Why so difficult?

Writing fiction is hard.

For every essay, for every poem, for every journal entry I ever sat down to write, I at least had some semblance of a plan. Sitting down to write fiction requires no such plan — and that is why it is so hard.

There are plenty of outlines, plenty of vague ideas, plenty of zany plotlines I could write out first that might inform my attempts at writing fiction. But ultimately, I still need to sit there and will it from nothing. This is not the simple task it seems.

The roadblock I keep running into is not getting an idea started, or even starting to write. Writing is actually pretty easy to get started on once I convince myself to just do it. The thing I’m having so much trouble with is writing something down that I really care about.

When I choose some memory to write about, I’m immediately invested in trying to convey the way I felt during that memory. I feel it. I want to get it on paper. When I try to make something up, it all feels hollow and weird. If I can’t make myself care about it, how could I possibly expect you, the reader, to care about it? Even worse is that it starts to bore me. Me! The guy writing it!

There must be a way to get past this. For now I will keep trying to write. I will keep experimenting with taking my own experiences and shifting them a bit to make them fiction. I suppose I should try to outline plot a bit, too — maybe that would give me some grounding.

Python starting point

Since I posted the previous post about Django, I was reminded that I wanted to link to a post about setting up a Python project in a sane way. I’ve used this approach for all my little toy projects, and it really works well (particularly using virtualenv).

Mostly, I always have to remember a way to Google for Jeff’s blog, so with any luck posting it here will help me remember.

The cliffnotes are:

  • install virtualenv/set up virtualenv
  • setup Django in the virtualenv
  • start a new Django project
  • set up a new Git repo for the project
  • change the settings to have three sets of installed apps instead of one
  • use fabric for deployment (I haven’t gotten this far yet)

Django and Angular Tutorial

A little while ago, I was trying to build an app using Django on the server side, and some interactive Javascript on the client side. On the surface, it seemed simple, but you end up with this strange disconnect between what you are writing in Python and what you are using in Javascript.

To make matters more complicated, the Javascript is “static” in the Python, and the Python is “static” in the Javascript. What I mean is, you have to build your Javascript independently of the server code, and then go back and deconstruct it to fit in the Django templates.

Needless to say,  I got pretty confused. And my ambition fizzled.

Which is why I was super psyched to see this article about getting Django and Angular.js to communicate with each other. It also helps to see someone list out the concepts as they describe them — I didn’t realize that writing the data out into the HTML document as JSON was called “serializing” for example — but I now know what to Google for.

I want to set up a much simpler version of this, which just takes some data from MySQL, serializes it in Django, loads a Django template and then builds the page with Angular. One dataset, one D3 graphic, stitched together with Angular. Seems like it should be possible with this tutorial!


I’ve been cultivating this little beastie all summer in my compost bin. A steady diet of fruit flies and other bugs has made her very large!

Actually, a wolf spider or fishing spider, but looks pretty tarantulaic
Actually, a wolf spider or fishing spider, but looks pretty tarantulaic

Red Versus Blue in a New Light – NYTimes.com

Red Versus Blue in a New Light – NYTimes.com.

I’m not sure how I missed this before (oh, I suppose it was probably the screaming infant), but Gelman had an article in the NYTimes about the divide between red and blue America.

I like to read Gelman because he is so good at simplifying his explanation. According to this article, lower income Americans vote overwhelmingly Democrat, whereas wealthier Americans are split between Democrat and Republican. The red/blue state phenomenon is caused by skillful gerrymandering.

Of note, however, is that several of the missing states are “red” states, and it is possible that some of them could alter the analysis if they had reported exit polling data.

If You Can’t Lose,You’re a Loser – Bloomberg View

If You Can’t Lose,You’re a Loser – Bloomberg View.

The point at the end about having a “falsifiable theory” is critical. I know I’ve been a victim of this problem on both sides — either I was defending something based on a circular assumption, or I was fighting against a theory that was based on one.

Theories that are not falsifiable are not constructive give and take, they are dogma that can’t be questioned. Note to self: Don’t fall into this trap!

So you’re the world’s greatest trader? Taxes will fix that. – The Washington Post

So you’re the world’s greatest trader? Taxes will fix that. – The Washington Post.

The loss you experience from taxes on short term gains kill any possible advantage that short term trading might get you. As always, infrequent trading and asset allocation win out.

I looked at the spreadsheet they used to calculate this, and the gap is widest in the most recent year of data; ie, in 2013, when the market went up 32%, and the active trader made 41% (and they were starting at the highest portfolio value up to that point). In that instance there is a very wide gap opened by the magnitude of the taxes. Most other years are not quite so drastic. But this still shows that you don’t really do much better — maybe the same at best.