I'm Max Zsol, Fiction Writer.
I write science-fiction, experiment with AI, and blog.

William James on Daily Rituals — Nov 2021

I love this line from William James:

There is no more miserable human being than one in whom nothing is habitual but indecision

Here is the full context:

The more of the details of our daily life we can hand over to the effortless custody of automatism, the more our higher powers of mind will be set free for their own proper work. There is no more miserable human being than one in whom nothing is habitual but indecision, and for whom the lighting of every cigar, the drinking of every cup, the time of rising and going to bed every day, and the beginning of every bit of work, are subjects of express volitional deliberation.

Hemingway on Daily Writing — Nov 2021


When I am working on a book or a story I write every morning as soon after first light as possible. There is no one to disturb you and it is cool or cold and you come to your work and warm as you write. You read what you have written and, as you always stop when you know what is going to happen next, you go on from there. You write until you come to a place where you still have your juice and know what will happen next and you stop and try to live through until the next day when you hit it again. You have started at six in the morning, say, and may go on until noon or be through before that. When you stop you are as empty, and at the same time never empty but filling, as when you have made love to someone you love. Nothing can hurt you, nothing can happen, nothing means anything until the next day when you do it again. It is the wait until the next day that is hard to get through.

Joan Didion on the reason for writing — Oct 2021

Joan Didion:

I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see, and what it means. What I want and what I fear?

Dave Grohl on writing — Oct 2021

Dave Grohl:

“The Storyteller” debuted at No. 1 on the hardcover nonfiction list and is now in its second week at the top of the chart. Grohl seemed genuinely tickled to find himself in this new role as an author — and, whether he realizes it or not, he now has solid wisdom to offer fellow ink-stained wretches. His musical mantra, “Never erase, always record,” also applies in the literary realm, where self-editing is a surefire creativity killer.

“There’s an old saying: Don’t bore us, get to the chorus,” Grohl said. “Because with any song, you want to keep the listener engaged. And I would imagine it’s the same when it comes to writing. But that being said, what the [expletive] do I know? I’ve never done this before!”

A Newbie Guide to Building The Planck, a 40% Ortholinear Mechanical Keyboard — Oct 2021

start reading ❯

On Internet Checkpoints — Aug 2021

Robin Sloan:

Without any of the traditional publicity mechanisms, everything depends on “foot traffic”. You could post an unsearchable, unsortable checkpoint on a custom website… and no one would ever read it. Attaching it to a YouTube video — even an obscure one — feels, perhaps, like writing a message on a wall in a crowded city. You are basically assured that, eventually, someone will pass by and read it; you are likewise assured that you won’t know who they are, nor they you.

On self-aware AI — Aug 2021

Scott Alexander, Highlights From The Comments On Acemoglu And AI:

Non-self-aware computers can beat humans at Chess, Go, and Starcraft. They can write decent essays and paint good art. Whatever you’re expecting you “need self-awareness” in order to do, I bet non-self-aware computers can do it too. Computers are just going to get better and better at stuff, and at some point probably they’ll be as good as humans at various things, and if you ask them if they’re self-aware they’ll give some answer consistent with their programming, which for all I know is what we do too.

Bourdain’s AI — Aug 2021

Bourdain Documentary’s Use of A.I. to Mimic Voice Draws Questions:

But on the film’s opening weekend, 45 seconds of it is drawing much of the public’s attention.

The focus is on a few sentences of what an unknowing audience member would believe to be recorded audio of Bourdain, who died by suicide in 2018. In reality, the voice is generated by artificial intelligence: Bourdain’s own words, turned into speech by a software company who had been given several hours of audio that could teach a machine how to mimic his tone, cadence and inflection

To some, part of the discomfort about the use of artificial intelligence is the fear that deepfake videos may become increasingly pervasive. Right now, viewers tend to automatically believe in the veracity of audio and video, but if audiences begin to have good reason to question that, it could give people plausible deniability to disavow authentic footage, said Hilke Schellmann, a filmmaker and assistant professor of journalism at New York University who is writing a book on A.I.

On active learning — Aug 2021

Experiential Learning Creates Skill — The Power of Active Practice:

Aim to practice, apply what you learn or do something with that knowledge.

