Breck's Blog - Writing Posts

I was walking in the woods and saw a path on my right. I had never seen this path before.

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April 5, 2024 β€” Have you ever examined the correlation between your writing behavior and sleep?

I've written some things in my life that make me cringe. I might cringe because I see some past writing was naive, mistaken, locked-in, overconfident, unkind, insensitive, aggressive, or grandiose.

I now have a pretty big dataset to identify my secret trick to write more cringe: less sleep.

For this post I combined 2,500 nights of sleep data with 58 blog posts. A 7 year experiment to see how sleep affects my writing.

Interactive version.

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January 30, 2024 β€” I have kept this blog going for 14 years, through good times and bad. One thing I've noticed, particularly recently, is that, after getting a post out, my mind feels calmer the rest of the day. I also feel like each post helps me develop some actionable insight, however small, that I can use going forward in the future.

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January 12, 2024 β€” For decades I had a bet that worked in good times and bad: time you invest in word skills easily pays for itself via increased value you can provide to society. If the tide went out for me I'd pick up a book on a new programming language so that when the tide came back in I'd be better equipped to contribute more. I also thought that the more society invested in words, the better off society would be. New words and word techniques from scientific research helped us invent new technology and cure disease. Improvements in words led to better legal and commerce and diplomatic systems that led to more justice and prosperity for more people. My read on history is that it was words that led to the start of civilization, words were our present, and words were our future. Words were the safe bet.

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June 13, 2023 β€” I often write about the unreliability of narratives. It is even worse than I thought. Trying to write a narrative of one's own life in the traditional way is impossible. I am writing a narrative of my past year and realized while there is a single thread about where my body was and what I was doing there are multiple independent threads explaining the why.

Luckily I now know this is what the science predicts! Specifically, Marvin Minsky's Society of Mind model.

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May 19, 2023 β€” There are tools of thought you can see: pen & paper, mathematical notation, computer aided design applications, programming languages, ... .

And there are tools of thought you cannot see: walking, rigorous conversation, travel, real world adventures, showering, breathe & body work, ... [1]. I will write about two you cannot see: walking and mentors inside your head.

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December 15, 2021 β€” Both HTML and Markdown mix content with markup:

html A link in HTML looks like <a href="hi.html">this</a> markdown A link in Markdown looks like [this](hi.html).

I needed an alternative where content is separate from markup. I made an experimental minilang I'm calling Aftertext.

aftertext A link in Aftertext looks like this. link hi.html thisContinue reading...

October 15, 2021 β€” I constantly seek ways to improve my writing.

I want my writing to be meaningful, clear, memorable, and short.

And I want to write faster.

This takes practice and there aren't a lot of shortcuts.

But I did find one shortcut this year:

Set a thin column width in your editor

Mine is 36 characters (your ideal width may be different).

Beyond that my editor wraps lines.

This simple mechanic has perhaps doubled my writing speed and quality.

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May 7, 2021 β€” I found it mildly interesting to dig up my earlier blogs and put them in this git. This folder contains some old blogs started in 2007 and 2009. This would not have been possible without the Internet Archive's Machine heart ❀️.

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May 6, 2021 β€” I am aware of two dialects for advice. I will call them FortuneCookie and Wisdom. Below are two examples of advice written in FortuneCookie.

πŸ₯  Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.
πŸ₯  Talking to users is the most important thing a startup can do.

Here are two similar pieces of advice written in Wisdom:

πŸ”¬ In my whole life, I have known no wise people (over a broad subject matter area) who didn't read all the time – none, zero. Charlie Munger
πŸ”¬ I don't know of a single case of a startup that felt they spent too much time talking to users. Jessica Livingston
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February 22, 2021 β€” Today I'm launching the beta of something new called Scroll.

