Useless Creativity

Writing has become a sort of fidget exercise for me.

An easily accessed flow state where I can burn a few minutes churning out something both satisfying to make and satisfying to look back on (for me).

I think I had a hard time starting a habit of writing because I was under the false impression that it had to be useful to others. It took a little while to realize that this is not the case.

Maybe my writing will tilt in that direction at some point. I do have a wealth of knowledge on certain topics that I get asked about often, and a place to document answers to those questions might be practically useful for some people.

But right now, I am writing selfishly for my own enjoyment. And I love it.

I wonder how this realization will extend to my other creative endeavors.

I’ve been itching to code something, and often get hung up on whether it will be profitable.

I miss using my cameras, but I haven’t encountered any projects that would benefit others.

I gave up on producing music ages ago because I believed I’d never be good enough for an audience.

My approach to creativity has been twisted by a need to be successful for longer than I can remember.

It was a chapter from Rick Rubin’s A Creative Act” explaining that many creatives don’t make a living from their creation, that I think helped this realization click into place for me.

Thanks for the permission, Mr. Rubin.

I’m looking forward to creating simply for the sake of it.

June 5, 2024


I was sitting outside my subway stop, enjoying the sun for a moment, when I started watching the pigeons.

I’m sure plenty of New Yorkers find them dirty and annoying, but I love watching them.

This time, I was thinking about how precious it is that some people take it upon themselves to make sure they’re fed. At my stop, it’s usually someone homeless or clearly poor. It must feel good to be able to provide for so many.

As I was thinking this, I watched that exact scenario play out as a woman dumped a heaping grocery bag of crumbs on the ground.

Pigeons clearly depend on social cues, as they always startle easily and will take flight if they see other pigeons do the same, regardless of whether they can see any danger themselves. I was fascinated to see that they respond similarly to food — every pigeon in the vicinity took flight seemingly at once from every corner of the stop.

As they descended on the food, I watched as newcomers arrived, not yet aware that the food was there and having missed the initial frenzy.

I wonder if they can tell the difference between taking off from fear and taking off to get food. How much are they just following the crowd? Is pigeon body language nuanced enough to tell the difference?

The lady that fed them saw me smiling and came over to sit by me. She was dirty and wrinkled, wheeling a small cart. Apologetic, she started mumbling before I could react.

I’ll only sit here for two minutes,” she reassured me, as if she felt she was encroaching.

I just want to see that no kids come and kick them. I want to protect them, you know? Kids always come kick them and their parents don’t tell them any better. They should tell them.”

I nodded, and we sat there watching them for a bit. Every time a scooter would ride through the stop, she would tense up, ready to admonish the driver should he get too close.

While we sat there, I noticed some pigeons were more regal-looking than others. Plump necks with fluffy feathers. They looked healthy and strong.

I noticed one of these wasn’t eating with the group. He was closer to me and the lady, dancing around in a pattern and making a deep, soft cooing sound that I could barely make out. Every once in a while a smaller pigeon would walk by, clearly female, and he would dance up to her. If she didn’t react, he would lose interest after a moment and go back to his dance.

I pointed this out to the lady and she responded.

Of course, it’s mating season.”

I had noticed a white pigeon earlier, and another mottled gray. Clearly rare, I now noticed that these two pigeons, both female, were the object of a similar dance. Each had a suitor vying for their attention, and the white one often had two different males trying to impress her. They were much more persistent than the first fellow I noticed, following her closely around the stop, one at each side.

I quickly noticed couples all over the stop doing this dance.

A few males had crumbs in their beaks, ready as an offering for the bird of their dreams.

The feeding frenzy had finished, and the lady got up to go. Her role as protector was fulfilled.

There was a kindness to her. I still feel it now.

Nice talking to you,” she said as she smiled and walked away.

I sat for another moment before getting up to board my train.

May 30, 2024 musings


A bouncer for the internet. Organic beings only.

