realized I would need to do some reseasoning of the pan. I felt that it was good to make a mistake like this so that I can better learn the process of using and maintaining a wok effectively. I am surprised I didn’t set the fire alarm off as I did it on the stove this time and my apartment got a bit smoky before I realized I should have more than one window open for airflow! A nice thing I learned about my stove is that it does provide pretty good heat for a wok and I actually can’t use it on fully high otherwise it seems to get too hot! I guess this temperature control is another skill to learn. The meal did turn out reasonably well considering I was making it up as I went (with inspiration from Kenji’s book)!

    Daily Listening

    This new Luna Li album has been very solid - I especially like the track Silver Into Rain.

    Daily Reading

    One more chapter of The Mysterious Island and more fun mysteries, but a big tragedy! I love how episodic novels are written so that every chapter leaves you with some hook to want to continue.

  • 20220310

    Had an interesting conversation with a friend about why our memories can seem to be so much “better” than the experience itself was. Think of times you have seen a beautiful view or sunset in your mind - I bet that if you paid attention to it the next time you were at one you might think it less superb than your memories of other places. I at least remember being in Europe and wanting to savor in all the beautiful things I was seeing and I couldn’t help but find myself thinking that there was no “magic” to what I was seeing. It just felt like I was looking at another landscape. I was hot, tired and hungry. Yes I should be appreciating this view, but all these other things were bothering me.

    I think the reason behind this is that your memory loses all those detracting factors like physical feelings of hunger or fatigue, and instead you remember the emotional impact of the place. It has become romanticized in your memory as you had wished it was when you were there and now contains a special magic that hadn’t been there at the time. My friend had said that perhaps this was because in your memory you have been able to build a better narrative of what your time at the place was like and you have that to enhance it in your mind. This narrative ties together all the aspects of your experience and paints an impressionistic picture for your mind.

    I believe that I have actually gotten a lot better at being to appreciate the experiences that I am in as opposed to having to wait for the rosy memories to feel the magic. I really liked the narrative idea because I notice myself doing that on the fly narrative creation when I am having certain experiences. The impressionism analogy is apt too I think because you can focus on your impressions in the current moment and use that to color your view of the current place. Recently I was able to do this in Hawai’i pretty successfully I think as I never felt like I should be appreciating an experience more than I was. A lot of it is just that mental awareness of your experience. I hadn’t quite honed that down when in Europe a few years ago. I still had a great time and have lots of great memories! I just didn’t know how to mentally enjoy it better in the moment, and that experience helped me to think about this and learn better about how to be more present.

    Daily Listening

    Rush revisited. A major throwback to High School Marshall.

    Daily Reading

    Busy day! Didn’t get to read 😬

  • 20220309

    Watched the penultimate Bachelor episodes with friends. They’re fascinating from an anthropological standpoint as you get to try and understand why all these people are here and what their motives are. It seems so obvious that they have no sincere connection and that they’re just acting for some strange motives. Actually the one girl who seemed to have the most sincere motives got booted in a way that really showed the bachelor as a scumbag. It was the most true form I have yet seen of him on the show and it was not pretty. Made me not want to continue watching even just for the spectacle… but of course the allure of the spectacle is too great and I look forward to the finale episodes. Some of the editing in the show was pretty interestingly down and they definitely got artistic with how they weaved interviews with various b-roll shots (although we speculated they may have forced the b-roll to be made to match the dialogue, or vice-versa). Anyways, shows like these are strange views into some other types of people on Earth. Helps to keep you open-minded about how different people can be.

    Daily Listening

    Nicolas Jaar and a song with Minnesota in the name? How could I not like it.

    Daily Reading

    The Mysterious Island: Only read a few pages before passing out!

  • 20220308

    Starting to drift back into my habit of reading more about history of computer science and understanding the sort of “meta paths” that the field has taken since its inception. For example I learned about this framework that Alan Kay mentioned in a talk and I’m curious to learn more about it and understand better why Chuck Thacker thinks that computer architecture needs to be revitalized. I’ll share an Alan Kay quote (from here) that I occasionally think about:

    “Small minds try to form religions, the great ones just want better routes up the mountain.”

    Frankly, I think I’m a small mind, but I want to try and get my small mind to project itself as well as it can to be a great one to understand what the better route up the mountain of Computer Science is. It might be also that we reached the mountain top and are building our temple there. This is just what we’re trying to understand!

    Daily Listening

    A favorite I found during the pandemic. Sharing the top comment for posterity since I like its vibe:

    “First time I heard this track I was smoking a cigarette with my roommate outside the apartment I was staying in when I first moved to LA. There was some party going on up at one of the houses on the hills in Echo Park. I wasn’t paying much attention as I heard the beating kick drum, but as these chords slowly rolled in I found it difficult to maintain the conversation with my roommate as I was so enchanted by the beauty of this simple chord movement.

    After my cigarette I went inside on my laptop and tried to make a song that captured the essence of what I just heard, but it’s still on my hard drive as it was just never up to snuff.

    Today I discovered that this Pepe Bradock track from 1999 is the song I heard, and it’s bringing back colorful memories of my feelings moving to this new city. Feelings of wonderment that come from being in a new exciting place where you feel liberated like you can achieve anything. Music is cool”

    Daily Reading

    The Mysterious Island: The resourcefulness of the crew is really motivating to get you to want to do things with your life - granted they have nothing else to do but improve their situation stranded on an Island, but I think if you impose some constraints on your life you can live similarly “single-mindedly” to achieve your goals.

  • 20220307

    I want to write a piece called “The Case Against Alan Kay” in which I don’t intend to have a legitimate case that I sincerely believe against him, but rather an exploration of this thought of mine that maybe the only reason PARC/ARPA community seems so interesting is because they just happened to be at the right time/right place for the explosion of computer technology. The reason I want to do this is to really understand what made that community special. It’s like searching for a counterexample when proving a theorem - you need to take the adversarial approach to understand the weaknesses of an idea; in this case the idea being that there was something unique about that community that enable them to produce what they did. I think doing so would be really valuable to understand the good factors of the community as well as they things that maybe they did just happen to be at the right time/right place for. I hear this idea that “computing research hasn’t left the 60s” and I want to find out if that’s because there was nothing really new to find, or we really did get entrenched as lose the supposed magic of that time. Alan Kay is such a lovely person to listen to so it does feel a bit tough to go against him, but you must question those you admire in the pursuit of what is true!

    Daily Listening

    Listened mostly to a playlist that a friend put together for me. Surprising how someone can have such similar tastes to you and you have not heard most of the artists they have shared! Goes to show how big the musical world is.

    Daily Reading

    The Mysterious Island: Ok, Mr. Verne refuses to give up the secret that easily so we will have to wait a few more chapters it seems 😤

  • 20220306

    Watched one of the best films I’ve ever seen today: Drive My Car. Despite being three hours longs I felt that it was exactly the length that it needed to be. The cinematography was incredible and the story was so rich and real that it felt as if I were given extremely intimate views into the characters’ lives. It was incredibly moving too and, despite all the emotionality, it gives a strong positive message. I might try and see it in theaters as I just watched it remotely with a friend on HBO, but it was that good. I am always a sucker for good shots of machines and this film does a great job of that - who wouldn’t want a Saab 900 Turbo after watching this!

    Daily Listening

    Naturally, the Drive My Car Soundtrack

    Daily Reading

    The Mysterious Island: I can almost guarantee that the next chapter I read will have the Mystery of the Island revealed, and I cannot wait to see how it proceeds.

  • 20220305

    Listened to part of this really interesting talk with Alan Kay (FWIW I think everything I’ve listened to of his or read of his is very interesting). I love how computer pioneers talk about the way they view computers. He was expressing dislike for how computer science research institutes don’t make their own hardware really anymore. My immediate thought was that the hardware has become too complex and the necessary knowledge required is too distributed + it became cheaper to use standard hardware. His rationale for this was that you don’t just make faster computers, you try radically different hardware in order to test out new ideas. Instead we’ve become too complacent with “normal” and are forgetting how much freedom we have in making computers and what they can be.

    I think I’ve either wrote about my thoughts related to this here or in my journal last year, but this was a really eye opening idea for me while reading The Dream Machine. I’ll briefly rehash my epiphany here. I realized that since I had been born computers had existed in some stable form and I grew up using them in elementary and the way that we use them now in 2022 when I’m a young adult is mostly the same with some speed improvements and new apps. But fundamentally we aren’t using computers in any radical new way. The “holy shit” moment (to use an Alan Kay phrase) was while reading that book and seeing how many of these common user interfaces and paradigms existed in the 60s! Despite having a degree in Computer Science I did not know this and thought certain things, like touch screens, were fairly novel. Digital handwriting technology existed in the early 60s even - its seriously bonkers how much happened and existed in the 60s and its seemingly never taught. Alan Kay talks about how Computer Science isn’t a proper science yet and I more and more agree. In every “science” class I took we learned about the history of the field and the fundamental experiments that led to our modern understanding of the field. In computer science we just talk about our understanding of the current state of the field without too much context (at least that was how my education went). The “holy shit” moment was realizing that these pioneers were born at a time where computers did not exist in the way they do now. They had no conceptions of “normal” computing except for maybe batch processing/differential analyzers depending on how young they were. They had to come up with what a computer should be and how one should use it. They weren’t alone at PARC doing this as there were many other groups, but they were all a part of the larger ARPA community and collectively came up with the ideas. But Kay’s point is that that idea generation from that fundamental level has mostly stalled as we’ve gotten used to this “normal” paradigm of computing. I want to read more of Kay’s thoughts including this NSF proposal he got funded for, and what (if anything) came of it.

    I think this is an area that I would like to help make progress towards improving, and educating people how they can think more in these “out of the box” ways to come up with new progress and not get stuck in normal patterns.

    Daily Listening

    A throwback to a middle school music. Classic background music for playing Runescape 😂

    Daily Reading

    I didn’t read anything today somehow! 😬

  • 20220304

    I’m learning that I need to be a little more cognizant about my energy levels when squatting as I wasn’t able to get back up when pushing my weight limit on one of my reps. I could tell from the rep prior that I likely could not do another and yet I did anyways. I think this can be a good mentality to have, but it’s also good to know your limitations. So long as you can fail safely it is ok to fail and learn from that. Which is also generically good advice!

    Had a night of two dinners: the first being for the JCC 552 Fellows program which was a lot of fun, and the second being a dinner party at a friend’s house to break in the new table that he had made. He did a fantastic job with both the table and the dinner, and it was neat to hear about certain design choices he made in regards to the table such as a tapered edge to make it appear thinner than it actually is. It’s always nice to hear someone who is really good at some craft describe their work since they can appreciate all these aspects of it that you, as an outsider, would have no idea to consider. It’s a “glimpse behind the curtain” of another world.

    Daily Listening

    This great playlist of easy listening that I’ve been coming back to over the past year or so.

    Daily Reading

    Just a bit more of The Mysterious Island. It’s still great fun to read!

