Notes for Wednesday, October 20, 2021


I’ve got a daily workflow that’s clearly working. I think I’ve written every evening for a week. It feels like the work is already done and needs editing because I’ve got a set of notes in a Drafts document.

Today I added a step of pushing the files to DEVONThink Pro and and sending them to the Drafts Archive once I’ve pushed the file to WordPress and published on the site. So that’s a daily inbox, editing and publishing workflow.

So do I process these daily notes further? They are nicely searchable in DEVONthink but as daily note entries they are a mix of topics. I’m think that maybe I need to start accumulating some notes on themes for a bit of synthesis. I should focus on editing the book manuscript. Today I finished my first pass through Chapter 3 on Values and printed out Chapter 4, the introduction to uncertainty. The focus of these first chapters is exposition of the main aspects of decision theory but recasting options, values and probability as subjective, personal judgements rather than anything external or verifiable.


I’ve often thought that the true test of art is whether it lasts in the mind, provoking recollection and reflection. For example, Mr Corman on Apple TV seemed interesting, but I had trouble getting through the first episode. It felt like it had pretension to art, but struck me as dreary and dislikable. Like one does with art sometimes, I gave it a chance and now that it’s done, I find myself reflecting on it from time to time. The show’s theme of living after failing to achieve the dreams of youth is a powerful one. It’s something everyone deals with in their life’s journey, but a subject not often depicted so honestly. And even the most successful people, Joseph Gordon-Levitt included I have to assume, have not done all the things they aspired to.

I took a walk in the woods today

Most of us won’t make a living from our creative practice. We create for ourselves and share the product for validation and ego. I respect Cal Newport for this. He’s a working academic but has long put in enormous effort into writing and adding positively to the public discourse. I think the work suffers when it becomes a brand and disconnected from the life. The best journalists are working on understanding history as it happens, not simply gaining audience. I think we’d rather have a few students or even some disciples rather than an audience.

Evolution depends on variation

I find that discussions of evolution focus on selection and the adaptation of organisms to their environment. It’s important to remember that selection can only occur when there is pre-existing variation, so that successful species will have genetic variability that expresses itself as individuals that differ one from another. It’s our differences that have enabled our survival.

The complex systems that we deal with every day like forests, corporations and cats are there because they are stable. A virus that rapidly infects and kills every one of its hosts is successful for only a very short period of time. The virus that infects, kills a few of its hosts but makes the rest stronger will hang around for as long as the ecology lasts. It the stability of complex systems that keeps them going long enough that we can actually observe them.

While stability is the key to survival, predictability is not. If a bug responds the same way to each stimulus, it’s predators can anticipate the response every time. Organisms build in unpredictability.

I heard this today: “I take it for granted that everyone would like to function at a higher physical, mental, and spiritual level. Do you really need a plan to get there or just a desire to show up and do the work?”

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