Auf Wiedersehen, Deutschland

It’s been two years since I started my two-year contract as a visiting scientist here in Germany, so I will be leaving soon. I have mixed feelings about this, but ultimately my family situation would have made it very difficult for me to continue with another contract, although I would have welcomed one. I would have preferred that my wife move here with me permanently, with occasional trips back to the US, but her friends and family are almost all in the US, and she has the opposite of social anxiety – she would do much worse “all alone” here than I have. The second-best solution, for her to spend half her time here, likely wouldn’t have worked either, due to various additional life complications that needn’t be related here. Finally, when I visited the US over Christmas, I realized that I hadn’t realized how much I missed various aspects of life with family and friends. Once I had self-quarantined and tested negative, I was within my “pod”, which I haven’t had in Germany. One major pleasure was the fact that the ingredients I most like to cook with were easily available in a way they are not in Germany. I gained substantial weight, more than half of which probably came from dishes that I didn’t really have the wherewithal to easily put together here.

As much as I love living in what I judge to be a much more civilized locale – I really do have almost entirely positive feelings for the local Germany-Netherlands-Belgium region – the day-to-day difficulties of language, combined with my already-blogged-about social anxiety and other weaknesses, do leave me feeling quite lonely and adrift. I certainly can live with that to some extent; as a loner-nerd some aspects of Covid-19 lockdown feel like they were made for me, although I would guess that most self-described loners no longer quite feel as much at-one with their asociality as they may have at the beginning of the pandemic. Returning to Germany after Christmas this year felt much less like coming home than it did last year (in fact, it was a slog I may blog about some day). Now that my fate is sealed, part of me can’t wait to finish tying things up here and getting back to Baltimore. Another part, of course, wishes I could have the best of both worlds. If I were wealthy, I could maintain my apartment here and simply use it as a base for annual travel.

Ultimately, I feel this is a positive development, or I can create that impression in my mind, or at least it’s not totally negative (as I said, I have mixed feelings; perhaps in some language there is a word that means “mixed, weird, mostly positive but with some negative, feelings” (Seltsamgutschlechtgefühl?)). I think my effectiveness at my chosen humanitarian effort was hampered by a mismatch between my abilities and responsibilities. Fortunately, I have some current projects ongoing that I will be able to increase my involvement with, and I am developing a specific project that I think I will be able to pull off, even with my acknowledged deficiencies. I think there is a good chance that here in Germany I have “seeded” a project that will be ongoing, which was at least my minimum goal, and I have learned (or confirmed) much about myself. My German, while still terrible, is much improved. I can often get the gist of paragraphs that I read. When listening to news in slow German I often understand many of the words, and sometimes recognize words that I know I don’t know the meaning of. I hope to continue my German studies: it will help keep my brain more plastic, which is desirable; I will not be giving up on the German studies I began in high school and briefly continued in college, giving me a sense of fulfillment; I hope my wife and I will be able to again indulge in our every-few-years European travel, likely with some part of that in Germany.

Deferred Interactivity

I’m not proud of the fact that I am not a gregarious person. I tend to be socially anxious, unless I’m with people I’ve known and liked for some time. When necessary I can compensate by “faking it”. While I don’t exactly embrace this characteristic about myself, I don’t think this has to be bad: a person is the way they are and shouldn’t always feel guilty about that (although I think that often society disagrees). However, for the sake of consideration, I’m willing to stipulate that social anxiety is not a desirable personality trait. Now, with some tendencies we may not like about ourselves, simply repeating the disliked behavior enough times can cure or eliminate the anathema. Perhaps the unliked activity builds up up metaphorical calluses, or exercises atrophied metaphorical mental muscles. For example, until recently I wasn’t a flosser. I’ve always known I should floss, much as I know I should (perhaps) interact better and more often with people. With flossing I started slowly, literally one tooth-gap the first day, two the second, etc., until I was doing the upper teeth one day and the lower teeth the next, and really hating it. The metaphorical scar tissue or muscles weren’t happening. It turns out that the floss I was using sucked, and when I started using a better floss, I immediately switched to doing the whole jaw every day, and I’ve kept it up.