  • 20220303

    I was thinking a little bit about how our sense of time seems to have been compressed during the pandemic. It feels as if many memories we should have from all this time that has past are lost and that only some standout memories are what we can recollect. In relation to something I wrote about a little while ago I think because we have spent so much time in the same space that we’ve overused that spaces capacity to store information for us. I’m really looking forward to reading Annie Murphy Paul’s book that talks about things like this under the extended mind hypothesis. Makes me wonder about ways you can extract more from a given space. Changing the furniture, for example, probably provides somewhat of a way to associate new memories as it defines a new era of that space. Perhaps part of what made the MIT radiation lab so productive was its ability to radically restructure their working space by reconstructing walls to fit new collaborations, so each project would have a new space to associate new ideas with. I really think the use of space in producing better thinking is seriously underutilized and that you can gain an advantage in whatever you are doing by thinking about how to use your space more effectively.

    Daily Listening

    Been thinking about the main theme from Punch Drunk Love a lot lately so I was listening to that a good amount.

    Daily Reading

    The Mysterious Island is getting really fun with it’s hints about the big discovery of the book and its doing a great job of adding to the “Mystery” of the Island. It’s almost too bad that I already know the mystery of the island because I’ve had it spoiled, but I’m enjoying it a lot nonetheless!

  • 20220302

    Made progress on following up on my initiative yesterday to write down one idea/thought during the day! I had wanted to go for a walk, but I never made the time for that and instead let it happen while cooking dinner. I’ll write it here since I did think it was interesting: I was listening to the soundtrack for the movie Valley of the Dolls which I have not seen, but I enjoy film music from that era as it is a part of the easy listening genre. I was noticing the particular bossa nova influences on it and seeing how John Williams was a composer got me thinking that perhaps always in music the popular artists jump on whatever musical bandwagon is popular at the time. I thought this was a good thing because the musical space is so large that all these people coming onto the bandwagon can present it in new and interesting ways. Since people have diverse tastes its likely that they won’t all like the original verisons of the style anyway and that some newcomer will be more amenable to their palate. I had been thinking earlier in the day about researchers jumping on to hot topic bandwagons and was unsure about if that was a good or a bad thing, but this musical connection helped sway me to believe that it is an overall good thing as each person doing research will have a particular view about the space and problems, which can help provide new insights for future research.

    Also just a fun share: this is a fantastic parody of The Twilight Zone and I highly recommend watching it if you have seen any episodes.

    Daily Listening

    As mentioned, the Valley Of The Dolls soundtrack

    Daily Reading

    Just some more The Mysterious Island

  • 20220301

    In the continued adventures of office JCC 552 we ventured out to Costco to have their cheese pizza and hot dogs for dinner. Naively, we thought that we should get 2 pizzas since there were 5 of us. Of course we only finished 1 pizza + 1 slice, but that means leftovers for lunch tomorrow! I forgot how much cheese they put on the pizza, its honestly as thick as the crust. I’m really enjoying the continued events our office does and look forward to doing more things with them!

    In my experiments in trying to listen to music less in idle times in order to have more idle thoughts: hard to report how well it is working. I haven’t done a great job of writing down ideas on my phone. Once again I’m going to challenge myself to write down one idea today to start the habit building process. Perhaps my problem is partially forgetting that I challenge myself to do this so some sort of reminder will be useful. This is actually a continually tricky point - reflecting on past thoughts and validating that you have made progress towards whatever plan you came up with before. So I think I should think of some ways to do that with less friction. (here I go again with telling myself to do something with no accountability framework!). Perhaps putting something in these like writing the text in some structured way that can be flagged easily by a computer program and then reminded to me at some point in the future or collated in some way to go through. Maybe emailed to me as a list of things that I wanted to think about or work on at the beginning of each week to remind myself what I had been wanting to improve the week prior.

    Daily Listening

    This is a track I first heard last fall and have mostly associated with getting off of the train I took from Boston to NYC. To me its a beautiful sound that I think of walking with a bunch of other people on an underground train station at Penn Station with the synths at the beginning. It gives me this feeling of excitement and hope for the new adventures to come with visiting a new place.

    Daily Reading

    Some more of The Mysterious Island. Just continually chipping away!

  • 20220228

    The uncertainties around the war are becoming a big source of anxiety for me and making it a little hard to focus on what I want to be doing. I had never really considered that a war involving a major power could really happen. It concerns me about what could happen in the future and all of this concern in compounded by my lack of knowledge of the situation and history, since I have no way of judging what are accurate takes about the situation and what are the likely things that can happen. My brain can just go wherever it wants with the headlines I see, which is not great. It’s not ideal, but given that I cannot personally influence the situation I think it is best to try to avoid headlines about the situation to avoid excess anxiety. I try to follow the events through the wikipedia page about the subject, which is a little suboptimal but I’m hoping that its being fairly well moderated and giving just the distilled basic information with no takes or predictions.

    Daily Listening

    Good modern psych rock album that a friend recommended.

    Daily Reading

    Didn’t read today cause I watched the bachelor with friends 😬 (a helpful distraction)

  • 20220227

    Nice sunny day so I went on a very long walk with a friend around Somerville and Cambridge. It was “warm” at mid-to-high 30s (F) and the sun made it quite toasty. Noticed for the first time some animals carved into some Harvard building that was very cool to see. Celebrated my grandma’s 22.5th birthday (leap year birthday - you can do the math). Talked with two other friends remotely. All in all in good Sunday.

    Daily Listening

    This Palm song came on my shuffle and I love how they mix the melody with the chaos.

    Daily Reading

    I learned from The Mysterious Island that there have been many fictional islands and reefs. I was trying to find this other island that were sailing to in the South Pacific, but I could not find it. Searching about it turned up some information about how it is not a real island or reef, but it has showed up on maps as recently as 2005! Another interesting post I found regarding Wachusett in Massachusetts.

    Also finished Hagakure. I think it is most interesting from a historical perspective. The philosophy is definitely not the greatest although there are good aspects of it. But the questionable faith for your lord is probably not ideal in practice!

  • 20220226

    A friend recommended this episode the Ezra Klein show. It was really good, or at least I found it to be really good as it covered a lot of topics/ideas that I have thought about. In particular about how games we play effect us and why we like to play games so much. C. Thi Nguyen’s perspective is that games offer us some distilled/crystallized form of an activity that we like. There is no ambiguity about objectives in games unlike our tasks “in reality”. A game I like, as an example, is Factorio in which you have to make a manufacturing pipeline to build successively advanced goods. It’s very clear how to improve and what improvement means, but nothing in reality is so simple. I also don’t have the means as an individual to build automated resource extractors and conveyor belts/robots in a matter of minutes as I can in game!

    The problem that arises with the gamification of things is that the metrics we optimize for are not necessarily aligned things that we want to optimize. Additionally people may fake data to make the metrics look better than they actually are since that’s what was desired to have optimzed. This happened, unfortunately with significant human cost, in the Vietnam War (one of many examples of this), and more recently with the Wells Fargo Scandal. But perhaps by thinking more along these lines we can better learn how to align our metrics and our desires. Perhaps even the simple awareness that your metrics are not necessarily aligned with your values can lead you to proactively evaluate if your values are being satisfied. Although this raises a different question of how do you evaluate your metrics without the use of some other metric. It’s metrics all the way down!

    Daily Listening

    More Saba.

    Daily Reading

    Still chugging away at The Mysterious Island and still more hints of what is to come.

  • 20220225

    Big snowstorm today kept me working at home as they closed campus. This semester my working habits have been about having a relaxing morning at home before heading into school to start work, but this threw a wrench in that and I found it quite hard to transition from relaxing to starting work as they had to happen at the same desk! So my day was not as productive as it otherwise could have been, but it is always nice to have a day to watch the snowfall. There was virtually no wind so the way that it fell was very beautiful. Still made the trek for a weekly lunch with an office mate that was a highlight of my day. The roads were really clear - it would have been easier to bike than it was to walk!

    I finished the first episode of The Sopranos last night after having started it few nights ago. It’s weird to me how these shows feel so much longer now than they used to. I plowed through the wire pretty quickly, but I suspect The Sopranos will take me all year - perhaps longer. I think thats fine as these shows are best appreciated with some digestion in the mind, but its a telling signal to me that there have been fundamental shifts in how my life operates so that I don’t have the same free time as I used to. It’s not really all that surprising since you have more obligations as you get older, but it has been a weird sensation to figure out in watching a show like this since I do it so seldomly now.

    Daily Listening

    This new Saba album has been sitting well with me all day. Come My Way is the highlight for me.

    Daily Reading

    The Mysterious Island continues to hint at the major happening - I’m guessing that it is coming pretty soon and I had no idea that half the book would go by without it happening. I guess that is partially because the Mysterious Island has this other story that it is telling about how to restart civilization when stranded somewhere with limited tools.

  • 20220224

    I have a lot of thoughts throughout the day that I don’t do a good job of jotting down in a way that can be referenced later. The important aspects of such a system are that it is low friction to use in both the entering and retrieval process. Entering notes on my phone in the stock notes app is nice and easy, but they often get cluttered with the other notes that I store there. Vocal recordings would be great, but you can’t always just make a vocal recording whenever you have a thought (in a meeting for example). Plus audio is fairly slow to search through. I do have a folder for ideas in my notes app, but I often find myself ignoring/forgetting its existence. Perhaps getting a note app for the specific use case of jotting ideas would be valuable as it can be an intentional atomic storage place for this specific use case. Retrieval is straightforward as I only see past recollections. I will try this out! The difficult part is to make the habit of actually writing down these ideas. Goal for tomorrow: jot down 1 idea.

    Daily Listening

    An old classic with some incredible vocal harmonies that inspired Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys.

    Daily Reading

    Going to read some of The Mysterious Island after posting this!

  • 20220223

    Went to a virtual talk by Bob Metcalfe, one of the inventors of ethernet. His talk was entitled “Connectivity” and was recollections of stories from his life and about his beliefs about the powers and dangers of connectivity. The person who introduce him, Daniela Rus, shared an anecdote about how in the 90s he was wrong about some prediction and at a conference took a paper printout with the prediction and blended it into a smoothie and drank it! He was a very good and fun speaker to listen to. I love listening to these early pioneers of computing as they had to create the tools that we take for granted today. I think its really absurd actually that I have been born and able to grow up to young adulthood and have all of this happen while modern computer tools were widespread, but not too late that the early pioneers are all dead already. These pioneers, I think, have a different mental model of computers than people like me since they didn’t have the same preconceived notions of what a computer was and what it could do. For me and many others we have grown up in the age of the consumer computer and viewed how we interact with a computer and what we do with it to be relatively static. They’ve gotten faster and can have prettier graphics, but I argue that there has not been any fundamental difference in how computers are used in the past 20 years (and arguably since Doug Englebart’s famous demo). There’s probably good reasons for this plateau, but I think its really getting us mentally stuck in how we think about computers. So, listening to these people can help us understand a bit better how they think about computers and their approaches to brining new things into the world that previously did not exist.