Other possible names: Organisms, MostlyHuman, Humanity,, RealityGuard, Verified Nexus, Organic Matters

Reddit, Facebook, Threads, and soon every other corner of the internet will be inundated with AI-generated content, indistinguishable from human content, pushing the agenda of the highest bidder. The integrity of the internet and its exchange of ideas will soon be compromised.

How might one go about designating a section of the internet to be human-generated content only?

Captcha systems will fail, as AI will soon outperform humans. Even a video chat will be able to be fully spoofed in a matter of years (or months?).

How will we insulate a portion of the internet from AI marketing / astroturfing? Is there any way to ensure that who you’re interacting with is real?

Here are some ideas:

A referral system

Imagine a large tree of referrals.

The root user invites verified humans. Those users invite other humans.

A tree forms.

If a user is found to have referred an AI, that user’s entire downstream referrals can be pruned from the group.

Some moderation may be necessary. An AI could certainly sneak in at times. But restoring the purity of the group would be more manageable.

This could be combined with in-person verification events where moderators give out credentials.

A web-of-trust could be established where humans vouch for each other’s identities, forming a decentralized reputation network. Users who are highly trusted by many others earn the ability to access human-only spaces. Bad actors forfeit reputation and lose access.

Biometric verification using hardware

Some kind of device, black box, and encrypted to prevent spoofing, will require unique biometric information to verify a human’s identity.

DNA would be ideal. Possibly a face scan or a set of fingerprints. Temperature, sweat, blood pressure, and heart beat could possibly be used in tandem.

Still open to pitfalls, but I would assume spoofing a legitimate DNA strand IRL is a little harder than selecting which boxes contain traffic lights.

Government-issued identification documents

Self-explanatory. Not ideal to lean on the government for reasons of fascism and privacy.

Adjacent, and not without its own pitfalls, sites like could be partnered with to verify you are a human without duplicates or spoofing.

Proof-of-personhood protocols

Borrowing concepts from blockchain, protocols could be developed that require users to complete certain extended tasks that are easy for humans but difficult for AI. Things like playing simple games, identifying objects in images, or having brief video chats. By regularly requiring this proof-of-personhood”, AI could be filtered out.

Unfortunately, this falls short in the same way captchas do currently. There aren’t many online tasks that humans will be able to do better than AI in the long run.


The problem may solve itself in the form of niche communities. Cost-effective AI marketing will seek the largest audience. Increasingly niched communities gated by shared interest in a given blogger, podcast, band, etc. may fly under the radar of AI, allowing users to find relief from AI-generated content.

This isn’t even remotely full-proof, as teaching AI to traverse niched corners of the internet is a fairly trivial task.

Other considerations

  • Privacy: requiring all of this verification also risks stripping the user of privacy. How do we verify someone is human without revealing which human they are?
  • Switcheroo: These methods mostly are designed to mitigate non-human sign-ups, but would not necessarily prevent a human from signing up and then allowing an AI to use their account. This at least limits the scale of AI-generated content, but doesn’t eliminate it entirely.
  • User adoption: Much like current privacy solutions today, it may be difficult to communicate the need to the general population. Costly marketing and incentives for participation may be needed to gain traction.
  • Bubble demographic: This is subject to the risk of creating an insular, elitist community disconnected from the broader internet. Much like how parts of Mastodon’s user-base and content is geared towards the highly technical, excluding the layman.
  • Scalability: Considering how involved some of these verification methods are, large scale user adoption could end up being infeasible. Especially if human moderation is largely required. Rather ironically, a solution may be to train an AI model to administer these verification methods at scale.
  • Decentralization: Like blockchain technology, relying on peer-to-peer verification instead of centralized verification may help with scalability, privacy, and fascism-related issues (not trying to make the next Mark of the Beast™”). But this allows the potential for the system to be taken over by a bad-actor or AI supermajority.

Conclusion.. for now

A combination of several methods is the most sound for effectively filtering out non-human actors.

This could be used to host its own social media site, like Reddit or Facebook.

