Overcoming distractions and tackling tough problems

We are quickly approaching Thanksgiving and that is a day where I plan on relaxing and watching some football for a few hours. It is a day where I pretty much give up on trying to overcome distractions and give in to a day of rest. Unequivocally it is probably my most restful day of the year. Maybe that is something that I need to do more often. Thinking about that was peaceful enough in the moment to cause my thoughts to pinball over to overcoming distractions and tackling tough problems. Always running toward a purpose without rethinking that purpose could be counterproductive. On the other hand, being driven to action is inherently compelling. Some problems are so compelling that you are fueled by a near single minded purpose devoted to finding a resolution. Those types of problems fuel themselves. Everything outside of that bucket falls into the overcoming distractions and talking tough problems bucket.    

The method that I use to overcome problems has always been based on how I deconstruct the hardest problems. I look at the form, function, structure, and assumptions (FFSA) within the problem space. Between those elements either a degree of contention exists or a path opens up to help understand how to move forward by overcoming either a structural barrier or limitations created by assumptions. That is something that I have been writing about for a long time now and it is something that always helped me find the footing necessary to begin to create change. Figuring out how to convert strategy into action takes a lot more than a great plan. You can take a great plan written out on a piece of paper and put it in a desk drawer. Within that desk drawer the darkness of the container is as bleak as the chance that strategy drives anything forward. Only on very rare occasions is complete inaction a method to drive success. 

These questions have come to the forefront of my mind today based on some things that I have been wondering about recently. I finally setup my own Google Cloud Platform environment. That should allow me to really focus in on solving some very tough problems related to natural language process (NLP). Building out recommendation or decision engines within that space is very possible. Figuring out how to define or explain the relative degree of understanding that exists related to those decisions or recommendation is a much harder problem to overcome. Figuring out how to server up the right movie recommendation is much easier to derive algorithmically compared to understanding why that movie was the right offering. That is a tough problem to tackle, but one worthy of consideration including the time and effort that goes into that type of blocking and tackling.  

A night focused on watching the Chiefs play

Tonight, is one of those nights where I am glad that we have a YouTube TV subscription. This time around it is not due to a Kansas Jayhawks game. It happens to be due to a Monday night football game between the Los Angeles Rams and the Kansas City Chiefs. Officiating in these games makes such a big difference. At the moment, I’m wondering how this game will go. It just started, but every play so far has been full of bright yellow flags flying all over the field. Oh well, I’m invested so far in watching the rest of the game. Throughout the evening my attention has been focused on finishing up the, “Recommendation Systems with TensorFlow on GCP,” course by Google Cloud on Coursera. That is the last course that I need to finish up my, “Advanced Machine Learning with TensorFlow on Google Cloud Platform,” specialization on Coursera. I should be able to finish up the 5-course specialization tonight. Throughout the last year, I have been really invested in completing the Google Cloud courses being offered on the Coursera platform. Overall, the courses have been really good. Some people like to play video games. I prefer doing course work at night to help focus my thoughts and let me relax my mind.  The first quarter is about half over and things are not looking very good. Maybe things will calm down here and the Rams offence will slow down. 6 bright yellow flags have already been thrown against the Chiefs. I’m going to have to put on my headphones and focus on some lectures. Nobody is going to throw any flags against my learning efforts tonight. 

Getting ready for Thanksgiving

Pumpkin muffins

Probably the only thing I plan on buying or at least viewing during the sales holiday’s that occur around Thanksgiving involves 4K Blu-ray discs. I’m wondering what types of sales will happen within that physical media space. Most store are reducing the number of movies they sell. During my last trip to Costco it did not even appear they stocked any movies. That is probably an indicator of how entrenched streaming is throughout the country. We simply do not have enough bandwidth to watch 4K movies. Our internet provider has the speed necessary, but they elect to impose some draconian data caps on customers. You can probably tell that I find those data caps to be repugnant and otherwise arbitrary. However, it is how things work and it is the reason that I continue to buy movies on discs. The 4K movies do really look pretty good. Right now, my 4K content player is an Xbox One S. It works great as an entertainment hub for the living room.

We ended up getting a Samsung 65-inch 4K UHD television and the screen looks great. Right now, I’m watching the over the air broadcast from Fox of the Oklahoma Sooners playing football against the Kansas Jayhawks. Overall the broadcast picture quality looks pretty good. It seems sharp and is super consistent. We do not get to watch the Jayhawks play football on broadcast television very often. This game is a lot more competitive than what I expected to see tonight. One of the things that I most closely associate with Thanksgiving is watching football and that should be fun this year.  