    In reading about Daniela Rus I learned about this project of her group’s that is related to an idea I’ve thought about recently: if you had to restart society from scratch (from a technological standpoint), what tools would wou want to accelerate that process? The original motivating question was “how do I make a computer from scratch?”. One thing that seems necessary to have to do this in a reasonable time frame are tools that can make more tools and then do the work themselves - i.e. robots that build robots. This idea of a robot compiler from her group is a step in that direction. I think about this question also because I think there are many places on earth where it would be useful to do: developing countries. I view this as a means of raising the quality of life throughout the world as it makes better quality goods more widely available. There are a lot of hard questions around this that need to be addressed - namely how do you make the creations of this sustainable in the long term and not just able to make a computer. I think some method of creating new process knowledge is at least a good start for this, and ensuring that process knowledge persists.

    Daily Listening

    A pleasant track from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Really makes me want to play it again for some nostalgic bliss.

    Daily Reading

    I was reading an interview with an AI pioneer Stephen Grossberg. I think he’s weirdly concerned with status as that seems to be very prevalent so far, especially in talking about his youth. Certainly lacking a lot of modesty! Anyways I learned about him from one of my advisors as he apparently has some thoughts that are interesting in regards to AI that differ from the current state of the art beliefs.

  • 20220221

    Wrote some more scripts to help out my brother reverse engineer some functionality of this game that he plays. I’ve enjoyed having this software project where it is very clear what the outcome should be and that it can be immediately useful for someone to influence what they are doing. I get to write a lot of sophisticated code for my research, but that all feels a little removed from reality for the moment as it is trying to find potential future utility. Perhaps this is just a signal that I am too far removed from the demand-pulls of the research I am working on and that I could be doing better if I interacted with potential end users. Something to think about!

    Daily Listening

    Revisited some good ol Palm today. Ask me for a good story about seeing them at a concert that Andy Warhol happened to be at too.

    Daily Reading

    A common phrase in The Mysterious Island is “nothing could be simpler” when referring to some new task that they must do. I don’t think its often true, but I think it’s part of their overall spirit to survive and do more - by believing that everything is straightforward they never pause to think of the difficulty of the work. They just do! I think I could take some advice from that 😅

  • 20220220

    A friend was telling me about how he got lost after trail running and ended up going for an unintentional long walk to get back to his car. He didn’t have headphones with him so he was left with his thoughts for an unusually long duration, and during this he had several thoughts about his research that were productive to his understanding. This inspired me in two ways: 1) I want to spend less time with my headphones in while doing otherwise idle things as a way of reducing the impact of the attention economy on my life, 2) the desire to go on a long walk and see what sort of thoughts come into my head. I think that these sorts of walks can help to uncover thoughts that want to surface but are never given the opportunity since we have so many potential distractions.

    I hadn’t gone on a long walk in quite a while as I’ve been fairly preoccupied or biking in place of walking my typical routes so I thought that with clear skies it would be a good time to take such a walk. I biked down to Harvard Square to walk up to MIT and back along the Charles River (I always underestimate how far this is because of the bend in the river). I had been hoping to think about aspects of my research or future career decisions during the walk, but I was finding myself mostly drawn to other memories/thoughts that I had previously thought about while walking this route in the past. I was being reminded at certain points in the walk by certain thoughts I was having while walking by these places before as they served as spatial cues. I’m not surprised that this would be happening since this is a gist of Proust - how spatial places can store memories for us and serve as the key to unlocking them again (really strengthens my belief in extended mind theories). But what I didn’t expect was quite how overpowering these recollections would be over any possible new thoughts. I think because I have walked this route many times before it is already fairly stuffed with experiences and memories that there is not much room for more. A new thought that I did have was about how one can have a walk that stimulates new thoughts: you must walk somewhere new and unfamiliar to you otherwise your associated memories with a place will inevitably leak into your consciousness.


    I watched Mishima: A Life In Four Chapters with a friend. I have read several Mishima books including the entire Tetralogy that led up to his seppuku, so I had some context going into the film that was helpful. I think the movie did a really good job protraying his obsessions in life, how they weaved into his stories and life, and especially how he tried to merge the two. It’s beautifully shot with great sets as well. Definitely a hidden gem in film, although it does seem to be very well received.

    Daily Listening

    Incidentally this future-funk track I’ve been liking features a still from the Mishima movie.

    Daily Reading

    Read a bunch more of Hagakure and again one more chapter of The Mysterious Island. The Hagakure has really helped me understand some of Mishima’s drives as well.

  • 20220219

    Had a reasonably productive Saturday. I keep waking up really early - around 5:30am today. I wasn’t able to fall back asleep so I just got started with my day. I read until around 10am when I started getting pretty tired and took a nap for about 45 min. This gave me enough energy to go to my office for a bit to finish some code I wanted to work on, and also use the campus gym. Talked with a friend while working who I haven’t talked to in a while, which was nice to catch up with him as well.

    One of my office mates came in while I was there and he was telling me about how he got lost in a park while trail running and ended up walking around for quite a while. He didn’t have any headphones so he was left with his thoughts and he was saying how that he had a lot of productive thoughts related to his research work. This reminded me of how nice taking a long walk with no distractions can be to just think about whatever is on your mind, but that you may not be as consciously aware of. I should make more time to have distraction-free thoughts as well. I typically put on headphones for idle time and listen to music, so I’m going to try to do less of that now. Good to get better at not needing distractions anyhow!

    Daily Listening

    Didn’t listen to much today.

    Daily Reading

    I know a major spoiler about The Mysterious Island and its kind of fun to see how it has been progressively hinted and foreshadowed. I’m not sure I would fully appreciate these details if I didn’t know to look for them.

    Read 100 pages of Hagakure today. The influence this had on Mishima is so clear. It’s funny how many of the bits of advice feel like they could be given by some cranky person today: “there are no good people anymore, all everyone wants to do is idle chatter about money and sex. No one reads history anymore” etc. We seem to think of events during our lives as somehow “different” than what has happened before, but the more I read the more it seems we’ve had very similar behaviors throughout history. This is plausible since our brains haven’t really changed much genetically in a long time, so the only real factor that could be changing things is newer technology. I noticed this when reading some old Roman works in a classics course too. So, I guess there is merit in reading history and he’s not such a crank after all!

  • 20220218

    Learning a lot about how core strength and balance are so vital for proper squats. Also the mental confidence in your ability to do it! My friend had me lift the bar with 3 plates on either side just to see how it feels standing with it. After that I did 2 plates and tried a partial squat, which felt so much easier after just holding the 3 plates. I think if I had proper coordination I might be able to do 2 plates right now, but I don’t think my mental game is there yet, nor my balance or core strength. I think it basically boils down to: 1) you need to keep the bar back enough in order to have your weight on your heels since thats where you want to be pushing to use your strongest muscles in your legs, 2) tightening your core helps you keep the bar in that position and prevents is from tipping forward. “Collapsing your core” is when your torso starts tipping forward which shifts the weight forward onto your toes and you’re trying to lift with weaker muscles. It feels a little sketchy sometimes pushing with your heels like you’re about to fall backwards, but thats part of the mental game.

    Daily Listening

    Was listening to this playlist I made where I tried to pick songs that lie within my taste preferences, but are relatively orthogonal to each other.

    Daily Reading

    Didn’t even manage to finish the chapter of The Mysterious Island before falling asleep!

  • 20220217

    I’ve been trialing writing these entries in the morning of the day after instead of at night since I would always run out of time in the evenings and I didn’t like losing out on sleep. However I’m noticing just how much of the day I don’t remember after a night of sleep. In particular I don’t remember a lot of the things I thought about which are usually what I like to write about. So, I think it is very worthwhile to do that brain dump at night so that I don’t lose those thoughts!

    Daily Listening

    I didn’t really like the Yasuke anime, but the soundtrack is pretty good.

    Daily Reading

    I’m managing about a chapter of The Mysterious Island each night before melatonin knocks me out, which is nice but I would like to be reading more!

  • 20220216

    Watched men’s curling with a friend and it was hilarious to hear their comments during the match. They’re from MN/WI so they all have familiar accents and manners of speech that are enjoyable to hear and make me miss being immersed in it back in MN. I feel like I should be watching more of the Olypmics since it is a fun spectacle that happens so seldomly + I think watching people compete at high levels can be pretty motivating as well.

    Daily Listening

    Revisited an “old” favorite album of mine.

    Daily Reading

    Only read a chapter of The Mysterious Island and it’s reminding me why I’ve enjoyed reading Jules Verne - fun and proactive characters dealing with their problems!

  • 20220215

    Finally received confirmation of my wok order from a shop in San Francisco that Kenji Lopez-Alt recommended. It’s carbon steel so it will require some care, but should treat me well! I also ordered his book about wok cooking, which should be a lot of fun to use for recipes and to learn from.

    Got dinner at an authentic Sichuan restaurant in Medford and everything was incredible albeit on the upper threshold of my spice tolerance! I hope that spice tolerance is something that can be improved as I would like to be able to eat it more without the pain which distracts from the flavor.

    Feeling more on track with my research work as more ideas seem to be crystallizing and are getting documented in useful ways. Just gotta keep up the momentum and make incremental progress each day. I think so far my focus on trying to emphasize the basics has been paying dividends so far for the reasons that I thought it would; basically being able to think at a higher level since you don’t need to worry about the details as much and can focus on the concepts. Perhaps this is a fundamental problem about any complex material in the sense that it can only be simplified to a degree and that some level of internalized knowledge is necessary to be able to work in the complex space more easily. Notation and definitions are examples of this. I think the issue still stands with that the right system for notations and definitions can impact that ease at which someone can enter the complex idea space.

    Daily Listening

    Really still cannot get over the plunderphonics album. Glad I was able to get a vinyl copy of it from its first indie-pressing as without sample clears it may never see the light of day again!

    I do also keep coming back to this breakbeat-bossa nova song.

    Daily Reading

    I know understand why Mishima was so into the Hagakure, and retroactively I understand a lot of what he was saying. Makes me want to revisit some of his works or read some new ones. Take this quote for example: “If one is faced with two options of life or death, simply settle for death”. I think Death is not meant to be taken quite so literally, but rather it is to encourage acting “without restraint” in that if you are acting without achieving your full potential you are acting impurely. By concerning yourself with life or death you are not acting to the best of your abilities/honorably. If you think of life or death as success or failure then I think it makes more sense, although I don’t think this is quite right either. I think it is at least helpful in understanding that there is more to it than just the literal interpretation however.

  • 20220214

    Got to try out my squatting shoes for the first time. They really help you keep you forces directed to the right parts of your feet so that you can get the most of your power and thus avoid using worse form to compensate. I’m feeling sore in new muscle groups in my legs after using it so I’m inclined to believe I had previously been compensating for not using those leg muscles with something in my core. This change should then make squatting safer by putting more of the strain on my legs and less on my core/back. Understanding how to effectively work out is a very real and satisfying application of the scientific method! In the foreward to the Hagakure I learned about the term 文武両道 or bunbu-ryōdō which is roughly “balance of pen and sword”. It originated when the Samurai class in Japan was serving less of a military purpose but needed something to engage with that would keep them from more hostilities (and preserve their elevated class status). Nowadays it more so means balancing the intellectual pursuit with the physical. I’m increasingly finding merit to this idea as I’ve found my intellectual activities far more energized now that I’ve been regularly exercising again.