Or it could be offered as a service to other platforms, much like Sign in with Apple ID. Those sites could then have something like a Twitter authentication checkmark, but for identifying verified humans.

Its path to profit is not entirely straightforward. But its need is obvious and immediate, as AI technology barrels forward in its capabilities by the day.

May 25, 2024

Musings on Keto

People keep asking why I’m on keto (I get a lot of shit for it). While weight loss is one of the goals, and easy to explain, the reasons that carry more significance are harder to explain.

From my LLM:

The release of dopamine when consuming sugar is similar to the brain’s response to other rewarding stimuli, such as drugs of abuse. This dopamine surge is believed to contribute to the addictive-like properties of sugar and the tendency for people to crave and overindulge in sugary foods. 【1】【2】

Repeated exposure to high levels of sugar can also lead to changes in the brain’s dopamine system, including decreased sensitivity and reduced availability of dopamine receptors. This can drive individuals to consume even more sugar in an attempt to achieve the same pleasurable dopamine response. 【3】【2】

I noticed this anecdotally before looking it up.

At a time in my life when I’m trying to quit impulse spending, cut back on my phone use, disconnect from television and gaming, kick my weed smoking habit, and eat less junk, I noticed that these habits often fed into each other. Compounding my cravings and making much of how I spend my time a compulsive experience.

By cutting back in all of these areas, I’m starving my brain of dopamine-releasing stimuli.

This, while often uncomfortable, has given me more of a sense of control over what I’m doing moment-to-moment.

I’ve been able to be more deliberate with my time, channeling it into social activities, creative projects, and life-improvement.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m making room for fun. But for me, these days, fun is dancing the night away on a rooftop. Not pounding ice cream in front of the TV.

Anyway, that’s one reason.

The other is that keto literally helps me think faster.

The available evidence suggests that a ketogenic diet can boost brain health and improve cognitive performance. Several studies have found that ketosis, the metabolic state achieved through a low-carb, high-fat ketogenic diet, can improve neurogenesis (the formation of new brain cells) 【4】, enhance brain energy metabolism 【5】, and improve cognition and brain function in both young and aged animals 【6】.

Note: Take these sources with a grain of salt, I don’t check them. The LLM just spits them out and my dumbass believes it.

  1. Your brain on sugar: What the science actually says
  2. What happens to your brain when you give up sugar - CNN
  3. The Effects of a High Sugar Diet on the Brain - TIND Neurology
  4. Does ketosis makes your brain work better and faster? - Quora
  5. Effects of Ketone Bodies on Brain Metabolism and Function … - NCBI
  6. A Ketogenic Diet Improves Cognition and Has Biochemical Effects in …

May 21, 2024 musings

Digital Notetaking Stack

So I use a paper notebook. To be more specific, I use a notebook binder with three separate notebooks in it. Each notebook serves a specific purpose. The first one is for tasks and to-dos. The second one is just a scratch pad for absolutely anything under the sun: drawings, thoughts, somebody’s phone number, anything. The last one is a very regimented journal where I reflect on personal experiences.

Sure, I could just use a single notebook for all of these purposes. Hell, I could use a stack of printer paper for all these purposes; but it would be clunky, it would be difficult, and I wouldn’t really want to use it because it wouldn’t be very satisfying.

So, I’ve developed a system that works for taking paper notes. It’s custom tailored to my goals and how my brain works. And as a cherry on top, I picked a notebook binder and pen that I really enjoy touching and looking at, which makes the whole system just that much better.

Similarly, I use a set of different apps for different purposes when I’m taking notes in my digital world.

Yes, I could probably stick to just using the default notes app on my phone, but it would be clunky, there would be friction, it would not adapt to the way my brain works, and I would end up using it less. Plus it isn’t really that satisfying to look at… but that’s just my opinion.

So instead, after nearly a decade of trial and error, I’ve developed a system and way of working with my notes in my digital world that brings me immense satisfaction and works well with the way my brain works and the way my lifestyle is currently set up.


