A bit of meandrous writing

Over the last two days the weblog picked up a lot more traffic than usual. I’m going to attribute that to posting on a more regular basis. It did not look like the posts were being read in order. That was a very curious thing that caught my attention. All the content here shared a common writer, but the topics being covered vary widely. I updated the “About Nels” page to suggest that new readers start with my 40th birthday weblog post. That was the post where I realized that my ability to carry a narrative thread along the way with me from post to post was lacking. Telling a really good sustained story day after day is a skill. Perhaps it is a skill that I need to learn to better master along the journey of daily writing. Getting back into the swing of writing has taken some time and things have been going well enough. I’m not talking about a solid 5 single spaced pages a day of productivity, but things are getting back to normal. 

Throughout this Memorial Day weekend I’m going to spend some time reflecting to commemorate and I’m going to work on understanding how to build infographics. My base election prediction model is pretty simplistic and should be really easy to turn into a series of graphics, but those graphics would not be interactive. My ability to build graphics is generally geared toward putting them in academic publications that are very static and not designed to be a living thing that people could tinker with and enjoy. Perhaps that is the beautiful and lasting contribution of Jupyter notebooks to the social sciences space. You can share the chart creation to others for the purposes of both replication and extension. Somebody could take and tinker with what was done to produce something interesting. That is where my time will be spent at the intersection of building out my base election prediction models in some Jupyter notebooks and working toward sharing those on GitHub along the way for others to be able to work with going forward. 

One of my intellectual hobbies over the years has been trying to extend sentiment analysis to electoral prediction in ways using bots. Most of that effort was not micro-targeted; it was very macro level analysis based on tracking news media down to see sentiment assuming that sentiment was passed along to readers. One of the things that this last election cycle identified in the modeling is that the transitive property of sentiment has become weaker as a factor in any model and that political sentiment has become highly sticky. The assumption of sticky political sentiment creates a much different election modeling algorithm. We will see if it is effective in November. The trajectory of my academic work will be focused in this area for the rest of the year. I feel that is a solid place to put my efforts right now. Other researchers are focusing their attention on other things in this time of quarantine. This is where my attention will be focused and hopefully it will help me both learn better interactive infographic creation skills and it will help me share a project based on election modeling. I’m going to build all my forecasting and projection models from the ground up so they are easy to review, modify, and replicate.

Interrupted. Coffee. 

Today instead of listening to my Warren Zevon station on Pandora I decided to let a few of my YouTube subscription videos play. This does pull my attention in and out of writing in a different way than what happens during the course of only listening to music. For the most part listening to music while I write helps me focus and the music is sort of in the background and the writing is in the forefront of my attention. Watching YouTube videos tends to pull my attention from one side of the screen where the video is playing and back to the other side of the screen where I am writing. This is an entirely different setup on my Google Pixelbook Go where the screen size does not really support split screen efforts. This Dell UltraSharp 38 inch curved monitor has worked really well. The specific model I received on March 11, 2019 was the U3818DW. I’m using the built in KVM and could simply plug in my Pixelbook via USB Type-C, but my Corsair Cube works well enough for writing that is not required. 

Whoa —- my thoughts just wondered way off topic. Given that this is a stream of consciousness based writing session that is particularly surprising. I really should be listening to music instead of watching videos about guitars and traveling. If you were wondering about my YouTube journey, then let me explain it for you. It pretty much falls into three categories: 1) technology related things, 2) guitar gear, and 3) travel content.    

30 solid minutes of creativity

Get that egg timer ready to sit down and write for 30 solid minutes. Within that slice of joy the promise of 30 solid minutes of creativity exist. It starts with the tepid spark of a blank canvas and expands with each splashing of creativity. Maybe that was enough to make you want to imagine a world of possibility just on the other side of the possible or maybe a yawn will overcome the will to extinguish procrastion. Some people tend to believe procrastination is inherently the reward of relaxation, but that duality never really made sense to me in practice. The simple act of hammering keys on a keyboard or writing with a fountain pen to me is relaxing. Pracrasition that drives me from that act shuts the door to a certain degree of peace of mind knowing the things worth doing were done.