With socializing, especially with strangers or just acquaintances, things are different. I have repeatedly gone from the rewarding sloth of minimum interaction, to increasing amounts of it, generally dictated by necessity (such as job situation), until a breaking point arrives. “Breaking point” may be an exaggeration; what I mean is that after enough of these interactions of necessity, there is a lull, that prompts my becoming overwhelmed (perhaps I exaggerate: suffused? permeated?) with feelings of relief and “I never want to do that again”. Perhaps this “lull” is partially self-created; I simply start backing off and avoiding participation in optional events. If frequent social interactions are again required soon thereafter, I really have negative feelings.

I use words like “perhaps” and “exaggerate” above to convey some skepticism about whether all this is necessarily a problem. Certainly, it makes various life situations more difficult, and certain career paths likely impossible. I will never be a glad-handing manipulator. Don’t get me wrong: I use those negative-connotation words to emphasize my own feelings. What for me are glad-handing and manipulation are for others sincere attempts to help people take advantage of mutually beneficial opportunities, although I don’t doubt that there are actual exploitative, zero/negative-sum glad-handing manipulators: they do suck.

Possibly ironically, I love public speaking. Maybe this is a dominance behavior. I am grandiose and have an agenda, and frankly I find most people haven’t thought through or properly studied the areas of my own interest and advocacy – to be sure many of them are more or less grandiose and have their own agendas – and they would benefit from listening to my perspective. To be fair, I usually take the attitude that I, too, would benefit from others’ perspectives. I am delighted to be found wrong about things that are important to me, if “found wrong” means as demonstrated using factual information and logical argument rather than self-righteousness and ideology. My ego may be the “improved floss” that encourages me in public speaking. Whether there is “improved floss” for me socializing somehow, I wonder.

Enchilada Sauce

In accordance with belikeme’s policy, I hereby exhort you to “be like me” with this post.

Suddenly hankering for enchiladas, I studied the first several (non-ad) hits from searching “enchilada recipe”. Evidently the sauce is a major determinant of success, so I instead pulled up the first few hits for “enchilada sauce”. Many of these flogged the “just 10 or 15 minutes” needed to complete the recipe. Reading further, I realized that these entries were based on tomato sauce, adding ground cumin along with onion, garlic, and chili powders, and whisking the spices with flour into a roux. I inferred they did this to easily achieve smoothness, but with so much liquid they needed the flour a thickener. I wasn’t interested in such a short cut, so I decided to start with diced tomatoes, adding actual onions and garlic, adjusting the thickness with stock (to thin) or tomato paste (to thicken) if needed. Doing some desultory web research, one garlic clove per half teaspoon of garlic powder seemed to be the consensus, so I doubled that (we’re not garlic freaks, but most recipe amounts of garlic don’t pack enough flavor for us). Similarly, I found that one tablespoon of onion powder corresponds to a medium sized onion. With this slight modification to the ingredient list, I was ready.

I make my own chile powder. Onions and garlic are great as-is, but roasting them adds a certain delectable smokiness to any vegetable. We were running low on roasted garlic, which we like to keep around for ad lib seasoning, so I tossed some onion chunks, garlic heads (with most of the skin removed and the tips sliced off) and carrots (for later – if I’m going roast things, might as well fill up the oven) in oil, and stuck them in a 425 °F oven. The sizes weren’t uniform, so I harvested the pieces as they got nice and brown. We were also low on chili powder, and our guests were not really aux fait (or is that por cieto?) with hot spiciness, so I made some of that too. Two kinds: one mostly mild guajillos, and the other a mix of chipotles, New Mexicos, and guajillos. For chili powder I take some dried chilis, and, using shears, cut off the stems, halve them lengthwise and scrape off the seeds, then cut the strips into small pieces and toast them in a cast iron pan until they are just about to smoke. Then I pulverize them in a coffee whacker (which is not a grinder, by the way).

