expLog

Thinking Clearly

Writing is the most powerful tool for thinking clearly that I know of. 1

Writing things out wonderfully complements my cognitive shortcomings:

At the same time, I'm not used to writing: I have countless pages of notes, plans, half-baked pieces of communication for work; but it's not a tool I intuitively reach for.

Words are hard. Editing is harder.

To that end, I'm aiming towards building a habit by

Obviously I won't be able to publish one article every day; thoughtful writing takes time. Instead, I'll publish drafts and keep iterating on them (including this article).

Tentative Topics

This is a very optimistic list of what I would like to write about; I expect to touch very few of these over the next 100 days.

Deep dives into programming

Motivated by areas I want to learn more about, and tend to be relevant to me professionally.

  • A deep exploration of asyncio in Python, and other event loop implementations in general.
  • HTTP/3, Quic.
  • GDB.
  • Jupyter Internals.
  • Observable programs
  • Concepts in machine learning 3

Tools for Programmers

I've spent a significant portion of my career building tools for engineers; even when that isn't my primary goal I find it extremely valuable to spend at least 10% of my time speeding up the work I'll do.

  • Emacs, themes, plugins, and extensions
  • The Suckless toolkit, particularly dwm and st
  • Building customizable tools

My approach to software engineering

Explicitly writing out how I approach several aspects of Software Engineering. Mainly to consciously review and refine what I do, to become a better engineer, but also to share and get feedback.

These are things I do, and not necessarily things I'm good at: any recommendations and approaches should be evaluated in that context.

  • Reviewing code
  • Debugging problems
  • Ramping up on a project
  • Designing and structuring a program
  • Designing and structuring a programming notebook
  • Organizing and planning work
  • Building feedback loops

Books

The one aspect of my life I have managed to write about somewhat consistently is the books I've read. The most valuable notes I've collected are not notes on a single book, but collections of notes around a single topic collected from many sources.

  • Books on Programming Languages
  • Books on Software Engineering
  • Books on Visualization
  • Books on Photography
  • Books on Writing 4
  • Books on Learning
  • Books on Thinking
  • Books I would like to read

Retrospectives

  • I'm close to completing a decade as a professional Software Engineer, I probably know something worth writing about.
  • Side projects – past, current, and ideas for the future; these might be closer to developer logs for a given project.
  • Various attempts at building productivity systems, and things that stuck – and didn't.

Comments or feedback?

Reach out @kunalbhalla, or drop me an email.

Updates

  • 2020-05-16: Set up this post: brainstorming and listing out ideas to write about.
  • 2020-05-17: Started iterating on a post about asyncio, figuring out the outline and how to approach it, both to learn and to write.
  • 2020-05-18: Updated the post on asyncio. I finally understand how asyncio.sleep works!
  • 2020-05-19: Dug deeper into the event loop implementation in asyncio, reaching and stracing epoll. Also submitted a typo fix to cpython.
  • 2020-05-20: Explained where the ioctl calls were coming from (hint: signals). Read about epoll's implementation.
  • 2020-05-21: Started a new parallel article about exploring the Linux Kernel, to allow me to dig into epoll. Set up bcc.
  • 2020-05-22: Dug into the disassembly of the python program, and briefly documented what I found.
  • 2020-05-23: Took a break and wrote about my workflow for planning.
  • 2020-05-24: Forked a new note about setting up and using python-gdb to explore python execution.
  • 2020-05-25: Started writing about tracing asyncio tasks, my secret motivation to start on this series of notes.
  • 2020-05-26: My copy of The Art of Science and Engineering arrived. Taking notes chapter by chapter to take a break from programming after work.
  • 2020-05-27: I started writing about how I approach debugging and realized that I have a lot to say. I should be able to publish this soon.
  • 2020-05-28: Completed a first draft of the post on debugging; I think I have the broader pieces in place but there's still a lot to do.
  • 2020-05-29: Revising, editing and tweaking the post on debugging.
  • 2020-05-30: Revised and edited the post on debugging, created a diagram and added it to the index.
  • 2020-05-31: Wrote about David Sedaris's book. Worked on asyncio tracing, which I'll write about in the future.
1

My experience with increasingly stronger doses of coffee – bullet-proof or other variants, tea and matcha only suggests an increase in speed, and not the quality or clarity of thought.

2

Yes, this is a #100daysofwriting challenge for myself. I've never considered attempting 100 days of anything – except perhaps programming or reading – but a man can dream.

3

I can already hear you groan, but it's something I would like to build depth in, particularly for work. You should feel grateful that I don't have yet another tutorial on Monads in this list.

4

Passing up opportunities to be meta is physically painful for me.

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