AI/Dev Musings 11/21/2022

New Projects – WorkSprite

So I put out a little open source project a couple of weeks ago. WorkSprite is an NWJS-based app that runs and creates a GUI overlay on your Windows machine that presents a quick-access menu and command-palette that can execute JavaScript snippets that you can extend to help automate tasks that you would normally automate through Node.js/nteract scripts. You can drag and drop icons and shortcuts into a folder and have it update the menu in realtime, or customize icons via a config file. My own setup looks like this:

WorkSprite menu, when opened via hotkey.

I intend to add easy-to-install builds, as well as more features to it- it’s actually a bit stripped-down from what I’d been using for a couple of years now, but some of that code was quite janky, and I ported the GUI components from a home-rolled component system to using VueJS components.

Knowledge Graph Work – “Grim”

No screenshots for this one, but I’ve started an app for note-taking and knowledge work that I’ve nicknamed “Grim”- short for Grimoire. The closest thing I have to a note-taking app right now is OneNote, and that does okay, but I don’t feel very drawn to Roam/Obsidian/etc because it’s just…a lot. I mean, sure Mark Down is great, but I want to have the app links things for me, and I feel like there’s some GUI clutter when I see screenshots, so it kind of turns me off. And I want the words I type to be recognized by the app by more than just seeing the word elsewhere in another note. The word “red” means something more than just r-e-d. And certainly more than the words it’s next to (sorry, LLMs). Red, as a color, holds a specific set of RGB values, or HSL, etc. That is data that is concrete and can be represented, referenced, and compared to other notes. If you paste an image with lots of red, and you’re writing about red and want to find references in your notes, then that link is easier to make.

I’m aiming for a more natural writing feel, coupled with a more muted AI partner that can, when I want, surface context and additional related information. That’s a lot to ask, so it might be a while until I have a good screenshot of the project to show…

What I’ve been Reading…

Been a while since my last post, so this list is longer, though really only one physical book here. I’m also excluding quite a few books from here that I listened to purely for entertainment. What you will see included in here is a lot of books on navigation and travel. We were built to move through this world, and I think that in that we can find hints of knowledge that can help us with AI, tools, and just the world in general.

  • Supernavigators by David Barrie – A great overview of how different animals navigate, and the underlying mechanisms. Good reminder that there’s much of the world we cannot sense.
  • The Extended Mind by Annie Murphy Paul – A great read if you’re into tool-building.
  • A History of the Human Brain by Bret Stetka
  • The Big Questions of Neuroscience by Suzana Herculano-Houzel
  • The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot by Robert Macfarlane – Became almost zen-like in describing travels, and makes me wonder about travelling mentally, especially when reading or hearing about others’ travels.
  • The Secret Knowledge of Water by Craig Childs – The interesting knowledge of water in the desert, how to find it, and how that shaped the travels of Native Americans and present lives.
  • The Language Hoax by John H. McWhorter
  • The Brain from Inside Out by Gyorgy Buzsaki
  • Four Lost Cities: A Secret History of the Urban Age by Annalee Newitz
  • Marco Polo: From Venice to Xanadu by Laurence Bergreen – Not a translation of Polo’s book, but bigger and with commentary, and covers a lot of his travels around Asia.
  • The Nature Instinct by Tristan Gooley – Navigation skills using cues from the natural world. Again, how we were built to move through the world influenced what we can perceive, and what we can perceive informs a sort of language between us and the forces of nature.
  • River of the Gods by Candace Millard – Colonizers are just the worst, even to each other.
  • The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival by John Vaillant – So, I like non-fiction narrative about animals, especially predators, because it seems plain fact that they have consciousness and a much deeper one than us humans like to give animals credit for.
  • Stolen Focus by Johann Hari – If you’re in tech, this is a must-read. Felt it in my bones, and still do.

There’s about a half-dozen other books, mostly non-fiction about historical things like early New York and such, but not so close to professional reading that it made the list. That said, I find myself being attracted to books about spatial abilities, navigation, and travel, and not just because I’m a big fan of travelling. I’m trying to do morning walks, and occasionally listen to books or podcasts during the walk, and find the travelling of the walk helps with the listening. Or I’ll walk and not listen to anything but what’s around me and my thoughts, to the same effect.

If you don’t go for walks, you should.

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