    Daily Listening

    Good soul song that was sampled in the plunderphonics album from yesterday.

    Daily Reading

    I forgot I also just got the Hagakure for my office mates and I so I will work through that before reading Sebald.

  • 20220213

    Did a bunch of cleaning in the morning and other simple logistical things that I had meant to do. Sat with my coffee and also enjoyed just reading various articles for a while too. Spent much of the day enjoying the snowfall outside while making a presentation about a research paper for a meeting this week. It’s wild how we went from 60 degree weather yesterday back to today’s Winter.

    I was revisiting this article about the IDF and how they deconstruct spaces to reuse them to their purposes. It’s all inspired by postmodernist theory which I think just couches it in some weird intellectual theory thats completely unnecessary - it seems to me that its just a way of subverting the enemy’s expectations and utilizing a space differently is just a way of doing that. Nothing particularly postmodernist about that as you’re still relying on truths about the world to make that happen. This article does a good job of describing the horrors that the everyday occupants of these homes experience when the IDF literally explodes through their walls because they have “deconstructed space”. A tangible evil manifestation of postmodernism in reality for the many affected by this “walking through walls” who are just trying to live their life.

    I think this postmodernist idea of thinking about space is at least right that thinking about physical spaces differently can be very useful, but I would argue against postmodernism in that because of objective realities there are better ways to utilize spaces in certain ways. Imagine you want to have a space to is conducive to good social interactions when having guests over for a party. Imagine one setup where its literally an office with cubicles in number equal to the number of the guests, or one in which the room is arranged to have little enclaves of seating for a limited number of people, which are then surrounded by open space. The answer seems obvious. I think intentional design of a space can be very beneficial into creating special experiences within that space. MIT’s Radiation Lab, Bell Labs, and Xerox PARC are all examples off the top of my head that were unique spaces that led to very special events. The spaces seemed to contribute to the productivity and idea generation at those places. I think we should be trying to understand that and now how to use spaces in a warzone.

    Daily Listening

    Pretty much just listened to this plunderphonics album from yesterday on loop all day.

    Daily Reading

    In a bit of an intermediate phase. I ended up deciding to read two books that my advisor recommended quite a while ago as they’ve piqued my interest but I never made the time to read them. I’m changing that now! The Rings of Saturn by W. G. Sebald, and On The Move by Oliver Sacks.

  • 20220212

    Had a pretty chill day. Discussed postmodernism with a friend, but I think I still stand with Chomsky on it. Watched a Formula E race with a friend and then played some video games with high school friends.

    Got my shoes for squatting and I can already see how they are useful. By elevating the heel slightly you can keep your balance backwards easier, which makes it easier to keep better form by avoiding leaning forward when getting low in the squat. In my running shoes I couldn’t stay squatted with my feet together without falling backwards, but now I can hold that position! Looking forward to trying them out on Monday.

    Daily Listening

    Found this new plunderphonics album that captures a lot of lounge/light music vibes that I like really well. Also a MN based producer! The title track is really beautiful.

    Daily Reading

    Finished Freedom’s Forge so now I’m going to get back to The Mysterious Island! I’ll probably pick up some tbd nonfiction book too. I’m thinking something about how society transformed with the enlightenment and the industrial revolution. In particular what circumstances led to the creation of the consumer economy that we know today.

  • 20220211

    Been a busy few days in terms of work and social activities. Yesterday I went with my office mates to a Brazilian restaurant that we had always heard good things about. We ordered a house sampler appetizer. It tasted very good and we were quickly eating it and then one of my friends asked “…is that a nail?” Sure enough there was a nail sitting on the plate that had previously been covered by food. I couldn’t help but laugh at the absurdity of the situation. The waiter was mortified when we showed it to her and she took it away and brought us another one. The portions here were already giant so we had no idea how we would be able to eat all of this food. My meal itself was a fried catfish that was excellently breaded and the fish itself had a great flavor. Unfortunately after the meal my digestive system found much of the food disagreeable and caused a lot of painful gas - I think it was all the meat in the sampler. I was also feeling sketched that there was a nail in the sampler and what else should I be concerned about? Probably nothing ultimately, but not what you want to see in your meal!

    The scary meal of last night was more than rectified by a great lunch at Tu y Yo where our office started our inaugural “JCC 552 Fellows Lunch” where we invite a faculty member who has been anonymously recommended by a member of the office. We had talked about it last week as a joke, but quickly realized it was a great idea and have since acted on it to great success! It’s a great way to get to socialize in person with faculty after having been away for so long due to the pandemic. We made the idea even better by taking a picture which we have printed and proudly displayed outside our office.

    Daily Listening

    Listened to classic vaporwave song (do watch the video) that I’ve enjoyed and then listend to a new album by the same artist. Here’s a track I liked from that.

    Daily Reading

    Almost finished with Freedom’s Forge. Much of the last chapters are focusing on the production of the Boeing B29 bomber. The project ultimately cost more than the Manhattan project, which is maybe not that surprising given the production scale of the B29 relative to the atomic bomb. A new thing I learned is that the bomber had an analog computer assisted aiming of its turrets. The computer did all computations through circuitry and what it could not do is figure out where the planes were. So the human was there to guide the computer and serve as the computer vision system by identifying the distance and motion of the enemy aircraft. This training video does a remarkable job of teaching the complicated ideas going on behind the automated targeting. I wonder if we have any examples of guides like this today? Most modern technology seems to be “figure it out yourself” or “watch this youtube guide some random person made. Its really interesting to see the attention they put into this guide to train airmen how to aim properly and also that they should not feel ashamed for not having their skills as a marksman made irrelevant by the computer.

  • 20220209

    Watched Tarkovsky’s Mirror. I did not follow it and did not seem to have any idea of what it was about. Yet, I find myself unable to not think about it. The friend I watched it with pointed out to me how it has been compared to Proust, which made a lot of sense to me as during the film I found my focus often drifting away from the film and thinking about various things in my life and the interconnections between them (a big part of Proust).

    Makes me think a lot about the finiteness of life and how our life story is one weird fascinating tangle of a story occupying only a small part in “all time”. I like geology partially for this reason as the stories told are over significantly larger time scales, but are no less interesting. Our lifestyle today is heavily influenced by oil, which was created by events millions of years ago. What will things we do, or become, do millions of years into the future? Who knows, but if a celestial object could write a book I’m sure there would be a fascinating Proustian story to tell (maybe that would make a good short story writing experiment).

    *Fun fact *: I learned about this yesterday, but want to document it: it was legal to make wine from “grape bricks” during prohibition, and the instructions about how to do it were given as a warning!

    “Aw shucks honey, I left the Vine-Glo in the cupboard for twenty days!”

    Daily Listening

    A friend recommended this vaporwave collection to me as good background work music. Happy to confirm its effectiveness!

    Daily Reading

    Freedom’s Forge: Learned that Henry Kaiser was involved in the beginnings of the Spruce Goose!

  • 20220208

    Had a Bottas moment biking to school this morning when an arrowhead shaped rock stabbed through my rear tire and tube causing it to rapidly deflate. Since it’s winter in Boston it was cold and rainy too! Thankfully I was near campus and could walk my bike to a sheltered area to take off my wheel and then check if I could patch the tire. If not I’ad have to walk it home or bring another tube the next day. I noticed bubbling on the wheel (a little disconcerting that my tire itself has many leaks - I should probably replace them) and sure enough I found a hole in the tube there. I patched it and prayed to the biking gods to let it seal. So far (✊🏻🔛🪵) it has held!

    Didn’t realize this was going to turn into my bike maintenance journal haha. It is nice for me though; in the past I would have brought it to a bike shop to get it fixed, but now I enjoy doing it all myself. Gets me more comfortable and used to repairing my own things, which I think is somewhat of a lost art in modern society.

    Daily Listening

    Still listening to a bunch of tracks from my liked songs playlist. I did finally listen to this album from a famous (in China) rapper whose album finally became available in the US. I saved it years ago when I read an article about him during a dive into finding Chinese music (I had this awakening a while back reading translated literature that the rest of the world has really interesting and great culture - it just requires to find if you do not live in it and you will probably find things that you really enjoy).

    Daily Reading

    Freedom’s Forge: It’s hilarious how much this author disparages unions without giving them any credit for getting better wages and safer working conditions for the workers. I get that its a wartime effort, but if your executives are getting rich and those actually making the machines of war are literally dying during their construction you could probably improve your process. My skepticism meter is definitely pretty high with this book, which I think (hope) enables me to enjoy the sheer facts of the enterprise. I wish the story took a more systemic perspective of how these things actually came about instead of saying it was these “great men” figuring it out. What made them great? How were they able to get all these pieces to work smoothly and effectively together to outproduce the Nazis? It’s not exactly clear to me and hand waving “the free enterprise spirit of Americans” is not a testable hypothesis.

  • 20220207

    I’m learning better squat technique every time I try it. I’m really grateful to have a friend who has gone through a lot of this process and can help guide more effectively than I had been able to in my past attempts. Not to mention the moral support provide by working out with someone! Basically, I’ve realized there are two key things holding me back: 1) my core muscles are extremely lacking to hold proper form in my torso, 2) I don’t have enough flexibility to get as low as I should be without moving my shoulders forward. 2) is more critical as if I go low I have to compensate by leaning forward since I don’t have the flexibility in my hips or heels to squat so low, and as such when I stand up I need to correct that compensation which ends up putting more work on my back - not good! So, a temporary remedy I figured out today is to not squat too low so that I can always maintain correct posture. Having the correct posture makes the actual act of doing the squat significantly easier to do it correctly. I have homework to work on my flexibility so I can squat lower, but in the meantime I can keep better form by not going past my lower limit.

    Read an article that a friend sent me about visiting industrial sites as a form of religious experience (I disagree with the sexist comment near the beginning about women not being able to get infrastructure - completely unnecessary comment. Aside that the rest of it reads like Ishmael’s depictions in Moby Dick and I think is still very worth reading; especially if you share these feelings). I have felt this too, especially lately when visiting airports. In Honolulu when we first landed there was a bunch of rain and it was hard to see, but the planes coming in taxiing through the mist looked super cyberpunk. Such incredible pieces of engineering - not too mention all the support infrastructure that goes into an airport. It’s astonishing and how attainable flying has become to the general populace. I think it would be good for more people to hold more gratitude for the incredible technology that enables our modern way of life. Things were so much worse in virtually all metrics not even a century ago and I don’t think people seem to understand that? Maybe I’m wrong - feel free to convince me otherwise if you think so. I can’t get over how I can turn a faucet in my sink and water comes out of it.