To assemble the sauce I needed some stock, and as I was planning to make chicken enchiladas, I bought two rotisserie chickens at the grocery store, stripped off the meat and boiled down (way down) the meaty carcasses. When refrigerated, my stock is really stiff. The meat I chopped into small bits for assembling the enchiladas later. I made two portions of sauce, one mild, and one hotter. For each portion I put half a drained 28 oz can of diced tomatoes into a food processer, with about an onion’s worth of roasted onion and four large roasted garlic cloves. A quarter cup of chile powder, a teaspoon of ground cumin, and half a teaspoon of ground black pepper finished it off. I processed the whole mass down to a fine puree, a total of about 60 seconds, pausing to scrape down the sides a few times, then put the mix into a pan with 2/3 of a chicken’s worth of my condensed stock. It was pretty thick, so I added half the reserved tomato juice and some water, brought it to a simmer and let it cook for 20 minutes. When cool, I put it in the fridge for the next evening’s get-together. Next time I will add more heat to the “hot” chili powder, maybe double the amount, and double the number of garlic cloves.

The Cult of Dozenality

Among my super-aspirations is the adoption of base twelve, or “dozenal” for my arithmetic. Here I utilize the prefix “super” to imply I expect to never actually pursue this aspiration, or at least not to the point of actually calculating in dozenal routinely. Adopting various computational bases is of course routine in computer science, which runs on base two (binary), with bases eight (octal) and sixteen (hexadecimal) frequently used as easy shorthand for the fundamental base. Base twelve, however (formally “duodecimal” although as implied I prefer “dozenal”), doesn’t buy you anything in computer science; the supposed advantage is that 12 is evenly divided by 2, 3, 4, and 6, forcing fewer infinitely repeating decimal representations of fractions than the usual base ten (decimal). I’m not sure fewer infinite representations is that much of an advantage: fewer is not zero. Nevertheless, unless I am the victim of some variant of Poe’s law, some folks seriously advocate adoption of this boutique number base, citing further purported advantages you can read about on your own.

No, my super-aspiration has more to do with self-improvement. In my teens, I played with various techniques from The Memory Book by Lorayne and Lucas. These techniques do work, I enjoyed using them, and I still make limited use of some of them. For example, I use the so-called “Major” system to memorize a PIN or phone number. However, beyond simple daily uses I’m not convinced they are much more than mere stunts. If you really get into a topic, the mere repetition of recalling or re-looking-up needed information while studying does similar work. However, I do fancy that when one needs to quickly acquire a relatively high facility in a topic with lots of material to memorize, some of these techniques would be useful for getting up to speed.

In the Major system, you associate the digits 0-9 with consonants, then add vowels at whim to create mnemonic words that then help you memorize long numbers. For example, my German phone number is “boil doobie lich car”. I imagine myself boiling a doobie in my kitchen while looking out the window at what would normally (!) be a bunch of clowns piling into a car, except it is a bunch of lich monsters from Dungeons and Dragons. The so-called “person-action-object” (PAO) system (not described in Lorayne and Lucas) riffs on this groove by associating every two-digit number with a memorable person (whose name is derived from the numbers by the Major system) performing a stereotypical action, say “Santa handing out gifts”. With these pre-memorized mnemonics, you can then even more quickly memorize long numbers, or create multidimensional arrays of memorized items. Again, follow the links if you are interested.

My conceit is that I would derive a dozenal Major/PAO system from twelve, rather than ten, digits. Not to memorize long dozenal numbers (how often does one need to do that?), but to create 12 x 12 x … 12 arrays, so I could memorize arrays of 144, rather than 100, or 1,728, rather than 1,000 items, etc. As I say, this is super-aspirational, and I doubt I’ll ever pursue it seriously. I have gotten so far as to often do 6 or 12, rather than 5 or 10, tedious things at a time. A mundane, but satisfying aspiration.