I've been reading the newspaper everyday since I was a kid. I remember I'd have my feet on the ground, my body tilted at an angle and my body weight pressed into the pages on the counter. I remember staring intently at the pages spread out before me. World news, local news, sports, business, comics. I remember the smell of the print. The feel of the pages. The ink that would be smeared on my forearms when I finished reading and stood back up straight. Scroll has none of that. But it does at least have the same big single page layout.

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January 23, 2020 β€” People make biased claims all the time. A decent response used to be "citation needed". But we should demand more. Anytime someone makes a claim that seems biased, call them out with: Dataset needed.

Whether it's an academic paper, news article, blog post, tweet, comment or ad, linking to analyses is not enough. If someone stops at that, demand a link to a clean dataset supporting the author's position. If they can't deliver, they should retract.

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January 16, 2020 β€” I often rail against narratives. I think stories always oversimplify things, have hindsight bias, and often mislead. I spend a lot of time trying to invent tools for making data derived thinking as effortless as narrative thinking (so far, mostly in vain). And yet, as much as I rail on stories, I have to admit stories work.

I read an article that put it more succinctly:

Why storytelling? Simple: nothing else works.
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January 3, 2020 β€” Speling errors and errors grammar are nearly extinct in published content. Data errors, however, are prolific.

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The Attempt to Capture Truth

August 19, 2019 β€” Back in the 2000's Nassim Taleb's books set me on a new path in search of truth. One truth I became convinced of is that most stories are false due to oversimplification. I largely stopped writing over the years because I didn't want to contribute more false stories, and instead I've been searching for and building new forms of communication and ways of representing data that hopefully can get us closer to truth.

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December 16, 2012 β€” When I was a kid I loved reading the Family Circus. My favorite strips were the "dotted lines" ones, which showed Billy's movements over time:

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November 25, 2012 β€” I published 55 essays here the first year. The second and third years combined, that number nosedived to 5.

What caused me to stop publishing?

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October 20, 2012 β€” I love to name things.

I spend a lot of time naming ideas in my work. At work I write my code using a program called TextMate. TextMate is a great little program with a pleasant purple theme. I spend a lot of time using TextMate. For the past year I've been using TextMate to write a program that now consists of a few hundred files. There are thousands of words in this program. There are hundreds of objects and concepts and functions that each have a name. The names are super simple like "Pen" for an object that draws on the screen, and "delete" for a method that deletes something. Some of the things in our program are more important than others and those really important ones I've renamed dozens of times searching for the right fit.

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Is there any subject which cannot be explained simply?
No.
What about quantum mechanics, organic chemistry, or rocket science? Surely these cannot be explained simply.
Any and every subject that can be explained logically, can also be explained simply.
So you are saying that even I can become an expert at quantum mechanics?
No. I am saying that every logical thing there is to learn in quantum mechanics can be explained simply. This holds for all subjects. However, that does not mean that every person can master every subject. Only people that master the basic building blocks of human knowledge can master any subject.
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December 9, 2009 β€” A lot of people have the idea that maybe one day they'll become rich and famous and then write a book about it. That's probably because it seems like the first thing people do after becoming rich and famous is write a book about it.

But you don't have to wait until you're rich and famous to write a book about your experiences and ideas.

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December 2, 2009 β€” What books have changed your life? Seriously, pause for a few minutes and think about the question. I'll share my list in a moment, but first come up with yours.

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December 2, 2009 β€” Decided to blog again. I missed it. Writing publicly, even when you only get 3 readers, two of which are bots and the other is your relative, is to the mind what exercise is to the body. It's fun and feels good; especially when you haven't done it in a while.

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July 7, 2008 β€” After months of deliberation, I’ve decided to quit my day job and work on my blog full time.

I am joking.

But these bloggers were not:

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August 24, 2007 β€” For a few years, GoDaddy kept alerting me that BreckYunits.com was available and I should buy fast before someone else does! Lucky for me, all the other Breck Yunits’ out there weren’t getting the same alerts. Enjoy BreckYunits.info, suckers!!!

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