Hi friends, family, acquaintances, curious people,
I’m starting a newsletter on substack, just for you!
This newsletter aims to be entertaining and thought-provoking.
Mainly it’s because I find it hard to keep in touch with friends and family. Our contexts have drifted so far apart that most zoom calls calibrating our brains together and getting on the same page.
There are some merits to long format writing over conversations, too. Namely, it’s one-sidedness: that only a single person dictates the tone and topic of the discussion; this helps us avoid talking at cross purposes and having conversations in which neither person understands where the other person is coming from.
There are downsides too. The words you use only account for 7% of the emotional content of speech. The tone of voice and body language accounts for the remaining 38% and 55%, respectively. Therefore I don’t intend for this to replace our phone calls. Rather, it is a means to reduce the amount of dead time we spend calibrating on the phone when we do speak.
For those of you with whom I speak very little nowadays, I really appreciate it when you reach out. Perhaps reading this will lower the activation energy for you to do so.
Where Am I, and what am I up to?
Most recently, I went to California for two and a half months. I couch-surfed and stayed with friends until my visa ran out.
Starting in San Francisco proper, I stayed with friends J and E. They were making a drug company, and I slept on their couch with a crypto VC (an early investor in Solana.) Then I went to stay with my friend G for a few weeks. He was making a satellite at a house that calls itself “Genesis”. Genesis has a print of The Creation of Adam sitting above the entranceway. G paid for my living expenses in Stellar Lumens; in turn, I helped him with his CubeSat company; I hope I was helpful. I think I was. I did my best, given the circumstances. We watched Twin Peaks and experienced the human condition together.
Then I went to Stanford to visit the Stanford crew, especially S. I stayed in F and S’s Stanford commune. At this point, I became a writer-poet. I wrote some poems and short stories. One of those short stories was a crass imitation of the love affairs in Nanjing 1937 in which I cast members of the commune as characters—incidentally, becoming a better writer is another reason for starting this newsletter. Having an audience to write for is highly motivating, and it completely changes my process; it makes me think differently about the words I put down.
After Stanford, I stayed with: JC and GJ at “Incepto” (another house)—I read half of Steve Jobs’ biography here and took up gouache painting with MX, then I stayed with AL and her Berkeley Singaporean community at (surprise, surprise) Berkeley, then with MX and RH for a day. At some point, MX was living at a house with a travelling poet called A and some brain engineers, including NS, at the now deceased “Only Panic” house (rest in peace.) NS is a ‘funemployed’ highly technical neurotech enthusiast, psychonaut, and purchaser of GameStop stocks; I liked him a lot. He has a dirt bike. I’m also funemployed right now. NS referred me to the Recurse Center; he did Recurse instead of college—more on RC below. Each of these episodes deserves its own post, but I have yet to digest them.
Unfortunately, I didn’t journal much because I was too busy living, but the few journal entries I have, make for interesting reading. Here’s an extract:
A lady just walked into the cafe, screamed, and ran back out. There's a giant snake in the cafe. The snake is a celebrity. The owner says it's been on stage at many music festivals.
The lady in question was someone living at the Genesis house. I recognized her, but she didn’t notice me. She was too busy trying not to trip over her high heels as she made her hasty exit.
Here’s another one:
She was very outgoing. We got talking, and she told me that she went to live in this place called C during the nine months that she was travelling during covid. C is an all-female farmland commune. Some of the older women have children with them, and they drink mescalin-lased lemonade every day. The landowner is a man who abuses his tenants sexually on a monthly basis, but they put up with it and stay there because "it's the closest thing they have to a utopia".
I never knew things like that existed in the United States—I guess it takes all sorts to make a world.
All in all, going to the States was quite fun. Maybe I’ll write more detailed accounts of these adventures in future posts.
Now I’m back in Canada. I’m writing code daily at the Recurse Center (RC). It’s an online coding retreat for online coders. The RC community subscribes to the unschooling education philosophy. That means that I decide what to learn and what to build and when to work and how to learn and who to work with and when to learn to work and when to code to learn and when your code works, it builds and that building is learning and that when your code doesn’t build you just need to learn more and work harder. Handling all of that can be confusing at times. In the words of Michael Neilsen, a mighty Recurser, the Recurse Center “flexes your volitional muscle.”
So far, at RC, I’ve made a little foray into web dev. Once I finish building a backend for my website, I’ll move back to more familiar territory: my goal is to contribute to the Rust Ising model library. Rust is a programming language I’ve never touched before, but Ising models are familiar. Ising models are a kind of mathematical way of describing ferromagnets. I’m choosing Rust because it is a strongly typed, compiled language; this means the simulations will run faster than, say, python, and also because many people in my RC batch seem to be aboard the Rust hype train, so there’ll be plenty of people with whom to practice and learn from. After that, I might also learn more about Digital Signal Processing (DSP), TBD.