Everything, All at Once

Trail Stories #1

Ever since I moved to Seattle, I have been an enthusiastic hiker, with many day hikes and multi-day camping trips to my name. Most of my outdoor recreation has been in the Cascades and Olympics of Washington State. However, one of my most memorable outings was in the Cabinet Mountains of Western Montana. Bear country (note: when somebody intones “bear country”, they mean Griz).

Our trip started on a Friday evening. “Radical” and I left work at one of the Lesser Satans, and set off on a six-hour drive with Messrs. “Snow”, “Dog”, and “Silver”, joining “Jack” in Spokane for some late Chinese. We expected a night’s sleep before leaving early the next morning. Relating the details of this leg of the journey would entertain but distract, so I simply note that although Radical’s minivan was totaled, nobody was injured. The Police cuffed and hauled away the drunk guy who managed to rear-end a parked vehicle in a cul-de-sac. The expected sleep didn’t really happen. We took “Jack’s” Suburban, hitting Libby for breakfast, then driving on to the Granite Lake trailhead.

Exhausted but functioning (biorhythms, caffeine, and in my case chicken fried steak), we were on-trail with plenty of time, but soon hit an obstacle. Official “wilderness areas” in the US are among the least maintained natural zones. The first major creek we came to was unbridged and had to be forded. I do not recommend combining exhaustion, slippery rocks, rushing thigh-high ice-water, and sixty-pound packs. We were pretty sapped after an arduous crossing so early in the day, and even managed to lose “Snow” for a few hours at another ford. Stupid, exhausted young men.

In Bear Country, one establishes two camps. One for cooking and another, at least 200 feet away, for the tents. In Bear Country I can hardly sleep, even when wiped out. Every sound, real or imagined, is Griz come to kill us. Still, even unrested, our first full day of day hiking and rafting was Class A. For me it got even better. It was late afternoon at the cooking camp, and I realized I had left something important in my tent. As I finally found that it had somehow slipped underneath my Thermarest, I heard an enormous “crack!”. Instinct ascribed agency to a Bear, spiking my pulse, but intellect said the sound was wrong for that. I leapt out and started looking around. The tent camp had a great view of the range just southwest of Snowshoe Peak, where some more enormous cracking noises attracted my eyes to an avalanche in the mountains above the lake. Snow pouring from one bowl to another, down, down, down, crack! crack! crack! I had never seen such wild drama. Suffused with the ecstasy of two days’ strenuous, sleep-deprived, magic-surrounded exertion, I achieved epiphany. Everything I knew about chemistry, physics, astronomy, geochemical cycles, biology, ecology, whatever, revolved in my mind’s eye simultaneously. Unfortunately for my companions, the woods obscured the view from the cooking camp, and by the time they followed my shrieks of “Holy Fuck”, the event was over. Although disappointed, they were excited that I had found what I was looking for, and were perhaps appeased as I shared it around.

The return drive also had its moments, but would also distract if related. Try driving across the Columbia to Vantage with high winds in a totaled minivan. Or don’t.

Dymaxion Response Surface

“Dymaxion” is Bucky Fuller’s portmanteau implying “dynamic-maximum-tension”, referring to the achievement of nearly optimal designs (whether by mindless design by Darwinian evolution, or by intelligent design by human innovators). A “response surface” is a mathematical approach for improving on brute force experiment design so that fewer experiments are needed to provide the desired statistical power.

“Free will” is, for me, something like (perhaps exactly like) Daniel Dennett’s possibility generator/selector – a subset of brain activity that puts itself in other peoples’ shoes, imagines various possible scenarios, and models, likely via something akin to Bayesian inference, possible outcomes, submitting the results of these to a morally answerable chooser that ultimately determines the constellations of action potentials in neurons that produces our behaviors (see his Consciousness Explained and From Bacteria to Bach and Back). Because this process essentially conducts a galaxy of thought experiments, it seems likely that evolution will have stumbled across something akin to response surfaces in order to get the most statistical power out of available, limited, inferential resources.

