3 min read

2021 almost-end-of-year review

It's only the start of December but I fancy doing this RIGHT NOW for some reason. I've done some kind of review of my blogging and physics-ing the last three years (2018, 2019, 2020) and I'd like to keep it going, may as well do it while it actually feels interesting and not a chore.

I think it's interesting for me this year because I have so little idea what I've actually done. My experience of writing the last couple of years is that the steering wheel fell off somewhere early in the pandemic, but the engine mostly just kept on running regardless, so I've ended up with a pile of miscellaneous stuff that isn't coherent enough to remember. And even when I can remember the topic, I don't remember which bits I did in part 1 of long 2020 and which bits I did in part 2.

It's fine I guess, I'd rather have an engine than a steering wheel.

Hm. I'm not sure the analogy is quite right, though. I'm not sure I ever had a functioning steering wheel, but I used to be on some kind of rails, and those are what got taken away. Anyway it doesn't matter, on to the review part.


Yeah, looking back at this no wonder I was confused. At the beginning of the year I was on a roll of being interested in physics, and I wrote up some of what I learned in Worse than quantum physics. Then I couldn't work out whether the analogy I set up was new or not, got kind of discouraged and the whole thing started to develop an ugh field. Also this was still the long dreary lockdown winter. So after that I had a few low-inspiration months, but I did try a few more speedruns. The sensemaking one was popular.

After that I quit my job and spent a few months as an unemployed crackpot. I spent the first month writing Hacker News folk wisdom on visual programming, which is the most-viewed thing I've written by some way thanks to all the HN traffic. Then I dropped that thread.

I wrote a couple of decent-ish book reviews, for The Roots of Romanticism and Drawing Theories Apart, a history of Feynman diagrams. Some more speedruns. And also I started the notebook blog, which I'll get to in a bit. I have a new job now (as a technical writer, which I really like) so I guess things will be slow on the blog for a while.


This did not go well this year and is somehow ugh-y to look back at. Though really it wasn't bad exactly, just uninspired. Some of the notes are kind of useful though, particularly the two parts on Vygotsky's Thought and Language. Anyway it was definitely a good idea to shut it down and put the energy into a

Notebook blog


This experiment really worked! I've churned out... let's check... 34 of the things since I started in August, including this one. They're mostly not especially good, but I'm enjoying the process and seem to be getting some new thoughts out. I expect the pace will slow down, but even if I ditched the thing tomorrow it would already have been worth it.

I listed out some of the better ones here.

The main recurring theme is trying to slowly get some understanding of Husserl and Derrida. I don't really understand why I care about this but maybe this is just what happens when you don't have a steering wheel. I'm hoping I can combine some of this with my existing reading on mathematical intuition in some kind of interesting way, but I worry that I don't have a serious enough context of use for any of this to really find anything worthwhile. But anyway there's something I find weirdly enjoyable about the process of trying to decipher Derrida's baffling web of references to all this French stuff I don't understand.


Not a lot to say really :( started out well in January but then the engine kept on running in some other direction and I never got back to anything.

I'm really hoping I can go to some sort of in-person event with the physics society this year, I think that could help a lot to get back on track.


I've done some things.