Cleaning up all my websites and moving forward

The last few days have been devoted to crawling out from under the weight of a massive hack across all my websites. That is something that I dislike even writing, but it happened and that needs to be acknowledged. Somehow via a plugin somebody was able to get in and populate links to terrible cheap websites on every page and post within my entire WordPress ecosystem. Just that type of action alone would have been annoying enough to create extreme frustration, but somehow the folks who perpetrated the hack managed to break every website as well. Restoration required some extreme measures. I had to trigger on the backend a fall forward or fail backward WordPress version change. That just unpackaged a new set of clean files over the ones that had been corrupted. Part of the hack was actually dropped code on some core pages. I had to go back in and by hand remove those pages within the filesystem and replace them with the latest version from the WordPress GitHub. All of that took about 30 minutes per site and was frustrating.  

To end the year, I have switched over to writing within Microsoft Word Online instead of using Google Docs. At the moment, the new setup is working out well enough for me to get some writing done. Yesterday I spent so much time reading code and making updates to things. The one really good thing that came out of the whole debacle was that for the first time in year I reduced the number of domains that I own and operate. Some domains were literally just released into the wind and they are back in the pool of domains that people can buy. For this point forward, I am not going to camp out on any domains. I’m only going to work with active websites. Anything that is just sitting around and collecting digital dust is going to be combined into something else and deprecated. The rest of the day is going to be spent watching college football and relaxing. Tonight, on Fox the Kansas Jayhawks will be playing the Oklahoma Sooners. It may not be a very competitive game, but I plan on watching it via the over the air broadcast Fox provides me.

Oh, that Google Pixel Slate is tempting

For those of you who have been reading these missives for some time you might be well aware of just how much chasing I do related to the newest laptop hardware. Sure, my last real Windows laptop was a Dell Studio 1535 that worked well enough. That was followed up with an HP Envy X2 that was ordered back on April 25, 2013 sporting Windows. Without question I was happy enough with that HP Envy x2 11-g010nr 11.6-Inch convertible laptop. It was never lighting fast or anything, but it worked well enough as a primary writing device. My last two devices were ASUS Flip Chromebooks. You can probably tell where this is going. Every time Google releases something like the Pixelbook or the Google Pixel Slate they are tempting pieces of hardware to purchase. Honestly, the price alone is what stops me from buying them. This ASUS Flip is serviceable for writing and much cheaper. My primary writing use case is sitting with either the Chromebook on a desktop surface or on my lap. I’m not entirely convinced that the Google Pixel Slate will work for me. Writing would be my primary use case and a good clamshell-based device is going to work better.

Rethinking the weblog after getting hacked

Over the years my weblog has seen a reasonable amount of technical problems. Some of them were caused by intrusions into the website. Some of them were probably self-inflicted coding errors. It has been some time since something like that has happened. This time around it appears they came in via the help of a plugin which has since been removed. It was a plugin designed to help reduce SPAM. Instead it allowed somebody to tag a link at the end over every single one of my posts. I had to get really deep into the code remove some plugins, do a reinstallation of WordPress, and find/replace a link that had been embedded on every single page I had ever written. Seriously, somebody bothered to hack every post on my entire weblog. Exactly why somebody thought that merited their time I have no idea.

You can imagine my first thought was to back up my data and start over with a clean installation. That was probably a good first thought. However, that seemed like a lot of work. Instead of taking that path it seemed easier to remove the offending code and clean up my database. All of that is now done. Two hours of my time were spent cleaning up something done for malicious reasons. My efforts to write and produce prose are really for my own satisfaction. Most of the time my writing is simply done to fulfill the act of writing. For me purposes WordPress is a platform for creation. It is a means to an end and really should not be talking up so much of my time. Maybe the time has come to switch over and use some other writing forum, but at this point that seems like a lot of work without any real payoff.  

Taking the time to really focus on something

This is day two in a row of taking 10 minutes to try to write something meaningful at the end of the day. Maybe part of this new routine is based on trying to really focus in on something. It might just be about taking the time to really did deep and focus on something. Even if that something is a single serving adventure into the deep end of a subject. Working toward really picking a topic and learning everything about it to develop a truly deep level of knowledge is rewarding. Today my Pandora internet streaming subscription expired. I got a pop up and then the advertisements returned. Some of them are interesting, but most of them are just interruptions to my stream of consciousness that is otherwise devoted to the single-minded purpose of writing for 10 straight minutes.  

Today was one of those days where things did not line up very well. It was one of those days that not even a double shot of espresso could save. Things were fragmented and otherwise difficult to push in the right direction. My thoughts did circle around to focusing on natural language processing (NLP) within the artificial intelligence space with a focus on sentiment analysis. For those of you who have been around the blog for some time you might harken back to my interests in data mining. Some time ago I published a few papers on the subject then moved on to a series of other things that captured my thoughts. Throughout the rest of the year I’m going to focus in really learning NLP on the Google Cloud Platform. My goal is to build the right set of Python notebooks to set a strong foundation for anyone that wants to jump in and build sentiment driven decisioning engines.  

Notes: 

Albums: Earlier today I listened to a little bit of the album Crystal Plant by Joe Satriani. To this day it remains one of my favorite thinking albums to have playing in the background.  