Perhaps the above is obvious to the cool kids of cognitive science, and the experiments have already been done, making this post superfluous to said folks. But in my cognitive science reading, not exhaustive and mostly in popular books rather than the scientific literature, I haven’t seen this potential aspect of free will described in this way. Cognitive science has come up with some excellent experimental approaches that are helping to tease out fundamental neural processes, both individual and collective, so I wonder if there is already some way we can look for some signature of brain activity that “looks like” a response surface. Maybe a data science initiative that scans through terabytes of raw data obtained from various high throughput studies. I realize what I’m suggesting here a vague. I am but a painter preparing a canvas by applying a wash and daubing in some unresolved blotches of background, then stepping back and taking in what I’ve done before (someone else goes about) starting in on the details.

First you might need to determine what the relevant signatures of possibility generation and behavior choice look like (combining EEGs, button pressing, electrophysiology, opto-neuronics, the whole panoply of cogsci experimental techniques). Then you might tax those systems by inventing scenarios where there are increasing numbers or complexity of models that would need to be “run” by the possibility generator, less time to make decisions, different types of threats or rewards sponsoring the decisions, and probably a bunch of other factors that would occur to a working cognitive scientist. One complication is that if a dymaxion response surface is already built in as a universal Good Trick, all you will see is that. Possibly, novel types of scenarios require the brain to learn how to develop the response surface, so if you could watch that process occur and track it to its endpoint, you might get a picture of what a response surface signature looks like independent of the learning process and then look for those features under more routine decision making. Clustering algorithms might “naturally” collect sheafs of responses into bins that end up being the representation of what we are looking for. What would this buy us? Another step towards turning what seems to some people like an insoluble mystery into a set of puzzles that can be solved.

Why Blog?

Why do I blog? I mostly dislike social media, so you’d think I wouldn’t. I was briefly on Facebook, but they kept imposing deal-breakers until I quit. I adopted G+ early and rather liked it – asocial networking, perhaps. I even became micro-famous there, attracting around 100,000 (mostly bot?) followers, about 100 who would +1 some of my screenshots of rocket launches, and maybe a few dozen who would +1 my photos of (mostly) sporophytes. We would sometimes engage in multi-blurb post-inspired conversations. This was all I needed: a few +1s and a bit of blather.

Unfortunately, Google Plus kind of wished it was Facebook, and kept damaging the user experience, simultaneously committing fewer resources and hoping for a miracle. Finally, by leaving some security holes open and awaiting exploits, they attracted the attack they had been hoping for, giving them pseudo-reasons to shut down the public side of the service (this paranoid just-so story is pure speculation). Since then, I haven’t really participated in social media for the purpose of being social. I’ve maintained my LinkedIn existence, wondering if I will ever figure out what to do there. I do read some blogs, but don’t comment any more. When I did comment, I found it not worth the time and emotional energy to engage in the inevitable dispute, what with needing to utilize factual information and logical reasoning rather than simply responding in-kind to emotional reactions. If I am going to opine responsibly, I will do it on my own terms and in my own context. A point in favor of, or anti-against, me blogging.

If my desultory internet research is worth anything, blogs are on the decline, so blogging may be somewhat self-defeating. Nevertheless, I do have an agenda, and I do feel the need to express myself and receive feedback for that expression. Additionally, writing is a way to “find out what I really think”. Feedback or not, capable self-expression seems to require that the expressor have an audience in mind while they are expressing. For me, this means you. Other than a few friends whom I know have read at least some of my posts, my audience is unknown to me, thus I call you my “’imaginary real” audience. I do love seeing the occasional comment, but my analytics plug-in supplies about half of what I socially “need” to feel that I am participating, in the sense that I am at least motivated to complete a page a week of honed prose (with occasional poem). So, at worst, blogging is simply a tool, and you, my imaginary real audience, mere “prop(s) to occupy my time” (that really would be the worst, so I hope it doesn’t come to that! Objectifying persons is abhorrent!). Another point, definitely in favor of, me blogging.