    I think that because so many of us have been born into this way of life we aren’t equipped to really fathom the alternatives. I have had similar thoughts in the past year about computers, math, and knowledge in general. Computers never existed until very recently, and for some people (still alive!) they did not exist as personal computers when they were born. The personal computer is extremely new in history and I think it’s easy to not be imaginative about what they could do since we have always known them to perform some set of functions. The way I and most everyone else uses a computer has not changed all that dramatically since the Xerox Alto (not widely attainable, but I think of this as the first true example of a modern personal computer - reminder that everyone interested in computers needs to read The Dream Machine). I’m curious in what it takes to bring our mindsets back to the time before these things existed in order to better understand how they could perhaps be used more effectively. Or imagining more broadly what a computer could be and do. This also applies to any subject and how we teach it really. We seem to get caught up in feedback loops of “well, this is how I was taught it so this is how I will teach it, which doesn’t seem to lend itself to progress. Surely some of these methods are probably good, but anecdotally I’ve found much of my education to be little helpful, but that’s a topic for another day.

    Daily Listening

    Been listening to impressionism while working and I think I’ll keep doing that as it is pretty good background music for being productive.

    I’ve also been listening to all my save songs on Spotify on shuffle. It’s definitely some weird shuffle algorithm that isn’t truly random, so it plays a bunch of songs that I have listened to a lot in the past (perhaps it does some form of weighted sampling based on how often you listen to this and maybe time since last listened?). It’s taken me on some interesting Proustian trips since music is very associative with my memories and various times/moods of my life. I genuinely think this is the closest we can come to time travel by reliving these experiences in our heads prompted by some stimuli.

    Daily Reading

    Trying to really push through Freedom’s Forge as I’m approaching 3 weeks of reading it! There was an interesting anecdote about one subcontractor that was a family working out of their farmhouse and producing high quality parts for the war effort. The larger companies that came to visit were astonished at how they could produce such parts in a farmhouse. They even fashioned their tools out of old equipment. Really incredible ingenuity to make things - I want to be better at having that spirit myself!

  • 20220206

    I watched this fantastic Japanese children’s show Pui Pui Molcar which is stop motion animation about guinea pig cars. Super short and super recommended.

    I also watched Joel Coen’s The Tragedy of Macbeth. Stylistically it was incredible. I think they were trying to emulate the experience of watching a play, but portrayed on film. The sets were very simple and the use of lighting is reminiscent of what is seen in a theater (with the sound effects of old style lights turning on and off). I haven’t read or seen any other Macbeth adaptations so I would like to do so before placing judgement, but I enjoyed watching it. Shakespearean dialogue is always a blast:

    “Your face, my thane, is as a book where men

    May read strange matters. To beguile the time,

    Look like the time; bear welcome in your eye,

    Your hand, your tongue: look like the innocent flower,

    But be the serpent under ‘t.”

    Figuring out more things of the Spitfire. It’s great fun to fly. Flew around San Francisco today with some friends and then all the way to Yosemite before landing at a nearby airport. Would be quite a sight to see one of these flying today.

    Spent some time talking with a friend about the lack of imagination that people have in home automation. Most of it is just dumb ways of connecting lights to devices or setting up cameras to alert about intruders. Is that really the most interesting things we can do? Why not have something that automatically operates your space as a thermal battery to save on energy use and costs? Why not have a system that can detect your mood and do subtle things to help adjust that behavior? We were more imaginative in the 60s when Chitty Chitty Bang Bang had an automatic breakfast machine (as a side note this scene has always stuck with me and I credit for instilling me with a want to be an engineer - read the comments to see that I’m not alone)! Wallace and Gromit too for that matter.

    I don’t really understand why we’ve settled for really inane automations and not any serious ones that help us in more meaningful ways. I think it would be worthwhile to try and make the ones that I think would be useful for me and presumably others. For example something to help remind me of my priorities for the week and nudge me when I’m not progressing towards them. Various software things could come to mind like reminders or action trackers that nudge me when it detects me doing unrelated things, but that could be difficult to implement properly, and moreover software notifications are extremely easy to ignore. So I think there needs to be some physical aspect of it, but I don’t really have a great idea of what that should be. Worth musing and writing about some more though. I make a yogurt meal for lunch everyday, perhaps I could take a cue from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and automate that 🤔.

    Daily Listening

    Daily Reading

    Ford’s plan to mass produce the B24 was at odds with the war effort in which the military constantly wanted to update the bomber based on what they learned in the field. Since the production line couldn’t be retooled as quickly as needed this was significant cause for concern and of many delays in production. All until they figured out that Ford could build them to a certain standard and then they would be sent to another facility to undergo modifications to make them fit for service. Essentially just another step in the production process that could have been eliminated had they the technology and knowledge to do lean manufacturing. In any case it was sufficient for the war effort and the significant number of B24s played a crucial role in ending the U boat menace as they could be purposed as long range surveillance planes to detect and alert merchant ships of the submarines (which were apparently now choosing to stay at the surface instead of getting sunk while underwater!).

  • 20220205

    Learned how to start the Supermarine Spitfire in MSFS 2020 by following the checklist. I realized its not that difficult and actually aids the immersion a lot to start up your plane manually and then taxi to the runway. Especially immersive when you are taxiing behind other people playing (since it has multiplayer worlds) and watching them take off ahead of you. It genuinely feels like you are at an active airport while in VR and the sound design is impeccable.

    Some fun facts about the Spitfire:

    • Since you can’t see straight ahead while taxiing the standard practice would be to move in S-curves in order to follow the guide lines
    • The canopy would be kept open during takeoff and landings so the pilot could escape more easily if there was an issue (the movie Dunkirk illustrates this)

    Daily Listening

    The Lawrence Of Arabia Soundtrack

    Daily Reading

    In Freedom’s Forge I learned how Ford made one of the first mass production systems for a large airplane - the B24 Liberator. To this day it remains one of the most produced planes of any kind. Its factory for assembly was nearly a mile long just outside of Detroit as well.

  • 20220204

    I’ve noticed lately how sometimes I find it very hard to work in the early afternoon and get very sleepy. I’ll basically drift off at my desk and probably fall asleep briefly and then after this I can find great productivity for a few hours. It makes me feel like I should intentionally do something relaxing in the early afternoon, like reading, and then take a brief nap before going back to work. Not really feasible in my current workplace as there is no place to sleep, but it would be interesting to try out a biphasic sleep schedule (which apparently was/is common in various parts of the world).

    I’m itching to do some creative/tinkering work, but I don’t really have a good grasp on what to do. This is where I get into a bit of an analysis paralysis of all the potential things I could be doing: piano, ableton, drawing, digital painting, knitting, programming… Perhaps I should just roll a dice or something and go with that just to do something. I want to try drawing the picture in my mind from yesterday so maybe I will use that to guide my decision. Maybe more generically framed: “I should do the thing that is most on my mind at the moment”. This way I can spend more time thinking about it and see whether or not I actually want to think more about it/do something related to it.

    Daily Listening

    Listened to this new breakbeat/jungle artist: here’s two select tracks: one, two. The beginning of two sounds like it would make for good montage music over F1 racing from the 80s.

    Daily Reading

    More Freedom’s Forge - atonishing that they made a Liberty ship in ~4.5 days (out of prefabbed parts but still). This record wasn’t sustainable, but they brought the production time down in general from over 200 days to around 30 days! The wikipedia article is pretty interesting and its impressive that they were reliable enough to be successful. Part of the reason they needed to produce them so fast was that this was part of the counter to the U-boat problem. Have so many ships that they can’t sink them all!

  • 20220203

    An image in my mind that has stuck with me from Maui is that of being surrounding by towering objects. Distant islands and volcanos generally dot the horizon for much of the horizon (the north/northeast shore is an exception, but I also spent very little time there and there is still the mountains and volcanos of Maui present in your view). Especially on the west/northwest coasts I had this impression that I was at a meeting grounds of these enormous structures, and all that seemed to be missing was a human made cyberpunk infrastructure of skyscrapers on the island, and perhaps giant space ships hovering in the distance as well to add to the futuristic feeling I was having.

    It was interesting to me knowing that I was mostly surrounded by empty ocean, yet I felt like I was contained in a world because of the scale of my surroundings. I’m sure that given more time there it is plausible to develop a sense of being trapped or isolated from the greater world. I wonder if that feeling of wonder at the scale of the mountains and volcanos would turn into a terror and the realization that it is not as big as it seems and you are trapped there. At least I think you could write a psychological thriller that takes on this premise of someone being trapped in an isolated space that feels spacious at first but overtime the isolation takes over and the scale feels all too claustrophobic. Although, from a practical perspective, there are plenty of resources to sustain life for a number of people so it probably wouldn’t end up as my imagined horror.

    Daily Listening Didn’t listen to much new music today, just a playlist of impressionism music for background sound.

    Daily Reading Been pretty social in my evenings so I only read a little bit of Freedom’s Forge. One thing I learned that was interesting was how many people were against getting involved in the war, and even supplying the Allies. I think its actually not that surprising as who in their right mind would want to get involved in a war, but it seems odd in hindsight having grown up in this world that speaks very highly of America’s actions in the war. Felt like everyone was behind it and perhaps that became more true after Pearl Harbor. Or also maybe later on when the Holocaust became widely known people retroactively felt supportive of the war. Idk, this is just speculation, but it was a fact that was initially surprising to me and I wanted to understand why I felt that way.

  • 20220202

    Not too sore after doing squats yesterday which was a nice surprise. I guess I’m in better shape than I thought or I could have done more! I’m not really sure what science says about whether or not its good to feel sore and how sore you should be in general. It’s probably complicated. I’m definitely feeling a lot hungrier now though, which makes me feel like my body is working as a good machine. Reading about factories and production is definitely getting me to think of my body as a production system.

    Wrote out the central problems/questions that we are concerned with in our research right now since I was feeling a little lost in the weeds. Helped me realize that I’ve not been putting up enough and that I should just shut up for a bit and put in the work. I have enough ideas to do little experiments for proof of concept tests and I just need to do them. So that’s the main goal for the rest of the week. Might get a little desk whiteboard to have to write the weekly priorities so that I am always reminded of them, or some displayed flip notepad that is large enough to be unavoidable. I’ve been using a lot of post its to make a checklist of my daily priorities, but seeing the weekly priorities would be nice too. And maybe something for quarter and yearly priorities would be a nice addition too!

    Daily Listening Really nice space-disco(?) track - reminds me of this optimistc sounding music that played after the final episode of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos. I wonder if I rewatched that today if it would move me in the same way that it did back when I originally watched it.

    Daily Reading A bit of Freedom’s Forge - learned that Japan purchased many of its industrial tools from American companies. Odd knowing that some of their war effort was powered by America!

  • 20220201

    Did my first sets of squats at the gym today since maybe 2018-2019(!). It felt great and I’ve got a friend who is quite good at it to teach me good technique so that I can lift more and not hurt myself in the process. It has been so so nice to be able to exercise again. It’s sort of like how when you’re sick you realize just how great it is to not be sick, but when you’re no longer sick you forget how bad being sick was. When you aren’t exercising you forget how good it can feel and the various positive impacts that has elsewhere in your life. So far my legs don’t feel too awful - we’ll see how that changes in the morning!