  • This is not me trying to convince you to use the apps that I use. This is what works for me, and is very tailored to my brain and life. I’m not here to tell you what to use. But if hearing about my setup gives you ideas, that’s great!
  • This is something I will continue to change and improve. It’s been a long evolution to land on this setup. Trial and error was involved, and will continue to be. I think there’s an ebb and flow to changing your setup. If you do it too often, you lose productivity. If you don’t do it enough, your setup may stagnate and fail to match your lifestyle.
  • This is a values-based notetaking setup. I believe in owning my own data, having an easily exportable format (markdown), and using tools that are extensible & hackable. For someone who doesn’t share these values, this may seem overbuilt or convoluted or not native enough or something.
  • This is not written for the PKM enthusiast community. It’s a basic, balanced setup using tools that are widely known. If you’re a longtime Personal Knowledge Management guru, there won’t be anything new for you here. This is written for the layman who is dissatisfied with their current setup and looking for inspiration.

Anyway, if digital notetaking is something that never really clicked for you, or if you currently have a workflow that you’re not pleased with, this might be a blog article for you. Let me know on Mastodon!


  1. Intake / Short-term notes
  2. Long-term notes
  3. Shared / Published notes
  4. Collaborative notes
  5. Closing thoughts

Intake / Short-term notes

One of the most important parts of my setup is my intake app. I hope you’ve never had to experience this feeling:

Your friend names a cool restaurant or book for you to look up later. You hastily pull up your notes app to write it down. But wait. Where should you make the note? Does restaurant fall under your travel folder? Or your food folder? What should you title it? Do you need to make a new folder? While you’re fiddling with your app your friend has already started talking about that other boba place you should explore. Should that go in a whole other note? Oh god.

I feel like a lot of people give up after going through this a couple times and their notes app just ends up being a hodge-podge of unorganized, random shit that they dread looking back at later.

This is exactly why I use an intake app, and my app of choice for this incredibly important role is, of course, Drafts.


Drafts is made for this exact purpose. By default, it opens to a blank new note. Whatever you type as the first line is considered the title. And it has this insane concept called Actions that lets you quickly process your notes by moving them elsewhere through deep interactions with your other existing apps.

Let’s look at some pictures:

In the first image, you can see where I keep Drafts. Front and center, only app in my bottom drawer.

Middle image, you have the first thing you see when the app opens: a blank note to write that restaurant / song / boba place.

Last image, you have the actions pane.

The actions in this pane are customized to my workflow. You are able to configure multiple pages, but I’m content with just one for now.

Drafting a text to your mom? Send it as a text message after you’ve perfected it. Shopping list? Export straight into wherever you keep that (for me it’s Things). Deep thought that’s perhaps a little too deep? File it away in Day One where it will never see the light of day.

Basic tagging, shortcuts integration, and an archive folder really tie everything together. Process a ton of drafts at once by selecting them in the app and then doing a batch operation.

Drafts comes with a pretty comprehensive set of actions right out of the box, but the true power here comes from tapping into the Drafts Directory: a massive repository of actions sourced from the Drafts community (as well as many written by the creator).

Every app you could imagine is in this directory.

And the best part: if your app isn’t in there you can write your own action!

Drafts could honestly take up a whole series of blog posts so I’ll stop there for now. I haven’t even scratched the surface of what it can do, but you really don’t need to dive very deep to reap the benefits.

Let’s table Drafts for now. It’ll come up later with how it pipes into my other systems.

Long-term notes

So you may have picked up on the fact that notes don’t stay in Drafts long. They either get exported or archived.

Not every note is worthy of a permanent place in your note-taking kingdom. Embracing this concept was a huge step in cleaning up my digital world and starting to build a meaningful notes database for my life.

As I continued to acclimate to digital notes, I noticed that certain note categories began to make themselves known.

The middle 3 folders are the important ones to note here.