Learning something new does not necessarily transform or improve you if you don’t get past the knowledge acquisition phase. You lose what you don’t use, apply or practice. But you gain a lot by doing something with it.

Better learners are active learners. They practice what they learn. The application of knowledge creates skill. When you make learning an experience, you acquire skills for life.

On the Luckiness of Death — Aug 2021

Richard Dawkins via Maria Popova:

We are born into the certitude of our eventual death. Every once in a while, something — perhaps an encounter with a robin’s egg, perhaps a poem — staggers us with the awful, awe-filled wonder of aliveness, the sheer luck of it against the overwhelming cosmic odds of nonexistence. But alloyed with the awe is always the half-conscious grief that one day the light of consciousness will be extinguished. It is a heavy gift to hold, this doomed delirium of aliveness. It is also a buoyant gladness, if we are limber enough to stretch into the cosmic perspective that does not come naturally to us small, Earth-bound bipeds corticed with tender self-importance.

On fractons — Aug 2021

The ‘Weirdest’ Matter, Made of Partial Particles, Defies Description:

“When I first heard about fractons, I said there’s no way this could be true, because it completely defies my prejudice of how systems behave,” said Nathan Seiberg, a theoretical physicist at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. “But I was wrong. I realized I had been living in denial.”


Fractons are quasiparticles — particle-like entities that emerge out of complicated interactions between many elementary particles inside a material. But fractons are bizarre even compared to other exotic quasiparticles, because they are totally immobile or able to move only in a limited way. There’s nothing in their environment that stops fractons from moving; rather it’s an inherent property of theirs. It means fractons’ microscopic structure influences their behavior over long distances.


The Haah code takes the phenomenon to the extreme: Particles can only move when new particles are summoned in never-ending repeating patterns called fractals. Say you have four particles arranged in a square, but when you zoom in to each corner you find another square of four particles that are close together. Zoom in on a corner again and you find another square, and so on. For such a structure to materialize in the vacuum requires so much energy that it’s impossible to move this type of fracton. This allows very stable qubits — the bits of quantum computing — to be stored in the system, as the environment can’t disrupt the qubits’ delicate state.

On writing amid others — Aug 2021

Kenzaburo Oe:

I don’t need to be solitary to work. When I am writing novels and reading, I do not need to separate myself or be away from my family. Usually I work in my living room while Hikari listens to music. I can work with Hikari and my wife present because I revise many times. The novel is always incomplete, and I know I will revise it completely. When I’m writing the first draft I don’t have to write it by myself. When I’m revising, I already have a relationship with the text so I don’t have to be alone.

On a beginner’s mind — Aug 2021

Maid Newton (via Austin Kleon)

Then I would realize: this is my book! There are no rules! I can write it however I want! Also, I would think, if I’m bored by something that I believe I need to write, the reader undoubtedly will be too, if not because the subject is inherently boring, then because I myself find it so unbearably tedious to imagine discussing it for five pages. Often as not, I would remember some aspect of the subject that deeply interested me, something a little outside the way it’s usually perceived or written about. Then I would meditate on that, and soon I would be scribbling notes from an increasingly excited place until I found a way forward. A form of beginner’s mind.

On why we create — Aug 2021

Why do we create? To share a thought: an idea, a story, a paradigm. To help another person. Maybe to feel a little more understood, a little less crazy. I like what Steven Pressfield says about the work of an artist: “The artist doesn’t create to express herself; she creates to discover herself.”

The act of creating shows me who I am

That’s true for me, at least. Through my work, I am always trying to figure out who I am. Or, as Flannery O’Connor once said, “I don’t know what I think until I read what I write.”

—Jeff Goins, The Money Thing

On being unproductive — Jul 2021

But sometimes I also have the desire to be 100% unproductive. You don’t need to be productive all the time.

Sometimes it’s ok to give us permission to take time off and do nothing useful.

Even though it might hurt our own perception of being “productive people”.

I like those writers that seem to be doing nothing for a few years, then show up with a great book.

Perhaps that’s the model I’m looking forward.

— Flavio Copes, It’s ok to be unproductive

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