    I realized that I didn’t get to two of the items I had discussed with my advisors in our last meeting. So I clearly need a better system to remind me of the tasks we care about at hand and make progress on all of them instead of going into deep rabbit holes on few of them as I did this week. Something to be more conscious of now!

    Daily Listening This is a really beautiful edit that I listened to today, and I’ve been enjoying listening to Cody Currie’s stuff on shuffle as well thanks to finding him through this.

    Daily Reading More Freedom’s Forge - learning about the origins of the famous Liberty Ships. It’s kind of funny - the US kept increasing the number they wanted to order every other day. Shipyards that were still under construction were getting orders to double the number of slips (I think slips are the place where a new ship can be made). The sheer scope of the production they were getting ready to build was insane. Many of these shipyards were being made by the organizations that made the Hoover Dam which was an interesting connection. Not surprising, in hindsight, given that the big engineering groups almost surely would be utilized in the war effort. The author is making the case that much of the success of America’s current ramp up comes from the free market approach to production and decentralization of decision making. The US just put up the money and let the industry get to work. I’d like to see a skeptical take of this, but the anecdotes of how the various companies/contractors are able to more effectively figure out construction and design of various military goods makes it seem plausible. Of course those are anecdotes…

  • 20220131

    In more bike adventures I had a flat today while all the roads are very slushy from the melting snow that we just got from the snowstorm on Friday. Was a good experience getting comfortable just having to do something in a grimy circumstance. I definitely feel like I’m getting more grit at just dealing with problems as they arise, granted fixing a bike tire is pretty straightforward as opposed to solving research problems.

    In that front I’ve been finding that writing my daily progress in a keynote has been really helpful to clarify my thoughts and also provide guidance for what I’m doing. Basically we have some question related to the research that we want to solve so I investigate that. This leads to more questions and then I keep going down that trail. Reviewing the previous few days work has been helpful to keep myself more aware of where things are in general.

    Daily Listening Been listening to this playlist in the background while working and have found it to be very peaceful and productive.

    Daily Reading Freedom’s Forge is getting to the war now. Something interesting that was talked about was how certain politicians wanted consumer car production shut down since those supplies could better be used for tanks/planes/etc. The industrialists convinced them otherwise since shutting it down would mean all the knowledge held by the tool makers and workers there would leave to other factories elsewhere in the country, so when M-day happened (the day the US would start requiring US consumer manufacturing to help manufacture goods for war) they felt they would not be able to revive the factories since they wouldn’t be able to get people there. So it was better to keep the factories producing cars in the meantime to store the workers and toolers so that when production shifted it could happen much more efficiently. It’s a good point about how seemingly wasteful things can serve a purpose to store something of value (in this case working knowledge of retooling production systems).

  • 20220130

    Spent much of today watching Chinese cooking videos to learn about what sort of varieties are out there as well as pick up some techniques for things to try. I’ve been meaning to learn more recipes for a while so it felt like a useful binge of time. I ended up making this recipe from Kenji Lopez-Alt. It turned out very well! I was very impressed with the flavour and the trick Kenji mentioned to draw the water out of the eggplant by immersing them in salt water worked marvelously. I would love to make this in the future, but I need a system for dealing with deep frying. I’m very excited to get a wok of my own now as stir fries are great for vegetarian cooking (which I almost solely do).

    Daily Listening Just relistening to some of the House from the past week mainly, not to much listening in general.

    Daily Reading Finished The Lathe of Heaven. Don’t think I really understood too much of what it was trying to say other than the overarching story of how you can’t wish for good things without accepting the negative consequences. I think there’s some deeper metaphor relating to dreams that was hinted at, but I just never got.

    Read a bunch of Freedom’s Forge. I’m at the point where America is starting to get more involved in the war by supplying the allies with engines/tanks/planes/arms/etc in ways that circumvent various peacetime laws. There was a fair amount of concern about having a military industrial complex, but it seemed they believed such actions were necessary to prevent the Nazi’s from winning overall (which I think given the Holocaust, among other atrocities, was a good idea). I’m speculating, but perhaps a lot of these wartime changes enabled the snowball of military industrial complex that was never properly reigned in. Hopefully the books talks more about this later!

  • 20220128

    Spent a good amount of time at the office today doing my last practicum of the week, a panel with first year graduate students, and just generic research work. I got lunch with an officemate and one of the office staff which was a nice time - the math department has a favorite nearby restaurant - Tu y Yo that we like to go to for lunch on fridays, although Covid has complicated matters somewhat. Low-key meals with friends are such a nice thing to do! I hope we can soon go out more easily and without too much fear (not that you have much cause for concern if you’re boosted).

    I made a list of things that I would like to accomplish this weekend so I’m hoping to do at least some of them - namely applying for some internships. It’s late in the process for sure, but I also do not need to get one. Just would be nice if a good fit happened to exist. That would help make the transition process from grad school to industry more smooth based on the experience of most of my friends working already.

    We’re supposed to get a bunch of snow tomorrow (2 feet maybe!), so I may spend much of the day just enjoying that. A friend recommended an article which recommended the new Peter Jackson Beatles documentary, so I may watch that. I also have been wanting to watch the Macbeth adaptation that Joel Coen (of the Coen Brothers) directed. Perhaps I’ll watch both! Additionally I like to do a yearly viewing of John Carpenter’s The Thing during snowstorms. So, lots of viewing options! We’ll see where my mood takes me, but as always I will start the day with exercise, coffee, and reading.

    Daily Listening Listened to even more House mixes, here’s two fave tracks: one and two

    Daily Reading Almost done with The Lathe of Heaven

  • 20220127

    Watched The Boxer today to get some fix of Daniel Day Lewis. It was an overall good movie with emphasis on IRA aspects as opposed to boxing. Apparently DDL trained in Boxing a year for this role and was claimed to be good enough to contend with actual boxers in the UK. This sorts of stories seem to be true with every DDL role which is part of what makes him intriguing, and surely seems to carry over into his roles as well.

    Had my first in person discussion sections in well over two years! Was very nice to be in the classroom again. We have a new setup where the discussion sections are limited to 15 students, which I think provides great opportunities to give feedback. I found in the past that the 30 students were always more difficult to give adequate help to. Maybe answer ~1-2 questions per student, whereas now it can be more of continued dialogues about the problems and the course concepts.

    Didn’t get too much research work done today though. I’ve been sort of spinning wheels on this one potential issue, but I think I’m understanding better the situation that it fits into and I have some clearer ideas for what I want to try tomorrow. Basically, I’ve been doing these tests to see if using a certain approximation method would be viable, when in reality I should just be testing it in its desired use case to see if it even works there, as that is the bottom line that I care about. Theoretical justification can come later.

    A part of the above that I want to do is draw a diagram of the entire algorithmic process I’m doing from data input and processing to analysis on the output of the learning algorithm. I want it to be as granualar as possible in such a way that I can generalize various aspects to make modular components which will make interchanging pieces easier. Not to mention having a diagram is really helpful when talking about various parts of the process with someone else. Also useful to show how much time various parts are taking to know where efforts are best spent to get speedups from. The hard part about this is that I have to do it all so being organized can be tricky. I’m getting better though! Using more and more checklists is really helpful (great advice from Adam Savage that has taken me a while to really adhere to)

    Daily Listening More great House mixes. A particular favorite track from today.

    Daily Reading Still chugging away at The Lathe of Heaven. A friend had suggested that this story was like a typical “3 wishes” story where you inevitably fail to achieve what you want with your 3 wishes since unintended consequences of the early wish(es) lead you to using the other wishes to correct - but the cycle is never ending. Not sure if that is what is going to be the main thesis, but it is for sure happening.

  • 20220126

    A friend took me to an Asian Supermarket today, which was an incredible experience - in part because I was very hungry when I went! Got a few goodies there on my friend’s recommendation - he’s from China so his he knows whats up. Being there really reminded me that I need to learn how to cook more Asian meals - there’s so many good things that you can make (I truly mean Asian in full generality - many countries with many diverse regions and many with great food).

    Still working on my documenting while working - I did ok today putting some of my thoughts and actions into a keynote slide, but I can do much to improve. A good thing I did was to have a thought about wondering if some behviour I was observing in a test would change under different circumstances, and I just tested it instead of leaving it as a thought! Very small and simple, but its part of the greater change in my mental thinking that I want to have as “put up or shut up”.

    “Put up or shut up” is a reference to this story from the history of the smalltalk programming language (ctrl-f “put up” to find the primary source) in which Alan Kay claims that he could describe an object oriented programming language on a page in a similar manner that John McCarthy did with Lisp. In response to his claim, others at Xerox PARC said “put up or shut up” - i.e. do as you say. Remarkably he was able to do a version in a few weeks, which snowballed into fellow researcher Dan Ingalls programming an implementation in a few days. These events then led to smalltalk and very influential existence. I think this idea of “put up or shut up” is generically so important to internalize as it will greatly direct your thoughts to be reflected in your actions, which should help you think more critically and clearly (since if you can’t put up, you won’t be saying anything!). So, minor victory today with a put up - got to encourage that behavior to have bigger wins in the future.

    Daily Listening Listened to three great House mixes from the YouTuber Slav, which is probably one of the best collections of House music on YouTube. [one, two, three]

    Daily Reading The Lathe of Heaven is starting to really advance its philosophical point, although I’m not quite finished with it yet. Mildly curious about the conclusion, but mainly I’m looking forward to getting back to the Mysterious Island. I think I’m just not in the right headspace to appreciate this book fully at the moment. I don’t think it is bad, I just am not vibing with it in the way I was with Jules Verne, and I think its important to seek out those things that you really vibe with as you’ll get more out of them because you care more for them.

  • 20220125

    In typical programming fashion I discovered a minor bug in my experiment running code, so I would need to rerun about a day and a half worth of compute time of experiments. It’s good that I caught it as it will help to clarify the results and overall improve things, but still annoying!

    Watched a really interesting Ted Lasso episode today. I am continually impressed by the chances they are able to take as a show in subverting expectations, but in a way that they don’t lose their charm and go off the deep end in a Lynchian manner.

    Today also had a great story about a “chair heist”. I don’t want to give too much information away, but my office mate discovered a way to get Herman Miller chairs from another part of campus in a way that we were officially sanctioned to do. So we went out looking for these chairs, found them, and then wheeled them back to our new office to replace our eh new chairs. Must have been quite a sight to all the students walking around campus. If any of them knew the value of the 5 chairs we were moving I think they would have asked us some questions. We “snuck” into the basement of our new building to get onboard the elevator without having to pass through the large and busy atrium (not that it would be problematic, we just wanted to be covert - this was a chair heist remember). It was glorious. In the basement waiting for the elevator one person stopped and looked for a long time at our chairs and made a comment about how much he enjoyed looking at our collection of chairs. I’m not exaggerating when I say it has been one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had in grad school. Now I have an extremely ergonomic chair to use every day!

