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Daily dispatches from my 12 weeks at the Recurse Center in Summer 2023

Today is my third day at RC, and it feels like the (my) fog is starting to lift. I’m getting a lay of the land and am enjoying a new sense of clarity about my more immediate priorities as well as some longer term goals. I’ve even started removing myself from some calendar events (okay, one), which feels like an important step.

Here’s what went down today:


Managed to make this daily event finally, although I was a little late (still trying to dial in the earlier school drop-off protocol). It happens every morning and seems to be an opportunity for Recursers to check in about what they accomplished and would like to accomplish – one of many options available to the community for cultivating motivation and accountability.

Advice and Introductions event

This was another fantastic welcome even that provided an opportunity for current recursers and alums to impart some advice. Some items that resonated with me included:

  • Focus on doing the things that you’re truly excited about, the things that get you up in the morning, and constantly check in on yourself to make sure that this remains the case
  • Try to always have some “finger work” available for quick wins (i.e., more mechanical, lower-bandwidth tasks that are easy to get done)
  • Say NO to the things you don’t want to do. (But also, sometimes say YES, since you never know what door may open.)
  • Share your work: checkins, presentations, pairing, posting to the board – all are great ways to do this
  • Give yourself a break when it comes to the Sisyphean task of staying up to date on the message board. Can’t be done.
  • It’s fine to not be an expert. “Hey who wants to learn this thing with me” is an excellent attitude to have.

Creative Coding

Wasn’t sure what to expect here, but had a great time, learned a lot, and loved the format. Seems like typical protocol is to begin with a randomly-selected series of prompts (including from Brian Eno/Peter Schmidt’s Oblique Strategies), use them to generate project ideas, and then pair off and make stuff. My group had some LLM experience, which was awesome, since it completely demystified the open.ai API, which now feels like an option for me. We ended up generating images of characters from an apocalyptic version of Pac-Man called “Pac-Man: Ascension of the Cosmic Plague” (credit for that nugget goes to GPT). Here’s one of the results (others, and more projects, here:

Apocalyptic Pac-Man, apparently

In the end, this wasn’t anything any one of us couldn’t have done with some stable diffusion model in a few minutes, but the process was the important thing. Never realized that working on something pointless with a bunch of people with different domain experience could open so many interesting portals.

Paired (by myself lol)

I had some time before my next commitment, so I went to a pairing station and implemented a heap, which is something I like to do from time to time. No one came :( but I understand that there are more interesting pairing opportunities out there.


I was excited about this one and it delivered. This group is working through the From Nand to Tetris book and exercises and the companion lecture series to built and then program a (simulated) computer from lowly logic gates. There’s already a group mid-way through, so I’m going to try to recruit some other folks and start a new cycle at the beginning. I’ll probably do as much as I can on a breadboard before I run out of time or logic gates, whichever happens first.


A few additional things in the works:

  • I’m involved in getting a “Learning C” group going using Build Your Own Lisp and the Kernighan/Ritchie book (what I gather is a classic text).
  • I want to get another “Implementing DNS in a Weekend” group going that follows a tutorial put together by another recurser. This should be a relatively quick project, so thinking of saving this for later.
  • There’s a type theory group forming, which I’m interested in but concerned may be too far beyond my edge.

So that’s what happened today. The cumulative result is that I now know what my immediate priorities are:

  • Learn C
  • Study SICP (another group already coming to fruition)
  • nand2tetris

There are no projects there, but maybe this is okay. I’ll give myself another week or two to see what doors these open up and perhaps a project that I’m excited about will reveal itself.