All I really want to do today and during this weekend is spend some time coding in Python. That should be easy enough to focus on today. Recently, I have been working on some of the Microsoft training that is freely available. This section of the Microsoft website seems to be called Microsoft Learn and it has a ton of free content you can consume. As you can tell I’m trying out a traditional footnote approach this time around. Bracketed footnotes are being used to just reference things in a post. This seems like the most durable way to do that while I’m writing and using WordPress. Fancier ways exist to do these types of things, but they are not as durable or transferable between spaces utilizing a method of copy and paste. Beyond that aside I’m still focused on spending some type of coding in Python.
 Direct website link https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/learn/browse/
This has been a truly strange year for a multitude of reasons. Things appear to be trending upward in terms of the pandemic and people are about to enter another period of increased isolation. Generally I think people are are of that dynamic, but are trying to figure out how to function well enough to manage things. One of the things about writing in this functional journal in the past was trying to discuss complex things in a very direct way. Things just go so sideways this year that even trying to write about complex emotions was not working. It was not enough to communicate a series of feelings. That in part was probably due to the crushing inability to move on from that perpetual upward trending that could be seen in news reports and on tracking websites. From that understanding it became harder to try to get a foothold between the emotions of being isolated and the uncertainty of what would happen next. Together those two forces have a powerful combined effect on society in general. Wondering what will happen next at such a mass scale is itself a watershed moment for the nation.
That last paragraph contained a very condensed version of my thoughts on the matter. Today I have been thinking about 2020 and what this year has meant. A preponderance of it is already gone, but the effects will linger on for some time. A generation will remember the uncertainty and the crushing feeling of failed containment. Maybe that feeling is what I’m trying to capture, but I simply do not have the capacity to summon words to adequately describe it. People strive forward for improvement to make contributions to the academy to build society. Our nation has been built based on a framework of expanding institutions. We witnessed those institutions challenged in ways that defied the very normative fluidity with which we expect civil society to function. Outside of the strain on institutions even our most basic supply chains began to break down. That realized the actual reliance people have on institutions even the ones sustained by capital exchanges for commodities. A very small percentage of the total population is capable of surviving without being able to shop for food. That is probably one of the driving factors to why the uncertainty this year is so confounding and worrisome.
This post happens to be all about rethinking my social media usage. Back on April 4, 2018, I stopped using Facebook. Right now I do use Twitter and LinkedIn. Both of those applications are in my startup tabs for the Chrome internet browser. That means that every time I open Chrome on my Chromebook or this Windows 10 computer both of those applications open up. Doing that means they are right in my field of view and they both generally get some attention. I use both applications in very different ways. LinkedIn is generally a place where I just check the alerts and messages before moving on. Based on whatever algorithm they use for interest they suggest a few posts that I should read or that I might be interested in consuming. Generally speaking I follow the suggestions of the algorithm and take a glance at the content. For the most part it points me at things that I find interesting. Scrolling through LinkedIn generally is not something that is worth my time and I find it to be disjointed anyway. It would be easy to just focus on consuming LinkedIn one day a week instead of on a daily basis. For most people I’m not sure there is any real benefit to being a daily active LinkedIn user.
My experience with Twitter has been a little different over the years. Generally I do not encounter anything toxic in my feed. The people that I follow share scholarly content and thoughts about machine learning or artificial intelligence. It is highly disjointed as a communication medium. I pickup the feed in chronological order and only see very small parts of the overall stream at any one time. That means that I have no context of the importance or amplification of any one thing in the stream. Based on where I started and stopped reading I could miss something really valuable or be totally unaware of some type of drama. Given that I do not engage in academic drama of any kind that is not really a problem. When academics decide to fight in public sometimes I will get my popcorn and read the back and forth, but for the most part I figure they should focus that energy on publishing papers. Nothing serves as a zinger like publishing work that contradicts, disproves, or generally questions your rival. That is far more impactful than a furious Tweetstorm that will dissipate into oblivion within days. On a side note I did have to verify that Tweetstorm was a single word. Apparently, it is a somewhat commonly used word.
Somehow I totally forgot about YouTube. Over the years I have made a few videos on YouTube and it does have a comment section where people do engage. For the most part my engagement on YouTube is to enter comments and push the like button on videos that seemed interesting. I know that both comments and likes help content creators to amplify their videos based on algorithmic sharing. To that end I generally try to write unique comments and engage to support the content creator. That is not really social media in my mind it is amplification of content. Given that it involves my name and is on a media platform it has been included in this diatribe about social media usage. That seems to be appropriate. It could at some point in the future be more social in nature, but at the moment it is rather here and gone in terms of focus and attention.
Right now my record player is completely separated from anything digital. It is 100% analog at the moment. For some inexplicable reason my Audioengine D1 digital audio converter purchased back in 2015 is throwing a weird Code 43 error. It uses one of those weird USB Type-B connectors (like an old printer cable). I have tried 3 different cables to get it working and a host of different USB ports. One of the cables was an older USB 1.0 standard and a couple of the other ones were USB 2.0 standard. None of them worked. I even tried plugging the whole thing into a USB hub to try to make it work that way, but nothing worked. Right now I’m listening to things on my monitor speakers. I’m not a big fan of that type of audio. It lacks the depth of my Audioengine A5+ speakers. Those speakers are now sitting on a credenza behind me plugged into a record player. That is working out well enough for records, but the rest of my audio needs are not being met very well with the monitor. Trying a host of different cables and ports did not seem to help at all. Sometimes troubleshooting fails. At this point in time, I send a note over to Audioengine to see if they have any idea how to defeat this horrible Code 43 error. It is entirely possible that my 5 year old DAC gave up the ghost and it may be time to purchase a new one at some point.
A rational exuberance swept the nation yesterday. People poured into the streets to share that emotion outwardly in the public square. It was a day where shouting huzzah on the internet alone would not do for the moment at hand. It was without question one of those shared moments that resonated with a tremendous block of people.
Today I’m back over writing in Google Docs instead of Microsoft Word. It was only a short one day trip back to using the stand alone Word application. I’m apparently happier writing in Google Docs and that will have to stand. No sense in using an application that exudes sadness and blocks the way to fun fulfilled writing sessions of frantic word creation. Right now this block of writing times includes a few minutes before breakfast. I should be able to capture a few thoughts and really dig into what needs to be done today.
Overall the one thing that I have to return to routine is drafting and writing academic papers. One way to help make sure that happens would be to commit to attending (virtually probably) academic conferences. Previously I have found that making those commitments helps put the pressure on to write the corresponding academic article or at least take one from draft to complete. Something about having to stand up in front of a room of academics helps motivate having a finished paper to defend. That is certainly one way to go about getting the academic paper working process going. It looks like a few different requests for proposals and papers have come into my email inbox in the last 30 days.
I’m starting to work on a new machine learning related presentation. Over the last couple of weeks I have settled on a topic and the writing process will have to start shortly. Generally after the process starts it will flow to a conclusion. It is generally problematic if the writing process does not start. Outlines and some whiteboarding generally begin the process in earnest and what follows is more traditional. That is where my head is at right now and it seems to be a good place going into the last two months of 2020. For the most part, this has been a lost year in terms of my writing output and productivity. That fact alone puts a lot of pressure on to build out a lot more content in 2021.