    Daily Listening More great light music, plus revisiting some Spirit of the Beehive: Hypnic Jerks and, my top album of 2021, ENTERTAINMENT, DEATH. FWIW I listen to these pretty regularly, especially the latter. It fits in with Vaprowave as its like the dark extension of it. Vaporwave in today’s world and not the nostalgic utopia it typically inhabits. Not that I don’t like nostalgic utopia! I just really like also distortions of this theme.

    Daily Reading Still working on The Lathe of Heaven. Don’t really know where its going still, but its getting quite a bit more dramatic. No time to read Freedom’s Forge unfortunately.

  • 20220124

    I noticed myself today being more self aware about how I was spending my time while working today. In particular being better at questioning if what I was working on right now was related to my ultimate goals, and if not I could redirect myself accordingly. Hopefully this is because I’m writing about it publicly (I always first spell “publicly” as “publically” and I have no idea why) which I do feel creates a sense of desire to act on it. So, if that is the case - thank you subconscious!

    It feels great getting back into exercise. I hadn’t done much really until this past week since before my surgery, and I’m very well recovered enough to have no issues no (still astonished at how long a relatively minor surgery took to recover. I bet/hope this will be a thing in the future where our grandchildren will wonder how we could endure such health care. (deeper aside - I can’t imagine being a soldier in times of swords and getting slashed. That would be quite a long recovery!))

    I’m unfortunately getting to these too late at night to make my early morning routine work out, so I will need to work on better time management to give ample space to write these. They’re nice brain dumps before bed, but getting 8 hours is very necessary for me!

    On request of a friend I will work to make this deliverable to your inbox. Yes I know this is a solved problem on other platforms, so it shouldn’t be too hard to attach some service to do it for me here. Let me know if you have any suggestions, I appreciate the feedback!

    Daily Listening Great light music album I listened to today. This track is my favorite as it has a proto-bossa nova vibe to it, which I really dig.

    Also listened to this track by Oneohtrix Point Never: Love In The Time Of Lexapro. OPN has some of the most profound song titles that I am aware of. I love how simple this title is and yet how thought provoking it is. Love in the time… being a riff on the novel Love in the time of Cholera. Lexapro being an antidepressant. It’s only six words, but it evokes the idea of this time where we have widespread antidepressant use (mostly seratonin inhibitors like Lexapro) and seems to beg the question of how can there be love in this time? What is that love like? Is anyone happy with their love?

    Another track title I love is Tales From The Trash Stratum. It calls to a time in the future where stories are told of this time in the earths history where so much was produced that it became a visible line in the earths strata. Imagine hiking down the grand canyon and being pointed to a this thin strip where if you’re “lucky” you may get your hands on a McDonalds kids meal toy.

    Daily Reading I think The Lathe of Heaven is giving me bad dreams (how can a book about a miserable person who’s dreams affect reality not?), so I’m looking forward to finishing it and returning to The Mysterious Island. Was social today so I did not get a chance to read Freedom’s Forge, although I intend to make that a daily read around dinner time during the week.

  • 20220123

    Time for some review of the week.

    I mostly chilled today and talked with friends which I think was a reasonable use of a Sunday, but I think in hindsight I would have been more deliberate about my time. I was good yesterday at starting running again and getting my bike fixed, but used that productivity as an excuse to take today unscheduled. The problem I run into when I don’t really schedule my days (even leisure) is that I can get a bit aimless and waste a fair amount of time just trying to figure out what I should be doing. This is generally bad as in these analysis paralysis moments I defer to time killing acts like browsing reddit or scrolling through my various messaging services. There’s definitely more things I could be deliberately spending my time on, and its ok if I play video games a lot on the weekend, I should just be deliberate about it and know that is how I want to be spending my time. So, goal for next weekend is to be more deliberate about how I spend it.

    This past week of work was fairly productive aside from all the back to school socialization. I realize in hindsight that I spent too much time on friday trying to understand the workings of a tool that I am using. I think fundamentally my value of learning the basics really well is a good principle, but in practice I need to do some more triage and focus on the basics most closely related to my research. This part is reasonably close, but I may be learning more than I need to be about it and thus “wasting” my efforts. I am using waste in the sense of The Toyota Way. I do believe doing research relatively lean is good as it helps eliminate possible directions you could go on and keeps you focused the most value-adding components of your work. I’m not sure what a better system can be about doing this triage to figure out if some basic is worth spending time on. Perhaps I should be following another Toyota Way which is to ask repeated “why” until you get to the root of the problem. This may help me identify some of the basics that I should be strong about, so I can try that tomorrow.

    I was good about documenting experiments, but I could be better about documenting my thoughts during the day. I talked about writing them in here, but I think its worthwhile to have a dedicated place for them. I think I’ll just have a separate overleaf file to put those thoughts in so that I don’t clutter the research document.

    In Forza Horizon 5 I’m finally starting to get the hang of drifting while using my wheel and pedals. I’ve figured out that to control the wheel spinning itself you can modulate the gas. I don’t fully have this worked out, but basically gas down means hold the current wheel position, and then lifting the gas frees the wheel to move to the other position and you can put the gas down to slow its movement and stop it at a desired location. I’m now better able to control drift cars by learning this, but its still so much harder than using a controller!

    I wanted to also do some flight lessons in Microsoft Flight Simulator, but didn’t get around to that. I got a new bush plane that has been great fun so far including when I stalled and crashed trying to land it in the crater of Haleakalā on Maui.

    Ted Lasso continues to be one of the best and most unique emotional experiences on TV that I have ever seen, which really makes up for its trope-y cheesiness and extreme Apple product placement. I’ve been reminded this past week of how powerfully certain media that you consume can affect your mental state, so I’m trying to harness that and use it to keep me in the mental states that I want to be in.

    Daily Listening Didn’t listen to much today. More vaporwave and some easy listening.

    Daily Reading Read another chapter of Freedom’s Forge this morning and also a good chunk of The Lathe of Heaven last night. Freedom’s Forge has been helping me fill in the gaps in my historical knowledge about the development of the US in the early 20th century and of what the culture was like in places. This chapter focused on Henry Kaiser who’s name persists through the large healthcare organization Kaiser Permanente which he founded based on the suggestion of a Doctor he employed that he should provide health care to his workers to take better care of them and have them prefer working there. It was interesting reading about how he contracted to build many roads in the western US and how quickly they could do so. When the Hoover Dam project came about they had to team up with their competitors to be able to construct it as the government required a large payment for the submission of a bid to ensure the contractors knew what they were getting into. Astonishingly they made the Dam in a few years which seems like something like that could never happen nowadays despite the superior technology of our time. It’s not really clear to me why that is, but I don’t think this book is going to answer that question. Perhaps it was just easier and cheaper to hire many people as it was during the depression and there didn’t exits other jobs.

  • 20220122

    Fixed the known broken parts of my bike today! The new shifter cable install only took the youtube bike mechanic about 6 minutes and it took me over an hour! I naively tried it at first because they made it look so simple so I thought there couldn’t be much to it. It wasn’t shifting when I passed the wire through the shifting housing which should have been a warning sign to check out why that wasn’t happening, but I thought maybe it had to be attached to the derailleur before shifting (Ron Howard: “It didn’t”). So I had to take it apart and see what I did wrong. Turns out I hadn’t properly seated a stopper on the end of the shifter cable, and this stopped is what the shifting mechanism moves to move the cable and thus shift the gears. I tried monkeying around with the shifter and somehow got the cable stopper stuck in the shifter housing. To get it out I then had to take apart the housing and undo this bolt that had little folded metal plated up against the nut seemingly suggesting that you should not undo that nut. So I folded down those little metal plates (breaking them in the process because metal doesn’t like to bend) and was able to loosen the nut enough to give me the space in the housing to free the cable stopper. Then I could finally reseat it properly and verify that I could shift correctly, and then hook it up to my bike. Mission accomplished!

    This was actually a nice learning lesson about how the shifter mechanism works and it also got me realizing how it would be nice to build up a bike from parts next time I get a bike so that I know how to easily fix or fiddle with any part. This would be a nice skill to have when I start bikepacking more too!

    Daily Listening Listened to a vaporwave album that spotify suggested to me. Pretty decent!

    Daily Reading I did start reading Freedom’s Forge which has so far been interesting. The focus for now has been on William Knudsen who helped scale up Ford’s production of the Model T and then helped revive GM after Ford started treating him as a rival. An interesting anecdote about his character: he was making nearly $1 million dollars in today’s dollar value and was worried about resigning from Ford because he donated so much money to charities in Detroit as well as to his family abroad in Denmark. At GM once when he was upset with factory workers not following his processes he knocked one out (he was a first rate boxer). This incident then led to him learning that is not the right way to get you workers doing what you want them to do and he instead started to treat them as equals and listen to their inputs. Later on during the war government officials would not trust him at first because he seemed to meek and lacking conviction - quite a change from someone who leveled a factory worker with a punch!

  • 20220121

    I was listening to a podcast about the pandemic and one of the things the guest mentioned was how we, rich countries like the US with vaccine producing companies, should be scaling up production for global distribution. The lack of vaccines globally has been and continues to be a contributing factor to the persistance of the pandemic as it is allowed to spread more easily and through more populations to continually evolve into ever more variants of concern. I have no real knowledge in this area besides some pop science that I have read and listened to, but it does strike me that we haven’t scaled up the production to do that. An argument would be that it is too expensive to distribute, but its also expensive to continually exist in a pandemic. It is plausible that the vaccine producers don’t want the pandemic to end to continue taking profits, although I really hope that isn’t the case (unless there’s some moral argument to be made that existing in this situation is preferable to being without a pandemic, but I think you have a lot of work to do to make that case!).

    Something that struck me that the guest also said was why can’t we ramp up production like we did in world war II? WWII was by many measures a war of logistics and of who could operate better supply chains overall. Manufacturing diverse military equipment and the necessary support supplies is extremely expensive yet we were able to do it successfully then. Can we learn from that to apply lessons to the future in scaling manufacturing in dire times? I’m really not familiar with what the current problems are that hold back scaling up vaccine supply, but I don’t believe that it’s too hard of a problem to solve.

    I spent a lot of time today working out the derivation of this method of approximating kernel matrices. I feel like it shouldn’t have taken me so long and I think I might be able to learn from my experience today - namely stare less at the paper and give up on repeated re-readings, and try instead to write out what they are saying/doing on scratch paper. Doing this is ultimately what got me past my stuck points, but I probably spent a few hours being “stuck” today. So, clearly I have work to do in training my subconscious to recognize that when I’m feeling mentally blocked I need to shift my strategy. A good thing that I did was to write up several hundred words in my obsidian note file about the derivation. I think I need to run through it again as I don’t feel solid on it. This technique is useful for speeding up matrix multiplication with kernel matrices, which is something that comes up a lot in my research and the algorithms I work with so this is just a subtle component, but I want to spend the time really understanding even the littlest bits of what I’m doing. My hypothesis behind doing this is that having a really strong foundation of knowledge is key to making progress as it allows you to elevate your thinking more effectively since you’ve made the first principles more or less second nature.

