Continuing thoughts about the “static blog”

After some deliberation, I feel there’s no point in either (1) keeping a separate static-only blog and this blog, or (2) keeping two separate WordPress blogs, because

  • I don’t have the mind space for that. It’s straightforward to have one place for everything
  • If I did want to have a place for code snippets today, they would either belong in a shared dynamic environment, such as repl.it or nextjournal.

So, I’m going to rely on Categories to keep different posts siloed away, and see how that goes …

Previous, unpublished post:

(Found this in my drafts folder, might as well throw it out …)

I’m still thinking through this … when I first looked around, I thought Tumblr was a good candidate for the sort of “snippet-heavy” (gists, quotes, screenshots) that I anticipate throwing into my static blog.

Given that WordPress is actually something I use (for this blog, right here!) and the fact that a new “block-based” editor/design just rolled out, I’m now wondering if I should import my existing Tumblr into a new WordPress blog and just use that instead.

It’ll mean I’ll have two separate WordPress blogs … but that doesn’t seem too bad. This raises the obvious question of … why not have just one blog? Well, because they seem different (in my head, anyway): one is more of a “semi-organized summary of life and interests”, while the other is a sort of “scrapbook of anything connected to programming, computing, commentary and snippets, bits of explorations”.

Anyway, I’ll decide something soon (I hope!)

Angst about the static blog (again!)

This is beyond frustrating … after I moved everything this year to a different layout and thought I was “finally done”, I’m now wondering whether the static site is a good idea at all.

The big bottleneck turns out to be having to SSH somewhere and regenerate/refresh the site that way, which was okay earlier, but feels like a drag now.

I really want to write whenever I get time, since I’m not always onmy laptop. So I resorted to making it “async”, decoupling the writing from a separate time when I go and copy-paste everything into new posts and re-generate … except I then forget to do this sometimes, and every time I write something, I realize I have to now remember to do this other step at some point.

It would be so much better if I could just publish whenever I write. This seems to suggest one of the usual hosted platforms, and then I have to wonder why I even have two separate blogs, and I think of all the effort it would take to convert what I have into a new format (sigh!).

I’m sure there’s a sweet spot that exists somewhere. Is this the kind of thing that Ghostwould provide? Or is this what Tumblr was supposed to be?

Is having a personal hosted site simply too old-school and I need a new kind of place for this?

Or should I just have this WordPress place and — I do want to keep these two “worlds” separate — have two sets of posts? Is that possible?

I just want to be able to write and publish and forget about it 😦

On writing with pen and paper

Very quickly: I love Baron Fig notebooks, both the larger, hard-cover Confidant, and the smaller, soft-cover Vanguard.

After a few years of trying different styles, I realized I vastly preferred white paper with light dots to either plain paper or ruled paper or grid paper, and simply will not use either of them again.

While we’re here, you can’t go wrong with a simple Lamy Safari to write with.

On World Building

Something I came across (and which would be lost, but for the Wayback Machine):

Every moment of a science fiction story must represent the triumph of writing over worldbuilding.

Worldbuilding is dull. Worldbuilding literalises the urge to invent. Worldbuilding gives an unneccessary permission for acts of writing (indeed, for acts of reading). Worldbuilding numbs the reader’s ability to fulfil their part of the bargain, because it believes that it has to do everything around here if anything is going to get done.

Above all, worldbuilding is not technically neccessary. It is the great clomping foot of nerdism. It is the attempt to exhaustively survey a place that isn’t there. A good writer would never try to do that, even with a place that is there. It isn’t possible, & if it was the results wouldn’t be readable: they would constitute not a book but the biggest library ever built, a hallowed place of dedication & lifelong study. This gives us a clue to the psychological type of the worldbuilder & the worldbuilder’s victim, & makes us very afraid.

 

The Parabolic Fabulist

Air Raid shelter in Trieste, with text

About ten years ago I had this idea of a half-poetry, half-prose piece of surreal fiction, that stayed locked in my head and grew rusty over time.

A few months ago (starting with NaNoWriMo 2015, but continuing after that), I hashed out some of this in actual words, and put it together, and after much fear and self-loathing, put it up as an eBook on Amazon.

If you have the right amount of morbid curiosity, you can check it out here, but a couple of warnings:

  • It might read as very amateurish, and perhaps even a bit ”adoloscent-ish”, but much of that is due to when some of these ideas first arrived in my head

  • The form is very unusual, with alternating ”strands” instead of a chapter-based book. Again, this might seem nonsensical, but it’s how things came out and it seemed natural. I’m pretty sure I will never do this again.

The only objective good part of this is that I think I enjoyed the experience1 and definitely want to do it again. Maybe the next time I can promote what I’ve written more unapologetically.


  1. Scrivener was very helpful (even though I barely scratched the surface of its features), and the free Preview app that ships with OSX is all I used for the cover. 

NaNoWriMo 2015

I’ve been fooling around with the idea of NaNoWriMo (or NAtional NOvel WRiting MOnth)1 for a while now, but this year I’d like to commit to it publicly.

I don’t think I’ll actually end up writing 50,000 words, but I will write something. I don’t really have anything in mind, but I’m not too worried about that because:
– I’ve heard that you shouldn’t expect to write anything good anyway before you’ve written a million words2
– Instead of pursuing self-consciously “serious” ideas, I’ll use some obviously adoloscent-ish material I dreamed up a decade ago
– I have to try this once


  1. BTW the name is catchy, which is why you also have NaNonWriMo (for non-fiction), NaPlWriMo (for playwriting, and IMHO unpronounceable), NaNoDrawMo (for drawing), NaNoGenMo (for novel generation), and NaBloPoMo (for blogging). 
  2. Attributed to David Eddings … or perhaps Ray Bradbury. Who knows. 

Programming is like writing

From a comment on Slashdot:

I swtiched jobs from being a computer programmer to being an ESL teacher in Japan. Japan is somewhat famous for churning out students who know a lot about English, but can’t order a drink at Mac Donald’s. We used to have a name for those kinds of people with regard to programming languages: language laywers. They can answer any question you put to them about a programming language, but couldn’t program to save their life. These people often make it past job interviews easily, but then turn out to be huge disappointments when they actually get down to work. I’ve read a lot about this problem, but the more I look at it, the more I realise that these disabled programmers are just like my students. They have a vocabulary of 5000 words, know every grammar rule in the book but just can’t speak.

My current theory is that programming is quite literally writing. The vast majority of programming is not conceptually difficult (contrary to what a lot of people would have you believe). We only make it difficult because we suck at writing. The vast majority of programmers aren’t fluent, and don’t even have a desire to be fluent. They don’t read other people’s code. They don’t recognise or use idioms. They don’t think in the programming language. Most code sucks because we have the fluency equivalent of 3 year olds trying to write a novel. And so our programs are needlessly complex.

Those programmers with a “spark” are programmers who have an innate talent for the language. Or they are people who have read and read and read code. Or both. We teach programming wrong. We teach it the way Japanese teachers have been teaching English. We teach about programming and expect that students will spontaneously learn to write from this collection of facts.

In language acquisition there is a hypothesis called the “Input Hypothesis”. It states that all language acquisition comes from “comprehensible input”. That is, if you hear or read language that you can understand based on what you already know and from context, you will acquire it. Explanation does not help you acquire language. I believe the same is true of programming. We should be immersing students in good code. We should be burying them in idiom after idiom after idiom, allowing them to acquire the ability to program without explanation.