Hello everyone,

I hope you are all doing well.

Here in Sydney, we are in lockdown, so I haven’t been going anywhere.

A few updates on my end:

  • I joined the Foster cowriting program with a scholarship
  • Learning Japanese is going exceptionally well
  • Conversation Culture is still running weekly, but now on Zoom
  • I have a piece in the works called “A secular morality” where I try to make a case for the Philosophy of Sentientism
  • I have been relearning how to type from scratch, using the colemak-dh layout rather than the familiar QWERTY
  • I am soon starting a six-week cohort-based course called Linking Your Thinking

I will be busy for some time and likely will not be sending regular letters again soon. The current plan is to focus on the online course entirely. It will go until mid-October. By then, I feel I will also, as a side effect of using it, have become fully accustomed to the Coiemak-DH keyboard layout…

After that, I will focus entirely on my writing and business. It will involve:

  • transitioning to sending out weekly letters once more
  • developing a marketing plan to attract a bigger audience
  • finding a way to monetise my work while still leaving all my best work available completely for free - that is; without jeopardising my deepest goals

For the rest of this letter, I will elaborate on what I’ve been up to—hopefully only a paragraph or so each. I don’t want to be another three thousand word letter.

Foster Cowriting

I have noticed that many of the books I love all begin in the same way; with a long list of thanks and acknowledgments. Looking back, most of what I have written was with the help of others-of my friends, readers, and fellow writers. Many of you have kindly offered to read over my work and offer you criticism and advice, and for this, I will be forever grateful.

  • Does this make sense?
  • Is this idea crazy?
  • Was that fun to read?

Testing my work against the dispositions of others has relieved me of much unnecessary worry and improved the quality of my writing.

The philosophy of Foster is that the best writing is done together.

It is a space for writers to share their work for feedback and give it back to others. I have been using it for a month and have not been as active as I would have liked, but I have received valuable feedback.

In the future, I plan on integrating its use with my workflow.

I think I’m turning learning Japanese ♫♪

I have been reading and watching a lot about the most efficient ways to learn a language and testing them out on myself… and I have to say it feels like it is going exceptionally well.

My study method is called “Organic Immersion”, which has been championed by the “android” Youtuber Cure Dolly’s Organic Japanese.

There are two leading schools of thought in language learning:

  1. Explicit textbook learning: Learning it all as theory directly. This involves working through textbooks directly and memorising grammar rules, vocabulary lists and common phrases.
  2. Learning through immersion or massive input: This involves exposing oneself to a flood of content (books, movies, music, everything) in your target language and allowing your subconscious mind to do the rest. In essence, recreating the conditions of the best language learners; children.

What massive input gets right is that language is largely intuitive. What it gets wrong is the idea that it happens through “osmosis”. To work well, the individual will likely need a level of linguistic intuition - or otherwise, actively looking up what the words mean.

Organic immersion involves learning the structure of the language directly. Then you immerse yourself in content to familiarise yourself with the language and build up a working vocabulary.

My routine looks like this:

  • Every day, I watch an episode of anime (currently going through my beloved One Piece)

  • I watch with Japanese audio + Japanese subtitles. This means no English. To understand what is happening, I have to parse the language.

  • When I run into a word I don’t know, I look up the word’s definition and create a flashcard. I have software that lets me highlight the subtitle and do both of these things automatically.

  • Every day, I spend a short time going through my list of vocabulary. I am using the flashcard app Anki, which only shows me cards I haven’t seen in a while or have been having trouble.

  • I also take the audio of the episodes and listen to them through the day as I am cleaning, cooking or going on walks

  • On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, I have Zoom classes with a language school in Japan. They actually teach in Japanese, which has been extremely helpful

The idea here is that you want to expose yourself to content you have already understood constantly, so the language gets in your blood. It feels like it is working!

Conversation Culture is still running

This is my effort to improve the quality of our discourse. A culture that allows people to expose their ideas to critique and healthy disagreement. We meet every week to discuss a whole manner of topics, including science, philosophy and politics. The lockdown has effectively thrown a spanner in the works of our in-person conversations.

Happily, we have been able to migrate to zoom.

A happy side effect is that now anyone in the world can join in on our discussions.

Every week. Thursdays, 6 pm, AEST.

Join here: https://conversationculture.net/join/

More about the group, here: https://conversationculture.net/about

If you are interested and have trouble with the link, please hit me up by replying to this email.

Upcoming Piece: A Secular Morality

I’m writing a new piece on morality. I am tired of hearing that morality needs a grounding, either from a supernatural god or a terrestrial authority.