    I’ve still not really journaled about my daily progress at work and that is partially from feeling that it will cruft up my overleaf documentation, so maybe its fine to just talk about the key aspects here. I’m making weekly slide sets for my meetings with my advisors so that might be the more suitable place to put those updates for tracking too.

    Daily Listening Today I got back into some Light Music which served as the popular music of much of the early to middle 20th century and its influence is still felt largely in film soundtracks - notably John Williams.

    Daily Reading Still working on The Lathe of Heaven and its dream weirdness. I think I’m going to start reading Freedom’s Forge which is inspired by the above thoughts about WWII manufacturing. Learned about it from the recommendation of a friend. I typically read fiction before bed and nonfiction at other times of the day so I should have room for it. Don’t worry Mysterious Island, I’ll be back for you!

  • 20220120

    I’ve had two mechanical failures on my bike in the past two days. Yesterday both bolts holding the rear of my bike rack fell out. I lost one but one barely hung in and I was able to thread it back in a little bit so its not totally unsupported at least until I get another bolt. This is partially on me for not having long enough bolts, but hey these were the ones that came with the bike rack (or maybe were already threaded into the frame. I don’t remember) and I’m lazy. Today my front derailleur wire either came loose or broke and now I’m stuck in the smallest gear of the front set. It’s not the worst as I can still use it, although my top speed is much more limited now. Anyways, this serves as a good reminder to do maintenance on the systems in your life and to check on all components and not just the ones that require the most periodic care (I clean and grease my chain reasonably often).

    In the sense of maintenance for personal affairs you’ll probably have periodic tasks to check in on various components. For example you could have weekly check ins with yourself to see if the past week went how you wanted it to go and what micro adjustments you could make for the coming week to improve. You may have quarterly check ins to see how your larger scale trajectory is going and what adjustments you might need to make to your general time commitments. Yearly check ins may help you evaluate your priorities/principles/values and see if you worked in alignment with them, or maybe found you found that they have changed now. I don’t like scheduling these sorts of things in because I like to do just in time scheduling, but perhaps It would be good to pencil them into my calendar with the knowledge that they are guidelines around roughly the time they should happen and not strict requirements.

    Daily Listening Still listened to more Soichi Terada as well as this random EP that spotify recommended, which I have found nice for background listening

    Daily Reading Started The Lathe of Heaven which has been interesting so far. I have no idea where it is going so far, but the prose has been very good. The opening few paragraphs were probably some of the best I’ve read in recent memory - really evoked a strong mental image of being floating in a large ocean and being carried by its whims.

  • 20220119

    I have been occasionally keeping sporadic documentation in overleaf documents related to things I am learning and my projects, but I never really found formats that worked particularly well. I would often create too many sections related to various ideas and then never really piece them together or, more often, abandon them altogether. Last summer I got a pretty good knowledge base system going that solved this problem by trying to have my notes be atomic (Andy Matuschak is incredible btw). I found this software Obsidian which provides very simple formats for notes and is modeled partially after Andy’s site (hence how I found it). However I have not really found it ideal for tracking daily progress. So, that is a place where overleaf can shine and store a daily log of work. I started an experimental log which is essentially just a record of details following the scientific method: stating what I am doing, what I hope to find, and then what I actually find. It’s actually terrible that I haven’t done something as simple and cohesive as that until now, but better late than never. Tomorrow I intend to start a similar progress journal which is just a log of my thoughts each day and is the “fluff” not explained in the experimental log (plus I probably won’t be running experiments every single day).

    Relatedly to the bit about not keeping a scientific journal - being a math PhD I often don’t feel like a scientist. Science to me has always involved understanding things about the physical world or discovering new things. I think this is partially because I find the period of scientific exploration in the 19th century to be very romantic (even though in all actuality it was very much just imperialism disguised as science) because of literature like Jules Verne and Arthur Conan Doyle, and even The Golden Compass. However what I’m doing now really makes me feel like a scientist. Writing in a log about my experiments and consciously engaging with the scientific method each day. I was listening to a podcast today where the guest Annie Murphy Paul described how our brain may be working with a lot more of our environment than we think it is, and the tools we use and content we consume can shape how think (I’m a little biased because I did a directed reading with Philosophy professor Larry Shapiro during my undergrad about embodied cognition so I tend to buy into the hypothesis as it makes a lot of sense to me). While listening to this podcast it clicked with me that reading those 19th century science novels while doing science can probably be a pretty useful thing to do. In particular she mentioned how people who are having things at their workplace that remind them and uphold them to what they want to be doing there tend to do better work (don’t have a citation sorry). I’ve noticed this in some pictures of people I admire like Bret Victor and Alan Kay so I’m inclined that there is some truth to it. Often mathematicians will have unerased chalkboards in their offices and perhaps part of it is to serve as a continual reminder of what they want to be doing (or they are just too lazy to erase it each day). Anyways, the environment you create for yourself and the content you consume while working seems to be important and often overlooked so I think its worth thinking about a little bit as it can help put you in a productive mindset each day.

    A new section that I wound to add is daily listening and daily reading to serve as a record of part of my mental environment!

    Daily Listening Been back into Soichi Terada lately since his new album came out and today I listened to a lot of Far East Recording 1 & 2. I like 2 more in general. The beats are catchier and it just feels smoother to me.

    I’ve also been into this really short blip of music from an analog horror video (timestamped for you, but if you’re into horror I’d recommend watching it from the beginning). It’s got a really haunting easy listening vibe to it that I really like and would love to find more like that.

    Daily Reading Been working through Jules Verne’s The Mysterious Island but am going to be taking a little pause to read Ursula K Le Guin’s The Lathe of Heaven since my library hold on it came through sooner than expected. It has a fantastic name so hopefully the story is just as fantastic.

  • 20220118

    Today I spent some time working out a hierarchical plan for the semester. My main goal is to have a good paper to submit to the NeurIPS 2022 conference. Hierarchical planning is something that I’ve seen in a few books. For sure in one of Cal Newport’s books and more broadly discussed as a method of business strategy in The Art of Action (as an aside I think this book offers a really compelling view on how to run large organizations successfully, which is unfortunately harder to take away to an individual as you can’t let groups of people below you in the hierarchy figure out the details - you have to do it all!). Hierarchical planning is when you start with your end goal and work the tasks backwards in order to determine what you should be working on today. I found this to be pretty hard to work out and maybe that is just because I am new to planning in this way. To be honest most of my planning historically has been pretty gut-based. Sure, this is using some complicated neural processing of our brain to tie our vast arrays of desires and objectives together and produce some sort of output as a “feeling”, but gut-based approaches aren’t easily systemized or easily reflected on to know what aspects of the decision making was good or not. To me hierarchical planning offers the sanest and simplest approach that leads you to your objective. For me the trickiness is knowing what exactly the steps should be in the independent parts as this is a research project, not producing something like a physical good where there is a fairly clear process. I think doing this planning would be helpful to do with someone else as they will provide feedback to your plan and what steps don’t seem as clear - unclear steps would indicate that you skipped steps in the breakdown and thus added too much difficulty into a single step.

    The books The Mysterious Island and The Martian both provide examples of characters that solve problems in this way. In both cases the characters are stranded somewhere and have roughly the goal: survive. They come up with plans that lead to this outcome and then work from first principles to improve their situation. Their first principles being basic necessities of life such as food, water, and shelter, and then improving from there. One thing that I did find useful from the hierarchical planning I did was to identify useful first principles for myself. To produce a good research paper you need to have something good to present. To present something good you need to understand the greater context of the research field and what work has been done and how your work fits into that world. To do this you need to read and understand a lot of existing research. So, a first principle here is to only read something if you will take notes on it. If you don’t take notes (or whatever method you use for understanding new material) then you will only succeed in convincing yourself that you understood the work. I’m great at that game! Writing out this plan helped me recognize this fairly obvious detail that to be serious about having a good paper, I need to be serious about having a good information intake system. It is for sure laborious, but so is starting a farm of potatoes on Mars or building tools from scratch on a remote island. You have to do some dirty work in order to satisfy your basic needs! This sounds potentially miserable, but the hidden benefit of taking care of your first principles is that you can have a sort of compounding effect on your abilities. With the basics taken care of you can start to get concerned with higher level things like how to communicate with Earth from Mars, or in my case thinking about the winds of my research field and what areas/questions feel unexplored, etc.

  • 20220117

    In 2021 I wrote 81,316 words in 173 journal entries throughout the year. For the most part these were just shared with a single friend as a writing exercise and occasionally I would share excerpts with other friends. This year I want to share more publicly. I felt that I had a lot of interesting thoughts that could be interesting to others as well. I also enjoy reading travelogues and figured this could serve as a sort of travelogue of my life. I’m trying to navigate a transition from academia to industry with the (hopefully soon) end of my PhD so I think the journey of how I do it could be interesting to have documented. It’s not as flashy as a true travelogue, but I hope for there to be some Proustian appeal to it nonetheless.

    I also want to share more because I feel that publicly releasing things is something that I am bad at and would like to improve at. To promote this I decided to set my theme for the year as sharing. Last year I had it set as producing which manifested largely in the journals as well as a few programming side projects (the one I’m most proud of is automating an airline manager tycoon game that my brother plays to help him climb the leaderboard). I want to keep producing things, but I want to share them instead of leaving them to collect dust in my filesystem. So I intend for these journal updates to also include information about my side projects as well as my main research project. I think that writing publicly about these can help promote progress as well. I was recently motivated in this direction by reading The Martian as well as several Jules Verne novels in which the characters chronicle their adventure and, in particular, the many problems that they have to solve along the way (in particular: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Around the World in 80 Days, Journey to the Center of the Earth, and The Mysterious Island). In a way life is just a long sequence of problem solving guided by goals/visions so I’m testing my hypothesis that writing about one’s journey can improve the process. I want to flesh out these thoughts about how I think the aforementioned books provide a useful framework for problem solving in a future post as I have found that fun to think about.

    It’s often said how New Year’s Resolutions seldom last, but many things restart at the beginning of the year anyways. I at least find the beginning of the year as a helpful way of recalibrating my mind and one goal I have is to do these mental recalibrations more often. I think it was in How to Win Friends and Influence People where there was an anecdote about the most successful person they knew had a strict weekly regimen where they would go through the past week and analyze their decisions and figure what they did well and what they did not do well in order to do better the next week. This form of iterative improvement has appealed a lot to me over the past few years, but I have been not so good at doing it myself. Many hard computational math problems are typically solved with iterative solvers where successive approximations are made and refined with the hope of converging to the solution (for mainstream buzzwords: every neural network is trained this way). So I think we are in good company to try and improve ourselves in a similar manner as opposed to going on a quest for the one true solution to life. It was fairly easy to deflect the talks of myself doing this when I was held accountable to one person only, but now I’m hoping that exposing myself to the world more will be a better motivator 🙃.

    A weird observation so far is that the writing voice in my mind feels different because it knows this is being shared publicly instead of one person. Hopefully in time I can do away with that voice and not say anything too controversial! My goal is to have this be my candid internal monologue voice instead of some polished speak that isn’t really me. Besides, that’s seldom interesting to read and inauthentic.