Media: During part of the evening the Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Carolina Panthers game was on the television. My only thoughts about it were that neither of my OTA antennas were able to get a very sharp picture.  

Technology: I spent a solid 15 minutes thinking about the Dell U3818DW 37.5” curved desktop computer monitor. This is not something that I really need, but it looks pretty awesome.  

Writing for 10 meaningful minutes a day

My computer

A lot of my time has been spent wondering about the nature of communication across history. Maybe the only real way at the moment to communicate across the span of time is with the written word. Everything else seems to fade away as formats change. Formats will probably change a number of times. Figuring out the final archival format of all thoughts is really an interesting question. It is not the question we are going to dig into today or really any time soon, but it is a reasonably good question. My bet would be on some type of crystal storage technology.  

Please consider for a moment that my thoughts here do not center around art. Art is art. Seriously, art is not the type of communication that defines my creative efforts. Most of what I end up doing centers around communication including the act of writing, creating videos, or maybe taking a few photos. Perhaps that aside was unnecessary or maybe it was just one of those hesitation type moments. From that perspective I do not consider myself to be an artist.  

Here is the premise of the thoughts that are taking up my attention at the moment: “Every single day I need to take the time to write out the meaningful things.” That is, it. That is my complete thought. Period end of discourse. Yeah – you were pretty certain that was not the end of this post. You have the advantage of being able to see the rest of this post. You may have also noticed that the title of this post is called, “Writing for 10 meaningful minutes a day,” which may have also tipped you off to what this missive was going to be about. Sitting down and writing out all the things that need to be said is a noble goal based on a noble purpose. It is centered on the idea that communicating with others has inherent value and should be a path that is pursued. Some of that is probably more esoteric than it should have been, but hey this is a blog post not a stone tablet.  

Notes:  

Albums: Today I listened to the album Grinding Gears by Rabea Massaad on my new Sonos surround sound system. The album sounded epic and I wanted to turn it up louder than my self imposed 65% sound ceiling. 

Media: Earlier it seemed like a good idea to watch a few minutes of season 4 episode 1 from Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda television show that the TiVo recorded. You might recall that episode titled, “Answers Given to Questions Never Asked.” After about 30 minutes I ended up getting distracted. I’ll have to watch the rest later.   

Politics: Today was the day after the mid-term elections. People seemed to be relatively unchanged. Maybe over time some type of change based on the election will be more pronounced. 

Revisiting my Corsair Air 740 computer case purchase

Right now, it seems like a good time to revisit my Corsair Carbide Series Air 740 high airflow ATX cube case purchase. Back on 1/30/2018 it seemed like a good idea to add a new computer case to my office. Over the years my Cooler Master Storm Stryker case has worked out well, but it was time to move to something new. That something new happened to be a Corsair computer case. The Air 740 is a pretty decent cube of a computer case. It features a glass door on one side that houses the motherboard and an enclosed side for the power supply and storage drives.  

During the build I elected to create my first Storage Space via a 3 hard drive storage pool. That effectively takes 6 terabytes of storage and pools it down to a 2 terabyte storage pool. In Windows 10 you can navigate to the Control Panel –> System and Security –> Storage Space and setup or manage a storage pool. It has worked out well enough. My primary system runs on an M.2 drive attached to the motherboard and I have a few solid-state drives plugged into the system, but my primary storage is the storage pool. You can imagine that over the last few months I have considered getting larger drives for my storage pool. Editing those pesky 4K videos just eats up storage space. 

That will end my meandering around the point for the day. Overall, I have been very happy with my purchase of a Corsair Carbide Series Air 740 high airflow ATX cube case. Keep in mind that it will need to sit under your desk and is wider than a regular ATX computer case footprint. It has worked great and was easy to cable. I thought that the lack of an external physical media drive (Blu-ray/DVD) would be a deal breaker, but I have not really missed it.   

Thinking about live journal style blogging

My goal for today is to engage in some almost live journal style blogging. You can expect a few updates to this post throughout the day. I am trying to disable my posts from sending out updates.  

Today started with two shots of espresso and some hash browned potatoes from yesterday.  

Things started off with a quick read of the weekend edition of Inside AI the newsletter from Rob May.  

Cancelling my Pandora subscription seemed reasonable earlier this week. The free version of the product has commercials, but that is ok, I guess.  

Today I’m writing using Microsoft Word Online. It only took a matter of moments before the simplified ribbon was turned off. Earlier today it seemed like a good idea to switch out from writing using Google Docs and swing back over to using Microsoft Word Online. We will see how long that swing lasts this time. My writing efforts tend to vacillate back and forth between the two different word processing platforms.

Well that plan to remove the linking for this post failed miserably. It turned out within the settings section a sharing section exists where I needed to remove links to Twitter, Google+, and Tumblr.  That was easy enough and now these posts should be running on radio silence.