Today a thought arrived related to writing a manuscript titled, “Power & Consequence.” It has been a few years since I sat down and wrote a purely philosophical weighty tome of thought. Maybe now is as good a time as any to carve out a bit of time and make that happen.

Thoughts on what a newspaper brought you

Probably the most compelling aspect of reading a traditional newspaper is the daily summary aspect of the whole experience. It brings you a highly curated summary of the previous day in a highly expected and repeatable way. One of the hardest elements of giving up reading daily newspapers is the ongoing dialogue or the continuity of events that reading the same writers day in and day out brings you. For better or worse they bring a certain degree of perspective to each article. Maybe it is the continuity of a curated set of materials that I really truly miss. My current news routine involves digging into the Google News feed and reading the things the algorithm things are both important and will draw my attention. That is not as fulfilling or it lacks something compared to what I remember form before. It is entirely possible that the algorithm is not as fulfilling as what the editors were curating by hand. Maybe they brought enough things together that they caught my attention.

Today is a planned day of rest and thanksgiving

Today started off with two shots of espresso from my Nespresso Expert machine. It is featured in the thumbnail today. Turning the photo to black and white made it look a little more professional. I used some filter called Eiffel within Google Photos. Overall, the filters seem to work really well. My Google Pixel 3 XL generally does take great photos. We have been looking for a new mirrorless digital camera, but they have such strange price points. A lot of them will probably be on sale today or tomorrow. This week seems to be the peak of sales season online.  

The thing that got me thinking about photos again was my Google Home Hub. That tiny little screen and speaker might not do anything extraordinary, but it does work as a great little picture frame. It has been showing pictures from my family album and some of the throwbacks are pretty fun to see. We rarely look at archived photos. Over the last two years, I have purchased a couple of picture books for people and we have 3 of them in the house. That probably showcases about 300 of the 15,000+ photos that are archived.  

Today I’m planning on relaxing and engaging in some thanksgiving. Working on appreciating and being thankful for things seems like a good way to spend some time today. Outside of that goal I’m planning on watching a movie today. Tickets have already been purchased for a movie called, “Ralph breaks the internet.” That is the big adventure for the day a little bit of entertainment and a whole lot of working on being thankful for things. If that does not work, then I’m going to spin up some classic Warren Zevon records and work on relaxing. That is the order of operations for the day and we will see how it ends up going. Starting Friday, I’m going to start digging into my digital sandbox and working on crafting something new and interesting. 

These words get going again

Rambling. Even before the start these words were going to be rambling. These words being written today got going just in time to write. Today started off slowly. It was one of those days that just does not click. Maybe it was recovering from a slight back strain or just a poor night of sleep. Whatever the cause might have been things did not get going the way they should have to start the week off. That happens from time to time, but it cannot become the routine or things just end up being unpleasant.

Still rambling on. I’m listening to Monday night football on my Chromebook. The Denver Broncos are playing the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead. Opening the game in one Chrome tab and writing in another seemed to make sense. It seems like I can do more and more with my Chromebook. That has been working out in my favor. The whole writing thing for better or worse is about spending time engaging in the practice of writing.

My goal for tonight was to sit down and just write for 30 minutes straight without stopping, pausing, or reconsidering the nature of my efforts. I picked up a Boss Metal Zone M-2 guitar effects pedal from an eBay auction. At some point, I may have owned one of these pedals before. For some reason that is something that I cannot exactly remember. A long time ago, my original guitar setup was flooded out in a Kansas basement. All of the gear got wet and simply did not make it based on a combination of mold and water damage.

It seemed like a good idea after moving a couple of years back to get a small Marshall amplification stack for my office. A small head unit connects to two smaller speaker cabinets. In terms of a guitar amplification setup it delivers a nice warm clean tone that is ready for guitar pedals. Next week at some point it will be delivering the sounds of a guitar and a Boss Metal Zone M-2 guitar pedal.