Two extreme views as I see them are:

  1. Morality comes from the divine, and its justification comes from god
  2. There’s no right and wrong, no reason to be moral

I find both of these views ridiculous.

Cause-and-effect is all that’s needed.

Here’s a snippet from the piece

We don’t refrain from killing because it will anger a god, land us in hell or upset the natural order. We refrain from killing because we want to live in a world where we aren’t prone to getting murdered. If no one kills anyone, no one is killed. If it is rare for a person to kill, it will be rare for a person to be killed.

The same goes for theft, lying, coercion and the whole field of unethical conduct.

It is human welfare that we are concerned about, and there are some behaviours that if we all adopted, we would all be better off.

I have already shown drafts to Writers from Foster and received valuable feedback. I also read it out loud at the Zoom event for the Inner West Sydney Writer’s group, who seemed to really enjoy it.

I can’t wait to share it with you all (but it might not happen soon).

Learning how to type all over again

Look down at your keyboard.

Notice how the keys are staggered.

As in, they are not neatly on top of one another, in a grid.

You often have to move your fingers diagonally to type.

Why is this? And while we are at it; what’s the deal with QWERTY?

You’d think there was a deep and considered reason for this…

… and you’d be wrong!

The staggered keys and the QWERTY layout were both designed around the physical hardware of the typewriter. They aren’t there to help you type faster or more ergonomically.

They simply get in the way.

You are moving your hands much more than you need to. It is as if doing parkour with your hands all over the keys.

Learning about this irritated me a little. A close friend told me he had once learned the alternative layout DVORAK within two weeks and remembered distinctly feeling incredibly good as he typed.

DVORAK looks like this.

Screenshot of Obsidian
The DVORAK Keyboard Layout, taken from Wikipedia

It was the first serious attempt to create an alternative to QWERTY.

Notice that the vowels are all in the home row?

The idea was that the vowels are more common and that the most common keys should be accessible with less movement. With better design, we can get more done with less effort.

But it gets better: Introducing Colemak!

Screenshot of Obsidian
The Colemak Keyboard Layout, taken from Wikipedia

Colemak was created much more recently than DVORAK in 2010. By then, we knew a lot more about which letters were more commonly used. All of the most frequently used characters are directly under your fingers on the home row. There is a lot less finger movement required, a lot less spidermanning all over your keyboard.

Unlike DVORAK, it gets the maximum efficiency with minimal changes from QWERTY, with only 17 characters moved around. This makes it much easier to learn. Also, the keyboard shortcuts you are used to are largely unchanged.

This very letter was typed in Colemak-DH.

So what’s that DH for, anyway?

It wasn’t just QWERTY that was arbitrary, but the stagger on the keyboard.

I went and bought a very expensive, shiny new keyboard.

Of its many features, one is that it is ortholinear.

All this means is that the keys are not staggered; they are in a neat grid.

As such, there is very little need for diagonal movement of the fingers. They can just slide up and down.

Colemak-DH is a slight mod to Colemak regular that optimises it for ortholinear keyboards. Basically, the D and H keys are moved around.

Here’s a link you can compare with the above picture.

Anyway, I’m having way too much fun typing right now!

Online Course: Linking Your Thinking

I am right now, not only typing in Colemak-DH but also in my all-time favourite app: Obsidian.

I have written about this before, but I am in the process of organising everything I know.

I am creating a Zettelkasten, a collection of linked notes written to retain and even increase their value over time.

Linking Your Thinking is a six-week workshop that goes deep into all of this. It will be taught mainly over Zoom and other online platforms.

I have started the induction process and introduced myself to my fellow students.

I intend to immerse myself in the course to try and get the most of it.

This being said, I might not write again for a while.

It feels really great to write to you after all this time. A few hours have passed since I started writing this; it’s been a lot of fun. I’d forgotten how joyful it can be to sit down and write for hours.

This letter was a status update and an announcement that I will remain inactive for a while. The six-week course will end in the second half of October, and the plan as-is will be to develop a plan of attack and return to being prolific once more.

I want to take this chance to thank you, dear readers. You who have made it to the end of yet another letter, you who have stayed with me all this time. When I quit my job, I took a calculated risk. I chose to do as I pleased and follow my deepest interests at the expense of a stable income or the usual sense of stability. I am deeply grateful that I was able to find people interested in what I have to say.

It’s been two years since I started this way of living, and while I have yet to have earned a living, I have been able to seriously put pen to paper and transmute much of the mist in my mind into published works. I have learned so much during this time. Despite everything, I feel a strange yet powerful confidence inside me. I can definitely do this.

Please continue to support me in what I do.

By the way, feel free to respond to this letter by replying to this email. I would love to hear from you!

Please take care, everyone,