Should I Move My Blog Here?

I’m currently blogging using Pelican as my static site generator (here’s a link). I started with that because it seemed like the cool thing to do – write your own blog, control everything, and write posts in plain text, or markdown.

But as time went by, and I wrote more and more, I got annoyed with the constant need to maintain and manage Pelican. I start getting bored, tinkering its internals. What’s more, it started to take longer to post new entries. Pelican generate the entire site, every time a post is edited. So as I’ve accumulated posts, making changes and seeing their results became a long process. With 26 posts now, it takes almost 2 minutes to a see a change I made in the development site.

So I want to give WP a try. Don’t know if I’ll like it, and if I’ll be ok with loosing some of my control. But who knows…

 

That’s it for a test page, right…?

 

Thinking With Words

I want to capture more thoughts in text. I have lots of ideas and thoughts lately, but I forget most of them, let alone follow up or act on them.

Well, I’ve started moving at that direction – a year ago I wrote nothing; now I write something almost everyday, even if most of what I write isn’t being published, and at best added to my growing draft section.

Anyway, I built an infrastructure that enables me to think-write efficiently. I leaned touch-typing, so now I can, potentially, disconnect my hands from my conscious side of the brain, and let my thoughts transcribe themselves directly into text. I still type slower than I think, and that will probably always be the case, but I can already let my thoughts flow with less friction.

I also sorrounded myself with editors and tools that are there for me whenever a new thought emerges, so I can quickly log it. Here’s a short list of those tools:

  1. Emacs – this is the main editor I use on my laptop. I still have to make some tweaks so I can start a new note from anywhere (and not only from within Emacs).
  2. Drafts – I use it on my iPhone to quickly jot notes on the fly.
  3. Editorial – a richer iOS editor. I use it to edit existing documents, though I rarely actually do it (edit existing files on my phone, I mean).

One set of tools that is missing from that list is, well, pen and paper… Regardless of how many editors I have at my disposable, I still miss the immediacy and flexability of a simple notebook that takes whatever I throw on it, without having to think about format, syntax or styling. If I want to sketch something, I should be able to just take a pen and draw it. If I want to create a quick chart, I don’t want to start looking for the right tool for the exact type of chart I want to illustrate. For some reason though, I can’t find a way to incorporate pen and paper in my writing workflow.

But that’s not the only reason why I still don’t have an efficient way to capture my thoughts1. I also lack self-discipline. I don’t insist on capturing things – too often, when an idea comes up, I tell myself that I should log it and expand on it late. That later never comes… This post, on the other hand, is an example for how I should do it. I started to think about why I don’t capture more thoughts, and insisted on writing this thought live, as it happans. Not sure if anyone but myself can read the outcome or find something valuable in it, but it’s a start.

Now I need to train myself to do it more often, and get better in it, for two main reasons:

  1. To be able to capture things, I should avoid creating a backlog of half baked scribbles. The more partial thoughts that I accumulate, the higher the chance that I will never get back to them.
  2. When I do capture a thought, let my sub-conscious lead the writing, and edit what I came up with later, I tend to screw up that outcome. My thought is being mutilated by my conscious self to the point it makes no sense anymore, and. If I get better at capturing a thought as it appears, I will need less post-processing, and the thought will remain fresh and true to its original meaning.

So, to summarize, what I want to be able to do is capture a meaningful thought when it shows. The write up should be legible. It can take any form, and be in any format – digital or analoge.

The KPI I can monitor to measure progress is the time it takes from a “meaningful thought” to a published post. It means that I should capture the time when a thought or an idea emerged (12/28/15 9:05am for this one), and the time it went live (in this case – 10:50am, which is probably a record!)

Footnotes:

1

Obviously, I don’t intend to capture every thought that pops randomly, only those that are “capture worthy”.

Quotes: Little Gidding

Couple of weeks ago I was vacationing with my family at DR. In one of the nights, at about midnight, I was lying half asleep in-front of the TV, watching some show about Vietnam in the only English channel (Discovery Channel, I remember that), while my ears caught this quote:

We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.

This line stirred me up so much, that I rose up, took my iPhone and googled the few words I was able to recall. It turned out that this line was taken from T.S Eliot’s poem – Little Gidding. The next day, I read the entire poem. It wasn’t an easy read1, but several more parts of it moved me just as much. Here are couple of them:

… last year’s words belong to last year’s language And next year’s words await another voice.

Let me disclose the gifts reserved for age … Second, the conscious impotence of rage At human folly, and the laceration Of laughter at what ceases to amuse.

Mysterious are the ways of knowledge and inspiration… one should always be willing and ready to absorb more of them…

Footnotes:

1

Here’s some analyses and commentary, in case you would like to get deeper.

On Touch Typing and Failure

I’ve started to learn touch typing. It’s embarrassing to admit that I still haven’t learned it, given the amount of time I spend on a keyboard everyday. But it’s better to do it later than never.

My goals in doing so are 1) to become more efficient and proficient with my writing and 2) to reduce friction in my thought process. I want to be able to capture thoughts as soon and as they appear, and as accurately as possible.

I use an app, called typist, to walk me through the process, and monitor the two main KPIs that infer progress: accuracy (or error ratio) and words per minute (wpm).

Initially, everything went smoothly. I advanced quickly through the exercises, and felt I’m doing well. I thought it will take no time before I master the new skill. But then, this encouraging trend withered. My improvement stagnated, plateaued, and turned backward. Soon, I typed worst than I did before starting the exercises.

Not knowing how this can happen, I decided to sacrifice speed, and focus instead on accuracy. Once I type fluently, I thought, it will be easier to pick up speed. That didn’t work, though. I spent hours trying to type the same paragraph over and over again, as slow as possible, but I just couldn’t complete the task without making any mistake.

“…it be came clear that it was not only pointless to continue these exercises but positively dangerous, since I was oppressed more and more by a premonition of failure…” Zen in the Art of Archery, Eugen Herrigel

My conscious attempts to avoid mistakes actually also contributed to them. It was as if I had knew a mistake is imminent, and thus imminent it became.

I’m still learning, and fighting my anticipation of mistypings. But I did modify my strategy, aiming at crossing this chasm. Instead of focusing on an entire paragraph, I’m now trying to concentrate on only one word at a time, absorb this word, touch type it, return my fingers to the home row, move my attention to the next word, and repeat. This new routine improved my accuracy, and more importantly, redressed the anxious wait for a mistake to happen.

This pattern isn’t new to me. I experienced it many times before, when acquiring various new skills. It’s the accumulation of new knowledge that uncover subtleties I wasn’t aware of before. Learning english was, and still is, one such experience. The more I learn, read and communicate, the more aware I become to the mistakes I make.

“Among swordmasters, on the basis of their own and their pupils’ experience, it is taken as proved that the beginner, however strong and pugnacious he is, and however courageous and fearless he may be at the outset, loses not only his lack of self−consciousness, but his self−confidence, as soon as he starts taking lessons. He gets to know all the technical possibilities by which his life may be endangered in combat…”, Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki

As frustrating as this progress is, I keep reminding myself that those mistakes are signs of improvement and progress. He who does not fail, nor makes mistakes, will not get anywhere.