My core folder is where deeply personal stuff goes. Longterm goals, journal entries, guiding principles and personal mantras. I wouldn’t expect you to understand mine, but I’d encourage anyone to explore this category of notes for themselves.

The notes in this folder don’t change much. But I recently started recording a daily voice note diary of my day that I then transcribe and summarize with AI.

I also do yearly, quarterly, monthly, and weekly planning sessions, and the artifacts from these sessions often end up in here.


Projects is my favorite folder in my long-term notes.

For me, this is a place for all kinds of things. Packing lists + itineraries + other details for an upcoming trip, startup ideas, potential blog posts, plans and details for my numerous hobbies.

Notes in here often originate in Drafts and get quickly exported to my projects folder via Drafts actions.

Projects are usually temporary, and get moved to my archive folder when they’re completed (or when I get bored and move onto the next hobby).


This is for lists and information that I will want to keep as reference. Quotes, wishlists, movie bucket list, books to read, etc.

I used to maintain a personal wiki of information on different topics. Zettelkasten-esque, my knowledge wiki is currently in need of cleanup and will likely be featured in its own blog post if I continue to work on it.

Other folders

Archive is self-explanatory. Old notes go in here.

Templates is for fill-in-the-blank templates for notes that I take often. Like those yearly/quarterly/etc check-ins and certain types of projects. There’s an Obsidian plugin that has some functionality to take advantage of these, but right now I just duplicate and move markdown files manually as-needed. Nothing fancy.

I find this setup to be just enough. My main folders allow plenty of flexibility within them for me to develop all kinds of systems to match how my brain works.

Apps and stuff

Yes, yes, we’ll talk about the app I use, but that’s much less important than the underlying foundation.

My long-term note-taking system is really just two things:

  • A collection of markdown files
  • A syncing service that circulates these files between my devices

If you commit to using the first, you can choose whatever you want for the second and migrate between syncing providers at-will with minimal headache. I’m not going to say much more on that, since others have covered it very well (File over App from one of the people responsible for Obsidian).

And as long as you have these two, you can access all of your notes on all of your devices with whatever Markdown tools you’d like. Ultimate freedom, extensibility, and hackability.

That said, I use Obsidian.


My go-to sync tool was Dropbox for a long time, but after committing fully to Obsidian as my default app across Mac / iPad / iPhone I’ve switched over to Obsidian Sync for the E2E encryption, longer note history, and seamless integration with Obsidian.

It basically works like Dropbox used to before the weird Apple OS integration stuff. Obsidian Sync downloads all the files onto your device, so you still can access them with any markdown editor that has access to the filesystem.

Drafts can export to my longterm notes via both the OS filesystem and Obsidian app urls. Same for Shortcuts, which I’ll get to later.

Obsidian also plays nicely with iCloud, and supports Dropbox / Google Drive / S3 through its community plugins. I have it connected to my Dropbox for publishing / sharing notes, which I’ll get into in a bit.

My main reasons for using Obsidian are:

  • It has command palette
  • It has quick open
  • It’s hackable & has community plugins

Honestly, the specific app here doesn’t really matter as much as the underlying system. I could switch to using Ulysses or 1Writer or Byword or nvAlt or something else entirely if I wanted.

I will say, like Drafts, Obsidian is a product of thoughtful design. You don’t need to dive to deep to reap the benefits. But if you want to be a power user, there’s a LOT it can do. For me, the important thing is that I can open files and do stuff with them easily, and I can hack it to accommodate to pretty much any use case my weird brain comes up with.

Obsidian really knocks it out of the park for me, so I use it almost exclusively right now (for long-term notes).

Published / shared notes

I’m not going to shit on Notion in this post (not much, at least), but one thing I really missed from migrating from it was the ease-of-sharing.

I would put together an itinerary, packing list, cost breakdown, and car-pooling plan for group camping trips in minutes, hit the share button, and fire it off to my group chat of friends with no hiccups.

I had been craving that functionality in my new note-taking system, so I built it. Kind of.