If I keep it up for a year, I will have 52 pages of material, much of it containing sub-topics that could themselves be expanded into posts. At first, I was planning to blog once a month, thinking “I don’t really have the time”, but that seems insufficient, so I began posting my four-months’-worth of drafts weekly. I find that as I hone a post, I get ideas for new ones and sometimes quickly save just a title plus a sentence or two. Almost every day I refine existing drafts and/or create new ones. I try to keep 3 or 4 drafts scheduled in advance, and am trying to push that number upwards while adding to the draft pool. I’m thinking of going bi-weekly, not by just doubling my output but somehow incorporating additional cyberstuff. This blogging thing sort of feeds on itself. If I can keep my time investment low – daily practice makes me feel more efficient – I’ll be doing a lot of satisfying writing, a third point in favor of switching to a new phase in my life: me blogging.

Rare Treat

In general I try to minimize (to the extent that I can stand it) the amount of meat I consume, mostly poultry and fish (often duck and salmon, the other red meats!). However, from late December through late January, I let myself go. Dining out (well, back in the day; we have been doing takeout from, say, Clark Burger, Fortunato Brothers, or Villagio and we are trying out a weekly CSR, Larder) or cooking in.

I am an experienced enough cook that a recipe for something I’ve cooked already a few times is more a reminder of ingredients, proportions and temperatures, rather than an algorithm. I have adopted my own versions of various techniques that suit how I work and think. For example, if a recipe wants me to render some bacon for its fat, optionally leaving the meat in to flavor the sauce/stew/whatever, instead I slow-cook the bacon, separating the toothsome solid recreation sticks from the unctuous glycerine mouth liner. I then use some of the fat for the frying, and dice some of the bacon into tiny bits if I was supposed to leave it in along with the rendered grease. There is plenty of bacon and its grease left for other purposes, often involving pancakes, potatoes, and/or eggs. If you are concerned about heart disease at this point, please re-read the title of this post, and know that I also follow a somewhat strenuous workout regimen.

For further insight into how I work and think, let me tell you that I recently made an excellent lentil soup. If you were to ask me for the recipe I would tell you: First make a bunch of barbecued chicken, and have some bacon and bacon grease on hand (the remainder of the recipe is left as an exercise for the student).

Here is a slow-cooked bacon photoessay that I imagine speaks for itself (er, except note that temperature is in Liberian units).

Experimentum Periculosum

Life is short, but art endures; opportunity is fleeting, experimentation perilous, and judgement difficult.

—The Ancients

I am a privileged individual. A straight white male US citizen, I “play the game” on the easiest possible setting. I own a house in Baltimore, half of another house in the small Oregon town that friendliness built, and have spent a couple of years renting an apartment in Germany while working at a research institute. I barely consider prices when I shop, although if the grocery bill is more than sixty or seventy euros/dollars I will study the receipt. I mostly buy only necessities such as food, clothing, and dwelling needs, being easily amused by simple entertainments. My luxuries are essentially reading material, streaming, a few beers, caffeinated beverages, pastries (Nusskrantz! süss Nusskranz!), hiking and biking. Every few years my wife and I splurge on travel. I like to cook and to dine out.

Being a scientist is a privilege itself (although I am a very applied one who doesn’t publish enough). My particular application is “algae farming” – to me an obvious application for recycling agriculture nutrients and carbon, when considered from a hard science, hard economics perspective. The upshot from my experience is that 99% of what you may have heard about how algae can save the world is bullshit. The saving-the-world part is actually true, if you go beyond the hype of tennis shoes made from algae plastic! algae walls in skyscrapers! biodiesel from algae! And the like. My concern is not how to make large profits from growing small amounts of algae, but how build tens of millions of hectares of algae farms that happen to produce nonspecific commodity biomass as a byproduct of nutrient recycling. How can we pay for growing all that slime seeing as how there’s no way to make a profit from it in the current so-called free market? I say “so-called” because today’s “free market” only exists as a tissue of market failures when accounting for the environmental costs of production and consumption. We privatize profits but socialize costs, ironic in that so many “anti-environmentalist” “free-marketeers” so “hate” the socialism from which they derive their “wealth” and “liberty”.

