At the start of the pandemic, I told myself I wouldn’t write about it. I still believed the mass destabilisation was a mere blip I’d later prefer to forget.
Seeing as I try to keep my writing ahistorical-ish when possible, why jump on the bandwagon of picking over what would surely just be a few weird weeks? Hey, remember when we all lost our minds and started sanitising groceries and bumping elbows? Yeah, that was a strange moment.
Plus, I couldn’t excavate a single coherent sentence —even in my diary, which went quiet — reflecting all that was happening and…
Over the last four years, I’ve amassed a tangled array of thousands of notes on things I find interesting or useful. They’re collected from some combination books, blog posts, songs, tweets, Wikipedia pages, news articles, forum posts, things people say, and ideas that drift into my brain.
Having previously shared some of my notes on writing as thinking in public and on improving writing quality, here’s a selection of my notes on ideation: where ideas come from, how to have more of them, how to be creative, and so on. …
I read a lot of good books in 2020.
Like many people, I found myself often struggling to focus last year. Contrary to my usual prioritisation of reading, I ended up probably watching more TV and reading more news each month than I would normally do in a year. But that was balanced out by having more free time to read and a number of work projects requiring extensive research.
During 2020, I became more meticulous about taking notes on what I read. …
We go sober for months, then binge drink every night for a week. We save up for a holiday, then blow it all on pointless crap. We meet wonderful, stable people, then push them away with an explosion of unwarranted vitriol. We skip town the night before an opportunity or don’t answer the phone when an important answer comes.
We extinguish opportunities and stamp out possibilities. We stand there, faces smudged with the ashes of what could have been, and secretly delight in the destruction.
We stay up a little too late, without any real reason to do so, then…
‘Run experiments, place bets, say oops. Anything less is an act of self-sabotage.’ — Eliezer Yudkowsky, Inadequate Equilibria
In my last post, I wrote about why I love short-term experiments as a way to learn new stuff and stress-test existing beliefs.
As part two of that post, here’s a list of around forty ideas for one-month experiments, along with a brief summary of why they might be interesting.
I’m months overdue a book review post because my reviews have been getting too long and therefore intimidating to start writing. So I’ll keep to a few lines on each book, or it will be time to write about another month by the time I finish this one. According to Goodreads, I hit my 2020 goal of 100 books. That’s 29,035 pages or an average of 80 per day. Cool.
Monkeyluv: And Other Essays on Our Lives as Animals — Robert M. Sapolsky
‘One of the most important concepts in all of biology is that you can’t ever really state…
Experimental archaeology is a field of study where researchers learn more about history by recreating something people in the past did or used to see how it works. For example, researchers have tried transporting stones of the same size and weight as the ones used in Stonehenge across similar distances using the technology available at the time to see how it might have been done.
Unexpected things always happen when theory makes contact with reality. Trying out a hypothesis by doing something tangible in the real world overcomes information that isn’t apparent from theorising or studying hypotheses.
No matter how…
It took years of angsty fumbling to write my Sort-of love letter to Bright Eyes, an attempt to convey a slither of the adoration I’ve felt (and still feel) for that band.
But The Beatles came first. I’ve loved them for about 14 years now. Despite countless efforts, I’ve never come close to laying out my associated emotions like butterflies in a display case. The Beatles are hard to write about.
What’s left to say? Whenever I sketched out my thoughts they seemed so mundane compared to the whirlwind of glitter I’d tried to translate. …
The biggest predictor of whether any project I start goes well or whether I can complete any goal I set myself is almost always whether I’m able to keep working on it until it’s done, or whether I get excited about something new and jump into starting that.
Letting unfinished projects you were once enthusiastic about pile up is a bad idea for a few reasons.
Recently, I started trying to loosely organise by topic the tangled array of notes I collect in both my physical notebooks, in Google Docs, and different notes apps. I gather these from books, blog posts, songs, tweets, Wikipedia pages, news articles, forum posts, things people say, and ideas that drift into my brain.
So I’m sharing a few posts compiling notes on different topics. I’ll aim to update each post every so often as I collect more on the same theme.
Here are some of my favourite notes on editing and other ways of improving your writing quality. …