On Not Writing

I’m sitting in Pret, at my favorite spot in the store, dark coffee with tons of sugar, listening to Requiem For A Dream for the gazillionth time. This was the soundtrack of my life for the last month, playing in an infinite loop, and with every repeat charging me with more energy. So much energy, that I’m about to explode.

For a month now, I’m doing some of the coolest stuff I’ve ever did. At work, the product and team I’m leading got the recognition it deserve1, being featured by Mark Zuckerberg in the opening keynote at F82.

In parallel, I’m working on my own thing, and while looking for a technical co-founder, I’ve started to get my hands dirty with code. Elastic search, python scripts, email scrapping, logstach and kibana are just few of the technologies I got myself familiarized.

Everything’s good except for one thing, though: I didn’t write a single post during all that time. If writing was part of me, this would have been the best month for it to flourish. I could share so many experiences, learning and lessons; I could also even brag (just a little) about some the successes my team had. But nothing got documented. This month was like a dream vacation where I took no photos.

But all is not lost. When I started this blog, I “bought” an “insurance policy”, specifically for that situation. I initiated the Blog Writing meetup and surrounded myself with people who are passionate about writing, who can support me, while supporting each other, to stay on the wagon (or is it off the wagon…).

This week, I made a claim to my insurance. In our monthly meetup, I shared with the group my struggle in keep writing during this crazy month, and my frustration when finding that the writing mussel got weaken so quickly when not being trained for only this short period, hindering me from getting back to writing.

Fortunately, my investment paid off. I learned from members of the group not only the writing-hacks that might help me get back on writing, but that I’m not the only one suffering from those symptoms.

Sue Hellene, a novelist and a published author, shared that she has different moods for writing, and can’t write productively at night. She also related with my feeling that writing is like a muscle, and that it weakens if not trained regularly. Melody had many good tips to overcome writers’ block. For her, setting a deadline for each post, absorbing herself in the editor, eliminating any possible destruction (read – disconnect from the internet…), and, sometime, the a glass of wine, help keeping her writing on track. Dee-on reminded me of the morning pages, which were my initial inspiration. And lastly, Joe’s post, “The Look of Silence”, helped me think of my posts as notes-to-self again, and not worried about those who might read them, hence freeing myself to write whatever on my mind.

And thanks to that group, here I am, writing again. Sitting in this coffee place, starting from a morning page that turned into this post, my Emacs is in full screen and I’m committed to push publish before going back home. Nothing special, interesting, or helpful in this post, just a small, personal, step forward; a light jog after a month of no exercises. Rarely will a quote from physics will be that appropriate:

“Every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it.” Newton’s First Law of Motion

Footnotes:

1

At least from the technology world. wish it would have a fraction of it internally…

2

Details on what that product is will come in a follow-up post…

Make Food Fun Again

So this idea that I had. I was talking with a company that is doing personalization for jobs – UpScored. I knew Elise, their CEO, from twitter and gave their newly launched product a spin. I came back with some feedback, and after a good chat with Elise, I realized that the problem I’m working on my day-to-day – personalization engine for content, is relevant for other fields as well.

A day later, I was introduced to on of the co-founders of Plated – a meal planning service. He’s story, of how they’ve started the company, reminded me a lot of how and why I’ve started FeedMe – a marketplace for food company that I started about 5 years ago and close about a year later. He was talking about Plated as a food-tech company, while I was struggling what technology had to do with the service, other than having a consumer facing website.

Anyway, at that point I was doing one plus one in my head, and the idea to develop a true technological approach to food discovery popped up. I want to develop an app that will tell me what I want to eat. Let me offer some context, though.

While food related technologies and services proliferate, the simple question of “what to eat?” becomes harder than ever.

Here’s an example: last weekend I went to Austin, for the SXSW festival. I landed on Friday morning, and headed downtown for breakfast. I opened Yelp, to “discover” what I should be eating. But after looking into the first 5 results (out of hundreds), I became hungrier and less patient, so I picked up the first restaurant that I saw across the street, and which seemed decent. Yelp didn’t help me to “discover” the best of Austin.

Another example: Every night (no exaggerations), I have the same dialog with my wife:

Screen_Shot_2016-03-20_at_00.03.51.png

So the problem is that not being able to choose what to eat takes the fun out of the food experience. I want an app, or a service that will take the decision for me, based on my history, my taste, my diet and that’s of my partner for the order.

I spent the previous week researching, brainstorming with friends, wire-framing and what not, and got a long way in defining the problem and focusing the approach for the solution. More on it in following posts.

Just A Couple Of Emacs Keybindings

Every now and then I’ll type something in Emacs with a certain goal, just to find that I get something completely different from what I’ve intended.

When in org file, I tried to convert a list item to a sub-header. The keybinding to make this conversion is C-c *. But when I (thought I) typed it, instead of getting a sub-header, a new buffer opened at the bottom of the frame – a calculator:

emacs-calc-mode.png

Figure 1: Calc mode

view-lossage

I had no idea how did that happen, and luckily recalled a tip I got, on how to move back in time using the view-lossage command, which display last 300 input keystrokes. Doing so, I found that instead of C-c *, I typed C-x *.

So now I know (and hopefully remember) that:

  1. There’s a calculator1 in Emacs, bound to C-x *
  2. C-h l is a useful way to track back clumsy keystrokes

Footnotes:

1

Not that I had any doubts there is, just didn’t think to look for it just yet. There are so many other “to-learn” things on my list…

NY Mechanical Keyboards Meetup

I’ve just started a new meetup group in NYC. This groups is all about mechanical keyboards! 

So if you’re around (in the NYC area), if you have reminiscences to the tactile feel and click-clacky noise keyboards used to have when you were a kid, if you’re already spellbound, spanding hundreds of dollars in Massdrop, if you know everything about SA and DSA,  if you’re one of the 5% who had their spacebar flipped, if you have just built your own Ergdox, or if you just want to learn what’s all the fuss with those retro, charming typing devices – join us

My WordPress Development Workflow

I currently use a child-theme for this site1, its parent being twentysixteen. I keep modifying this theme on my local machine and push updates to my live site. But in parallel, I want to start building a completely new theme, based on the starting _s theme. I’m uncomfortable developing this new theme within the same local environment; I want, instead, to create a playground where I can experiment, knowing it’s completely isolated from my production environment.

 Continue reading My WordPress Development Workflow

No Exuses To Blogging

No-Excuses-Guide-to-Blogging-Sacha_Chua-v2.jpg

Awhile back I wrote about my experience learning to touch type. While writing it, I found this related article by Sacha Chua, which helped me rationalize to myself why it is such an important skill to learn. I ended up spending almost an hour browsing Sacha’s site. The amount of resources, posts, tips and tutorials that she shares is humongous!

Continue reading No Exuses To Blogging