Before we get to that, let’s talk about my workflow for posting blog articles.

Publishing blog posts

Remember how I said I use Dropbox still for sharing / publishing?

I do that with help from a service called Blot.


Blot turns a folder in your Dropbox account into a fully functioning blog.

Their website explains it all, but basically to publish this article I literally just dropped it into a folder in my Dropbox, which I can do without leaving Obsidian.

I wouldn’t say this is anything groundbreaking, but I find it immensely satisfying.

Sharing notes

Okay, back to Notion-esque sharing.

Let’s say I put together a travel itinerary for a camping trip in my Projects folder. It has a list of everyone attending, cost breakdown, directions, packing list, and pictures of the campsite to drum up hype.

It’s all ready to go, but I need to share it out to my friends.

Enter Blot. Same service, different folder. This time, instead of having Blot publish to, I have a separate domain I use only for this purpose. I move the note to the shared folder and shoot my friends the link.

The end. No fuss, no need for them to have an account, it’s just published to a non-indexed domain that I use as an external file/note-share.

But it’s not collaborative!” Yeah, and it’s not meant to be.

Collaborative notes

Okay, so once in a blue moon I have a valid reason to collaborate on a note with someone. It’s incredibly rare, and usually a very niche use-case.

If it’s like a Resume or something, I use Google Drive, because the output artifact is a document.

If it’s for brainstorming or something, Figma.

If it’s project tracking, Notion.

These aren’t really notes anymore. This is a one-off collaboration with a specific outcome in mind, so it doesn’t really fall into the purview of this post.

To be honest, I don’t think my personal notes database is something that would ever require collaboration. My notes are deeply personal, and I like it that way. I can publish if I need to, and there are plenty of collaborative tools that work for other tasks. But I have yet to need real-time collaboration on my actual notes.

My gripe with Notion

Okay fine, quick note on Notion. While it’s a powerful tool that sparks creativity in a very attractive interface, it goes against my core values. You don’t own your data, it’s on their servers the entire time. Offline mode barely works. Exporting is a mess because while they present themselves as Markdown-esque, their stuff is so custom it’s a mess to port to other apps.

You get punished as soon as you try to leave.

Best of luck to anyone entangled in that system. It took some work to get my notes out of Notion, and I will not be going back.

Closing thoughts

You made it to the end!

Personally, after having tried a lot of tools with varying levels of depth and complexity, I find this setup very balanced.

It does just enough. I haven’t gone too deep into any of the tools. It’s still portable. I could still switch stuff around with very little overhead if I wanted to.

Being candid, my sync system is the one thing I am considering changing. I don’t like that Obsidian Sync has no way to run headless, and has no API access for other apps to tap into. If I wanted to change editor, I’d need to switch back to Dropbox. It wouldn’t take much to make the switch: maybe 5 minutes to update the config across all my devices.

But that’s the only thing I’m really not happy with right now. I find this system pretty seamless to work with. It has structure and organization, without being so confined that it limits creativity.

Bonus goodies

If you made it this far, you’re either really into notetaking systems or you’re friends with me. Either way, you might get a kick out of some of the cool functionality that comes from a system like this.

Custom share sheet actions

Any time I’m browsing the web and come across something I want to buy later, I can instantly append it to my Wishlist note using a share sheet action that uses Obsidian’s deep-linking.

I could easily replicate this functionality using the OS filesystem in shortcuts.

Or, if I was using Dropbox, I could do it with Dropbox’s shortcut integrations.

I have a similar shortcut action for prepending selected text to my Quotes note.

If I wanted, I could have an automation that downloads the current weather and top news stories to a daily note for me to review when I start my morning.

With a little scripting, you can really bend any of these tools / files to do whatever you want because of the format.

Anyway, thanks so much for reading this far. I hope you got something from it. And if you have any input, please let me know. I’m not going to pretend I’m any kind of guru, and I love learning new things. If you have suggestions or ideas or feedback, please send them my way on Mastodon!

September 4, 2023