Unlike most privileged people I am aware of, I’m actually spending (or perhaps it is investing, or wasting) my privilege trying various things to improve the world situation. Much of my (perilous) experimentation involves simply trying to find an employed position from which I can help guide large scale physical projects. My biggest problem is that administration and project management are not among my core competencies. I’m socially awkward and anxious, although I can hide or endure these failings for a while. I feel something like guilt when I try to manipulate or glad-hand people. Even when I pull off a successful stunt, rather than becoming invigorated from the positive feedback, I recoil, taking weeks or months to recover. Speaking of irony, I actually admire and even envy successful business people and managers. I don’t actually believe manipulating (or is that “guiding” or “helping”?) or gladhanding (“being gregarious”, “socializing”?) is wrong, I just can only barely and briefly do it. While I’ve had successes, I never quite capitalize on my fleeting opportunities, having great difficulty judging what to do next. Not just in my professional choices. I got in on the (failed) Amiga computer, the (failed) Saturn car, and the (failed) G+ social media platform. What I favor, most people don’t. Still, I am sure I am right with algae farming and will in my short life persist in developing it, exploiting occasional opportunities to experiment, overcoming as many difficulties as I can.

How I Blog

Back in the beginning of the pandemic, sitting at my computer with my third or fourth inferior German beer, doing Home Office in our apartment cul-de-sac at the ass-end of the Deutsche Bahn, the world burning down, I finally decided to start a blog. I know, blogs are not much of a thing any more, but G+ is long dead, I dropped Facebook the nth time they added a new privacy violation, and I have no interest in any of the social media sites (I still don’t know what to do on LinkedIn). What I enjoy, social-media-wise, is writing short blurbs for an imagined, though real, audience. For writing practice and for the feeling that I am organizing my thoughts.

I started with elaborate ideas about creating an authoritative document from which I would create the official post and ancillary web-tidbits I could use for promotion. However, my technique quickly evolved from elaborate to quick as I learned just how long it took to create even a single post. Thus: somehow I get a topic idea. I pull up an A4 document with 2 cm margins. The title is centered 18 pt Optima Bold (I want to optimize, and am kind of bold), and the body text is justified 12 pt Lucida Bright (I want to be clear, and technically, I am a “Bright”). After free associating for a while, I save, often just a single crappy paragraph. One recent post was started the same day I decided to start a blog. Others have taken less than a week.

Once I have about a page of material, I start to get serious. More than a page feels like too much, but less than a page is not enough for me to complete my little story. My typographic settings constrain my writing like rhyme scheme and scansion constrain a poem. I easily go beyond a single page, but with judicious cutting I get back down to exactly one, simultaneously improving the text. If you want to “be like” me in this regard, go to extra effort in your writing to cut, cut, cut. It seldom hurts and usually helps. Either you streamline with fewer and more elegant words, or you eliminate the extraneous. I repeatedly re-read my page-or-so, adding and cutting, until it is saying just what I want it to. I put it away, then work on it again a few days or weeks later. Invariably there is a bunch of previously invisible awkwardness, easily (usually) cleaned up by, you guessed it, adding and cutting.

To post, I select all, copy, and paste. I have a collection of potential header images in my Drafts folder, one or more of which may seem post-relevant, or I may go searching through my thousands of photos for one that seems right. I upload the chosen image, then preview my post. Revisions are always needed. My WordPress theme is not typographically identical to my word processing theme, and changing the typography and pagination somehow reveals previously invisible errors. Over the next several days, I preview the post several more times, revising again and again. Here I limit myself to spelling and punctuation errors, and missing or incorrect words. At this point I also add and check any hyperlinks, and then schedule the post. I continue to preview even after scheduling, revising again when necessary. Even after the post has been published, I will still correct typos and missing/wrong words if they are bad enough, although often I simply leave errors alone once published.

That is my blogging method for now. I am sure it will evolve, as I am not completely satisfied with it. Furthermore, I expect to eventually have plans for future changes to my overall blog concept that will likely be incompatible with my current technique. But for now, it works.